Hey everyone. I haven’t written a trip report in over two years…hopefully this one makes up for the long absence.
Let me just preface this report with a note for those of you not familiar with me, or my username (as it were). Note: over the last three years, I have been the biggest and most outspoken proponent of a new United paint scheme. I even created my own and forwarded it to WHQ. I have faced many skeptical opinions and disagreements with regards to my claim that it was inevitable that United would roll out one, and that it was almost guaranteed a new paint scheme would be implemented during any company transformation. I’ve written long justifications, but let me just sum it up saying, United’s rebranding to a mostly blue identity began in 1997… all of its brand expressions had been updated by 2002, save for its planes... it was only logical that United would unify or unite its brand, especially as part of its transformational marketing strategy. And I just wanna stick my tongue out one more time to all the skeptics who doubted the several previews I gave months in advance.
Now, on to the report.
May 12, 2004
Flight 247, ORD-DEN, 777, N775UA (new colors), Seat 11A, United Business
I wake up at 6:20 AM, Indiana time. I’m late. I’ve overslept. Good thing I had a bad dream about my lease for next year’s living arrangements falling through, or else I wouldn’t have woke up. I called my teammate who was driving, Andrew, and apologized, asking him and the guys to just swing by my place on their way out of town, since I was basically on the way. You see, we’ve been doing research for "a major chicago-based airine" for nearly two years. In 2004 alone, I’ve made seven trips on UAL to do research. This would be my eighth. We were doing an ORD-DEN-ORD daytrip, our most frequent routing as most of our research is done out at the Denver hub…
So I do a mad dash into the bathroom and have myself a power shower (~1 minute). I’m kind of disappointed that our trip was rescheduled for today. It originally was supposed to be the day before, Tuesday, May 29. We were supposed to take the 6ish 777 out, which, according to my friends with access to Unimatic, was the new colors 777, N775UA.
Flash forward to O’Hare. We get to the gate huffing and puffing because a series of ill-timed accidents had closed three lanes on the freeway to O’Hare, turning a normally comfortably timed trip to Chicago into a hectic bitchfest about the traffic’s bad timing.
Well, when we got to the gate, fellow a.netter Boiler Special, who also is on the research team, tapped me on the shoulder, his jaw gaping. He is a United junkie as well, and actually has a full time job w/UAL starting in June. I looked forward and my attention turned to the EasyInfo plasma screen at Gate C16. I chuckled because I saw a BSOD/windows error message… which hit close to home because my Windoze desktop recently crashed, tormenting me, causing a tremendous pain in the ass, and making me vow to buy a crash-free, virus-free Apple as my next computer.
Ah, but I was focusing on the wrong thing. No, behind the podium. Boiler Special was still in a daze. Immediately I sensed the blue beauty lurking just outside the window. Just our luck! N775UA would fly us to DEN after all! She must have overnighted in DEN then gone back to ORD first thing in the morning…
Gleefully, we boarded the plane after snapping our requisite pictures. We walked into the plane disappointed that the interior was still the old one, but still gleeful at being finally onboard the n/c triple shizzle. I called ILUV767 as he is a good authority on the maintenance goings on at United. Apparently, unlike before, UAL aircraft are not having their repaints done at the same time as their interiors are ripped out and redone. Not to worry, the aircraft are repainted on a schedule anyway (anti-corrosion), so to you tools who are continually boneheaded and say “how can a bankrupt airline afford new paint” get it through your thick skulls that aircraft are on a repaint schedule anyway, per FARs!
If you look in the photo gallery I linked, you can see a shot of the fuselage’s reflection off of the freshly painted engine… just gorgeous. I was looking out the window so much that my neck got sore.
The service was fine on the two hour flight to Denver. Not great, but not bad. One of the flight attendants was asking us about our consultant work when she abruptly went into “AFA Union Rep” mode and gave us a bitchfest about oversized carryon baggage. Are we looking into fixing the problem, etc. She was complaining about this even though the flight was barely a third full, and on a 777 where overhead bin space shouldn’t be problematic at all! Her main complaints stemmed from the cramped overhead bins of the 767…
United First and Business were served food. To begin, I had a glass of apple juice. The snack mix given was the "Roach" class Fisher Pretzels (or as I like to call them, RAID crumbs)… strange – must have been a catering snafu as this had been the first time in my many trips over the last year and a half that I did not receive the gourmet snack mix in Business… no big deal though.
We were offered a choice of an Asian Ginger Sesame Chicken Salad or Deli Platter. My three teammates chose the Deli Platter, while I chose the salad because I was tired of the platter from previous trips and felt like eating somewhat healthily today.
The ORD-DEN-ORD runs seem to be United’s test route for whenever it changes its service offerings in First/Biz class. I remember back in March we were the first to experience the experiment with bringing back warm meals/snacks, linens, hot towels, hot nuts, etc. on shorter routes. Thankfully, most of the aforementioned items were brought back to shorter routes. More than a couple times before the F/A had explained to us that “this is a test” and solicited our opinions on the test food offerings for that day.
This day was not a test for the snack service as it was the typical Salad/Deli platter choice, but we did receive something we had never received with the salad/deli platter before on such a short (sometimes even less than 2 hour) flight… we got warm, choco chip Mrs. Fields cookies which were delicious!
We took a visual approach into Denver onto 16R and immediately pulled up into a penalty box along the west side of Concourse B. “I have some good news and some bad news,” the Captain announced, “We’re early… and we’re early.” Heh. This happens to us all the time. Many of the times we go to Denver we are always waiting for one of the wide body gates to free up because we are typically early.
Eventually, we pulled into B42 and disembarked rapidly. We conducted our meetings for the day and headed back just 5 hours later…
Flight 1002, DEN-ORD, 777, N768UA, Seat 14J, United Business
We were about to depart on 34R (the same piece of pavement we had landed on, but in the opposite direction) when we pulled into the same penalty box we had sat in momentarily hours earlier on the new colors triple shizzle.
This time, we would wait in the box for about 20 minutes as ORD had been temporarily closed and all outbound flights to ORD had been groundstopped. ILUV767 called because he was at DEN too, connecting. I told him I was already on my flight back, but that he could probably see our 777 sitting in the penalty box. Sure enough, he saw us. I explained the situation and informed him the Captain had turned the engines off but had left the airfoil (wing) in a dirty (takeoff) configuration.
We caught up for a little bit over the phone and then quite abruptly the captain pretty much said. “Sit down shutup and here we go!” lol.
The flight back was nice, even though it was the first time in a while we did not receive a substantial meal or snack. We were given a light snack of fruit and cheese: grapes, gouda (I think), a light Bleu cheese (not like the salad dressing type, but more like Chevre or goat cheese), and single slices of honeydew and cantaloupe. It was elegant, refreshing, and just right. I took a pic this time because I had remembered to put my phone on ‘Airplane Mode’.
Accompanying my meal I had Irish Cream and a nice glass of Merlot.
Soon enough we landed at t-storm-soaked Chi-town’s O’Traffic’Snare Airport and pulled into the gate where we began, C16.
Tomorrow I’m heading out to IAD to sign some papers for the company I’m working for this summer, followed by a flight back home to SFO for a little bit of a stay there before I start my summer job. I’ll be on an AWAC RJ, UA 2-Class 763, and coming back, a 777 to DEN followed by a (wish me luck!) Mesa CRJ-700 back. I don’t think I’ll write another report, but I hope you enjoyed hearing about my ride on the hottest UAL 777
May 13, 2004
Flight 201, IAD-SFO, 767-300ER, N654UA, Seat 2A, United First
This report is being written in the air (on my laptop), as I lounge back in my international sleeper seat. What luck! Over the last two days, United has treated me very, very well.
Per my previous trip report, just the day before I’m writing this I got to ride on the new colors triple seven. Now, I’m sitting in First on a premium domestic route in a three-class airplane (which I’m not supposed to be doing… read on).
As I write this I am actually experiencing some of the heaviest clear air turbulence (CAT) I’ve ever experienced. We are at a cruising altitude of FL410, and it’s rare that turbulence is encountered here. Looking at Airshow, it indicates we are above Kansas, midway on our long 5 hour, 19 minute journey to SFO.
I’m listening to the United Entertainment Network channel 2, dubbed “Center Stage”. This month they actually have a good selection of artists. Ben Jelen and Tyler Hilton are the highlights, and right now I’m listening to Michelle Branch’s “Are you happy now?”
Ok, sorry, enough with the stream-of-consciousness writing.
My trip today started out in IND, where I took an Air Wisconson CRJ-200LR, N463ZW, to IAD. I need not write a trip report for that leg because I hate RJs. Having been in the spacious biz class of a 777 just a little over 12 hours earlier, the cramped CRJ interior seemed even more claustrophobic than I remembered.
At IND, coincidence struck when I saw my friend Tina from school as I turned around after checking in. She didn’t recognize me because I was all dressed up and business-like; a drastic change from the casual outfits and sandals I had been wearing daily since it got warmer in Indiana . She was on her way to China by way of Chicago and AA), Japan">NRT, then onto Shanghai by way of ANA. The aviation dork in me asked her why she didn’t just go through SFO so she could take the nonstop flight on United. Well, she was on a free, Mileage Plus Star Award ticket (and so was I), and apparently this was the only routing with award inventory available. Makes sense, I guess, as United’s SFO-PVG has been doing exceptionally well lately.
I’ve been so spoiled over the past year traveling on United, always in business class or better, that I decided to splurge and go for a first class award ticket using my miles. Well, it wasn’ a complete splurge. The only way I could do a 3 hour layover at Dulles was to use 40,000 miles for a Saver first class domestic award, since there was no award inventory left for the flights that I wanted for a Saver economy class domestic award.
Upon arrival at IAD, we parked on the C/D concourse where there is a temporary UAX ramp in the middle of the two concourses. While taxiing in, I noticed that construction of the new UAX facility was almost done. The new regional terminal looks almost exactly like the ACA digs out at the B concourse…
I also spotted the first ERJ in the new color scheme (a trans states bird) -- see link at the top of this post.
Anyway, after I conducted the business I had to do during my 3 hour layover, on the tram ride back to the C/D concourse, I noticed that there was a three-class 767-300ER parked at the gate where my SFO flight was. I thought that there must have been some mistake.
You see, when redeeming a first class domestic award, it entitles you to United First on a two-class aircraft, or United Business on a three-class aircraft. The agent on the phone who booked my reservation put me in 2A, and I assumed it was a domestic two-class 767-300. This assumption was further reinforced when the gate agent announced boarding of United First rows 1-15, with no mention of United business…
However, upon boarding, it ended up being a three-class mama.Woohoo! I had been in 2A two years before, on my way to EZE. It is a great seat. The international United First seat on United’s 767-300ERs is a sleeper, but is not a fully-flat product. Still, it is very nice, and is a very similar seat to the “coffins” that AA used to have on its 767-300ERs until they went all two-class. In fact, while they are no privacy screens with UA’s seat, I found it much more comfortable than AA’s coffin, which I rode two Thanksgivings ago.
The strange thing is that, while the F seat features 62" of legroom as opposed to the Business seat's 55", it reclines less. This is made up for, however, by the legrest going up fully flat. The seat is electronic.
I’m guessing that it was equipment switch as the gate agent seemed to be under the impression that it was a two class aircraft as well… and thankfully my originally reserved seat of 2A wasn’t re-assigned. The flight went out full in both United First and United Business, and reasonably full in United Economy. There was only one employee in First as far as I could tell – he was chatting to one of the pilots pre-departure about the goings on at the SFO maintenance center…
The service provided by the purser on our flight was excellent in every respect. Every little detail of his service was truly Ritz-Carlton… for instance, when serving the wine, he would present the label first, to get a customer’s approval. He would always reply to thank you’s with a “my pleasure” or “certainly” and was generous with foodstuffs.
Now, I’m sheepish about receiving this type of service cause it makes me feel like the rest of the old farts that are sitting in United First… but I can recognize when a flight attendant does an awesome job.
The menu was distributed with the first warm nut service. I have transcribed the menu here for your viewing pleasure.
*Seasonal greens with tomatoes and parmesan cheese*
Honey Dijon dill vinaigrette or ranch dressing
*Oriental braised beef short ribs with steamed Jasmine rice*
Blanched carrots and baby bok choy
*Roasted breast of chicken with shallot and balsamic demi-glace*
Oven-roasted swetpotatoes and sautéed baby spinach with lemon
*Mixed-nut crusted mahi-mahi with saffron tomato sauce*
Baby bok choy with red peppers and garlic mashed potatoes with chives
*Ice cream with sundae toppings*
--I like wine, but am not a connoisseur, so who cares!—
I chose the mahi-mahi. Like the pecan-crusted chicken I had a couple weeks back, it was quite bland, actually. But hey, still good, restaurant quality food.
For dessert, they rolled out an elaborate cart with an elegantly laid out display of coffee cups on saucers, port glasses, the Ben&Jerry’s ice cream sundaes, and Eli’s mud pie. The cart was decorated with fresh cut flowers and linens. Nice touch!
When given a choice between the ice cream and Eli’s pie, I told the F/A ‘man that’s a tough choice’. He was generous and told me I *should* have both since there were plenty of extras. “If you insist”
The rest of the flight was smooth and uneventful. The first half I spent watching Love, Actually over the Distributed Video System (DVS), while the during the second half I popped in the movie I had selected for my personal movie player (8mm tape), the excellent “Lost in Translation” with the always entertaining Bill Murray.
We landed in SFO a bit early. I relished watching the approach onto 28R I was so accustomed to seeing… The approach always makes me nostalgic. As we paralleled the peninsula, it gave me a bird's eye view of the area where I spent most of my life, and nearly all of my teenage years. There’s Shoreline Ampitheatre, where I’d seen some great concerts. There’s Stanford, where I’d taken summer school and have some of my best memories of. There’s Palo Alto and San Carlos Airports, where I’d taken friends and family up to enjoy a similar view after getting my pilot’s license. There are the golf courses where I’d played. The restaurants I’d been to. The approach into SFO is simply the best.
Well, that’s it. Hope you enjoyed reading about my stroke of good luck!
UA744Flagship From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 7, posted (10 years 9 months 3 weeks 8 hours ago) and read 3413 times:
How did you use your phone on the plane?!
In one of the reports I mentioned something about turning my phone's "airplane mode" on.
Most new Samsung mobile phones have an "airplane mode" feature that turns the phone's reception off, but still leaves its other capabilities (camera, organizer, games, etc.) on. So I wasn't violating FAA/FCC regs.
However, what was shocking on my IAD-SFO flight was that the old dinosaur next to me was using his RIMM BlackBerry inflight. I asked him if he could send/receive e-mails at FL410, he said it was spotty, but he could (!!!) The F/A even made a point of asking/saying "hey is that a BlackBerry? my brother has one too". You'd think if the F/A was familiar with it he would realize it uses cellular technology to send e-mails, etc... and that using it violates regs.