Upgrd 28: Lounging Around

In this week's discussion we cover airline news, Star Alliance and Red Carpet Club domestic lounge access, and Ben's tour of beautiful LAX airport. Also we discuss:

  • Delta's recent fine for the way it handled denied boarding and compensation
  • Viewer mail on credit card earning for hotel stays, an EWR flyer's question about where to credit miles after reaching Platinum on CO, and questions about the United Mileage Plus Dining program
  • A review of RCC member access to other star alliance clubs while traveling domestically on UA
  • and more...

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Thanks for the feedback. I was one of the Continental Elites that never got upgrades on the flights to LAX and LAS, but have really good success on other shorter flights like MSP, TPA, and DEN. But with the recent change that M fare tickets get an instant EUA looks like I'll be upgraded on almost all of my upcoming flights when I book. Thanks again UPGRD guys.

spkg July 17, 2009 at 11:24 am

wow ben, i'm really surprised you just gave up trying to go the the NZ lounge because of some american eagle lady, i gotta say i lost a bit of respect for youWink. Since you guys introduced me to the concept on a ealier episode, i've been to all the alternative lounges, and it's a big plus for me since i don't have RCC access on domestic trips. How do you guys deal with lounge agents that won't let you in. The agent at LAX NZ lounge tried to denied me access due to security reasons, saying that since i wasn't flying to or from terminal 2, i shouldn't be there, but in the end let me in as a "personal favor" which left a really bad taste in my mouth.

Is it just me, or do you guys feel bad sometimes for making UA pay $25 everytime you go into one of these lounges. On a recent mileage run BUF-IAD-LAX-SFO-SAN. UA had to dish out $150 for my lounge access, and the ticket was only $175.

Lucky July 17, 2009 at 02:02 pm

I promise I'll make up for it next time!

The LH lounge at IAD and SQ lounge at SFO are usually pretty good about letting people in, so no need to fight. As far as the NZ lounge at LAX goes, just mention you could get there airside, and that they should call the TSA if they have a problem.

I've gotta ask, how the heck did you manage to access six alternative lounges on a single trip?! That's impressive!

And no, don't feel bad. I use my bmi card to enter RCC's well over a hundred times a year, so that's $2K-2.5K in UA's pocket. Besides, they do Starnet blocking. ;)

Golden Toque July 17, 2009 at 03:54 pm

Although I have never been there, as far as I know the Swiss lounge at JFK is still landside. Will let you know definatively on Aug 29th when I go on my flight on the A333 to Zurich in F ;-)

spkg July 17, 2009 at 06:03 pm

@ lucky, I had the same routing there and back, the SQ lounge at SFO is really close IMO, so i'll go if i've got any connections longer than 1 hour. The LH lounge at IAD isn't that bad to get to either, and for my last MR, i had a 6 hour layover at LAX on the out bound and three hour on the return. so i guess in one MR i hit each one of those lounges twice.

So that's $2000 out of BMI's pocket. You probably contributed directly to BMI's downfall. I'm not blaming you at all cause you're totally entitled to it, i guess i'm just one of those idoits that feel bad about tring on a shirt and not buying it afterwards.

Lucky July 17, 2009 at 06:33 pm

FWIW I'll actually requalify for bmi Gold, so I don't feel that bad....


  1. I found a great picture of "the tunnel" here: http://www.flyingcritic.com/travel/2008/06/tunnel-between.html

  2. You guys are too hard on Rewards Network. With a lot of promotions, I've earned tens of thousands of miles over the past few years. The program has deteriorated in the past year but I still think it's a great way to shortlist potential restaurants while traveling. Yes, some are crappy, but the website does post the menus so you can usually tell. And occasionally there are gems. One particular success that comes to mind is my favorite local upscale restaurant (which sadly no longer participates -- perhaps because of me...). The restaurant had a promotion (unrelated to Rewards Network) to purchase gift certificates at 30% off face value. So I paid $700 for $1,000 worth of certs (which I used over the course of a year), and got 10,500 UA miles (there was a 50% bonus mile promo going on). I think the restaurant came out OK on the deal because it's pretty pricey and I probably wouldn't have spent that much without the discounts.

JeffB July 26, 2009 at 11:23 am

The Rewards Network business model is kind of interesting. Take a look at this "review" which is a bit overly dramatic, but does a good job of explaining it:


nmmercer July 31, 2009 at 03:12 pm

Hi guys thanks for answering all my questions this podcast. I have actually found some "gems" in the rewards network and it is helpful for getting out and doing something other than room service on solo business trips. Sometimes I dine out at home and then get an email 2 days later letting me know I earned miles. I love it when I get that surprise. I just found a great new sushi restaurant that gives double miles Mon-Wed so I will now be eating there more often because of the program. Last year I earned ~31,000 UA miles from approx. $6500 in restaurant spend. You can affiliate multiple credit cards so I earned additional bonuses and rewards by using my MR Amex, my UA Chase, and a variety of other reward CCs. I bookmarked this thread on FT and I return to it often as a source of inspiration: