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David Chandler's Journal of Java Web and Mobile Development

  • David M. Chandler


    Web app developer since 1994 and former Developer Advocate with Google now residing in Colorado. Besides tech, I enjoy landscape photography and share my work at ColoradoPhoto.gallery.

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Archive for October 1st, 2018

When frequent travel points (including United) ARE worth something

Posted by David Chandler on October 1, 2018

Having griped about United previously, I think it’s only fair to pass on the positives, as well. My wife, daughter, and I just got back from a trip to visit our son in college near Oklahoma City. We booked the trip on less than a week’s notice, found United award tickets to nearby Wichita, KS (where it was also cheaper for us to rendezvous with our daughter) for the minimum 20k miles, rented a car from National, and got a free upgrade to a RAV4 with my status (I love the Emerald Aisle, and although Wichita is too small to have one, they still gave me a choice of cars). I could have used free rental credits but decided to save them for a more expensive city later. We stayed two nights at Hyatt Regency Wichita using the minimum number of points and as a Hyatt Globalist, received parking and a very nice breakfast buffet with made-to-order omelet for free. As an aside, we were quite impressed with Wichita hospitality generally. Growing up in Kansas City, I generally believed Kansans were friendly. Even so, the folks at the Wichita Hyatt Regency, National Car Rental, United, and Hog Wild BBQ were especially helpful and friendly (and the BBQ was great).

Our return trip today was remarkably smooth. We got to the Wichita airport at 7:20am for an 8:25 flight. There was no traffic. National car return at the counter (haven’t done that for a while!) was the fastest ever, and they swapped my business credit card for personal credit card in <30s. United checked us and our bags (for free, Silver and up) in record time, there was literally no one in line at security, and the flight left on time. We sat in Premium Economy (book for free with Gold status up), which on the ERJ175 is quite roomy. They served coffee on board even though the flight was only an hour, and a friendly flight attendant presented my snack box on request with a sincere “thank you for being a Premier 1K member.” Our bags were waiting for us on the carrousel by the time we arrived. Back home in Denver, Canopy Airport Parking picked us up within 5 minutes. Indoor valet parking was free thanks to frequent parker points.

When it all works, it can be quite smooth, and I am thankful to be able to earn status and points on my employer’s nickel, then cash them in on my own. I find that travel points and status are not worth pursuing for their own sake–there are usually cheaper travel alternatives–but they do reduce the inconveniences of frequent business travel. And occasionally, they enable me to do things that otherwise would be prohibitively expensive or time-consuming, such as a last-minute trip to a smaller city with less competitive airfares.

On the whole, I’ve been very well treated as a frequent customer with United, Hyatt, Hilton, National, and Canopy. In my experience (50+ trips over the last couple years), most of the customer-facing people in these organizations truly value the customer and provide efficient service, and the rewards programs really are rewarding. Per my previous post, Premier 1K has not been as rewarding as I had hoped in terms of upgrades (certainly in part because I fly mostly congested hub routes). However, United rewards Gold members and up with the ability to book Premium Economy for free (including companions), which I tremendously appreciate, and I likewise appreciate free checked bags for the whole family when on vacation. Also the Premier 1K One Call number is great–I’ve never waited more than a minute to make or change a reservation, etc. On the whole, I expected to be burnt out from ~50% travel after a year, but after almost two years, I still mostly enjoy my travels. Major inconveniences have been rare and trips like this one have indeed made it worthwhile to maintain brand loyalty.

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