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A Gift in the Mail from United Airlines


I do not get much snail mail anymore, save for far too many credit card apps and various bar association items, so it is always just a little gratifying to see something out of the ordinary. Today, a large envelope arrived from United Airlines.

United understandably hedges its bet when describing the purpose of the new baggage handle, but the clear implication in ...

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Independence Day 1863: A Reflection on Gettysburg


Imagine yourself on an open field in rural Pennsylvania on July 4, 1863. For the last three days, a fierce battle had raged, a battle that had inflicted 46,236 casualties and claimed 7,863 lives. The weather is sticky and warm and the smell of blood and death is heavy.

Quite a different day than Independence Day 87 years earlier, when church bells celebrated the Continental Congress' unanimous vote to sever ties with the Crown, proclaiming in the Declaration of ...

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EVA Airways Space Temporarily Pulled from

Yesterday I highlighted the ability to book EVA awards on and urged you to act fast before others booked all the space. If you searched last night or this morning for EVA space, you would have noticed there was nothing at all. Worry not, space has not disappeared that quickly. Instead, a technical glitch has forced United to temporarily remove this space online.

Hi everyone,

Just a quick update here. We've seen a small issue with a limited number of BR awards ...

Book EVA Airways Award Space on


EVA (pronounced E - V - A) Airways has recently joined the Star Alliance network and the Taipei-based carrier has been very generous when it comes to releasing award space. In fact, many dates this summer have four or more award seats available in business class and EVA's business class seat is among the best in the business. Now United Airlines has made it easier to book this space by enabling the searchability for EVA award flights on

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New United p.s. Premium Service Commercial with Matt Damon


United Airlines has a new television ad out for their Premium Service (p.s.) flights between New York JFK and Los Angeles/San Francisco. Narrated by Matt Damon and showcasing United's new BusinessFirst® lie-flat seats on the route, the ad compares a p.s. flight to an international flight, specifically emphasizing meal service.

It is a curious ad. Many have attacked it, but I don't think it is so bad. I do think it is uninspiring, but that is the direction the Continental ...

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The Secret to Obtaining SWISS First Class Award Space

Booking first class award space on Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) has become much, much more difficult over the last 18 months. SWISS was once fairly generous--you could book months in advance and award space was generally decent: with a little flexibility you could find two first class seats between Zurich and SWISS' many destinations in Asia or Africa. Closer-in to travel, first class award space opened to SWISS' North American destinations.

That changed when SWISS ...

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Dubai to New York via Jeddah in Saudia Economy Class


The Saudia flight was from Dubai to Jeddah was so uneventful I will only spend a few sentences on it—I was tried and quickly fell asleep after the meal service, which included beef with noodles and mixed vegetables. A small salad, bread, and underwhelming Tiramisu was served with it. The meal was fine—I ate all of it—and that is about all that is to note on this flight. It was late evening and I reclined my seat and went to sleep, anticipating a long night ahead in ...

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Kabul to Dubai on flydubai


فلاي دبي‎ (flydubai) is a low-cost carrier based in Dubai offering budget flights throughout the Middle East and beyond. The ticket from Kabul to Dubai was $152 and flydubai was the only carrier with an afternoon flight.

FAs were dressed in Southwest Airlines style khaki pants/skirts with white shirts and the cabin crew comprised an Indian and two Filipino woman and an Australian guy. There was some congestion on the runway in Kabul—a couple UN flights departing as ...

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The Afghanistan Dilemma


It was a brisk winter day, but heat from a black wood-burning stove warmed the room.  Sunlight streamed in from outside and the sound of the rushing Panjshir River outside was audible over the din of voices inside.

Faded floral wallpaper covered the south wall and on a dusty shelf above the window sat a ceramic white vase with artificial flowers and a red-checkered plate.

Men with thick beards and gray cloaks sat in circles, scooping up kidney beans and rice with warm ...

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Video: Drunk Passenger Attacks United Pilot at Washington Dulles

I'm not the type that hangs around bars, but in my travels around the world I've run into a lot of drunk people and must admit that there are a few things I enjoy more than observing disorderly conduct from people who have had a few too many. What that says about me, well, you can draw your own conclusions, but a recent video caught my attention of a drunk passenger engaging in a verbal spar, than fistfight with a United Airlines deadheading Chicago-based First Officer in the A Concourse of ...

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Kabul International Airport and Departing Afghanistan


We love complaining about the obtrusive Transportation Security Administration at US airports, but our little TSA has nothing on the security measures in effect at Kabul International Airport.

Of course I am making an apples to oranges comparison, but let me tell you how I went from the Green Zone to airport's departure lounge.

The airport was only a few kilometers away from my final stop in Kabul, the British Cemetery, but the journey was no Sunday ...

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US Airways Barclays MasterCard Credit Card (40,000 Mile Offer)


I trust many of you are taking advantage of the special Chase INK promotion this week, offering up to a 60,000 point sign-up bonus after $5,000 in spending rather than the regular 50,000 point offer. That deal expires tomorrow expired.

But any self-respecting or aspiring credit card aficionado with a solid credit score should also be thinking about other cards to sign-up for as well this week. Why? Because when you apply for several cards at once, your credit score score takes a ...

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"This aircraft tolerates emissions from electrical devices for all phases of flight"

Coming soon to an airliner near you: cell phones, tablets, laptops...all the time. No phone calls just yet, but I suspect that is just around the corner too. This isn't a done deal just yet, but after years of passengers flouting electronic prohibitions, change is around the corner.

The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to relax the ban on using some types of personal-electronic devices at low altitudes, allowing passengers leeway during taxiing and even takeoffs and ...

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Room With a View: Park Hyatt Sydney


I trust you've been enjoying the Afghanistan trip report, which will resume shortly, but I had to interrupt my vacation (and the trip report) to cover the changes United Airlines has announced to elite qualification and award ticketing fees. It is not Friday afternoon yet, but hopefully the bad news is over and I can return to enjoying my room...with a view.

There is nothing like waking up to see the Opera House from my bed. Few things in life beat the Park Hyatt Sydney! Stay tuned for that review and much, much more from what has been an incredible trip to Australia.

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United Raises Award Change and Cancellation Fees for Non-Premiers


As if yesterday's move of adding minimum-spend requirements to attain elite status was not bad enough, United today (with no advance notice) has updated its award fee chart and General Members will be hit hard.

No more free routing changes outside of 21 days. Now $75. Changes within 21 days now $100. Cancellation and redeposit now $200 for General Members. Premier Members not affected. Affects only tickets booked on or after June 19, 2013.

Here's the new fee schedule. I've ...

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United Airlines Undermines Star Alliance


United Airlines' decision to count spending on partner flights only on tickets issued by United for purposes of earning elite status marks a fundamental blow to the concept of airline alliances, undermining its Star Alliance partners and begging the question, will airline alliances soon be nothing more than marketing gimmicks?

We run into the following predicament: say Lufthansa is ...

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Minimum Spend Requirements for Elite Status Coming to United in 2014


United Airlines has announced minimum spend requirements in order to achieve elite status starting in the 2014 program year. Similar to Delta, there will be a waiver from this requirement for those who place at least $25,000 on a MileagePlus co-branded credit card issued by Chase, but 1Ks will not be exempted from the minimum spend requirement.

Here's the scoop straight from the source--

Starting in January 2014, Premier qualification for members living in the United ...

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Kabul – The Green Zone and British Cemetery


Although the term "Green Zone" is more closely associated with Baghdad, Kabul has its own Green Zone housing the diplomatic missions of various countries and the seat of the Afghan government.

The walled city within a city is accessible by car and foot but not surprisingly checkpoints at two entrances carefully screen those who come in…at least in theory.  Our vehicle was stopped but when they saw me—the white guy—in the backseat they just waived us right ...

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Kabul – Gardens of Babur and Kart-e Sakhi Mosque


The Gardens of Babur are a welcome oasis to the dusty, dirty streets of Kabul. Inside the steeped gates (where admission is 25x higher for foreigners than for Afghans, but still only 250 afghanis or ~$4.70) sits the final resting place of the first Mughal emperor Babur amidst a tranquil garden.

You seriously are stepping back in time when you step in the Babur Gardens. The site has served as a sanctuary from the city surrounding it since 1528 AD; ...

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Kabul – National Museum of Afghanistan


Around the corner from the Darul Aman Palace sits the National Museum of Afghanistan, offering a bitter reminder of Afghanistan's stormy history.

The museum once boasted one of the world's premier collections of Central Asian artifacts dating back several thousand years but civil war and a fatuous rejection of art by the Taliban led to the destruction of over 70% of the collection.

Today, the museum is struggling to rebuild itself. Outside, the two-story complex is very ...

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