Old Nov 27, 04, 7:21 pm
  #2  
qasr
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Programs: Nah.
Posts: 13,950
Moving from QF to UA, a comprehensive guide, part 2

United vs. Qantas
Obviously the two airlines are very different and this could be a whole new thread on its own. Iíll try and point out the things I love about United, and miss about Qantas.

Lounges

The United Red Carpet Clubs are typically a notch below the good QPís. As always, they vary by location, some are better than others. If you hang out at FT enough, youíll know which *A lounge or RCC to go to at each location and you can make the best of it. For example, in my pre-FT days, I went to the LHR RCC. It is nice, but usually crowded and has very slow computers. FTers told me to try the SAS London Lounge, which is quite new, nicer, less crowded and had a better selection of drinks. Iíd put it only just below the BA Terraces Lounge at T4 only because it does not have as many showers, although the SAS Lounge had MUCH faster computers

All of the RCCís outside the US have free drinks, however, the US domestic ones (like AA ) have a bar which serves drinks for a fee. If you are a non-elite in a premium cabin or a UA elite traveling internationally in any class, then you will get two drink coupons (again, like AA). The Star Gold lounges vary just as much as the OW ones do in various locations. Finding which has better is the subject of many other threads and I won't go into them here.

Of the Star lounges in SYD, the UA RCC is acceptable, although the Air NZ one is nicer, and most UA elites waiting for flights to the US choose to use it. In LAX and SFO, the lounges are decent. The LAX one is nicer than the old QF one in LAX, but the newer QF one is nicer IMHO just for having many showers available. The UA LAX lounge has one shower IIRC. The SFO lounge is quite nice from what I have heard, Iíll be sampling it later this week!

Note that the RCC and the United International First Class lounge are almost always separate. The RCC is for *G and Business class passengers, while the First Class lounge is for F pax (duh!). All International First Lounges have free booze and are roughly on par to the AA Flagship Lounges.

1P and 1K members have access to any Star Gold lounge when traveling outside the US. If in the US, you are only allowed in if flying internationally (includes Canada, but not the Caribbean...go figure) or if traveling on a US domestic portion of an international trip.

Economy Plus

This is a big winner for me, and one of the main reasons which convinced me to move. It simply the same Economy seat, but with 4-6 inches more legroom depending on the aircraft. On a 14 hour US-Australia flight, this is an AMAZING comfort feature, one which I would now dread doing without. It is subjective, but I think you get a tad more overhead space too, since there are less ďpassengers per overhead binĒ. This can be helpful with all those Americans who refuse to check anything in

Economy plus is on all United planes except the 762's which are retiring over the coming months. Typically the Regional Jets in the US donít have E+, but the newer ones are coming with E+, as well as First!

UA also claims to block the middle seat for elites in E+ if possible, although this is really only happening more recently now that they are charging for access to E+ to non-elite members. Previously, non-elites could get E+ at check in, if there were seats available, now a fee is being charged which varies according to the distance of the flight. Non-elite members holding full fare (Y,B,M) tickets are also allowed to sit in E+.

US Carrier vs. Aussie Carrier

When I started considering my options, this weighed in pretty heavily. Moving my business to a US company from one that supports my fellow Aussies was not really what I wanted to do. After I considered all the benefits I was losing on QF, the way they treat their status members and the way their service levels have been heading, it didnít really end up making that much difference. I must admit that I always enjoyed getting on a QF flight in LAX and being greeted with an Aussie accent. This is a personal decision really, so I wonít say any more.

Ted vs. Jetstar

These are the two LCCís of United and Qantas respectively. I have not had the pleasure of traveling on either myself, but here are the on-paper differences. (RAR!)
  • Ted has E+, which is a nice thing on some of the especially long flights (4+ hours) that is has been starting to do recently. The E+ policies are the same to mainline UA
  • Ted will interline baggage with regular UA mainline flights.
  • Ted will serve you a cup of soft drink/juice for free, but not the whole can. (Does Jet* even serve anything at all?)
  • You will get Mileage credit on Ted, the same as you would on UA mainline.
  • Jetstar operates in Australia, Ted operates in the US
Needless to say, any member of status on either airline doesnít like traveling on these LCC subsidiaries.

First and Business Class

Having traveled on QF J (only once with the skybeds) and UA C, I can say that the service in both in inconsistent. When it is good, its good and when it is poor it is awful. I have had good and bad on both. Iíll outline the main differences:

The dreamtime seat in QF was long overdue for an update, and the skybed is nice. Personally I think it is quite inferior to the the BA Club World sleeper seats, but it is better than the UA seats. I just donít like the downward tilt of the beds. The UA Business seats are similar to the Dreamtime seats on QF, but I find the UA seats much more comfortable. They are softer and have more recline. The bottom line is: if you are in the upper deck, it is going to be quiet, comfortable and youíll sleep well.

Iíve only traveled in QF First once, and loved every second! Iím yet to travel in UA F, but will sometime next year. The seats in UA F are, I believe the same sleeper suites in the old QF F. I imagine the newer QF F product is better, however Iíll let others who have experienced both weigh in their opinion.

While Food in both is quite comparable, and decent, the wine in QF is vastly superior. UA has typically French and American wines, and rarely an Aussie one. I find most of the wine choices in QF J to be better on average. Again, having not traveled on UA F, I canít say, but I believe they get mostly the same wines as C.

Earning status by flying in First and Business is much easier in the QF program, however the points earned are practically the same. UA gives a 1.25 bonus for Business and a 1.5 bonus for First. EQMís are multiplied by 1.5 for First, Business and Full Fare economy.

In flight Entertainment is better in QF too. UA C has personal video screens on all aircraft, but only 6 movies. UA F has the individual video players, so roughly on par with QF F.

The amenity bags on UA have received a cost cutting measure recently and are fairly bare bones. The QF ones have as well, but it seems they are a bit better as far as I remember them.

Economy

Economy seats are roughly the same for QF and UA. UA has E+, which is great on the US-Australia routes obviously. The meals are roughly the same, maybe a bit better on QF. The wine in QF is better.

QF offers a little ďbag of goodiesĒ along with some water after the first meal on long haul flights, I liked this. UA doesnít do this, but on the US-Australia routes they serve a meal mid flight which I usually ignore and keep sleeping. QF also gives you a mini amenity pack of socks, eyemask and a toothbrush which is nice, but absent on UA. This doesnít bother me too much, as I have many from Business class flights which I keep in my carry on anyway.

In flight entertainment sucks on the UA 744. This is exclusively what they fly between US-Australia. There is mainscreen entertainment only, just like it USED TO BE on QF . Of course, the UA 777ís which fly on most routes between US-Asia and US-Europe have personal video screens in Economy. These have been 6 movie channel systems in my experience. While I think it is really poor not to have personal video screens in the 744, I am usually asleep (or upgraded! ^)for most of the flights between SYD-LAX/SFO so it doesnít bother me too much. On the trans-atlantic flights, I make sure I get a 777 on the westbound flights, or the daytime eastbound flights, since Iíll be awake for most of the flight.

Award Flights

Award flights, along with upgrades are really where UA shines. Iíll go into detail about how the UA system works since most of you are familiar with the QF system.

UA divides the continents and has a flat mileage rate for an award between Continent X and Continent Y. For the sake of brevity, I will not retype the points chart in this post, and just point you to the united website. United ďSaverĒ Awards and Star Awards. Star awards differ from OW awards. You have to redeem a star award if you have one or more, or all sectors on a Star carrier other than united. This can work to your advantage sometimes and not others.

The bottom line: UNITED IS CHEAPER! Consider doing a paid RTW in Y and being a 1P/1K member. With the 100% bonus, you earn around 50k points. For a Y award Europe to the US, it is only 50k. 60k for US-Australia in Y. You can really play the continent thing to your advantage as well. A SYD-JFK is the same as a SYD-LAX for example.

When you go into premium cabins, it just gets more and more cheaper than Qantas. Iíll give a few examples which I think would be common for most Australia based QF elite flyers:
  • SYD-LAX: UA is 60/90/120, QF is 96/192/288 (x1000 for Y/CJ/F travel)
  • SYD-JFK: UA is 60/90/120, QF is 128/256/384 (yes, that is UA F for less than QF WHY!)
  • SYD-LHR: UA is 100/140/170 via US on UA or 100/120/150 via Asia on SQ/TG *A award, QF is 128/256/384 via US or Asia on QF/BA/AA
  • SYD-BNE: UA is 20/30/40 (on NZ) or , QF is 16/32/48, so QF is cheaper here with the new changes, but consider:
  • PER-AKL: UA is 20/30/40, QF is 72/144/216 (non-direct flight) or 50/100/150 if there were a non-stop flight. I donít think First is offered on these routes anyway.
Yes, I am aware that one can find examples that are much better value on QF than UA--this is a representation of what I think most QF FF's will fly often. Post below the importnat ones I have missed.

Standard and Saver Awards

United offers the option of Saver and ďStandardĒ awards. The saver awards are capacity controlled and restricted in mostly the same way as QF FF awards. The Standard awards are approximately double the cost of the saver awards and allow you to book a seat if there is ANY seat not yet purchased in your cabin of choice. The economy awards are booked into the Y fare bucket for example, so you can actually snag an award seat on an overbooked flight sometimes, although, for a premium. Standard Awards are available only on all UA metal itineraries. The Standard award table is available here. Note that as long as there is an emtpy seat in F, you can have it for only 200k SYD-JFK!

Financial Status

UA is in Chapter 11, and some pretty deep financial trouble. I don't believe I am qualified to make any judgements outside of what I read in the papers. I encourage you to do so if you have reservations about UA being around in a few years. Personally, I'm not so worried.

untied.com

Frankly, united.com is a piece of sh*t. It works pretty well for most basic things, but can get very infuriating very quickly! The booking engine for revenue flights is decent, but award flights are a nightmare unless you have a simple US domestic point A-point B-point A flight. I recommend a good travel agent for flights on UA to the US, since the unpublished fares are much cheaper and you don't have to put up with this pathetic excuse for a website. (I know a good Sydney based TA, if you need one, PM me ) If you need more than a simple award booking, call MP. If you need anything not on all UA metal, call MP. If there is a full moon out...call MP. UA recently started charging $15 to issue award tickets over the phone, but this is waived for 1K's. While not official, a little complaining that you couldn't use the website to book a particular itin, could net a fee waiver.

Joining Mileage Plus with Status

UA seems to be pretty generous with comping status. I got comped into 1P, although with the *A status match program, and will make 1K this year. However, they will comp fairly often outside of any specific promotion, although usually only to Premier Executive (1P) statusóstill Star Gold though! From what I have read on FT, the process is pretty simple.
  1. Sign up for a MP account at united.com. (Although, if you are SURE you will take flights, PM me before signing up and I'll refer you so we both get some bonus points )
  2. Call the MP desk (best to use the US number) and ask them about matching your status. They'll give you a fax number (+1 520 881 4458, although it might not still be current)
  3. You'll need to fax a recent (<6 months) old statement from QFFF showing your status and a short note explaining that you would move a large portion of your business to them if you had status.
  4. Done! The status should be reflected on united.com after logging in, usually within 2 weeks.
MUCH more detail is provided in this mammoth thread.

Aisle Seat H provides this advice:
Originally Posted by Aisle Seat H
I posted them a copy of my latest WP statement, copy of my card, and a letter explaining that I want a match, and (despite very little recent activity on my QF account) I was made Premier Executive within a week (comped. until end of Feb 2007, i.e. a 16 month match).

The address to post your status match applications to is -

Mileage Plus
International Service Centre
PO Box 28872
Tucson AZ
85726-8872
USA

(If you are not a MP member yet join online and include your new number in the status match letter).
What all this means

If you fit a similar profile to mine, I think it is a win-win situation with UA. Especially with the new changes. If you can make 1K, then the SWU's place the UA program MILES (ha!) ahead of QF. Even if you could only make 1P (2 RTW's in Y per year) then E+ and the mileage upgrades as well as 100% bonus should seem pretty enticing. I think 2P vs PS is a pretty even comparison (depends how much E+ and IFE mean to you) and depends mostly where you fly.

Paid Business and First Class passengers will get status much quicker on QF than UA, simply becuase of the SC vs. EQM system. UA does not reward paid C and F with status like QF does, but your miles are still worth alot more. If you want a better program than QF, maybe SQ PPS is for you?

If you mostly travel on QF domestic, then UA won't help you one bit. Wait for the rumoured Virgin FF Program maybe?

Last edited by qasr; Oct 1, 05 at 5:03 pm
qasr is offline