SQ772 From Singapore, joined Nov 2001, 1792 posts, RR: 5 Posted (11 years 5 months 3 weeks 3 days 12 hours ago) and read 2151 times:
Here’s the continuation of my recent trip to the US. For those who have forgotten, my itinerary is as follows:
SIN-ORD (via AMS), ORD-MSP-ORD (on UA), ORD-SIN (via AMS)
This is my first ever flight on a US carrier. Quite frankly, all the negative speculations and posts about horror stories onboard US carriers had led me to lower my expectations for this coming flight. I wasn’t expecting smiles or anything on my flights from ORD to MSP and back. I was hoping to get to my final destination quickly and without any unpleasant incidents. I had no plans to compare UA with SQ when I write this trip report, because, as the American a.net members always say, travelling domestic in the US of A is a completely different matter altogether.
UA 9XX (sorry, I forget) ORD-MSP
YCL – 06B
Flying time: 1hr 15 min
I spent 1.5 days in ORD after getting off SQ36 and spent the day enjoying the sights of Michigan Ave and getting lost and confused in the “loop”! The CTA is one complicated network of commuter lines. I was trying desperately to adjust to the different time zone and knew that I had to get some sunshine even as I nodded off in the CTA. I spent the evening with my friend and we drove into town for some dinner where we met the crew of SQ36 in the restaurant as my friend and I were about the leave the restaurant. We exchanged pleasantries and left them to enjoy their dinner, while I headed back for my much needed snooze.
UA 9XX was scheduled to depart at 1444hrs and I was at the airport by 1200. My friend had the car parked at terminal 5, and we proceeded to take the skytrain (is that what it’s called?) to Terminal 1 where UA departed. The train ride provided me with a great view of the airport. O’Hare is huge, and busy. Planes were taking off and landing seconds apart. Yes, it is indeed one of the busiest airports in the US (ranked 3rd I am told).
I lugged my bags up the escalator and arrived at the check in area. The queue was long and snaked like a maze before the 10 counters that were serving all UA domestic flights. I waited patiently for around 20 minutes before I was waved to a counter that was free. The lady serving me looked like a filipina. I asked if the flight was full, and she said that they were actually paying people to get off the flight today. I wondered why she hadn’t asked me to volunteer because I could really do with more USD on this trip. I asked for my window seat but none was available. She told me she managed to get me a seat near the front of coach and looked as though she had accomplished something great. I didn’t know why until I boarded the flight….
Anyway, my bags were tagged and I joined my friend for the necessary pre-flight smoke break outside the airport. I realised after I left the counter that my baggage claim was missing and rushed back to the counter to ask for it. The filipina searched her counter and found that she had forgotten to give it to me. She apologised shyly and I was on my way.
ORD was crowded at this time of the day and I had to join another long security queue after my smoke break. 15 min later I was cleared and proceeded to venture the terminal. I went looking for my gate (C3) and was impressed by the spiralling neon tubes that connected the main concourse to concourse C. After lots of spotting I parked myself at the crowded gate area. It was also interesting to note that the LCD screen at the gate indicated that only beverages would be served during the flight. I guess this is UA’s way of managing passengers’ expectations.
Boarding was by rows commenced at 1425. Despite the crowd, it was conducted in an orderly fashion. I was stopped before the aerobridge and the gate agent asked to see my passport. The passengers before me were not subjected to such search. I wasn’t too worried, I had nothing to hide anyway.
1435, I arrived at the entrance of DR1L and was pleasantly surprised that a young and attractive looking FA was greeting passengers! This was a good start, no prison matrons (as described my Ryanair!!!) on my flight! The FA had not received her new UA uniform. She was still in the dark one piece (I think) uniform that I often see UA crew wearing at Changi Airport. The second crew serving Y class was wearing the new UA uniform (sky blue with dark vest and trousers).
I found my seat (6B) and realised that I was to be squashed between two rather large guys (an Asian American by the window, and a white male in his 50s by the aisle). I settled into my seat and finally understood why the check in stuff was appeared so happy when she got me this seat. I was in Economy Plus! The pitch was excellent and I could actually cross my legs (again, I must confess that I am not very tall). The seat showed signs of age and being in the centre seat, I had the inflight phone right in front of me (I entertained myself by watching the LCD commercials displayed on the phone monitor…. My personal inflight entertainment system!)
The seats on this aircraft were upholstered in the old UA colours…brown with multi coloured patterns running down the centre of the seat. Nevertheless, they were soft and comfy (in stark contrast to SQ’s hard and uncomfortable new seats).
Annoucements were made off the cuff, no reading (I could see the crew making the announcements) from the book. It sounded natural, fluent and clear (but of course, this is an American speaking in his native tongue).
The aircraft was off chocks at 1440 and I was on my way to the city with 10000 lakes. Safety demonstration was conducted manually by the crew. As there were only 3 crew onboard this flight, the one in front had to re-enact the safety procedures twice…once to F class passengers, the second time to the front portion of the Y cabin. The senior crew on this flight was a John Goodman look-alike, who was rather untidy in his dressing. He was accompanied by the sweet looking lady who greeted me at the door, and another Hispanic looking lady serving the back of Y.
The 737-500 took off moments later with much power and we were off the ground in 30 sec.
Drink service commenced 10 min after take off, with the aircraft still in steep ascend. The flight to MSP was smooth until we began our descent when it became very rough. I love turbulence as much as I love roller coaster rides.
I opted for apple juice, and was offered a whole can (not those miniature ones). Beverages came with a miniature (you win some, you lose some) pack of party snacks/crackers and serviettes. Seriously, I was expecting frumpy old prison matrons who growled whenever they served you. There was none of this on my flight. In fact, I found them to be just as good as the SQ crew (minus the fake accents…this was the real thing!!).
The crew came around with a trash bag after they had served all passengers…. Hmmm something you do not see on SQ. In all honestly, the scene onboard reminded me of the overnight buses I took while backpacking in Turkey. Trash was collected with lots of “thank yous” and smiles. I wonder how the service was like on board a typical NW flight.
I searched the seat pocket in front of me as I grew restless the remaining 30 min of the flight and chanced upon the inflight magazine and a headset. It suddenly struck me that I had missed out on all the ATC conversation that was going on on Channel 9. I quickly tuned in and there it was, ATC conversation… this being the first time I was eavesdropping, I was naturally intrigued. It helped keep my mind off the Asian snob who was hogging my left armrest. I didn’t appreciate his intrusion into the personal space that my company paid for with tax payers’ money…
The aircraft experienced severe turbulence and soon, we were below the clouds heading towards Lindberg terminal on runway 22L (I wouldn’t have known this fact if not for Channel 9). Just as we were seconds from touch down, I saw a NW 727 cruising right next to us, simultaneously approaching presumably 22R. This was indeed very very COOL!
The aircraft touched down gently and full reverse thrust was applied, signalling the end of my very first flight on a US carrier. I was, without doubt, impressed. But it also led me to wonder if it was just my luck, or had UA improved its inflight service contrary to what many a.net members have said? I could only confirm this if my flight out of MSP was equally good.
Rating: 8/10 (I must admit that UA rose way above my expectations. The Chicago based crew were polite and served all passengers with a smile)
I shall continue with my return flight in this same thread shortly….
After 2 weeks in MSP enjoying the Midwestern hospitality, I was ready to test the theory that US carriers provided bad inflight service.
I booked for a cab to arrive at my hotel in downtown Minneapolis at 9.45am, but it only arrived at 9.50. The driver apologized for the delay and sped through town into the highway leading to the airport. I arrived at Lindberg terminal within 20 min, and entered the terminal building. Admittedly, the airport was no where as beautiful as O’hare. The were considerably fewer passengers compared to O’hare as well. As it was still early, (my flight was at 12noon), I toured the terminal building only to find it rather gloomy looking. The line in front of the 3 UA counters opened for domestic flights was getting longer by the minute, and I decided to join the queue. It was obvious MSP wasn’t UA’s hub as the number of dedicated counters was surprisingly few. It took me 15 min before I was checked in by a lady in her 50s. She looked, to say the least, really bored with what she was doing. I tried to be polite as possible to see if she would cheer up. Surprisingly she did, and was most polite to me after that. I asked if the flight was full (my standard question which if read another way meant “I would like to have the seat next to me empty” … She advised that there were lots of seats available on my flight. To this, I asked for a window seat in the part of the aircraft that wasn’t too crowded. She gave me 18A, with 18B kept empty for me. She smiled and proceeded to tag my bags to ORD.
As the weighing machine at the counter did not connect to the baggage belt (I do not understand why this wasn’t so even at ORD), I offered to load the bag on the baggage carousel myself, to which she insisted on doing it herself. After realising how heavy it was, she relented and allowed me to do so. She thanked me and I was on my way. Like O’hare, there was a long queue at security. Fortunately, it moved along fast and within 5 min, I was cleared (and immediately realised that I had forgotten my smoke break!) I was trapped….
I bought a book from one of the shops in the departure and proceeded to my gate to read it. Time passed relatively quickly in between my reading and some spotting. Flights out of MSP, other than NW’s international flights, were predominantly domestic. The red tails looked great in the sun.
Boarding for UA1538 commenced at 1130, and I boarded when my row number was called. As 18A was the second last row of the aircraft, I was one of the first few to board. Standing at the door, greeting passengers was a male FA in his sky blue shirt and dark vest and trousers. He was neatly dressed, and so were the other female FAs. They were all smartly attired in their new UA uniform this time. There were a total of 3 FA on this flight, and according to the inflight announcement, 2 of them were SFO based, while another was ORD based. It is interesting that UA highlights where the FAs are based at the end of each flight (The crew on my inbound flight were all based in ORD).
Similar to my inbound flight, the crew were friendly and had lots of smiles to go around. I found my window seat and settled in. No Economy Plus this time, just the standard Y class pitch. The seat was again, comfortable but worn. As promised, 18B was empty while 18C was occupied by an African American lady. She asked for a pillow as a crew passed her, and was immediately brought one.
Not wanting to miss any of the ATC chatter, I immediately had my headphones on and tuned to Channel 9. 1200hrs, cabin doors were closed and the aircraft was pushed out. The crew started their safety demonstration. Serving my row today was an Oprah look-alike. She had Oprah’s eyes and waist size. The aircraft stopped moments after push back and the tow-tug detached itself. I listened in on the conversation between the Captain (Kathy Roth, my first female captain) and the ground crew and realised that something wasn’t right. Five minutes later, the captain confirmed this as she announced over the PA that there was a problem with engine 1, and we would be slightly delayed as the ground engineers worked on it. In the meantime, the air condition was switched on to full blast to keep the cabin comfortable. 1215, still nothing… I was getting worried as I had a something planned for the afternoon in Chicago. Finally, at 1225, the captain came over the PA that the problem had been rectified. It was a false alarm and Captain Kathy joked that the aircraft was experiencing morning sickness since it was its first flight for the day. We were off and into the air by 1245.
The aircraft experienced slight turbulence while climbing out of MSP and beverage service was delayed as a result. 15 min after take off, service started (I was eager to see how the crew was able to serve all the passengers in just 30min). An announcement was made before the beverage cart went down the aisle…it went something like this:
“Ladies and gentlemen, we will be coming down the aisle to serve you your beverages shortly. I would advise all passengers to keep their heads, elbows and legs clear of the aisle…especially your heads. This is to reduce any risk of you being knocked out by the cart. Thank you”.
Now, this is an announcement that you will never hear on SQ. SQ’s announcements are carefully structured by some English language guru, and always devoid of any humour. I like the relaxed and informal way by which UA (or perhaps any US carriers) played around with their inflight announcements.
I had my can of Apple Juice and miniature pack of mixed snacks. Just as the crew had served half the cabin, the aircraft began its descent into ORD. The crew picked up speed and rushed through the service, keeping their smiles at all times. Trash was cleared soon after and the Y class crew were supported by the purser who served the F class cabin. I could see lots of teamwork going on on this flight, and again, they looked like they were enjoying their work.
UA1538 touched down in ORD at 1330, just 15 min behind schedule.
I must congratulate UA for dispelling the horror stories that I read so much about in a.net. The service I experienced on both sectors left me impressed and wondering if I was just plain lucky to experience the “friendly skies” not once, but twice in a row. Perhaps the flight was too short, for the crew to disappear into the galley never to be seen again until the next meal service… I don’t know. Or perhaps my flights were served by a bunch of young crew who were not as jaded as the senior “prison matrons” that operated on UA’s international flights.
I had lowered my standards and expectations for both flights, and was surprised by the service rendered. Keep up the good work UA.
I will take a break now, and continue with the final leg of my travel from ORD to SIN sometime next week... enjoy the week ahead.
Continental From United States of America, joined Jun 2000, 5484 posts, RR: 20 Reply 2, posted (11 years 5 months 3 weeks 3 days 5 hours ago) and read 2077 times:
Too bad you didn't go to Terminal D at MSP. There is an observation deck there, perfect views of 30R/12L. There actually isn't a 22L, but there is a 22. Are you sure you landed on 22? 22 is RARELY used, I mean, out of the years I've lived around and been to MSP, I've only seen that runway used a few times, mostly by the 747s. And, I think there are a few flights on UA to ORD before 12:00. That doesn't matter, because this was a great trip report to read! Great report!
SQ772 From Singapore, joined Nov 2001, 1792 posts, RR: 5 Reply 3, posted (11 years 5 months 3 weeks 3 days 5 hours ago) and read 2074 times:
Now you tell me!
Is Terminal D the one directly opposite the one I checked in? I didn't know there was an observation deck.
As for the runway, I distinctly heard 22L (and that was when I jotted it down in my notebook) being mentioned while listening to Channel 9... anyway, I am pretty sure that was the runway I landed on. In fact, it was also the runway I took off from (i recognised it in relation to the terminal building). But I guess you know the place better than me and I might have heard the wrong air to ground conversation. Thanks for bringing it up.
Ryanair!!! From Australia, joined Mar 2002, 4706 posts, RR: 26 Reply 4, posted (11 years 5 months 3 weeks 3 days 3 hours ago) and read 2056 times:
Tres magnifique! You get my vote! Regarding service on US carriers, UA is indeed one of the best I have experienced so far. But I guess they have their fair share of bad reps and hence, the existence of www.untied.com!
Welcome to my starry one world alliance, a team in the sky!
Chuj From United States of America, joined Oct 2000, 58 posts, RR: 0 Reply 5, posted (11 years 5 months 3 weeks 3 days 3 hours ago) and read 2056 times:
Great report. Just wanted to point out that ORD is consistently the WORLD's busiest or 2nd busiest airport (shared with ATL), not just the United States! United is definitely my favorite carrier, but I thought it was interesting that you enjoyed the "informal" service announcements at United---you should try Southwest! You'd love the comedy on their flights!
ILUV767 From United States of America, joined May 2000, 3141 posts, RR: 8 Reply 6, posted (11 years 5 months 3 weeks 2 days 23 hours ago) and read 2032 times:
Glad you enjoyed United. The type of service that you described is standard for United. I'm glad that you enjoyed it. There are still some prison matrons around in the system, but for the most part, UA crews really try to do a good job.
SQ772 From Singapore, joined Nov 2001, 1792 posts, RR: 5 Reply 7, posted (11 years 5 months 3 weeks 2 days 17 hours ago) and read 2005 times:
I guess it was interesting to me because it was a refreshing change from the boring/read straight from the book annoucements that I usually get on SQ. Always nice to have some humour going around in the cabin.
Can anyone comment on the service on UA's long haul flights? May plan a trip to the Midwest again later in the year, and I am looking for a cheap but good alternative out of SIN (coz I am paying out of my own pocket this time round).
Ryanair!!! From Australia, joined Mar 2002, 4706 posts, RR: 26 Reply 8, posted (11 years 5 months 3 weeks 2 days 17 hours ago) and read 2003 times:
Eh? Cheap alternative? Try Northwest Airlines! I would love to read your trip reports after that since I am the only Singaporean that wrote a trip report about my trans-Pacific / domestic journey with the mentioned airline.
Probably another Singaporean's perspective would balance our views towards NWA, and see if we still have our "heads in our asses"! Hahahahaha... loved that comment.
Anyway, did you know that MSP won the "Best Airport in North America" award in 1999 & 2000? I thought that Lindberg terminal was simple and pleasing to the eye. I was mostly in Concourse G which looked modern with large glass panels to it was great for spotting.
Welcome to my starry one world alliance, a team in the sky!
SQ772 From Singapore, joined Nov 2001, 1792 posts, RR: 5 Reply 9, posted (11 years 5 months 3 weeks 2 days 16 hours ago) and read 2002 times:
My flight departed from concourse E. I can't remember if I actually ventured to concourse G, but I did visit the other concourses. I found the concourses gloomy looking vis-a-vis the bright and colorful O'hare. Still, I must admit that Lindberg terminal was much more user friendly than O'hare. It was simple and no complicated alternating levels to get from one place to another.
Eh...NW? I am not that adventurous. May try it on a medium haul SIN-NRT trip, but not all the way to the US. One step at a time....
Before I forget, I did see many "prison matrons" in NW uniform at MSP. They looked really grouchy even on the ground.... It's funny because Minnesotans are such friendly people, but why do NW crew appear (according to Ryanair) to be at the lower end of the friendliness scale? Are most of them from Minnesota in the first place?
SR 103 From United States of America, joined Sep 2000, 1728 posts, RR: 41 Reply 11, posted (11 years 5 months 3 weeks 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 1965 times:
Believe me what you experienced was normal for UA. They have always been this way and I flew them during the 'summer of horror' 2000. I got stuck in the middle of the pilot dispute and I can tell you they handled it very well.
Regarding International service I have done a couple flights across the Pacific in Business and a couple over the Atlantic in coach. They are pretty good, far better than NW & DL. I find USAirways coach better but you don't have that luxury from SIN. The seats are fine but I would head for a 777 over a 744. PTV's no where near the standard of CX or SQ but none the less there when compared to NW! Food is decent and crew are ok, but will be great on the SIN-NRT flight. Their Asian & European crew are far superior to their American counterparts.
On the other hand, I really would love to see you write a NW trip report!
SQ772 From Singapore, joined Nov 2001, 1792 posts, RR: 5 Reply 12, posted (11 years 5 months 3 weeks 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 1955 times:
SR103, thanks for the update on UA. I may just try UA the next time I fly to the US. I was already contemplating UA for my trip to US, when the evil Ryanair!!! suggested that I try NW, now you indicated your interested in reading a NW trip report....
Let's all compromise, Ryanair!!! and you sponsor me a NW ticket, and I will do a trip report for ya... good deal eh? I'll leave you to think about it. hahaha
Ryanair!!! From Australia, joined Mar 2002, 4706 posts, RR: 26 Reply 13, posted (11 years 5 months 3 weeks 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 1945 times:
flying NW from Singapore to Narita is not a real experience of the the airline. I received excellent service from the Asian crew, might I add, when I flew that sector. Smiles, opening of cans and mini-liquer bottles for you, little chats while giving out immigration forms, even an "enjoy your meal" comment during meal times!... which let me to wonder "What was all these bad reports about NW all about? They are fine... just fine"
My travel campanion then warned me "Wait till the San Franciso sector, you'll know what I mean"
Voila! And the rest is history and the trip reports speaks for themselves. So SQ772, I dare you to fly NW all the way to the deep recceses of the US of A. I even dare you to fly a few domestic sectors like I did. Fly back to Narita through JFK, Detroit or Minneapolis, where the flights are significantly longer than from SFO, SEA or LAX... then write a report.
Welcome to my starry one world alliance, a team in the sky!
Ryanair!!! From Australia, joined Mar 2002, 4706 posts, RR: 26 Reply 16, posted (11 years 5 months 3 weeks 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 1945 times:
By the way, my boss did a SIN-NRT-ANC on NW's WBC. When he came back with his delegation, they all swore never to fly NWA again. They were even willing to fork out extra cash to fly SQ (I subtly hinted that SQ don't fly to ANC).
Welcome to my starry one world alliance, a team in the sky!
Ex_SQer From United States of America, joined Apr 2002, 1435 posts, RR: 5 Reply 18, posted (11 years 5 months 3 weeks 1 day 14 hours ago) and read 1931 times:
Here is my (abridged) perspective as a Singaporean and a former SQ staff with almost 100,000 flown miles on United.
It is refreshing to have experienced crew who are spontaneous and unafraid to bend the rules.
They sometimes make fun announcements. Like once at DFW we landed on a runway that was far from the terminal and the crew joked about the long taxi: "Please stay in your seats as we need to cross three zip codes and two county lines before we get to our gate".
They give you the whole can!
Food in First Class can be surprisingly good, esp on the Hawaii runs.
Self-checkin - a lifesaver for me when I travelled on business without bags all the time.
Mileage Plus is a great program, and it is ridiculously easy to earn miles. I especially love their Mileage Plus Dining Program.
Lack of food in Economy on short flights. Cheap serviceware - and they don't even try to disguise it!
The Economy seats make my back ache - thank gawd for Economy Plus.
Inefficient ground staff. Long queues.
Some sets of crew can be really bad - I was once in a non-Economy Plus aircraft flying with a 6'6" colleague, and all the crew could say to him when they brought the drinks cart was: "this isn't gonna work". B-i-a-t-c-h.
Having to pay for drinks in Economy.
Frequently cancelled flights on the LAX-SFO run. I have NEVER had a glitch-free flight on this sector.
Most of my flights have been pretty positive. So they're not SQ or CX, but in the grand scheme of things they are a-ok.
SR 103 From United States of America, joined Sep 2000, 1728 posts, RR: 41 Reply 19, posted (11 years 5 months 3 weeks 1 day 7 hours ago) and read 1910 times:
Hahahaha, I'm a poor college student. I can't even afford my own tickets, my parents pay for it. As far as SIN-NRT comment by Ryanair. He is right. I have only done NW over the Atlantic but have done UA through Asia a bit. The inter-asian flights are wonderful with the Asian crew. The true test is across the Atlantic and Pacific, where the 'true' colors of the cabin crew come out.
Reagarding World Business Class, just read my trip report from January.
I can only imagine what Economy is like to DTW, MSP & JFK in coach. No wait I have heard an experience from one of my close freinds. He did DTW-KIX-DTW. No matter how much he wants to go back to Japan he is not going to go until he saves enough money to fly something other than NW!
NWA Man From United States of America, joined Jun 1999, 1828 posts, RR: 13 Reply 22, posted (11 years 5 months 3 weeks 13 hours ago) and read 1864 times:
Hate to burst your bubble, but there's no 32L at MSP.
The runways at MSP...4/22. 12R/30L, and 12L/30R.
4/22 is rarely used, except for aircraft nearing MTOW (I've been on 4/22 in a full DC-9 once), while 12R/30L and 12L/30R get the majority of the traffic.
As for the NW bashing on this thread, admittedly, Northwest is not up to Singapore Airline's levels of service, but they are competitive with other American-based airlines (UA, DL, AA, etc)... The best flight of my life was a WBC run from MSP to NRT. It all depends on the experience you have. If you go into your trip expecting to find fault with NW, then you'll probably come back angry.
NWA Man From United States of America, joined Jun 1999, 1828 posts, RR: 13 Reply 23, posted (11 years 5 months 3 weeks 13 hours ago) and read 1859 times:
Continental and SQ772, this is the diagram of MSP. Usual arrival/departure patterns are to the northwest (yes, very ironic), so if you saw the terminal (being in seat 6B, on the left side of the plane) you would have arrived on 30R.
As a generalization, much of the smaller aircraft utilizing MSP use 30R, as it is on the regional side of the aircraft, most of the mainline jets use 30L, and departing widebodies use either 30L or 4/22.