Thursday, Sept. 5, 2002
UA 41; 2-class 763
Seat 12B (Y-plus)
Thanks to my wife’s Premier status, the Hawaii package I booked through United Escapes afforded both of us the opportunity to fly in Economy Plus. I arranged for a six-night stay at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel – we actually only wanted a five-night package but for some reason that would have cost several hundred dollars more. I imagine agreeing to fly back on Sept. 11 was a factor.
Anyway, there was really no place I’d rather be on Sept. 11, 2002, then on a UA widebody. My wife had different feelings altogether but eventually came to agree with my line of reasoning, that it was a good thing to show our support not only for our country but for the struggling carrier we both have flown hundreds of times.
The trip out was uneventful except for having to check in to get a boarding pass; I had been assured on the phone that my receipt would get us through security so we could go straight to the gate. Luckily there were several empty self-check in kiosks at SFO so we were only delayed a few minutes. My “personal item” was a cooler; going through the concourse one FA passed me and cracked, “What have ya got in there, a heart or something?”
We boarded and took our seats, 12A and B. The plane was 80 percent full. On these planes the pitch in Y-plus is quite ample, and the pitch in F didn’t appear to be more than a few inches more than we had. Very comfortable seats with adjustable headrests. After leaving the gate about 10 minutes after our scheduled departure time of 9:10 a.m., we went all the way out to the end of 28L for takeoff. Quite a nice surprise, as I almost never get to depart to the north. Soon we were airborne and well into our flight of five hours, 20 minutes.
There was nothing to see except for clouds and water, naturally. We had a breakfast of ham-egg-cheese on a bagel – quite awful, really – with some fruit. The FAs were friendly and attentive and the flight went by quickly. The movie was “Crocodile Hunter,” which I did not watch. There were also the usual UA offerings of NBC programming. We mostly dozed and read through the flight; after Channel 9 switched off they played some decent jazz on that channel, which I listened to for about an hour.
We landed smoothly in Kona at 11:48 a.m., 10 minutes late, and began a superb vacation at the Mauna Kea. The United Escapes package included a Hertz compact but at check-in there they offered us a convertible for $5 more a day; I took them up on it.
I won’t spend a lot of time on the land part of this trip but suffice to say that the Mauna Kea is a superb resort, we were taken care of quite nicely and they have what may be the best beach on the Big Island.
Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2002
UA 40, 2-class 763
Seat 11A, Y-plus
Funny thing at check-in at KOA. We were not asked the usual questions about the luggage being in our possession, not being given items by strangers, etc. When I got back home that night there was a report on one of the San Francisco newscasts about how their crew – which flew OAK-LAX and back just to do a story on people flying this day – also was not asked about their bags. Did anyone else experience this or was it just a coincidence?
Our flight back home was perhaps 35-40 percent full in coach, all 36 F seats were filled. While taxiing the FO, a nice-sounding woman, came on to thank us all for flying United and to ask for a few moments of silence in remembrance of the victims of last year’s horrendous attacks. She also asked us, politely but firmly, to stay within our assigned cabins and to not congregate in the aisles or in galley areas.
Other than that it was a perfectly ordinary flight. Service was professional and friendly, as usual on UA. Shortly after taking off on time at 1 p.m. the drink cart was followed by dinner – beef burgundy or teriyaki chicken. My wife had the chicken but only ate the salad and roll, leaving the chicken for me. I took one bite and declined, it was somewhat gamey-tasting dark meat, which I don’t really like. The beet was really pot roast with mashed potatoes and green beans. Not too bad.
The movie this time was “The Cat’s Meow,” which I watched. It started slow but got better near the end. Outside, we were treated to a nice pink sunset over an unbroken cloud layer. Our flight time was about 4 ½ hours, and we got in early at 8:20 or so.
I’m already planning a return trip next year; I hope UA will survive its current financial troubles so that I can continue to patronize the carrier I grew up with. I also earned a lot of bonus miles by booking this trip through United Escapes – which is a great little Web-based travel agent, in my opinion!