I’m sure the title probably set a few people back or made them wonder why on earth I’d feel that way. For those that know me well, it’s no surprise as I’m a huge fan of United Airlines for a multitude of reasons which may not make sense for everyone, but they make sense for me. Note – this is not sponsored content, it is all mine, my opinions, just my raw unfiltered love for one of the world’s largest airlines.
My affinity for United started 14 years ago in 2002 when I was living in Denver. It started as a simple happenstance. With Denver being a United hub, my company encouraged us to use United for travel. At the time, I was young with no alliances so sure why not. They were an airline, seemed just as good as any of them, it was just a source to get from A to B.
Two years later in 2004 one of my good friends invited me to their wedding in Thailand. I was a bit of a nervous flyer (despite regularly travelling for work) so the thought of crossing my first ocean freaked me out. At the time, it was dirt cheap to use miles on United Airlines to fly to Asia in business class so I cashed everything in – 90,000 miles at the time. United pampered me the whole way there and back – relaxing in business class lie flat seats took most the anxiousness out of flying and allowed me to focus more on the amazing experience to support my friend at his wedding. Awe, thank you United.
However, it also gave me a taste that international travel in business class was the only way to fly. I know, I know, sounds like a first world thing to say. Though as an anxious flyer, I’ll say, it makes a world of difference between – hell no and sure I’ll go. Maybe it’s the constant distraction, or the fact you can lay down and sleep, or that fact that if you’re being pampered that much you’ll probably live through the experience. Who knows, flying anxiety is all in our head so what calms us down is just as irrational as what stirs us up.
Fast forward a couple years to 2006, at this point I’d been travelling a bunch for work and had a huge desire to see the world. The only thing holding me back was this darn flying anxiety. United Airlines partnered with the Colorado 99s and held a Flight Without Fear course at the United training facility in Denver. That’s one of United’s biggest facilities and it’s got some amazing state of the art stuff there. As part of the course, we visited the United maintenance facility, flew United flight simulators (I chose the B747 – sweet!), among many other awesome things. It was facilitated by a psychologist and was one of the best things I’ve done for myself. I’ve now flown over 500,000 miles with United, that’s like flying from New York to LA 200 times. Awe, thank you United.
So if that wasn’t enough for a full on love affair with United, in 2008 I discovered their Mileage Plus program. Previously I’d been using all my miles to upgrade on international flights as ocean crossings were still out of my comfort zone. If you’ve played the miles game before, you’ll know that most airlines let you use miles to buy flights, upgrade flights, buy magazine subscriptions, but that’s about it. Then you meet United, let me introduce you to the most unheard of amazing miles program on the planet. How many Christmas’ have I purchased all my gifts using United miles…hmm…too many to count, saves me hundreds of dollars. I can buy earrings, watches, purses, kids toys, suitcases, iPads, cameras, laptops, you name it. You better believe I haven’t paid for flowers in years, all United points. Restaurants, yep. Tickets to sporting events, yep. I wish I flew more, United points are so awesome it’s addicting. It’s why I have two United credit cards – hehe!
A month or so ago I was travelling from New York to Kona Hawaii. My aircraft from New York to Los Angeles was delayed, then more delayed, then eventually so delayed there was no way I’d make it to Kona. These things happen, to all airlines. So what did my good buddy United do, well I’m so glad you asked. In New York, United let me keep my original flight from LA-Kona ‘just in case’ we made up time in the air and ALSO booked me on a back-up later that night to Oahu ‘just in case’ so no matter what I’d get to Hawaii that day. The doors to my flight closed by the time we landed in LA so I was able to grab the backup flight without issue, updated on my app and everything. Sweet. When I landed in Oahu I didn’t have to do anything, United met me at the gate with hotel vouchers, food vouchers, and taxi vouchers. Everything was easy-smeasy and totally paid for. And yep, they even bumped me to first class from Oahu to Kona. So yes, I love United.
I’ll spare you from the hundreds of stories where United either saved my butt on getting to a destination, sent me free money because of a delay, let me change my flight last minute (which I do ALL the time) or put me in first class. I’ll also spare you from the fact that I’ve rarely paid for hotels in the last five years, my United miles pay for it all. Rental cars too. My vacations are so cheap because of it, I’m often confused why we’re not all doing it. I’ll also spare you from my lounge stories where they fed me free meals, gave me free wine, and a place to sleep on long international layovers. Sure do they make me pay for my video/tv, yes, but if my flight cost 7.99 more I’d still have bought it so I thank them for the choice instead of forcing me to pay b/c it’s ‘hidden’ in the price. I’ll also spare you from stories about flying non-stop all over the globe like NY-Honolulu, NY-Beijing, NY-Tokyo, just about anywhere. Love love love United.
As with anything, everyone has their own priorities. I’ve heard many ‘I hate United’ statements to last my lifetime so I totally get why they may not be your favorite or anywhere on your list to fly. Which is probably okay because if we were all flying them the demand would be too high the prices would likely follow. I like it exactly where it is. Does United have flaws, sure, all airlines do, heck, all people do. Do I like the fact their planes are aging, no, but I can also empathize that running a behemoth airline means you need to balance cost of maintenance with cost of new planes with cost of lost passenger revenue, which means I know they are on top of this, so I’m not worried. Happy travels!