Time for another trip report!
Day 0: Introduction: Perfecting My Trip to Europe Using United Miles
Day 1: LAX-YVR on Air Canada, Vancouver, and YVR-LHR on Air Canada
Day 2: BD Number One Lounge at Heathrow and London to Lisbon on TAP Portugal
Day 3: A Day of Sightseeing in Lisbon
Day 4: An Unexpected Extra Day + New Years in Lisbon
Day 5: 12-Hour Bus Trip from Lisbon to Algeciras, Spain via Seville
Day 6: Monkeying Around in British Gibraltar + Ferry to Tangier, Morocco + Overnight Train to Marrakech
Day 7: My Five Star Hotel Room in Marrakech
Day 8: Bartering for Mont Blanc Pens + RAK-MAD on Royal Air Maroc
Day 9: City Tour of Madrid on Foot
Day 10: Escape to the Madrid Airport Hilton
Day 11: MAD-FRA-CPH on Lufthansa
Day 12: CPH-IAD on SAS, IAD-PHX-BUR on US Airways
Part 0: Introduction > Planning My Trip to Europe Using United Miles
When Untied announced they were raising their mileage redemption levels on most awards late in 2008, I resolved to empty out my Mileage Plus account, then holding over 600,000 miles, before the year was over. For any of you who book mileage awards on United know, it can be an arduous process trying to book your desired flights when dealing with Starnet blocking and reservation agents who are not always willing to go the extra miles in helping to find ideal routing. With that in mind, I procrastinated until December 31, the day before redemption levels increased, to book. All I was concerned about was getting something booked in Business Class for 80,000 miles that I could tinker with and eventually perfect at a later time. I picked LAX to London and within two minutes had a reservation booked: UA non-stops coming and going for August 2009.
A few weeks later when I had some more time, I changed the outbound to Air Canada via Vancouver and the inbound on Swiss Air, including a flight on their new A330 from Zürich to Chicago. I still was not sure where I wanted to go in Europe, but thanks to the beauty of free and unlimited changes to award reservations for 1K members, I did not have to think about it yet.
Law school sprang up on me suddenly in early August and I had to cancel the trip—or at least I thought I did. I called UA reservations and attempted to change the dates to early in 2010, thinking I would have to make a new reservation because departure would be over 365 days from booking. To my surprise and without any hassle, the UA reservations agent rebooked me for January 2010. I even got to keep my Swiss Air routing for the return and had UA routing again from LAX-LHR.
I made more than a dozen changes to the reservation before finally settling on Portugal and Spain as my primary destinations. One of those changes included me successfully getting an agent to circumvent UA’s Starnet blocking and book me on my preferred LAX-LHR flight on Air New Zealand in Business, only to have the flight taken away by a rude supervisor in Chicago.
My final routing:
28 Dec: LAX-YVR-LHR in Air Canada Business Class
29 Dec: LHR-LIS in TAP Portugal Business Class
07 Jan: MAD-FRA-CPH in Lufthansa Business Class
08 Jan: CPH-IAD-PHX-BUR in SAS Business Class and US Airways First Class
I chose SAS for my long-haul return just to try something different. I spent a lot of time in Swiss Business and First Class in 2009 and wanted to give either SAS or Austrian Air a try in their premium class. SAS had availability to ORD and IAD, but I chose IAD because of the flight times and to give US Airways another try. I had not been in the forward cabin on US Airways in two years and I fancied the ability to fly from IAD to BUR with a quick connection in PHX.
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