Here is my series of my transcontinental flights on UA new p.s. service! Well the Boeing 757 is not officially in service yet, but the meals are already in place for the past two weeks. So here is my first experience on this rather glamorous service. Here are the details
October 23, 2004
UA 19 JFK-LAX Lv1150 Arr1438 Boeing 767-200 N620UA
I arrived at JFK around an hour and forty minutes prior to arrival. Since I had no checked bags, I used the kiosk and the flight this afternoon was pretty full in all classes. Of course first class was filled with various United employees and their friends five minutes prior to arrival. Sometimes I wish they can more discrete and all the sudden, a swarm of F/As would fly into first class and exchanging hugs and talks. I guess I am against the idea of having employees on the real first class cabin. On a two class aircraft, I am fine, but on the first class of a real three-class cabin aircraft, first class should be more private. Even there will be only three passengers, then that will be it, except F/As and pilots heading to work. First class is so abused… and the new p.s. service is good. Anyway, I think I am in the minority when it comes to closing the first class cabin to employees. I guess these poor UA folks earned their rights after being cut in benefits and wages by the company. Back to the topic, boarding began at 11:10am and I actually waited till the final boarding before entering the jet way. I hate being hit by bags and I don’t have more roller bags today. The purser immediately welcomed me on board and was offered my choice of pre-takeoff beverage. With only two hours of sleep and a major hangover, I declined the alcohol… the smell of alcohol make me want to vomit… (cousin’s birthday bash…) Anyway, I had a nice glass of Minute Maid OJ and then the basket of tapes was passed out. Door was closed at 11:40am and the new p.s. menus were passed out after the safety demonstration, and then meal orders was taken – fare paying passengers first, followed by employees – no 1K in F this afternoon. The purser was funny, and said, “I guess chicken will be your choice of entrée.” I smiled and nearly everyone chose chicken as his or her priority. Following a Gemini Cargo’s MD-11F operated for Lufthansa, we took off from R/W4L at 11:59am. Flying time was a long five hours and thirty-seven minutes with an initial cruising attitude of 35,000feet, before climbing up to 39,000feet to avoid turbulence in the lower attitude.
Seat belt sign was turned off at 12:20pm and then the movie, “The Terminal,” began to show, followed by NBC In-flight and the line of infomercials. The meals were pretty similar to traditional first class, but enhanced to an International standard. First the beverage came with mixed nuts and I was tempted to try the Bellini, but I was in a bad shape. I had OJ and the mixed nuts were warmed. Then the F/As rolled out the trolley and set up our tables, as well as bread – nice & larger selection of pretzel breads, Focaccia bread, olive bread slices, and multi-grain rolls. Finally United introduces individually-sized bottled waters in first and business class. For us in first class, the usual water glass was placed next to a nice bottle of Canadian NAYA water. (Of course, Evian is more appropriate, like American). The F/As will replace the bottle once they are emptied. Wines are served and bread rolls were passed out numerous times throughout the meal. Then the appetizer was served, followed the salad card, and then entrée, and then dessert followed by cheese and fruit last. Here is the wine list and menu transcript.
Code: 10/04 PREMIUM TRANSCON (L01K) 103D551-2
Domaine Chandon Blanc de Noir NV
Joseph Drouhin Rully 2002, Chardonnay
Pierre Sparr Alsace 2002, Pinot Gris Reserve
Willamette Valley Pinot Gris 2002
Kunde Estate Sonoma Valley Kinneybrook Chardonnay 2001
Sacha Lichine Nuits-St-Georges 2001, Pinot Noir
Chateau Rauzan-Segla Margaux 1999
St. Supery Napa Valley Merlot 2000
Foley Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir 2001
Jumbo lump crab with spicy lime dressing
Apple brioche quiche
Well, it was not warmed appetizers, like on International flights, but the crabmeat was quite nice. More generous than before, and the apple quiche is an interesting try. I guess it was an improvement.
Fresh seasonal greens with English cucumber and croutons
Hot pine nut pesto chicken
Roasted garlic red wine vinaigrette or classic Caesar dressing
Well the salad was still pre-plated, but it was served on a larger plate, with F/As adding chicken and croutons to your liking, as well as the salad dressing boats. The seasonal greens were mainly lettuce, radicchio and some mesclun mix, plus diced cucumbers. The chicken strips were also warmed – really nice, but I really miss the soup course though.
Low-carb side alternative – broccoli and red bell peppers
Reuben sandwich on raisin pumpernickel bread
Sauerkraut and an apple, celery, and mango salad
Spiced breast of chicken with Thai barbecue sauce
Brown rice and stir-fried shitake mushrooms with vegetables
Polenta lasagna with spinach, red peppers and ricotta cheese
Served with roasted pepper sauce, topped with Parmesan cheese
Major disappointment here – the entrée choices were the same as before the introduction of p.s. service. I was sort of hoping that the entrees would see some major changes after this renovation. The Reuben sandwich was disgusting and the F/As knew that no one would pick it. For some reasons, no one was stuck with the Reuben sandwich. I personally don’t mind sandwiches, but that Reuben was bad… could not imagined heating up saucerkraut and then freezing it and then reheated it… it did not work on a plane environment. How about turkey sandwich, cheeseburger (fancy type), and maybe a grilled chicken breast sandwich? Well I had the chicken, which was a bit dry to my taste. I felt that there should be four choices of main courses in first class, and then three in business, and then two in economy. I was sort of expecting the lamb or beef that was advertised at the website.
International cheese tray
Camembert, Stilton and Black Diamond Cheddar cheese
Edy’s ice cream with sundae toppings
Warm chocolate bread pudding with sun-dried cherries
Fresh Seasonal fruit
Well unlike other United International flights, this group of F/As chose to push out the sweets tray, like the Europeans first. The ice cream choice was vanilla and strawberry ice cream, and the pudding was nice. However, I would not recommend you taking it dry. The F/As were more than happy to add ice cream or whipped cream or chocolate sauce to it. However, the warmed pudding was a nice change from ice cream sundae. Then the cheese and fruit basket was rolled out. Cheeses were pre-sliced, but real block of cheese – no cheap stuff here. There were grapes, strawberries, banana, plum and oranges available, as well as assorted crackers. The presentation was excellent too. It was a very filling meal. I wish I were in a better shape.
In general, the new meal was really nice, but I guess a nice hot appetizer item will be nice, as well as the return of soup. I actually like having a chunky type of soup as lunch entrée instead of “Reuben sandwiches”. The entrée selections need to improve and change for sure. Also, the meal was really filling… maybe it will be a nice idea to serve the cheese and fruit tray towards the end of the flight, especially on the westbound flight typically very long. However, this new p.s. service is really impressive and American Airlines needs to think of something new. United is coming back strong on the premium transcontinental flights. After the meal, Aquafina water bottles were passed out, and the purser was fairly attentive. A final beverage was served an hour prior to arrival.
Prior to Arrival
A selection of extraordinary chocolate truffles from Gayety’s Chocolates
Beautiful – they were back. The chocolate was passed out after the seat belt sign went back on, as well as a Starbucks Coffee sample, and of course, a final round of hot towels.
Descent began at 2:02pm PST, and we landed on R/W25L at 2:36pm, as SQ’s Boeing 747 and JAL’s Boeing 747 both pushing back for the last wave of flights heading to Japan. We parked at Gate 76 four minutes later.
October 24, 2004
UA 6 LAX-JFK Lv0850 Arr1703 Boeing 767-300 N673UA (6673) Hawaii 2-class version
Well the surprise this morning was the unavailability of the Boeing 757 new p.s. configuration. I guess the starting date for the real p.s. aircraft postponed to October 31, but I was so surprised when I used the kiosk to check-in and saw a completely different seating chart. I was correct and yes, it was changed to a Hawaii 2-class regular domestic configuration. I was so surprised that United would use a non-premium transcontinental aircraft on this flight, rather than another Boeing 767-200ER. I comforted myself by telling that it could be worst, if a regular Boeing 757 used on this route (just like a SFO flight departed the day before at JFK). Well I am flying off again on October 29 on the 6:30pm flight to LAX. I will call United tonight and find out the status of the aircraft. I am not optimistic to see the Boeing 757-200 p.s. Nevertheless, the flight itself was fine, other than poor seats and crowded cabin. Many unhappy faces this morning for sure… Boarding began at 8:12am, and there was a pre-takeoff beverage service (OJ or water) and the video equipments suffered some initial problems. A live demo had to replace the regular video performance. Flying time this morning was a quick four hours and forty-three minutes, with a cruising attitude of 37,000feet. LAX was not terribly busy and we took off from R/W25R at 9:03am.
Well the new p.s. meal service – First Class version was available, which made me slightly happier, but obviously trays had to be used instead of the individual setup style. It was also a bigger cabin and a very private service was unavailable. The F/As were professional and efficient. The new morning meal services were almost identical to previous transcontinental services, except a slightly different pre-arrival meal. Instead of deli plate with rolls, there was a healthier (???) soup and salad service with rolls, and the usual cookies. I somehow feel that the breakfast can be served in two courses – one with fruit appetizer (better quantity) and yogurt, followed by a warmed entrée, like AA. But this present service is okay. While breakfast was served, NBC In flight was first shown. Here is the menu transcript:
10/04 PREMIUM TRANSCON (B01K-S09) 103D554-1
Wine List is the same as “lunch”
Fresh from the bakery
A selection of Danish, croissants, and bagels with butter, cream cheese, and fruit preserves
Sesame seed bagels, plain croissants, and bear claws
Mediterranean omelette with tomatoes and smoked mozzarella
Cheddar Cheese grits, Canadian bacon, chicken sausage, and fresh fruit
French Toast with a dried fruit filling
Canadian bacon, pork sausage, maple syrup, and fresh fruit
Fresh seasonal fruit platter
For the lighter appetite, we offer a variety of fresh fruit with yogurt
I chose the French toast, which was quite nice, but it could see a larger slice of bacon and sausage (one tiny Canadian bacon and one tiny sausage link looked a bit too lonely). My neighbor had the omelette, which was heartier but he skipped the grits. The fruit plate was the same selection as the fruit bowls we had on hot breakfast options – orange segments, grapes, melon, and cantaloupe slice.
After the breakfast service, the movie, “The Clearings,” starring Robert Redford, was shown next. After the movie, it was time to serve light meal. It was a one-tray service, followed by cookies.
Prior to Arrival
Shrimp and lobster bisque with a Chardonnay wine and cream and a tossed mesclun salad with classic Caesar dressing
Mrs. Fields cookies warm from the oven
The soup was very hearty and served in a relatively large plate. It was delicious, although a bit on the salty side. The bread rolls helped with a selection of rye and sourdough rolls. There was some chopped shrimps and lobster meats, with diced vegetables. The salad was a typically side salad bowl – Mesclun greens with a slice of tomato and a few olives. The cookie, Chocolate chip-flavored, was served after the meal tray was collected. For professionals, it was served in a half tray (1/2 the regular sized tray).
After the meals, the pilot made an announcement about our early arrival, but possible turbulence was reported on descent, so the F/As prepared for landing earlier than normal. Hot towels were passed out after seat belt sign was turned on. Descent began at 4:07pm, and we landed on R/W31R at 4:46pm, and were parked at Gate 7 three minutes later.
Well I will report back on the meals in the future, but won’t type out a big report till I will get on a real p.s. service.