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Here's Why United Is Handing Out Frequent Flyer Miles To Hackers

July 20, 2015 at 8:41 AM | by | ()

There are a lot of ways to earn frequent flyer miles: through credit cards, shopping portals, or just the old-fashioned way of, well, frequently flying. Now United has introduced a new opportunity to score them — but you're going to need to be very familiar with navigating your way around computer systems.

As NBC News, reports, United is awarding millions of frequent flyer miles to hackers that uncover potential security problems and other issues in the airline's web systems. Basically, if you can discover hiccups across their web security, you will be handsomely awarded. We can feel the sand between our toes already!

United launched the program shortly before the recent tech glitch that grounded thousands of flights, so apparently it came too late to help on that front. But the carrier recently confirmed that it has paid out a pair of awards worth one million miles. (Unfortunately they did not release the identities of these folks, so no chance of buddying up to them in hopes of tagging along on some of their travels. Or getting some IT help.) These were just two big time miles distributions; it sounds like a bunch of smaller rewards were handed out as well.

As of now United seems to be one of the few carriers officially recognizing this type of program (others wouldn't comment to NBC News), but we can bet that this may become a way in which airlines make themselves aware of web vulnerabilities. As for us? We’re off to Barnes and Noble in hopes of picking up Hacking for Dummies. And some Fodor's guides, just in case.

[Photo: United]

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United Adds Nonstop Service from Chicago to Turks and Caicos

July 10, 2015 at 12:25 AM | by | ()

Chicagoans rejoice! United Airlines is offering nonstop flights from Chicago O'Hare to Providenciales in Turks and Caicos from December 19, 2015 through April 30, 2016. The new service will operate on Saturdays over the course of the Caribbean’s high season.

The outbound Boeing flight will depart from Chicago on Saturdays at 10:40 a.m., arriving in Providenciales at 3:40 p.m., and the return flight will depart Providenciales at 1:49 p.m. and arrive in Chicago at 5:09 p.m.

Bookings for the new direct service are now available. So the elephant (err, Boeing 737) in the room: How much will it set you back? For comparison, we found a $580 direct flight on January 9 (returning January 16); the lowest fare for the same dates was $565, which has a 1 hour 12 minute layover in Newark. For $15 extra bucks, we'll take the direct. See you in Turks!

[Photo: United Airlines]

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United Airlines Temporarily Grounded on a Glitch-Filled Day

July 8, 2015 at 1:28 PM | by | ()

Remember when Y2K never showed up? Turns out it was just 14 years late to the party. (Lost the invitation, GPS was on the fritz, had to stop for gas — you know the deal. Whatta life, rite?)

In an eerie series of cyber apocalypse-style coincidences, technical glitches ground three major institutions to a halt today. (Per CNN, the Homeland Security Department has said there's "no sign of malicious activity.") Among them was United Airlines, which earlier this morning experienced a software problem that caused the FAA to issue a ground stop at 8:26 AM; no United flights were allowed to take off until the stop was lifted over an hour later, a delay that impacted about 4,900 flights worldwide, reports CNN. Though it appears the technical issue has been resolved, it will take much longer for schedules to return to normal — and for temporarily grounded passengers to arrive at their final destination.

Also today trading has been halted on the New York Stock Exchange due to a "technical issue." "The issue we are experiencing is an internal technical issue and is not the result of a cyber breach," tweeted the NYSE. At around the same time trading stopped, the Wall Street Journal saw its homepage go down; it has since been restored.

[Photo: United]

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United Passengers Agree: This Weekend Saw One Hellish Layover

June 15, 2015 at 2:01 PM | by | ()

Here’s the thing about unexpected airline emergencies and layovers: Most passengers — assuredly not all, but most — understand that sometimes, ish just happens. And passengers are, generally, reasonable human beings who want airlines to err on the side of safety. We’ll take the temporary inconvenience of a butchered travel itinerary over any chance that we will, you know, crash.

That said, there is a right way — and a very wrong way — to handle flight diversions. Guess which model United Airlines followed over the weekend? (Hint: Its PR team probably didn’t get a lot of sleep this weekend. Or they were sleeping on the job — depending on how you look at it.)

On Friday night, United Airlines Flight 958 was en route from Chicago to London when the craft was grounded “as a precaution” because there were “some lights on in the cockpit.” (That’s what one passenger told CNN, relaying the captain’s initial information. A United spokesperson has since described the incident as a “maintenance issue.”) Just as it was beginning its Atlantic crossing, the plane u-turned and landed at a remote Canadian military base in Goose Bay, Newfoundland. And here’s where the real nightmare began: for 20 hours (!) the 176 passengers whiled away in military barracks where overnight temperatures slid into the 30s, many spending the night in rooms without heat and supplied only with a pillow and simple sheet – no blankets. (Also, it’s reported, without towels for showers, depending on where in the barracks you happened to be placed.) Passengers weren’t able to access any extra or spare clothes in their luggage, which remained on the plane. They went half a day without food — breakfast was eventually served around 8 AM — and more upsetting to most, without active communication from the airline about what was going on. Tweets sent from passengers suggest that they went many hours without hearing word about what was going on and when they’d be updated on next steps.

Adding perceived insult to injury, crew spent the night at a nearby hotel, and showed up fresh-faced to the scene in the morning. (“The crew must rest to continue the flight,” United responded via Twitter to one irritated passenger. This is not untrue, but passengers may have felt less slighted if they all had heat, at least.)

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United Says 'Drinks On Us' For Those Traveling Overseas

April 23, 2015 at 9:05 AM | by | ()

Hungry travelers, take heed. Your summer travel just got that much better if you’re heading overseas with United, as the carrier is upgrading and improving some of their in-flight food and beverage offerings.

Eating beforehand is probably still a solid recommendation for those flying in coach, but it does sound like United is making some kind of effort to provide economy passengers with a little more than the usual cabin fare. Beginning June 1 the carrier will introduce a three-course meal — or their version, at least.

Things will begin simple enough with some kind of variation of cheese and crackers. Main course options will include things like Tuscan ravioli and udon noodles with stir-fried vegetables, and all these entrées will be accompanied by salad and bread. After choking things down making a happy plate dessert will be provided, as gelato, mousse, and ice cream will all be in the rotation.

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Here's Why This Pro Hacker Was Banned By United Airlines

April 21, 2015 at 10:28 AM | by | ()

You know that famous admonition against “shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater”? Here’s an updated version for 2015: “Don’t shout ‘I could totally hack your onboard systems’ in an airplane!” (Modern life, amirite?)

On the other hand, maybe you’ll think that United Airlines overreacted when it stopped Chris Roberts from boarding a flight over the weekend. Roberts, a (very) prominent online security systems researcher and founder of One World Labs, a Denver-based firm that helps clients identify potential cyber threats, was supposed to board a Saturday flight to San Francisco for a security conference. According to the AP report, Roberts wasn’t originally told why he wasn’t allowed to board the plane, but will be sent an explanatory letter shortly.

But it appears, says everyone, that this was probably a response to a tweet Roberts sent last week while flying United, when he joked about hacking into the plane’s systems to deploy the oxygen masks.

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United Got Us to Montego Bay Safely, Albeit Without WiFi or Custom Forms

April 14, 2015 at 3:22 PM | by | ()

It's time for another juicy Flight Review. Contributor Linda Marsicano was underwhelmed with her recent flight to Jamaica on United. Agree or disagree? Sound off in comments below!

Let me preface this review by saying that, these days, when an airline gets my family and I safely to our destination, it was a successful flight and I’m deeply grateful. Get me there on time to boot and bonus points ensue.

But, we do have the choice about which airlines to fly and one can’t help comparing the amenities that are offered and extra fees that are charged when spending hundreds of dollars (or valuable airline miles) on flights.

That said, we flew United Flight 1251 to Montego Bay from Chicago O’Hare April 4 - which arrived safely and on time so the major tenets of a good flight were, indeed, accomplished - and the WiFi wasn’t working, the crew ran out of immigration forms, there were no free snacks (no surprise here), and the ones they were selling ones were rather overpriced (Pringles for $3.99, for example).

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United Says 'Cheers' To More Beers

April 2, 2015 at 9:39 AM | by | ()

Good news for those who enjoy an in-flight happy hour, as once again United Airlines is reaching into the craft beer cellar and picking out a new selection.

The airline is continuing their partnership with Chicago’s Goose Island Beer Company, as this time it’s the Goose IPA that is being loaded into the beverage cart. This is beverage option number two from United and Goose Island, as they have already been serving up 312 Urban Wheat Ale for a little bit of time. Eventually the Goose IPA will replace the former option, as United looks to rollout the new ale worldwide throughout April.

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What's That Smell? Oh, That's Just United's New 'Landing' Scent

March 16, 2015 at 4:00 PM | by | ()

Just the other day United was on our radar, as the airline was talking about the newest additions and what not to their United Club menu—like pita chips. Now they are back once again, as United is trying out some new ideas when it comes to the boarding area.

Over at Chicago-O’Hare the carrier is changing things up within Terminal 1, as gates B4, B8, and B10 are getting the new look. Stuff like new seating areas, mood lighting, more power outlets, and even gate agent podiums are all part of the new look. We’d imagine it’s been decades since any thought or design has been put into the boarding area over at United, so we’re thinking that change is a good thing.

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United's United Club is Giving Their Lounge Food a Slight Upgrade

March 9, 2015 at 10:39 AM | by | ()

United Club, the airline's airport lounge brand, is upgrading and improving their food and beverage. But don't get too excited. Yes, it's better than their former offerings, however, it’s still very much lacking when compared to an international lounge.

Some of the new options include an oatmeal and Greek yogurt bar during the morning along with scones, cereals, and other goodies during breakfast. (Excited yet?) Different soups will make an appearance during the afternoon hours as well as hummus, salami and cheese, and something they’re calling a Mediterranean Salad—think wheat berries, peppers, tomatoes, and black olives. (See? We told you not to get too excited.)

These goodies will all be free for members, but they are thinking about offering up some food-for-sale options later this year.

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Beijing Comes to Chicago at The United Terminal at O'Hare

January 27, 2015 at 3:32 PM | by | ()

The United Terminal at Chicago O’Hare International Airport just got a little artsier.

“City Windows,” a permanent art installation has been unveiled near gate B19, It was created by Chinese artist Qiao Xiaoguang and it’s pretty awesome. So awesome, it might not make us so pissed off to fly United anymore.

The ancient art of Chinese paper cutting was used to create a panorama of iconic images from Chicago and Beijing. The images highlight landmarks like Navy Pier and the Willis Tower in Chicago, and Tiananmen Square and the Olympic Stadium in Beijing. The display symbolizes the deep friendship and cultural and business connections between Chicago and China, and can also be viewed from outside the airport when approaching the terminal.

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United Begins To Flip The Switch On Regional Jet WiFi

January 14, 2015 at 10:24 AM | by | ()

Wow—it’s been years and years since United first put WiFi on a muthafunking plane, but now that it's 2015, United is finally set to offer WiFI on their regional jet fleet. The cramped legroom and claustrophobic conditions will feel less so, as you’ll be tweeting, streaming, and posting from here to there.

Aircraft like the E170, E175, and CRJ700 will be heading into the hangar, as Gogo InFlight’s ATG-4 advanced air-to-ground is to be installed, hopefully by summer. Not only can travelers expect the usual WiFi offerings, but these planes—thankfully—will also score a slice of what United calls their “Personal Device Entertainment” giving access to movies, television, and other goodies right from your own mobile screen.

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