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Need help selecting partner flights to Asia

Need help selecting partner flights to Asia

Old Mar 18, 2024, 7:32 pm
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Need help selecting partner flights to Asia

I'm planning my trip for Dec/ Jan to SEAsia, mostly via UA. Might anyone be able to recommend a choice between EVA via TPE and Asiana via ICN for connections?

I have been a Delta flyer for the past 6-7 years and have flown DL, KE, CX, JL, AA, and PR across the Pacific. Never flown UA or its partners long haul. I have some credit with UA which I need to use before the end of the year.

I am flying out on UA metal SEA-SFO-MNL, but on the return, I can either transit through ICN or TPE. Not quite sure which is the better option, given the connections.

The TPE flight leaves Asia in the wee hours, like 3AM, and I am supposed to spend 7+ hours in their TPE lounge. Any feedback regarding their TPE lounge? Are there napping facilities over there? Then onwards to SFO on a UA 777. Overall, this has an earlier arrival time in Seattle, at just before noon. Best arrival time for me, not the ideal in terms of timing of the flight out.

The flight through ICN only has 1.5 hours to connect, then also 1.5 hours in SFO, but arrives Seattle late afternoon.

For some reason, ANA disappeared as an option on my dates. (ANA web site quotes business fares beginning at $7.5upwards!!!)

So my questions for UA flyers are the following:
1) How is the UA lounge in SFO? Is it crowded? How does it compare to DL? I have the option of flying out of SEA with either 4hrs in SFO, or just 1hr 20 mins before the flight to MNL.

2) How are the EVA lounges in TPE? Are there napping facilities? (Overall, I prefer the arrival time in SEA if I fly through TPE, because home is another 2 hours drive from Tacoma. However, it was not a pleasant experience with KE when I arrived ICN at 5AM and spent the next 10 hours fighting for the nap space at the quiet zone of the KE lounge. Airport hotel was closed.)

3) From TPE, I have the choice of flying on the UA 777-200ER or UA 777-300ER. I see that the 77W is all-Polaris fitted but two of three versions of the 77E isn't. Should I avoid the 77E at all costs? Also how does the Polaris seats on the 789 compare with those on the 77W, since the 789 flies from ICN to SFO.

4) I do have Global Entry (soon converting to Nexus). Is the 1.5 hours enough connecting time through SFO?

5) A week ago, ANA and flights through TYO were options on united.com. They just all disappeared. Most of UA disappeared from the ANA web site and all NH disappeared from the UA web site. Not sure if something is just getting updated. But when each airline was an option at the other, I noticed that NH wouldn't list all the UA flight options through TYO that were listed on united.com and vice versa. It is almost as if they weren't as metal-neutral as KE and DL are.

6) Last year, I paid $3.6K for a roundtrip business class ticket. I booked around April for Dec/Jan. This year, the cheapest option is $4.8K!!! Turkish via IST seems to have disappeared as an option. Are prices changing after March???
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Old Mar 18, 2024, 10:24 pm
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Originally Posted by hikouki
The TPE flight leaves Asia in the wee hours, like 3AM, and I am supposed to spend 7+ hours in their TPE lounge. Any feedback regarding their TPE lounge? Are there napping facilities over there? Then onwards to SFO on a UA 777. Overall, this has an earlier arrival time in Seattle, at just before noon. Best arrival time for me, not the ideal in terms of timing of the flight out.
The nicest lounge available to you at TPE would be the Infinity Lounge, but there are multiple reports that people on the earlier of the two UA-operated flights have been denied entrance. Seven hours is a long time at any airport. :/ I don't remember any sleeping pods, but then I'd be trying to avoid sleeping myself anyway.

I haven't done the 3:40 AM departure, but I've done the UA late-night departure through GUM, and it may not be awful from a jet lag perspective. If you fall asleep pretty much as soon as you leave TPE, you'll be on a semi-decent West Coast sleep schedule, and, well, a 3:40 AM departure wouldn't allow for much sleep beforehand. . That's also about the only time I'd ever plan to arrive at MNL less than 90 minutes prior to departure without being terrified.

Originally Posted by hikouki
The flight through ICN only has 1.5 hours to connect, then also 1.5 hours in SFO, but arrives Seattle late afternoon.
OZ is leaving Star Alliance, which could potentially lead to problems during IRROPS. 1.5 hrs at ICN is fine; 1.5 hrs at SFO is aggressive.

Originally Posted by hikouki
1) How is the UA lounge in SFO? Is it crowded? How does it compare to DL? I have the option of flying out of SEA with either 4hrs in SFO, or just 1hr 20 mins before the flight to MNL.
All UA lounges tend to be crowded at times. Arriving on a UA-operated flight in J, or departing on any *A flight, you'd have access to the Polaris lounge, which is perfectly fine. I haven't visited a SkyClub so I'll leave that for others to compare. I'd recommend the 4h connection but I'd probably book the 1h20m connection, because I'm a risk-taker -- but you're going to run into the possibility of cascading delays causing you to misconnect.

Originally Posted by hikouki
2) How are the EVA lounges in TPE? Are there napping facilities? (Overall, I prefer the arrival time in SEA if I fly through TPE, because home is another 2 hours drive from Tacoma. However, it was not a pleasant experience with KE when I arrived ICN at 5AM and spent the next 10 hours fighting for the nap space at the quiet zone of the KE lounge. Airport hotel was closed.)
See above

Originally Posted by hikouki
3) From TPE, I have the choice of flying on the UA 777-200ER or UA 777-300ER. I see that the 77W is all-Polaris fitted but two of three versions of the 77E isn't. Should I avoid the 77E at all costs? Also how does the Polaris seats on the 789 compare with those on the 77W, since the 789 flies from ICN to SFO.
All flights from TPE will use Polaris seats. The ones that are using the older seats are purely assigned for domestic flights at the moment, and while they have the legs for TATL flights, I'm not sure they'd make SFO-TPE without a significant load reduction or a refueling stop. Anyway, the chances are far less than 1% that you'd end up on a non-Polaris plane, and if you were to do so, being on the 773 vs 772 originally isn't likely to have any impact on which one they swap out. I haven't flown the Polaris 789, but they put the same number of seats into a smaller cross-section, so the seats are a little narrower.

Originally Posted by hikouki
4) I do have Global Entry (soon converting to Nexus). Is the 1.5 hours enough connecting time through SFO?
It's aggressive, especially if you have checked luggage.

Originally Posted by hikouki
5) A week ago, ANA and flights through TYO were options on united.com. They just all disappeared. Most of UA disappeared from the ANA web site and all NH disappeared from the UA web site. Not sure if something is just getting updated. But when each airline was an option at the other, I noticed that NH wouldn't list all the UA flight options through TYO that were listed on united.com and vice versa. It is almost as if they weren't as metal-neutral as KE and DL are.
You're correct that not every flight comes up on each website, but for the JV cities -- including Manila -- they are metal-neutral. Blame IT weirdness, and search for flights with Google Flights, as it'll sometimes find combinations that the website won't. For example, you've left out HKG as a possible connection point (the current *A lounge situation in HKG may not be great, but I wonder if the flight times might not be more acceptable)

Originally Posted by hikouki
6) Last year, I paid $3.6K for a roundtrip business class ticket. I booked around April for Dec/Jan. This year, the cheapest option is $4.8K!!! Turkish via IST seems to have disappeared as an option. Are prices changing after March???
They might; they might not. If you're trying to book for the holidays -- so is everyone else. If you're flexible, wait for a while and see what prices do.
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Last edited by jsloan; Mar 19, 2024 at 12:37 am Reason: Wrong airport -- thanks Kacee. :)
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Old Mar 18, 2024, 11:11 pm
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Originally Posted by jsloan
The nicest lounge available to you at ICN would be the Infinity Lounge, but there are multiple reports that people on the earlier of the two UA-operated flights have been denied entrance.
I think you mean TPE.

7 hours at TPE would suck.
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Old Mar 19, 2024, 12:36 am
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Originally Posted by Kacee
I think you mean TPE.

7 hours at TPE would suck.
Correct; sorry, typo. Will fix.
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Old Mar 19, 2024, 9:48 pm
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Originally Posted by jsloan
.. but I've done the UA late-night departure through GUM, and it may not be awful from a jet lag perspective. I...
People actually fly that island hopper route to get to a secondary city in the mainland??? LOL

Originally Posted by jsloan
...

All UA lounges tend to be crowded at times. Arriving on a UA-operated flight in J, or departing on any *A flight, you'd have access to the Polaris lounge, which is perfectly fine. I haven't visited a SkyClub so I'll leave that for others to compare. I'd recommend the 4h connection but I'd probably book the 1h20m connection, because I'm a risk-taker -- but you're going to run into the possibility of cascading delays causing you to misconnect.

...
Are there any alternative (*A) lounge in SFO that a Polaris passenger can use apart from the Polaris lounge?

And how is UA in cases of IRROPS?

With AA when I was flying them years ago, they pretty much mostly let me pick whatever alternative shows up in their system which may include both OW and non-OW partners.

DL recently has been quite vicious in that it will send you to their app with very few or no alternatives.

Originally Posted by jsloan
...
...
You're correct that not every flight comes up on each website, but for the JV cities -- including Manila -- they are metal-neutral. Blame IT weirdness, and search for flights with Google Flights, as it'll sometimes find combinations that the website won't. For example, you've left out HKG as a possible connection point (the current *A lounge situation in HKG may not be great, but I wonder if the flight times might not be more acceptable)


...
google flights don't show alternative routings with lower fares for the same airline. But yes, it is a good starting point though.

Before DL, I was an Elite on Marco Polo back when I lived in the southern US and did a lot of domestic AA, and transpacific CX (mostly) and occasional JL. At one point, I have already memorized the usual business menu out of LAX - choice of tenderloin or pumpkin ravioli. LOL. Service and amenities are even more rotten nowadays at CX, and HKG is a dump. MNL station staff are even worse. I last flew CX in 2017. I have been avoiding CX and HKG like twin plagues.
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Old Mar 19, 2024, 10:34 pm
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Originally Posted by hikouki
People actually fly that island hopper route to get to a secondary city in the mainland??? LOL
MNL-GUM-HNL-(...). The MNL-GUM flight leaves around 10-11 PM, IIRC.

Originally Posted by hikouki
Are there any alternative (*A) lounge in SFO that a Polaris passenger can use apart from the Polaris lounge?
BR and SQ both agreed to close their SFO lounges and cede the space to UA to build the Polaris Lounge. There is a Maple Leaf Lounge in Terminal 2 (Concourse D), which has gotten good reviews since it opened last year, but which I haven't used personally. It apparently closes at 10:15 PM. It's a fairly substantial walk to the G gates where the MNL flight would depart, but it is all connected airside. I don't know if you'd have access as an arriving J / domestic F passenger, but you'd have access on the way to MNL.

Originally Posted by hikouki
And how is UA in cases of IRROPS?
Without status, hit or miss. (Even with status, it's increasingly hit or miss). Their app is quite good, but if the app doesn't give you what you want, it can be challenging to get it.

Originally Posted by hikouki
With AA when I was flying them years ago, they pretty much mostly let me pick whatever alternative shows up in their system which may include both OW and non-OW partners.

DL recently has been quite vicious in that it will send you to their app with very few or no alternatives.
UA is closer to DL as far as that goes. Don't expect to be put onto the PR nonstop without a fight (which you may lose). NH via Tokyo may be possible, or you could end up visiting GUM yourself the next morning -- no promises.

Originally Posted by hikouki
Service and amenities are even more rotten nowadays at CX, and HKG is a dump. MNL station staff are even worse. I last flew CX in 2017. I have been avoiding CX and HKG like twin plagues.
Fair enough. At that point, you've probably exhausted your major options then. I don't think UA will allow you to route via SIN -- nor would I really want to anyway.

Hope this helps.
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Old Mar 20, 2024, 12:13 am
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Originally Posted by jsloan
MNL-GUM-HNL-(...). The MNL-GUM flight leaves around 10-11 PM, IIRC.


...
Was curious about this option so I went ahead and checked the schedule on united.com. The aircraft they use are not all bad, but the routings are still quite brutal.

One option is MNL-GUM-HNL-DEN-SEA. The day flight GUM-HNL is on the 77W, but the overnight to DEN is on the old 77E. There is an overnight option to DEN on the 77W but it is $3K more expensive!!!

There are also options of via SFO or LAX instead of DEN, but some on the 753 overnight!

The good thing though is I will meet all my PQFs for the year with just one routing! LOL

During the days of CO/ CO Micronesia, wasn't the GUM flight routed via SPN? I think in the years shortly after CO and UA merged, the routing involved only 737s and 767s/757s and via IAH before any other mainland destination. So no beds even in business class!!!

Thank you for all your replies! All very informative!
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Old Mar 20, 2024, 1:06 am
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Originally Posted by hikouki
One option is MNL-GUM-HNL-DEN-SEA. The day flight GUM-HNL is on the 77W, but the overnight to DEN is on the old 77E. There is an overnight option to DEN on the 77W but it is $3K more expensive!!!
I'm not a huge fan of the 77E, but it actually works fine if you're traveling in a group, where all-aisle access can be less important.

Originally Posted by hikouki
There are also options of via SFO or LAX instead of DEN, but some on the 753 overnight!
I don't recommend routing eastbound via Hawaii and California.

Originally Posted by hikouki
During the days of CO/ CO Micronesia, wasn't the GUM flight routed via SPN? I think in the years shortly after CO and UA merged, the routing involved only 737s and 767s/757s and via IAH before any other mainland destination. So no beds even in business class!!!
CO/UA have run MNL-GUM nonstop for decades. They have also run a second Manila flight via either Koror or Saipan, although IIRC the timing didn't work for connections to the GUM-HNL flight -- it was really intended for local traffic. Currently it's going via Koror, and I'd be surprised if Saipan returned as I don't think there are any US-Philippines slots left in the treaty with the introduction of (LAX-)NRT-CEB later this year. (NRT-CEB is on a 738).

And, yes, GUM-HNL-IAH was on a 767 prior to the 777. However, CO BusinessFirst was probably best classified as angle-flat. Sure, they weren't the flat beds we expect today, but I don't think any carrier in that era had flat beds in J -- you had to go to a three-class carrier's F for a flat bed. BF was an excellent hard product -- I slept easily.

Originally Posted by hikouki
Thank you for all your replies! All very informative!
Happy to help.
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Old Mar 20, 2024, 9:31 am
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For 7h in TPE, especially bookended by the wee hours of the morning, I'd head to the CHO Stay capsule hotel.
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Old Apr 7, 2024, 3:02 pm
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Originally Posted by jsloan
...


Happy to help.
Been monitoring the prices and routings, and it seems there is a fair bit of price fluctuation week to week. NH is also intermittently an option, almost alternating with BR. LOL

Given the choice, which is better, UA Polaris 77W, or ANA business 788/ 789 on the longhaul sector/s?

Also, if I decide to go for the return with an OZ leg on MNL-ICN, would I be able to ask for original routing credit from UA, if I book in the next couple of weeks that the UA web site is showing the OZ leg having 1 PQF (and assuming later on that it will be formally a KE flight)?
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Old Apr 7, 2024, 3:31 pm
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UAL 77W always has a great seat, ANA 788/789 may have one (they have a lot of configurations on those). ANA will have better service by a mile.
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Old Apr 7, 2024, 3:39 pm
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Originally Posted by hikouki

Given the choice, which is better, UA Polaris 77W, or ANA business 788/ 789 on the longhaul sector/s?
Seat is better on polaris. Everything else is better on ANA
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Old Apr 7, 2024, 4:16 pm
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Originally Posted by mduell
UAL 77W always has a great seat, ANA 788/789 may have one (they have a lot of configurations on those). ANA will have better service by a mile.
Originally Posted by david_oz
Seat is better on polaris. Everything else is better on ANA
Thanks guys!

The flights are going to be overnights, so seat/ bed will take precedence over service and other amenities. I used to be a loyal DL flyer so I am used to 'less' amenities on longhauls. LOL
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Old Apr 7, 2024, 4:51 pm
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Originally Posted by hikouki
Also, if I decide to go for the return with an OZ leg on MNL-ICN, would I be able to ask for original routing credit from UA, if I book in the next couple of weeks that the UA web site is showing the OZ leg having 1 PQF (and assuming later on that it will be formally a KE flight)?
I suspect they'll post a policy, and whatever that policy is, I doubt they'll be making exceptions. So it might be "all tickets purchased by 7/1," or it could be "all flights completed by 7/1," or whatever other date, and there wouldn't be much any of us could do about it.

In the past, UA has used both types of approach for earnings changes. If I had to guess, I'd think it'd be the latter.
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Old Apr 7, 2024, 5:19 pm
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Originally Posted by jsloan
I suspect they'll post a policy, and whatever that policy is, I doubt they'll be making exceptions. So it might be "all tickets purchased by 7/1," or it could be "all flights completed by 7/1," or whatever other date, and there wouldn't be much any of us could do about it.

In the past, UA has used both types of approach for earnings changes. If I had to guess, I'd think it'd be the latter.
It is also interesting that in some of the flights to Asia, UA partners with some LCCs. Case in point, as much as I am purchasing a business class ticket, Jetstar Asia is an option to get to KIX (of course in Economy), connecting to UA. That of course does not earn any PQF.
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