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RUPA Pass Travel Report December 2022

RUPA Pass Travel Report December 2022

Captain Pat Palazzolo


Want to change your seat assignment on United? Here’s how to do it.

The United app gives us the ability to indicate our seat preference when we check in — but not for parties of more than one person.

The app also gives us the ability to change our seats once the seat assignments are made — but there are some restrictions you must understand.

The days of the CSR calling you up by name and asking you which seat you wold like are disappearing. They now have the ability to have the computer automatically assign all the seats based on your indicated preference, or if you didn’t indicate a preference, then based on a top-secret logic known only to Elon Musk. That logic usually results in employees being assigned seats by boarding date in the best cabins first with aisles first, then windows.

Some old school CSRs will still call you up if they can, but the newer CSRs are taught to let the computer do it for them.

The computerized system has obvious flaws: For example, the computerized assignment may assign couples together in undesirable seats when their preference may be to preserve their wedded bliss and have two separate aisle seats.

So there are two solutions: Ask the agent to change your seats, or go into the app and change your seats. The instructions for doing that are shown below.

The problem is that the ability to change your seats in the app is automatically locked out 30 minutes before departure for domestic flights and one hour for international. That also happens to be the cutoff times for revenue travelers to check in. So if a flight is relatively full, the CSR won’t assign any standbys until the the revenue travelers have had time to check in. And by that time it’s too late to change your seat assignment in the app.

The solution would be for United to allow standbys to change their seats later in the game. Say, 20 minutes before a domestic departure and perhaps 30 minutes for an international departure.

I’ve had discussions with the company about this problem and we’ll see if a solution can be found.

Here are the show-and-tell instructions how to indicate your seat preference (if you’re traveling alone), and how to change your seat assignment in the app.

After you check in on the app, go to the Home page and scroll down to where it says “Select your seat preferences for standby travel.”
A window will appear that will allow you to indicate your preferences. I wish they would allow more nuanced preferences, but as with any large group of people perhaps they’re gearing it toward the lowest common denominator.

Once you’ve ben assigned your seat and it’s still outside the cutoff time you can change your seat assignment by going back to the Home page and clicking on the button on the right side that says “Trip Options.” Then scroll down to near the bottom under “Trip Options” where it says “Change seats.”

After you click on “Change seats” a seat map will appear with a yellow dot on your assigned seat. Look through the seat chart and if there is another seat you prefer, tap that seat and your yellow dot will reappear on your newly selected seat. But remember, it’s not yours until you press “Save.”

If you are a party of two or more people you’ll have to do this process for each person whose seat you’d like to change.

And if you’re subsequently upgraded to a premium cabin you can repeat this process if it’s not past the cut off time.

Good luck.


RUPA Pass Travel Report November 2022

RUPA Pass Travel Report November 2022

Captain Pat Palazzolo


Two Great Resources for Things to See and Do in Any City in the World.

Both the Trip Advisor and AirBnB websites and apps have a great feature anyone can use without even purchasing or reserving anything from them.

TripAdvisor calls it “Things to Do,” and AirBnB calls it “Experiences.”

I’ve found Trip Advisors information to be more robust thanAirBnB’s Experiences, however I’ve also found a number of things to do or see on AirBnB Experiences that are not shown on Trip Advisor and vice versa.  So it may pay to visit both web sites.

Let’s use Cape Town South Africa as an example.

In Trip Advisor, besides the best hotels and restaurants ranked by visitors, there’s a separate section called “Top Attractions in Cape Town, which appears on the list as a result of visitors’ rankings.  You can see the number of reviews and the score for each one.

But there’s also a section In Trip Advisor called “Things to Do”  Everything is grouped in categories, and then within each category, they are ranked by reviews from visitors.

For Cape Town the categories are Bus Tours, Ports of Call Tours, Nature and Wildlife areas, Day Trips, Wine Tastings, Nature and Wildlife Tours, Private Sightseeing Tours, Beaches, Full day Tours, Half day tours,  Shopping Malls, City Tours, Photography Tours, Points of Interest and Landmarks, Dining Experiences (different from Trip Advisor’s Restaurant guide) Beer and Brewery Tours, Farmers Markets, 4WD tours, Hiking tours, Safaris, Sporting events, Airport and Hotel Transfers, “Top Picks,” “Likely to sell out,” Family friendly, Special Offers, Water Parks, Yoga classes and Viator VIP Tours.

Air BnB’s set up is a bit different.

For Cape Town South Africa open the AirBnB app or web site. After clicking on the search button, Experiences will appear at the top.

There are literally hundreds listed.  You can filter them by Price range, languages offered, Time of Day.

The categories are, Art and Culture, Entertainment, Food and Drink, Sports and Tours.

These are ranked by reviews from visitors, just like Trip Advisor.

As a reminder, countries south of the equator are enjoying their summer months during our winters, so countries down south, such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and southern South America may be somewhere you want to check out for our winter.


Pat Palazzolo

RUPA Pass Travel Report October 2022

RUPA Pass Travel Report October 2022

Captain Pat Palazzolo


Want to buy a Business Class ZED ticket?
Be careful.

Hello Fellow aviators,

Of the 136 airlines on which United employees and retirees can purchase ZED tickets, 36 of them allow us to also purchase Business Class Tickets.

If you purchase only a Business Class ZED ticket and you end up in Economy you may or may not get the difference in fare refunded to you. So I recommend you follow these steps to protect yourself.

Some airlines have a no-refund policy for the difference in fare (Hawaiian is one of them). Other airlines will refund the fare difference but it may entail jumping through some hoops. Others, like Lufthansa, try to make it as easy as possible for you, but you must initiate the refund request yourself. So before you buy you have to do a little due diligence, as different airlines have different policies.

The best piece of advice in this article: If in doubt, buy both an Economy and a Business Class ZED ticket and when you get to the ticket counter, check in for whichever class they’re willing to give you a boarding pass for. Then later apply for a refund of the unused class.

The second best piece of advice: How to find out what each airline’s refund policy is for being downgraded from Business to Economy? (Airlines refer to this as a “downgrade refund.”)

Most airlines’ downgrade refund policy can be found by going to:
Flyingtogether > Travel> Other Airline Travel > Click on “In this Section” in the top right corner > Then select the airline you want to fly on > scroll down and click on the MYIDTravelPurchase link > Sign in > On the menu on the left side of your screen scroll down and click on “ID Agreements.” > Select the airline you want to fly on. Check the fine print on refunds. And remember, if in doubt, just buy two tickets — Business and Economy — and then use the one at the airport they will accept.

Many airlines who will give you a downgrade refund ask you to request it on MYIDTravelPurchase website. But they don’t tell you how.

I recently wrote Lufthansa and asked for clarification and they responded:

Dear Colleague,

Please make refund requests directly in myIDTravelPurchase automatically after the entire trip has been completed. Select the button >Flight List< and click directly on the ticket number and complete the process.

Downgrades – except jumpseats – can also be refunded directly via myIDTravel.

I don’t know, but I imagine that most other airlines who offer downgrade refunds use the same procedure.

Of the 36 airlines who offer ZED Business Class, 21 offer a Low ZED fare, 13 offer Medium ZED and one (Cathay) offers a High ZED fare.



RUPA Pass Travel Report September 2022

RUPA Pass Travel Report September 2022

Captain Pat Palazzolo


Finding out seat availability on other airlines

We can now reach them only through Help Hub, or as some people refer to it, Unhelpful Hub, which is found on the Flyingtogether web site.

I’ve relayed my concerns to the company about our frustrations with Help Hub. The most common complaint I receive is that if they don’t know the answer to your question, they’ll often just give you an answer to a question you didn’t ask, and then label their email response “Issue resolved,” which it isn’t of course.
The company’s response was, “Help Hub is here to stay, but I will forward your concerns to them.”


A suggestion for getting an answer that you need: Since many of those who reply to you are from overseas, please make your question as clear, simple and concise as possible. Also, try repeating your question again but in a dif-ferent way. If that doesn’t work then write them back and tell them you sus-pect they didn’t understand your question, and then ask it again — even clearer if you can.

It’s been a while since many of us have been traveling so I’m updating some suggestions for determining seat availability on other airlines.

There are three ways to get an idea of your chances.

1. iddeals.com costs about $25 a year and will give you the seats still avail-able on almost every flight in the world, except Southwest. In the screen shot on the right, my phone screen shows the seats still available for sale on the following day from Sydney to Perth. We happen to have ZED benefits on both carriers listed. But be aware that on some routes we may not have benefits on some of the carriers shown. How accurate is ideals.com? From my experience I’d say they’re usually in the ballpark.

2. Staff Traveler is a free app you can download on your phone or tablet. It allows you to request the number of available seats and the number of standbys on any flight. Your request is then made available to employees at the other airline who will check their company’s web site and reply to you via the app, with a copy sent to your email address of record.

Keep in mind that many employees at US and European airlines list at the last minute, including at United, so the Staff Traveler app will become more useful the closer into departure time you get.

In order to place a request, you have to pay one point to the app. You can accumulate points by replying to employees at other airlines who need load and standby info on United’s flights. Each request you answer puts another point in your bank. You can also purchase points from the app.

It’s not hard to accumulate points. While I was recovering from a surgery, I accumulated over 600 points. Which is enough to last me though my next life where I’m planning to be the chief pilot at a small float plane operation in the South Pacific.

Important note, the Staff Traveler app only works for airlines where the em-ployees at that airline have access to a company web site that will display for them seat availability and the standby list on their flights. A number of airlines don’t give their employees access to this information. So, if your request goes unanswered, your point will be refunded to your bank.

I’ve found dependable and timely responses from all major US and European airlines. I’ve had no success with Asian airlines or any third world airlines. This is especially true of airlines where their employees receive no or limited travel benefits.

3. My ID Travel Purchase link (Located where you purchase your ZED tick-ets) in the “Other Airline Travel” section on Flytingtogether.

When this web site displays the flights available for you to purchase it will also display for each flight a green happy face, a yellow neutral face or a red sad face to indicate how many seats are available.

This colored face feature is not available unless you type in the name of the airline whose flights you want to check as opposed to the “All Airlines” option displayed as a default.
Enjoy your travels and be safe.


RUPA Pass Travel Report May 2022

RUPA Pass Travel Report May 2022

Captain Pat Palazzolo


Saved Credit Card Feature for Employee Res is now here!

Being the lazy person I am, I love it when someone else wants to do my job.  This month the honor falls to Michelle Pritchett, Senior Analyst — Employee Travel, Policy & Procedure.

 Important note:  The new feature described here by Michelle does not take care of any imputed income charges. Retirees will still need to pay those invoices via the Your Benefits Resources website like we do today.  Additionally this new feature is available only in EmployeeRes and not in the United app, although functionality in the app is planned.

 Currently, each time you or your pass riders want to pay for applicable service charges, taxes or fees in employeeRES using a credit card for a space available trip, a form of payment must be added manually. We have made the user experience better by allowing one credit/debit card to be stored to the travelers’ employeeRES profile. This will allow you or your pass riders to select a stored form of payment during the booking process so you don’t have to manually enter payment details each time you book a trip that has associated costs. Don’t worry, active employees and applicable pass riders will still have the option to choose payroll deduct even with a saved form of payment on file, or to even use a different credit card than the one which is saved.

Here is who is eligible to save credit/debit card details to their employeeRES profile:

Some key aspects of the new feature in employeeRES:

  • The saved form of payment feature is only available in employeeRES for space available trips and not in the United mobile app, although future functionality is planned.
  • You and your pass riders with pass rider access (except regular buddies) will have the ability to save, modify or delete one credit/debit card from the employeeRES profile, including during the booking process.
  • The logged-in user will only see their own saved payment information, and not that of the employee, retiree or other pass travelers.
  • Anyone with saved credit card details will be able to pay for applicable charges for anyone they are booking.
    • Example 1: Retiree George is booking a trip for himself, sister Martha and brother Benjamin. All three travelers have a saved credit/debit card to their profile. George may use his saved credit card to pay for any applicable charges for everyone.
    • Example 2: Spouse Martin is booking a trip for himself and retiree Gina using his pass rider access but neither traveler has a saved credit card on their profile. During the booking process, when it’s time to pay for the applicable charges, Martin may enter and save his credit card details as payment for his and Gina’s trip and the credit card will be saved to his profile to use for future trips.

Helpful resources:

  • Remember, it’s never okay to share your Flying Together credentials with anyone. To set up your pass riders (except regular buddies) with their own username and password, check out our EmployeeRes user guide with step-by-step details including the special URL link they’ll use to access employeeRES from any web browser from their computer or mobile device.
  • Not sure where to get started? Review our saved form of payment user guide for step-by-step instructions.
  • Take a look at our comparison chart showing which features are available on employeeRES vs. the United mobile app.
  • You can access employeeRES at https://eres.ual.com from any web browser like Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, from your computer or mobile device.
  • If you still have questions, contact a Travel team member using Help Hub.

Michelle Pritchett

RUPA Pass Travel Report April 2022

RUPA Pass Travel Report April 2022

Captain Pat Palazzolo


The Best Airline Staff Hotel Discounts

The days of cheap 50% off hotel rooms for airline staff is long gone, but there are still some good deals with major chains. I’ll list for you the ones I feel offer us the best deals. Many of them require you to download their app and sign up for a free loyalty membership.

Accor Group: An umbrella group that covers a wide range of brands form Sofitel, Pullman, Novotel, Mercure, MGallery, Swissôtel and more.

The feature I like the best is that for those hotels that offer airline staff rates, most of the time they include a 6PM day of arrival cancellation, which is great for airline employees and retirees. Most Accor Hotels are overseas, mostly in Europe and not in the US.

  1. Download the ALL Accor app. Apply online for an ALL-Accor Loyalty membership.
  2. Open the app and register or sign in for the first time. Go to account information and enter your personal information. Under “work details” in order to obtain the business rate for UA employees, fill in the Customer Code (SC155934334) and Access Code (UN166US683). You can leave your business email address blank.

Bonvoy Group of Hotels which includes Sheraton, Westin, Marriott, JWMarriott,Ritz CarltonLe Meridien, Renaissance, W Hotels and more.

Many of these hotels, especially the midrange hotels offer reasonably good discounts and their cancellation is usually 1-3 days ahead.

  1. Once again, download at the Bonvoy app, register for their free loyalty program.
  2. Then when you sign in, select a location and date. The app will take you to a black background page they says “Find Hotels”.
  3. But before you click on Find Hotels, click on “Special rates” which can be found on that page. Scroll to the bottom of that page and on the line that says “Add Corp/Promo Code” entry the “Z31” which is the code for airline employees, then click “Apply.”
  4. I would also recommend that you put a check mark next to Senior Discount, AAA as well as Airline Staff. Once in a while the other rates are cheaper than the airline rate.

Hilton Hotels. The airline staff rates are not available on their app, but they are available on a dedicated web site called hiltonairlineemployeerates.com Once you have reserved a room it will be reflected in your Hilton app, as long as you reserved the room along with your free Hilton Honors loyalty number. Once your reservation is reflected in the app you can cancel it from the app rather than going back to the web site.

Important: When you first open the web site it will ask you for your employee email address. Entering your last United employee email address will work. If you have a problem or can’t remember it, email me.

IHG Group of Hotels include Holiday Inn Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza and others.

Just like with Hilton, the IHG discounts for airline staff are available only on a dedicated web site, not their app. The website URL is lengthy so in the interest of ease, just google: IHG airline staff rates.

The pros: IHG airline staff rates often come with same day cancellation!
The cons: I’ve found that IHG hotels at times have blackouts of airline staff rates. You may have to choose different dates or a different hotel in the city you want.



RUPA Pass Travel Report March 2022

RUPA Pass Travel Report March 2022

Captain Pat Palazzolo


Dakar, Senegal

Get your ZED tickets ready.  The seaside city of Dakar, Senegal on the western coast of Africa, radiates energy and is a safe haven in a region known for unrest. Flamboyantly painted car rapide minibuses dart through the streets, and brightly painted and colorful wooden pirogues, or canoes, sail Senegal’s coastline.

This French speaking city and former colony attracts surfers, and is a regional hub for artists and musicians.  It’s beach restaurants are a great place to kick back.  The city is a center for African fashion —an intriguing attraction even for the unfashionable, like me.

But climate change, overfishing and a booming population may eventually take their toll on Senegal, as in many developing countries.

The ancestors of about 1/3rd of our African Americans were forcibly removed from Senegal on Atlantic slave ships, mostly in the 1700s and 1800s.  The historic buildings used for the export of slaves are a sobering experience to thousands of visitors each year.

As of this writing Senegal has one of he lowest rates of Covid and is easy to enter for the vaccinated.  It’s success with Covid is attributed to its aggressive masking, testing and other precautions early on.

Getting to Senegal is via a combination of flights on United and ZED carriers.  Non stop flights for Dakar, Senegal depart from JFK on Delta, Brussels on Brussels Airlines, Paris on Air France, Lisbon on Air Portugal and Madrid on Iberia. Air Senegal doesn’t currently offer reciprocal travel benefits.

Gorée, the most popular visitor destination in Dakar, is a small island off the coast of Dakar which is primarily known for being largest center of slave trade in Africa between the 15th and 19th centuries.

This small car-free island was one of the earliest spots that European settlers inhabited. Well-preserved colonial buildings from the French era, narrow streets, small beaches, vivid flowers & trees grace this island. Despite its sorrowful past, Gorée island is a small paradise with so much to see and do. The island consists of 2,000 residents spread over 69 acres which makes the island quite walkable with everything able to be covered in a day.

House of Slaves is the most visited tourist attraction in Gorée Island. It was the slave market of the island during the colonial era, where merchants and traders used to stop by and purchase slaves. Now it is considered a memorial for the millions of victims of the slave trade.

The famous Door of No Return is the symbol for the appalling slave trade and remnant of the dark past of the island. This was the door that slaves passed through before they were shipped off to the unknown.  Millions of innocent locals were sold here in Gorée Island to merchants and traders.

The Musée de l’Institut Fondamental d’Afrique Noire or IFAN Museum of African Arts in Dakar is one of the oldest art museums in West Africa and is home to a stunning display of African art and one of the most prestigious centers for the study of African art.

Village des Arts consists of around 50 studios and workshops in a complex where creative artists perform their work. Aside from IFAN museum, Village Des Arts is one of the best places to see various art disciplines such as sculpting, painting, ceramics, mud crafting, collaging all in a traditional Senegalese style. Every corner and nook of this place has a different aesthetic to offer.

Feel free to roam around the workshops, pay short visits to artists and chat with them. The down-to-earth artists are very welcoming towards visitors and you’ll feel very welcome here.

The restaurants in Dakar are varied and plentiful from relaxing beachside venues to more formal evening settings.  Oh, did I mention Senegal is on the ocean?  If you like seafood, this is the place.

RUPA Pass Travel Report February 2022

RUPA Pass Travel Report February 2022

Captain Pat Palazzolo


Covid Travel Insurance, a new requirement for traveling overseas.

And what you need to know if you test positive while overseas.


Covid Travel Insurance:

Many countries are now requiring proof of travel insurance before entry into their country. The insurance must cover all covid related treatment, and many countries require the policy to cover quarantine costs.  Most of these countries also stipulate a minimum insurance amount.  Some countries require you to purchase specific policies from insurance companies from their own country in order to make sure that the policy you have meets that country’s requirements.

For airline employees and retirees the cost of these policies are remarkably low because these policies are designed for the general public and the cost is based on how much money you would lose if you couldn’t make your flight or lost your deposit on your hotel.  But since most of us travel standby and have access to hotels with minimal or no cancelation penalties, the cost for a policy for us is much smaller.

Fortunately there are three web sites that will compare travel insurance policies:  travelinsurance.com  insuremytrip.com and squaremouth.com  The most important thing for standby travelers is to ensure we have coverage for quarantine if we test positive before departing the other country for home, which could run a couple of thousand dollars without insurance.  Some policies will only cover the person who tested positive and no one else in your family.  So if you have to isolate but the others in your family don’t have toothy may not cover their accommodations while waiting for your quarantine to end.

If you’re going on a cruise, make sure you have Covid travel insurance in case you test positive before leaving from the US and have to cancel your cruise.

Coverage on these policies varies widely so it’s important that you read the fine print and include in your due diligence a call to the website asking if the policy includes coverage for the cost for quarantine, who it covers and doesn’t cover, and what the exclusions are if any.   There are hundreds of policies, some great and some terrible.  These websites will help you navigate them.

Remember when UAL and ALPA negotiated the pilots’ disability plan several years ago?  There was a provision that you could not opt out unless you first had a meeting with a flight manager.  The reason?  It was such good deal ALPA wanted to make sure you hadn’t lost your mind by wanting to opt out.  Well it’s the same here.  if you opt out of getting Covid travel insurance expect a call from me to make sure you haven’t lost our mind.  Just kidding.

What you need to know if you test positive while overseas.

The quarantine period varies from country to country.  Before you travel overseas, read the country specific Covid information listed in the State Department website   https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisoriesCOVID-19-Country-Specific-Information.html

This website has comprehensive information including entry and exit requirements for every country in the world.  It is imperative that you read the fine print including any website links listed ! 


  1. Buy a comprehensive travel insurance  The cost after testing positive can be expensive if you don’t have good coverage.
  2. Make sure your policy has adequate “trip delay coverage.” Trip delay benefits in certain policies generally cover or reimburse additional accommodations for quarantine, meals, phone calls, and local transportation for those who need to isolate. But policies only cover a certain amount each day (the amount can be selected before purchase) so travelers might need to make up the difference.
  3. Use a credit card with a high spending limit. Even with insurance you may have to pay up front and file for reimbursement later. And keep copies of everything including quarantine orders if available.

Be safe.


RUPA Pass Travel Report December 2021

RUPA Pass Travel Report December 2021

Captain Pat Palazzolo


The World is Slowly Opening Up.  Winter best bets:  Sydney and Canada’s Northern Lights.

SydneyCanada's Northern Lights

Hello fellow aviators,

The world is opening up and there are great travel opportunities all over the globe.Hotels are hungry for your business and the prices often reflect that.

As of this writing several countries are open, including most of Europe, Mexico, several central American countries, Malaysia, India and others.  But before you make any plans, always check the State Department web site listing current Covid restrictions for entry and exit for each country. After typing in the country, scroll down to “Exit/Entry Requirements.”  For those of you who are not reading the electronic version of the RUPA Mag, Google: “COVID 19 Country Specific Information – travel.gov”  to access this website.

Full Covid Vaccinations are now required for entry into most countries.

It’s winter here, but it’s summer in Australia.  The Australian State of New South Wales, which includes Sydney is now open to vaccinated Americans.  Entry also requires a PCR Covid test prior to entry, plus an additional test within 24 hours after entry.

Warning:  The Australian school summer holidays are from mid-December through the end of January.  Right after New Years Day, the Aussies hit the roads and airports.  So please take that into consideration for pass traveling to and from Sydney.  Leaving Sydney on standby during the first week of January is quite risky.

I’ve compiled a list of what I think are some of the best places to go in Sydney:

  1. The Sydney Opera house has several shows per week (Google to find the schedule and tickets.) Take one of many daily tours to learn more about its colorful history and backstage stories, or head up to the Opera Bar and relax with a sea view.  And for an elegant meal before the show, book a table at Bennelong, serving modern Australian cuisine in a cathedral-like setting.
  1. The Manly Ferry is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to enjoy the Sydney Harbor coastline. The ferry, located at Circular Quay,  takes you abeam the Harbor Bridge, past the Opera House for a thirty minute ride to Manly.  Once there, take a walk all the way up to Shelly beach where you’ll find a number of restaurants along the way, and at Shelly Beach.   Tip: Get a front row position on the bow or stern for the best views from the ferry.  
  1. Doyles at Watson Bay, is the famous family run seafood restaurant located along the water in Watson Bay.  Summer is the best time to go and enjoy beer and calamari while you’re waiting for your food to be served!.  It boasts great views and amazing food.  Big tip:  If you want a table with the best view, make a reservation for the opening hour (11:45AM) tell them you want an upstairs table with a view and get there early, before it opens. You can get to Watson Bay by ferry from Circular Quay, or by bus.  Check the schedule ahead of time.
  1. The Rocks, located just to the left of Circular Quay, was once a convict settlement The cobbled lanes of Sydney’s oldest neighborhood are now lined with markets, art galleries, cool cafes, boutique shops and pubs.  The original police station and jail at 127 George St., is now an Asian restaurant. (Hello, do you have any cells available for 6PM?”)   You can spot the jail by noticing the carved head of a lion above the door holding a police baton between its teeth  The Initials “VR” are carved in large letters above representing the Latin words Victoria Regina (Queen Victoria for those who didn’t major in Latin).  The station was built in the late 1800s during her  The lion is the traditional symbol of British justice.

It’s that time of year to go to Yellowknife to see the Northern Lights.

Winter is upon us so I’m reprinting part of the October 2020 travel report about checking out the Northern Lights.

Yellowknife, Canada in the Northwest Territories is known as the best place in the world to view the aurora borealis, also known as the Northern Lights. Yellowknife has the most cloud free days of any city in that latitude.  With their long and clear winter nights, mid-November to the beginning of April tend to be the best times of the year to visit for a good viewing. Late summer to early autumn also offers a fair chance of seeing the lights.

For a day to day forecast over the next 6 days, visit https://astronomynorth.com/aurora-forecast/ which shows the percentage probability of the appearance of northern lights. And if you’re going for a walk around Yellowknife, be sure to keep an eye out for Northern Lighthouses.” These tiny lighthouses, located throughout the city, alert visitors and residents when active aurora is in the evening forecast.

Auroras are very common in the night skies above Yellowknife. This is largely due to the  community’s proximity to the Magnetic North Pole (Yellowknife has a geographic latitude of 62° North, but more importantly it has a geomagnetic latitude of 68 degrees). In addition, Yellowknife has historically been an excellent location for viewing auroras because of its semi-arid climate with excellent access to dark cloudless skies and a flat landscape that offers a full view of the night sky.

We can travel to Yellowknife (YZF) via Air Canada with connections from a number of border Canadian cities such as Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto etc.

Air Canada offers us Low ZED fare tickets, and the ability to take up to two Star Alliance companions with you. Star alliance companions must be accompanied by the retiree or employee on all legs.

Visas are not required for US passport holders.

RUPA Pass Travel Report November 2021

RUPA Pass Travel Report November 2021

Captain Pat Palazzolo


Motoring upriver through the jungles of Borneo to visit the Orangutans

Hello fellow aviators,

If you ever wanted to experience what it’s like to be Indiana Jones, this may be the trip for you.

Traveling to see the orangutans in Borneo was a long trip! But once we were there it was relaxing and quite fascinating.  I took my Goddaughter Lin and her best friend Cindy on this trip as a college graduation present (the world has a new R.N.!)  Our boat had a crew of five for just the three of us.  I saw other boats with just one couple each.

The best way for us to get there is to take the United nonstop to Singapore, when it resumes service, then change airlines for the short flight to Jakarta (airport CGK).

We stayed a night in Jakarta then flew on a 30 minute flight across the channel to Pangkalan Bun, Borneo (airport PKN) where we stayed in a basic hotel before our journey up river the next morning.

The journey involves riding on a boat up the Kumai river into the Tanjung Puting National Park. You can remain overnight on the boat for either one, two or three nights. We chose the one night stay.  The cost for us was $285 per person, and you don’t share with strangers.  It’s your own boat!

The boat slowly made its way upriver passing lush jungle banks, trees filled with chattering proboscis monkeys, and every other kind of wildlife you could imagine. They told us crocodiles were in the river, but we never saw them.

Meals were prepared by a charming woman on the boat and served at a large table under a sheltered area near the stern.

The food was basic but tasty Indonesian fare.  We didn’t leave the table hungry.  At night candlelight illuminated our dinner.

The guides were knowledgeable and pointed out sites along the way, from the wildlife to the vegetation, commenting on the history of the region, etc.

In the afternoon we arrived deep inside the national park, exited the boat and followed our guide along a trail through the jungle to a place where the national park rangers would leave piles of fruit to attract the orangutans.

I was surprised to learn that orangutans normally don’t live on the ground. They live in the treetops and travel from tree to tree swinging between vines and limbs. We knew the orangutans were coming when we could hear rustling in the treetops and sure enough we saw leaves shaking in the distance with the shaking getting closer and closer.

For parts of the year they’re not attracted by the piles of fruit because fruit grows abundantly in the jungle. So the best months to come are between March and August. These months also avoid the rainy months of the year.

Following our excursion, as we were taking the trail back to the boat, we came across two small groups of orangutans coming from the opposite direction.

We pulled to the side and they walked by us nonchalantly. One baby orangutan stopped to check out my water bottle, then ran to catch up and jumped onto its mother’s back.

There’s a small conservation headquarters there in the park that we were able to visit before heading out on the boat.

When evening came the boat tied up at the edge of the river. And as darkness fell we enjoyed an Indonesian dinner around the big table.

Sleeping is on mattresses laid out on the deck. And then mosquito netting suspended from above is tucked in under the mattresses.  Our three mattresses fit under one mosquito netting.  There’s a toilet, sink and a rudimentary shower below deck that gets the job done.  It’s shared by the three of us and the crew.  The flashlights on our phones came in handy.

The morning was quite memorable. We woke up just before sunrise. The water from the river was glasslike and calm. You could hear the noises of the waking jungle all around us with fish jumping out of the water at low flying bugs.

After breakfast our boat continued downstream back to the port where we embarked the day before.


After disembarking in the early afternoon we were driven to the airport for our short flight back to Jakarta. We combined this trip with another SE Asian destination as well.  You may want to consider that also.

Answers to likely questions you may have:

Yes there were mosquitoes on the trail, but few on the boat.  A good mosquito spray or lotion before you disembark into the jungle would be recommended.

None of us got sick from the food on the entire trip. But bring Imodium just in case.

If you’re not up for a 17 hour flight to Singapore from San Francisco, consider going through Narita and staying overnight.   United’s Asia flights are not back to full schedule yet, and as of this writing most of Asia remains closed to foreigners. Hopefully things will change by next spring.

There are a number of tour operators that provide similar tours.  If you google “Borneo Orangutan tours” you’ll see a number of them.  There are quite a few also listed in Tripadvisor, under the location Pangkalan Bun.

I first read about these tours in the New York Times.  The writer listed the web link and phone number for the particular boat we took  The operator’s name is Mr. Rini Mariani.  He communicates by WhatsApp and his WhatsApp phone number is +62 856 254 5300.  His website is https://orangutantour.id   But please compare the different tours and do your due diligence.



RUPA Pass Travel Report October 2021

RUPA Pass Travel Report September 2021

Captain Pat Palazzolo



Looking for somewhere to go in October that’s relatively safe and doesn’t require a long flight?  Try a trip to New England to see the fall leaves.

Here are some of the best places to catch this annual display of color.  But the dates with the most vibrant colors can fluctuate from one area to another, so consider calling a local hotel and asking for their recommendation.

Lake Winnipesaukee Loop in New Hampshire.

Try a road trip around New Hampshire’s biggest lake and take in the waterfront views and bright autumn leaves. It’s a big lake–the loop consists of 97 miles of premium New England sights. You can stop for lunch and a stroll in any one of the quaint towns along the loop, like Meredith, or even stop for some spectacular hiking.

Maine’s Acadia National Park.

Northeast of Camden, the 47,000-acre Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island is a nature lover’s paradise and a place many view as the epitome of foliage destinations.   The Park Loop Road, 27 miles long, is filled with awesome autumn spots to take in the fall leaves.  You can enjoy majestic views from Cadillac Mountain.  Nearby towns are charming on their own and allow you to venture out with day passes into the park.  Mid-October is the best time to enjoy this once a year spectacle, but the surroundings are beautiful year-round.

Mohawk Trail

The 63-mile-long Mohawk Trail follows what was once a Native American trade route. Located in northwest Massachusetts, it straddles the Berkshire Mountains between the Hudson and Connecticut River valleys. There are mountain streams and plenty of pit stops along the way, like the Golden Eagle restaurant on the trail’s famous Hairpin Turn  The food is decent, the view is unbeatable.

Boston Massachusetts

Want to see the leaves, but you don’t want to rent a car?  Boston offers easily accessible views from this historic city. Stroll through the trees in Boston Common and the Public Garden. Walk or bike along the Charles River Esplanade. And head to the Arnold Arboretum, an outdoor museum of trees and the oldest public arboretum in North America.

You can also drive to Walden Pond, where you’ll see Henry David Thoreau’s tiny cabin, along with beautiful fall foliage reflected in the pond.

When you’re done communing with nature, don’t forget to take in the best of Boston’s cultural and historical sites and restaurants.  You won’t be disappointed.

RUPA Pass Travel Report September 2021

RUPA Pass Travel Report September 2021

Captain Pat Palazzolo


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Hello fellow aviators,

SFO A-320 Captain Scott Cooper has agreed to share his recently published article in “Flying Together” about riding the Indian Pacific across Australia. Enjoy, and thank you Scott!

Indian Pacific train journey across Australia

By SFO A320 Captain Scott Cooper

Of all the most memorable and celebrated train journeys in the world today, the Indian Pacific in Australia has to rank near the top of any list. Linking Sydney on the East Coast to Perth on the West, this epic journey covers 2,704 miles over the course of four days and three nights. The Indian Pacific takes its name from the two oceans that it connects on its transcontinental journey and offers passengers one of the best and most comfortable ways to see Australia.

My journey began at Sydney’s Central Railway Station on a warm January afternoon. The atmosphere was more akin to an ocean liner sailing than a train departure, with a live band, drinks and canapes served before boarding. The train itself was so long that it occupied two complete platforms, over a kilometer long, and was recoupled once the journey began. With the “All aboard” call, I was escorted to my cabin and home for the next four days. There are two classes of service available, Gold and Platinum, and each offers a bed. My cabin featured two beds (no cabins are shared, unless you are travelling with family or friends) as well as private lavatory and shower facilities. Despite the long journey, the train only makes four stops across the entire Australian continent. During these stops, the train is cleaned, restocked, and refueled, and passengers are given the opportunity to participate in any number of “shore” excursions (all of which are included in the fare), or simply remain on board and relax.

The first afternoon was spent departing Sydney and climbing through the spectacular Blue Mountains. Each class of service features its own lounge/parlor, and dining cars, with an open bar throughout the entire journey. The dining car service harkens back to the golden age of rail travel and is truly an epicurean delight, with menus changing daily for each meal served. The food served is typically Australian, with beef, lamb, seafood, and yes, even kangaroo making an appearance on the menu! While at dinner, the car attendants convert the living room portion of one’s cabin into a bedroom, even providing a turn down service. The beds and covers are very plush and comfortable, affording a wonderful night’s rest while being gently rocked to sleep by the motion of the train.

Early on the morning of the second day (0630), the train pulled into Broken Hill, New South Wales. Passengers were given the opportunity of sleeping in or going on a tour of the town, including the miner’s memorial and union hall. Back in the day, Broken Hill was a mining town, but today, it’s known more for the arts and being a movie location (Mad Max: The Road Warrior and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, to name a few). It’s also the gateway to the vast Outback. After the tour, we were underway once again, crossing into South Australia early in the afternoon.

Pulling into Adelaide shortly after lunch, passengers were offered various tour options. I chose to go on a tour of the McLaren Vale wine region, complete with a winery tour (Coriole Vineyards) that included a lesson on cheese and wine pairing. Following dinner at a beautiful restaurant overlooking the South Australian Coast, we proceeded back to the station for a 9 p.m. departure.

Australia is a vast country with states that take days to drive through (or hours to fly over) and traveling by train certainly gives one an appreciation of the size and remoteness of the Outback…we were still in the state of South Australia after day three on the train!

The third stop we made was at the tiny community of Cook, SA. Population? Less than ten. After a quick walk through the town while the train was being refueled and recrewed, we were off again. After a couple of hours, we crossed into Western Australia and set out across the Nullabor Plain.

This flat, treeless part of the Outback features the longest stretch of perfectly straight railroad track in the world, without a single curve or turn for almost 300 miles! This stretch affords the perfect opportunity to relax in the parlor car with a great Aussie wine and good book (perhaps Bill Bryson’s “In a Sunburnt Country”).
Later that evening, the train made its final stop at Rawlinna, Western Australia, where everyone disembarked for “dinner under the stars” in one of the most remote locations in the Outback. Around 9 p.m. the train was underway again for the final leg of the journey to Perth. After a nightcap, it was off to bed for the last night on the train. Dawn broke early on day four in Western Australia. After breakfast, it was time to get packed back up for an early afternoon arrival into Perth. Shortly after lunch, and 73 hours on the rails, spread out over four days and three nights, the mighty Indian Pacific completed its crossing of Australia, arriving into Perth. Perth is truly one of the most beautiful and livable cities on the planet. I was fortunate to spend a few days exploring the city along with the Margaret Rive wine region and the coastal town of Freemantle, catching up with old friends I used to fly with overseas several years ago.

Flying back to Sydney a few days later, the short four-hour flight and view from 35,000 feet somehow seemed less glamorous and connected to this incredible continent. In today’s age of instant communications and ability to travel from any point on the planet to another in mere hours, the concept of transcontinental train travel seems quaint, if not from a bygone era. Personally, I would highly recommend taking the time to slow down and savor the journey; enjoy a closer connection with the land and people in your travels…The Indian Pacific is an ideal way to do so.

Thank you Scott. Dang! I wish I could write as well as you!

RUPA Pass Travel Report August 2021

RUPA Pass Travel Report August 2021

Captain Pat Palazzolo


Riding on the United Island Hopper
One of the most unique career opportunities some of our United pilots have had has been flying the Island Hopper between Honolulu and Guam with stops at five other islands along the way.

My only claim to fame is that I flew from San Francisco to Hong Kong in a Guppy.  Yup, a United 737-800 all the way. I was on a Guppy on both the front and back ends of the Island Hopper.

Why would anyone want to fly on the Island Hopper?  Well, if you’re like me the answer is simply “because.”  But since the 1960s the Island Hopper has been a lifeline for the local inhabitants of these remote islands.  And then there are the tourists who flock here for diving and surfing.  And there are other parts of our Micronesian operation as well that can take you to some of the most beautiful snorkeling a diving locations in the world.

From the US mainland, plan on arriving in HNL at least the day before departure.  Check in with enough time before the 7:25AM departure.

This is probably the only 737 flight in the world that is double augmented.  One crew flies the first half and then trades with the second crew.  The bunk room consists of two First Class seats and eyeshades.

The first leg is the longest — just over four hours to Majuro where the crew swap takes place.

If you’re reading the online RUPA Magazine, you can view this time lapse approach and landing in Majuro by clicking on the image. (Editor, if you need a Youtube link for this video instead, you can find it on the accompanying email).

Why would anyone want to go to Majuro? Good question. It has a small population and its economy is largely a service economy. Coconut oil accounts for the only real agriculture here. United flies to Majuro for operational reasons. It acts as a necessary refueling airport for continuing on to the other, more frequented islands.

Standby pass riders must exit the aircraft at each stop and stand by for the next leg —with one exception at Kwajalein. So do your due diligence before you leave HNL with names, locations, phone numbers and prices of the local places to stay until the next Island Hopper comes through, just in case you get bumped.

The stops on each island are short — typically :35 to :45 minutes. And the remaining legs are from :55 minutes to 1:40

A :55 minute flight takes us next to Kwajalein, also formally known as Bucholz Army Airfield.

Kwajalein is part of the Pacific Missile Test Range and as such no one is allowed to exit the airplane unless you have authority to enter the island. Additionally no crew or passenger is allowed to take photos of Kwajalein. While we sat there on the ground I looked around and couldn’t for the life of me figure out what anyone would want to take a photo of on this island. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was some cold war regulation that’s still on the books — specifically the book that got lost somewhere.

The only passengers that we seemed to have at Kwajalein were US service people, government employees and locals. The only standbys I could imagine deplaning here were probably United employees and family who work here.

OK, you’re probably wondering right about now why on earth anyone would ever want to go to Micronesia. Well, these first two stops were actually part of the Marshall Islands and the next three stops take us to Micronesia, a much more fascinating place, in my opinion, especially if you like to take pictures, you majored in Anthropology or you’re in love with the tropics (which I am, sometimes)

A 1:10 fight brings us next to Kosrae.

Kosrae is about as rural as you can get. The population of 6,000 subsists on farming and fishing, while the local government is the largest employer. Like other Micronesian islands, scuba diving makes up the bulk of the tourist traffic.

After a brief stop to drop off mostly locals, we headed west for an hour to Pohnpei.

Pohnpei contains a wealth of biodiversity. It’s one of the wettest places on earth and was, in fact, raining during our stop. After dropping off and taking on more locals and a couple of tourists, we took off (video on the left) for Trukk, also spelled Chukk.

A lot of tourists on the flight exit here. Trukk lagoon has one of the most amazing WWII wreck diving sites in the Pacific with ships, planes and even tanks laying in the bottom of the lagoon. The depth of some parts of the lagoon is a relatively shallow 30-60 feet, perfect for infrequent or novice divers like me.

Like all the islands along the Hopper route, the rooms and food are basic here.

The final leg on this adventure is from Trukk to Guam. 1:40 enroute. On my flight this leg was weight limited due to cargo and the weather in GUM. So some standbys had to be left behind.

I mentioned earlier that some of the best islands to visit in our Micronesia operation aren’t even on the Hopper.

Palau is further west of Guam and has, hands down, some of the best diving in the world with, among other site, the famous “Blue Corner” where divers can tether themselves to a large underwater rock and watch the current display a parade of fish and sea animals for your viewing pleasure. Since you’re not exerting much energy and therefore not using much oxygen, your tanks will last a lot longer since you’re tethered to the rock.

Palau has restaurants and hotels with far more amenities than the other islands.  With rooms at the better hotels going from about $100 to $300 a night.  The best way to get to Palau is to fly to Guam from either Narita or to Guam via the Honolulu non-stop.

Yap and Saipan are two other islands worth putting on your bucket list.  The Yapese culture is probably the most unspoiled of all the islands.  And Saipan is a virtual living and breathing WWII museum.

United can take you even further west to Manila.  Manila flights are usually quite full with  Filipinos heading back and forth because of their employment in Guam.

Stay safe.  And remember, never dive alone.


RUPA Pass Travel Report July 2021

RUPA Pass Travel Report June 2021

Captain Pat Palazzolo


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7 Amazing Train Journeys

There are dozens of memorable and eye-popping train rides all over the world. George would fire me if I described all of them here, so we’ll settle for seven, less if George runs out of room.

The Trans Siberian Railway is one of the longest in the world stretching a whopping 5,772 miles. Starting at its westward terminus in Moscow, the Trans-Siberian crosses over the Ural Mountains and through dense Siberian forest. It spans the entire width of Russia and connects the capital with Vladivostok in the east. The eight-day journey takes passengers by landmarks including the magnificent 3,227-foot-long bridge that crosses the River Ob at Novosibirsk (Russia’s third-largest city) and along breathtaking views of lakes and snow capped mountains.
See this link for more info.

For four days and three nights The Ghan Expedition in Australia’s outback travels 2,000 miles from the lush tropics of Darwin in the north through the MacDonnell Range in the fiery red heart of Australia’s outback to the fertile plains of South Australia, terminating in Adelaide. See this link for more info.

Belmond Andean Explorer weaves through the Peruvian Andes at 14,000 feet between Arequipa and Cusco on one- and two-night journeys. Sleeping up to 48 passengers. At meal time expect gourmet meals with champagne. See here for more info.

West Highland Line, Glasgow to Mallaig, Scotland

Taking passengers through some of Scotland’s most diverse scenery, the West Highland Line is an excellent way to experience the country’s wild, western coast. Once the train leaves Glasgow — Scotland’s biggest city — the urban landscape quickly transforms to green valleys and deep blue lochs. Heading northward, the West Highland Line passes through the remote wilderness of Rannoch Moor before stopping in Fort William. Then moving westward, the train traverses the Glenfinnan Viaduct. (If it looks familiar it’s because you saw it in the Harry Potter films). The journey ends in the port city of Mallaig. See here for more info.

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in Colorado

A train ride perfect for history buffs, this train ride has been in continuous operation since its completion in 1882. It was originally constructed as means of hauling silver and gold from Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. Now, the railroad allows passengers to enjoy the same breathtaking journey — via a coal-fired steam locomotive, no less — taken by old west miners and settlers more than a century ago. The 45 mile route moves alongside the Animas River, winding through the remote wilderness and beautiful canyons of Colorado’s San Juan National Forest and its local wildlife, including black bears, deer and mountain lions. See here for more info.

Alaska Railroad’s Denali Star takes passengers through breathtaking scenery from Anchorage to Denali National Park and onward to Fairbanks. Passengers can choose to go only half way to Denali and then return to either Anchorage or Fairbanks. Overnight accommodations in Denali can be booked through the railway. The train normally runs from Spring to early September
See here for more info.



Belmond British Pullman takes passengers directly to Highclere Castle, of Downton Abbey fame. The 5,000-acre manor house and ground is just one of the many
excursions available on this world-class luxury line. When you depart London, you’ll embark on a journey through the beautiful British countryside, touring cities and towns like Cambridge, York, and Canterbury along the way. The restored carriages date back to the 1920s and 1930s, so expect, polished interiors, and classically prepared multi-course meals—this is the exact same train line that has served British royalty and government officials for years, after all.

(The Brits probably won’t let me on. There’s a dress code).
See here for more info.

RUPA Pass Travel Report June 2021

RUPA Pass Travel Report June 2021

Captain Pat Palazzolo


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Hello fellow aviators,

The island of Sicily located at the tip of the boot of Italy is a distant universe from mainland Italy.
If you don’t count the trains, planes and busses, I suspect this place has changed little over the last 100 years.

Connections with Lufthansa, Alitalia and others will get you through Rome, Frankfurt and other European cities to Palermo on the west coast or Catania on the east coast.  A ferry can take you and your car from the toe of Italy, from Naples or from Malta to Sicily.


The weather is moderate in both summer and winter, cooled and warmed respectively by the Mediterranean.

I recommend either a one-way car rental form one coast to the other, zig-zagging from village to village, or taking a long haul bus, which doesn’t take more than a few hours to get from one coast to the other.

Since its surrounded by warm waters, it has some of the best seafood in Italy.  There are fishing towns everywhere, but one with the most character is Marzamemi (photo above) located on the southern tip of the triangular shaped island.  Unlike most towns that have Greek history, Arabs settled in Marzamemi as  you can tell right away from the architecture.

On the east coast is the touristy, upscale town of Taormina located on a beautiful peninsula jutting out into the Mediterranean.  Lots of shops, restaurants, hotels and B&B’s.  I call it the Carmel of Sicily. 
Near the center of town is the Teatro Antica di Taormina, “The ancient Theater.”  It’s an open air theater dating back to 301 A.D.  It’s famous today for hosting the annual outdoor Taormina Film Festival each October.  If your last name isn’t Coppola or DeNiro, you may have a hard time getting tickets.

In the countryside near Syracuse you’ll find the 18th-century Palazzolo Acreide, a Unesco World Heritage site  This ancient village has seen the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Angevins and Aragoneses pass by, each leaving their mark. My son insisted we make the journey to this town and we did.  He posed in front of a police car with “Palazzolo” printed on the side.  …What can I say? It must be a teenage power thing.

Up at the northeast corner of Sicily you can drive up to the hillside town of Savoca.  If it looks familiar it’s because it’s the setting of the home town of the Corleone family in the Godfather.  Michael Corleone’s wedding was filmed in this town. (Editor: Savoca photo  <<)  Bar Vitelli, which was featured in the movie, is still in business.

As you traverse across Sicily you’ll spot a number of imposing castles and fortresses dug into the sandstone mountain tops.  I was in a hurry and regret not stopping.  Next time I will for sure.

On the northwest corner is the city of Palermo, so rich in history and culture!  United had planned to begin service to Palermo last summer, but Covid took care of that.  I’m hopeful United will continue with its plans to launch service perhaps next year. (Editor: Palermo photo below)

There is so much to see and do in Palermo that I couldn’t possibly touch on it all here.  But check TripAdvisor for this city and any other to find out the best things to see and places to eat.

One stop a lot of tourists make is to the Capuchin Monastery in Palermo to view “the catacombs” as they’re called. The monastery outgrew its cemetery in the 16th century so the monks began to inter their deceased brethren in passageways underneath the monastery.  Their bodies were mummified and are surprisingly well preserved.  At some point the elites of the community asked to be buried here also. Soon their family members.  Each hallway usually contain a certain category of citizen, most of them hanging upright on the walls, priests, of course, along with nuns, military officers, government officials, wives of the nobles and children.  The last burial was in 1920. A two year old girl named Rosalia Lombardo who died of the Spanish flu.  She is remarkably well preserved under glass and looks like she just fell asleep.

Although it’s interesting, it was all a bit too creepy for me.  As we walked down one hallway my wife asked me, “Enjoying your heritage, Pat?”  (Wince!)



RUPA Pass Travel Report May 2021

RUPA Pass Travel Report May 2021

Captain Pat Palazzolo


(Some of the) Best Air Museums in the USA
—and the world

Hello fellow aviators,

For those looking to travel but locked out of almost every country, try some of America’s best air museums, as well as some of the best overseas — and they’re all on United’s route map!
While there are literally dozens of air museums in the country, I’ve limited this selection to those among the best and located in cities that are tourist friendly with lots of great restaurants and other places to visit.

For all these museums, please go to their web sites to learn about purchasing tickets (if any), hours, directions and Covid related information.

Boeing Museum of Flight in Seattle (Photo above)  (Open):  Located at Boeing Field in Seattle with historic aircraft both inside and out. Included in the huge list of exhibits is United Airlines Boeing 727 #1, the first one off the assembly line painted in the original United colors from 1963. And there are not just airliners but a wide assortment of military and civilian aircraft many that you may not have known even existed.

After spending the day at the museum, I can promise you that you won’t starve in Seattle.  It has some of the best and varied food on the west coast.

Smithsonian Air and Space Museum on the Mall (Currently closed).

This is the premier Air and Space Museum in the United States. Plan on spending all day here. And then save a day or two to enjoy the rest of Washington DC.

The National Air and Space Museum has hundreds of original, historic artifacts on display, including the 1903 Wright Flyer; the Spirit of St. Louis; X-15, Virgin’s SpaceShip One, the Apollo 11 command module Columbia; and a Lunar rock sample that visitors can touch and literally hundreds more.  You’ll actually need two days because down the road is the other half!

Located at Dulles Airport is it’s sister museum, The National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA (Currently closed).

If it’s big, it’s probably here.  The Boeing 747, Concorde, SR-71 Blackbird, as well as countless other aircraft from a Blue Angels F/A-18C, and a Martin Mars flying boat to various military aircraft spanning the decades.

Pima Air Museum Tucson (Open)

Spring is a great time to enjoy both this museum and Tucson before it gets too hot.

A senior discount gets you in to the largest air and space museum without U.S. government funding, it offers 80 acres with more than 350 historic aircraft. Find 150 aircraft indoors in hangars and the remainder outside. countless aircraft. At night there are some of the best Southwestern restaurants around.

National Naval Aviation Museum

NAS Pensacola Florida (Open)

Over 150 beautifully restored aircraft representing Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard aviation. From the humble Cessna O-1 Bird Dog to the fastest fighters in the Navy’s fleet. Pensacola is home to the Blue Angles, so if you’re a Blue Angels aficionado, you’ll definitely get your fill here.  Enjoy the flight simulators, catch the amazing Giant Screen Digital Theater and enjoy a tasty lunch in the authentic Cubi Bar Cafe.

Others worth visiting:

The USS Midway Museum (Open) is an historic naval aircraft carrier museum located in downtown San Diego at the Navy Pier. The museum consists of the aircraft carrier Midway. The ship houses an extensive collection of aircraft. 

National Museum of the USAF (Open), Wright Patterson AFB near Dayton Ohio. 

This is the largest military aviation museum in the world, with more than 360 aircraft and missiles on display attracting over a million visitors a year.

U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville, AL (Open) Sometimes billed as “Earth’s largest space museum.”  If you like rockets and space flight, this is the place for you.  Dozens of rockets on display outdoors including a full scale mock up of a Saturn V with actual space capsules on display indoors.

Space Center Houston (Open) the official museum of the Johnson Space Center.  As soon as you drive up you’re staring at a huge NASA 747 with a full scale mockup of a Space Shuttle riding piggy back.   Of the three remaining Saturn V rockets on display in the US, only the one here at JSC is made up of segments intended for flight.

California Science Center in Los Angeles (Open) located next to the USC campus, it houses the Shuttle Endeavor.

American Airlines C.R. Smith Museum at DFW (Open) Learn about the history of the airline. Walk through a 1940 Douglas DC-3, the first airliner American Airlines used for passenger travel.

See all the flight attendant uniforms from the beginning. And the working cockpit simulator that you can climb into is another must.

Delta Museum of Flight (Open) Hartsfiled-Jacskon Atlanta International Airport.   The museum is housed in two 1940s Delta hangars at Delta’s headquarters, designated a Historic Aerospace Site in 2011. Its mission is to allow visitors from around the world “to explore aviation history.  Several historic aircraft are housed in these hangars and over 40 airlines in Delta’s family tree can be found in the museum’s collections and exhibitions.[ The museum is a nonprofit organization and relies on volunteers, corporate sponsors, donations, event rentals and merchandise sales.

Some of the best Air Museums around the world:

Canada Aviation and Space Museum, Ottawa, Canada.  Home to more than 130 aircraft from around the world.

Museum of Air and Space, Le Bourget, France covers 1.6 million square feet and contains 19,595 exhibits — some of which date to the 16th century.

Imperial War Museum Duxford, Duxford, UK

Once a British Royal Air Force station, the museum at Duxford is particularly noteworthy for its world-leading collection of WWII planes.

The thing that makes this place is its atmosphere; an original WWI and WWII military airfield that is now a living museum.  Spitfires, Me 109s, B-17s and P-51 aircraft can regularly be seen flying here (and not just during air display days) helps make this place the ultimate air museum.



RUPA Pass Travel Report April 2021

RUPA Pass Travel Report April 2021

Captain Pat Palazzolo


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New features for stand by travelers on the United App that work great …when they work.

Hello fellow armchair travelers,

Two relatively new and related features have been added to the United app for stand by travelers. They allow you to indicate your preference for what type of seat you want, and another that will, with light loads, automatically assign you a seat according to your preference, if possible. And with automatic seat assignment it also gives you the ability to change seats once your seat has been automatically assigned to you.

In an effort to give big names to little things, the company has created the Standby Process Automation which, translated into English, means automatic seat assignment.

Whenever a flight is projected to have less than a 70% revenue load factor, seat assignments will be automatically generated and assigned one hour before departure on domestic flights and at least 75 minutes before International flight departures.

With this in mind, stand bys may now indicate after checking in if their preference is for a window or an aisle. To do this, after checking in, go to the HOME page on the app, there you will see a prompt to select your stand by seat preference, either window or aisle. If you do nothing it will default to window. This preference will apply to all legs on your PNR.

You can still go to the counter and ask for a different seat after automatic assignment if you would like to.

Now the obvious question: “What if I would rather have a standard economy seat rather than an Economy plus middle seat? That, my friends is coming in phase 2 of the upgrade due out any time in the next… um… year maybe? Phase 2 is also expected allow people to choose seats to sit together or near each other.

But what if the window to assign and change seats has begun (See below) and I don’t get a text and I’m not given a seat assignment? It’s most likely because the projected revenue load factor has increased beyond 70%. So in that case, expect them to call your name from the podium.

OK, so now you’ve got this automatic seat assignment but what if you want to change it? There are two ways:

    1. The old fashioned way — go up to the podium and ask.
    2. The way your kids would probably do it — on the app.

Doing it on the app is pretty easy, but there are time limits you must be aware of.

Changing your seat with the app is available for domestic flights from one hour before departure until 30 minutes before departure.

For international flights the app is available to change seats 75 minutes before departure until one hour before departure (only 15 minutes). After the time window has closed you’ll have to do it the old fashioned way.

If you’re assigned a seat automatically you’ll get a text message on your phone saying something like, “Lucky you! You’ve been assigned a seat! Go to the United app to see your seat assignment.”

Tip for the month: Don’t go to the app to see your seat assignment because you can see it when you go to change your seat. If you waste time by doing it twice, others may grab the seat that you may have wanted.

So how do you go straight to the feature that lets you change seat assignments? Remember this (or write it down and stick it in your wallet for when you get the text message):

Go to “My Trips” at the bottom of the app,
Then tap on the origin and destination of your flight such as “Chicago to San Francisco” (not the boarding pass) then select “Travel Options.”
Scroll down until you see “Change Seats>”

After you click on Change Seats you’ll see your seat number and all seats that are still available. Tap on the seat you want, touch “Select” and then PRESS SAVE!!!!!! That seat is now yours. Can you change again? Yes, as long as you’re still within the 30 minute (domestic) or 15 minute (international) window.

But what if I’m on the upgrade list? Lucky you! If you get upgraded you’ll get another text message telling you that you’ve been upgraded (the software will try to honor your window/aisle request you entered after checking in on the app). And yes, you can immediately begin to change your upgraded seats (you can even go back to economy if you want, but that may be a one-way trip so be careful).
If the change seat prompt is not visible, it means the time window has closed. Then you have to do it the old fashioned way and go to the podium and beg.

And now for a caution: The seat change feature has had an intermittent bug that once they think they have it fixed, it happens again.
Sometimes when you go to change your seat it wants you to get out your credit card and pay an Economy Plus upgrade, even if you’re already in Economy Plus. If that happens, put on your best smile and go the the podium and do it the old fashioned way.



RUPA Pass Travel Report March 2021

RUPA Pass Travel Report March 2021

Captain Pat Palazzolo


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

etc@united.com or Help Hub on Flying Together


Positano. Italy

Naples and the Amalfi Coast

Hello fellow armchair travelers,

Until we’re allowed to travel again, fasten your seatbelts in your favorite armchair and off we’ll go!

Of all the places I’ve traveled to, the Naples and Amalfi Coast area of Italy is one of the most beautiful and romantic. Some make a trip exclusively to the Amalfi area and others make a trip just to Naples area.  Naples Airport is the best airport to either if you don’t want to take a train ride from Rome Airport.

There is so much to see and do here that this would be an awfully long article and George would probably fire me, so I’m just gong to give you the highlights and I hope you’ll check with trip advisor or Mr. Google to find out more.  But first, there’s just one rule you must follow to keep from ruining your trip:  Don’t rent a car!!!  There is nowhere to park and you can get everywhere you need to go by bus, train, or ferry.

This area has some of Italy’s most beautiful and remarkable sites: From north to south: Naples itself, the ruins of Pompeii, the beautiful port town of Sorrento, the Island of Capri, Amalfi and the nearby towns of Ravelo, Positano and Praiano.

Sorry Chicagoans, but Naples is where pizza was first introduced.
And there’s plenty of it here.

The premier attraction in Naples is its renowned National Archaeological Museum.
But don’t let the name fool you. It’s not a place of excavated collections.  Instead it’s primarily some of Italy’s most spectacular carvings and other historical artifacts.   In Naples restaurants and cafes abound. No tourist has ever gone hungry in this food filled city. 

Please take care and use the same precautions you would in any other city.

You can take a ferry for a day trip from Naples to the nearby island of Procida with it’s small, quaint fishing village of the same name.  If the place looks familiar it’s because the Italian movie Il Postino (The Postman) was filmed here.  If you walk across to the other side of the village you can see the cafe that was at the center of movie’s story.

A short train ride south of Naples are the ruins of Pompeii.

And further south is the beautiful port city of Sorrento, and just like with the other Amalfi coat area has amazing ocean vistas. Amalfi, Positano, Ravelo and Praiano are four towns along the Amalfi Coast connected
by ferry and one two lane road that zigs and zags above the steep coastline.

If you don’t like heights, it’s best if you sit on the other side of the bus.
From either Naples or Sorrento you can take a bus or high speed ferry to Positano, Capri or Amalfi itself. Positano and Amalfi are beautiful and quaint. If you’re into walking, you can walk from Positano to Praiano and back along the winding coastal road. Don’t worry about the buses while you’re walking. You can hear them coming a mile away with their wailing horns as they round the turns.

Because of the steep slope of the hills, these towns have beautiful views of the Bay of Salerno from almost anywhere in town.  There’s no point in suggesting whether Positano or Amalfi is prettier or better since they’re just 57 minutes apart by bus.  Many people spend a couple of days in each town.  Amalfi is certainly the most historic of the two with it’s eye-catching cathedral with both Roman and Moorish architecture (the stripes are the give away).

My favorite place to eat in Amalfi is Il Teatro.  An old small theater converted into a mom and pop trattoria.  There’s also a great outdoor pizza place at the bottom of the steps of the cathedral 

While standing in Amalfi, if you look up, and I mean way up, you’ll catch a glimpse of the town of Ravelo. Buses leave from in front of Amalfi every 30 minutes for the 15 minute ride up the hill to this old beautiful town with magnificent views, art and architecture.  Don’t miss Ravelo!



If you haven’t been to Capri it might be worth it to take a ferry over for a day trip.  My impressions of Capri:  Pretty, touristy and expensive.  The boat ride was fun, though.

HOW TO GET HERE:  Beginning in June United operates seasonal nonstop service to Naples from Newark.  There is also connecting service through Frankfurt and Munich on Lufthansa, through Paris on Air France, Brussels on  Brussels Airlines, Istanbul on Turkish and through Zurich on Swiss.  Please check the connecting times as some may require a stop over.

WHERE TO STAY:  Boutique hotels and Air BnB type rentals abound in the smaller towns as well as in Naples and Sorrento.  As always, check Trip Advisor for the best recommendations.

HOW TO GET AROUND:  Use the public transit feature of Google Maps to give you the schedules of the buses, trains and ferries between towns and to and from Naples Airport. The front desk of any hotel will work as well.



RUPA Pass Travel Report February 2021

RUPA Pass Travel Report February 2021

Captain Pat Palazzolo


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

etc@united.com or Help Hub on Flying Together

“Please scan your vaccination QR code.”

Hello fellow aviators,

Several airlines, including United, have developed an app for your phone that will allow you to prove that you have received a COVID vaccination.  It is presently being used to show proof of a negative COVID tests but will shortly be adapted to show proof of vaccination as well.

The app United uses is called CommonPass. And there are other apps in use as well.

To make sure that all the apps are compatible with all airlines and governments, the Covid-19 Credentials Initiative, a collection of dozens of organizations across five continents is working to help develop a set of universal standards for vaccine credential apps.

The apps will be ale to tell you which countries your particular vaccination will allow you to enter and under what conditions. Private business is also expected to use the app to allow people into restaurants, concerts and other events.

While it’s clear that the first two vaccines in the west are quite effective in keeping us from getting sick, it remains unclear how effective a vaccine will be in stopping transmission from a vaccinated person to another. In other words, can a vaccinated person still be asymptomatic and spread the virus? No one is sure yet. And until that is clarified it’s uncertain how effective the Covid vaccine apps will be.

RUPA Pass Travel Report December 2020

RUPA Pass Travel Report December 2020

Captain Pat Palazzolo


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

etc@united.com or Help Hub on Flying Together


Hello fellow aviators,

Post COVID, an easy, inexpensive tourist destination that has it all is Malta.  A former strategic British colony island located in the middle of the Mediterranean 58 miles south of Sicily, Italy and 186 miles north of the North African coast is off the beaten path of the London/Paris crowd but is rich in history, architecture, food, beaches, rocky coastlines and the historic walled city of Valetta, your most likely destination.  It’s all in one place and you can walk everywhere in Valetta and take busses to the outer parts of the island for some truly fascinating day trips.

Valetta itself is a maze of narrow romantic cobblestone streets with cafes and shops everywhere.  If you didn’t know better you might think you were in Florence.  Valetta is on a hilltop so you often find yourself walking down a street with a beautiful view of the water at the far end.  The food is a mix of Italian, British, Arabic, Spanish, and anything else you might want to find.  If you like rabbit (I don’t), it’s on almost every menu.

In and near Valetta you can find every kind of museum on the face of the earth, yes, an aviation museum, a postal museum, several war museums, a classic car museum and more.

Further out from Valetta busses can take you to the ancient fortified city of Mdena (yes, that’s how it’s spelled)  filled with history, restaurants and shops and beautiful vistas.  Another great stop is the Citadel, another uber-walled city full of history, food, wine, shops, views and great sightseeing.

If you’re adventurous you can depart Malta by taking one of ferries departing throughout the day to Sicily, enjoy that fascinating island and then return home from there

Getting to Malta   Like much of the rest of Europe, Malta is a party to the Schengen Agreement so no visa is required for US Passport holders. You will likely be processed through immigration at your first European transit point.  You can reach Malta from several European cities as well as North Africa.  Air Malta (KM) offers us medium ZED fares and Lufthansa (LH) offers us Low ZED fares from Frankfurt.

Where to stay:  Check Trip advisor,  There are a number of boutique hotels but most tourists find accommodations from a plentiful supply of AirBnB type residences.

When to go:  Similar to the rest of Europe the most rain is in the winter with highs of about 60 degrees.  The summer months are dry with temperatures around 88 degrees in July and August and long days of 14 1/2 hours as well.



RUPA Pass Travel Report November 2020

RUPA Pass Travel Report November 2020

Captain Pat Palazzolo


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

etc@united.com or Help Hub on Flying Together

Exploring Petra, Jordan

Hello fellow aviators,

If Petra looks familiar to you its probably because it was used as the backdrop for the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, as well as many other films.

Petra is an historic archeological desert city in southern Jordan surrounded by mountains.  It was inhabited as far back as 7,000 BC but came to prominence in 4 BC when the nomadic Arab Nabataeans settled.  They recognized its strategic importance at the juncture of several trading routes. The trading business gained the Nabataeans considerable revenue and Petra became the focus of their wealth. The Nabataeans were accustomed to living in the barren deserts, unlike their enemies, and were able to repel attacks by taking advantage of the area’s mountainous terrain. They were particularly skillful in harvesting rainwater, agriculture and stone carving.  

The magnificent stone carved buildings and the ingenious irrigation system in the middle of the dessert are what draw over a million tourists to Petra each year.  It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985.   Petra is partially located in a relatively narrow and steep canyon or siq that protected it’s inhabitants from enemies.  The Nabataeans carved beautiful buildings in the sides of the limestone walls of the canyons.  The most beautiful of these is the Treasury, shown at the top of this article. 

Getting to Jordan is through Amman and can be reached non-stop on Royal Jordanian from Chicago.  Connections are also possible through many European cities including Frankfurt, Munich, London and Paris.  

Royal Jordanian (RJ) and Lufthansa (LH) both give us Low ZED tickets. Visas are required and US Citizens can purchase them on arrival in Amman for $56.

A cheaper alternative is to purchase a Jordan Pass before departure online.  The online Jordan Pass can be purchased for $99 and includes your entry visa and admission to Petra and other sites.  The Jordan Pass is displayable on your phone so there is no need for a hard copy.   As with any overseas trip, always check the State Department app “Smart Traveler” for the latest entry and exit requirements.

Petra at night

Petra can be reached by either purchasing a tour or, my preferred method, renting a car at Queen Alia airport and driving 2 hours and 34 minutes southwest.  It’s a straight shot on Highway 15 until you get to the Petra turnoff at highway 826.  Plan staying overnight in Wadi Musa, the closest town to Petra.

Staying overnight gives you a full day to explore all that Petra offers.  Wadi Musa has several hotels that range in price from the low $200s to $151 for the Marriott, to many very good accommodations well under $100 per night.

If you’re an adventurous traveler you can elect to stray at a Bedouin camp.  The Little Petra Bedouin Camp offers a comfortable bed with a private bath for less than $40.  The breakfast buffet with omelet costs only $6.

When to go?  The middle Eastern deserts can be cold in the winter and hot in the summer.  Plan spring or fall for your trip — April, May, October and November.  The rainiest months are December – February.

One last tip, for your day in Petra bring plenty of water and pack a lunch.  Or you can buy a lunch within the grounds.

If this summary has you sitting on the fence about whether or not to go to Petra, check out the National Geographic web site and also the Nat Geo film, “Petra, Secrets of the Ancient Builders.”  Those videos may push you over — one way or the other.

Cheers mates,


RUPA Pass Travel Report October 2020

RUPA Pass Travel Report October 2020

Captain Pat Palazzolo


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

etc@united.com or Help Hub on Flying Together

Viewing the Northern Lights

Hello fellow aviators,

Yellowknife, Canada in the Northwest Territories is known as the best place in the world to view the aurora borealis, also known as the Northern Lights. Yellowknife has the most cloud free days of any city in that latitude.  With their long and clear winter nights, mid-November to the beginning of April tend to be the best times of the year to visit for a good viewing. Late summer to early autumn also offers a fair chance of seeing the lights.

For a day to day forecast over the next 6 days, visit https://astronomynorth.com/aurora-forecast/ which shows the percentage probability of the appearance of northern lights. And if you’re going for a walk around Yellowknife, be sure to keep an eye out for Northern Lighthouses.These tiny lighthouses, located throughout the city, alert visitors and residents when active aurora is in the evening forecast.

Auroras are very common in the night skies above Yellowknife. This is largely due to the  communitys proximity to the Magnetic North Pole (Yellowknife has a geographic latitude of 62° North, but more importantly it has a geomagnetic latitude of 68 degrees). In addition, Yellowknife has historically been an excellent location for viewing auroras because of its semi-arid climate with excellent access to dark cloudless skies and a flat landscape that offers a full view of the night sky.

In normal non-COVID times we can travel to Yellowknife (YZF) via Air Canada with connections from a number of border Canadian cities such as Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto etc.

Air Canada offers us Low ZED fare tickets, with the ability to take up to two Star Alliance companions with you. Star alliance companions must be accompanied by the retiree or employee on all legs.  

Visas are not required for US passport holders.  Please be aware that as of this date, Americans are not permitted to enter Canada for tourism.  

Hotels and restaurants are plentiful in Yellowknife. Please check Tripadvisor for recommendations on both.

Cheerio mates,


RUPA Pass Travel Report September 2020

RUPA Pass Travel Report Setpember 2020

Captain Pat Palazzolo


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

etc@united.com or Help Hub on Flying Together

Exploring the land of the pharaohs

Hello fellow aviators,

If you’re eager to explore and witness thousands of years of history and you can handle traveling in a very third world country, then Egypt may be an option for you. Egypt is generally not a pretty place. The infrastructure and amenities that you may be used to are far different. A dirt poor standard of living is apparent almost everywhere. Those you come into contact with as a tourist depend more on your tips than what they are paid in order to survive. OK, enough of the sugar-coating.

Overview: Tourists tend to go to one of two places in Egypt, the Nile River Valley with its historic sites or eastern Egypt with its Red Sea resorts. If you want to do the resort thing, it’s much easier just to go to Hawaii. But if you’re interested in seeing history as it was thousands of years ago, then the Nile River Valley may be what you’re looking for

The Nile River flows northward from sub-Sahara Africa and empties into the Mediterranean. Along its route it irrigates miles of arable farm land that has fed Egyptians for thousands of years. Outside of the Nile River Valley is desert.

Four main population centers are found along the Nile. From the north, Alexandria which lies at the Nile delta along the Mediterranean. Next further south, Cairo, which will likely be your point of entry. Cairo is 30 minutes by car to the pyramids of Giza.

Further south is Luxor, the cultural center of ancient Egypt, located next to the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens where the tombs of the ancient royalty are located. Luxor also contains more monuments than any other city in the world.

Further south is Aswan, Egypt, home of the dark skinned Nubian people (who also live further south into Sudan) who are descendants of several Nubian royalty.

Located just south of Aswan is the town of Abu Simbel, the site of Ramses II Temple.

The nuts and bolts of visiting Egypt: A visa is required to enter Egypt and for passport holders of the US and other countries they can be purchased at the airport.

We receive Medium ZED fares on Egypt Air. Egypt Air flies to Cairo from JFK as well as many European cities in including Frankfurt, Munich, London and Paris. Since I live on the west coast I found connections in Frankfurt the best option for me. Lufthansa also flies to Cairo from FRA and MUC.

Within Egypt you can either use a ZED ticket on Egypt Air between cities, or pay full fare on a couple of low-cost carriers. When traveling in Egypt my best advice is: be patient! It’s not what you’re used to so please don’t expect it to be.

Unlike in the US, tickets purchased in Egypt are refundable with a small surcharge like $12. But things always change, so if you go that route, check the booking site you’re using to make sure!

Because travel in Egypt may be more unpredictable than other countries, you may want to take advantage of the hotel deals offered through the Accor Hotels on Flying Together. Most of the Accor Hotels (such as Novotel and Mercure) will give you same day cancellation, usually as late as 6PM.

What to see: The only reason to visit Cairo is to go to the nearby pyramids, and Sphinx, and to visit the amazing Eqyptian Museum. An entire floor contains the gilded contents of King Tut’s Tomb.

I would recommend that women not walk alone in Cairo, and I would urge everyone to exercise situational awareness around them at all times that they would normally expect to do in any third world country. If tourists encounter crime, it is most likely to be crimes of property.

When I arrived in Cairo I learned that the Uber pick up spot is in the airport parking lot at a certain location. As I waited two cars drove up separately and told me they were my Uber driver. Neither of them had the license plate number that showed on the app. The second one to try this told me there was a change of plans and he was supposed to pick me up. I asked him what my name is (it’s on the app). He looked at his phone and then said, “John.” “Nice try.” I told him.

If you’re going to visit the pyramids and sphinx, go to Trip Advisor and sign up for a half day tour. Most tours include about a 20 minute ride on a camel, a photo of which you may want to include in your next holiday letter.

My car arrived at the hotel promptly at 9:00AM with a young female guide and her friend who did the driving. She knew where to go and what to share with me about the history of what we were seeing. There are small entrance fees to visit these monuments. Except for the Great Pyramid. That one will set you back $40 to enter. And if you do you’ll follow a byzantine path of tunnels, stairs and even ladders. You’ll eventually crouch through a narrow tunnel and when you’re finally able to stand up you’ll realize you’re standing in the burial chamber of King Cheops and you’ll be staring at his sarcophagus across the dimly lit room. His body was stolen thousands of years ago by thieves.

If you’re efficient you can have your guide drop you off after lunch at the Egyptian Museum for the rest of the day. Just tell them in the morning what you want to accomplish and they’ll try to accommodate you. The contents of Tut’s tomb is a sight to behold.

Other than Cairo, the other cities are much more tame and tourist friendly.

Further down the Nile is Luxor, the ancient capitol of Egypt and home to hundreds of monuments and temples. The Valleys of the Kings and Queens are a must especially if you want to walk down inside the magnificently painted and ornate tombs.

And even further south is the city of Aswan, the center of Egypt’s Nubian culture. The dark skinned Nubians occupy southern Egypt and much of Sudan. If you are looking for some time to relax with beautiful Nile views and excellent food and hospitality, you came to the right place. Here the Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Hotel built in 1902, has catered to some of the world’s most renowned people of history. You can walk down the halls and stroll through Winston Churchill’s suite, or Agatha Christie’s room where she wrote “Death on the Nile” and where an old typewriter still sits on her desk. Staying at the Old Cataract were quite a relaxing and beautiful few days during our trips.

The Old Cataract Hotel is a part of the Accor group and as such we get a terrific discount. In high season it’s pretty good and in low season (summer) it’s terrific (but also quite hot in Egypt)! Go to Flying together and under Discounts, search for Accor. And if you do travel and stay at a lot of Accor hotels, download the Accor app. After you sign up for an Accor account on Flying Together, and then sign in on the app, it will know you’re eligible for the United discount and you won’t even have to go through Flying Together any longer to reserve with a discount.

After you’ve stayed a couple of days or so at the Old Cataract, go to Trip Advisor and purchase a one day tour to Ramses Temple in Abu Simbel. The iconic temple Ramses II made for himself (see photo) and a neighboring one for his Nubian wife Nefertiti, are awesome to walk through.

Nile Cruises: Lots of tourists like to take Nile Cruises between Aswan and Luxor (they go in either direction). There are too many to count. I’ve been twice and the first one I took in 1995 was terrific. The second one in January not so good.

The purpose of the cruises are not to take a cruise, but to take you up the river to stop at historic sites along the way. Be aware that when they say “three nights and four days, depending on the operator, two of the three nights are in port either at Aswan or Luxor.

The second cruise I took was disappointing because many of the excursions left the boat before the sun came up or after dark. The first cruise had only daytime excursions. So before you plunk down the money: 1. Read the reviews for this company on Trip Advisor, 2) call the company and ask for not just the itinerary, but the times of departure and arrival at the different excursions on the itinerary. If they’re too vague for your liking, find someone else. And by the way, the cruise I reserved for January had a great photo of a sleek, modern cruise ship. But when we arrived at the dock it was a tired old boat.

I don’t remember much about the food on the first cruise but on the second one I would describe as “dorm food with a flair.”

One last bit of advice, don’t go for the cheapest. And make sure there are lots of good reviews and don’t forget to call them to find out what the time schedule is, not just the itinerary.

A word about tips. In Egypt, those you come into contact with subsist on your tips. Everyone from drivers, folks who help with baggage, everyone on a cruise boat, etc. The pay they get from anyone who hires them (if they get paid at all) is tiny. If you ask your guide or concierge at the hotel what is typical or expected, they will usually be honest with you.

Final item: United has a new Flying Together app that is getting fairly good reviews. However retirees weren’t eligible to use it when it first came out but the company has told me it will be available for retirees in September. You must download it from Flying Together, not from the Apple App Store or the Google Store.

Cheers mates,


RUPA Pass Travel Report August 2020

RUPA Pass Travel Report August 2020

Captain Pat Palazzolo


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

etc@united.com or Help Hub on Flying Together

Hiking in the Dolomites

Hello fellow aviators,

The Italian Alps, also known as the Dolomites, are one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.  I remember one time my hiking partner remarked during one of our hikes, “No matter which way you turn here, it’s breathtaking in every direction.’

There are several towns in Northern Italy that can be a good base for day trips or hut-to-hut multi-day hikes.

I’ve always liked Cortina d’Ampezzo as my base.  Plenty of hotels, restaurants and amenities.

You can reach the Cortina area by flying into Munich or Venice.  It’s about a 4 1/2 hour drive from Munich and two hours from Venice.  I always plan an overnight in Munich and then take a leisurely drive through southern Germany, Austria and Italy the next day.

There are several national parks in the Dolomites within easy driving of Cortina.  Tre Cime, Cinque Torre and other places, such as beautiful Lake Braies.  You can reach your hiking areas by driving to the main parking lot, or parking at the base of the chair lift or cable car that will take you up to a higher elevation to begin your hike. 

Refuges, or Rifugios, are sprinkled throughout the Dolomites and offer overnight accommodations or just a place to stop for a meal.  The Rifugios are connected by trails.  Most of the trails are exceptionally well marked but maps are essential and are easily obtained at various places in Cortina.

The meals at the Rifugios vary in quality from basic stuff to keep you from starving to gourmet quality at Rifugio Averau (I make a point to stop here every year just for the great food and fantastic views from the restaurant).  Most of the Rifugios offer acceptable menus consisting of Pizza, pasta, sandwiches, salads and desert.  The views vary as well.  For me the most breathtaking views are from Rifugio Nuvolau, located 30 minutes hike from Averau (You can go to Averau for their great food then hike another 30 minutes to Nuvolau for their great views), and Rifugio Lagazuoi at 9,000 feel above sea level and reachable by cable car for hiking, eating and their fantastic views!!

We’ve always elected to stay in a hotel down in Cortina and then drive to a new location each day.  But some tourists choose to make consecutive reservations in several rifugios and hike hut-to-hut (English) hütte zu hütte (German) or rifugio a rifugio (Italian).  It can get complicated making several consecutive reservations at different rifugios, (and can be a disaster if your plans should change even by one day) so you may want to consider taking an organized tour that specializes in organizing hut to hut hikes through the Dolomites.

Lake Braies (Lago di Braies) is about 50 minutes away by car from Cortina.  But one year we stayed at the lake front hotel there called Hotel Lago di Braies.  Breakfast and Dinner are included and there are wonderful views from the balconies or windows of the rooms.  There  are several good hikes in the area including an easy circumnavigation of the lake that takes about 90 minutes.  I recommend you email the hotel directly and not go through a booking company.

There are several good books you can purchase from Amazon on hiking through the Dolomites that can help you plan.  And if you google “overnight hiking in the Dolomites or hut to hut hiking in the Dolomites, you should come across some tour companies rather quickly.  If you’re going to do the tour I strongly recommend you check the reviews on Trip Advisor.

And if I can give you only one piece of advice it would be buy blister proof socks!!!   They’re the best invention since the aeroplane. And don’t forget a good pair of hiking boots and collapsable hiking sticks.  REI can be a good place to look for shoes, socks, sticks, etc.  But there’s no need to over-buy or over-pack.  Everything we bring fits in one carry on and a small back pack.

Try to make your  reservations at least 10 months ahead, maybe a year ahead for Lake Braies.

RUPA Pass Travel Report July 2020

RUPA Pass Travel Report July 2020

Captain Pat Palazzolo


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

etc@united.com or Help Hub on Flying Together

Dipping our toes back in the water.

Hello fellow aviators,

This is being written on June 15, 2020, my crystal ball is a bit fuzzy looking out to the arrival date of the July issue of the RUPA Magazine.  However I’m going to give this my best shot.

First of all, as of this date the Employee Travel Center phone number listed above is dead as a door nail because of Covid.  But by the time you’re reading this it may have sprung back to life.

Second as  you may know, United has instituted a restriction on non-rev travel, allowing boarding of non-revs only when the final revenue load factor for a flight is less than 70%.  The company said this restriction will be in place until “at least June 30th.”  So let’s place bets on whether it’s still in place by the time you read this.

United said:   One of the great benefits of working for the airline is being able to non-rev and being able to get on. Since May 19, when the policy was put in place, over 85% of the non-revs have been able to get on. That is actually a significant improvement from this time last year when it was only 53%.  So the vast majority of our non-revs are getting on. Only 2 percent of our flights actually are restricted by the 70% threshold that we have.  And you may ask, why put a policy in place for only 2% of the flights?  Because that 2 percent, when that happened, is a meaningful impact to our customers.  At a time when we’re trying hard to bring them back to flying with us, that’s a trade-off we’re making right now. But this policy is in place only through June 30, as of right now. I think as the traveling public gets more confident with some of the precautions that are in place, it will absolutely be a policy that will be under review.”

My comments:

  1. The 2% of the flights non-revs are not getting on are probably the most popular flights.
  2. While some non-revs have been able to get on 85% of the flights now, while last year it was only 53%, please remember that last year we had 10 times more flights, so the percentage comparison can be a bit misleading.

United has said they will be doubling the number of flights in July from June.  That’s good news, but remember that’s going from a very small number of flights to just a small number.

I am hopeful our execs will realize how important this is to the employees and retirees and they will lift the restriction on June 30.

In June American Airlines and Delta Airlines are also restricting non-rev travel above a certain percent of load factor (At Delta it’s 60%).

I had mentioned a couple of months ago that due to the limited number of United flights we may want to consider using ZED tickets on other airlines.  But please keep in mind that other airlines have reduced their capacity significantly also.  And some carriers have temporarily suspended operations.  Copa and Brussels come to mind.

At some point United will start resembling a big airline again and our travel opportunities will be much better, but I hope I’m not bringing a walker with me by then.  And until a vaccine is available I can guarantee you I will be wearing a mask and gloves when I’m traveling.

Cheerio mates.

RUPA Pass Travel Report June 2020

RUPA Pass Travel Report June 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!