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Options SIN-ATL for injured 74 y.o. parent

Options SIN-ATL for injured 74 y.o. parent

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Old Dec 6, 18, 10:12 am
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Options SIN-ATL for injured 74 y.o. parent

Hi United FTers. Looking for some advice - most of my UA/*A experience is piddly intra-Europe award travel and basic US domestic tickets, so I'm far less familiar with UA/*A than I am with my usual DL/SkyTeam.

Situation:
- Parents, both 74 years old, are currently in SIN
- Booked on UA to return SIN-SFO-ATL on 11th December (UA metal, tickets, bought with cash on UA.com, K fare)
- Mom is healthy and mobile, but not strong/cannot carry much more than a standard 22" roller bag
- Dad has had a fall and is currently barely mobile with a walker & pain meds. X-rays show no breaks but he refuses to get an MRI.
- Both parents are experienced travelers but are also kind of stubborn. Don't want to ask for help, check bags, etc. (We're working on that.)

Question to the braintrust is about what the best options are to get them home safely and at least somewhat comfortably? We will contact UA to set up wheelchair service and figure out transfer assistance at SFO. I will find a way to book a car service for them in Singapore to handle their bags and get them to the airport. We will do everything we can to get them to check bags and carry as little as possible. Back in ATL we will of course collect them from the first possible landside point. I may be able to get to SFO to escort them the rest of the way back to ATL, but going all the way to SIN appears cost prohibitive right now, and really it's the TPAC flight that will be the biggest hurdle.

What else can I consider or do? I don't have enough UA miles to matter. I do have a pile of Amex MR (~400k) and a slightly smaller pile of Chase UR (~100k) - would of course not want to blow all of them, but if there's a reasonable way to get them into a PE or J product for either points or cash, I would consider it (even if it means booking a new ticket on a different airline). I'm not sure how UA handles disability seating or if I as a 3rd party can at least buy them up into E+ or something. There's also a level of risk in any buy-ups since they could get to December 10th and decide they don't want to endure the flight at all (there's already been mention of finding a TPAC cruise to get back).

Sorry for the bit of a ramble. Their trip hasn't been the best for other reasons so we are just trying to figure out how to get them home as quickly/comfortably/safely as possible. Thanks in advance!
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Old Dec 6, 18, 11:04 am
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I agree with you that SIN -> ATL (via SFO) is your best bet in terms of travel time, it's the most direct and heaven knows how well they would handle even longer travel times with additional connection points, etc. As a 30 year old who has taken my fair share of long haul flights in Economy on a variety of airlines, I can tell you with certainty that they all suck. That being said, UA IMHO has the best seating options with E+ since on the long haul jets you can often find a row that is at least not cramped (i.e. emergency exit row where you can stretch your legs out fully). Sadly, United charges an arm and a leg for those seats if you're not elite (if memory serve me correct around $300 USD/person for the plush seats)

One of the concerns travelling long haul, especially at an older age is the risk of DVT that can occur when you have blood pooling around your leg for several hours while you are seated for such long periods of time. A nice pair of compression socks and/or moving around the cabin every couple of hours can make a real difference.

In terms of other booking options you may want to check to see if Singapore Airlines has any award availability as it's my understanding that they are transfer partners with a variety of credit cards. I suspect flying Singapore Premium Economy to New York or San Francisco will be a heck of a lot better than flying United/AA/Delta. Your parents could then catch the Singapore Airlines flight down to Atlanta from SF/NY (operated by United Airlines).

Hope that provides some insight.

Safe Travels,

James
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Old Dec 6, 18, 11:41 am
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Originally Posted by gooselee View Post
Hi United FTers. Looking for some advice - most of my UA/*A experience is piddly intra-Europe award travel and basic US domestic tickets, so I'm far less familiar with UA/*A than I am with my usual DL/SkyTeam.

Situation:
- Parents, both 74 years old, are currently in SIN
- Booked on UA to return SIN-SFO-ATL on 11th December (UA metal, tickets, bought with cash on UA.com, K fare)
- Mom is healthy and mobile, but not strong/cannot carry much more than a standard 22" roller bag
- Dad has had a fall and is currently barely mobile with a walker & pain meds. X-rays show no breaks but he refuses to get an MRI.
- Both parents are experienced travelers but are also kind of stubborn. Don't want to ask for help, check bags, etc. (We're working on that.)

Question to the braintrust is about what the best options are to get them home safely and at least somewhat comfortably? We will contact UA to set up wheelchair service and figure out transfer assistance at SFO. I will find a way to book a car service for them in Singapore to handle their bags and get them to the airport. We will do everything we can to get them to check bags and carry as little as possible. Back in ATL we will of course collect them from the first possible landside point. I may be able to get to SFO to escort them the rest of the way back to ATL, but going all the way to SIN appears cost prohibitive right now, and really it's the TPAC flight that will be the biggest hurdle.

What else can I consider or do? I don't have enough UA miles to matter. I do have a pile of Amex MR (~400k) and a slightly smaller pile of Chase UR (~100k) - would of course not want to blow all of them, but if there's a reasonable way to get them into a PE or J product for either points or cash, I would consider it (even if it means booking a new ticket on a different airline). I'm not sure how UA handles disability seating or if I as a 3rd party can at least buy them up into E+ or something. There's also a level of risk in any buy-ups since they could get to December 10th and decide they don't want to endure the flight at all (there's already been mention of finding a TPAC cruise to get back).
I'm sorry to read about your father's fall. I know it's hard for you to assess your father's health situation from far away. However, if your father is not in good shape, what might happen is that United will balk at transporting him without a note from a doctor saying that he's fit for travel. I saw this happening on a USAirways flight where a passenger refused to put the seat straight up before departing due to pain in his back (and the pain medication in his checked luggage). He was asked to leave the plane and USAirways would fly him only once he obtained a doctor's note.

I wonder if your father had travel insurance. Maybe a medical repatriation would have been a safer choice after the fall. But that would be too expensive without travel insurance. You flying there to assess the situation would be expensive but less than a medical repatriation without travel insurance.
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Old Dec 6, 18, 11:45 am
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- For E+ you can add it as long as you have their PNR and name. It's about $300 per person for SIN-SFO-ATL. (If they plan to travel again on UA, it's about $900 for a year-long two-person subscription).

- There are Saver Business awards on that date SIN-HKG-ORD-ATL for about 75k miles + $150 per person. Longer trip but lie-flat across the Pacific and lounges at every stop.

- You could consider United Signature concierge service for their connection in SFO. I've never used it. Looks like it's $325 for two-adult connecting service in SFO and they would be walked from the gate, through customs, immigration, security, access to the United Club, and then to their departing gate.

https://united.globalairportconcierge.com/
Introducing United Exclusive Assistance "United Signature Service" [Q&A-Experiences]

A United Signature Service concierge will be there to help throughout your time at the airport. Your concierge will monitor your flight, guide you to or from your gate, assist with check-in and arrange any travel changes or airport accommodations that you might need. If you want to relax before your flight, you will have access to one of our United ClubSM locations. We can also arrange for special services such as language assistance, if requested in advance.
Not available in SIN.

- You can see if their flight has upgrade availability and aim for a "miles + copay" upgrade. Using Miles to Upgrade on United

- Call and ask how much to "buy up" (don't say upgrade) to business on their flight. Probably too expensive but at least you'd have a dollar number in mind. Buy up to higher fare class w/o change fee? {GG BUYUP}
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Old Dec 6, 18, 12:37 pm
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Thanks all for the suggestions so far. Both of them travel long-haul int'l in Y often - our family is from SE Asia so the TPAC jaunts are old hat to us. It's the injury/mobility that is the major issue - I'm not worried about their ability to cognitively navigate the various airports, immigration, etc. and deal with DVT precautions.

Will inform them to try to get a doctor's note if at all possible. It sounds like he can move, slowly, but is in pain if he is seated for long periods of time. So just getting them into seats that are at a bulkhead or something which are more accessible for standing every so often during the flight would be good.

I am checking UG pricing with UA now. E+ is a no brainer at around $200 which I will just do. The cash buy-up to J is around $2.5k each that will take some more consideration. Mileage UG is waitlist only and requires 60k Miles + $600 copay...also quite steep. The SQ and HKG-ORD options are interesting. Will research SQ more and get a better sense from them of whether the seat is more important or fewer transfers more important. As someone said - the toughest part is getting a good assessment of the situation from afar.

Unfortunately no type of travel insurance (despite prior encouragement from me). They are the self-insuring type...I guess this is the trip where we finally pay for it.

I will pay for the Signature service if needed, but if all they really need is a wheelchair to use to get from their inbound flight, through immigration/customs, and to their outbound flight - will just getting standard wheelchair service be enough? I've never had to request a chair before so have no idea where the service starts/stops. I just want to make sure he's not having to stand in a customs line or something, but I know he will be fine to wait in a line so long as he can be seated (if that makes sense). They do not have and will not get/use GE or mobile passport.

Thanks again for the advice and tips so far. Trying to juggle this while also getting slammed at work and figuring out time zones. Will continue to check back if there are any other ideas, and of course to update y'all on the outcome!
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Old Dec 6, 18, 12:40 pm
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I'm not sure what your definition of 'reasonable' is. Check with your parent's travel insurance, it would cover this sort of thing. That said, EVA can get PE to IAH for ~ 1400 per person, it is a good product. You could recover them from there. Maybe you can get it with your transfer points. Hope your parents feel better.
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Old Dec 6, 18, 12:50 pm
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Request the wheelchair service. It tends to work very well and you cut most lines. Most elderly balk, but once they try it they don't go back.
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Old Dec 6, 18, 12:52 pm
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Originally Posted by j2simpso View Post
I agree with you that SIN -> ATL (via SFO) is your best bet in terms of travel time, it's the most direct and heaven knows how well they would handle even longer travel times with additional connection points, etc. As a 30 year old who has taken my fair share of long haul flights in Economy on a variety of airlines, I can tell you with certainty that they all suck. That being said, UA IMHO has the best seating options with E+ since on the long haul jets you can often find a row that is at least not cramped (i.e. emergency exit row where you can stretch your legs out fully). Sadly, United charges an arm and a leg for those seats if you're not elite (if memory serve me correct around $300 USD/person for the plush seats)

One of the concerns travelling long haul, especially at an older age is the risk of DVT that can occur when you have blood pooling around your leg for several hours while you are seated for such long periods of time. A nice pair of compression socks and/or moving around the cabin every couple of hours can make a real difference.

In terms of other booking options you may want to check to see if Singapore Airlines has any award availability as it's my understanding that they are transfer partners with a variety of credit cards. I suspect flying Singapore Premium Economy to New York or San Francisco will be a heck of a lot better than flying United/AA/Delta. Your parents could then catch the Singapore Airlines flight down to Atlanta from SF/NY (operated by United Airlines).

Hope that provides some insight.

Safe Travels,

James
These passengers would not be eligible for emergency exit row seats.

I'd do the Y+ seating for a couple hundred dollars each and arrange for wheelchair service. If they travel TPAC frequently, they don't need the $325 hand holding assistance at SFO, and such an assistant probably won't be willing to help with carry on bags, etc.

If father has seen a local doctor, by all means get a fit to fly letter.
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Old Dec 6, 18, 1:31 pm
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You didn't say which flight your parents are booked on, but UA28 (and its connector to Atlanta) looks to have a lot more availability in E+ than does UA2 on December 11.
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Old Dec 6, 18, 1:57 pm
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Flights are UA28 & UA1152.

I don't know what I define as "reasonable" either. Basically I can afford to spend maybe a couple thousand dollars to help them out if it makes sense, but I'm not in a position to just dump $5k for new J tickets if they aren't necessary. And of course don't want to spend unnecessarily (e.g., understanding that wheelchair service is sufficient and don't need the concierge service).

No travel insurance so all of this is out of pocket (or miles/points accounts).

Adding EVA to my list of flight options to check when I get home tonight. (So, as a reminder to myself, I'm looking at EVA PE via IAH SQ PE via SFO or JFK upgrading within existing UA flights). I'm getting the feeling that the 2-stop option above won't be a good idea. Although it's lay flats, the added connection (and thus added opportunity for misconnect) isn't worth it. I don't get the sense that he needs to lay down for the flight...more that he just needs to keep moving when he can, which a E+ or PE would facilitate well.

My goal is to have a few viable options in hand and then call them tonight to try to figure out what makes the most sense.

Thanks again! I have some homework to do.
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Old Dec 6, 18, 3:57 pm
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I'd look at DL, not UA.

Same one stop, more evenly balanced flight lengths, connecting at an airport with a super positive reputation for handling the elderly, better run airline.

Can transfer your MR to DL, although the premium redemptions are probably very expensive.

SQ and EVA both add another stop.
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Old Dec 6, 18, 4:15 pm
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Originally Posted by mduell View Post
I'd look at DL, not UA.

Same one stop, more evenly balanced flight lengths, connecting at an airport with a super positive reputation for handling the elderly, better run airline.

Can transfer your MR to DL, although the premium redemptions are probably very expensive.

SQ and EVA both add another stop.
DL was the first option I looked at since I'm sitting on 500k miles with them. Their redemptions are prohibitively expensive - 300k-350k one way SIN-ATL routing through PVG. The NRT flights have no availability (and appear nearly sold out for cash, too).

Looking more and more like they will just stay on existing UA flights but I will try to upgrade and apply add'l services.
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Old Dec 6, 18, 4:40 pm
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Originally Posted by gooselee View Post
Hi United FTers. Looking for some advice - most of my UA/*A experience is piddly intra-Europe award travel and basic US domestic tickets, so I'm far less familiar with UA/*A than I am with my usual DL/SkyTeam.

Situation:
- Parents, both 74 years old, are currently in SIN
- Booked on UA to return SIN-SFO-ATL on 11th December (UA metal, tickets, bought with cash on UA.com, K fare)
- Mom is healthy and mobile, but not strong/cannot carry much more than a standard 22" roller bag
- Dad has had a fall and is currently barely mobile with a walker & pain meds. X-rays show no breaks but he refuses to get an MRI.
- Both parents are experienced travelers but are also kind of stubborn. Don't want to ask for help, check bags, etc. (We're working on that.)

Question to the braintrust is about what the best options are to get them home safely and at least somewhat comfortably? We will contact UA to set up wheelchair service and figure out transfer assistance at SFO. I will find a way to book a car service for them in Singapore to handle their bags and get them to the airport. We will do everything we can to get them to check bags and carry as little as possible. Back in ATL we will of course collect them from the first possible landside point. I may be able to get to SFO to escort them the rest of the way back to ATL, but going all the way to SIN appears cost prohibitive right now, and really it's the TPAC flight that will be the biggest hurdle.

What else can I consider or do? I don't have enough UA miles to matter. I do have a pile of Amex MR (~400k) and a slightly smaller pile of Chase UR (~100k) - would of course not want to blow all of them, but if there's a reasonable way to get them into a PE or J product for either points or cash, I would consider it (even if it means booking a new ticket on a different airline). I'm not sure how UA handles disability seating or if I as a 3rd party can at least buy them up into E+ or something. There's also a level of risk in any buy-ups since they could get to December 10th and decide they don't want to endure the flight at all (there's already been mention of finding a TPAC cruise to get back).

Sorry for the bit of a ramble. Their trip hasn't been the best for other reasons so we are just trying to figure out how to get them home as quickly/comfortably/safely as possible. Thanks in advance!
I flew from LAX-SFO-TLV-SFO in United Economy Plus. I called over to United Special Services and they upgraded me to United Economy Plus Bulkhead for free. They also requested the wheelchair due to my low vision and neuropathy

I flew down to LAX from SJC on Alaska to save money. My total ticket on Untied was $944.

The Phone agent was really helpful after explaining that I need extra legroom to prevent DVT due to my Neuropathy. I did not need a Doctor's note.

At TLV they brought me down via the Food Service Truck which doubles as the accessibility vehicle. The agent took me through the door that is located near customs. From plane to customs exit it was 20 minutes.

On the return i went to the Handicapped Waiting area at TLV and it was handled from there. I sat down while waiting for the wheelchair and then they took me through Customs then a cart to the Dan Lounge and another cart to the gate.

At SFO the Meet and Assist agent took me through customs and to the Customs Exit all within 25 minutes from Plane to Exit.

I always request the special services as not only am I eligible for it it has helped me on many occasions. When my Father is traveling as my companion they upgraded him too to sit next to me!

Delta has given me Comfort+ for no charge and Alaska has as well. If you call up the airline not in an entitled manner then they will bend over backwards for you. And yes I am always prepared to pay for the upgrade and do so if they cannot do it for me.

This past April I was connecting from a late arriving Iceland Air flight to an Alaska Air Flight at SEA to SFO. The Meet and Assist Agent took my Father and I through Customs to our plane going on two Air Trains in 1 hour and our flight was waiting for us. Our luggage even made the fight!

Its totally worth having lounge access too. Look at LoungeBuddy or Priority Pass!

I as a passenger with a disability will never go without lounge access

I hope your Father has a full recovery.

If you can fly to SFO and spend the night and meet your parents be sure to go to the Centruion Lounge its totally worth it!

BTW I am 34 and am a seasoned traveler both domestically and internationally. I would rather be in the sky than on a road trip!

Hope this helps.

Last edited by danielonn; Dec 6, 18 at 4:54 pm
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Old Dec 6, 18, 4:51 pm
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Originally Posted by erik123 View Post
Request the wheelchair service. It tends to work very well and you cut most lines. Most elderly balk, but once they try it they don't go back.
100 times this. My mother found the idea of needing a wheelchair really overwhelming the first time, but when she saw how easy it made things, she was sold. Just be sure they know (how much) to tip the folx pushing the chairs. They should get met right off the plane at SFO and be escorted through customs and immigration, saving significant time waiting in line (unless they have Global Entry).
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Old Dec 6, 18, 6:55 pm
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Originally Posted by danielonn View Post
I flew from LAX-SFO-TLV-SFO in United Economy Plus. I called over to United Special Services and they upgraded me to United Economy Plus Bulkhead for free. They also requested the wheelchair due to my low vision and neuropathy

I flew down to LAX from SJC on Alaska to save money. My total ticket on Untied was $944.

The Phone agent was really helpful after explaining that I need extra legroom to prevent DVT due to my Neuropathy. I did not need a Doctor's note.

At TLV they brought me down via the Food Service Truck which doubles as the accessibility vehicle. The agent took me through the door that is located near customs. From plane to customs exit it was 20 minutes.

On the return i went to the Handicapped Waiting area at TLV and it was handled from there. I sat down while waiting for the wheelchair and then they took me through Customs then a cart to the Dan Lounge and another cart to the gate.

At SFO the Meet and Assist agent took me through customs and to the Customs Exit all within 25 minutes from Plane to Exit.

I always request the special services as not only am I eligible for it it has helped me on many occasions. When my Father is traveling as my companion they upgraded him too to sit next to me!

Delta has given me Comfort+ for no charge and Alaska has as well. If you call up the airline not in an entitled manner then they will bend over backwards for you. And yes I am always prepared to pay for the upgrade and do so if they cannot do it for me.

This past April I was connecting from a late arriving Iceland Air flight to an Alaska Air Flight at SEA to SFO. The Meet and Assist Agent took my Father and I through Customs to our plane going on two Air Trains in 1 hour and our flight was waiting for us. Our luggage even made the fight!

Its totally worth having lounge access too. Look at LoungeBuddy or Priority Pass!

I as a passenger with a disability will never go without lounge access

I hope your Father has a full recovery.

If you can fly to SFO and spend the night and meet your parents be sure to go to the Centruion Lounge its totally worth it!

BTW I am 34 and am a seasoned traveler both domestically and internationally. I would rather be in the sky than on a road trip!

Hope this helps.
Thanks for this. I appreciate lounges as much as the next guy, but they will not be a priority for my parents.

Was the Meet & Greet service you got just something arranged via special services due to your disability, or was that a purchased service you added on?

UA graciously moved them into E+ for the TPAC flight, though they wouldn't put them in a bulkhead (despite seats showing available). Not going to look a gift horse in the mouth, of course.

I think my concern now is mostly about making sure they have the right services around SIN and SFO. It sounds like wheelchair service alone might be enough. After trading a couple emails it doesn't sound like he is completely incapable of movement. Just that he cannot sit in a single position with restricted leg movement (to stretch/adjust) for longer than an hour or so otherwise things become painful, and certainly cannot stand for more than a few minutes at a time. He is walking now with a walker, but of course very slow when doing so and can only go short distances.

I found SQ flights via HKG/SFO in J for ~98k miles each. Would require throwing away the current UA tickets, but that appeared to be the best option if he really needs a lay flat. IIRC, UA's E+ is slightly better WRT seat pitch than DL's "Comfort Plus", and if all their bags are checked he will have the leg/foot room to stretch while seated and can of course stand when possible.

So...currently solution appears to be using E+ with wheelchair service. I probably thought way too hard about this for what will end up being a pretty simple solution but, well, they're my parents.
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