Yesterday I wrote a post sharing 11 things that American Airlines does really well. I figured it was only fair that I write such a post, given that I criticize the airline a fair bit.
While I write all the time about the great things that Delta is doing, I wanted to also write a post about the things that I think United does well.
In no particular order, here are 12 things I like about United Airlines:
United Polaris Lounges are hands down the best international business class lounges offered by any US airlines. The lounges are spectacular, with incredible attention paid to design. The lounges also have a la carte dining, custom made espresso drinks, and more.
The only downside is that United has strict access requirements, as you can only use them when flying Star Alliance first or business class — no status level will get you into these lounges.
United Polaris Lounge Newark
Polaris bedding & amenities
While United is in the process of installing new Polaris seats throughout their fleet, the reality is that they have a long way to go. As of now their longest flights are all operated by planes with the old business class seats, which aren’t competitive.
Fortunately all long haul flights have United’s new Polaris soft product, and the bedding and amenities are exceptional. United has the best bedding of any airline in business class, and on some long haul flights they even have pajamas.
United Polaris bedding
Bigger business class cabins
While American and Delta are generally installing smaller business class cabins on their long haul planes, United is going the opposite direction, and that’s great news, both for award tickets and upgrades.
For example, their 777-300s have 60 Polaris seats, their reconfigured 777-200s have 50 Polaris seats, and their reconfigured 767-300s have 30-46 Polaris seats.
United Polaris cabin 777-300ER
Route network & ultra long haul flying
Of course everyone will have different opinions about which airline has the best route network based on where they live and where they like to travel.
However, personally I think United has the most global route network. Not only that, but I appreciate that they’re willing to try ultra long haul flights, which American and Delta shy away from.
So from San Francisco to Singapore, to Houston to Sydney, to Newark to Delhi, to Washington to Tel Aviv, to Newark to Cape Town (coming later this year), United has a really spectacular route network.
United app & website
United has an excellent app. I’m not sure I’d say it’s better than Delta’s, but it’s in the same league, and way better than American’s. It’s great for everything from push notifications to viewing upgrade status to making changes.
For that matter, United’s IT in general is pretty good when it comes to the ability to service reservations online.
I also like that United gives you a detailed explanation of why your flight is delayed, unlike American and Delta.
Online award search
While I think the value proposition of redeeming United miles is worse than ever before with dynamic award pricing taking effect, I at least have to give United credit for making it fairly easy to search and book awards through their website.
They’re the only one of the “big three” US airlines that typically shows all partner award space online.
No fuel surcharges on any MileagePlus partners
Again, I don’t think there’s much of a competitive advantage when it comes to MileagePlus redemption rates nowadays, though unlike American AAdvantage and Delta SkyMiles, United doesn’t pass on carrier imposed surcharges for award redemptions on any partner airlines. I appreciate that as a concept.
Redeem United miles on Lufthansa without surcharges
Stopovers on award tickets
Of the “big three” US airline programs, MileagePlus is the only one to allow complimentary stopovers. American and Delta both used to offer stopovers on award tickets, while they no longer do. Meanwhile with United you’re permitted one stopover on a roundtrip international award ticket.
With United’s new dynamic award pricing, it will be tougher to actually determine if you’re getting a free stopover, since pricing is no longer published.
Enjoy a free stopover on a MileagePlus award ticket
MileagePlus miles are easy to earn
United is transfer partners with Chase Ultimate Rewards, meaning that United miles are easy to come by thanks to instant transfers.
This is an advantage over American AAdvantage, since they don’t partner with any transferrable points currency. Meanwhile Delta SkyMiles partners with Amex Membership Rewards, though you do have to pay a federal excise tax when transferring points.
Million miler status
While I don’t think MileagePlus as such is a competitive advantage, their million miler program is by far the best of the “big three” US airlines. There are four thresholds:
- Lifetime Gold at 1MM
- Lifetime Platinum at 2MM
- Lifetime 1K at 3MM
- Lifetime Global Services at 4MM
That’s great in and of itself, but the icing on the cake is that you can also appoint a companion to have that status.
This is significantly better than Delta’s million miler program, and infinitely better than American’s million miler program, which is abysmal.
Get valuable elite status for life for you and a companion
Same day flight changes
United has one of the best same day flight change policies of any airline, which can be useful if your plans change last minute, or if you’re just trying to find the cheapest fare with the hope of later changing.
Premier Gold members and above can make the change for free (Premier Silvers and non-elites have to pay $75), and you can even change your connecting city when making such a change.
You can also change to a flight within 24 hours, so you can fly on a different calendar day.
I’d say United’s policy is slightly better than Delta’s, and significantly better than American’s.
United has a great same day flight change policy
While I prefer oneworld Emerald status to any Star Alliance status, Star Alliance is the world’s largest airline alliance. So being able to earn and redeem miles on the alliance that’s the largest is a big draw to United.
To be honest, when I started writing this post I could only think of a handful of positive things about United, but after asking on Twitter, lots of you pointed out things that United does really well.
Unfortunately noticeably absent are three things — the people, the domestic flying experience, and high speed wifi.
I’m curious to hear what you guys think — what do you think United Airlines does well?