Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Community > Trip Reports
Reload this Page >

Dulles to Moscow on UA – the ULTIMATE double EQM run – right now anyway!

Dulles to Moscow on UA – the ULTIMATE double EQM run – right now anyway!

Old Apr 6, 09, 3:27 am
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Sunny SYDNEY!
Programs: UA Million Miler. (1.9M) Virgin Platinum. HH Diamond + SPG Gold
Posts: 32,301
Dulles to Moscow on UA – the ULTIMATE double EQM run – right now anyway!

Dulles to Moscow – the ULTIMATE double EQM run – right now anyway!

I’ve been a 1K for about 10 years - all on leisure travel, and never do mileage runs per se.

We always fly somewhere we want to go to, and have a vacation there and rack up miles as we go.

For 9 years I have never flown coach anywhere on UA as I recall, as the SWU and CRI's have thankfully all cleared.

This double EQM thing gave me a perfect shot of sailing past 175K this year, and getting 2 x extra SWUs.

I needed about 15,000 more real miles to do that, and these insanely cheap Moscow fares looked like the go.

An IAD-Moscow-IAD was only about $150 (or something similarly low) plus the inevitable taxes in April. Made it about $440 all in RT.

Right now you can book it from LAX and DEN for insanely low prices.

LAX-IAD-DME-IAD-LAX costs $US460 all in (nearly all that is tax) leaving Sat and returning Sun most of April when I took a look at April 25/26. A fun weekend adventure! Gives you 28,780 EQM - or instant Premier right there, and about 32,000 miles in your account if !P/1K.

I found if I made it IAD-DME-IAD-SFO-IAD it added very little extra cost, and as the transcons were on 747s each way, I could upgrade with 500 milers to exit row upstairs both ways. I went for that option – who wouldn't’t!

A short layover in SFO and I was back to IAD just in time to connect to my IAD-SFO-SYD return flight home on a separate PNR.

The CATCH of course is the cheapie Moscow fares are in S and T and can’t 'legally' be upgraded with a SWU.

I would never book a cheap ticket on a totally jam packed 747 flight to London or SIN or HKG with screaming kids, and frantically busy FAs, $6 drinks, and the general cramped sardine can experience - just to earn miles.

I asked gate agent if she wanted to pull a couple of my SWU's, if she was happy to have me use them on a near empty biz cabin like this, and not see me later use them for USA-OZ-USA later on, where they can readily sell out seats for $1000 on day upgrades, that I'd otherwise use them for.

She started to say that made a lot of sense to UA, and she'd see if she could force or tweak the system to take them. She gave up after tying all sorts of things over a few mins, but she said it simply was not possible without breaking some rules.

She did laugh and said: "you're about the first person that has EVER walked up the podium to ask for an upgrade on a ticket in such a case, and offered something realistic to support it, and not just wanted a freebie, so I did really want to help you."

I’d read so many good reports about exit rows 20 in E+ on the new 3 class 767 I decided to go for it in coach .... a same day turnaround IAD-DME-IAD. Seeing I had been in the air for over 20 hours from SYD, I figured I’d be sleeping for most if it anyway.

Got the exit row easily enough – indeed the planes are so empty right now, the very nice agent at gate who could not force the upgrade offered me a whole blocked off centre row if I needed to sleep.

20 AB and 20 HJ on the new 767’s have FAR MORE room than ANY US domestic “First” seat on a 2 class Airbus, 737/757/767 or 777 .. no doubt about it. See photo above.

I had far more room and privacy and personal comfort than most other “First” or “Business” seat I have flown on UA. I loved both flights. I am 6'2" and NOT a slim guy and was very comfy.

They also have - on exit rows only, the pop up TV PTV screens the same as the old (and still often current) UA 747 Biz class does. I think there were 9 video channels.

The audio was good too -- Channel 9 ATC around Moscow area was an absolute highlight. A lot was in Russian.

The cabin was near empty and had a full roster of FA’s. They thought it was a hoot a 1K was flying 10 hours to DME just to turn around and go back, after just arriving from SYD, and pampered me in many ways I better not go into here, but suffice to say it was a very fun trip.

Same on the way back. A really superb crew on that 10 hour flight, and folks like that are what makes flying UA so enjoyable when you encounter them - which is all too rare of course these days. They seemed to really appreciate folks like 1Ks etc who do these wacky things just for miles, and help keep them employed. Best flight I have had for years. In ANY cabin.

I am flying over 35,000 real miles in 4 days on UA, and they all seemed to think that was insane, and I had them all from Purser down come and chat to me about it.

One of the FA's heard what I was doing, and gave me a personally signed copy of his great new book on tips on flying etc, which is a superb read, brilliantly written, and I urged him to join FT.


A highly recommended read. 300+pages and VERY perceptive and very funny at times.

My 1K drink chits did not seem at all necessary at any time, and what I drank - and there was a lot of it, was top shelf, and served in real fluted glassware, and not plastic.

There is a TON of leg room in row 20, there really is. I had no one sitting beside me, in front of me to recline back, or behind me. I spread out all over that area like a private office for 9 hours and did several years of back tax paperwork reconciliation, and wrote 100+ cheques I was behind with, tallied them all, noted the invoices, write up the banking, and addressed them all out etc. Sipping on French wine all the time.

In short, things I NEVER get 9 quiet uninterrupted hours to do at home all spread out over seats and all nearby tray tables, and you could never do even in 747s Biz if you had a seatmate. So a "Mileage Run" it may have been, but it was incredibly productive in that way, and I felt enormously pleased for the peace and quiet it offered.

I probably saved my business many $1000s on this working bee, and gave me vast peace of mind too, as the paper build up had been getting to crisis point in recent months

So while the loads are incredibly light as they usually are on new routes, this really is a run worth thinking it taking. FAST while cheap fares exist. There is ALSO a 3,000 Russia bonus of offer to for all cheap fare classes, so in account miles I get about 23,000 as well . . not too shabby at all.

The fares out of DEN/ORD/LAX etc were also dirt cheap when I looked, and they may still be there, I am not sure.

The turn at DME is only 2 hours, and there is a Swiss Air lounge there (closed at that time) and a Lufthansa and Austria Air lounge. The LH one I finally located (signage is terrible) and it was superb with full views of runway etc from its upstairs operation.

When taxiing in I saw at least EIGHT x 747s around the place from a carrier called Transaero and dozens of smaller wide bodies for them. Just shows what occurs elsewhere, and we are often not aware of. They are a large carrier out of and intra Russia I was told. Lot of snow on the ground and surrounds.

Ran into Fran from SYD when in there .. what a small world, and we were on same flight back. She was in Biz so popped in for a drink and chat with her later on.

I pass on my gem of info for this trip if you plan to take one.

You do **NOT** need a visa or any kind if you do the round turn as I did.

You simply sit in the transit lounge, have a few drinks in there, use your computer, and wait for the plane to re-board. And buy some not so cheap Russian Duty Free .. !

I arrived back in IAD wheels down at 3.30pm, after 2 HOURS standing in immigration lines, just in time to have a shower at my airport hotel, and headed out for a superb 6.30pm FT dinner for 13 that evening at Reston - and passed around some Russian made goodies to those there! Even the staff were after them.

If you are in legitimately in TRANSIT as I was, IMHO do NOT bother about the up to ~$US200 Russian Visa or "Transit Visa" experience, with all the courier fees, and time lags, and masses of paperwork, was my personal experience.

Many/most on FT stated UA would not let me board with no Russian Visa paperwork. WRONG. I did my homework first, and there is no need whatever according to the printed rules.

Indeed my strong guess is, if some officious agent had refused to allow me on, I'd have smiled said "oh well, that's too bad", and smiled and walked away. I'd have then written Elk Grove to get the miles credited anyway due to a wrongly informed agent, attaching a copy of the Rules which I have in both Russian and English, and I think they'd have credited them anyway in such a case, and saved me 24 hours flying!

I've been on vacation to over 120 different countries, and always find having printed FACTS on hand, rather than guesswork re visas, is most useful!

All the advice about not being boarded was luckily NONSENSE …. United looked it up on their computer and it tells them transit pax not leaving the transit area do not need any kind of Russian paperwork as LONG as they are permitted to re-enter to USA, (or any other destination country) which of course I am OK for.

Do NOT check bags of course, that should be very obvious, as then you DO need to “enter” Russia in a legal sense, via immigration, to go collect them!

Indeed just to be on the safe side I got UA to issue me the IAD-DME AND the DME-IAD boarding passes when checking in at IAD - just to save any possible “issues” in Russia - in case I needed to pass Russian immigration to GET to UA check-in there.

If you did NOT have your boarding pass, I think you would have found it tough to get through the intense security check to enter the Transit area, as they need to stamp different colour things onto it. And I could not see where you'd get one otherwise.

There is also a guy at a desk in there who looks official Military etc, but he looked through my passport just added another colour stamp to the boarding pass.

To get to transit, you go down stairs, and then upstairs to near where you deplaned after following the transit signs. Took 2 minutes.

The verbal questions the secondary screeners at UA gate asked were firstly impossible to understand with her heavy accent, and make no sense i.e. "did I had a cell phone or computer". I was holding my laptop bag!)

I am sure when UA start hooking into tour groups etc for bookings, the loads will increase greatly, but right NOW it is a frequent flyers DREAM route!

The E+ cabin, very few on the flight had access to that (they sold it for $120 a person each way and made it clear on PA unless you bought it on board you could not move up, so it was like a private 767 pretty much up front. )

For anyone on MP needing to rack up 20k-30k EQM in this double deal in 1 day of flying, there are a lot more far painful ways to do it, I can ASSURE you.

I do think the alleged need for a VERY costly Russian visa scares off most folk who look at a same day turn on these currently cheap fares.

You really have NO issues on that IMHO. Phone UA and check on the TWOV (Transit Without Visa) rule. The following is the OFFICIAL rule that UA refer to on their internal computers before they issue boarding passes, and it is double checked at gate.

I printed it all out up front of course to have with me - in both Russian AND English. .


/ 01APRIL09 / 1906 UTC

National of Australia (AU) (Note same rule wording applies to most countries, and most certainly for USA passport holders)

Transit Russian Federation (RU)/Destination U.S.A. (US) ALSO CHECK DESTINATION INFORMATION BELOW

Russian Federation (RU)

TWOV (Transit Without Visa):
Visa required, except for those continuing their journey within 24 hours without leaving the airside (international) transit area:

- if continuing by a domestic flight (also including Belarus)
or if the airport of arrival is different from the airport
of departure within the same Russian city (e.g. arriving at
Sheremetyevo-2 and departing from Sheremetyevo-1 airport in
Moscow) then a transit visa is required, as one is entering
territory of the Russian Federation.

Additional Information:

- Passengers are required to hold return/onward tickets and documents required for the next destination.

- Valid visas in expired passports or other expired travel documents are not accepted.

Passport required.

- Nationals of Australia may enter with passports valid for period of intended stay.

Passport Exemptions:

- Holders of a valid on arrival Form I-512 ( Authorization for Parole of an Alien into the United States").

- Holders of a Temporary or Emergency passports.

Visa required, except for Those entitled to travel under the.S. Visa Waiver Permanent Program (V.W.P.P.), travelling on
holiday, business or for transit purposes only, and stay does not exceed 90 days (see V.W.P.P conditions below):


Last edited by ozstamps; Apr 6, 09 at 4:31 am
ozstamps is offline  
Old Apr 6, 09, 3:45 am
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Oceanside CA USA
Programs: AA Lifetime PLT, UA Premier, Southwest A-List, Alaska MVP Gold
Posts: 175

thanks for the info and confirmation that we can disregard those who stated that a visa is absolutely necessary.
onlyquestions is offline  
Old Apr 6, 09, 4:20 am
Moderator: CommunityBuzz!, OMNI, OMNI/PR, and OMNI/Games & FlyerTalk Evangelist
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: ORD (MDW stinks)
Programs: UAMM, AA ExPlat, Marriott lifetime Titanium, IHG Spire/Ambassador
Posts: 22,676
appreciate the info and detailed write up !!^

I guess the only way one could get into an issue w/o the visa is if there is a mechanical or if the following: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/unite...n-dme-iad.html

Sweet Willie is offline  
Old Apr 6, 09, 4:33 am
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Sunny SYDNEY!
Programs: UA Million Miler. (1.9M) Virgin Platinum. HH Diamond + SPG Gold
Posts: 32,301
Yes IIROPS would be the catch.

The very large LH lounge has showers and tons of food and booze so I am sure being marooned there would be no hard case to bear.
ozstamps is offline  
Old Apr 6, 09, 5:06 am
Fairmont Contributor Badge
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: (SJC)
Programs: HH Gold, Fairmont Platinum (No Airline Status, a first in 7 years)
Posts: 2,101
Is UAL IAD-DME a booze cruize or pay per drink?
AMRivlin is offline  
Old Apr 6, 09, 5:46 am
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Sunny SYDNEY!
Programs: UA Million Miler. (1.9M) Virgin Platinum. HH Diamond + SPG Gold
Posts: 32,301
I heard them announce $US6 a drink in coach.
ozstamps is offline  
Old Apr 6, 09, 5:48 am
Fairmont Contributor Badge
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: (SJC)
Programs: HH Gold, Fairmont Platinum (No Airline Status, a first in 7 years)
Posts: 2,101
hmm, that is cheap. DME is in Asia, not Europe. (I may be wrong, but I see Russia as an Asian nation) And UA was buying us drinks for Asian flights.

I guess I'll need to stock up on chits somehow.
AMRivlin is offline  
Old Apr 6, 09, 6:00 am
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: BOS
Programs: UA 1K 1.45MM, Marriott+SPG Plat, Clear, Nexus, Global Entry and MEX Viajero Confiable
Posts: 1,777
Fantastic trip report and inspiration to look into a Mosvow MR! Thanks!
NH_Clark is offline  
Old Apr 6, 09, 6:03 am
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: London, UK
Posts: 1,987
Originally Posted by AMRivlin View Post
... DME is in Asia, not Europe. (I may be wrong, but I see Russia as an Asian nation) ...
You are wrong.
DogHead is offline  
Old Apr 6, 09, 6:09 am
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: BOS
Programs: DL DM, reformed UA 1K
Posts: 169
ozstamps, thanks for the great trip report!

Originally Posted by AMRivlin View Post
hmm, that is cheap. DME is in Asia, not Europe. (I may be wrong, but I see Russia as an Asian nation) And UA was buying us drinks for Asian flights.
DME is in Europe, and Russia is usually considered a European country. The Ural mountains are often thought of as the boundary between Europe and Asia, and the western half of Russia is, for the most part, the populated half.
adstockton is offline  
Old Apr 6, 09, 6:14 am
Fairmont Contributor Badge
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: (SJC)
Programs: HH Gold, Fairmont Platinum (No Airline Status, a first in 7 years)
Posts: 2,101
I stand corrected. I did a quick wiki search, and concede that Moscow is West of the Urals.

I am just mad I have 14,000 miles of BiS miles, and no adult beverages.

I guess for 380 what can I expect.
AMRivlin is offline  
Old Apr 6, 09, 8:01 am
Join Date: Jul 2007
Programs: United 1P, Hilton Gold (Maybe?), Hyatt Platinum (Does that mean anything?)
Posts: 2,102
Thanks for the update. I'm doing a similar run in about two weeks, and am sweating through the visa process!
PanHam is offline  
Old Apr 6, 09, 8:10 am
Join Date: Feb 2000
Posts: 942
Thanks for this---had been considering the trip, but was a bit afraid of the realities of a non-upgradable run.
joanek is offline  
Old Apr 6, 09, 9:01 am
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: LAX
Programs: AA EXP, SPG Gold, Hilton Gold
Posts: 841
Awesome report! The fare this weekend works out to $.022 cpm and actually has people on it :-( Too bad I will be HKG in a couple of weeks and when I get back the fares really go up. Have fun whoever is going to go on this MR!
UnitedEF is offline  
Old Apr 6, 09, 9:41 am
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Los Angeles / Basel
Programs: UA 1K MM, AA EXP, Hyatt Globalist
Posts: 24,958
Excellent report! Thanks ozstamps!

But didn't you want to visit Moscow? Russia was the highlight of my travels last years--I loved MOW and LED--and even got to fly on the TU-134 and TU-154. Though the Visa process was cumbersome and expensive, it was worth it.
MatthewLAX is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search Engine: