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RUPA Pass Travel Report

RUPA Pass Travel Reports

RUPA Pass Travel Report June 2020

RUPA Pass Travel Report March 2020

Captain Pat Palazzolo


Employee Travel Center (ETC) – +1 (877) 825-3729

etc@united.com or Help Hub on Flying Together

Daydreaming about where to travel when it’s safe to do so?

Then this is for you!

Hello Fellow Aviators,

I don’t know about you, but instead of fretting that I can’t travel, I’m using this quarantine time to imagine where I’d like to go as soon as it’s safe to do so.  I’m making a list and checking it twice!

There are two useful links that I want to make you aware of.  Each January both the NY Times and Fodors comes out with a similarly sounding list of their favorite places to travel for the upcoming year.

The NY Times list is called “52 Places to Go in 2020.”  And Fodor’s is called “Fodors Travel GO list for 2020.”  Google each of the articles for details of each destination with photos.  You can also google previous years’ articles for more.

The lists change each year and they tend to focus on both classic destinations and what they feel are hidden gems.  Both lists are highly subjective, yet still interesting for the most part.

I have gripes about both lists.  It seems that some of the NY Times destinations are listed because of at the food in the city.  It’s almost as if the travel writers got a promotion from their previous tour of duty as restaurant reviewers.  Fodor’s weak spot to me seems to be that what appeals to them is new change in a city, regardless of how inconsequential it may be.  For example one of the big draws for them to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia is its new airport. Nice, but I hope to spend as little time as possible there.  In another city it was the new light rail system (I’m not going to fly 4,000 miles because a city has a new light rail).  But overall there are some interesting places to consider from both their lists.  Occasionally there is some overlap.  Las year they both listed Senegal in West Africa but for very different reasons.  One, for the food, and the other for the music and nightlife.

Fodors also has a handy annual list of Places to NO go in 2020.  These annual no go lists are usually because of tourist saturation (Barcelona, Spain, Angkor Wat, Cambodia and others) or harm to the environment (The coral reefs) or danger (The Matterhorn is now killing almost as many people as Everest)

Here are lists from both publications for 2020:


U.S. & Canada GO List

  1. Athens, Georgia
  2. Baltimore, Maryland
  3. Newfoundland, Canada
  4. Palm Springs, California
  5. Portland, Maine
  6. Queens, New York
  7. South Walton, Florida
  8. Sun Valley, Idaho
  9. Vancouver Island, Canada

South America GO List

  1. Easter Island, Chile
  2. Humahuaca, Argentina
  3. Jose Ignacio, Uruguay
  4. Medellin, Colombia
  5. Paracas, Peru
  6. Rio de Janiero, Brazil
  7. Sucre, Bolivia

Europe GO List

  1. Aeolian Islands, Italy
  2. Albania
  3. Andalusia, Spain
  4. Athens, Greece
  5. Brittany, France
  6. Bucharest, Romania
  7. Faroe Islands
  8. Galway, Ireland
  9. Struve Geodetic Arc

Middle East GO list

  1. Accra, Ghana
  2. Luanda, Angola
  3. Rwanda
  4. Wadi Rum, Jordan
  5. Beirut, Lebanon
  6. Masai Mara, Kenya
  7. The Skeleton Coast, Namibia
  8. Ethiopia
  9. Ras Al Khaimah, UAE
  10. Tunisia

Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean GO list

  1. Aruba, Caribbean
  2. Montserrat, Caribbean
  3. Valladolid, Yucatán, Mexico
  4. Bahamas, Caribbean
  5. San José, Costa Rica
  6. Guatemala
  7. Barth’s, Caribbean

Asia GO List

  1. Hoi An, Vietnam
  2. Macau, China
  3. Uzbekistan
  4. Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India
  5. Raja Ampat, Indonesia
  6. Luang Prabang, Laos
  7. Tokyo, Japan

South America GO List

  1. Easter Island, Chile
  2. Medellín, Colombia
  3. Sucre, Bolivia
  4. Humahuaca, Argentina
  5. Paracas, Peru
  6. José Ignacio. Uruguay
  7. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Australia and the Pacific GO List

  1. Bora Bora, French Polynesia (Tahiti)
  2. Brisbane Australia
  3. Christchurch New Zealand

The New York Times 52 Places to Go in 2020

  1. Washington
  2. British Virgin Islands
  3. Rurrenabaque, Bolivia
  4. Greenland
  5. Kimberley Region, Australia
  6. Paso Robles, Calif.
  7. Sicily
  8. Salzburg, Austria
  9. Tokyo
  10. Caesarea, Israel
  11. National Parks, China
  12. Lesotho
  13. Colorado Springs
  14. Krakow, Poland
  15. Jodhpur, India
  16. Western Sweden
  17. Egypt
  18. La Paz, Mexico
  19. Grand Isle, La.
  20. Chow Kit, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  21. Jevnaker, Norway
  22. The Bahamas
  23. Kampot, Cambodia
  24. Christchurch, New Zealand
  25. Asturias, Spain
  26. Haida Gwaii, British Columbia
  27. Austin, Texas
  28. Sabah, Malaysia
  29. Churchill, Manitoba
  30. Uganda
  31. Paris
  32. Lake District, England
  33. Tajikistan
  34. Antakya, Turkey
  35. Leipzig, Germany
  36. Lima, Peru
  37. Molise, Italy
  38. Copenhagen
  39. Richmond, Va.
  40. Mount Kenya
  41. Minorca, Spain
  42. Oberammergau, Germany
  43. Plymouth, England
  44. Atlantic Forest, Brazil
  45. Belle-Île, France
  46. Val d’Aran, Spain
  47. Mongolia
  48. Juliana Trail, Slovenia
  49. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  50. Transylvanian Alps, Romania
  51. Urbino, Italy
  52. Glacier National Park and Whitefish, Mont.
RUPA Pass Travel Report March 2020

RUPA Pass Travel Report March 2020

Captain Pat Palazzolo


Employee Travel Center (ETC) – +1 (877) 825-3729

etc@united.com or Help Hub on Flying Together

Traveling after COVID-19

Hello Fellow Aviators,

This is being written on April 15, 2020.  I trust you and your loved ones are well.

As of the date of this writing it isn’t known yet when or how the state governors will release their citizens from the various shelter in place restrictions.  But it is expected to happen in a gradual manner that allows the economy to begin to recover while still maintaining a check on any relapse of the virus.

United has told us that it will take at least a couple of years or more (my guess, probably more) for the airline to recover.  Many businesses have been decimated with less money for a travel budget.  And families, harmed by the economic fallout of the virus, are going to need some time to repair their home finances before being able to spend on vacations and non essential travel. Plus there will be the fear of being in close proximity to others in an aircraft when social distancing has become a reflexive way of life for most.

Employees paychecks are protected by the CARES act until the end of September and if you can read the obvious it looks like a large number of involuntary and voluntary furloughs will occur at that time.  Most of our current employees have never experience a furlough like most of us already have so it will be a baptism by fire for many of our active colleagues.

When it is safe to travel again the travel opportunities will be very different than they are today.  United currently is funneling most of its remaining flights through hubs forcing connections to reach destinations that in the past that were reachable non-stop.  For international destinations where there used to be multiple flights each day, there may be one — eventually.  And the aircraft may be down-guaged to smaller long-range aircraft.  And other destinations may be put on hold for quite a while.

This doesn’t mean we won’t be able to travel, it just means our choices will be fewer, and (the good news for non-revs) probably more empty seats, at least for a while.

And while we will have fewer flights to choose form on United, don’t forget all our ZED partners who we can fly on.  Many of them can take us non-stop to cities United doesn’t — for now.

Finally before you begin to travel to international destinations check out the free downloadable State Department app called “Safe Traveler.”  And as far as COVID restrictions there is a State Department web page that has up to the minute guidance on all countries’ restrictions, if any.  Just google “COVID-19 Country Specific” to get specific information for the country you’re interested in traveling either through (for connections) or to.

And FYI: The State of Hawaii has instituted arrival restrictions for non residents. It may likely change, but as of this date you will be quarantined in your hotel for 14 days, and they are citing violators.

Be careful out there!

RUPA Pass Travel Report February 2020

RUPA Pass Travel Report February 2020

Captain Pat Palazzolo


Employee Travel Center (ETC) – +1 (877) 825-3729

etc@united.com or Help Hub on Flying Together


Hello Fellow Aviators,

One of our newer destinations is Papeete, Tahiti.  It’s a relatively short 7 1/2 hours daytime flight out of SFO and a red eye coming home.  A visa is not required for US passport holders.

Check the US State Department app “Smart Traveler” or the State Department web site for more details .

Loads usually tend to be on the full side and Unite operates only three days a week.  But there are a number of backups.

If you plan a trip to Tahiti and it doesn’t involve a cruise, consider choosing your flights and hotels when you are closer in to get a better feel for the loads.

Another option is to buy a myUA discount ticket if you absolutely have to be there on a certain date.

In addition to United’s three days a week flights, the following airlines have flights to and from Papeete:

Air Tahiti Nui to and from Los Angeles has either one or two flights per day

Air France, to and from Los Angeles has flights three days a week.

Hawaiian to and from Honolulu has a flight only one day per week.

The hotels range in price but can be relatively expensive in Tahiti (similar to London or Tokyo).   But check TripAdvisor for accurate prices and quality of the properties.

Papeete is on the main island of Tahiti Nui, but many travelers go to the other popular islands including Moorea and Bora Bora.  Inter island air service is available.  And a 30 minute ferry ride is available to Moorea.

You may want to weigh the cost of hotels vs. a cruise.  Cruises normally take you to a number of the islands.

On Moorea, right across the street from the ferry dock you can rent a motor scooter (a motorcycle license is not required) for $55 for the day. (See photo) But keep in mind that even though it includes insurance, there is a $1,200 deductible.  So ride carefully!

RUPA Pass Travel Report November 2019

RUPA Pass Travel Report November 2019

Captain Pat Palazzolo


Employee Travel Center (ETC) – +1 (877) 825-3729

etc@united.com or Help Hub on Flying Together

Hello Fellow Aviators,

One of the best travel benefits we have is the ability to buy a positive space ticket with seat selection and getting a tremendous discount, sometimes up to 70% off.

Those who are more risk averse use this benefit a lot and when traveling domestically during peak times or days, it makes a lot of sense.

But if you’re not headed to a cruise departure or other must-be-there situation, you might want to consider the benefits of riding on a pass —especially with your vacation pass. This is particularly true of international travel.

The load factors for international travel are actually lower than for domestic travel as a whole. I can tell you from experience and studying loads and flights that is likely that if you’re traveling on an international leg, you have a pretty good chance of getting on, and getting economy plus at that! Don’t take my word for it, see for yourself. Open your United app, and pick some international flights that have already departed today or yesterday, check the seat map to see how many empty seats there were during the flight. I think you’ll be surprised.

Another exercise in building your confidence in going stand by is to look at a random international flight a day ahead that looks like it’s going to full or oversold. Then check the same flight after departure. I think you’ll be surprised at how many of those flights actually take off with empty seats. And if the seat chart is full, check how many stand bys actually got on. That should surprise you as well. And if you don’t travel that much, then chances are you have a lot of vacation passes saved up and your seniority can place you pretty high on the stand by list and you can get some of the best seats in the house.

I’ve averaged one international trip per month since I’ve been retired and I’ve been bumped only twice in 4 1/2 years on an international flight. In both cases I took a later fight and never had to get a hotel, And one of those times was on another airline.

And your chances of getting in Business on international trips? A lot better than domestic because there are no free upgrades. In those fifty some international flights I’ve taken since retirement I’d say about half were in business. And of those, quite a few were without even using a vacation pass, including a round trip to Melbourne!

One final suggestion. Make your vacation passes go far. Unless they’re going to expire, use them only if it’ll either get you on the plane or get you into Business. If It’s obvious you’re going to get on the plane, but not in business, consider whether or not it makes sense for you to use a regular retiree pass, and save your vacation pass.

RUPA Pass Travel Report September 2019

RUPA Pass Travel Report September 2019

Captain Pat Palazzolo


Employee Travel Center (ETC) – +1 (877) 825-3729

etc@united.com or Help Hub on Flying Together

Checking passenger loads when buying off line tickets

Hello Fellow Aviators,

This month a short column, but an important tip.

Together, you may notice that often times all the flights displayed show a frowning red face, which means that the flight is full or nearly full.

Don’t get discouraged because you may not be seeing full flights at all.  If you don’t enter the name of the airline in the search box (See photo) then it will theoretically display all flights and all airlines on the route.

There are two problems with omitting the name of the airline. First it doesn’t necessarily display all the flights, only a partial list. And more importantly, all the flights will show a very unhappy red face. (“Cancel the vacation, Mildred!”)

However, once you go back and put in the name of the airline you want to buy a ticket on (or check the loads for), ALL of the flights on that particular airline will appear and all of them will give you realistic indications of the passenger loads (red, yellow or green faces).

So remember, for an accurate passenger load assessment, always insert the name of the airline.

As I’ve mentioned before there are a couple of apps and websites out there that will tell you the available seats in numbers. The one I have recommended is IDDeals.com. While this app displays the vast majority of airlines’ seats. it doesn’t show all of them. Southwest is one of them, Air India is another I have found. So if you use this app and you can’t find the airline you’re looking for, go to Flying Together, and then to MyIDTravelPurchase link to check the loads for Southwest, and any other airline you may not be able to find on IDDeals.com.

RUPA Pass Travel Report August 2019

RUPA Pass Travel Report August 2019

Captain Pat Palazzolo


Employee Travel Center (ETC) – +1 (877) 825-3729

etc@united.com or Help Hub on Flying Together

Trains, Planes and not Automobiles.


Hello Fellow Aviators,

Most of us know that by flying to Frankfurt or somewhere else in Europe, we can use our ZED tickets to fly to just about any other city in Europe or beyond.

Last September we traveled to Berlin for the Berlin Marathon.  Piece of cake!  Fly to Frankfurt, then hop on any one of the one zillion flights a day to Berlin.

Wrong!  40,000 marathon runners were also going to Berlin. So we reluctantly went over to the long distance train station at Frankfurt Airport (not to be confused with the regional train station)  We got second class tickets to Berlin that reminded us a lot of United’s domestic first class seats.  …OK, at least way better than Economy Plus.  The cost was about the same as a ZED ticket, and it was scheduled to take 4 1/2 hours. (Some tickets at other hours cost more).

Well, what a treat that turned out to be. I didn’t know taking a train in Europe could be so enjoyable, relaxing and quick.  They clip along at about 150 mph, they have free wifi, and on each train there’s a dining car.  We loved going in and ordering something just so we could watch the beautiful green country side go by through the huge windows.  Once we got a table, we ate as slowly as humanly possible.

The trains in Germany and pretty much all of Europe can take you from any small town to any other small town.  The regional train departs the small town for the closest big city and then you change to the ICE trains — Inter City Express These are the fast puppies.  I recommend that in addition to buying the ticket, you pay the extra 4.50 Euros they may require to reserve a specific seat that you like.  Otherwise you could be left standing during the trip.

There are two apps that are quite good.  In Germany the DB app (Deutch Banh) will allow you to buy a ticket from anywhere to anywhere else within Germany and to cities in nearby countries, like Paris or Amsterdam.  Within France there is the SNCF app.

But for one stop shopping for all train tickets I highly recommend the “Trainline” app or web site.  It will allow you to make one purchase good on all the train companies you will need to ride to your destination.  It’s in English and it will show you all available options for tickets— non refundable, refundable with a fee, or fully refundable.  And remember, just like airlines and hotels, the tickets are cheapest further out.

So, from Frankfurt Airport to the Berlin main train station :  4:30 and $75.  From there to our Berlin Hotel: 10 minutes and $2 by street car.

By air from Frankfurt to Berlin Airport:  Time 1:10  ZED fare $75.74 From there to our Berlin Hotel, about 45 minutes and $10.

But what I really enjoyed the most was no stress from standing by at the airport.  We knew we had a train ticket from the airport and could relax in nice seats and sleep, read or eat.  Just something to keep in mind for any of my weary fellow travelers.

RUPA Pass Travel Report July 2019

RUPA Pass Travel Report July 2019

Captain Pat Palazzolo


Employee Travel Center (ETC) – +1 (877) 825-3729

etc@united.com or Help Hub on Flying Together

Hello fellow aviators,

Two items in this month’s column:

  1. The dreaded Oracle error message when logging in on Flying Together.
  2. List of Airlines allowing us to take companions.


Have you ever tried to log into Flying together and ended up staring instead at the dreaded Oracle error message?

The message tells you to contact the administrator, but I can guarantee you you’ll never find this person.

Well, here’s a quick fix thanks to my own trial and error.  I use Safari, so I can’t vouch that it will work with other browsers.

  1. Close the browser completely.
  2. Open the same browser and type in ual.com once again. This time it should take you straight to Flying together without requiring you to sign a second time.

Retirees and employees can take companions on any of the participating Star Alliance carriers.

We receive 8 roundtrip companion passes per year.  We can take up to two people with us, and most importantly, we must accompany our companions on the flights.

You can purchase the companion ticket the same way you purchase any other off line ticket – through the MyIDTravel link on Flying Together.

RUPA Pass Travel Report June 2019

RUPA Pass Travel Report June 2019

Captain Pat Palazzolo


Employee Travel Center (ETC) – +1 (877) 825-3729

etc@united.com or Help Hub on Flying Together


Hello fellow aviators,

Three items in this month’s column:

  1. Like to travel overseas?  You need this free app.  It has everything!
  2. A new airline has been added to our list of ZED carriers.
  3. The deadline for changing your enrolled friends is at the end of June.



Smart Traveler App:  If you like traveling overseas there’s a great app just for you.  It’s free and it’s produced by the State Department.  It’s called “Smart Traveler” and it has everything you would ever want to know about traveling to or through another country.

When you select one of the countries (and it has every country on the face of the earth), it’ll give you a menu of items for that country such as Entry, exit and visa requirements, Health and Safety, Embassy and Consulate information, precautions specific to that country, laws specific to that country of interest to travelers, etc.



If there are parts of the country they recommend you avoid, it will tell you, such as Mexico, where they tell you which parts are safe and which parts to avoid.  At the beginning of each country’s information is a yellow band designating the State Department’s advice for travel to that country.  It ranges from Level 1, such as Ireland, that says “Exercise normal precautions” to Level 4, such as North Korea, that says, “Do not travel.”

The app is updated regularly and I never leave home without it!


Vistara, a new ZED carrier has been added to our list of ZED carriers. Vistara is a domestic carrier in India with an expansive network throughout India and a large hub in New Delhi.  Employees, Retirees and Parents can all travel on the Low ZED Fare.

Deadline for changing your enrolled friends is at the end of June.  Go to the Travel tab near the top of Flying Together and then click on “Manage Pass Riders.”

Remember, if you do nothing, your existing enrolled friend selections will roll over to the new 6 month travel period.

One helpful tip that you may not know:

If you don’t know by the end of June who you want to be your enrolled friend, no problem.  Just make sure you have removed anyone from that slot so they don’t roll over.


An empty enrolled friend slot can be filled again at any time. You don’t have to wait until the end of the six month travel period to add a person to an empty slot.  If you decide in July or August that you want to add someone to that empty slot, you can.  But remember, once you add someone, you cannot remove them until the end of that six-month travel period.

RUPA Pass Travel Report May 2019

RUPA Pass Travel Report May 2019

Captain Pat Palazzolo


Employee Travel Center (ETC) – +1 (877) 825-3729

etc@united.com or Help Hub on Flying Together

Hello fellow aviators,

Good news.  We can now give the Pony Express a break and save 50 cents at the same time.  Beginning by the time you receive this we’ll be able to pay our imputed income tax for certain pass travel online instead of by writing and mailing a check.  Here’s how:

  • Go to Flying Together > Employee Services > Health & Insurance (YBR)
  • Click on the Pass Travel Tax Withholding tile
  • Select the Pay Now tile on the right side of the page
  • Follow the prompts in the Payment Center to submit your online payment.

For those nostalgic types, the tax can still be paid by mailing your check along with the coupon you receive to the address shown on the coupon.

Visiting Hanoi, Vietnam

Being pilots and traveling a lot, many of us are asked where we like to travel to the most.  My answer is usually, “Italy, Hawaii and Vietnam.”

In this issue I’d like to share with you my recommendations for visiting Hanoi, the capitol of Vietnam.  Some of our dear readers may have served in SE Asia during the Vietnam War, have never returned, but may have thought about doing so.  This issue is written for you.

There are so many places to visit in Vietnam.  Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City, is already familiar to a lot of us who flew there for United.  Less familiar are cities further north with rich heritages and cultures.  Nha Trang, the beach resort north of Saigon, Hoi An, the UN World Heritage site just south of Danang (with some of the best food, cafes and art galleries in Vietnam, I might add), and further north, Hanoi, Ha Long Bay near Haiphong, and even further north near the Chinese border, the Hmong hill tribe villages with their famous, colorfully dressed ethnic minorities, known for the trekking from village to village.

To get to scenic Ha Long Bay or to Sapa, near the Hmong hill tribe villages of the far north, you’ll have to pass through — and hopefully stay a night or two — in the beautiful city of Hanoi.  The central areas of the city surround a scenic lake, the circumference of which, is easy to walk in less than an hour.

To get to Hanoi, the quickest way from North America is by taking United to Narita or Seoul and then connecting on other airlines to Hanoi.  US Passport holders are required to have a visa and you can apply for them online for $25.

For tourists the city has two main sections, the old quarter and a newer more upscale section on the opposite side of the lake.  Both are inexpensive to stay.

The old quarter is a relatively large area made up of narrow streets and alleys with narrow shops and restaurants.  You’re forced to walk in the busy streets because the sidewalks are filled with parked motor scooters.  So be careful.  Here, especially at night, you quickly appreciate the tenor, sites, sounds and smells of being in old Hanoi from what seems like a very different time.

On the other side of the lake is what I call “the Opera House side” of Hanoi.  Here are wider sidewalks, less congestion and wonderful restaurants and cafes.  The Metropole where Kim and Trump met is in this neighborhood, as is, of course, the Hanoi Opera House.

Where to stay and were to eat?  There are too many good places to count.  Not counting the Metropole, most hotels are well under $100 a night with the Hilton Opera House clocking in at right about $100 a night.  Most of the hotels are boutique style hotels with about 20 rooms or less.

My favorite places to stay and eat are listed below, and all are highly rated by Trip Advisor, but please check Trip Advisor to get a better picture.  And don’t forget when using Trip advisor, always reference the map mode so you can focus on the area of town you want to stay.

On the Opera House side of the lake, the Conifer Boutique Hotel is my favorite.  It’s best attributes:  Location and a great breakfast.  It’s just a five minute walk from the Opera House and the Metropole, and it normally costs about $80 a night for a good room.

Places to eat on the Opera House side:  (All are highly rated in Trip Advisor)

Ru Nam (“dragonfly” in Vietnamese)  Try sitting out on the balcony facing the street with a nice view of the beautiful Opera House.

Pizza 4P (Don’t let the name fool you)  Great Asian/Italian fusion with a beautifully decorated upscale interior.  Tandoori or Teriyaki pizza?  It’s here, along with great pasta and salads.

Maison Marou, a beautiful and roomy cafe within walking distance of the Opera House.  It’s the only chocolatier in Vietnam that grows its own cocoa beans in the Dalat highlands.  It was started by two French men.  Their chocolate cookies, candy, pastries, cakes and drinks and coffee are rich and near perfection.

In the old quarter I recommend L’Heritage Hotel, also highly rated in Trip Advisor, with spacious rooms and good customer service.  Mid range rooms can be had for about $50.  I didn’t think breakfasts were as good as those at the Conifer.

My favorite restaurants in the old quarter:

“Grandma’s,” a five minute walk from L’Heritage Hotel is in a beautifully restored colonial building wonderfully decorated in a soothing and eye pleasing Vietnamese ambiance.  The Vietnamese fare is outstanding.  Our bill came to $115 for six including drinks and tip.

Across the street from Grandma’s and a couple of doors down is “Cha Ca Thang Long,” an authentic local place specializing in their famous grilled fish set menu costing about $8 per person. My Hanoi friends took me here for lunch.  If you’re not there early for lunch or dinner, you’ll be greeted by a line of people outside waiting to get in.  It’s clean and spacious.  During our lunch I think I was the only non-Vietnamese there.

If you’re in the mood for a Banh Mi, a Vietnamese sandwich, you won’t do better than “Banh Mi 25,” located about a five minute walk from L’Heritage.  Be aware that there are three of them within about 30 meters of each other.  One for take out only and two for sitting in.  Their banh mis are carefully prepared in wonderfully baked bread and only cost about $1.  But, as the reviews tell you, they’re small.  So I always ordered two when I stopped by.

What to do and see in Hanoi.

Southeast Asia’s version of Uber is a similar company called “Grab” that’s even cheaper than Uber.  Download the free app before you leave home.  Unlike Uber, you can pay automatically with your credit card, or by cash.  But be advised you won’t be able to enter your credit card in the payment section until you’re actually in Vietnam or another country that also uses Grab.  I recommend Grab to get from Hanoi Airport to downtown.

For our war vets, you may want to ask the front desk how to get to what the locals call “The B-52 lake.”  The remnants of a B-52 shot down during the Christmas bombings of 1972 rests in this pond with a huge portion visible above the water line.  It’s a sobering site.

The so called “Hanoi Hilton,” or Hoa Lo Prison known to Americans as the place where our prisoners of war were kept is also an intriguing place to visit.  But the prison is far more notorious to the Vietnamese as the place where the French imprisoned and persecuted Vietnamese.  In fact, the portion of the prison dedicated to the American prisoners takes up only a relatively small section of the prison that is on display to the public.

The American section has several interesting rooms and cells, such as the flight gear worn by John McCain when he was captured (see photo).  The Ho Chi Minh Museum and the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum are also popular tourist stops.

If you have two or three extra days, try taking an overnight cruise on beautiful Ha Long Bay. (see photo)  Check Trip advisor for the best companies.  The quality and cost runs the gamut.  I’ve been twice and stayed in a beautifully decorated cabin with a dining room that served great food.  A pilot friend of mine used a different company and the crew cooked their meals on a hibachi on the deck. At Ha Long Bay you get what you pay for.

RUPA Pass Travel Report April 2019

RUPA Pass Travel Report April 2019

Captain Pat Palazzolo


Employee Travel Center (ETC) – +1 (877) 825-3729

etc@united.com or Help Hub on Flying Together

Hello fellow aviators,

The new International Premium Economy known as International Premium Plus, began service at the end of March.

The cabin consists of three rows in the front of Economy Plus presently on some 777s and on the 787-10s, and yes, they did cannibalize some Economy Plus rows to create this section.  The seats are 8 abreast instead of 10 abrest on the 777 or 9 abreast on the 787.  The seats are 19’ wide instead of 17” on the 777 or 18” on the 787.  They have significantly more legroom and recline further than normal economy seats.  Passengers in this section receive Business Class meals on very un-Business Class plates.

Retirees and their pass riders with more than 25 Years of service will fly for free in all cabins.  Retirees with less than 25 “years of service” and their pass riders will pay the following service charges:

International Premium Plus (O) class: 75% off the ZED Low business fare International Polaris Business (J) class: “50% off ZED fares.”  This “50% off” information will have to be updated by United because for Polaris they don’t say whether it’s off of Low or Medium Zed fares, or whether it’s discounted off Economy or Business.  I’ll update you in the next issue.

Service charges in “O” and “J” class on domestic routes: 90% off the ZED fare.

Photo of Premium Plus seating.

Quiz:  What’s wrong with this picture, and why are they so happy?  (Answer:  You’ll probably never see everyone sitting next to an empty seat).

Hot Items:

Incorrect Boarding Date:  Some retirees are seeing two different boarding dates when they list.  The correct date using a regular retire pass and a lower boarding date when using a Vacation Pass.  If you see this, call  877-825-3729 and they will fix the correct boarding date for your flight.   They’re workin’ on it.

My UA Discount (What some call the 20% discount, but it’s most often much more than 20%)   A reminder:  when we buy these tickets, we’re just like the general public except we get a big discount.  All the terms and conditions that apply to the general public also apply to us, such as change fees and cancellation restrictions, etc.  Saying that you’re an employee or retiree won’t help.  However, we do get a few perks, such as two free checked bags and you can bring your support beast with you for free.

RUPA Pass Travel Report March 2019

RUPA Pass Travel Report March 2019

Captain Pat Palazzolo


Employee Travel Center (ETC) – +1 (877) 825-3729


Hello fellow aviators,

Some months ago I recommended a website, IDdeals.com, that gives rather accurate, up to the minute availability for most flights throughout the world (I’ve found Southwest and Air India to be missing). The subscription costs about $22 per year, and I never leave home without it.

It’s great for checking availability within a few days of departure but not much help further out — until now.

IDdeals has added a new feature that allows you to check the historic monthly load factors between most city pairs on each airline and aircraft serving that route. Which month has the most empty seats to say, Melbourne on UA? This is the app for you! This photo shows the load factors for each month.

It looks like March, May and June have historically had the most available seats from LAX to MEL on UA.

When you select the route to get the monthly history, you have to also enter the airline, and the aircraft. If it won’t give you any results it’s probably because you didn’t enter the correct aircraft or airline.

Sometimes you’ll get a graph similar to the one above but some months will be missing. That’s because either the aircraft or airline you selected didn’t operate during those months.

Be aware that it will check historic load factors only on routes that are within, depart to or arrive from the US.

And finally, to review, here’s how the Standby Availability feature works on IDdeals.com. Enter the date you want to check, and the departure and arrival city and it will display all flights between those two cities with the number of seats remaining for sale.

If it shows multiple airlines departing and arriving at the same time, note that the first flight departing at that time is the operating carrier and the others are code share flight numbers.

In this sample, notice that UA has only three seats left but Qantas 96 has 20 seats remaining.

Disclaimer: I have no financial or other interests in any product that I may recommend in this column. All views in this column are my own and are not endorsed by RUPA or any of its officers.

RUPA Pass Travel Report January 2019

RUPA Pass Travel Report January 2019

Captain Pat Palazzolo


Employee Travel Center (ETC) – +1 (877) 825-3729


Hello fellow aviators, 

Due to the wonders of technology, only the first paragraph of December’s important column on the new eRes system was printed. So we’re reprinting it this month.

But first an update on our year end imputed income tax issues. By the end of Jan-uary we will be issued a W-2 showing how much imputed income we received in 2018 from allowing enrolled friends and certain others to use our pass benefits. The W-2 will also show how much tax we’ve paid to United during the year. As a result, you may not owe further taxes, or you might be eligible for a refund if you paid too much, or you may owe more on your tax return if you didn’t pay quite enough.

The W-2 will be paperless and after it’s been released it can be found on Flying Together. Once logged on, enter “W-2” in the search box and it should take you to the right place.

A new and improved employeeRes, called eRes, is now online. A group of retired and active employees have been beta testing the new system and providing feed-back. I’ll give you my two cents worth after I describe the new features. Four new features can be quite handy.

1. A new “Flight Watch” feature that allows you to watch up to 10 different future flights to multiple destinations without creating a listing.

2. You wanna get away for a few days, but not sure where? A new feature called “Open Search” allows you to see those city pairs to or from any city you choose which have the most open seats on any particular date.

In this iPad screenshot, it shows that for tomorrow’s date, the most seats available out of Chicago are to DCA, the second most are to RDU and so forth. And they’re broken down into three columns by time of day departure.  You can also click on “View flights“ to see details of each city’s flights.

3. When checking boarding totals, you can now see how many potential misconnects there are on each flight, if any. (See screenshot at left).

4. Another welcome feature is that whenever you search for a space available flight it will now also automatically display at the top of the page the lowest myUAdiscount positive space fare for the route and date you’re searching, and for the next few days after that date. (See an example at the top of this next screen-shot on flights to Denver).

The new eRes will still do all the other functions that employeeRes currently does, but with improved visual displays. And unlike employeeRes, the new eRes will be designed to be viewed on a smart phone, a tablet, as well as a computer screen.

My take on eRes? These new features can be quite useful. And the ease of use is at least as easy as employeeRes. It will become even easier as you get used to the changed visual displays.

For me however, if there’s no need to access these new features, the United app still stands head and shoulders above anything else for quick and easy flight listing and cancellations. The positive space MyUAdiscount is also available on the Unit-ed app. The biggest benefit to using the United app is that there is no need to sign-on to Flying Together.

RUPA Pass Travel Report September 2018

RUPA Pass Travel Report September 2018

Captain Pat Palazzolo


Employee Travel Center (ETC) – +1 (877) 825-3729


Hello fellow aviators,

First, a correction from a previous column: Last month I wrote that the Star Companion Benefit is available to all retires and allows us to take up to two companions with us on any one of several (but not all) Star Alliance carriers. We are allotted 8 companion tickets per calendar year.

I incorrectly stated that each ticket is good for one leg. That is not true. Each Star Alliance Companion ticket is good for all connections, and good even for a round trip, as long as all legs are purchased under one reservation number. Remember that the Star Companion ticket must be purchased at the same time as the employee or retiree’s ticket.

One question I get now and then is why we can’t get interline agreements with certain airlines?

The process for obtaining an interline agreement is rather simple.

First if there’s an airline out there that United wants to establish a Revenue Interline Agreement with (for paying customers), they begin negotiations. A Revenue Interline Agreement allows United and the other airline to sell each other’s tickets and to connect passengers and baggage with the other airline’s flights. This is far different than an Alliance agreement or code share agreement. For example, we have a Revenue Interline Agreement with Southwest that allows us to, for example, transfer a customer’s baggage from a United to a Southwest connecting flight.

The criteria for which airlines qualify for Revenue Interline Agreements basically involve whether or not our computer and financial accounting systems are compatible, how reliable the other airline’s operation is, whether or not the agreement would be good for our customers, and whether or not it would be good for United.

RUPA Pass Travel Report July 2018

Hello fellow aviators,

The bad news:  United doesn’t give retirees Companion passes.

The good news:  You can still take Companions to Europe and all points beyond, as well as to parts of Asia.  How?

The Star Companion benefits offered by 11 Star Alliance carriers to both active and retired employees.  You can take up to two companions at a time, and you have a total allotment of 8 round trips per year for all airlines combined offering this benefit (not for each airline).

Here are the additional restrictions:

  • The Companion must accompany the retiree or employee (no exceptions).
  • The Companion is charged the High ZED fare, which is still a good deal.
  • Tickets can be purchased on MyIDTravel Purchase website along with your own tickets. Your Companion’s tickets can’t be purchased separately from yours.  And some airlines won’t let the Companion ride in Business Class.

As of today only 11 airlines participate in the Star Companion benefit.

Agean, Air Canada, Austrian, Avianca Brazil (Not Avianca), Eurowings, LOT Polish, Lufthansa, SAS, South African, Swiss and TAP Air Portugal.

Notice there are no Asian Star Alliance carriers offering this benefit.  Don’t ask me why.

And you’re wondering about your Enrolled Friends?   As best I could tell by culling through the 99 Airlines we have agreements with, only two airlines offer flight benefits to our Enrolled Friends, Swiss and Hawaiian (see the charts below).


Traveler Economy Business Class
Employee-Retiree/Spouse Children ZED Low ZED Low
Parents ZED Medium ZED Medium
Star Alliance Companion ZED High N/A


Traveler Economy Business Class
Employee-Retiree/Spouse Children ZED Low ZED Low
Parents ZED High ZED High
Star Alliance Companion ZED High ZED High


Traveler Economy Business Class
Employee-Retiree/Spouse Children ZED Low ZED Low
Parents ZED High ZED High
Star Alliance Companion ZED High N/A


Traveler Economy Business Class
Employee-Retiree/Spouse Children ZED Low ZED Low
Parents ZED High ZED High
Star Alliance Companion ZED High ZED High


Traveler Economy Business Class
Employee-Retiree/Spouse Children ZED Medium N/A
Parents ZED High N/A
Star Alliance Companion ZED High N/A


Traveler Economy Business Class
Employee-Retiree/Spouse Children ZED Low ZED Low
Parents ZED High ZED High
Star Alliance Companion ZED High N/A


Traveler Economy Business Class
Employee-Retiree/Spouse Children ZED Low ZED Low
Parents ZED High ZED High
Star Alliance Companion ZED High N/A


Traveler Economy Business Class
Employee-Retiree/Spouse Children ZED Low ZED Low
Parents ZED High ZED High
Star Alliance Companion ZED High ZED High


Traveler Economy Business Class
Employee-Retiree/Spouse Children ZED Low N/A
Parents ZED High N/A
Star Alliance Companion ZED High N/A


Traveler Economy Business Class
Employee-Retiree/Spouse Children ZED Low ZED Low
Parents ZED High ZED High
Enrolled Friend ZED High ZED High
Star Alliance Companion ZED High ZED High


Traveler Economy Business Class
Employee-Retiree/Spouse Children ZED Low ZED Medium
Parents ZED High N/A
Star Alliance Companion ZED High N/A

HAWAIIAN (Not a Star Alliance member)

Traveler Economy Business Class
Employee-Retiree/Spouse Children ZED Low ZED Low
Parents ZED Low ZED Low
Enrolled Friend ZED Low ZED Low
Star Alliance Companion ZED Low ZED Low

RUPA Pass Travel Report June 2018

RUPA Pass Travel Report June 2018

Captain Pat Palazzolo


Employee Travel Center (ETC) +1 (877) 825-3729etc@united.com

Hello fellow aviators,

Based on your feedback, I think I almost got nominated for the Pulitzer for my column in April about  the My UA Discount  (Sometimes referred to as the 20% discount, even though it’s much greater than that most of the time).

But there’s more that I didn’t have space to add in that column, so I’ll tell you about it today.  In addition I’ll cover the best ways I’ve found to get the best deals on hotels — almost always the most expensive part of our trip!!

My UA Discount, Part Deux

To summarize the last column, I pointed out that the 20% discount is often far more than that.  In the screenshots from the last issue, the flights from SFO to Seattle were 72% off the rate for mere mortal people.

But another really nice feature of the My UA Discount section on Flying Together is the ability to check the box that says, “My Dates are Flexible.”  In college my dates were never flexible.  But I  digress.  So I thought I’d check the box anyway.  Lo and behold a map of the entire 30 days around the date you requested pops up and shows you the cheapest fare for each of those 30 days.

This is great if your departure date really is flexible.  The differences can be quite significant as you can see from the example below for SFO- London.  And if you click on the box, the fares will expand to show you the Business Class fare for employees, as well.

That’s right!  We’re not just chopped liver anymore.  We can even buy a revenue ticket in Business Class for peanuts.  …OK, lots of peanuts.

I chose a random date a few weeks ahead for Sydney to San Francisco.  These are the revenue fares for the regular customers, and the fares for us.

SYD-SFO  Economy Business
Cheapest normal fare: $909 $6,830
My UA Discount $416 $1,593
Savings -54% -77%

(These savings are not typos)

Remember, if you use my name, you’ll also get two free checked bags, waived fees for unaccompanied minors, and waived fees for in cabin pets.  Plus, you have 24 hours to change your mind and get a complete refund after buying your ticket.

But here’s one more thing I can’t emphasize enough.  You’re buying a revenue ticket and all the other restrictions that apply to mere mortals, also apply to us.  If there is no cancellation for them, then there’s none for us either.  If there are humongous change fees for them, then ditto for us.

One other caution.  Always check another airline booking web site to see if flying on another airline may be cheaper.  On my last attempt at buying a MyUA Discount ticket, I ended up passing on a $102 ticket from SFO-BUR and took Southwest instead for $49.

One more item on the My UA Discount.  United also allows us to book offline.

For example, if you pull up a flight from SFO to Saigon, it will display a price with a connection on another airline since we no longer fly to Saigon.

In the example I pulled up, it was $547 with a plane change in Hong Kong and continuing on Hong Kong Airlines.  If you bought the tickets separately, it would be $322 on UA and $255 on Hong Kong Airlines to SGN.  So in this example you’d save a little buying it from the My UA Discount website.

Now the bad news.  Many of the routes that include offline travel are usually more expensive than buying a regular ticket from say, kayak.com or some other airlines booking site.  But there are a few gems, so check it out if you’re interested.


The days of the airline employee discount for hotels have mostly gone the way of the DC-8.  I remember getting a $36 rate at the Sheraton Maui.  But I digress.  Again.

Many hotels will tell you they have an airline rate.  But when you compare that with their rates for AAA, AARP, Costco, etc., they’re the same.  And sometimes they’re more expensive than the rate they charge everyone else via some hotel booking sites.

But I’ve found three web sites that have been quite useful to me.    The first two are found on Flying Together > Company > Working Together > Employee Discounts.  You might want to book mark that page or save it under your favorites.

The third one, ID90T, can be conveniently found on the left column on the EmployeeRes page.

Accor Hotels

Best Western


The Accor Hotel chain consists of Raffles, Fairmont, Banyan Tree, Sofitel Legend, Rixos, So Sofitel, Sofitel, Onefinestay, MGallery, Dhawa, Cassia, Pullman, Swissôtel, Angsana, 25hours, Grand Mercure, The Sebel, Novotel, Mercure, Mama Shelter, Adagio, ibis, ibis Styles, ibis budget, JO&JOE, hotelF1, Thalassa sea & spa.  If you’ve never heard of Mama Shelter, it probably means you’re over 35.

The best part of using Accor’s United discount is that most of the hotels have a 24 hour cancellation policy, whereas most hotel booking sites have zilch.  They also offer no-cancellation rates that are a bit cheaper.

The second best thing about the Accor United discount is that it includes all taxes and it’s significantly cheaper than what you can find on other web sites.

Another nice thing is that if you’re having a hard time navigating the United employee’s Accor website accessible from Flying Together, you can call them on their 800 number and they’ll tell you all the United rates and book it for you over the phone.  The rates are the same as if you had booked it on Flying Together.

In both cases, either doing it yourself via Flying Together, or calling them, you must type in the United Contract Code and Access Number, found on Flying Together, or tell the person on the phone in order to get the special United rates.

Best Western’s United discounts are also available via United’s Flying Together web site.  Their rates do not include tax, but are cheaper than you can find by getting a Best Western room on other web sites.

The best thing about Best Western, other than their ubiquity, is that most of them have same day cancellation policies.

ID90T  is an airline-owned web site offering hotel, car and flight discounts to all airline employees.  I’ve found their rates normally range from cheaper to break-even, compared to the other web sites.

They have one feature that you might find useful.  If you select it, they’ll send you a daily email with the latest price for the hotel(s) and date(s) you put on their watch list, so you can keep an eye on the price trend.

Disclaimer:  I have no financial interest that I know of in any of the hotels or web sites mentioned.

RUPA Pass Travel Report August 2017

RUPA Pass Travel Report August 2017

Pat Palazzolo


Employee Travel Center (ETC)   +1 (877) 825-3729


Hello fellow aviators,

For those of you travel a lot, you’ve probably already discovered the two things that make a HUGE difference in reducing your stress level while traveling.  Italian food is not one of them.

For one price, $100, Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check are yours for the asking.  Global Entry is good for five years.  And renewal is simple.

Tired of standing in long lines in security, undressing down to your skivvies, getting a random pat down for looking cross-eyed? How would you like to zip thorough in way less than ten minutes — often five minutes and never have to take off any clothing, shoes or open your suitcase or pull out liquids.  TSA Pre-Check is your answer.

Tired of coming in from an international trip and spending 45 minutes in line in immigration, missing your connection or bus, and then have to stand in another long line in customs?  Global Entry is your other answer!  You enter the customs hall, go to one of many Global Entry kiosks, slide in your passport, press your finger prints on another screen, answer the usual questions and you are done in literally under sixty seconds. And there’s an expedited line through customs for those who reentered the country via Global Entry.

When you are approved for Global Entry you are automatically approved for TSA Pre Check as well.

The most complicated part of all of this (and it’s not really) is the application process.  The rest makes traveling so easy.

To get started, go to your computer and Google “Global Entry Application” and click on the link that says this:


Don’t bother clicking on any other links.  Otherwise you’ll be paying for a middle man.

The web site will give you links to check your eligibility and then links with step by step instructions for applying.

After applying online, and once you receive conditional approval, you will be directed to choose an available appointment slot for an interview.  Check the interview website for your closest location.  Warning:  apply early because appointments are often backed up for 3 or more months.

Once final approval is granted, the system already knows your passport number and you can begin using Global Entry immediately.

To use TSA Pre-Check, note your Global Entry/Known Traveler number that was issued to you.  You will need this to set up TSA Pre Check in Employee Res.

Then when you’re ready, go to EmployeeRes >Quick Links >Employee Travel Profile and then go to the two areas shown with the arrows in the screenshot below and insert your ”Global Entry/Known Traveler number” and you’re all set!