Saturday, February 28, 2009

Oh Happy Day!

Since I'm flying on United frequent flyer miles I had to plan my trip early. You're allowed to book frequent flyer trips on United Airlines a maximum of 330 days in advance. So last April, 330 days in advance of my final flight next Tuesday from Washington Dulles to LAX, I was on the phone to United to book the trip. (The itinerary was complicated and I was on the phone with the reservationist for at least 90 minutes.)

Nearly all of the flights have been on airlines partnered with United, only two flights are actually on United: Monday night from Rio to Dulles and Tuesday morning from Dulles to LAX.

When I made the reservation I was able to confirm all of the flights in first class except the United flight from Rio to Dulles. United had the seats but they weren't making them available for award travel. So I booked that flight in coach -- ten and a half hours.

The next day I started a program of once a day -- everyday -- calling United Airlines to ask if I could move to first class. I missed a few Saturdays and Sundays but pretty much consistently called every day.

After a couple of months I got moved up to business class. But first class remained elusive and I continued to call once a day.

Even once I left on this trip on February 10 I continued to call when I was in a country where United Airlines had a local phone number. I didn't want to incur the cost of making the call so I'd go to the Hotel Concierge Desk and ask if they'd dial the number and let me use the phone. They all were willing to do it.

And each day I'd be told the same thing -- first class isn't available and that I should ask when I checked in for the flight. But I kept calling.

The 767 I'm flying has 6 first class seats. For several months all six were unbooked. Then about 4 months ago two of them sold, leaving four seats. It stayed like that until two days ago when I found out two more seats sold, leaving only two available. That really depressed me, I wasn't feeling very hopeful.

And today -- about 60 hours before my flight is scheduled to depart -- United finally made a first class seat available to me. I was so excited but worried the reservationist got it wrong. But she assigned me a seat and it's really going to happen. After 10 months of daily phone calls it felt like a real personal victory.

And now I can start enjoying my trip. (That's a joke.)

The photo above is of the beach as seen from my hotel room. But I haven't been going to that beach. I've been taking the hotel's shuttle bus for the five minute ride to Ipanema Beach. I've been three days in a row now. The weather has been absolutely sensational.
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