The 8 Most Overrated/Underrated Things in Travel

Underrated doesn’t mean something is the best, just that it’s better than commonly appreciated. Overrated doesn’t mean it’s not good — or even great — just that it isn’t as good as people in general seem to think.

Overrated or underrated is about lowering or raising the status of things. It’s about whether you think people in general regard it too highly, or not highly enough, relative to its actual worth.

Here are five things I think are the most underrated.

  1. The Spirit Airlines Big Front Seat. Alongside the Southwest Airlines companion pass and Alaska Airlines $99 credit card companion ticket this is arguably one of the very best deals in travel. Pre-pandemic Spirit Airlines had improved its reliability and joined up with PreCheck, and is even adding inflight internet. Their recent operational problems aside, the airline just isn’t as bad as it used to be (indeed, they aren’t as bad as they used to want you to think they were!).

    They sell what you might think of as first class seats for a pittance above coach, often less than $40. And what you’re getting is exactly what they’re selling – a Big Front Seat – without extra benefits besides earlier boarding. It’s first class on an increasingly decent airline for less than you imagine.

    Copyright: boarding1now / 123RF Stock Photo

  2. Uber. Their reputation went through the ringer, then they spent a lot of time trying to be seen as nice. They aren’t the underdog anymore fighting politicians in the pockets of taxi bosses for the right to operate. Now they’re the ones blocking competitors. And they seem to have scaled back their entrepreneurial ambitions.

    But it’s hard to imagine I only started covering Uber nine years ago. Getting around unfamiliar cities is so much easier summoning a ride on my phone with the touch of a button and knowing exactly where the car is on its way to pick me up. There’s not even a physical financial transaction at the end of the ride. When I do use a taxi I have to remind myself I need to pay before getting out and walking away.

    Thanks in large measure to Uber and competitors my wife and I share a car, I simply don’t drive very much, and I don’t even rent cars on most of my trips either.

  3. World of Hyatt. There were no real changes to the points-earning and redemption program at all when they changed the Gold Passport name to World of Hyatt. Their top elite tier is still the most rewarding for anyone that can make the chain’s 1000 or so hotel footprint work. No one else does confirmed suites at booking the same way, let alone opportunities for premium suite redemptions. No one else does full (not continental) breakfast.

    The second elite tier that isn’t competitive with Marriott or Hilton, and telling folks who used to qualify on 25 stays they weren’t as important as they used to think caused a backlash. They got rid of check-in amenities too in exchange for expiring free nights. They added suite upgrades for top elites if available at check-in and a dedicated representative to work with all things Hyatt on though execution of the My Hyatt Concierge program should be better.

    Hyatt still needs a bigger hotel footprint, though they’ve added brands and alliance partner hotels. They also allow points transfers at no cost between members, and redemptions out of a top tier elite account gift that status to the recipient for their stay. It’s a real shame they haven’t aggressively courted dissatisfied Marriott members through status challenges, preferring to recruit American Airlines flyers instead!

    Park Hyatt Buenos Aires

  4. American Airlines Business Class. It’s the best international business class product of any US airline. Lounges are better than Delta, and the bedding is somewhat improved too. They don’t offer doors like Delta, but the seat is spacious and they don’t fly inferior 767s like Delta does. Cabin crew are a mixed bag, to be sure, but where they aren’t competing against the likes of Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, and ANA how much better are their competitors really?

    American B/E Aerospace Super Diamond Seat

  5. Awards for British Airways business and first class with fuel surcharges. The product is generations behind their competitors, but catching up with their new seats and they’ve finally made progress on inflight internet. The business class seats are packed in like sardines. First class is dense, less spacious than American’s first class. And spending miles for this subpar product you get charged a big cash premium — surcharges — to boot.

    The new direct aisle access business class seats with doors are a vast improvement. But award redemption on BA can mean a cash co-pay of $1000 or more in addition to the miles you’re redeeming for a subpar product.

    British Airways 777 Business Class Center Seats

    However they’re so beat up over quality and price that it’s easy to forget there’s still good award availability and redeeming miles you’re still getting value, especially in my view first class using American Airlines or Alaska miles when nothing else in a premium cabin is available. Think of surcharges on a first class award as buying a coach ticket and spending miles for a confirmed triple upgrade.

    British Airways First Class

Here are the 3 things I think are the most are overrated:

  1. Delta’s reliability Delta is known for not cancelling flights, and for operating a more on time airline than all except Hawaiian (not much bad weather in Hawaii) and Alaska. Delta’s comparative advantage is their TechOps, which manages to get planes ready to fly despite working with an older fleet than competitors.

    And their reliability has created a halo over the product, customers want to fly them. People are willing to give up value in a frequent flyer program. And they’re willing to gloss over deficiencies in the product (they went to 36 inch pitch in first class long before American did).

    At the end of the day they’re more reliable but their operation did melt down over several recent holidays and the gap in on-time performance is historically just a few percentage points. And they shouldn’t get as much of a pass on the rest of their product as they do because of it.

    Delta check-in, Austin

  2. United Polaris. It’s taken years to actually have new seats on planes, United announced the product five years ago but marketed it heavily confusing customers. For months passengers would email me insisting they were going to have the new seats because United’s website listed their reservation as ‘Polaris’ when that was really just United’s new brand name for long haul business.

    United has the best business class bedding in the sky, but even the new seats are just “keeping up with the Joneses” in the words of their President at best. It’s a lie flat direct aisle access seat that gives each passenger less space than competitors. It’s a way of getting away from the old six and eight across seats on Boeing 777s without taking up more space in the aircraft.

    It’s an improvement, to be sure, it’s a reason not to avoid flying United. But even without all the cuts to the soft product it isn’t one of the better business classes in the world, and isn’t even one of the better business seats offered by a U.S. airline.

    United Polaris Business Seat

  3. American Express Centurion lounges I’ve called these lounges so crowded nobody goes there anymore. They were lauded when they first opened because they were genuinely better than airline lounges in the U.S. — more stylish, better drinks, and good hot food offerings. Some have showers and spas. But good lounges attract passengers, who spend more time more frequently in the lounge than you ever expect and they’re crowded. The food investment also seems scaled back compared with earlier years as they try to handle the cost that comes with the volume. Still, they are nice which is why so many people go and they get crowded. And they aren’t all, always crowded.

    Centurion Lounge, Philadelphia

What about the Goldilocks approach, what’s rated just right? I had a harder time coming up with things that are fairly rated:

  • Street food in Southeast Asia. Street food in Bangkok, in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and food stalls in Singapore are widely regarded the world over. I’m tempted to say that even so they’re still underrated because they’re so darned good. But I think it’s fairer to say that they simply live up to the hype.

    Singapore Hawker Stalls

What do you think is overrated, underrated, or fairly rated?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Underrated – buying a seat for a child under 2. Sure, this is a narrow niche, though for all the stressing about flying with babies, this seems to be the difference between intolerable (for both those with the baby and those NEAR the baby) and manageable. Just because something can be free doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

  2. Def agree on the Big Front Seat. As for AA’s business class, I suppose it’s true on tatl. I’m usually flying to Asia, though, where I cannot imagine any sane human being actually choosing them over their jv partner jal — or cx, ana, ke, oz, sg…

  3. You will never give Delta the credit they deserve and cut them up for anything they do wrong. SkyMiles is far from the being the best, but the rest of Delta easily beats AA and UA. It is pretty remarkable that Delta does as well as they do. With older planes and and very poorly located hubs (with exception of ATL), Delta does well at things that UA and AA routinely screw up. Meanwhile AA does so much wrong and somehow you still think it is ok. Will I ever experience AA Business? Probably not, because the couple 100k AA miles that I have are going to be used on a partner. It also doesn’t impress me that my in-laws with millions of AA miles are having difficulty redeeming them for flights 10 months from now. You criticize SkyMiles, AA wants 360K, in J, roundtrip to PHL to DUB in March.

    Your other 7 points, I can agree with you.

  4. Overrated: Emirates. They get lots of media love because of their first class suites (and onboard showers) which a very small percentage of their passengers actually experience. But their business class is a mixed bag: seat type (angled vs lie flat) and configuration (2-3-2, 2-2-2, or 1-2-1) vary depending on aircraft. And Emirates was one of the early adopters of 10 across in economy on 777s.

    Underrated: herringbone business seats, like on Air New Zealand. People focus on the seat’s drawbacks (awkward to look out the window) but overlook the seat’s benefits. No enclosed footwell means no restricted space for your feet. Plus, the footrest can be used as a companion seat.

  5. Fairly rated: Singapore Airport. Butterfly garden. Swimming pool. Lots of other ways to pass the time or relax between flights. Security machines at gates is a better system. Very well run. Deserves its reputation as the best airport in the world.

  6. @andy11235- you are mad. AA TranPac Biz class is miles ahead of The overrated CX product. Let’s begin by just last week, FINALLy, CX announced bedding and slippers! Aa had extremely comfortable Casper Bedding ,and full Pajamas… IFE goes to AA, Dining goes to AA, this use to be a win for CX but their catering in biz has been shit the last two years…

    AA also leaves out snacks and drinks In the galley. I like this, it’s a nice touch.. AA has air Nozles ..

    Only mixed bag is the cabin crew. Cx wins, but hard product. AA by far. Need to revisit that old narrative

  7. Agree with most of your thoughts! I’m a big fan of American. Some good sweet spots. Nice lounges. Good seats. Decent service in the front and guaranteed economy plus for free for whole fam if platinum.

    Underrated – lifemiles. Everyone complains about websites, changing flights etc. but I find the call center to be perfectly usable. New website is a downgrade but otherwise almost miraculous value when you buy points at 1.3c! Have had multiple “cheap” biz flights on Swiss Lufthansa and united domestic biz.

  8. Overrated:. Airline status. Just use points for F/J, so status does very little.

    Underrated: Hilton Aspire. Get off the hotel status chasing carousel, and get paid for it too.

  9. Two great points. American gets a bad rap because of its domestic operations with a plane flying 4 different routes a day of course a union heavy airline like American is going to have problems. But international 777 and 787 business class is right up there with Cathay for the hard product. I actually like the color scheme and paneling better on AA than Cathay.

    Delta has the worst frequent flyer program. Out of NYC the only routinely avaliable business class saver space is to London on Virgin Atlantic and very occasionally to Korea on KAL. Everything else is terrible and anytime awards are astronomical like 350k for something that would be 150k anytime on American or united. The upholstery on Delta’s Delta One is awful. I’d take American’s 767s any day.

  10. Overrated – This blog every time it re-uses the Puddle of Mud singer video whenever a baggage claim story is the subject.

  11. Overrated: domestic first class

    Maybe not by readers of this blog but oh jeeze when I tell a non-frequent-flyer friend I got an upgrade from like LAX to DEN they ask me how many celebrities I saw and how much Dom Perignon did I drink lol

  12. BA business class is perfect unlike the first class which is also perfect but a bit underrated in my opinion. One should try it at least once.

    Anybody wanna explore the Himalayas?

  13. Overrated : any premium seat with doors. Double overrating if it’s called a suite

  14. I’ll agree here with AA business class, it’s much much better than Cathay business class. I was very disappointed flying in Cathay J earlier this year.

  15. It’s odd that in your positive evaluation of AA business class, you acknowledge the hit or miss quality of AA staff, when for me, the consistency of how I am treated by staff is the most important factor (behind safety) when choosing an airline. Because of the consistency I receive from Delta, there is no competition between the two. In truth, the last time I flew AA was almost 2 years ago, so maybe things are better. On a side note, unless you are specifically making a comparison to the 787 or A350, I do not find the 767 to offer an inferior premium class product.

  16. AMEX lounge access is forcing me to quit on my AMEX Plat card…it’s just not worth it!

  17. Agree on BA. Though the surcharges are high, award availability as well as availability to upgrade to CW with miles from a PE ticket at booking are very good (probably for that reason). On top of that, they took the reverse course from UA and vastly improved their food in the air, and their lounges are not the worn out, standing room only, cheese, cracker and bud places that most of UA’s are, other than the Polaris lounges, which are slow being rolled out (IAD still doesn’t have one).

    Also agree on UA Polaris. The new seats are starting to pop up on my TATL routes this year, and they are nice, but UA’s food and service has noticeably deteriorated since Polaris was rolled out.

    I purchased a very long haul couple of flights in business a few days ago (a 7 hour followed by a 12 hour, and then a return) and am actually looking forward to flying it on BA and using BA (and Cathay and Qantas) lounges rather than on UA. Not only that, I was unable to use any of my GPUs (as a 1K) on any UA routing, and BA was slightly cheaper. (Maybe I will purchase an upgrade to First on a leg or two.) I don’t like that you have to pay for the better seats, but as an AA Plat for now, I get that waived.

  18. You complain about AA’s loss of seat back screens, then claim Delta’s halo comes from on time performance. No, Delta’s halo comes from its in flight experience, which is light years ahead of where Delta was a decade ago, even 5 years ago.

    For most overrated, I’ll say every domestic frequent flyer program, save Alaska and (maybe) WN. Award availability is absolute junk. Upgrades are just as bad. Our CO and USA Mastercards (and the accumulated miles) turned to garbage after the Ua and AA mergers. I even cancelled my WN Visa. Why bother with the headache? If you want to sit in the front of the plane, just pay to sit in the front of the plane.

    Most underrated: MCO. People whine about this airport just because of all the families with little kids. OTOH, Orlando is pretty easy to get around and big enough for its pax. It’s better able to handle its large crowds than any other US airport.

    Most underrated: vacationing off season. For those of us who are crowd averse, or cheap, off season destinations are the best, whether it’s Madrid in January or Miami in August.

    BTW, if I ever walked into a Centurion lounge and saw it as crowded as that photo, I’d cancel my card.

  19. Underrated – Southwest. I change & cancel my reservations all the time with no penalty – at worst I have to take a credit to use on another flight. Easy to get an aisle seat. Sometimes more convenient airports (OAK).

    Overrated – Airbnb. When you buy a chain hotel room you almost always know what you will receive. Airbnb properties are never as nice as the photos, and the bathrooms are almost always the weakest link. Daily maid service is definitely underrated.

  20. I completely disagree about Hyatt being underrated. There were MANY negative changes when they went from GP to WoH (need I remind you of the truly awful Reddit AMA Hyatt held). From the moment of that announcement, I’d argue that most top-tier travelers moved to SPG. While I know that SPG is now gone and Hyatt is the best program for top-tier elites, it’s certainly not as good as it was pre-WoH and is much harder to attain top-tier (previously 25 stays, in 2020 it’s 60+ nights) with a very limited footprint. Also, in their effort to expand, they’re doing it by adding alliances with groups like SLH and others that don’t offer elite benefits.

    While Hyatt is the best that’s out there, let’s not reward them from being best in a significantly-weakened field, since their program is worse than it was only a few years ago.

  21. Underrated: Timeshare Travel. Now that the big brands allow hotel points folks are finally seeing what all the fuss with extra space/washer dryers in unit/kitchens is all about! Too expensive? So is 60,000 Bonvoy Points or $600/night if you don’t own!

  22. Disagree strongly with AA J international. We flew June 2019 with some hesitation having heard terrible stories…and they were all true-no entertainment for 1/3 of us (the tablet never worked), absent FA after the meal was served, terrible seat comfort. I’ve never arrived dehydrated from a flight in F/J on any other airline (the much maligned UA, DL, Q, etc). My daughter and mother flew back in Delta’s comfort plus and declared their flight (even with a 2 hr delay on the tarmac) MUCH better than AA’s J.

    I also disagree with Delta’s assessment-I could fly any of the major 3 from my airport and DL consistently has power outlets, entertainment, smiles and comfy seats. Also in the 21 years I’ve flown them, 2 overnight stays in ATL due to IRROPS, which is pretty darn good.

    Agree with Hyatt-wonderful program and not let down.

    Overrated-Hilton Diamond-just worthless to me.

    Properly rated-Qantas F experience-no flashy cars but Lounge is amazing, flight was wonderful.

    Underrated-UA Polaris-wonderful service and product flying back from MUC. Compared to AA’s pathetic experience, night/day.

  23. Overrated (though probably not “one of the top X most overrated): Schiphol airport. Dirty, little access to power points, bad PP and AA partner lounges in international departures, entire concourses with no/overflowing restrooms. I know I can to see a handful of paintings at the mini Rijksmuseum, but other than standing in long duty free shopping lines, don’t want to spend any time there. Credit for having a great train station under it; that just means you can leave more quickly.

  24. Right about Uber and AA Business class. Uber is great because I can see how long it will take for a driver to show up, see where he is on the map, only leave my home/room/building/attraction when he is close, I don’t have to speak to a Dominican operator to give the address, and I don’t have to worry about the payment. It’s easy. Calling car service is not a pleasant experience. Getting a yellow cab is hard in Manhattan unless you are at a stand. Sometimes, they don’t want to take you out of Manhattan.

    AA has a solid business class product on the 772. The service is what it is (whether it’s old ladies or 45 year olds), but the seats are nice. The lounges are nice. The food is decent enough.

    I disagree about Hyatt. The hotel shown in Buenos Aires is so plain and boring in room design like nearly every 5 star Hyatt property. The Four Seasons in Buenos Aires is preferable. Hyatt might be ok for business travel but the rooms are devoid of elegance one should aspire to have on vacation. Some travel 2-4 weeks a year for vacation. It should be aesthetically better than home.

  25. @Chris

    You’re right about Schiphol. The check in area looks decent and modern. After security the airport looks like it is 30 years passé. It’s not what I expected from a major international destination. The baggage is incredibly slow to arrive.

  26. Forgot the underrated. Star Alliance member Ethiopian Airlines. Great service, even during the pandemic.

  27. Underrated: Open seating on Southwest. Through seat selection you can greatly increase your probability of getting an empty middle seat next to you. Or you can choose your neighbors, which is usually better than choosing a location.

    Overrated: Covid hazard on board. The greater hazard is shared transportation to and from the airport.

  28. Baby Boomer parenting skills are overrated. They created the entitled, gimme-gimme Millennial attitude . . . including expectations regarding travel. On more than one travel blog site, I have seen someone actually commenting that it was unfair that elite status members get all of the perks and that they were not . . . including complimentary champagne to those in first class. (Are you *stinking* kidding me?)

    One must climb the mountain to enjoy the view. (But, some expect a helicopter ride.)

    Yes, there are specific instances that disappoint us. And, yes, we all want things to improve over time. But, on average, life is pretty good and I’m grateful for it. On average, the aircraft are nice, the flight crews are nice, the lounges are nice, the hotels are nice. And, if we choose, we can pay up for “nicer.” (One person commenting to this posted inferred negativity when mentioning older flight attendants — for shame.)

    As for the crowding at Amex lounges, hopefully, this will ease up when the spending requirement for guest access kicks in. (Enter the complaints.)

    As for BA redemption value — or any airline for that matter — I believe this is skill-based. My threshold is 3.5 cents per point (net of the surcharge). I encourage practice.

    Lastly, there’s something about a traditional London taxi that is appealing.

  29. Overrated: Pajamas and bedding. It’s an airplane, not a flying hotel. Also overrated are the mentally and physically soft people that use them. Go to a spa if you feel the need to be pampered.

  30. Underrated:
    1. Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Card – For $450 a year, you and your whole family can get Admirals Club access, even when they travel without you. (Even friends if you trust them.) Maybe Admirals Clubs aren’t the greatest product on the market, but compare that to no club access and having to sit with the great unwashed, and the Admirals Club is a serious step up. My adult kids travel only a few times a year and seriously value when they get access. Forget some worthless Xmas present this year and consider giving them Authorized User status. Not to mention the other perks you get from being the cardholder.
    2. Elite status on any legacy carrier. Any elite status. Not sure what you get on any other airlines, but even Gold on AA is so much better than no status. I’m not traveling on a business account, I’m paying for my own tickets, so being able to get great access to better seats at booking without paying is a huge perk. Even at Gold, you can usually nab a MCE seat at 24 hours if you keep checking as other people are upgraded or switch flights. At Platinum, you can grab them at booking. And at Platinum Pro, free domestic upgrades to Hawaii is a perk I’m about to nab. Spotted a few flights to Hawaii with a ton of open seats only a few weeks out in First/Business, should be an easy upgrade. We won’t even talk about access to European lounges at Platinum and above – so choice to someone like me.

    3. – Just started using this app and found a huge number of wonderful deals for small hotels and apartments in Spain, city center. Sub-100 (or just above) euros/night for two bedrooms, top of the line accommodations and location. A seriously overlooked app for non-hotel accommodations.

    Overrated – Flying is business/first on transoceanic flights for 200K+ miles RT. I’m sure it’s a nice product, but I have better uses for 200K miles, which to me is a lot. I can fly my family of four to Europe and back for that, plus a little, then get a nice hotel or VRBO when we arrive. If you’ve got millions of miles to burn, sure, might consider it, but I’m cheap and want bang for my buck, especially when it’s my buck. People whining about their croissant being 2 degrees off ideal temp in their J seat to CDG sounds to me like humblebragging.

  31. Hilton is overrated because of how much they have devalued their program. Hyatt is awesome but overrated in that they don’t offer enough properties for the average traveler to use them as a sole hotel chain.
    Credit card “Experiences” is highly overrated. I get tons of offers for free concerts or access to some special chef or some other lame thing but 98% of the time it’s in NYC or LA it seems. Like nobody else exists in flyover country.
    Jet Blue is overrated. Sure it’s a good airline and very nice but they are missing a large chunk of the USA. They should have expanded their domestic footprint before trying to go TATL.

  32. Kudos for listing BA’s award redemptions as being a ripoff. The taxes and surcharges ladled on to even an economy award are offensive. In many cases, you can literally pay for an equivalent seat on another airline and save money over an “award redemption” on BA. I’ve taken to using Avios for trips on AA, where they can still be a great deal.

    But otherwise, BA Avios redemptions are terribly overrated.

  33. Overrated: Loyalty to any Corporate “Loyalty Program.”

    Underrated: Free Agency, Getting the best deal/value, thinking about yourself for a change.

  34. Overrated: Air Canada. Absolute garbage of an airline with horrible customer service and on time performance

    Underrated: Google maps. How did we ever drive in foreign places without it???

  35. Gary, why are some comments from
    over 2 years ago? Is this post a rerun? If so, thanks! Very informative! I frequently go searching through your old posts for fun. Good stuff!

  36. Alaska Airlines is extremely overrated. Using Alaska miles on Qatar is 90% impossible. Very little or no availability on most days and to most cities.
    Also it is the only airline that routes to through overnight stays in a different city. You would thing with such a strong presence in Seattle, there would be lost of connections and non stop flights. But they route you through Portland or some California city where you have to spend the whole night before connecting to a flight in the morning that is 12 hours later. Example: Seattle to Hawaii via overnight SFO : 20 hours. No other airlines has such bad connections.

    Alaska also consistently has higher fares – by about 10% compared to Delta.

  37. Schiphol: it’s not always crowded. When it’s not, you might be able to spot the mice.
    Status helps enormously. In Western Europe, business class is the same pitch as the first rows of economy behind it, they have a blocked middle seat, and they get lounge access and a meal onboard.
    With status, I get one of those seats up front, a shadow in the middle seat (unless the plane fills up and then I get a dead head), lounge access, and a main cabin catering selection, all for half the price.
    That contact line is gold, though. I’ve been rebooked and put in a hotel while everyone else was still at the gate. Last week, I had some TATL J tickets where the cancellation/reschedule made them pointless. The website both said a refund was possible and refused to process the request, while warning that refunds can take up to two months. Call the magic number, the thing is filed in two minutes and credited within the week.

  38. Underrated- WestJet premium economy. You get the same type of first class seat that you get on AA and other carriers except WestJet calls it premium economy. Also get a hot and tasty meal, free drinks, and dedicated check-in desks. Employees are consistently very friendly and helpful.

  39. @Boraxo – I agree about airbnb. It’s generally my last choice for accomodations, especially in the USA. Everyone in America thinks their place is worth more than it is. If you know how to play the hotel game, you’ll generally get much better quality, reliability and value at a hotel. The reviews are so untruthworthy (everyone is afraid of not giving their hosts 5 stars) that you get a better picture of boutique properties on sites like

  40. @Ann – “Underrated: Google maps. How did we ever drive in foreign places without it???”


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