United Airlines - UA955
9th April 2004
Scheduled departure time: 10:05
Actual departure time: 09:45
Scheduled arrival time: 12:55
Actual arrival time: 12:20
Photo © Michael Catchpole
Photo © Andrew Hunt - AirTeamImages
I knew this was going to be a long day, and it was! My day started at 2am when I got up for the drive down to T3 at Heathrow. I got there at around 7am when I went to zone G to check-in for UA955 to San Francisco. The check-in area seemed nice - it was quite empty, but there were plenty of United staff around giving out luggage labels and helping with crowd control, even though at this time there were no crowds to control. At check-in they asked the usual security questions, then I headed up the escalator towards security.
Security seemed tight After a passport and boarding card check, I went through and joined the long winding queue. The security area is huge - especially when compared to places like EMA & BHX! I got through with no problems as usual, while other people were getting searched all over, shoes being removed etc.
Then I was in the departure lounge. It seemed fine, a good selection of shops and plenty of seats. It was quite busy, with people heading all over the world on the morning flights and cleaners running around cleaning up.
I was impressed with the screens showing the departing flights, very modern! Nothing like those crappy blue, yellow and white screens at EMA
The time came (eventually) to head to the gate, which I think was gate 15. So far T3 looked quite nice, but when I turned the corner after leaving the departure lounge, it looked awful. No ceiling tiles, just a view up into the roof, the floor was patchy and had tape all over it in some places, and the walls looked like they'd been bashed quite a bit. I turned left, going past a few posh looking airline lounges, to get onto the escalator which would take lazy old me nearer to the gates
This took quite a while, but there were good views out of the windows on either side of a variety of airlines which I'd never seen before 'in person'.
I got to the end and turned left, heading down this wide corridor with a nasty carpet and bland, bare walls. Nothing like the marble floored de parture area in many Spanish airports. This was awful! First impressions always count, so I dread to think what image thousands of foreigners get of London and the UK as a whole! Are there any plans to modernise T3?! I can remember T2 was slighty nicer, with photos of aircraft on the walls Good taste
Got to the gate, and there was an attempt to make it look modern - shiny metal all around the doorway. After a while there was movement and a couple of women came out with pointless little United desks on wheels (looked pathetic and strange to be totally honest). They were pointless, they were totally unnecessary! A very long queue formed at one desk, so I didn't follow like a sheep, I went for the much shorter queue and went into the gate
area where my boarding card etc. was checked again and then I went through and sat down.
Along by the window there were a few tables with a few security guards going through peoples bags and shoes. After a few minutes it seemed that everyone had to go through this - but they didn't ask me. I must look innocent Which, I must add, I am..
Boarding for the posh people, I mean people in first class, proudly went through door A and onto the front entrance of the plane. Then the rest of us when called all descended on door B to get onto the aircraft. My first time on a 777! I was in 39H, pretty near the back. I walked through the nice looking business class towards the back of the aircraft. I was surprised at how spacious the cabin was, higher than I thought it would be too.
Photo © Piotr Dymitrowski
Photo © Vasco Garcia
The seats were quite comfy, but not as comfy as Aeroflot's 734. Though they seemed great compared with my last flight - Ryanair. I turned on the map, and we were in London! Ryanair should get this.. It also said 'United welcomes you' with a few random images and the new United logo.
We pushed back and taxiied around, going past the T5 building site where we stopped to wait for a few aircraft to land. While we were waiting, they did the safety demo and checked that we were all belted in. After take off drinks came around. I noticed that after seeing the new BA uniform, the United uniform was nothing special at all. Very basic and boring.
Entertainment seemed fine, a choice of a few films and a few TV channels which were all repeated every 2 hours, and 20+ radio stations, inluding the famous channel 9 I listened to that on and off until we were over Iceland, it then got a bit quiet as we went over Greenland and northern Canada. To make it the ultimate aviation channel, they should play other aviation stuff in the gaps and just pause it when they're talking, that'd be brilliant
The food was average. The meal was a choice of chicken or pasta, I went for the chicken. Wrong choice! It was pretty disgusting, a slab of chicken with a bit of sauce and some big, dry, green beans. Not my cup of tea! With this we got some really nice juicy, cold grapes. Shame that there were only about 7 of them, they were very nice! I didn't eat anything else, had enough to eat before the flight.
I relaxed for most of the flight, watched a bit of 'Stuck on You' which was funny in some places
The second half of the flight seemed to go on forever. When we were going over Canada it seemed like we were getting closer, but we weren't. I couldn't be bothered with a film, so I had another look at the magazine. In it was stuff on San Francisco, a few other random articles, and a few pages on United's new image, with diagrams and photos all about the new livery. It mentioned that they first wanted to get all the rebranding done at airports, on everything, even all the tiny things Looking at Heathrow, they did this well
There were the TV/film listings etc. at the back, and airport diagrams and other similar information about airports.
We had a snack towards the end of the flight, a strange sandwich type thing, cheese and ham. Even though it looked and felt odd, it was very nice! We also had a nice packet of Walker's crisps, a Kit Kat Chunky and.. the nice grapes Drinks came round to help wash it all down. This all came in a nicely coloured box with the nice United logo on it.
On channel 9 I heard the captain ask if we could change our course slightly so that he could give us a 'view of the lake' which was nice of him. Don't know which lake it was
We descended when we were approaching the city, then went over the bay, did a U-turn and then flew for quite a while going very close to the water. We then touched down, a very nice landing! We headed to the gate where we parked next to a Lufthansa 747, D-AVBT.
Photo © Jerry Search
Photo © Alexander Kroychik
I walked straight to the front of the aircraft, I was too busy looking around so I missed the door we came onto the aircraft through, instead I found myself in first class. It was very nice! Looked very spacious and comfortable! Wouldn't mind sitting in there We said goodbye to the captain and a few cabin crew who we hadn't seen before, must have been looking after the rich people
The service was brilliant, always smiling, always seeming happy and helpful. The two people who were in my aisle throughout the flight were both from the Netherlands, and I think they were married Awww.. they mentioned stuff about marriage a few times and were always giggling and speaking in Dutch It's nice that the crew are happy, you don't want them all depressed and making the atmosphere bad do you?
Bearing in mind the first impression people get at LHR, SFO was a hell of a lot better! A nice wooden/laminated floor, orange/yellow/colourful walls, colourful lighting - it was brilliant! Then we got to immigration which wasn't colourful, but modern. I went to an available desk, and thought I'd meet the first American on American soil, but he was Chinese To be honest, I had to get him to repeat a few of his questions because I couldn't understand him, but we got there in the end I then got my bag and a man came around to put a green felt tip line on a form I had - he asked me if I'd brought anything illegal into the country, I said no - who'd say yes?! (I hadn't brought anything illegal in by the way).
And that was it. Taken me ages to write so far, only half way through. Think I'll take a break
The next 10 days were brilliant, went up to Heavenly at Lake Tahoe, had a wander around Nevada, and then spent some time in San Francisco where I topped up my new tan from the mountains
United Airlines - UA954
17th April 2004
Scheduled departure time: 18:55
Actual departure time: 19:10
Scheduled arrival time: 13:15
Actual arrival time: 12:45
--we had a 150km/h tail wind for some parts
I must have been one of the last to the airport for this flight, there were only a few of us in the entire check-in area. The usual questions were asked...etc..
Photo © John Kahrs
Photo © Ben Wang
Security was nice and tight again, quite a few people were taken aside and were being thoroughly searched. Again, I went straight through with no problems. As time was ticking away, I went straight towards gate 96 which wasn't far away at all, went down the escalator and there were all the passengers and the aircraft, the same one we came on Thanks to Arsenal@LHR for finding out the registration, N798UA I thought it was, there were some similar scratches on a wall near the toilet..
Photo © Jeroen Hribar
Photo © Manas Barooah
There were a few calls for people who came first alphabetically to be upgraded to business class. Lucky, lucky people. There was also an announcement made for someone to collect his bag ASAP or it will be destroyed. She sounded so calm as she said this, and as if she said it everyday. Though nowadays, she probably does..
I boarded,and was in 40H, one seat behind the one I sat in outbound. I was confused at first when we were at LHR, a friend had 39J.. I thought the last seat would be 39I, but they skip it and go to J. Why..?
Anyway, London was now on the map as the destination, and I was ready to go back. After takeoff it wasn't long until it got dark. After the drinks and meal came around and everything was cleared up, the lights went out and all the window blinds were closed. I chose the pasta over the chicken this time, wise choice! It was like a really cheesey lasagnge, though I had a bit of a cold and I couldn't really taste it As before, I only ate that and the grapes because I'd already had some food.
Then came a few hours of sleep which got us over the boring Canada/Greenland part of the flight
In the last 3 or so hours of the flight people started to wake up, drinks came around and some light came into the very dark cabin. We didn't go over Iceland this time, instead we were over the Atlantic heading straight for Northern Ireland.
Food came around as before, about an hour before landing. This time we had a cheese/egg/ham thing, all melted together, with some fruit. Very nice
The toilets. No, I didn't do a Singapore_Air... but the toilets were different than I'm used to. When I flushed it it sucked very fast and the floor area of the toilet became very breezy, the first time I flushed it going outbound I wondered what was going on! Nice and refreshing to sweaty feet
The service was good as before, but they weren't as lively as the crew from the Netherlands.
We headed over the Isle of Man, then down towards a cloudy London. We got a peek at Tower Bridge and the London Eye before flying over other parts of London and touching down at Heathrow. If you had your eyes closed you wouldn't have known that we had landed. There was no change in noise (until the engines stopped), there seemed to be no change in speed - nothing changed! It was the most uneventful landing ever We turned off the runway and parked straight away at the gate.
We were then back in that nasty corridor, which unlike before was packed. There was a flight in from India, and one about to go out, so arrivals was packed all the way from the gate, through baggage reclaim, and out in the arrivals area.
So overall, United are brilliant. Their new image is great and works well, the service was fantastic, the food was good, the staff were all friendly and approachable.
And that's it all 2284 words/12147 characters of it
Any questions or comments, please reply while it's all fresh in my mind