$63 to Chicago: ORD United Club

TRIP REPORT INDEX

After landing in the Concourse B area, we went to the closest United Club which was near Gate B6. Using the membership I received when I was approved for the Chase United MileagePlus Club card 6 months ago, we went upstairs and found a comfortable seat.

It was only 9am so the club was fairly empty. There was a meager breakfast spread – plain cereal, plain bagels, yogurt, and some donut holes. There was an espresso machine with some passable coffee.

united club ord chicago o'hare

Plenty of Seats

I know it doesn’t sound very exciting and, to be honest, it’s not. In my experience as the casual traveler, these airport domestic lounges aren’t really worth the price of admission ($40-50 for a day pass). They’re certainly handy if you need to take care of some business before your flight or if you have kids and want a better waiting area than the gate, but otherwise, they’re nothing more than a quieter space than the terminal and a more comfortable seat.

If I flew more 75,000 miles or more a year and spent much more time in airports, then maybe my opinion would change but after flying ~45,000 miles in 2012, I wouldn’t pay a $400+ yearly membership for these lounges.

What I would do is gain lounge membership as a credit card perk, like I did with this Chase MileagePlus Club card. It carries a hefty annual fee of $395, but that was waived when I applied. I definitely won’t be renewing this card next year. I basically just wanted to have a one year trial of the United Club. It’s a nice perk while traveling, but I can live without it. I just wanted to give my thoughts on domestic airport lounges.

After about 30 minutes in the lounge, our friends’ flight had landed and we met them outside the club and proceeded underground to the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) subway…

$63 to Chicago: United JFK-IAD-ORD to EWR-ORD

TRIP REPORT INDEX

I don’t know about you, but I don’t look forward to catching a 6am flight on a Saturday, especially when that flight connects out of the way, making the overall trip about 2 hours longer than it should be. That’s what was in store for Joann and me if we stayed with the original ticket we purchased, JFK-IAD-ORD.

As a United Premier Gold, one of the better benefits is United’s Same Day Change policy. It will allow you to change your flight and/or routing within 24 hours of your original departure.

When I woke up Friday morning, I decided to give United a call and see what I could do. I had already used Expert Flyer to find alternative flights that I could change to and I just fed them to the call center agent in the Philippines.

Without much trouble, I had our flight changed to the later 8am flight and our new routing was an easier EWR-ORD nonstop! I really did cherish those extra few hours of sleep. Without Premier Gold and up status, that change would have cost $75 per ticket. With it, $0.

We parked in long term and hitched a ride on the shuttle to Terminal C where Premier Access security was MUCH shorter than the regular lines, a very important elite benefit.

We got to the gate and they were boarding so we hit the Premier Access line and got to cut a few people (sorry guys!). We settled into 21E & 21F (21 is United’s exit row on all planes; non-elites will have to pay for these seats). To my surprise, row 20 didn’t have a window seat so I basically had unlimited legroom.

united economy plus exit row leg room

The lesson here? Premier Access/Elite is nothing to shake a stick at. You can get some helpful benefits that save you time and aggravation that adds up in the long run. Even if you don’t fly enough to make the bottom-tier elite level (Silver), at least get the credit card from your airline of choice (United, American, Delta)if it gives you some benefits like Priority Boarding or free checked bags.

Anyway, we were delayed leaving a bit because, well, it’s Newark Airport in the morning. Once we were wheels up, the flight was quick and we landed at O’Hare Airport in no time.

Then it was off to the United Club to wait for our friends…

$63 To Chicago

TRIP REPORT INDEX
Introduction
United JFK-IAD-ORD to EWR-ORD
ORD United Club
CTA & Fairmont Chicago
FOOD
Sights
Tornado Warnings & The Flight Home
Conclusion

INTRODUCTION

This trip was inspired by the slogan that I read somewhere (probably FlyerTalk or Milepoint) “Follow the fare!” A few months ago, someone posted a mistake fare on FlyerTalk. It was a routing from NYC to ORD (Chicago)… for $63 round trip! For that price, I didn’t even bother checking with Joann first; I was following the fare!

$252.80 for 4 Passengers

With no immediate desire to visit Chicago, I just picked a weekend and booked the flights. I even convinced a few friends to come along for the ride. Hard to resist a great deal! It’s funny how a few years on FlyerTalk will make you chase the deal first and the destination second.

A few weeks ago, with our trip approaching, we started to figure out what we wanted to do. Neither Joann nor I had been to Chicago since we were kids so we wanted to hit all the must-do stuff – Sears (Willis) Tower, Magnificent Mile, deep dish pizza, Chicago hot dogs, a boat tour, etc.

chicago deep dish pizza

Yup, I’d pay $63 just to eat that for 2 days.

With a little over 48 hours in the Second City, our list seemed pretty doable. And fortunately enough, a TravelZoo special came up two days before our flight for a cheap rate at the Fairmont Chicago, right in downtown Chicago. It was a perfect storm (more on storms later).

But before all that, we’d still have to conquer a JFK-IAD-ORD routing starting at 6am on a Saturday