Tagged: Continental Airlines

Five States in One Day

It was supposed to be a pretty straightforward trip to Paducah, Kentucky, originating in Newark with a long connection in Chicago.

We started the day in New York as we do every day, but we had to cross the Hudson River, into New Jersey, for our flight departing Newark. A classic “I-95” rainstorm, running up the entire eastern seaboard, delayed the incoming aircraft by over two hours. That, in turn, delayed our Continental Airlines flight to Chicago and our long two-hour-plus layover turned into a very risky connection. Although we ran from our arriving gate to the Paducah gate, we missed our United Express flight. We were automatically rebooked on the last flight of the following day, which would put us into Kentucky a full day after than we had planned.

Sarah insisted that we not lose the entire day so we asked if we could be rerouted on a United flight to Nashville, and Sarah’s family would pick us up and drive to Kentucky. The agent promptly rebooked us and issued boarding passes for a flight to Nashville.

The new flight required an overnight stay so we asked if we could get vouchers for a hotel. Since it was the Continental flight that caused the misconnect, we had to ask them for accommodation. Continental doesn’t have much of a presence at O’Hare so it was a bit of a challenge to find someone, but we eventually found someone at the baggage claim office. The Continental agent obliged us and handed us complimentary hotel and meal vouchers. Thanks!

My experience with weather delays and missed connections is pretty limited. It only happened once before, when I flew on a different airline, and I was offered a discounted room, which is an airline’s standard practice. I am fairly certain that because our Newark-Chicago flight was late due to weather, we were not entitled to the hotel and meal vouchers, but I suspect that elite status might have helped in this case.

In either case, Sarah and I made the best of it. We used our meal vouchers for the Tortas Frontera at the B terminal at O’Hare and had one of the best breakfast tortas east of the Colorado River. (Note, if you have one of these $12 vouchers, get a breakfast torta and a coffee.) It also worked out because while we were at O’Hare, a reasonable one-way fare from Chicago to Los Angeles became available. Since I was using some travel credit certificates I received in September for giving up my seat, I had to redeem them in person at the airport. It would have been very difficult to redeem had we not been at O’Hare.

Although it was unfortunate that our plans turned out a bit different from we had originally planned, it helped to keep our cool and ask politely for help. I hope everyone remembers that this holiday season before screaming at an agent.

Airline Miles for Rail Points

Miniature Train Museum

Today, I transferred some of my United Mileage Plus airline miles to Amtrak Guest Rewards points, even if the two carriers are not partners. However, United’s merger mate, Continental, has been a partner with Amtrak for many years, and beginning this past spring, you can freely transfer miles between your United and Continental accounts.

I converted the air miles to rail points since I find that earning airline miles is far easier than earning train points. For example, almost everyone can earn 5,000 miles by, say, flying on a transcontinental flight between New York and California. Since my elite status with United gives me a 100% mileage bonus on flight, I only need to fly 2,500 miles or a one-way flight between New York and Los Angeles (2,475 miles) or San Francisco (2,585 miles). If you buy a one-way ticket for $175, that’s about 7¢ per mile, or 3.5¢ per mile for me since I have the 100% mileage bonus. (Don’t hate me.)

Comparatively, Amtrak offers a less generous earning rate. You earn points based on the amount of money you spend on travel, not on how far you travel. To earn 5,000 points on Amtrak, you have to spend $2,500, as they will give you two points for every dollar spent. However, Amtrak will also give you a minimum of 100 points for every trip you take. I have exploited this rule a few times in California because you get 100 points for every segment, and that includes short-haul trips on the Pacific Surfliner, which cost as little as $20. At that rate, you can earn 5,000 points in fifty one-way trips. And at $20 per trip, which is a minimum price, that would require at least $1000 to earn the same number of points as $375 on an airline. That’s why I decided to convert my “bling” from air to rail.

One large looming question remains. What do I get with 5,000 Amtrak points?

If you’re going to do the same thing, hurry. The partnership between Continental and Amtrak ends on December 31.

Where Should I Go… for Free?

A few weeks ago, I won two free round-trip tickets on United-Continental to anywhere they fly in the following territories:

  • United States (48 state + Alaska)
  • Canada
  • Mexico
  • Central America
  • Caribbean

It’s a cool prize, except that finding availability is a little challenging. Also, the seats are in economy class, and sadly, the tickets are not upgradable (elite upgrades don’t apply nor can you upgrade with miles.)

But I am simply unsure where to go. Any suggestions?

Malfunctioning DirecTV Kept Row 8 Awake During Recent Red Eye

DirecTV sucks on a red-eye

Although I’ve never been a fan of DirecTV, even if it’s the one feasible entertainment option on board a flight when there’s no inflight WiFi, the fact that all three screens in row 8 of Sunday night’s red eye flight between Portland and Houston made me hate the contraption even more. First, when we sat down, the screen displayed an error message “DCHP Connection Lost” on a bright white screen. Then, once the cabin lights were turned off so we could get a little sleep, the screen was still completely illuminated. To make matters worse, the screen would turn off intermittently, reboot, and then display the intensely bright error message for several minutes. It was worse than a flashing neon sign, because those signs are a lot further than three feet away.

The inflight crew tried their best to turn off the system, but they said that there was nothing they could do to fix our screen. A polite letter to Continental Airlines is in progress.