Here’s the last leg of my travel on UA….
YCL – 18A
Flying time: 45min
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.
There's always a better way to fly...