Tag Archives: travel

United 1K vs. American Executive Platinum

In this post I’ll go over a few of the differences I’ve seen based on my experience so far of being a United 1K member and an American Executive Platinum member.  I’ve been a 1K member for several years. In fall 2015, I did a status challenge with American and received Executive Platinum status for 2016.  As I’ve been flying I’ve started to notice a few of the differences in these two programs and how they work.  Here are my observations.

Premier Benefits
American offers free upgrades on any flights including international flights to their Executive Platinum members.  American also gives you eight systemwide upgrades (but they are changing it to four starting in 2016) and 20 500-mile upgrades for flights longer than 500 miles.  With the status, if you don’t get upgraded and you fly in economy on domestic flights American will provide you one free food/snack item and one drink.  Flight attendants might know your status and they will offer you something complimentary to eat or drink.  If they don’t or if you are on a busy flight, you just have to show them your Executive Platinum card (on your app is okay).  You can also earn EQM from American’s partner airlines with no minimum spending requirement.

United only gives you free upgrades on domestic (non P.S.) flights for 1K members.  You get six systemwide upgrades and eight regional upgrades.  For international flights, you need to request an upgrade using your systemwide upgrade coupons.  United won’t offer free food if you are in economy.  They will give you drink coupons you can use for drinks though.  You can only earn EQM on United’s flights or partner airline that carry a United flight number.  You also need to spend $12,000 a year to qualify for 1K.

Both United and American allow you to use their lounge when you travel internationally.  With American’s partner airlines, you can access their first class lounges with the Executive Platinum status.  I don’t think United’s partner airlines offer that.

The Star Alliance only has two status levels: silver and gold.  You can get gold status if you have a gold, platinum, 1K, or global services status on United.  One World has three status levels: ruby, sapphire, and emerald (highest).  Only Executive Platinum can get emerald.  With emerald, you can use the first class counter check-in at the airport (even if you don’t fly first class or business class).

On balance I feel like I got more upgrades on American on domestic flights.

United does a better job in terms of technology including their website and mobile app.  With United, you can check-in online for all your flights on your itinerary 24 hours prior to your first flight.  For example, if your flight is at 6 AM from EWR to DEN then at 3 PM from DEN to SAN, you can check-in at 6 AM the day before for both flights.  With American, you cannot do this.  American only allows you to check-in 24 hours prior to the first flight, then you have to check-in separately for your other flights.

United also shows you where you are on the upgrade list and how many seats are available as early as 24 hours prior to your flight.  You don’t see this data on American.   You will see only an upgrade list 4 hours prior to your flight on American.

United allows you to use their mobile app to watch TV shows and movies on some flights.  American doesn’t offer this.

United has made it easy for you to see how many EQM you will earn from your flights.  On American, the system doesn’t show that.  The only way I see American EQM info is by clicking on the “upgrades” button on my mobile app for a particular flight.

United is very consistent with their international business class seats.  They are pretty much the same on all of United international flights (all lie flat beds).  American has many version of their business class seats depending on which aircraft you are on.  Part of the reason for this is that American recently merged with U.S. Airways and their aircraft have different configurations than the legacy American aircraft.  Regardless, I like the business class seats on American more than those on United.  Newer business class seats on American have more privacy and direct aisle access to every seat. It looks like United will be going that direction as well with their new Polaris business class seats but it will take a long time for United to roll them out across their whole fleet.

Food in business class is comparable on both airlines.  I have never flown in international first class yet, so I cannot yet compare that class of service across the two airlines.


First Home Leave

It’s Obon Week in Japan, so I went back to San Diego for a week. I flew from ITM to NRT and then took a direct flight from NRT to SAN on JAL. JAL is using a 787 plane between NRT and SAN but the configuration of the business class is an older one. The seat doesn’t lie flat. It was okay but wasn’t comfortable to sleep in. I lay down for a few hours. The flight was under 10 hours. I got in to San Diego around noon and took Lyft home.

On Wednesday, we went up to Napa for a night. We flew up to Oakland and drove to Napa. We stayed at the Silverado Resort and Spa. The room at the hotel is like an apartment but old. We went to two vineyards (Raymond Vineyards and V. Sattui Winery) for tasting. We went to Raymond because the hotel gave us a coupon for 50% off. The interior of this place is very interesting with a circus theme. The wine was good as well. V. Sattui is one of my favorite vineyards, and I especially like their Riesling. We ended up buying a case of wine from them. For dinner, we went to Bistro Don Giovanni (Italian). I found it on Yelp. The food was good.

I came back to San Diego on Thursday night and flew back to Osaka on Friday. On the flight back to Osaka from San Francisco, it was pretty empty. Back to hot and muggy weather in Osaka.

Highlights from 2014

Here are the highlights of what’s going on in my life in 2014

  • I flew 126,096 miles, mostly on United
  • I visited 39 cities in 5 countries
  • I went to Japan 4 times
  • New destinations of the year were Hokkaido, Japan, Bermuda, and Wiesbaden, Germany
  • I visited 3 Christmas Markets in Germany (and 4 Holiday Markets in New York)
  • I saw 14 Broadway shows

20 Things I’ve Learned in My First Year Living in New York City

I have been living in New York City for about a year now and I would like to share a few things I’ve learned about living in this amazing city.

  1. Sidewalks are often uneven.  Watch where you walk, especially if you wear open toe shoes.
  2. In addition to walking, sidewalks are for trash and it can be smelly.  However, some buildings wash down their sections of sidewalk in the morning.
  3. It is a well dressed city.  It makes you want to dress well and look nice all the time.
  4. You have to tip everyone who works in your apartment/condo building during the year end holidays.  Although it is optional you will get reminders though emails or flyers.
  5. The weekend subway schedule is confusing, for example, the A train runs on the C track.  So, read the posters and listen to the train announcements on the weekend.
  6. You will love delivery services and will use them more and more.   You can have pretty much anything delivered to your apartment.
  7.  There are a lot of free events though out the year.   For  example, free museums on Friday nights, free museums on the first weekend of each month (sponsored by Bank of America), and Shakespeare in the Park (in the summer).
  8. Summer outdoor movies are very popular.
  9. Expect to wait in line for a long time when shopping at Trader Joe’s unless you get there early in the morning.   There is only one Trader Joe’s wine store in the city in Union Square.  You can get beer at all Trader Joe’s stores through.
  10. You will learn to get fruits and vegetables from the stands on the streets outside your apartment.
  11. Starbucks are everywhere.  You can find them in almost every corner, literately.  Some of them even open 24 hours.  However, I prefer local stores that make great latte.  My favorite is Stumptown at the Ace Hotel (expect to wait in line for a long time).  They really take their time making your coffee.  They also serve Doughnut Plant donuts.
  12. The subway is not the cleanest in the world but you can take it almost everywhere in the boroughs for $2.50 a ride.
  13. Williamsburg is hip and full of young professionals.   I prefer living in Manhattan though.
  14. It is somewhat true that you won’t really find New Yorkers in Times Square unless they work in the area.   I have to walk through to get to work.  In the morning it is nice and quiet but in the evening it is very crowded.  I went to the Swatch store in Times Square last week and the sales person there made the comment “we don’t get the locals here.”
  15. All the street fairs in the city have the same food and merchandise vendors.  The only exception is Smorgasburg in Brooklyn which has local vendors.
  16. There are so many good restaurants to try.  Many of them, you will have to wait in line (unless they take reservations).  Food is more expensive here, in general.  For example, Chipotle is more expensive here compared to other cities.  One exception is Trader Joe’s which sells their products at the same price in all their stores.
  17. There are a lot of smokers, especially on the sidewalks.
  18. TKTS Booth is for tourists.  There are other options getting discounted tickets to the shows, for example, Today Tix app.
  19. There are Duane Reade stores (owned by Walgreens) on almost every corner.  They are not the cheapest but the most convenient.
  20. There are still many areas and neighborhoods I have yet to explore.   Who knows how many years it will take.