Sort of… I’ll be in the air most of this weekend, but we’ll see how things go. Right now my only major complaint is the absence of a current 1K card. This page will be updated throughout the day/weekend depending on my internet access.
Last update: March 5, 3:17 PM PST
- Itinerary still there.
- Last-minute upgrade.
- Generally friendly staff despite what they’ve been going through.
- No 1K card for lounges
- No upgrade list online or on my iPhone
- Long lines, and a relatively long wait for a 1K
- No upgrade and check-in screwed up (not sure how much of this is SHARES-related)
- Unable to communicate with Homeland Security for my international legs (see above), resulting in having to check in again at IAD. Lost all my seat assignments. Unable to re-print boarding passes. 30 min of waiting.
- Check-in, boarding, everything in Kuwait and Bahrain was processed by manually writing and checking things on paper. It’s not clear if this was SHARES-related, but there was some reference to the computers not working.
The check-in area was a mess, especially for non-elites. Even in the 1K line I had to wait about 10-15 minutes behind one person with a difficult itinerary. There was a problem with the delay between United and Homeland Security that was complicating verification of my passport information, so they split it off and I’ll have to check-in again in Dulles.
Unfortunately my place on the upgrade list has dropped from #2 out of 7 seats available last night to #3 out of 2 seats available this morning. It looks like I won’t be making the cut today, so I’m enjoying some quick breakfast in the SEA United Club, which is actually pretty nice despite the lack of windows (my first time here).
Update: I did get the upgrade, but they had to bypass the usual standby list. Looked like CO agents running boarding.
Lounge Access & Seat Assignments
Now I’m sitting in the lounge at IAD after dealing with the agent for 30 minutes trying to get me checked-in for my flight to Kuwait (there was an issue communicating to Homeland Security in Seattle) and getting new boarding passes printed. In the meantime all of my seat assignments were lost and given to other people. I’m still in reasonably okay seats, but not very happy about it happening in the first place. The real test will come when I reach Bahrain and try to get into the lounge of another Star Alliance carrier.
And IMO, the lounges at IAD are not so nice. I’m near C17, so maybe I picked a bad one, but I was quite pleased with Seattle. It’s nice to have some hometown pride!
Kuwait & Bahrain
Well, Kuwait is nothing special. Maybe six gates. If you’re just transiting, they waive you over to the side, the same kind of small post-security waiting area like they have at Kansas City (MCI). Not much to do, but you’re only there for 30-45 minutes.
It was kind of fun to have an IranAir flight pull up next door. You don’t see those every day! A very interesting juxtaposition for leading airlines of countries that don’t like each other very much.
In Bahrain, they just waived me through after I told them I didn’t want to leave the airport. So it turns out the visa issue was never there to begin with. It’s a very interesting airport. On the one hand, almost no one around me is speaking English (mostly immigrants flying home). But on the other, all the signs are in English, and prices are quoted in both dinar and USD. There are even a Chili’s and a Macaroni Grill!
It turns out my concern about getting lounge access without a current 1K card was unfounded. Had I done my research more thoroughly, I would have realized that there are no Star Alliance lounges here. However, there is the Dilmun lounge, open 24 hours a day and priced at the usual $50 but only for 3 hours.
After taking a look at the public toilets in the terminal (which had hoses to spray down the seats)
I decided to take the savings from my visa and pay for lounge access for the first time. The only downside is that they price it in three-hour blocks, so I’m currently waiting for an hour in the terminal. I originally thought I had to pay since I’m not a PriorityPass member, but it turns out that while it is not a Star Alliance Gold lounge per se, United does have a contract with them to provide lounge access. It feels so good to have a nice shower and a clean shave!
It’s reputed to be quite swanky, so I’ll have some extra photos and impressions for you.
Boy, it’s good to be back. Sorry I didn’t post much from the return trip, but our plane was delayed over an hour in Kuwait, with no WiFi and no time to stop in Dulles either. I barely made my flight home to Seattle.
In Bahrain, it apparently took a dozen various security officials and a half-dozen United staff members to check people in and perform security checks at the gate. They were even more serious than the paranoid Europeans I’m used to.
Then when we tried to re-board the plane in Kuwait for the longer leg home to Washington (keep in mind this is the same exact plane) there was a false alarm that caused this big delay. Lots of passengers were booked on early morning connections in Washington, but the ground staff at Kuwait provided no communication on what was going on or what our timeline was going to be. They wouldn’t provide information on alternative connections, either. Basically three to six of them (they kept coming and going) just sat around waiting for the mechanics or pilots to give them the okay to start boarding. Not knowing what might happen if they left for a break, most passengers were just stuck in the waiting post-security waiting area without enough seats or even any restrooms.
I barely made it to my connecting flight, with five minutes to spare, but I know many other people who were not so lucky. It’s a good thing, too, because the next flight home was booked up, too.
Fortunately I did run into a fellow MilePoint reader, Chris from New York. He noticed my MilePoint luggage tags and we chatted a bit about his plans to go from Silver to 1K status this year on United. Apparently he’s already expecting to reach Gold this month or next, so he’s got a big head start on me! He actually spent a few days in Bahrain as a tourist unlike me, but the general impression I got was that there really isn’t a whole lot to see. One of the flight attendants mentioned that Kuwait was more fun and one of the reasons she requests this route.
I’ll polish up this post with more details later, but right now I have to go check some stuff at work and then catch up on my sleep. I’ve been awake for far, far too long!