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United BusinessFirst MEL-SYD-LAX  
User currently offlineicanfly From Australia, joined Aug 2011, 85 posts, RR: 0
Posted (1 year 9 months 1 day 7 hours ago) and read 18294 times:

It had been a while since my last vacation and, while it was busy at work, I figured I should be able to slip away for a short week-long trip to Los Angeles, one of my favourite cities in the world. This time I decided to treat myself to United's BusinessFirst service across the Pacific and I was also interested to see how things have changed since the merger with Continental, as my last business class flight on United was back in 2010. I was able to get a return MEL-SYD-LAX flight for AUD 6,300, which seemed like good value.

My flight routings were as follows:

November 2nd, 2012 - UA 840 - MEL-SYD-LAX - B747-400 - Depart 11.55am, arrive 9.50am the same day.

November 8th, 2012 - UA 839 - LAX-SYD-MEL - B747-400 - Depart 10.10pm, arrive 11.20am two days later.

In this trip report, I'll let the photos do most of the talking.

I arrived at the international departures hall at MEL at about 10am, just under two hours prior to departure. I love the old-style moving flight information boards.

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Check-in desks for the United flight this morning.

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Entry to the immigration hall.

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Flight information board showing international departures.

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There were long queues at immigration. Being in the premium line made little difference - yes the queue was shorter but there was only one counter processing it. This reminded me how the United States does not have exit controls - this has to be one benefit of flying out of the US.

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The entrance to the United Club.

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Views of the United Club. I wasn't impressed. It felt cramped and old-fashioned, with poor lighting. I'd had a good breakfast only a couple of hours earlier, so didn't pay attention to the food and drink on offer here. I left after five or ten minutes - I found the airy, renovated international terminal with its panoramic windows much more pleasurable to spend my time in than the lounge.

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Our aircraft for today's flight to SYD. I didn't get the registration number. Even 40 years after the introduction of the Boeing 747, there's still something magical about seeing her distinctive form and elegant lines at the gate - she fills me with a sense of adventure and anticipation in a way no other aircraft does. I was also pleased to see the old "Blue Rising" livery - I find it so fresh and light, its graded shades of blue evoking the sea and the skies:

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Walking down the aerobridge (or jetway, as they say in America!)

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On board the upper deck! I was in seat 16A, by the window. The cabin was clean and fresh.

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I had not previously flown in the upper deck of a 747-400. It really is a special place. It's true how people say it has the feel of a private jet - on today's flight it felt tranquil, cosy and intimate.

I was offered a pre-departure drink, and asked for a glass of water.







Obligatory legroom shot (there was plenty as you can see).

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We pushed back on time. Here we are taxiing.






















Turning on to the runway.




Take-off!

























Catering on the short flight to SYD was a drinks round and a bag of pretzels. Apart from water I declined any food or drink.

While Melbourne had been overcast, it turned out to be a beautiful sunny day in Sydney as we approached the airport from the north-west, revealing classic harbour views including the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and Sydney City Centre.






















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Touchdown:



















One of the best things about United's tag from MEL is that it arrives direct into the international terminal at SYD so there's no need for a cumbersome domestic-international transfer at SYD.

Passengers arriving from MEL were in the gate lounge for only around 15 minutes before boarding of the flight to LAX was called.

The two United 747-400s at SYD this afternoon. The one in the foreground brought us in from MEL, while the other partially obscured at the end of the long aerobridge is bound for LAX.

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On board UA840 to LAX. As I mentioned, even after all these years of 747 service, there's still something so special about ascending the staircase to the upper deck of a 747.




I was able to get a glimpse of GlobalFirst.




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I did think about booking in GlobalFirst but, at double the price of BusinessFirst, it just didn't seem worth it in terms of improved seating or catering (for example, the PTVs are the same both in size and content).

Views of the BusinessFirst cabin on the upper deck. Again I was in seat 16A.




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The window shades were lowered in the upper deck for take-off, so I couldn't take any photos of our departure from SYD.

Shortly after take-off, warmed nuts and a drink (orange juice for me) were offered:

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I had ordered a vegetarian meal, but to my disappointment, the flight attendant informed me that no special meals had been loaded in BusinessFirst for the flight. I had called United twice prior to my flight to ensure my special meal was recorded on their system (as the online booking wouldn't let me select a special meal), so this was clearly some sort of system glitch or problem with catering providers in MEL. Fortunately, there was a vegetarian main course option on the regular menu and the flight attendant said he's guarantee that to me.

Here is the starter. A salad of fresh seasonal greens, tomatoes, cucumbers and croutons, with balsamic or Caesar dressing. The salad was fresh and good. There was also a bread roll and some sort of chicken and pesto side which I left.

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As mentioned, I was given the vegetarian main course, spinach cannelloni with four-cheese sauce and roasted tomatoes with parmesan cheese. It was soggy, tasteless and disappointing. To drink I chose a nice Sonoma Valley Chardonnay recommended by the FA.

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For dessert, the FA put together an ice-cream sundae for me, with a bit of each kind of topping. It looked good but was a bit too gooey and syrupy for my liking.

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After dinner, I and most other passengers stretched out and tried to settle into the long Pacific crossing. I watched the movie "Liberal Arts" and listened to the audio selection on the excellent entertainment system on United's BusinessFirst. I also wandered around the aircraft, including through economy and down to the back of the aircraft. The load factor was almost 100% - nearly every seat was occupied.

After a few hours, I reclined the seat into its lie-flat position and was able to get several hours of sleep, to my surprise, as I normally have trouble sleeping on aircraft.

About an hour-and-a-half before landing, breakfast was served. I was given the cereal and banana option as the others were not vegetarian. This was a standard airline breakfast - nothing fancy, despite this being business class.

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Soon after the breakfast dishes were cleared away, we began our descent into the Los Angeles area.
















Touch-down!










Taxiing up to Terminal 7.




US immigration and customs at LAX Terminal 7 were awful. Although I was one of the first to leave the aircraft, on entering the immigration hall I had to join the end of what was already a long queue - a United flight from Mexico City had arrived just before us. I ended up having to wait for over an hour-and-a-half and the process was slow and chaotic.

As the return flight LAX-SYD-MEL was not dramatically different from the outbound flight, a condensed report of that trip follows. The one notable difference over the outbound leg, however, was that catering was much better and I got my special meal.

A sign promoting Los Angeles at the top of the escalators after passing through security in Terminal 7.

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The entrance to the United Club.

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Views of the United Club. I'm not fond of airline lounges and I didn't linger long. The selection of food and beverage was decent and I did grab a few biscuits and pieces of cheese as a snack. Also wifi was free, open and fast.

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On board the upper deck again. This time I was in seat 16K, on the starboard side.

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I liked the big storage bins on the upper deck and was able to store all my stuff neatly away in them.










My vegetarian dinner was delicious. The starter was a spicy asparagus, tomato and potato salad, with a warm grain bread roll and a lettuce salad.

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The main course was Indian-style yellow rice with peas, served with a warmed wrap stuffed with a spicy tofu-like filling and a tomato gravy.

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After dinner, I had a plate of brie and Dutch cheeses, with crackers, grapes and port. The port was nice and I actually asked for a second glass.

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Breakfast was served about an hour-and-a-half before landing in SYD. My special order was excellent - a hot spinach pie with a tomato gravy and fried potatoes and vegetables, a fresh fruit salad and croissant.

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Some cabin views.




Our approach to SYD.













Touch-down!







At SYD, it was about an hour-and-a-half before departure of our connecting flight to MEL. While waiting I noticed this Delta 777-200LR.

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A few final snaps of the seats before disembarking at MEL.

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United: please start SYD-IAH!
15 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlinetriple7man From Thailand, joined May 2005, 742 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (1 year 9 months 1 day 6 hours ago) and read 18050 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

Quoting icanfly (Thread starter):
The window shades were lowered in the upper deck for take-off, so I couldn't take any photos of our departure from SYD.

Why? I fly AA between Tokyo and the US a lot, and they usually lower the window shades after lunch, so people can sleep. But I would object if I couldn't watch takeoff! That's the best part of the flight.



Have you kissed a 777 today?
User currently onlineUnited1 From United States of America, joined Oct 2003, 5935 posts, RR: 9
Reply 2, posted (1 year 9 months 23 hours ago) and read 16920 times:

Quoting triple7man (Reply 1):
Why? I fly AA between Tokyo and the US a lot, and they usually lower the window shades after lunch, so people can sleep. But I would object if I couldn't watch takeoff! That's the best part of the flight.

Sometimes the F/As lower the shades to try and keep the cabin temp down if its hot outside. UA doesn't require the shades to be up or down in any stage of flight so if he had wanted I'm sure he could have opened them.

Quoting triple7man (Reply 1):

Glad that you had a good flight despite the catering mixup on the inbound flight.



Semper Fi - PowerPoint makes us stupid.
User currently onlinebrilondon From Canada, joined Aug 2005, 4200 posts, RR: 1
Reply 3, posted (1 year 9 months 19 hours ago) and read 16106 times:

Quoting triple7man (Reply 1):
Quoting icanfly (Thread starter):
The window shades were lowered in the upper deck for take-off, so I couldn't take any photos of our departure from SYD.

Why? I fly AA between Tokyo and the US a lot, and they usually lower the window shades after lunch, so people can sleep. But I would object if I couldn't watch takeoff! That's the best part of the flight.

I am surprised they closed the shades before take off, the crews usually want the shades up so that in the event of an incident your sense of direction is not thrown off and allows you to see where, if any fire is, so that you can egress safely and depending on the damaged to the aircraft the shades won't be jammed in the down position.

Quoting United1 (Reply 2):
Sometimes the F/As lower the shades to try and keep the cabin temp down if its hot outside. UA doesn't require the shades to be up or down in any stage of flight so if he had wanted I'm sure he could have opened them.

They often have the shades lowered at DFW to keep the sun out of the cabin, but after the plane is moved away from the terminal the engines with the air conditioning running will keep the plane cool.



Rush for ever; Yankees all the way!!
User currently offline777ord From United States of America, joined May 2010, 494 posts, RR: 1
Reply 4, posted (1 year 9 months 18 hours ago) and read 15958 times:

Looks like you had an overall great experience!!!

I cannot wait for a week off from work and non-rev to SYD!


User currently offlineAirAfreak From United States of America, joined Apr 2012, 712 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (1 year 9 months 17 hours ago) and read 15693 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

First of all, thank you for your contribution! It's actually quite helpful when you get to see the U.S.-based carriers reports on these transoceanic flights for last-resort comparison. I always look for options when flying overseas via foreign carriers first and U.S. carriers last. I won't fly United because I don't like the set up of the seats where you are facing someone, (e.g. BA Club World), but I'm glad you were able to have several hours of sleep (definitely helps) and had some eye-appealing meals on the inbound to Melbourne!

I hope you earned some valuable miles for your flight and again, thank you for your trip report!!!

Bon Voyage,

AirAfreak



Do you lead an Intercontinental life?
User currently offlineSYDSpotter From Australia, joined Oct 2012, 160 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (1 year 9 months 16 hours ago) and read 15682 times:

Quoting icanfly (Thread starter):
I was able to get a return MEL-SYD-LAX flight for AUD 6,300, which seemed like good value.

Thanks for the TR, yes $6300 seems like a good deal. Out of interest, do you know was the split of passengers ex MEL vs Ex SYD on the flight? Surprised UA can't fill a MEL-LAX service on it's own.

Quoting icanfly (Thread starter):
I had not previously flown in the upper deck of a 747-400. It really is a special place. It's true how people say it has the feel of a private jet - on today's flight it felt tranquil, cosy and intimate.

Yup, totally agree. Flew J on the upperdeck of a SQ jumbo a number of years ago. Was a very serene/quiet flight, didn't even feel like a commercial flight.

Quoting icanfly (Thread starter):
I had ordered a vegetarian meal, but to my disappointment, the flight attendant informed me that no special meals had been loaded in BusinessFirst for the flight. I had called United twice prior to my flight to ensure my special meal was recorded on their system (as the online booking wouldn't let me select a special meal), so this was clearly some sort of system glitch or problem with catering providers in MEL. Fortunately, there was a vegetarian main course option on the regular menu and the flight attendant said he's guarantee that to me.

That's a little sloppy from UA, good thing you only needed a vegetarian meal. What would happen if a passenger required a gluten free meal or similar and they didn't load the meal. Go hungry for 14 hours  Wow!



319_320_321_332_333_388 / 734_738_743_744_762_763_772_773_77W
User currently offlineFlyFromMEL From Australia, joined Nov 2005, 31 posts, RR: 0
Reply 7, posted (1 year 9 months 16 hours ago) and read 15646 times:

It seems that when you arrived in Sydney from Melbourne you boarded another aircraft for the continuation on to Los Angeles. Is that correct? Where did the aircraft originating in Melbourne continue on to? San Francisco?

User currently offlineIndianicWorld From Australia, joined Jun 2001, 2945 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (1 year 9 months 12 hours ago) and read 15011 times:

Quoting SYDSpotter (Reply 6):
Thanks for the TR, yes $6300 seems like a good deal. Out of interest, do you know was the split of passengers ex MEL vs Ex SYD on the flight? Surprised UA can't fill a MEL-LAX service on it's own.

They probably could but don't have the aircraft for it.

UA were actually the first to announce MEL-LAX non-stop and then QF jumped in on the act too, but the latter had the 747-400ER which gave them a competitive edge. UA pulled back and moved back to a MEL-SYD-LAX op but with a scisor hub for SFO flights at SYD.

Since then though, VA flies MEL-LAX a few times a week, and would likely expand flights but do not have more aircraft to do this. Could be interesting to see if DL commence or move their flights to MEL at some point as they have the 77L which suits the MEL-LAX route perfectly,

Great trip report there.


User currently offlinelychemsa From United States of America, joined Oct 2009, 1186 posts, RR: 3
Reply 9, posted (1 year 9 months 7 hours ago) and read 14621 times:

I don't like sitting upstairs.

I flew in C on a Pan Am 747SP and I did not like it. And in Y on a Swissair 747. That was even more unpleasant.

Probably now with the improved C seating than ion the 1980s it's OK.


User currently offlineAA737-823 From United States of America, joined Mar 2000, 5767 posts, RR: 11
Reply 10, posted (1 year 9 months 6 hours ago) and read 14486 times:

Regarding tail numbers, you KNOW you can get aircraft number from United's website? Starting three days before, in fact. It often changes before flight, though, so if registrations are something you log, then you'll want to check back.
You can also get your aircraft number from the United app.
It's easy to figure out the N-number once you've got the fleet number.
Anyhow, the service looks like it was pretty nice.
As much as I'd like UA to remain a three-class carrier, they've pushed themselves out of the market, by charging first-class fares, while only offering business-class service, plus one entree choice. They claim that the wine and spirits menu is fancier in F; okay, if you say so, but any glass of wine they serve me onboard is NOT going to be worth an extra $6000.


User currently onlinegabrielchew From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2005, 3219 posts, RR: 12
Reply 11, posted (1 year 8 months 4 weeks 1 day 18 hours ago) and read 13588 times:

Nice report! UA seems acceptable in the air. Nothing special.

Quoting icanfly (Thread starter):
As mentioned, I was given the vegetarian main course, spinach cannelloni with four-cheese sauce and roasted tomatoes with parmesan cheese. It was soggy, tasteless and disappointing. To drink I chose a nice Sonoma Valley Chardonnay recommended by the FA.

That looks quite revolting



http://my.flightmemory.com/shefgab Upcoming flights:LHR-VIE-PRN,SPU-OSL-LHR,STN-SNN-STN,LHR-ARN-OSL-TOS-LYR-OSL-CPH-LHR,
User currently offlineIrishAyes From United States of America, joined Jan 2008, 2181 posts, RR: 15
Reply 12, posted (1 year 8 months 4 weeks 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 13436 times:

Hi,

Nice TR. Your're lucky you had the IPTE-configured BusinessFirst. I flew on the non-configured version the other week in BF and the IFE was such a joke.

Unacceptable that UA failed to load your vegetarian meal. Yet, not surprising.

IrishAyes.



next flights: jfk-icn, icn-hkg-bkk-cdg, cdg-phl-msp
User currently onlineUnited1 From United States of America, joined Oct 2003, 5935 posts, RR: 9
Reply 13, posted (1 year 8 months 4 weeks 1 day 10 hours ago) and read 13063 times:

Quoting IrishAyes (Reply 12):
Nice TR. Your're lucky you had the IPTE-configured BusinessFirst. I flew on the non-configured version the other week in BF and the IFE was such a joke.


Apparently you hit the jackpot as there are only 6 non IPTE aircraft left in the overseas fleet....all of the 744s have been converted for several years.



Semper Fi - PowerPoint makes us stupid.
User currently offlineBNEFlyer From Australia, joined Oct 2006, 213 posts, RR: 0
Reply 14, posted (1 year 8 months 4 weeks 7 hours ago) and read 11811 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

Thanks for writing such a detailed report. Not that I'm a C class aficionado, but nothing about UA would encourage me to fly them. Mediocre lounges, plastic cups for pre departure drinks, unappealing and poorly presented food, tacky serviettes, the glasswear and crockery, that seat configuration, no thanks.

User currently offlinefxramper From United States of America, joined Dec 2005, 7247 posts, RR: 85
Reply 15, posted (1 year 8 months 3 weeks 6 days 18 hours ago) and read 11215 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

About a hundred pics too many but I'm glad it was nice for you. Upgraded 747 looked nice. Typical UA international LH food. How as the vacation?

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