United Is Devaluing MileagePlus Today
Today, October 31, 2017, is your last chance to book award United flights at current levels. For travel to/from the U.S., Business and First Class Saver levels are rising for almost all long-haul flights: to Europe, Middle East, Japan, South and Central Asia, Oceania, Australia/New Zeeland, and south South America. Granted, they are not rising dramatically; in most cases, just 2.5K – 10K miles per one way flight. Still, if you know your plans for the coming year, there are no reasons to overpay.
So, the current status of our beloved hobby of traversing the world for free is easy to describe in 2 words. It sucks!
But there is a qualification. It sucks for us, the veterans, yes. But it’s never been better for newbies.
I’ve probably said the same thing before. I said it a year ago, 2 years ago, in 2014, and all the way back to 2010, when I began working on my first book. Doesn’t mean I’ve been lying. All these years, the hobby has been good for newbies, as I’m sure it will have never been better by the end of 2018. Call it an evolution of truth, if you will, but I’ve always been perfectly honest about it.
Oh, and in case you live in a cave, our friend George of TBB fame got arrested for lying to the authorities. It’s all over the Internet, so it must be true. Oh, wait…
Sorry, George, can’t resist, I know you’re hurting. 🙁
I will elaborate on the suckiness of our hobby in my next post, but first, my personal plug for the event I’ve learned to love very much over the last 4 years.
FinCon Dallas 2017
FinCon is a financial bloggers conference. It was held in Dallas this year, and it was great! There isn’t much not to love about an event where even a hopeless introvert like myself can (occasionally) talk to people, ask for tips, and share some laughs. Someone once described FinCon as a “happy place,” and it really is.
The conference was quite intense. Over a thousand people in attendance, very busy schedule, lots of networking, and very little sleep. It also has the Freelance Marketplace, geared to freelance writers, which is crucial since freelance writing is how I pay my bills. So, it was great that FinCon caters to our sorry crowd, too, and gives us a space where we can ply our wares. For example, TBEX, which is a travel blogger conference and also a great one, doesn’t offer anything like a freelance marketplace. Which is a shame, really.
My First Southwest Flight Ever
I’ve never flown Southwest before, and I loved the experience. Even though I was boarding in the 4th group, I managed to snatch an exit row aisle seat by asking nicely.
“Depends,” said the flight attendant who was standing there observing the boarding.
“On what?” I asked with a smile that only I find charming.
“On how much you pay me,” she said. “We’ll start the bidding soon.”
Gee, I think I’m falling in love with Southwest. They are funny, folksy, and friendly. The seat was fine, the legroom was more than generous, the middle seat was empty, and the flight attendants were warm and friendly. What’s not to love?
Can people smarter than me explain how Southwest remains profitable without resorting to the Death of a Thousand Fees revenue approach of the Big Three – the same Big Three who cry “poorhouse” whenever their practices are challenged? It’s not possible, right?
LYFT, Not Uber
I had a few $5 LYFT discount coupons, so I decided to put them to good use. At the time of my arrival at DAL at 8 AM, Uber had a surge: $26-43. Lyft offered $14, which would become $9 with my coupon. My choice was clear, as I’m not a glutton for punishment.
On our way to the hotel, I was expecting to encounter huge traffic, but our ride was smooth and took about 20 minutes. What that “surge” was about, I have no idea at all.
All my short rides downtown cost $6.25, so I guess this is the minimum you should expect to pay. With my discount I ended up paying around $3 including tips. I gladly left tips – the drivers were friendly, and most cars were very nice. My final ride to DFW cost $30 ($25). I had 2 pieces of baggage and an early morning flight, so didn’t feel like gambling with a tram.
Sheraton Dallas Hotel
Fincon Dallas 2017 was held at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel, a massive hotel/convention center in downtown Dallas. If you ever stay there, they have a ridiculously-cheap upgrade to a Club Room (1,000 – 1,500 SPG points) that includes access to the lounge.
I didn’t see the upgrade price until it was too late, and there wasn’t any availability. However, the SPG agent requested a free lounge pass honoring my awesome Gold status. So, I got a regular room with free access to the lounge. Which was even better – although I had to take 2 elevators to get there from my room on the 31st floor.
The Sheraton Dallas has a lot of mediocre reviews, and they might be somewhat fair. It’s an old, massive, business hotel with occasional service hiccups, begging for a multimillion-dollar renovation. But it’s also an affordable and very convenient place to stay in the heart of Dallas, with a good pool, great gym, and almost across the street from the DFW tram stop, so if you don’t carry heavy baggage, you can use the tram easily rather than splurge on a cab ride.
Tip: Decline room cleaning and get 500 SPG points per night, except the last night.
Is it a great lounge? No. Is it worth 1k points a day? I think so. Here is why.
The Sheraton Dallas Hotel lounge is nice. It’s not large and somewhat intimate. The lounge is separated into four parts.
- Reception, where you find breakfast, evening hors d’oeuvres, and wine/beers
- Dining room
- Computers/printers room
- Backroom (just kidding, it is in the back, but it has this cozy living room setup) and restroom
You are entitled to a continental breakfast that includes scrambled eggs, bacon, and sausage. The 5 PM hors d’oeuvres ranged from quite good (pulled pork sandwiches) to ridiculous (grilled cheese sandwiches). There are always a few cheeses and vegetables, and also a choice of 3 or 4 wines, which were quite decent, in my opinion. The lounge is open 24/7 and, like I said, a great option for the price. Although, do go out and enjoy the best meets Dallas has to offer.
The Rustic and The Tower Dallas Club
We had two memorable parties. One was at The Rustic. It was massive, with a lot of delicious Tex-Met food, excellent live band, and an impressive collection of 40+ craft beers.
Another great party was not the part of FinCon, but CardCon — a separate one-day event, organized by Jason Steele and dedicated to everything “credit.” It was an interesting event, and I will be writing about it separately, but the point is that the party in a 48th floor bar was fantastic with inventive drinks and some delicious bites, too.
I used 2 Priority Pass airport lounges that weren’t really lounges: Minute Suites in Terminal A (Gate 23) at DFW and Corona Beach House at Terminal D (Gate 23/24) at MIA.
Minute Suites is just that – a tiny room you rent (in my case get for free) in 1-hour increments. I arrived at DFW early and was thrilled to use the suite for a 50-minute nap. It has a comfortable sofa, a desk, and a Smart TV with Netflix and some other apps. It doesn’t have any free food and drinks options or restrooms. At 5:30 AM I didn’t have any interest in entertainment, so I just dozed off
The Corona Beach House at MIA is a restaurant that gives Priority Pass holders a $30 allowance to use in its dining room, as well as outside prepacked section. Since I didn’t have a lot of time before my next flight, I grabbed an egg salad with coffee to eat there and a tuna sandwich to take on the plane. Both were fresh and tasty.
My credit card pages are completely outdated. Will work on them in the coming days.