Flanders From Belgium, joined Oct 2008, 116 posts, RR: 0 Posted (5 years 3 months 2 days 1 hour ago) and read 7977 times:
As I had one more week of holiday I had to take up before the end of the year, I decided to go on a short holiday or city trip. I was looking for…
1) a nice city with lots of culture
2) sunny & warm weather
3) a cheap ticket to get there!
And the winner turned out to be: Mexico City! I found a very cheap ticket on www.connections.be
I paid 475 euro ($ 620) return, including all taxes. Here you can see the print screen of the itinerary:
And this is what the itinerary looks like on united.com
FLIGHT 1: BRU – IAD
Airplane: Boeing 777-200 (new CS)
Departure Gate : B11
Departure time: 12.10 pm (on time)
Load factor (Y): 95%
Before check-in, there was the usual USA entry interview. Following questions were asked:
- Why are you going to the USA?
- How long will you stay there?
- Where are you transiting to?
- Why are you visiting Mexico?
- Did you prepare your bags yourself?
- Did you have your bags unattended since you packed them?
- Do you have weapons in your luggage or objects that might look like weapons?
- Do you have liquids in your carry-on luggage?
- And so on…
After this interview I could continue to the check-in where I received my boarding passes BRU – IAD and IAD – MEX.
I was also given the green form (visa waiver) needed to transit through the USA and a customs declaration form.
Approximately 1 hour before departure the UA 777 was brought to the gate. It had been standing on a remote parking for quite some time. I guess this is due to the gate shortage for heavies. There are a lot of heavies arriving and departing at BRU in the morning. I remember seeing about 5 Jet Airways aircraft (A330/B777) departing or getting prepared for departure.
I boarded the airplane around 11.30 am. And it turned out the plane would be quite full. I immediately checked channel 9 and yes… it was working! I didn’t watch any movie on this flight. Now, I don’t want to sound snobby but those PVT’s look old and small… so I just enjoyed channel 9 all the way from BRU to IAD. Very interesting! Once over the Atlantic, I tried to sleep a bit but that didn’t work out so good.
Food on this flight was more than ok! Lunch was served after 1h in flight. I chose chicken. I don’t remember what the other option was. About 1h before landing, everyone received a kind of snack box. It had a package of Doritos crackers and a Kit Kat. I found out that the “best before” date had almost expired for 3 months. But I guess products can be served for a certain amount of days/months after this date? Well, at least I didn’t get sick.
We arrived in IAD on time despite the headwinds, sometimes up to 150 km/h. (I watched the map function of the IFE most of the time, it also gives information on speed, distance traveled, flying time left, outside temperature,...). We only encountered some turbulence between Gander and Halifax.
US Immigration and customs
I already received my IAD – MEX boarding card in BRU so I just had to go to the other gate. This turned out to be very easy as the flight would leave from the same terminal. However, I had to go through immigration and customs first. Not a nice experience…
I queued the row and after 5 minutes it was my turn. I handed over my (Belgian) passport to the immigration officer. He asked some basic questions and I answered them. Then he wanted to make a scan of my fingerprints. This is done electronically and you have to put your finger on a plate. The immigration officer said “gauche”. I got confused. I do speak French but I’m not used to speak it that much, as Dutch is my first language. So I mumbled something like “I speak Dutch, sir”. I had the impression the guy got a bit pissed. He said “left” and after a few more seconds “right one”. My passport got stamped… for some reason the immigration officer put the stamp on a page that was already quite full. My question is: why? I had like 20 more empty pages ready to be stamped… I realize that I might have offended him in some way though.
I think it’s actually very nice to have an immigration officer that has knowledge of some foreign languages. For non-English speakers this might be a great help. But then again, the immigration officer should have known (and I actually think that many Americans don't know) that people in Belgium are not all French speaking. We have a very large Dutch and a small German speaking community as well.
I had another bad experience at customs. While waiting for my turn… I had one foot over the yellow line… and this time I had the customs officer shouting at me. Well, I guess that was my own mistake.
But you can imagine my first entry to the US wasn’t really a nice experience. However, on the return leg, everything went just fine!
FLIGHT 2: IAD – MEX
Airplane: Airbus A319 (new CS)
Departure Gate: C20
Departure time: 05.40 pm (on time)
Load factor (Y): 90%
Here seen in old CS! (No pictures with new CS available on airliners.net)
Some quick facts about this flight: It was already dark when we departed. The captain was female. Channel 9 was on all the time! Once we passed the Mexican border, you could hear ATC speak Spanish to the Mexicana and Aeromexico airplanes. There was no food served on this flight. (Food For Purchase) I knew this in advance but I don’t get UA’s philosophy here… As UA is no low cost carrier, I would suggest they serve food on a 4h+ international flight, but then again, who am I?
FLIGHT 3: MEX - IAD
Airplane: Airbus A319 (old CS)
Departure Gate : C36
Departure time: 10.05 am (on time)
Load factor (Y): 100%
The flight was 100% full. This was announced before boarding. I had the impression that the flight attendants were a bit stressed as many passengers had problems stowing their stuff in the overhead lockers. However, we were able to leave on time. Channel 9 wasn’t operating at this time but this was probably due to some major problem with the IFE system. A system reset didn’t help and some passengers had no IFE at all. As there was no food served (they serve free drinks though) I spent my 4 hours watching the landscape (and ocean) outside. I guess we had some good winds that day cause we arrived 45 minutes early!
FLIGHT 4: IAD - BRU
Airplane: Boeing 777-200 (old CS)
Departure Gate: C1
Seat: 39A (good seat!)
Departure time: 05.57 pm (on time)
Load factor (Y): 95-100%
Lots of people in the waiting area: one B777 bound for Brussels, Belgium at C1 and one B777 bound for Amsterdam, The Netherlands at the opposite gate. The funny thing is that a lot of Dutch people boarded the flight to Brussels, probably avoiding the Dutch aviation tax!
I was seated in seat 39A and this turned out to be an excellent choice! This seat is located in the back section of the plane and has a pitch that is comparable with UA’s Economy Plus! I guess this is mainly because the angle of this row is different from row 38.
Dinner was served after 1 hour of flight. I chose the meat dish. This was again a typical airline meal! So nothing to complain about! One hour before touchdown in Brussels (flying somewhere between Dublin and London) a small breakfast was served. The “best before” date had already expired for about 3 months again, but as said before, I guess we just have different regulations about this in Belgium.
Channel 9 was on and I enjoyed this very much! We had a 9W flight in front of us for a long time. I could hear them once we were over the Atlantic and he landed just ahead of us in Brussels. We had good winds on this flight as well, sometimes up to 250 km/h (IFE)! This resulted in ground speeds greater than 1100 km/h! Unnecessary to explain we landed early (just about 30 minutes though). Too bad we had to wait for our luggage so long… about… 30 minutes!
My personal opinion
This was a lot of flying for the money I paid! I And UA did a good job. I think improvements are possible (better IFE on the B777, getting rid of the Food For Purchase on the IAD-MEX-IAD flights) but overall the service was very good. I also want to mention that Mexico city is a very nice (also cultural!) place to visit! But that’s another story.
Aside: this is my first trip report. I took a lot of pictures but have problems processing them on my computer right now.
United From Germany, joined Jan 2004, 312 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (5 years 3 months 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 7354 times:
I would love to see the pictures, but if you can't upload them, don't worry! I always enjoy reading a report about my favorite airline, especially when it is not entirely negative, so yay! I agree though, that the food for purchase on a 4 hour intercontinental flight is redonk. And 6 hour transcons without free food (or alcohol!) are also no fun
EddieDude From Mexico, joined Nov 2003, 7511 posts, RR: 44
Reply 2, posted (5 years 3 months 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 7312 times:
Quoting Flanders (Thread starter): We had good winds on this flight as well, sometimes up to 250 km/h (IFE)! This resulted in ground speeds greater than 1100 km/h! Unnecessary to explain we landed early (just about 30 minutes though). Too bad we had to wait for our luggage so long… about… 30 minutes!
Yes, usually flying north from MEX to the U.S. East Coast is faster than flying south because of the wind. I travel quite frequently to New York and one time we were airborne about 3 hours 57 minutes only (it was an AM morning flight). On the other hand, I once took the MX red-eye from JFK to MEX and the flight was approximately 6 hours long!!!
Quoting Flanders (Thread starter): Mexico city is a very nice (also cultural!) place to visit! But that’s another story.
I am glad you liked Mexico City. If I had known you were going to be here, I would have gladly offered to treat you to some drinks. Hopefully you will be back.
SkyHigh777 From United States of America, joined Aug 2005, 372 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (5 years 3 months 9 hours ago) and read 6437 times:
I just did the UA flight from BRU-IAD in October and sat in 33A. I had a great flight, the FA's were extremely friendly and even let me have a meal from business class! UA has really improved IMO, but the planes are getting a bit old.
DCAjet From United States of America, joined Aug 2004, 397 posts, RR: 4
Reply 8, posted (5 years 2 months 4 weeks 1 day 19 hours ago) and read 6091 times:
Quoting Flanders (Thread starter): There was no food served on this flight. (Food For Purchase) I knew this in advance but I don’t get UA’s philosophy here… As UA is no low cost carrier, I would suggest they serve food on a 4h+ international flight, but then again, who am I?
United considers flights to Mexico and Canada to be of the domestic kind for the purposes of in flight services. Hence the food for purchase on board in coach. No American carrier, to my knowledge, will feed you to/from Mexico in coach. Just the way the market goes this side of the pond! In first class, you do get a proper meal, almost comparable with what you'd get in business class on a proper international flight.
"Unattended children will be given espresso and a free kitten"
Shamrock604 From Ireland, joined Sep 2007, 4083 posts, RR: 13
Reply 9, posted (5 years 2 months 4 weeks 1 day 19 hours ago) and read 6080 times:
Quoting RwSEA (Reply 4): And sorry for having to deal with our awful custom's officials - hopefully there will be some changes in the works there over the next couple of years.
Ah, they are not all that bad. I had some really pleasant ones at Boston a few months ago. It probably helped that I had arrived on a flight (Aer Lingus EI136) that they jokingly refffered to as "the mothership"..... (well, we were in Boston...
But yes, I've also had my share of shouting too, notably by the US officials at Shannon, where they do pre-clearance for US flights. When asked where I lived, I answered Ireland.. believing that it is normal to state your Country of residence when asked this question at an immigrattion counter. The female officer went right in my face and shouted "WHERE IN IRELAND!!!!". When I asked her why she felt this kind of treatment was necessary, I was pointed in the direction of a 9/11 commemorative plaque......;-(
Flown EI,FR,RE,EIR,VE,SI,TLA,BA,BE,BD,VX,MON,AF,YS,WX,KL,SK,LH,OK,OS,LX,IB,LTU,HLX,4U,SU,CO,DL,UA,AC,PR,MH,SQ,QF, EY, EK
XA744 From Mexico, joined Mar 2004, 734 posts, RR: 3
Reply 10, posted (5 years 2 months 4 weeks 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 5957 times:
Hey, Flanders, very very happy to know that you had the wonderful opportunity to come down from very far places to check on us !!!...
Well, United is a very commercial and plain product from today's aviation industry... How wonderful would have been if you had the chance to ride on the time machine and fly SABENA all the way from BRU to MEX during those glamorous sixties and seventies !!!
Now, putting dreams aside, How did Mexico catter to you ???
Congratulations on your very first TR !!!
No matter how you fly...just never get your wings clipped !
Flanders From Belgium, joined Oct 2008, 116 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (5 years 2 months 4 weeks 23 hours ago) and read 5803 times:
Quoting United (Reply 1): I would love to see the pictures, but if you can't upload them, don't worry!
Quoting Caleb1 (Reply 3): Nice report. It would have also been nice to have pictures of meals and perhaps some cabin shots.
Quoting Oa260 (Reply 7): If you can sort out the photo issues i too would love to see them.
Yes, I wished I could upload them as well! The problem is that the memory chip that contains the pictures seems corrupted (bought as "genuine" in Shanghai half a year ago...) A friend is trying to make it work again. Luckily I used a different chip for the - more important - holiday pictures!
Quoting EddieDude (Reply 2): I am glad you liked Mexico City. If I had known you were going to be here, I would have gladly offered to treat you to some drinks. Hopefully you will be back.
Thank you sir! This is in fact another thing that I discovered about Mexico: I met a lot of "locals" and they were very kind and helpful. I experienced excellent hospitality! Uno Corona y uno tequila por favor
Quoting Cambrian (Reply 6): One thing- perhaps your airline meals were not out of date at all, but those strange Americans use a different format.
Yeah. I know about this different format, so believe me, I checked twice
On both occasions, the "best before date" was just short (like 1 or 2 days) of 3 months expiration. So I guess that's the limit they use. It's probably way cheaper for UA to buy these products. I found this useful information on the internet:
* Stores are not legally required to remove food once the expiration date has passed. They are strictly "advisory" in nature.
* Dating is not federally required, except for infant formula and baby food. States have varying laws. Most states require that milk and other perishables be sold before the expiration date.
The major codes are:
* Sell by Don't buy the product after this date. This is the "expiration date."
* Best if used by Flavor or quality is best by this date but the product is still edible thereafter.
* Use by This is the last day that the manufacturer vouches for the product's quality.
Another interesting topic on airliners.net on this matter:
Quoting XA744 (Reply 10): How wonderful would have been if you had the chance to ride on the time machine and fly SABENA all the way from BRU to MEX during those glamorous sixties and seventies !!!
Unfortunately I wasn't born yet in the sixties or seventies! And I have to admit... I wasn't able to fly SABENA before they went bankrupt. Definitely a missed experience, I know!
Quoting XA744 (Reply 10): Now, putting dreams aside, How did Mexico catter to you ???
This "one week trip" to Mexico City is - up till now - my best trip ever! I saw beautiful museums (Museo Nacional de Historia, Museo Nacional de Antropología, Museo Diego Rivera (Frida Kahlo's house), Templo Mayor,... and so on!) Most exciting were - of course - the piramids of Teotihuacán, just outside the city! I also enjoyed the boatride in Xochimilco!
I was lucky enough to meet a nice Luxembourgian (yes, there are smaller countries than Belgium! :p) girl. She used to study in Madrid, was very fluent in Spanish, and had a lot of Mexican friends. I could join them and went to the best restaurants in town! (no, not the most expensive ones!). I cant remember the names of the dishes, but I tried a lot of them and I enjoyed them very much! As an ambassador of one of the biggest beer manufacturing countries in the world, I can also tell you I liked the local beers