Browsing Tag: Star Alliance

Getting ready for some long-haul flying, a 787-8 is at the gate with a 777-200 domestic in the background.

Domestic aviation in the western United States is a different operation than the population-dense East Coast. With major cities often 1,000 miles apart, often the only way to get between them in less than a day is to fly. Over the years, air traffic to the three largest Mountain West cities – Denver, Phoenix, and Salt Lake City – has increased significantly as the importance of these markets has elevated through sustained and continued growth.

United Airlines has been a dominant force in Denver for many years, with an 80-year history that reaches back into the early years of commercial aviation. It is currently, and by a wide margin, the largest carrier in Denver by passenger enplanements, flights, and revenue.

United’s focus on Denver is no accident; the airport is its most profitable hub, a key part of its route network, and is a focus for continued growth within the airline. As a frequent traveler based in Colorado, I’ve wanted to explore and learn about how United Airlines uses its position in Denver to get people to their destinations, nationwide.

This is the first part of a two-part feature on United Airlines’ operations at Denver International Airport. The second part will cover United’s inaugural 787-8 Dreamliner service to London Heathrow as an example of how United is expanding the reach and prominence of Denver within its network.

Main business cabin on Swiss's 777-300ER.

Main business cabin on the Swiss 777-300ER

On June 10, Swiss International Air Lines officially inaugurated its new Boeing 777-300ER (77W) on its first regularly scheduled daily service to the United States. The debut flight took off from Zürich/Kloten Airport (ZRH) and arrived at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The 77W is the first Boeing product in Swiss’s mainly-Airbus fleet, and carries 55% more passengers than the Airbus A340-300 (343) it replaces on the ZRH-LAX route. Its first 77W, HB-JNA (delivered on January 29) with its special “Faces of SWISS” livery, made the flight.

A Swiss 777-300ER (HB-JNA) in special "Faces of SWISS" livery. Photo: Swiss

A Swiss 777-300ER (HB-JNA) in special “Faces of SWISS” livery – Photo: Swiss

Swiss gave the public a CGI-based video preview of the all-new aircraft and completely redesigned interior, and AirlineReporter was the first to confirm the delivery date of HB-JNA. We were also one of the few media to be invited to LAX for the inaugural events to take a look with our own eyes. Were we disappointed?

My Ride to Newark, the First Boeing 747-8i (D-ABYA) to enter service commercially. Seen here from Ground Level!

My ride to Newark — the first Boeing 747-8I (D-ABYA) to enter service commercially. Seen here from ground level!

I have been lucky enough to fly a few different airlines in first class. I am referring though to international first class here, not domestic “first class.”  An airline that I have been obsessed to fly in first class is Lufthansa.

My flight on Lufthansa would be two firsts for me: flying their first class and being a passenger on the updated Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental. Having one first is normally exciting enough as it is, but two? Yes… one could say that I was excited!

Lufthansa First Class seats 1A & 1K, in the nose of a 747.  Can't get any far further into the pointy end than this.

Lufthansa first class seats 1A & 1K, in the nose of a 747. Can’t get any far farther into the pointy end than this.

The benefit of departing Frankfurt with a first class ticket starts when one arrives at the airport. I was given access to their first class terminal, which was amazing.  When it was time to board my flight, I was driven in a Mercedes Vito van that took me on a quick ride across the tarmac to my gate in the A/Z concourse.

Riding along at ground level and looking up at gate after gate of 747s is pretty special.  When we pulled up to our gate, the very first 747-8I (D-ABYA) was looming above me.  Being able to step out onto the ramp and snap a photo is nice.  Being ushered all the way up to the aircraft by our driver is even better.  Even though boarding was already underway when we arrived, our driver created a hole in the crowd and had us at the front in mere moments.  Now THAT is service.

The entrance of the new Star Alliance lounge inside the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX.

The entrance of the new Star Alliance lounge inside the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX

Recently, I had the opportunity to check out the new Star Alliance lounge located in the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX. The old lounge wasn’t terribly bad, but it was ready for some upgrades. I was very excited about what I found in the new lounge.

To describe the feeling of the new lounge in one word: Home. It has different areas that each have their own energy, but all come back to being very home-like. Well, it’s a higher-end feeling than my home, but still it feels like it was meant for be lived in, rather than just looked at or enjoyed for a short amount of time.

Delta Sky Priority Check In just one of the perks given to their Elite Medallion members - Photo: Delta

Delta Sky Priority Check In just one of the perks given to their Elite Medallion members – Photo: Delta

This is a second leg (part) in a multi- leg series. Make sure to read LEG 1 first. 

Previously, I mentioned that you can get some pretty sweet benefits being an elite frequent flier and hope to expand on the idea a bit more on this part,  which deserves a whole article on it’s own.

Unlike earning points, the benefits come once you have achieved that elite status and each airline has different benefits they will give their elites.  Most of the airlines though tend to give the big three:

1)  Priority Boarding – This means you get to board before the general economy passengers, obtaining not only that precious overhead bin space, but a few extra minutes to get yourself settled without being crowded and holding up the queue behind you.

2) Priority Check In – Being able to check in without having to wait in long lines, going to the “front of the queue” almost can be worth its “wait” in gold.  Getting checked in and on your way to security fast and efficiently makes any frequent flier happy.

3) Priority Security – Avoiding that long security line behind that family with 8 children and 25 bags is always a good thing.  Speedily getting up to that security check point and getting through in the least amount of time possible means you can be on your way to the gate (or lounge) faster.  If you are lucky enough you may even qualify for TSA Pre Check (but that’s a whole different story).

In some cases these benefits can be worth it on their own.  But there are other, less common benefits, that some airlines give that really make it worth the effort:

  • Bonus Points
  • Seating Upgrades
  • Change Fee Waivers
  • Lounge Access
  • Free/Extra Baggage Allowance

American Airlines & other oneworld airline elite fliers (Emerald status) allow access to the First Class lounges in their network, even if you are flying on an economy ticket.  Star Alliance gives all of their Gold members lounge access as well (for a full run down on Star Alliance Gold benefits watch this snazzy YouTube video).

United Airlines Premier 1K fliers are able to make same day changes to their flights without fees and Delta gives complimentary domestic upgrades to most of its Elites (though you still have to fight the other elites for those First Class seats).

No matter what program you choose, they all offer something to their VIP customers to make them smile.

Getting an upgrade to a First Class Seat on Delta could land you in a seat like this on some routes - Photo: Mal Muir | AirlineReporter.com

Getting an upgrade to a First Class Seat on Delta could land you in a seat like this on some routes – Photo: Mal Muir | AirlineReporter.com

I am a Star Alliance Gold and a Virgin Australia Velocity Gold. These two programs probably mean nothing to the average American flier and most airline employees around the world barely know about the airline I hold Star Gold status with (and the less that know, the better). They both give some pretty great benefits to me that other programs don’t.  Just because I live in the USA (but from Australia) doesn’t mean that I need to credit all of my flying to a US based program.  Virgin Australia allows me to earn status on them, while I  fly on Delta, Virgin America or Hawaiian.

Some times the benefits can be a little confusing.  For instance if I was flying on United, I would get lounge access thanks to being Star Gold with a non us based airline. However, If I was Star Gold with only United, I would be in the Starbucks queue like everyone else for my morning coffee and not have lounge access. So doing the research on the privileges that different programs give is important.

Mileage running is just a way to get all the things you want with a travel experience as quickly, cheaply and easily as possible. Sure mileage running is not for everyone, but if it’s for you… it can be well worth it!

This story written by…Malcolm Muir, Lead Correspondent.

Mal is an Australian Avgeek now living and working in Seattle. With a passion for aircraft photography, traveling and the fun that combining the two can bring. Insights into the aviation world with a bit of a perspective thanks to working in the travel industry.

@BigMalX | BigMal’s World | Photos