The 24-day UA Mileage Run

Old Mar 2, 2024, 6:44 pm
  #1  
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Location: PHX/SFO/LAX
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The 24-day UA Mileage Run

Thought I'd share my experience with a UA MR starting Jan 21 to Feb 14 with no hotels, sleeping airside once, and cost me an additional $60-70 beyond the fare mostly in tips and the odd BBQ chips craving. Bottom Line Up Front:

BIS: 146,131
PQP: 5,052
PQF: 0
CPM: 3.61 not including the tips

Regularly took showers and changed in LAX and EWR, helped by some extreme packing skills of the S/O to fit all that. My trusted companions were my travel pillow and blanket that's miles better than the flimsy UA ones, and casualties were one eye mask and power bank that were never recovered. Food was mostly taken care of in the UCs in HNL, LAX and EWR, and exercise was my 34-minute round trip brisk walk in LAX between Terminal 7 and Terminal B to access the Centurion Lounge everyday.

A Good Start
To truly minimize costs, I started my journey with a repositioning flight on PHX-LAS and a Frontier flight from LAS-LAX. As luck would have it, PHX-LAS was canceled due to the Boeing fiasco, allowing me a free change to PHX-LAX, which I obviously didn't pick cause why not do PHX-SFO-LAX for the BIS miles?

Itinerary Summary
My entire itinerary was sandwiched between a LAX-HNL-LAX-EWR-SJU and SJU-EWR-LAX-HNL-LAX booking on Jan 22 and ending Feb 14. In between I had 8 back-to-back round trips between SJU and HNL that ensured I would always have a red-eye on either the EWR-SJU leg or the HNL-LAX leg. It also helped that LAX-HNL-LAX and EWR-SJU-EWR had the same inbound and outbound flights, so IRROPS weren't much of a concern given the frequency of flights between LAX and EWR. There was one SJU-IAH connection which caused me to sleep for a few hours in a weird contorted position in SJU, but I managed to fit my legs through the handles. Likely one of the worst ways to sleep, only second to sleeping in a weird U-shape at the United gates in MCO. But hey, there is a way!

Airport Shenanigans
I had to exit airside once because I was late to the gate at LAX and had to check in my bag all the way to EWR. How I made that connection to both retrieve my bag and get back in is still a mystery, but I made it. Funnily enough, the only person that ever noticed my frequency of entering the clubs everyday were the Centurion Lounge front desk ladies in LAX and the lady at the reception in the EWR UC shower. Nobody else noticed, not even the crew on the inbound-outbound flights in HNL and SJU... or if they noticed, they didn't bother to bring it up. Maybe you need to be 1K to be noticed

United App
The United app, while the best among any other airline's app I've used, cannot handle booking that involve turnarounds or multi-roundtrip bookings as seamlessly as your average booking. But it does quite well. For instance, booking two back-to-back round trips between SJU and HNL + inbound and outbound flights being the same for some of the legs were a bit iffy. I couldn't always check-in online and it took multiple attempts. Even if it did, it would only check in one way at a time, e.g. SJU-EWR-LAX-HNL, likely due to the 24h checkin rule. Sometimes, it would not assign a seat and ask to see agent. Fortunately, I don't think the agents saw/paid attention to the entire reservation, just one way at a time, although I got looks when the thing printed 3 boarding passes. There was this one instance where I got a dirty look from the gate agent at SJU because the machine decided to print the entire itinerary's boardings passes including the upcoming leg, resulting in 12 boarding passes. Someone shoulda taken a pic of that sheepish look I had on my face.

IRROPS handling
It appears that when you have a major delay, it allows you to rebook the entire itinerary. The funniest instance imo was when my inbound EWR-SJU got delayed by an hour, and it gave me the option to rebook several segments since it didn't realize that the outbound SJU-EWR was the exact same flight. I tried pushing this to its limits, by not making any changes, flying the return SJU-EWR leg, and then making changes to the rest of my reservation downstream like an unaffected HNL-LAX leg to HNL-SFO-LAX. All possible because the entire trip was on one confirmation number. Also, the whole miles/PQP algorithm goes haywire, almost always in your favor.

[MENTION=97202]ContinentalFan[/MENTION] pointed out that doing it with a gate agent instead of the app might get you lucky with a K fare instead of N since gate agents don't look at it. While I didn't try it on the 24-day run, I did try it on two later mileage runs. I was put on a K fare once, but N on the other.

Health, Sleep, Food, yada yada
Honestly, the first day was awful, but every day after that was great. No issues sleeping on any of the flights. The Moon Room in the LAX Centurion Lounge was a lifesaver, helping me score 45-minute/90-minute naps during some layovers. The UC in EWR Gate C123 was pretty nice to sleep in, but I was woken up at the UC in LAX with a "Sir, this is a business lounge", once in the other EWR club in Terminal C (C74?), and once by the one in Terminal A (A14?). Overall, CL tends to feel cramped at all major airports compared to the UC. However, CL ticks the shower checkbox (except the UC in EWR) while UC has the private meeting rooms. Oh, and CL in LAX gives free massages and manicure to keep me in good shape.

I rate the breakfast at the LAX Centurion Lounge above the UC there, mainly cause they get the scrambled eggs right with the ricotta cheese and have avocado toast, but the UC has it beat for lunch and dinner with the pasta. CL only seems to serve orange juice in the morning and sweet tea for lunch/dinner to pair with the food, whereas the UC has orange, apple, and pineapple in the morning, and horchata all day so it's a clear winner here. EWR is a UC monopoly and has good dessert options. The UC in HNL is not bad and has the ice cream going for it, but pales in comparison to LAX and EWR. In IAH, the CL has the UC beat hands down, no comparison whatsoever in terms of food options and quality.

Final Comments
Honestly, I enjoyed the experience and would do it over and over again with no issues. Something about sitting on a plane with that background white noise, typing away at the keyboard, makes me quite productive work-wise. Unfortunately I can't take meetings, although I did find that Microsoft Teams works on United flights because it isn't possible to selectively block Teams while allowing the rest of the Office Suite (not sure if rumor?). I tried it once with my S/O and it worked (just said a couple words and hung up out of respect for fellow passengers), and another time I hopped on a meeting in listen-only mode because the input wasn't working/blocked. No other app worked (Zoom, Webex, WhatsApp Audio, etc.).

It felt weird sleeping on a bed on the 14th. Not sure if I'll ever get a chance to do a continuous run like this again, since this took the convergence of my boss being out-of-office, a temporary work-based relocation to LA, minimal meetings, Q1 being slow, etc. to materialize. Now I'm back to doing shorter sprints of 1-4 days and will have run close to 230k BIS miles between Jan 21 and March 20.

PS Also if any UA exec is reading this, please for the love of God, introduce burgers and fries to your lounges. At least the fries. I'm tired of tortilla chips and guac.

Last edited by MM_someday; Mar 3, 2024 at 2:14 am
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Old Mar 2, 2024, 6:51 pm
  #2  
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Originally Posted by MM_someday
PS Also if any UA exec is reading this, please for the love of God, introduce burgers and fries to your lounges. At least the fries. I'm tired of tortillas and guac.
In most airports, Priority Pass is a far better choice for food than airline lounges.
mahasamatman is offline  
Old Mar 2, 2024, 6:54 pm
  #3  
 
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Glad this went well for you, and a big savings on the hotel expenses for sure. My dream on this kind of itinerary is for the very first sector to go mx and a MileagePlus agent to agree to give you original routing credit without actually taking any of it.
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Old Mar 2, 2024, 7:03 pm
  #4  
 
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Originally Posted by MM_someday
Thought I'd share my experience with a UA MR starting Jan 21 to Feb 14 with no hotels, sleeping airside once, and cost me an additional $60-70 beyond the fare mostly in tips and the odd BBQ chips craving. Bottom Line Up Front:

BIS: 146,131
PQP: 5,052
PQF: 0
CPM: 3.61 not including the tips

Regularly took showers and changed in LAX and EWR, helped by some extreme packing skills of the S/O to fit all that. My trusted companions were my travel pillow and blanket that's miles better than the flimsy UA ones, and casualties were one eye mask and power bank that were never recovered. Food was mostly taken care of in the UCs in HNL, LAX and EWR, and exercise was my 34-minute round trip brisk walk in LAX between Terminal 7 and Terminal B to access the Centurion Lounge everyday.

A Good Start
To truly minimize costs, I started my journey with a repositioning flight on PHX-LAS and a Frontier flight from LAS-LAX. As luck would have it, PHX-LAS was canceled due to the Boeing fiasco, allowing me a free change to PHX-LAX, which I obviously didn't pick cause why not do PHX-SFO-LAX for the BIS miles?

Itinerary Summary
My entire itinerary was sandwiched between a LAX-HNL-LAX-EWR-SJU and SJU-EWR-LAX-HNL-LAX booking on Jan 22 and ending Feb 14. In between I had 8 back-to-back round trips between SJU and HNL that ensured I would always have a red-eye on either the EWR-SJU leg or the HNL-LAX leg. It also helped that LAX-HNL-LAX and EWR-SJU-EWR had the same inbound and outbound flights, so IRROPS weren't much of a concern given the frequency of flights between LAX and EWR. There was one SJU-IAH connection which caused me to sleep for a few hours in a weird contorted position in SJU, but I managed to fit my legs through the handles. Likely one of the worst ways to sleep, only second to sleeping in a weird U-shape at the United gates in MCO. But hey, there is a way!

Airport Shenanigans
I had to exit airside once because I was late to the gate at LAX and had to check in my bag all the way to EWR. How I made that connection to both retrieve my bag and get back in is still a mystery, but I made it. Funnily enough, the only person that ever noticed my frequency of entering the clubs everyday were the Centurion Lounge front desk ladies in LAX and the lady at the reception in the EWR UC shower. Nobody else noticed, not even the crew on the inbound-outbound flights in HNL and SJU... or if they noticed, they didn't bother to bring it up. Maybe you need to be 1K to be noticed

United App
The United app, while the best among any other airline's app I've used, cannot handle booking that involve turnarounds or multi-roundtrip bookings as seamlessly as your average booking. But it does quite well. For instance, booking two back-to-back round trips between SJU and HNL + inbound and outbound flights being the same for some of the legs were a bit iffy. I couldn't always check-in online and it took multiple attempts. Even if it did, it would only check in one way at a time, e.g. SJU-EWR-LAX-HNL, likely due to the 24h checkin rule. Sometimes, it would not assign a seat and ask to see agent. Fortunately, I don't think the agents saw/paid attention to the entire reservation, just one way at a time, although I got looks when the thing printed 3 boarding passes. There was this one instance where I got a dirty look from the gate agent at SJU because the machine decided to print the entire itinerary's boardings passes including the upcoming leg, resulting in 12 boarding passes. Someone shoulda taken a pic of that sheepish look I had on my face.

IRROPS handling
It appears that when you have a major delay, it allows you to rebook the entire itinerary. The funniest instance imo was when my inbound EWR-SJU got delayed by an hour, and it gave me the option to rebook several segments since it didn't realize that the outbound SJU-EWR was the exact same flight. I tried pushing this to its limits, by not making any changes, flying the return SJU-EWR leg, and then making changes to the rest of my reservation downstream like an unaffected HNL-LAX leg to HNL-SFO-LAX. All possible because the entire trip was on one confirmation number. Also, the whole miles/PQP algorithm goes haywire, almost always in your favor.

[MENTION=97202]ContinentalFan[/MENTION] pointed out that doing it with a gate agent instead of the app might get you lucky with a K fare instead of N since gate agents don't look at it. While I didn't try it on the 24-day run, I did try it on two later mileage runs. I was put on a K fare once, but N on the other.

Health, Sleep, Food, yada yada
Honestly, the first day was awful, but every day after that was great. No issues sleeping on any of the flights. The Moon Room in the LAX Centurion Lounge was a lifesaver, helping me score 45-minute/90-minute naps during some layovers. The UC in EWR Gate C123 was pretty nice to sleep in, but I was woken up at the UC in LAX with a "Sir, this is a business lounge", once in the other EWR club in Terminal C (C74?), and once by the one in Terminal A (A14?). Overall, CL tends to feel cramped at all major airports compared to the UC. However, CL ticks the shower checkbox (except the UC in EWR) while UC has the private meeting rooms. Oh, and CL in LAX gives free massages and manicure to keep me in good shape.

I rate the breakfast at the LAX Centurion Lounge above the UC there, mainly cause they get the scrambled eggs right with the ricotta cheese and have avocado toast, but the UC has it beat for lunch and dinner with the pasta. CL only seems to serve orange juice in the morning and sweet tea for lunch/dinner to pair with the food, whereas the UC has orange, apple, and pineapple in the morning, and horchata all day so it's a clear winner here. EWR is a UC monopoly and has good dessert options. The UC in HNL is not bad and has the ice cream going for it, but pales in comparison to LAX and EWR. In IAH, the CL has the UC beat hands down, no comparison whatsoever in terms of food options and quality.

Final Comments
Honestly, I enjoyed the experience and would do it over and over again with no issues. Something about sitting on a plane with that background white noise, typing away at the keyboard, makes me quite productive work-wise. Unfortunately I can't take meetings, although I did find that Microsoft Teams works on United flights because it isn't possible to selectively block Teams while allowing the rest of the Office Suite (not sure if rumor?). I tried it once with my S/O and it worked (just said a couple words and hung up out of respect for fellow passengers), and another time I hopped on a meeting in listen-only mode because the input wasn't working/blocked. No other app worked (Zoom, Webex, WhatsApp Audio, etc.).

It felt weird sleeping on a bed on the 14th. Not sure if I'll ever get a chance to do a continuous run like this again, since this took the convergence of my boss being out-of-office, a temporary work-based relocation to LA, minimal meetings, Q1 being slow, etc. to materialize. Now I'm back to doing shorter sprints of 1-4 days and will have run close to 230k BIS miles between Jan 21 and March 20.

PS Also if any UA exec is reading this, please for the love of God, introduce burgers and fries to your lounges. At least the fries. I'm tired of tortillas and guac.
Holey Moley!
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uanj is offline  
Old Mar 2, 2024, 7:12 pm
  #5  
 
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What sorcery did you engage to allow so many legs on one itinerary?
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jpezaris is offline  
Old Mar 2, 2024, 7:12 pm
  #6  
 
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Stupid question, but why did you do this?
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Old Mar 2, 2024, 7:25 pm
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Also why do this on basic econ?
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Old Mar 2, 2024, 7:28 pm
  #8  
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Thank you for sharing all these details.
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Old Mar 2, 2024, 7:29 pm
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With all this effort, for your sake (and mine) I hope they don't devalue MM benefits. I gather that was the motivating factor.
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Old Mar 2, 2024, 7:30 pm
  #10  
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Originally Posted by azfanboy
Stupid question, but why did you do this?
I feel like the handle is a giveaway.
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Old Mar 2, 2024, 7:43 pm
  #11  
 
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24 days in how many changes of clothing?
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Old Mar 2, 2024, 7:50 pm
  #12  
 
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Originally Posted by UAflyerwhoflystomuch
Also why do this on basic econ?
I am curious about this because OPs PQF is zero. OP did not mention any premium cabin upgrade.

If OP buys regular economy ticket, PlusPoints upgrade may be very helpful. Some circular routes of a reservation may need only 20 PPs.

Also, OP did not say how many separate bookings for the entire runs.
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Old Mar 2, 2024, 8:22 pm
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Another FlyerTalk legend in the making. Crazy that you did this all in domestic basic economy!

Back in my day, you'd just do SFO-HKG-HGH, PVG-SFO for $300 a few times and that would be enough!
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boat stuck is offline  
Old Mar 2, 2024, 8:27 pm
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Originally Posted by boat stuck
Another FlyerTalk legend in the making. Crazy that you did this all in domestic basic economy!

Back in my day, you'd just do SFO-HKG-HGH, PVG-SFO for $300 a few times and that would be enough!
I did many open jaw China runs for about $300 each. Here is the thread.
UA, USA to China OJ from $303 ai
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Old Mar 2, 2024, 8:29 pm
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Originally Posted by Kmxu
I am curious about this because OPs PQF is zero. OP did not mention any premium cabin upgrade.

If OP buys regular economy ticket, PlusPoints upgrade may be very helpful. Some circular routes of a reservation may need only 20 PPs.

Also, OP did not say how many separate bookings for the entire runs.
Most likely OP currently is only a general member working his way to a Million Miler.
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