Absorbing Chinese culture in Hangzhou and beyond
By Airport Operations Resource Planning Senior Analyst Gregory O'Laughlin
We are all familiar in some sense with China because we fly to mainland megalopolises Beijing and Shanghai. China is a massive country, not only in terms of population, but also in size, and, like any massive country, there are plenty of hidden gems off the beaten path. I lived in Beijing for seven years before joining United, and one of these places I enjoyed getting lost in was Zhejiang province, with its charming capital Hangzhou as a great staging area for excursions and exploring. Geographically, Zhejiang is just south of the Yangtze River Delta and is accentuated with valleys carved out by rivers, plains, and wetlands. Like in many Chinese cities, in Hangzhou you get a feel for the classic Chinese traditions mixed with the modern.
My first stop in Hangzhou was West Lake, which is one of the most notable tourist attractions and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While the lake itself is quite small (I'm from Chicago, so I'm used to living next to a Great Lake), I totally underestimated the sheer size of the surrounding area with different pathways to all of the pagodas, gardens, temples and various islands. I found it to be a great place to hike and soak up some traditional Chinese culture. One of the things about West Lake that really made an impact on me, having lived in a major metropolis, was the harmony I felt between the classic Chinese architecture and nature; sprawling causeways in the middle of bamboo forests, bridges over lotus-crowded waterways and towering pagodas rising out of the hills. Now, I am not an architect, but I think I began understanding the concept of feng shui a little better after spending a the whole day wandering West Lake; for me, it's quite a tranquil feeling. A hiking achievement for you to unlock is the “Ten Scenes of West Lake," which are the best known scenic spots around the lake.
After West Lake, it was time to soak in more natural beauty at the XiXi National Wetlands Park. This is a massive park that has a long cultural history, a lot of great sites to see, and a traditional Dragon Boat contest (I'm looking at you, fans of United's Sky Dragons). I really enjoyed hiking the various paths throughout the park as well as hiring a traditional ferry to go down through some of the winding waterways. It was interesting to see how the local flora mixed with the traditional architecture along the different waterways. One of the things I really enjoyed was walking through the preserved gardens like emperors from dynasties past.
After enjoying Hangzhou proper, it was time to venture to quite possibly one of my favorite spots in all of China, which is an old water village just outside of Hangzhou by the name of Xitang. If I had to describe it, I would liken it to the Venice of China. It is a series of sidewalks, alleys and bridges along a winding small river through the city. One of the things I liked the most, aside from the feeling you get by relaxing alongside a lazy river, was how the city was illuminated by traditional Chinese lanterns along all sides of the waterways at nighttime. It makes for some excellent night pictures and a very chill nightlife.
Finally, on the way back to Hangzhou, I stopped at a place for all the green tea fans out there. One of the most famous teas in all of China comes from a small village just outside of Hangzhou. It's called Longjing green tea, which literally translates to “Dragon Well." Although I am not the biggest tea fan, this was hands down one of my favorites. I took a tour and history lesson and walked away with a greater appreciation for Chinese tea.
I would highly recommend anyone looking to absorb more Chinese culture to check out Hangzhou as well as explore the rest of Zhejiang province. It offers a nice balance between modern development, traditional culture and natural beauty. So pack your walking shoes, your guide book, and your adventurous spirit.
Now you can fly to Hangzhou from San Fransisco on the only nonstop trans-Pacific flight by any airline. Visit united.com or use the United app to plan your trip to these places off of the beaten path.
When and where possible, we are working to repatriate travelers who are stranded abroad in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Our teams are working closely with government officials here in the U.S. as well as in other countries where flying has been restricted to gain the necessary approvals to operate service. In regions where government actions have barred international flying, we have coordinated with the the U.S. State Department and local government officials to re-instate some flights. Additionally, we have been operating several extra flights to countries in Central America and South America as we continue to play a role in connecting people and uniting the world.
We have operated more than 85 repatriation flights from Panama City, Guatemala City, Quito, Lima, San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa and Roatan, bringing nearly 12,000 people home. We will continue working with government officials to operate extra flights to Houston from Quito, San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa and from Lima to Washington Dulles and beginning April 5, we will begin operating multiple charter flights between Delhi and San Francisco. We continue to review more opportunities for flights between the United States and other countries to bring citizens home.
Video provided by the U.S. Embassy Ecuador of Americans returning home on United.
Additionally, our Customer Solutions and Recovery team is working with customers in the following markets to rebook them on flights back to the United States as capacity allows, either on our aircraft or on one of our airline partners' planes:
- Quito, Ecuador
- Managua, Nicaragua
- Roatan, Honduras
- San Pedro Sula, Honduras
- Seoul, South Korea
- Melbourne, Australia
We also recently reinstated several international flights back into our schedule to support customers and essential businesses which depend on these routes. As a result, we will be the only airline to offer service between Newark/New York and London, San Francisco and Sydney, as well as Houston and São Paulo, Brazil.
Throughout these unprecedented times, we remain committed to doing what is right and fair for all of our MileagePlus® members and are pleased to share the steps we are taking to reciprocate the trust and loyalty that you have placed in United. These steps include not only Premier status updates, but also an extension of current memberships and subscriptions. The updates will happen automatically over the next few weeks — there's nothing you need to do.
The big news: If you have current 2020 Premier status, it will be extended to January 31, 2022. At a minimum, you will enjoy the same published status next year that you have today, up to and including Premier 1K®.
For the 2021 status year, United is reducing thresholds for Premier qualification by 50% for each status level, to make reaching an even higher tier easier. You'll still need a minimum of four flight segments on United or United Express®.
Earn Premier qualifying flights
… or meet a higher PQP goal
We're also doubling PQP for United Explorer cards and quadrupling PQP for the United Club cards.
At the same time that we're decreasing the published program's PQP requirements, via a promotion from May 1 – December 31, 2020, we're doubling (for United Explorer cards) or quadrupling (for United Club cards) the maximum number of PQP that Cardmembers can earn from card spending during 2020 to help achieve a higher level of status than you already have. More details to come later.
1K® and Platinum members, we're increasing your ability to upgrade by extending PlusPoints expiration dates by six months and expanding Skip Waitlist.
- This means a six-month extension of any PlusPoints set to expire on or before January 31, 2021.
- Last year we introduced Skip Waitlist on select flights as a benefit to 1K members, giving you more opportunities to confirm an upgrade request at the time of booking. This benefit will now be available for the rest of 2020 in a significantly expanded selection of long-haul international regions and will have expanded availability in 2021 as well.
We're extending all annual membership and subscription benefits by six months.
- We want to make sure your benefits are still there when you're ready to start flying again. That's why we're extending purchased United Club℠ memberships purchased directly from United and purchased subscriptions for Economy Plus®, United Wi-Fi℠ and checked bags by six months. You should see this reflected in your MileagePlus account soon.
All electronic travel certificates now have 24 months to be used.
- If your travel plans have been disrupted, and you have an electronic travel certificate from us for the value of your ticket, you now have two years from the date it was issued to book a new flight, as well as up to an additional 11 months to travel. This includes all currently valid and all new electronic travel certificates issued on or after April 1, 2020.
We have removed some redeposit fees for the rest of the year.
- We are currently waiving all award redeposit fees for travel through end of May 2020.
- We are now also waiving all redeposit fees for award ticket cancellations made more than 30 days before departure for the remainder of 2020.
Finally, we'll be making it easier to earn status in 2021 for the 2022 program year. We recognize that getting back to travel will occur at a different pace for different members. Keep an eye out for changes we will make to help you earn status in 2021 for 2022, as we'll share details later this year.
Over the years, you have placed your trust and loyalty in United, and we are honored to do the same for you. We are all in this together.
Status extension to January 31, 2022, applies to all members that met the published criteria of the MileagePlus program in 2019, status match associated with the United/Marriott Bonvoy partnership and status offered as part of a Sales nomination. Status granted from other programs and policies may not apply.
To help with the uncertainty around future travel — be it summer vacations, conferences, events and more — customers now have until April 30 to make changes to, or cancel, any travel they have booked through the end of the year without fees. This is in addition to existing waivers already in place which allow customers to change or cancel plans for travel through May 31.If you decide to cancel your flight, you can retain the value of your ticket to be applied to a new ticket without a fee. These electronic travel certificates are now valid for 24 months from the date they were issued. This includes all currently valid electronic certificates and all new ones issued on or after April 1, 2020. You might not see this policy change reflected everywhere right away – we appreciate your patience as we work to make that happen.
Eligible travelers on domestic flights and international tickets can request a refund on united.com or may call our contact centers if their flights have been severely adjusted or service to their destination suspended either due to government mandates or United schedule reductions related to COVID-19.
Certain tickets cannot be changed on united.com or the mobile app, including tickets booked through another airline (if the ticket receipt does not begin with 016). Please contact the original ticketing airline for changes.
Follow the steps below to stay up to date, change or cancel your flight.
Change your current flight:
- On the united.com homepage, select "My Trips" and enter your flight information to retrieve your flight.
- Select "Change flight" and then "Edit" to make the following changes:
- Date of travel or destination
- Add a flight
- Remove a flight
- Select "Continue" and choose a new flight option
- Continue through booking to confirm your new flight
Note: The change fee will display as waived, but any difference in fare may apply.
Cancel your flight and rebook later:
- On the united.com homepage, select "My Trips" and enter your reservation information to retrieve your flight
- Select "Cancel flight"
- Confirm flight cancellation
- If you have future flight credit, when you return to the reservation, select "Use Future Flight Credit" to shop for new flights and apply the credit towards a new flight.
Canceling or changing an award flight:
When you select "Cancel flight," you will have the option to cancel your award reservation and redeposit the miles or to cancel your award reservation and use those miles for another trip in the future.
*We're currently experiencing heavy traffic to united.com. If you experience an error while trying to change or cancel your flight, please try again later.
Click through the slideshow below for more detailed instructions:
Start on the United homepage:
User can select 'My Trips' on the homepage widget to find and retrieve their reservation.
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This is the story of Jason and Shantel. You see, Jason and Shantel love each other very much. They also love traveling and they love the classic Adam Sandler film, The Wedding Singer.
It all began when Jason reached out to United's social media team, hoping for assistance with his upcoming plan to propose. Some phone calls and one borrowed guitar later, the stage was set for Jason. Put all that together, mix in some helpful United employees and, voila, you have a truly memorable marriage proposal. Congratulations to this fun-loving and happy couple, and here's to many more years of making beautiful music together.
A big thank you to Chicago-based flight attendants Donna W., Marie M., Karen J. and Mark K. for making this proposal come to life.