Here is the report on my recent trip to Boston. I was travelling in a large group, 29 people, and the university booked all the tickets, so I could not choose the airlines. I never flew on UA before, and I have heard mixed opinion about it, but I hope thie trip report can give more insight on how Unite Airlines fare with other airlines. This is the first time I'm flying on US carrier and on a B744 passenger configuration (my previous B744 experience was on board KLM's Combis).
Since the departure time was at 7.20 AM, so the group leader requested everyone of us to be at Changi T1 at 5.20 PM. Oh well, I decided not to sleep at all the night before, just bumming around with my friend, waiting for my transport to the airport. I arrived at the airport at 5.05 AM, and the terminal was very empty, except for Check-in Row 1-4, which were the check-in desk for UA and NW flights to US.
The sign-board showed that UA882 would be checked-in in Row 2, and UA806 bound for CLK would be in Row 1. So I went to Row 2, and queued for the X-ray. The queue was short, only 2 persons in front of me. When my turn came, the security guard asked for my ticket, and after seeing mine, he told me that all UA Economy Class passengers should check-in in Row 1, Row 2 is only for First and Business Class passengers. Fine, I thought it was my mistake, but after searching for signs indicating that Row 2 is only for First and Business, I couldn't find any, and there were couple of passengers behind myself who did the same 'mistake' that I did. Oh well, it's just a little quirk, so I wouldn't make a fuss of it.
The queue in Row 1 was quite long, the security guards in the X-ray machined asked the usual questions, like "Did you pack your bag yourself?" and "Have you let you baggage left unattended?" When he asked "Do you have anything inside that can be used as weapons?", I answered "I'm not sure whether I can use my underwear as weapons" Well, for a second he looked at me as if I was some criminal, but at the end he smiled. Phiew..
Anyway, the check-in was a breeze. The travel agent had told me that I couldn't redeem the milleage on this trip since it's a group-discounted ticket. However, when I asked the gentleman in the check-in counter, he just asked my Milleage Plus number, and typed it in. The seats were pre-assigned, so I couldn't choose. My seat for this segment is 33E. After check-in, I decided to look at the observation gallery. Since it's still early in the morning, there's nothing much to see, so after seeing the B744 that I was about to board at gate C20 I decided to go pass the immigration, and wait inside.
Boarding commenced at 6.20AM. There was another security check before I entered the gate waiting area. When I got inside the plane, it was clean, and the seats look pretty new. I quickly put my carry-ons inside the overhead bin and sat down. First thing I noted is how tight is the seat pitch. At 31", UA Economy Class is quite dissapointing. Btw, I'm 6'1". Luckily, seat 32B which in the first row of Y-class is empty, so I moved there to get extra leg room. The seat pocket contains the usual in flight magazine, duty-free catalog, barf bag and a menu.
Push back was exactly at 7.20AM. The plane quickly taxied to runway 20L, and took off. Breakfast is served as soon as the fasten seat belts sign was off. The choice was either vermicelli with seafood or french toast. The vermicelli sounded better, so I chose it. It turned out to be a wrong choice. It was oily and tasteless (Just a side note: I hardly enjoyed any meals everytime I flew from SIN, I don't know why, maybe it just my bad luck). The service on board was quite OK (until lunch time, read below), and "Beautiful Mind" was showed. Since I hadn't had sleep for almost 24 hours, I quickly dozed off, although for only 1 hour.
After I woke up, I decided to try my luck and wrote a letter to the Captain, requesting for a cockpit visit after landing. I also attached a flight information form, which I got from Mr. BA with it.
Around 1 hour before landing, a lunch box was served. It consist of sandwitch and a bag of chips. Since I don't really like sandwitches, I skipped that one as well, and ate the chips. Well as I said before, the service was OK until the lunch time. Here what happened, a friend of mine who sat on 32C was asleep when the FA came with the lunch boxes. She tried to wake my friend up, which I found quite rude. After trying for several times, she gave up and put the lunch box on my friend's lap! I was shock to see that. She didn't even try to open the table.... Anyway, I quickly opened the table and put the lunch box on it.
Well, back to the letter that I wrote. Since I didn't get any reply up to the time the FA came to clear the lunch boxes, I thought my request had been denied. However, shortly after that, the male purser came from the Business Class section and told me that the Captain has read my letter and gave me a permission to visit the cockpit after landing. He added that I have to be quick. Anyway, 2 minutes later, he came back and said,"Would you like to move to the upper deck, so you can go directly to the cockpit after everyone deboard?" I didn't need to be asked twice
So, I moved to the upper deck, I couldn't remember the seat number, but it's the right aisle seat in the emergency exit door. This was my first experience in the upper deck of a B747, so I was quite excited. To my dismay, the aircon was quite noisy, it's even noisier than in the Economy Class (Is this normal? or just one-off occurence?). Apart from the aircon, UA Business Class was quite nice, although I can't really comment since I hardly travel on Business.
We circled twice in the holding pattern before landing on runway 16R. The whole trip was on time. And quickly after the passengers deboarded, I went into the cockpit and had a little talk with the crews. Captain Friend and FO Dugger were very friendly and they attended to all my queries. Since I have to clear the security again and catch my flight to SFO, I couldn't stay for long.
I had around 1 hour in before boarding for my second leg of the trip, although I spent 15 minutes queueing for security check. However, I decided to have a quick trip around NRT. NRT in the afternoon is very busy. There were 3 NW A320s that they used for intra-Asian routes. I managed to see Air Tahiti Nui's new A343, and CX's B744 "Asia World City" and many others.
The duty free shops in NRT are very expensive, but then again, some stuff there you couldn't find it elsewhere. SInce I'm not into shopping, I didn't bother to really check what was there.
Boarding for UA838 commenced at 4.35PM from gate 28, one of the few remote gate in NRT. I took the bus to the remote parking Z11 where N179UA was waiting for passengers. It was a thrilling ride, since I get the chance to see NRT apron so close. Too bad the bus windows were quite dirty, such that I couldn't take a single decent picture. However, "racing" side by side with AA's B777 is really a great experience.
For this flight, I was assigned to seat 43J, which is an Economy Plus seat (Thank God for the extra 5"). My friend who had 41H offered me his seat, since he knew that I wanted a window seat. So I quickly accepted her offer. And to my surprise, 41J was empty! So I had 2 seats of my own
The doors were closed at 5.20PM, 15 minutes earlier than the scheduled time. However, the captain spoke on the PA, the ATC could not gave an earlier take-off slot. So, we were waiting for around 15 before finally being pushed-back.
We took off from runway 16R, and directly climbed to cruise level 370. Dinner was served. Again this time, there was a menu on the seat pocket. The choice was between Tenderloin Steak with mushroom sauce or Chicken Teriyaki with rice. After being let down with the Asian choice on the first leg, I chose the steak, which was great. It was juicy and tender. I could cut the meat easily using the not-so-sharp plastic knife. The chicken on the other hand didn't look so nice, and judging from the way my neighbour in 43H looked, it didn't taste good either.
After dinner, I didn't bother to check the movie, took two pills of Melatonin, and quickly fell asleep. I woke up around 4 hours later, and felt thirsty. So, I pressed the call button, and within second, one FA appeared and attended to my request of a glass of water. Then every now and then another FA would go around, offering water to the passengers.
I went to sleep again shortly, and only woke up just before breakfast was served. This time there wasn't any choice. It consisted of cheese omelette with sausage and hashbrown. It was very nice in my opinion. After that, tea and coffee were served. There was one little "incident" when the cofee was being served. My neighbour in seat 43H requested for a cup, then this Afro-American FA asked for his cup to be put in the tray she's holding. After she poured the coffee, my neighbour was quite slow to take it back, and she said quite loudly "Can you take the cup back? It's heavy". Well, my neighbour was quite stunned, luckily, realizing her "mistake", she quickly smiled :P.
I have to say, apart from the little "incident", the whole service in this leg was far better than on my first leg. Especially the food.
Anyway, this time I tried my luck again, and wrote another letter to the captain for a cockpit visit. This time the reply was quick, just less than 10 minutes, I got a positive answer
But this time, I didn't get to move to the upper deck...
Approach to SFO was beautiful, we landed on runway 28R and it was one of the smoothest landing I've ever experienced, despite the fact that it was on AutoLand.
Since I was quite tired, I only went up to the cockpit for a while, just to take my flight information sheet back, and left.
Immigration check in SFO was quite fast, and the luggage came out quite quickly. Immediately I went through the Customs, and re-check my luggage for the domestic flight to BOS.
After waiting in SFO for more than 1 hour, I decided to enter the gate area, by going through the security check. The queue was quite long, but it was quite fast. There was one middle-aged Indian couple in front of me. The husband didn't seem to have a wallet, since he had to got through the metal detector for 5 times, until he was cleared. He had the biggest pockets I've ever seen, full of coins and keys :P
The boarding call for UA170, non-stop service to Boston Logan Airport, commenced at 12.30PM. The interior of the B762 looked pretty tired, but then again, the plane itself is quite old. I was seated in seat 29G, which is a window seat.
Push back was on time and during taxiing, I got the chance to see many airlines and airplanes that I hardly see in SIN or CGK, such as AA, DL, National, ATA, Continental and planes such as 757s and 737NGs. The best looking airplane that I've ever seen has to be ATA's B757-300.
Meals were served shorly after we reached cruising altitude. The choice was either Chicken with rice or Pasta. My instinct told me to choose the Pasta, which was quite delicious. The chicken doesn't look too bad either, but my instinct told me to stick to the Western meal. The movie "Ice Age" was shown, but from my seat, it's quite impossible to see the screen clearly, so I decided to read a book instead.
Around 3 hours after the meal, the FA came again to distribute party snack, which wasn't really taste that good, but quite OK since I was quite hungry.
This time around, since I was too tired to write a letter to the captain, I decided not to do it.
After close to 6 hours in the air, and 26 hours after leaving SIN, we finally landed in Boston Logan Airport.
In the nutshell, United Airlines is quite a good airline. Although I won't consider it as my favourite airline, it definetely made it to my top 5 list. Compared to other airlines I have flown before, UA is in par with most of them, although World-class Asian carriers such as CX and SQ are better than UA, but I have to say that UA is as good, if not slightly better than KL, AF or QF.
With all the hype about UA going to be bankrupt, I hope they can survive. I won't hesitate to fly with them anymore.