United Offers Evidence ‘Bumped’ Passenger Canceled Her Own Flight
The woman who said United Airlines bumped her from first class in favor of a congresswoman canceled her reservation herself, according to data the airline shared with TPG.
Meanwhile, Jean-Marie Simon said on Facebook as late as Tuesday that she still hadn’t received a personal apology for the incident.
According to code in the company’s internal system, which TPG was allowed to read but cannot share because it contains proprietary information, Simon’s reservation for a first-class seat for Flight 788 from Houston (IAH) to Reagan National (DCA) on Dec. 18 was canceled via the United mobile app, either on purpose or by mistake, at 11:22am. The flight was originally scheduled to depart at 11:55am, but by that point had already been delayed. It eventually took off at 2:02pm, according to FlightAware.
Simon, a lawyer and teacher, said in her original Facebook post that US Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee was allowed to board 30 minutes before takeoff, and ended up in the first-class seat Simon had reserved. Simon herself was given an economy seat and, eventually, a $500 voucher. She also had her miles refunded — she’d used 140,000 miles for her trip from Washington, DC, to Guatemala; the IAH-DCA flight was the final leg of her trip.
Simon didn’t respond to a request for comment by the time of publication. On her Facebook page, though, she said United’s version of what happened was false.
“This is baloney,” Simon wrote. “My flight was delayed by just one hour. Any half savvy traveler knows better than to cancel a flight with a one hour delay, since a one-hour delay is the new on-time departure. And the ‘first customer on the wait list,’ Ms. Jackson Lee, I presume, was boarded well ahead of standard preboarding procedures.”
As proof of her account, Simon posted a photograph of her printed boarding pass with her first-class seat assignment, though a United employee pointed out that only proved that she’d had the reservation before she arrived at IAH, which no one is disputing. She also said that the flight didn’t show up as canceled in her United flight history, but the employee said that, just as a restaurant will consider you to have eaten there even if you moved to a different seat, the airline wouldn’t have counted her situation as a cancellation because she did ultimately fly on the scheduled flight.
On her Facebook page and Twitter account on Tuesday, Simon also rejected reports that she’d received an apology from the airline.
“I have received NO written apology from United: a representative at a call center, responding to a complaint form that I filled out online, personally apologized,” she wrote on Monday. “And the $500 voucher I received was issued at the gate just before I boarded, just after United had cancelled my ticket. It was United’s idea of compensation for having bumped me from my seat and the gate agent gave me an ultimatum: take the voucher and get on the plane or find another flight.”
A United representative said the company had indeed reached out to Simon by phone, but had no comment on a written apology.
“We called her on the 23rd and explained what happened and refunded her miles,” the employee said.
Featured image courtesy of Alberto Riva/The Points Guy.
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December 27, 2017 at 10:16PM
Destinations That Will Be Popular in 2018
In this February 3, 2017, photo, a boat passes through the entrance to the Grand Harbour in Valletta, Malta. Virginia Mayo / Associated Press
— Dennis Schaal
From Malta to Minneapolis, here’s a look at some destinations around the world that will be making news in 2018. They include designated culture capitals, places hosting sporting events and even a couple of cities — San Antonio, Texas, and New Orleans — celebrating their 300th birthdays.
Minneapolis hosts the Super Bowl on Feb. 4 in Minneapolis. The city is encouraging visitors to embrace winter with 10 days of “Bold North” events and activities leading up to the big game. On the other side of the world, the snowy mountains of Pyeongchang, South Korea, host the Winter Olympic Games, Feb. 9-25.
Eleven cities in Russia — including Moscow and Sochi — host the FIFA World Cup, June 14-July 15. The dates coincide with St. Petersburg’s “white nights,” the summer solstice season when city skies never get completely dark. FIFA reports strong ticket sales from the United States even though the U.S. national team failed to qualify for the games. Host cities include lesser-known gems like Nizhny Novgorod and Kazan, while Yekaterinburg is a good jumping-off point for an adventure in Siberia.
Two American cities mark tri-centennials in 2018. San Antonio plans a commemoration week in May, a “Summer of Spain” marketplace highlighting Spanish food, art and culture, Day of the Dead events Oct. 29-30 and a Witte Museum exhibition about the city’s frontier history under the flags of many countries. The exhibit will include the keys to the Alamo and Davy Crockett’s fiddle.
In New Orleans, tricentennial events include the Prospect.4 art exhibition, which is already underway; a blow-out Mardi Gras, Feb. 13, with the Krewe of Rex procession themed on New Orleans’ history; various spring festivals; Luna Fete next December; and a New Orleans Museum of Art exhibition showcasing works by Raphael, Titian, Rembrandt and others from the Duke of Orleans’ collection.
CULTURE AND DESIGN CAPITALS
Despite the recent car bomb murder of an investigative journalist in Malta, the island is on many “where to go” lists for 2018. Its capital, Valletta, is one of Europe’s 2018 capitals of culture and a UNESCO World Heritage Site with 7,000 years of history. Attractions include festivals, nightlife, ancient stone architecture, a rollicking Carnival in February and other festivals, plus World War II history, including scuba diving to wartime wrecks.
The other European capital of culture for 2018 is Leeuwarden in the Netherlands’ province of Friesland. Cultural extravaganzas include an Aug. 31-Sept. 1 event expanding an annual marathon across 23 villages with music, art, theater and unusual pop-up hotels.
Mexico City has been designated the sixth World Design Capital and the first city in the Americas to receive the title. It’s being recognized for sustainable design-led initiatives like bike-sharing, urban gardens, parks and playgrounds. Events will include exhibits, conferences and installations.
FROM ENGLAND TO ETHIOPIA
Elsewhere around the world, destinations on the travel industry’s radar for 2018 range from England to Ethiopia.
England is suddenly a pop culture darling. Fans of the Netflix series “The Crown” can visit one of Queen Elizabeth’s favorite places, Sandringham House, April-November, while those intrigued by the May 2018 wedding of American actress Meghan Markle to Prince Harry can tour their wedding site, Windsor Castle. Oscar-watchers interested in “The Darkest Hour,” starring Gary Oldman as Prime Minister Winston Churchill during World War II, should visit the Churchill War Rooms museum in London.
Also to keep in mind: The Lake District was just named a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visits by Americans to England were up 31 percent January-June 2017 compared with the same period in 2016, thanks in part to the U.S. dollar’s strength against the British pound.
Concerns about terror attacks and unrest have dampened travel to Egypt, Turkey and other destinations in North Africa and the Middle East. But that’s prompted interest in places in the region that are perceived as safe and just as compelling culturally, including Morocco and Jordan. In Africa, Ethiopia also popped up on a couple of where-to-go lists. Its magical attractions include the churches in Lalibela, carved from soft stone and dating to the 12th century.
ASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA
U.S. visitors to Japan increased 10 percent January-October 2017 compared with the same period in 2016, and the upward trend is expected to continue as Japan pushes tourism ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics. Where-to-go lists are highlighting not just Tokyo but also places like Sapporo and the Kii Peninsula, honored as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its pilgrimage routes and sacred mountains.
These days, many well-traveled millennials have already hopscotched around Western Europe by the time they’re done with college, so it makes sense that they’re turning to Asia for spring breaks and backpacking trips with stops in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, India and Singapore. The youth-oriented travel company StudentUniverse says bookings for 18- to 25-year-old U.S. passport holders to Asia from the U.S. have risen more than 700 percent since 2014. And many of those travelers stay in Asia three weeks or more.
Another area that’s starting to intrigue travelers as they expand bucket lists beyond familiar destinations is Central Asia, which includes the countries of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and others with names ending in “-stan.” The country of Georgia also turns up on several where-to-go-in-2018 lists. Geographically it’s considered part of Asia but culturally it’s more Eastern European.
Copyright (2017) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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December 27, 2017 at 10:05PM
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December 27, 2017 at 09:48PM
Last Chance for Those Named Sydney to Win Tickets to Australia
Earlier in 2017, United announced its plans to launch a new ultra-long-haul route between Houston (IAH) and Sydney (SYD). The new daily service begins on January 18, 2018 and will be the only nonstop service between the two cities. In anticipation of the inaugural flight, United is offering a contest for five US-based “Sydneys” to win a trip to their namesake city with one guest, as well as a five-night stay at The Westin Sydney and a $500 prepaid card.
If you’re a Sydney — or a Sidney, Sidnie, Sidnee, Sidneigh, Sidni, Sydnee, Sydny, Sydni, Sidne, Cydney, Cidney, Cidnie, Cidnee, Cidneigh, Cidni, Cydnee, Cydny, Cydni or a Cydne — today is the last day to enter the contest.
The terms and conditions state that participants must have the first or last name of Sydney and must live in the US, though residents of Florida and New York are excluded. Australians, don’t fret — the airline is offering the same contest for residents bearing the name “Houston” for the return flight on January 20.
Today is the last day to enter — winners will be picked on December 28, 2017. So all (American) Sydneys out there, you only have a couple hours left to enter to win what’s sure to be a memorable trip Down Under.
In addition to Houston, United offers flights to SYD from both LAX and SFO, as well as from Melbourne (MEL) to LAX.
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December 27, 2017 at 09:17PM
Bonus Blog Post for Today!
Hey, guess what? I brought back Trey’s Variety Hour! This was a fun one where we talk about some camera gear and share some recent photos. Show notes are below the video!
Come watch as we sit around and talk a LITTLE bit about Photography, maybe! I’ll talk a bit about this new Sony A7r III and some cool new lenses… we’ll all share photos and stuff.
The Arcanum (to learn photography): www.TheArcanum.com
Plotagrapho Pro (Animated Photos): http://ift.tt/2BEiwpj
Trey’s Kit: http://ift.tt/2Ccn4qg
Thomas Hawk: www.ThomasHawk.com
Frederick Van Johnson: http://ift.tt/rYC0Kq
Jim Pollard: http://ift.tt/1wz6i7o
Ron Clifford: www.RonClifford.com
And to sign up for KelbyOne and view Trey’s Aurora tutorial now (and the Plotagraph class soon: http://ift.tt/2CdGewl )
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December 27, 2017 at 09:12PM
Tecton Test Bindings Breakage — User Error, Hex, Or?
Around here in Colorado, we have a legend called the “curse of the Utes.” Gist is the Ute indian tribe were driven from their ancestral lands, cursed the interlopers and their descendants, and ever since when anything goes wrong we Anglos might as well give up upon we are hexed.
I’m not a big fan of the curse theory when it comes to the Utes, but regarding tech bindings I have to think that something similar and real is afoot — though I have no idea where the voodoo might have originated. Early plate-frame binding designers cranked up against Barthel Low-Tec? Telemarker pin heads sticking needles in dolls? Who knows. All I know is that time after time, year after year, we test touring-tech bindings and they break.
Latest, we got our mitts on retail Fritschi Tecton and mounted up for evaluation. Apparently a plastic shoulder the brake arms drop into was perhaps made from weak plastic, simply not designed with enough beef, or possibly needed more TLC than we were giving. How do we know? It broke — and Fritschi has some suggestions on TLC.
We are told this problem is rare to non existent — which is what bloggers are typically told about these sorts of things — but the Fritschi guys are straight shooters so I’ll believe. Moreover, if you do experience this breakage in the field it’s not a day breaker, the binding remains for the most part functional (though it should be renewed under warranty as soon as possible in our opinion). So consider this a PSA on something to watch out for, as well as a reminder of Fritschi’s binding care recommendations (full disclosure, we did NOT spray with silicon before use, as Fritschi recommends below, so perhaps this was user error?):
Fritschi believes this situation is related to friction between the rubber boot sole and ski brake plate.
From Fritschi, lightly edited: “During the step-in process in a new Tecton 12 or Vipec Evo 12, or likewise other bindings on the market, there is typically friction applied on the ski brake plate, usually due to dry, soft and new non-gliding rubber soles on AT ski touring boots. In this case, the ski brake pushes the heel unit back before the ski brake is moving down. Because of that, the ski brake will be pressed with the associated metal rods in a wider position resulting in more pressure to the heel plate. Therefore, in extremely rare circumstances, the pressure on the heel plate could compromise it. This is not something that would happen after boot is officially clicked into binding, so not a safety issue while skiing. Again, this is the very first we have heard of this situation so I suspect this is extremely rare? In the rare event it happens, Fritschi will of course replace any broken heel plate. The solution or prevention is a simple one – spray silicon on the brake plate and heel plate, this will reduce the unusual high friction of boot rubber on the brake plate. According to buyer instructions, Fritschi strongly recommends spraying silicon on the brake plate right after mounting the binding.
Test Skier Data: Skier 150 lbs with heavy day pack, bindings mounted on 116 width skis using brakes with enough width to function properly, estimated air temperature during failure 15 degrees F, failure occurred while stepping in for downhill.
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December 27, 2017 at 09:04PM
I Just Earned Hyatt Globalist Status, Probably for the Last Time
2017 marked the first year of the new World of Hyatt loyalty program, which, along with other big changes, brought entirely new elite tiers. The top level, formerly known as Diamond, is now “Globalist,” and while it’s in many ways more rewarding than before, Globalist is also a bit trickier to achieve.
For me, the biggest challenge is meeting the new 60-night requirement to qualify for top-tier Globalist, up from 50 nights for Diamond. Additionally, Hyatt eliminated the ability to earn elite-qualifying nights based on credit-card spend, along with the ability to qualify with 25 — or, theoretically in this case, 30 — stays instead of nights. So to reach Globalist you’d normally need to spend 60 nights at Hyatt hotels, paying qualifying rates (including cash and points) to boot.
Since earning SPG Platinum is even more important to me — based on the chain’s reach and the fact that it also lands me Platinum with Marriott and Ritz — and that requires 40 nights if you have both the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express, Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express cards, as I do, that means a total of 100 hotel nights in a calendar year to earn top-tier status with both Hyatt and Starwood. Yikes!
— Zach Honig (@ZachHonig) September 22, 2017
That’s why I had all but written off the possibility of earning Globalist back in August — until the chain announced a promotion for co-branded credit cardholders just a few days later, making it possible to earn Globalist by staying 20 nights between September 1 and December 30, 2017. I still wasn’t sure I’d make it, but I registered for the promo just in case.
Then the rest of my 2017 travel began to fall into line, and the 20-night goal finally seemed within reach. In the end, I managed to reach Globalist with exactly 20 nights, qualifying with the following stays:
- Park Hyatt Mallorca (2 nights)
- Grand Hyatt Singapore (4 nights)
- Park Hyatt Hamburg (2 nights)
- Hyatt Regency Boston Harbor (1 night)
- Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach (2 nights)
- Park Hyatt Istanbul (2 nights)
- Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, TST (1 night)
- Hyatt Regency LAX (2 nights)
- Hyatt Regency Casablanca (2 nights)
- Andaz Singapore (1 night)
- Hyatt Regency Tokyo (1 night)
So that’s it — I’m a Globalist now! Though I don’t get all of the benefits, since you need to stay 60 qualifying nights or earn 100,000 base points to get the free Category 1-7 night award, four confirmed suite upgrade certificates, access to the My Hyatt Concierge and the ability to qualify for Globalist after staying 55 nights in the future. I’m a “Globalist Light,” you might say.
— Zach Honig (@ZachHonig) December 14, 2017
Of course, being able to qualify for any version of Globalist status after just 20 nights is a huge perk, and it definitely sends the wrong message to customers who earned their status “the hard way,” by actually staying 60 nights. Naturally, there was some pushback from current elites, and Hyatt has heard that feedback loud and clear — as Amy Weinberg, the new senior vice president of the World of Hyatt program explains:
The recent fast-track to Globalist for Hyatt Credit Cardmembers was a lucrative offer that was made widely available, and we understand and agree with the feedback that we need to be more thoughtful about maintaining the exclusivity of our most elite tier for those who earn it with nights or spend. In 2018, World of Hyatt members can expect more targeted efforts that help them earn rewards and status, but importantly also incentivize and reward members who demonstrate higher levels of engagement with us.
It sounds like we could see targeted status challenge opportunities in 2018, but a similar 20-night shortcut promo will not be available. My own Globalist status is now valid through February 28, 2019, but given the 60-night requirement, and my desire to continue focusing on SPG, I don’t expect to re-qualify next year. I actually have one Hyatt stay booked, though, and I’ll certainly take full advantage of my benefits while I still have them!
Featured image is of the Park Hyatt Mallorca.
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December 27, 2017 at 08:14PM
Chrissy Teigen’s Travel Nightmare ‘Happens More Often Than People Think’
The model Chrissy Teigen was one of more than 200 passengers on an All Nippon Airways flight that left Los Angeles at 11:36 Tuesday morning and arrived (safely!) at 7:33 p.m. — in Los Angeles.
The Tokyo-bound flight, NH175, was interrupted on behalf of a single mixed-up passenger, who had boarded the incorrect flight.
“As part of the airline’s security procedure, the pilot in command decided to return to the originating airport, where the passenger was disembarked,” the airline said in a statement.
It may seem outrageous, but it is surprisingly common for planes to return to their point of origin midway through a flight, analysts said.
“It happens more often than people think,” said Ian Petchenik, a spokesman for the global flight-tracking service Flightradar.
In the last 24 hours, Flightradar found that 10 flights (of about 150,000) had returned to their origin, for reasons including mechanical issues, weather, a disabled aircraft at the destination airport and, of course, a confused passenger.
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December 27, 2017 at 07:42PM
Balance Transfer Cards to Pay Down Your Holiday Shopping Bill
To really benefit from your favorite rewards credit cards, you need to be free from credit card debt. But, the holidays have a way of sneaking up on us, and it’s possible you may have spent more than you liked. If that’s the case, you may wind up carrying a credit card balance into next year – a situation that is less than ideal.
Even though travel credit cards are amazing when it comes to earning rewards, they are a bad idea if you ever carry a balance. That’s because they typically have higher interest rates than regular cards or low interest credit cards.
Fortunately, it’s possible to avoid interest charges with a balance transfer.
How Balance Transfers Work
If you have credit card debt and don’t want to pay interest on your purchases, a balance transfer credit card might be the answer to your prayers. These cards let you transfer balances from other cards and loans in order to secure 0 percent APR for anywhere from 12 – 21 months.
Since each of these cards comes with its own unique offer, it’s really important to read the card’s terms and conditions before you move forward. For example, some balance transfer cards only offer 0 percent APR for 12 months while others offer 0 percent APR for 21 months.
Then, there are balance transfer fees – an upfront fee equal to 3-5 percent of your balance you need to pay when you use a balance transfer credit card.
The good news is, not all cards charge this fee.
Balance Transfer Cards to Consider
There are a ton of great balance transfer cards on the market, and the new year is a great time to sign up. Not only will you be able to stop paying interest on your purchases, but you can use new year momentum to work your way out of debt.
Some of the best balance transfer cards on the market include:
Chase Slate Card
The Chase Slate Card is one of the best balance transfers on the market. Not only does it not charge a balance transfer fee for balances transferred within the first 60 days, but it offers 0 percent APR on purchases and balance transfers for a full 15 months. This card doesn’t charge an annual fee.
Citi Diamond Preferred
While the Citi Diamond Preferred card does charge a 3 percent balance transfer fee, you get 0 percent APR on purchases and balance transfers for a full 21 months. If you have a lot of debt to pay off, it may be beneficial to pay the balance transfer fee to get a longer introductory offer with zero interest. This offer also comes with no annual fee.
The Discover it is another no-fee option that works well for a balance transfer. While you’ll pay a 3 percent balance transfer fee, you’ll get 0 percent APR on purchases and balance transfers for 14 months. You’ll also get a free FICO score on your monthly statement and the potential to earn rewards.
Have you ever done a balance transfer? Why or why not? What is your favorite balance transfer card?
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December 27, 2017 at 07:09PM
Review: Club SEA Sala Pergolesi Lounge at Milan Malpensa (MXP)
Got time to kill while flying through Milan’s Malpensa airport? TPG Contributor J. Keith van Straaten did, so he checked out the Club SEA Sala Pergolesi lounge and reports his findings.
One of the most useful perks from my Chase Sapphire Reserve and The Platinum Card from American Express cards is membership in Priority Pass, with access to over 1,000 airport lounges. I use it all the time, and when my flight was delayed coming home from Milan Malpensa (MXP), I was glad to see on my Priority Pass app that there were two lounges that I could access for free. (There is a third, but it was not available to travelers on my route.) One was landside and the other airside, after security.
Arrival and Check-In
After passing through security, it’s easy to see the signs to the lounge. But be careful: SEA, the company that runs Milan’s airports and operates the lounge under their suite of “ViaMilano” services, has more than one lounge, and not all are accessible with Priority Pass. Stay off the path to the Montale lounge and keep going until you see Pergolesi, then it’s up the elevator to the narrow entrance.
Two harried desk agents checked travelers in with neither a smile nor a welcome. My travel companion and I each showed our Priority Pass cards and boarding passes and were ready to enjoy the lounge within a couple minutes. Day passes are available for purchase for 35 euros ($39 USD).
Immediately on entering the lounge, it’s easy to see this is not a great place to relax. It’s one windowless room with low ceilings and a tile floor. While a few floor lamps add a little bit of mood lighting, it’s hard to shake the impression that the airport never planned for this space to be used by the public. It was also difficult to find two empty seats.
Clusters of chairs and varied coffee tables were distributed throughout the room, with a buffet of food and drink along the back wall. A side wall held a counter with five tall chairs.
On the other side of the wall was a narrow hallway with bathrooms, showers and a tiny elevator. There were many chances to practice saying “Scusi” as passengers and staff navigated the corridor. A closet was provided for storage (no lockers). In addition to the monitors, flight departures were announced and many passengers cleared out after the announcement of a flight to Shanghai.
Free Wi-Fi was easy to connect to and tested at an okay speed of 7.35/2.30Mbps. Two TVs were on mute and a selection of newspapers and magazines in Italian and English were free for the taking.
Food and Beverage
All the food and drink was self-serve, with the buffet offering lots of tiny foods, none of them hot (though a microwave was provided for some reason).
Finger sandwiches were the closest thing to a main course and I saw more than one person stack them high on a small plate.
While nothing was spectacular, I was impressed with the abundance and variety. Cookies, crackers, cereal, chips, cheese, chocolate — all the best “c” foods were there. The packaged salads were surprisingly fresh and tasty and the fruit was ripe and crisp. The size and packaging of many of the foods was perfect for those who wished to sneak some out for the plane ride.
A coffee machine provided small servings of coffees and espressos. Some bottled beers nested with soft drinks in a refrigerator and a few Italian wines (red, white and sparkling) sat on the counter in front of a decent liquor selection. Four types of juice were on offer as well.
All images by the author.
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December 27, 2017 at 07:02PM