Mistakes were Made: United Airlines Business Class Newark to Milan

Thanks to a United travel waiver for the Northeast, Wideroe was willing to make changes to the otherwise non-changeable mistake bookings.  Rather than try to call Norway, I gave their online chat a try: Wideroe Online ChatA few minutes later, I had a new ticket in my email and was ready to go.  A quick call to United and one systemwide upgrade later, I had a seat in the business class cabin.  Online check-in didn’t go so smoothly, though:

Online Checkin EWR-MXPThat’s not the message you want to see 4 hours before your international flight while it’s after business hours in Norway…  One lengthy call to United (and some fingerpointing between United and Wideroe) later, I was able to check in and obtain a boarding pass.

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Mistakes Were Made: An Introduction

Back in November, a small Norwegian regional carrier, Wideroe, stopped charging fuel surcharges on Star Alliance-operated tickets across the Atlantic.  Needless to say, the frequent flyer community pounced on the opportunity to save hundreds of dollars per round trip.

While I had previously visited Milan in October (thanks in part to Emirates’ fifth-freedom route between New York and Milan driving down fares), I found it hard to resist a $189 round trip, all-inclusive fare.

Itinerary

Originally, I had booked EWR-FRA-LIN/MXP-EWR, expecting to grin-and-bear two transatlantic flights in coach.

Thanks to some weather waivers in the northeast during the days leading up to my trip, I switched over to the nonstop to Milan Malpensa, rather than take a long layover in Frankfurt.

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Europe for the Holidays: Lufthansa First Class Frankfurt to New York

Having been escorted to a waiting car from the lounge, we quickly drove along the terminal past Lufthansa’s various widebodies waiting to depart to far-off lands.

 

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Europe for the Holidays: Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt

I found myself relaxing most of the night before my flight to New York. At about 1AM, I looked at my United reservation in dismay.  My flight from Zurich to Frankfurt was there, as was my onward flight from New York.  The Lufthansa First segment was missing in action. Fast forward an hour later and with the help of a United agent, I managed to get the segment restored.  Nevertheless, it seemed prudent to head over to over to the airport a bit early.  If everything was fine, I’d wind up enjoying more time in the First Class Terminal.  If things weren’t, I’d have more lead time to resolve everything.

After catching a few hours of sleep, I checked out of the Sheraton and walked along the arrivals level to the First Class Terminal.

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The main entrance to the building is on the second floor, with a driveway attached to it.  The first floor entrance, accessible from the sidewalk from the arrivals level, has an elevator up to the check-in desks.

Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt

I quickly checked-in with the agent and then passed through the most courteous security screening before entering the lounge.

Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt

The lounge had a small display case filled with some of the collectible-edition, Lufthansa rubber ducks.

Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt

Having put down my bags, I ventured over to look at my options for breakfast.  (On account of the precarious state my reservation was in, I opted to head straight to the terminal rather than visit the lounge at the Sheraton for food.)

Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt

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Shortly into my meal, the check-in agent returned with my boarding pass, my passport, and a New Years edition rubber duck.

Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt Rather than list all of the day’s flights, the First Class Terminal’s departure screens are customized to the passengers actually in the lounge.

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The tables throughout the lounge had drink menus.  I think those are fairly understandable.

Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt

…but water?  That seems a bit more far fetched.

Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt

Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt

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About 30 minutes before departure, I began packing up my laptop bag in anticipation of needing to depart.  Around then, one of the lounge attendants found me and escorted me to the lower level so I could exit the Schengen Area and be driven over to my flight.

Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt

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Changes You’re Going to Like

United finally announced that they’re shifting to a revenue-based earning scheme for 2015.  Given the announcement looks like a copy-and-paste (and a find-and-replace of “Delta” for “United”) from Delta’s announcements, it’s surprising it took them this long.

We knew this was coming.  Some are talking about the destruction of the program, but fortunately, credit card spending will save us.

This change might finally spur me to get on the Delta bandwagon, though.  At least with them, I can earn elite qualifying miles entirely from credit card spending with American Express.

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Europe for the Holidays: Sheraton Frankfurt Airport

Since I had a morning flight out of Frankfurt Airport, I decided to stay at the Sheraton rather than try to stay in city center.  While Germany has terrific trains to most (I’m looking at you, Tegel) of its airports, it’s hard to compete with taking an escalator and walking across a skybridge to the airport terminal building in the morning.

Sheraton Frankfurt Airport

I was given a king room on the 8th floor with a not particularly exhilarating of a view of the airport terminal.

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Having settled into my room, I ventured up to the club lounge.

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Late in the evening, most of the food options had been picked up, but a few deserts remained.

Sheraton Frankfurt Airport

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Devaluations Abound

After writing up my post about the AA award chart changes, I took a quick glance at Twitter.  There’s not quite the sharp response that was elicited by United and Delta during their recent devaluations, but I caught notice of American Airlines promising that all would be revealed in the morning.

Well, okay, they didn’t quite say that.  They went for:

You’ll see some changes to the AA and US websites. We plan to officially announce some new policies later this morning

Then the other shoe dropped:

"Amol ‏@PointsToPointB  AND the other shoe drops. USA to North Asia on US Airways now goes from 90,000 to 110,000 miles."US Airways has a new award chart out, increasing the price to 110k miles roundtrip for business class to North Asia.  Somewhat oddly, first class remains at 120k miles roundtrip.

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There’s a Storm Coming

While it’s not quite as bad as the feared fuel surcharges of last August, One Mile at a Time discusses how AA has quietly restricted its AAnytime awards.  In between his original post and my write-up of this, AA has released a new award chart with “five” tiers:

  • MileSAAver Level 1: This looks like AA’s old off-peak awards.
  • MileSAAver Level 2: These look like AA’s traditional peak MileSAAver awards.
  • AAnytime Level 1: Old price
  • AAnytime Level 2: New higher tier
  • AAnytime Level 3: A very vague asterisk.

One commenter on FlyerTalk suggests that this is the start of market-based awards for last-seat availability:

It is meant to be announced tomorrow. AA did everything in their power to keep it hush hush until they sprang it on us.

AAnytime awards will now be dynamic, meaning we will have to pay a premium on high demand dates/periods, and less on off peak periods.

What is also unannounced as of yet is that International Gateway City Stopovers are also gone.

Emphasis mine on the real nugget in there.  Edit:  A quick search of NRT-LAX (stop)-BOS shows that this is pricing as two separate awards:
American Kills Stopovers at International Gateway City

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Europe for the Holidays: Swiss Senator Lounge Zürich

This trip was originally built around a segment starting from Zürich back to the United States.  During my trip, though, I kicked around dropping my United-ticketed return leg in favor of an American Airlines award.  As I had some domestic (yes, domestic) award travel in three-cabin first class on AA already ticketed, it dawned on me that I could add on flights from Zürich to New York for a marginal cost of 30k miles, some taxes, and a helping of British Airways-imposed fuel surcharges.

I’ve never been thrilled by BA’s fuel surcharges, but spending $340 in lieu of an additional 32.5k isn’t a terrible deal.  While a similar analysis could be done for making use of my stopover on my United award, UA didn’t have saver award availability on my desired dates of travel (nor did it ever end up opening up).

Meanwhile, as I kicked around rebooking myself, Lufthansa opened up some first class availability to New York from Frankfurt, so I jumped from the United-operated nonstop from Zürich and abandoned my aspirations of flying BA First (for now).

When I arrived at the lounge, the attendants directed me to the Business Class side of the lounge. The Lufthansa Group family of airlines are sticklers for making passengers show their Star Alliance Gold cards to have access to the senator lounges and my experience was no different.

Once inside, I visited the buffet for a light snack.

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Europe for the Holidays: Zürich

After leaving the Park Hyatt Zürich, I wandered around the surrounding neighborhood and the northern end of the lake.

Zürich

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