I went to LA for the weekend to meet up for my sister’s birthday with my family. I had to cancel a flight in July, so I had some cash left over. Fortunately the ticket that I canceled was a ticket in paid first class, so I got a refund to use on future flights. I live in Rockford Illinois. There is a small airport here with a couple NW CRJs to DTW and some charter carriers and Hooters air, but nothing that good. So I decided to fly out of ORD since it is a 70 mile drive, which isn’t too bad, and it offers nonstop flights to pretty much everywhere. I called up United two weeks in advance to arrange the trip over the phone. I originally was going to see if I could get a discounted first class fare, but for the flights I wanted, they were charging $1400, which was too much. I decided to go ahead and book economy and then wait for an upgrade. I am Premier Executive, so I usually do get the upgrades.
I left work at 2:00pm to go directly to the airport after printing out my boarding passes from United.com. I got an upgrade and used some 500 mile electronic certificates to pay for it. United.com is rather slow, but it is fairly easy to use. Traffic was pretty light as I traveled down I90 at 80 towards O’Hare. The weather was great for flying. There were some scattered cirrus clouds and the temperature was about 80F, which would hopefully mean that there would be few weather delays and backups at ORD. Once I get there at 3:15 (for a 4:55 flight) I try to find the economy parking. I get off at the exit, but somehow it was mislabeled and I end up going the complete wrong direction. It took forever to get back organized and get to the proper exit to get the parking. The roads around O’Hare are under construction and are not labeled very well, so I advise people that are not familiar with the area to leave some extra time in case they get lost like I did. Eventually I got to the economy parking and left my car there. The economy parking at O’Hare is pretty good since the terminal train goes out to the parking lot. You do not need to take a bus, so there isn’t much time lost in economy parking over the expensive garage area. I hoped on the train and took it over to Terminal One.
I go immediately to priority screening because I only had 50 minutes before my flight was scheduled to depart. There were some lines at the counters, but it wasn’t too bad. The weather was also pretty decent, so the typical evening crowds and chaos usually found in O’Hare wasn’t there. Security was no problem, and then I went immediately to check the monitor for my gate. Almost every single flight was on time with no problems except for one, my flight. My rotten luck, United decides to delay one flight, and it happens to be mine. That made me a little nervous since I had an 8pm birthday party to attend that was at a formal restaurant (city club on bunker hill) in downtown LA. I knew I was cutting it close since my flight was scheduled to arrive at 7:00pm, but I couldn’t get off work too early. Well I was a little irked to see a 35 minute delay, but that wasn’t too much. I started walking towards gate C10. I went into the super cool underground walkway that connects Concourse B and C. The lighting and music is surreal down there and it is a peaceful escape from a crowded O’Hare concourse. I make it back up the escalator and see a huge clump of people at gate C10. I look at my watch and it is 4:15, which was the original scheduled boarding time (I guess I cut it a little close if the flight had not been delayed). The gate agent was making announcements trying to tell people that she didn’t know anything about why the flight was delayed. There was no where near enough seats, so I decided to go for a walk and check out the other planes. There were the usual 767s, 777s, 757s, A320s, A319s, E170s and 737s at their gates in the C concourse. A good mix of new and old liveries for United. I always have liked Concourse C as it is wide open and nice to walk around, although there are not enough seats in any of the gates. After my ten minute tour of airplane heaven, I go back to the gate and see that the flight is now delayed until 5:45. There was no plane there however. I look at my watch and notice that it is 4:50. There is no way that they can turn a 777 around in less than an hour, so something must have been happening. I go near the counter and the gate agent comes over the intercom saying that our plane is late from the international terminal. The plane was coming in from Europe and had been delayed during its customs inspection. They were going to try to tug it over as soon as possible and then they would start boarding shortly after that. I go take a seat at a gate for a 767 to Paris as I wait. There are no where near enough seats at a gate in ORD, which is definitely annoying. However eventually I walk back to the gate just as the beautiful 777 in the old livery wass being tugged into place.
Photo © William van Wanrooy
Dep: 4:55pm Act: 5:55pm
Arr: 7:07pm Act: 7:52pm
Business Class Seat 13J
Load Factor: 100%
Photo © Mark Abbott
As soon as the plane pulled into the gate, the flight attendants went aboard to do their “safety checks” among other things. They then began boarding first and business class through door A and economy through door B. There wasn’t any announcement that they started boarding business class though, so I was didn’t realize it was happening for a while since I was wrapped up in a conversation with a nice lady also headed to LAX.
I went through the door and found my seat in the second business class cabin. Unfortunately there was a gentleman in my seat. After saying that it was my seat he immediate took his seat in the center section of the business class cabin, so he must have been confused. Seating is 2-3-2 with 55 inch pitch in business. There are nice legrests and the seats do have good recline. Business class on the 777 is no where near as nice as Lufthansa’s new business class or some other lie flat or fully flat seats. However I was just flying domestic, so it was no problem for me. The seat had lumbar support, and was fully mechanically adjustable. A nice recliner seat, but I would definitely go for first class, or a different airline if I was paying for a redeye longhaul flight. Orange juice and Champagne (I believe) were passed out to passengers. I took some juice, and looked through the entertainment guide. There are PTVs in the armrest with 4 movie channels and 5 other channels. The IFE again as with the seat is ok, but not the best. AVOD of course would be better, but I wouldn’t use it on a flight of just 3hrs 48min.
The flight attendants began final preparations for pushback as the final few passengers boarded. Boarding was quite quick as they used both jetbridges and of course the twin aisles speeds things up. There was a little seat shuffling going on in business class, as a couple was stuck in the middle seats of the business class cabin two rows apart. They tried to get some people to switch, but giving up an aisle for a middle is not nice and some people politely declined. Eventually the couple were able to get someone nice enough to switch. The captain came on then and welcomed us aboard the second largest plane in the fleet and apologized for the delay. He would try to make it up by using direct routing out the LAX. The cabin door was shut and the flight attendants began their manual safety demonstration. The purser was very enthusiastic while giving the presentation and was wanting everyone to know how beautiful of a plane we were on.
Push back was quick off of the stand. We pulled out right beside an E170 in United Express colors. Channel 9 was working on this flight, so I tune in just as the heavy 777 gets taxi clearance. We head straight out to the runway (sorry I can’t remember which one, but we departed from intersection T10). There was no delay as we immediately taxied right out and departed after an AA MD80. The powerful Pratts spooled up as we lurched down the runway. A lightly loaded 777 on a domestic flight is quite a thrill on takeoff. We immediately pulled up into the air and began a left hand turn. We are handed off to Chicago departure was we climb on a perfectly smooth summer evening. The purser came on to talk about the service. Snack boxes for 5$ in economy, and meals in first and business. The standard talk. I am entranced as I stare out the window as I see my hometown of Rockford pass below us as we make it through the clouds. It took us eight minutes to go the same distance that took me 90 minutes to cover earlier in the day.
The flight attendants are released and start the service. A flight attendant came by with the choices for dinner. They were a Mahi Mahi or a stuffed chicken breast. The flight attendant was very enthusiastic about the Mahi Mahi and described it as a wonderful Hawaiian fish as she claimed that it was her favourite meal. Well the responses of me and my seat mate were Chicken to that. I don’t know if she was taking orders based on frequent flyer status, or just randomly. Eventually I head to the lav after the seatbelt light goes out and hear that flight attendants talking. Apparently they like the chicken more and since there were four extra meals, the flight attendant taking the orders was trying to convince people to take the Mahi Mahi. The four flight attendants serving business class ended up with two chickens and two fish for themselves. I found it kind of humorous.
I head back to my seat as a beverage cart comes down the aisle. I get a diet Pepsi to wake me up so that I would be alert for my dinner and was handed some cold nuts in a little bowl. Next the cart comes down again with settings. First was a hot towel followed by a placemat for the tray. I wash off my hands and then get my tray with a small salad on it. The salad was a generic mixed green salad with a creamy Caesar dressing. I eat up my salad, and then come dinner. The spinach and feta stuffed chicken was served with a potato frittata and some mixed vegetables. The only thing missing was the salt and peppershakers. There were only the small little packets on the tray. Bread was passed out next, and I enjoyed the meal. The chicken was a little tasteless, but it was moist. Not bad for a meal at 38,000 ft. I ate quickly and passed my tray onto a passing flight attendant. She came back with a Tiramasu. It was pretty good. Afterwards I asked for some coffee. I am given a tea cup and another flight attendant comes by with coffee. As she is about to pour into my cup, she gets distracted, and then moves on. I wasn’t given any coffee, and was struggling to catch her. Eventually I have to ask another flight attendant for the actual coffee part of my drink since I felt like drinking more than stale air, sugar and cream. The service on this flight was rather robotic. The flight attendants weren’t personable at all. They were older, but not extremely old like the international ones. They didn’t provide very friendly service, but at least were somewhat efficient and professional I guess, although that whole “lets convince the passengers that they want fish so that we can have chicken” discussion wasn’t a sign of professionalism.
I watched Million Dollar Baby on my PTV throughout the flight. It of course is a really good movie. I pop up to use the lav again and have to use the one on the other side. When I get out the flight attendants are blocking the galley so I could not get back to my seat. The flight attendant then motions for me to go around through economy. It was a good walk I guess, but kind of annoying. The robots wandered around a few times in the flight looking to see if you needed anything, but they did not really offer anything. You had to ask. Again, a little disappointing as far as service goes. After I watch the movie, I notice how bad the moving map was. There were ads for UA Mileage Plus, destinations, trivia games, stretching info, and all sorts of other junk. There was very little of the actual map or airplane info (airspeed, altitude, time, etc) shown.
We finally began our descent into LAX. The whole flight was smooth and the seat belt stayed off which was nice. The 777 is a nice smooth plane that is really comfortable. The noise canceling headphones in business class make it even better. I love this plane and try to arrange flights so that I can get these big planes as much as possible. The flight attendants collected all the drinks as we made our way down. The sun was low on the horizon casting large shadows as we made it into the LA basin. It was a hot day there. The captain came on to update us on the weather and apologized for the delay. We made a smooth straight in approach to runway 25L. We landed right after an AeroCalifornia DC9 and then made a quick taxi towards the gate. The purser came on the PA to make her announcements. She said that passengers should reframe from smoking for the rest of their lives, but if they can’t do that then they will have to proceed through the terminal and outside as LAX as well as every other public building in California is a smoke free facility. I found it a little humorous, but that of course is because I am not a smoker.
We taxi into the gate in Terminal 7 and I grab my bag from the large curved overhead compartment. I walk out into the terminal and make my way to taxi stand immediately so that I could make it to the restaurant in a somewhat timely fashion albeit with my luggage in tow.
The 777 is a great plane, and getting an internationally configured airplane on a domestic flight is really nice. The seats are good for a short flight, but not up to top tier standards established by some European and Asian carriers. Also the service wasn’t that great and was somewhat robotic. UA is a nice airline, and I fly them a lot as they have some of the best service left in the United States, but that doesn’t mean that they are great.
I hope you liked this trip report. Again I am sorry for no pictures. All comments are appreciated. If you would like me to post the return LAX-ORD flight on a 767 in first class, let me know and I can do it if people