I flew out to Portland on 4 July , and my flight out on United on the HNL
sector in First Class was extremely disappointing – they made some very noticeable cutbacks in First. Anyway, I was supposed to return to HNL
on the 20 July, but my client requested me to fly to Pohnpei (PNI
) in Micronesia to attend their board retreat, so I rebooked myself to fly back to HNL
on 17 July in order to catch the Continental Micronesia Island Hopper on 18 July. Unfortunately, no seats were available on the early morning flights back to HNL
on 17 July, so I had little choice but to rebook myself on the 1.30pm PDX
flight (UA874) to connect onto the 4.30pm departure (UA61) to HNL
. This option would have given me only 12 hours in HNL
. As my departure date grew closer, however, I decided that I wanted to get back to HNL
earlier in order to have more time to rest and to prepare for my meetings in PNI
. I contacted UA
and they advised me try standing by for the earlier flights. The early PDX
was a definite go, but the SFO
flight was less certain. I decided to take my chances regardless.
Portland to San Francisco
Economy Plus, Seat 15C (Exit)
I checked in the night before for my original ticketed flight using UAL’s Online Easy Checkin service, and I printed out my boarding passes without difficulty this time (I had trouble doing it on my flight out). My intention was to use the boarding passes to go straight through security in order to standby for the 6.05am flight.
Arrived at PDX
at 5.25am. Approaching the airport, one might be forgiven for thinking that PDX
was a UAL hub – there were no less than eight mainline aircraft (A319/A320/B737/B757) and four United Express turboprops. The two security lines were VERY long (at least 70 yards each). Luckily I had my Star Alliance Gold card with me and I got through the express lane without hassle. The TSA
agent who checked my ID
did not notice that my boarding pass was for an afternoon flight. Once through security, I walked to Gate E1 and got a seat immediately. As the flight was already boarding, I went straight on and got into my exit row seat. The flight was very empty – less than 50% of the seats were occupied, and I had the exit row to myself. Boarding was completed by 5.50am, and the Captain Paula G____ came onto the PA. Surprise! Out of my last ten flights, I have had female cockpit crew on four of them, and I don’t think any of them were the same person because of different fleets, airlines, and ranks (AA MD80 Captain, UA
767 F/O, UA
737 Captain, UA
Pushback was early at just after 0600, and three United jets pushed back at about the same time. All three planes were pushed back at an angle and they taxied out to runway 28R one-by-one. Takeoff was very quick and powerful – gotta love the 757 for that! The flight itself was very uneventful. No headsets were provided (I wonder why?). Flying time was 1 hour 22 minutes, and there was only a drinks service. I opted for their Starbucks coffee, and I got a refill. The passenger seated in front of me was odd – he looked as if traveled a fair bit, but he still asked if the SFO
flight he was connecting onto had a meal… get real! I noticed that the woman across the aisle was knitting something. Wonder how she got the knitting needles past the TSA
Before long we lined up to touchdown at Runway 28R. Taxi was quick, as was disembarkation.
San Francisco to Honolulu
Economy, Seat 58K
As soon as I disembarked, I looked at the monitors and saw that the flight I hoped to get onto was delayed – the reason given on the screen was “Aircraft Servicing”. I also noticed that the later flights to HNL
were all running on time, however. I immediately walked to the Customer Service counter and I found that the line was full of HNL
passengers trying to get seats together. The Customer Service Agent put me on standby and told me that the aircraft had been changed from a 767 to a 744, but it was overbooked. Huh? I asked again and he confirmed that the two-class 767 that had been scheduled to operate the flight was so badly oversold that they had to change aircraft to a three-class 744, and yet it was still oversold. I found that hard to fathom.
Our 744 arrived at Gate 86 at about 0920, and from that time on the gate agents made multiple announcements for people whose seats had been changed. It was relatively chaotic – many groups and families were seated apart and some were not taking no for an answer. Despite the obvious pressure, the gate agents were professional and they were supported by their manager, who remained cheery throughout.
Boarding commenced at 0940. My name was called out at about 0950 and I took my boarding pass – darn, a window seat – and I made my way down into the aircraft. As I walked down the cabin, I noticed that there wasn’t Economy Plus on this aircraft. The gate agents weren’t joking – the aircraft was chockablock! After I took my seat, I looked down at the ramp agent putting baby strollers into Hold 5, and I counted 11 of them. I thumbed through the literature in the seat pocket and saw duty-free catalogs in Japanese – evidence that this aircraft normally operates across the Pacific.
Pushback was a few minutes late while the ground staff tried to get everyone seated in order to count empty seats and get the standby passengers on. A few passengers didn’t cooperate when asked to sit down, and the gate agents had a hard time confirming if any seats were unoccupied. In fact, pushback was delayed because one passenger took her time getting seated.
Taxi to 28L was short, and we took off alongside am America West A320 that was landing on 28R. Takeoff roll was, not surprisingly, long. After takeoff, I dozed off. Cabin service started about 30 minutes into the flight, but the meal took some time to get to me because I was at the back. Breakfast choices were: a croissant sandwich with ham, egg and cheese, or a fruit plate. I chose the former, and I got a small fruit appetizer (three cubes of cantaloupe and three cubes of pineapple), the “croissantwich” and a rather stale cherry apple turnover. This meal was, however, a lot more satisfying that the one in First Class on my outbound journey, because this time I got what I expected for the class of service. The crew was based in SFO
– they were all pretty average, except for one Asian male F/A who very obviously enjoyed his job – he smiled and interacted a lot more with passengers.
The inflight movie was “Agent Cody Banks”. It was quite awful and I gave my after about 30 minutes. Thankfully, the music selection was good – this being a 744, we had “Eurobeat/Chillout” on Channel 13, my favorite! Rest of the flight was dull – I took the time to review the presentation I would make to my client in Pohnpei. There were some obnoxious frat boys a couple of rows behind me that were loud, but luckily the audio drowned out their voices. “Eurobeat/Chillout” is awesome – half the program featured funk band Delerium, with songs from their albums “Chimera”, “Poem”, “Karma” and “Semantic Spaces”, and featuring vocals from artistes such as Sarah McLaughlin, Zoe Johnston (Faithless), Leigh Nash (Sixpence None the Richer).
Flying time was about 4 hours 37 mins, and descent into HNL
was a little bumpy. The aircraft flew over downtown HNL
, headed out to Pearl Harbor, and then made a 180-degree turn to land at 08L. Just before landing, I saw an aircraft carrier heading out of Pearl. Disembarkation was quick, and I made my way out the airport.
If there are any United insiders reading this, I would be grateful if you could check up a few things for me: (1) Exactly how overbooked was this flight? (2) Were any fare paying First Class passengers downgraded to Business Class (I think the domestic 767s have 30+ First Class seats, as opposed to 12(?) on the 744. Also, were any upgraded? (3) Did they really delay this flight to get a 744 to operate it, and did this throw off other schedules?
Coming up next: HNL
(via Majuro on Kosrae) on CO
. My client had initially booked BusinessFirst for me because Economy was full, but unfortunately Coach cleared, and now I am stuck in a middle seat for eight hours on their B737-800. Darn!