Carfield From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 2118 posts, RR: 8 Posted (9 years 10 months 2 weeks 1 day ago) and read 9940 times:
Here is my series of trip reports on a couple ex-CMB tickets. The first one is a leftover of the TG F ticket that was bought almost a year ago, and due to TGï¿½s cancellation of the LAX-KIX and its incompetent and rude staff, this ticket is finally endorsed over to United Airlines. Of course that includes a $2000USD additional collection because TG claims that this is a YY ticket and my agent is still in the midst of dispute, but my only warning is donï¿½t ever book a ticket with TG and issue one in TG stock. Their staffs are obnoxious and irresponsible. Never call back and I personally am not flying TG for a long time and avoid it at all costs. Enough said! Of course, my demand for TG to change my flight from a LAX(-SFO)-KIX-HND/NRT-HKG-BKK-SIN-CMB ticket to LAX-NRT-HKG-BKK-SIN-CMB was rejected, as they do not want to re-issue the ticket at all. Nevertheless fate played a twisted game on me and/or TG. I somehow ended up in Tokyo much earlier.
June 7, 2006
UA 885 LAX-SFO 0755 0909 757 Beverage N551UA
UA 885 SFO-KIX 1258 1635+1 777 Lunch and Light Meal
JL 1320 KIX-HND 2105 2215 763 Beverage
Well this morning began with an unexpected early arrival of my Super Shuttle van, and I left the house without a shower, which was always a bad omen. I also hate it but I know I can catch up with a shower at one of the United International First Class lounges. I arrived LAX around 6am and thank god, the 1K/First class line had returned, despite the agent did not direct me to the right lane, even after I flashed the 1K card. It did not matter because there was no one there. The agent was very indifferent and not the typical 1K agent. She did not smile or simply went through the motion. It was a very disappointing staff, and a definitely minus, compared even to American Airlines. She checked my bag through to Haneda, and then I went through security quickly and headed towards the International First Class lounge, which thankfully was a much better experience. The angel was there to thank me and to welcome me into the club. However, the breakfast spread has gotten worst, down to really cartons of Special K cereals, some strawberry yogurts, cheese & dried fruit plate with crackers, and lots of Milano and Brussels cookies, but the bar is fully equipped. The lounge was occupied by a number of p.s. folks obviously and some Hollywood types, and the typical business type. They all left soon for the first flight to JFK. I took the leisure of taking some pictures, as my aircraft towed in from the hangar, N551UA, into gate 75B.
The angel paged me at 7:30am, as boarding would commence shortly. I headed towards 75B, and waited and waited. Boarding indeed was delayed due to the failure of the auxillary power units and the cabin was pitch dark. Updates occurred a few times with really no information and many folks with International connection were obviously concerned. With four hours transit time, I was in no hurry, but the wait was annoying and finally commenced around 8:30am. Boarding completed by 8:50am and the F/A brought everyone pre-takeoff beverage in F. Then many business types began to leave the plan and to head over to the 9:30am flight. The pilot did not say a word till much later, but the F/As kept telling folks there were no ETD, and the pilot came out and tell us that they were trying to fix a broken AUX unit. Another thirty minutes passed, more people took off, but some came back as the line outside was very long. The passenger counts were down to a few in F and a few in Y ï¿½ only a handful, but with bags checked to KIX and HND, I thought I had times. Finally at 10am, the F/A asked where I was going and the agent immediately sent me out and tried to put me on another SFO flight. Well I headed to the counter and the crowd had already dissipated. The agent told the operation to cancel this flight, since there was no one on board, except the air marshals, and a few folks. Even the F/As were heading out to get information. The agent immediately looked up my ticket and then did not know what to do. Then I told him to book me to Narita, as long as he could fix my bag situation, which was my biggest concern. I was literally moving from place to place each day. Well the agent immediately took my original coupon and rebooked me to NRT, and then told me that the bag would make it fine. He also intelligently cancelled my JAL segment, so the rest of the ticket would remain valid. Hopefully the bag would follow me.
UA 899 LAX-NRT Lv1233 Arr1555+1 Boeing 747-400 N182UA/8182 (Old livery)
The angel was surprised to see me back so quickly and I recapped my story and she said that she had to thank the agent downstairs for taking care of me. But since LAX Intï¿½l First lounge does not have a shower, I was not a happy camper, but what could I do? At least I got to go nonstop to Tokyo now, despite having to take the bus to Haneda because I was trying out a few domestic side trips the next day. Even with the traffic at Naritaï¿½s immigration line and road traffic in Tokyo, I should make it to HND much earlier than expected. My only concern was my bag now, but nothing I could do now.
The lunch spread at the lounge has slightly improved with pre-made sandwiches and cut fruits, and tortilla chips and salsa. I logged online and did some work and made some phone calls. Then the angel brought us down to the gate around 11:50am. It was a pretty full flight as expected, and we bypassed all the line, and brought towards the front door. The angel certainly reminded me of the great concierge service from the past. Those great agents with the big red flowers took care of F passengers, and sadly, that no longer existed except for VIP guests.
The Boeing 747-400 was fine and I did not have high expectation about United. I knew that it would not be like my SQ flight a few months ago, and my curiosity lies on how well United compared to American on this highly competitive route. In terms of seats, I have to say American wins right the way with its flagship suites (not the coffin seats though). The AAï¿½s Flagship suites are better padded, wider, and better designed. However, the rest of the service was not so much different especially after the recent cutbacks in AA too.
The F/As immediately passed out amenity kits, slippers, and headsets. AA is a bit better with the BOSE headsets, but amenity kits and slippers were comparable. Then I walked towards the front console, where sadly only Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Financial Times, and Japanese papers in both native and English language were available. LA Times and New York Times were offered by AA and at least LA Times should be offered. Pre-takeoff beverage was offered, and menus were passed out next.
Announcements were made in both English and Japanese, and around 12:34pm, all doors were closed and we pushed back shortly after. Traffic was not that busy at LAX and we took off at 12:49pm from R/W25R. Flying time was estimated to be ten hours and forty-four minutes, and the routing took us along the West coast at 32,000feet plus a beautiful view of the Bay Area (see pictures), and then climbed to 34,000feet after passing Cape Mendocino, and then climbing up to 36,000feet after passing Bristol and Cold Bay in Alaska southwestern tip, and then further up to 38,000feet as we crossed the International Date Line.
After seat belt sign was turned off, beverage service immediately began with warmed mixed nuts. The first thing I noticed was the absence of the old distinctive first class glasses ï¿½ the one with the line designed. Everything is now the same between first and business class now in terms of glassware and china. I was not surprised but sad to see the line between F and J slowly disappearing. Meal orders were taken next, and then the table was setup with thankfully the distinctive gold linen cloth, but sadly the plastic salt and pepper tubes, that did not belong to a world-class first and business product. Then the appetizer cart was rolled out and you could take both the hot and cold choices, and then a small cup of soup, and then followed by pre-plated salad with topping to be added, and then the entrï¿½e, and then the return of the separate cheese and fruit plate/basket, and then the ice cream cart. Bread was offered throughout the flight.
Here is the menu transcript and wine list:
Laurent Perrier 1996 Champagne
Heidsieck Diamant Bleu Brut 1996 Champagne
Schlumberger Pinot Gris Grand Cru Spiegel 2002
Selbach-Oster Riesling Kabinett 2004 Wehlener Sonneuhr Mosel
Chateau Ste. Michelle Chardonnay 2002 Columbia Valley
Grove Mill Sauvignon Blanc 2003 Marlborough
Castello Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico Riserva 2001 Sangiovese
Clos St. Anne 2003 Pomerol
Rockbare Shiraz 2003 McLean vale
Beringer Bancroft Ranch Merlot 2000 Howell Mountain
Gekkeikan Sake Daiginjo is available on flight to and from Japan.
Sandeman Founders Reserve Porto will be offered during the main mealï¿½s dessert
Join us in a sampling of appetizers:
Hot wild mushroom and goat cheese strudel with Madeira herb sauce
Balik-style smoked salmon with carmelized red onion compote
Yukon Potato and cheddar chowder
Fresh Seasonal Greens
Hot chili-seared shrimps
Country ranch or balsamic Dijon vinaigrette
Filet Mignon with Port Wine Sauce
Pecan-crusted Chicken with black peppercorn cream sauce
The above entrees include your choices of:
Twice baked cheddar potato, rice pilaf with caramelized shallots or steamed rice
Green beans with red pepper and marjoram or a mixed vegetable sautï¿½
Shiitake Mushroom shrimp cake with sweet chili sauce
Chow Mein noodles and kailan with red peppers
Japanese Obento Selection
An appetizer of crabmeat in layer eggs, shrimp sushi, chicken sansho-yaki, scallions with miso paste, broiled tuna and cha-soba noodles
A main course of beef tenderloin with mushrooms, steamed snapper, five-kind mixed vegetables, hakusai with fried bean curd and sesame steamed rice
Served with green tea
To complete your dining experience:
Ice cream with sundae toppings (only hot fudge and whipped cream)
Cheese Selection: Kerrygold Vintage Cheddar, Port Salut, Wensleydale with cranberry
Fresh strawberries with brown sugar sour cream dip
In terms of meals, American offers a unique Japanese meal for first class and United uses the same bento for first and business class. AA also has the salad cart, but those fancy toppings are only limited to the daytime flight. I really like Unitedï¿½s appetizers and you can have both choices. They have one warm and one cold choice, and seem to change frequently. The salmon was alright and the offerings are generous with layers of salmon. The warmed strudel also tasted fine, but I just did not like goat cheese personally, but the mushroom fillings were delicious. Then I enjoyed the cup of soup. The chowder was hearty enough with good chunks of new potatoes, as well as bacons and chives. It was not a big bowl of soup, but for a rich chowder, the nice was just right. The salad was basically a Mesclun kind with olives, and tomato and the spicy shrimps added some favor to it. I did not even need salad dressing. I had the Shiitake Mushroom and Shrimp cake as entrï¿½e, and it was okay.
Then in terms of desserts, I am glad to see UA offers two rounds of desserts with fruit and cheese first. Fruit baskets feature peaches, grapes, and bananas, and then there were plates of strawberries, and then a full cheese plate. AA rolls out everything at once now, and the cheese selection is limited to two kinds. But AA scores higher points for a full sundae cart, and United offers a vanilla and chocolate ice cream with hot fudge topping and whipped cream ï¿½ not the variety offered by AA. In general, I like United spread better and more diverse choice of appetizers and a soup course, and some variety is provided.
Chocolate chip cookie warm from the oven
Hot noodles are available upon request
Bottles of Aquafina water were passed out after the meal, and the F/As were very good in checking with folks. After waking up from my nap, I was offered a cookie immediately. They worked throughout the flight refilling water bottles and asking if beverages are needed. Both AA and UA are pretty good in their premium cabin checks.
Entertainment was sadly outdated, not in terms of movie choices, but the fact that tapes were still used, as well as a non-AVOD PTV (not to mention the small screens). However the Power Port worked well, and Channel nine was turned on, but really nothing much was going on during most of the flight. But listening to the Japanese ATC is an interesting experience especially trying to understand their English.
Prior to arrival
Asparagus and Asiago pie with pomodoro sauce
Black Forest Ham and sautï¿½ed zucchini with basil
Fresh Seasonal Fruit plate with creamy yogurt
(Grapes, melon, strawberry, cantaloupe)
However, UAï¿½s weakest point is that prior to arrival meals. This pie thing is better than other attempts at pasta with awful sauce. They canï¿½t really serve a decent hot meal. American, and all other airlines manage to offer a nice light supper, but why United canï¿½t do the similar. AA offers a choice between a fresh hearty salad and a chunky soup, which definitely works much better than UA, and AA also offers a real dessert. Also two hot choices should be offered, instead of one cold and one hot. I had the hot meal, which was a bit heavy and the ham was very salty. The fruit appetizer had nice watermelon, melon and cantaloupe cubes, and there is a warmed multigrain roll on the side.
Descent began at 3pm NRT local time, and then we landed on R/W16R after AC 1 at 3:34pm NRT local time. We were parked at gate 37 four minutes later, and the line was not too bad for foreigners. But it is certainly nice to see all these Star Alliance carriers today with the odd Dragonairï¿½s A330 in the middle. OZ and TG all use UA pier. My bag thankfully made it with a rerouting sticker. Thank god that I did not try to get on the SFO flight.
In conclusion, UA F is not too bad with an okay seat, and new improved main meals, but things need to work on are:
1. The prior to arrival meal is a disgrace. Go back to a sandwich concept and avoid heavy sauce and food. If they want to serve breakfast food, it is okay. Also introduce a dessert to go with it.
2. Amenity kits need to be improved.
3. Aquafina water bottles ï¿½ If NWï¿½s WBC goes with Evian, UA should do so as well.
4. Introduce back a separate set of first class wine glasses, water glasses, and china to hype up the product.
5. Update the video system.
CXtra From Hong Kong, joined Jan 2006, 263 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (9 years 10 months 2 weeks 23 hours ago) and read 9887 times:
Thanks for the report, Carfield.. just the kind of sector that I find interesting. Great detail too, with emphasis on the service and product rather than what a/c is parked next to you at the gate, and the runway from which you depart. Just a personal preference, of course. Any chance you could incorporate the pix into the report? Minor detail though.. I enjoyed the report.
NZ8800 From New Zealand, joined May 2006, 425 posts, RR: 2
Reply 4, posted (9 years 10 months 2 weeks 16 hours ago) and read 9580 times:
That was really interesting - I often wonder, as I turn right on arrival at the aircraft, what it's like off to the left!
I always remember Absolutely Fabulous:
Patsy: She (Saffron) isn't travelling Club with us, is she?
Edina: Oh no, darling, she's back in economy. Practically cargo.
I thought the food would have been a bit more - well - flash!
Dessert in particular - I don't want just ice-cream, I want sticky toffee pudding! Must be my British heritage.
To quote/paraphrase Bill Bryson and "Notes from a small island" (fantastic book) "you can feed the British all sorts of international things for their main courses, but don't **** with their puddings. They get very upset."
MDZWTA ~ Mobile Disaster Zone When Travelling Abroad
ForeverUnited From United States of America, joined May 2006, 92 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (9 years 10 months 2 weeks 3 hours ago) and read 9153 times:
Quoting NZ8800 (Reply 4): That was really interesting - I often wonder, as I turn right on arrival at the aircraft, what it's like off to the left!
I always remember Absolutely Fabulous:
Patsy: She (Saffron) isn't travelling Club with us, is she?
Edina: Oh no, darling, she's back in economy. Practically cargo.
Oh, AbFab! Way to my heart!
On another note I'm sorry to hear you're disappointed with United International First, but even as United devotee I acknowledge this is a product that requires updates to remain competitive. However I might point out that United still gets kudos for retaining an F at all while so many other US carriers have gone to a 2 cabin concept.
However, United has recently announced a multimillion dollar revamp of it's international premium cabins. Details haven't been finalized, but I can imagine the new product will be just as cutting-edge as some of their new innovations stateside. Product-wise United remains one of the better US domestics, and their high yield international product should come into that line sometime in the next few years.
RoseFlyer From United States of America, joined Feb 2004, 11166 posts, RR: 52
Reply 8, posted (9 years 10 months 1 week 5 days 23 hours ago) and read 8539 times:
Thanks for the trip report. I always try to look out for your reports since they are some of the best. You really do notice some of the finer details. I have flown United a few times in First Class on both the 777 and 747. I think the product is perfectly adequate and very similar to AA. I consider the two almost the same. I haven't flown SQ, CX, or BA in first class, so I can't compare to those, but I think United has a product that is pretty good.
I do agree that the IFE should be improved. Having the tapes is nice since you can choose what you want to watch, but a bigger screen and automated system (if it doesn't crash) would be nice. Also I've notied that the food isn't consistently good. Sometimes it is good, and sometimes not.
I'm also glad that you really liked the ground service from the first class lounge. I love it when they privately escort you to the plane. It takes away the hassle of waiting around at the gate and waiting in crowds. United doesn't always do that, but when they do I appreciate it. It is so much better than for example the mess that is Lufthansa first class boarding.
[Edited 2006-06-26 03:06:22]
If you have never designed an airplane part before, let the real designers do the work!
Christao17 From Thailand, joined Apr 2005, 980 posts, RR: 8
Reply 9, posted (9 years 10 months 1 week 5 days 15 hours ago) and read 8395 times:
Thanks for the report. It is always a pleasure reading your reports and you do a very good critiquing of the serivce, something I really appreciate.
Nice pictures, too. It would be great if they were integrated into the report but I admit that's a lot of work.
Quoting Carfield (Thread starter): .. and I personally am not flying TG for a long time and avoid it at all costs.
I'm truly sorry to hear that you had troubles with them. Actually, I just finished a trip report on a TG flight I took and will post it in a few minutes. Probably won't change your mind, but I hope you give them another shot one of these days.
Carfield From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 2118 posts, RR: 8
Reply 10, posted (9 years 10 months 1 week 5 days 7 hours ago) and read 8244 times:
Thanks Chris for your reply!
I don't have problems with TG's service at all, but after how their LAX office has treated me, their incompetent and rude ticketing office staff really leave much for desired. How will they not honor a Sabre auto price ticket is beyond me? If you don't want a fare to be published, don't? That is why I actually ask folks not to buy TG ex-CMB F/J fares...
Anyway, thanks other folks for your kind replies as well...
Jyatlantic From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 13, posted (9 years 10 months 1 week 4 days 19 hours ago) and read 7972 times:
Quoting Jaysit (Reply 11):
Whatever happened to Dom, caviar and some flash in First Class?
You'll get that on UA's Star Alliance parter, LH. And no, you WON'T get ANY of that on those wimpy Business/First hybrids, lol. It's just so much better traveling in three-cabin F than two-cabin "business/first."