Here is my series of trip reports on a couple ex-CMB tickets. The first one is a leftover of the TG
F ticket that was bought almost a year ago, and due to TG
ï¿½s cancellation of the LAX
and its incompetent and rude staff, this ticket is finally endorsed over to United Airlines. Of course that includes a $2000USD additional collection because TG
claims that this is a YY ticket and my agent is still in the midst of dispute, but my only warning is donï¿½t ever book a ticket with TG
and issue one in TG
stock. Their staffs are obnoxious and irresponsible. Never call back and I personally am not flying TG
for a long time and avoid it at all costs. Enough said! Of course, my demand for TG
to change my flight from a LAX
-CMB ticket to LAX
-CMB was rejected, as they do not want to re-issue the ticket at all. Nevertheless fate played a twisted game on me and/or TG
. I somehow ended up in Tokyo much earlier.
June 7, 2006
0755 0909 757 Beverage N551UA
1258 1635+1 777 Lunch and Light Meal
2105 2215 763 Beverage
Well this morning began with an unexpected early arrival of my Super Shuttle van, and I left the house without a shower, which was always a bad omen. I also hate it but I know I can catch up with a shower at one of the United International First Class lounges. I arrived LAX
around 6am and thank god, the 1K/First class line had returned, despite the agent did not direct me to the right lane, even after I flashed the 1K card. It did not matter because there was no one there. The agent was very indifferent and not the typical 1K agent. She did not smile or simply went through the motion. It was a very disappointing staff, and a definitely minus, compared even to American Airlines. She checked my bag through to Haneda, and then I went through security quickly and headed towards the International First Class lounge, which thankfully was a much better experience. The angel was there to thank me and to welcome me into the club. However, the breakfast spread has gotten worst, down to really cartons of Special K cereals, some strawberry yogurts, cheese & dried fruit plate with crackers, and lots of Milano and Brussels cookies, but the bar is fully equipped. The lounge was occupied by a number of p.s. folks obviously and some Hollywood types, and the typical business type. They all left soon for the first flight to JFK
. I took the leisure of taking some pictures, as my aircraft towed in from the hangar, N551UA, into gate 75B.
The angel paged me at 7:30am, as boarding would commence shortly. I headed towards 75B, and waited and waited. Boarding indeed was delayed due to the failure of the auxillary power units and the cabin was pitch dark. Updates occurred a few times with really no information and many folks with International connection were obviously concerned. With four hours transit time, I was in no hurry, but the wait was annoying and finally commenced around 8:30am. Boarding completed by 8:50am and the F/A brought everyone pre-takeoff beverage in F. Then many business types began to leave the plan and to head over to the 9:30am flight. The pilot did not say a word till much later, but the F/As kept telling folks there were no ETD, and the pilot came out and tell us that they were trying to fix a broken AUX unit. Another thirty minutes passed, more people took off, but some came back as the line outside was very long. The passenger counts were down to a few in F and a few in Y ï¿½ only a handful, but with bags checked to KIX
, I thought I had times. Finally at 10am, the F/A asked where I was going and the agent immediately sent me out and tried to put me on another SFO
flight. Well I headed to the counter and the crowd had already dissipated. The agent told the operation to cancel this flight, since there was no one on board, except the air marshals, and a few folks. Even the F/As were heading out to get information. The agent immediately looked up my ticket and then did not know what to do. Then I told him to book me to Narita, as long as he could fix my bag situation, which was my biggest concern. I was literally moving from place to place each day. Well the agent immediately took my original coupon and rebooked me to NRT
, and then told me that the bag would make it fine. He also intelligently cancelled my JAL segment, so the rest of the ticket would remain valid. Hopefully the bag would follow me.
Lv1233 Arr1555+1 Boeing 747-400 N182UA/8182 (Old livery)
The angel was surprised to see me back so quickly and I recapped my story and she said that she had to thank the agent downstairs for taking care of me. But since LAX
Intï¿½l First lounge does not have a shower, I was not a happy camper, but what could I do? At least I got to go nonstop to Tokyo now, despite having to take the bus to Haneda because I was trying out a few domestic side trips the next day. Even with the traffic at Naritaï¿½s immigration line and road traffic in Tokyo, I should make it to HND
much earlier than expected. My only concern was my bag now, but nothing I could do now.
The lunch spread at the lounge has slightly improved with pre-made sandwiches and cut fruits, and tortilla chips and salsa. I logged online and did some work and made some phone calls. Then the angel brought us down to the gate around 11:50am. It was a pretty full flight as expected, and we bypassed all the line, and brought towards the front door. The angel certainly reminded me of the great concierge service from the past. Those great agents with the big red flowers took care of F passengers, and sadly, that no longer existed except for VIP guests.
The Boeing 747-400 was fine and I did not have high expectation about United. I knew that it would not be like my SQ
flight a few months ago, and my curiosity lies on how well United compared to American on this highly competitive route. In terms of seats, I have to say American wins right the way with its flagship suites (not the coffin seats though). The AA
ï¿½s Flagship suites are better padded, wider, and better designed. However, the rest of the service was not so much different especially after the recent cutbacks in AA
The F/As immediately passed out amenity kits, slippers, and headsets. AA
is a bit better with the BOSE headsets, but amenity kits and slippers were comparable. Then I walked towards the front console, where sadly only Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Financial Times, and Japanese papers in both native and English language were available. LA
Times and New York Times were offered by AA
and at least LA
Times should be offered. Pre-takeoff beverage was offered, and menus were passed out next.
Announcements were made in both English and Japanese, and around 12:34pm, all doors were closed and we pushed back shortly after. Traffic was not that busy at LAX
and we took off at 12:49pm from R/W25R. Flying time was estimated to be ten hours and forty-four minutes, and the routing took us along the West coast at 32,000feet plus a beautiful view of the Bay Area (see pictures), and then climbed to 34,000feet after passing Cape Mendocino, and then climbing up to 36,000feet after passing Bristol and Cold Bay in Alaska southwestern tip, and then further up to 38,000feet as we crossed the International Date Line.
After seat belt sign was turned off, beverage service immediately began with warmed mixed nuts. The first thing I noticed was the absence of the old distinctive first class glasses ï¿½ the one with the line designed. Everything is now the same between first and business class now in terms of glassware and china. I was not surprised but sad to see the line between F and J slowly disappearing. Meal orders were taken next, and then the table was setup with thankfully the distinctive gold linen cloth, but sadly the plastic salt and pepper tubes, that did not belong to a world-class first and business product. Then the appetizer cart was rolled out and you could take both the hot and cold choices, and then a small cup of soup, and then followed by pre-plated salad with topping to be added, and then the entrï¿½e, and then the return of the separate cheese and fruit plate/basket, and then the ice cream cart. Bread was offered throughout the flight.
Here is the menu transcript and wine list:
Laurent Perrier 1996 Champagne
Heidsieck Diamant Bleu Brut 1996 Champagne
Schlumberger Pinot Gris Grand Cru Spiegel 2002
Selbach-Oster Riesling Kabinett 2004 Wehlener Sonneuhr Mosel
Chateau Ste. Michelle Chardonnay 2002 Columbia Valley
Grove Mill Sauvignon Blanc 2003 Marlborough
Castello Vicchiomaggio Chianti Classico Riserva 2001 Sangiovese
Clos St. Anne 2003 Pomerol
Rockbare Shiraz 2003 McLean vale
Beringer Bancroft Ranch Merlot 2000 Howell Mountain
Gekkeikan Sake Daiginjo is available on flight to and from Japan.
Sandeman Founders Reserve Porto will be offered during the main mealï¿½s dessert
Join us in a sampling of appetizers:
Hot wild mushroom and goat cheese strudel with Madeira herb sauce
Balik-style smoked salmon with carmelized red onion compote
Yukon Potato and cheddar chowder
Fresh Seasonal Greens
Hot chili-seared shrimps
Country ranch or balsamic Dijon vinaigrette
Filet Mignon with Port Wine Sauce
Pecan-crusted Chicken with black peppercorn cream sauce
The above entrees include your choices of:
Twice baked cheddar potato, rice pilaf with caramelized shallots or steamed rice
Green beans with red pepper and marjoram or a mixed vegetable sautï¿½
Shiitake Mushroom shrimp cake with sweet chili sauce
Chow Mein noodles and kailan with red peppers
Japanese Obento Selection
An appetizer of crabmeat in layer eggs, shrimp sushi, chicken sansho-yaki, scallions with miso paste, broiled tuna and cha-soba noodles
A main course of beef tenderloin with mushrooms, steamed snapper, five-kind mixed vegetables, hakusai with fried bean curd and sesame steamed rice
Served with green tea
To complete your dining experience:
Ice cream with sundae toppings (only hot fudge and whipped cream)
Cheese Selection: Kerrygold Vintage Cheddar, Port Salut, Wensleydale with cranberry
Fresh strawberries with brown sugar sour cream dip
In terms of meals, American offers a unique Japanese meal for first class and United uses the same bento for first and business class. AA
also has the salad cart, but those fancy toppings are only limited to the daytime flight. I really like Unitedï¿½s appetizers and you can have both choices. They have one warm and one cold choice, and seem to change frequently. The salmon was alright and the offerings are generous with layers of salmon. The warmed strudel also tasted fine, but I just did not like goat cheese personally, but the mushroom fillings were delicious. Then I enjoyed the cup of soup. The chowder was hearty enough with good chunks of new potatoes, as well as bacons and chives. It was not a big bowl of soup, but for a rich chowder, the nice was just right. The salad was basically a Mesclun kind with olives, and tomato and the spicy shrimps added some favor to it. I did not even need salad dressing. I had the Shiitake Mushroom and Shrimp cake as entrï¿½e, and it was okay.
Then in terms of desserts, I am glad to see UA
offers two rounds of desserts with fruit and cheese first. Fruit baskets feature peaches, grapes, and bananas, and then there were plates of strawberries, and then a full cheese plate. AA
rolls out everything at once now, and the cheese selection is limited to two kinds. But AA
scores higher points for a full sundae cart, and United offers a vanilla and chocolate ice cream with hot fudge topping and whipped cream ï¿½ not the variety offered by AA
. In general, I like United spread better and more diverse choice of appetizers and a soup course, and some variety is provided.
Chocolate chip cookie warm from the oven
Hot noodles are available upon request
Bottles of Aquafina water were passed out after the meal, and the F/As were very good in checking with folks. After waking up from my nap, I was offered a cookie immediately. They worked throughout the flight refilling water bottles and asking if beverages are needed. Both AA
are pretty good in their premium cabin checks.
Entertainment was sadly outdated, not in terms of movie choices, but the fact that tapes were still used, as well as a non-AVOD PTV (not to mention the small screens). However the Power Port worked well, and Channel nine was turned on, but really nothing much was going on during most of the flight. But listening to the Japanese ATC is an interesting experience especially trying to understand their English.
Prior to arrival
Asparagus and Asiago pie with pomodoro sauce
Black Forest Ham and sautï¿½ed zucchini with basil
Fresh Seasonal Fruit plate with creamy yogurt
(Grapes, melon, strawberry, cantaloupe)
ï¿½s weakest point is that prior to arrival meals. This pie thing is better than other attempts at pasta with awful sauce. They canï¿½t really serve a decent hot meal. American, and all other airlines manage to offer a nice light supper, but why United canï¿½t do the similar. AA
offers a choice between a fresh hearty salad and a chunky soup, which definitely works much better than UA
, and AA
also offers a real dessert. Also two hot choices should be offered, instead of one cold and one hot. I had the hot meal, which was a bit heavy and the ham was very salty. The fruit appetizer had nice watermelon, melon and cantaloupe cubes, and there is a warmed multigrain roll on the side.
Descent began at 3pm NRT
local time, and then we landed on R/W16R after AC
1 at 3:34pm NRT
local time. We were parked at gate 37 four minutes later, and the line was not too bad for foreigners. But it is certainly nice to see all these Star Alliance carriers today with the odd Dragonairï¿½s A330 in the middle. OZ
all use UA
pier. My bag thankfully made it with a rerouting sticker. Thank god that I did not try to get on the SFO
In conclusion, UA
F is not too bad with an okay seat, and new improved main meals, but things need to work on are:
1. The prior to arrival meal is a disgrace. Go back to a sandwich concept and avoid heavy sauce and food. If they want to serve breakfast food, it is okay. Also introduce a dessert to go with it.
2. Amenity kits need to be improved.
3. Aquafina water bottles ï¿½ If NW
ï¿½s WBC goes with Evian, UA
should do so as well.
4. Introduce back a separate set of first class wine glasses, water glasses, and china to hype up the product.
5. Update the video system.