Los Angeles- Chicago O’Hare
777-200 switched to 747-400
Seat 14A Upper Deck
Load Factor: 100% in business
Flight time: 3hrs 32min
Photo © John Harris
Photo © Dan Brownlee
I had a short trip to Los Angeles. Since I’m a loyal United Airlines flyer, I went ahead and I booked tickets with them. ORD is relatively close to where I live, so I decided to fly from there. I booked an economy ticket for about $400 and upgraded with regional upgrades to first/business class.
After enjoying two days in Los Angeles, it was time to go back to Chicago and work. I had a 2:07pm flight, so I thought I should leave my condo in Marina Del Rey at noon. I called up a taxi and it came and made the 15 minute and $23 trip to the airport. I got to terminal 7 and walked to the premier check in area since I am Premier Executive with United. I had to show my premier card in order to get in the door. I then walked to the check in desk. I had to wait about 5 minutes and then checked in and was given seat 14A. The flight was supposed to be on a 777 in business class, so I was excited. I could not remember the seat that I had chosen, so I just assumed that this was a normal business class seat.
I next proceeded to the security line. It was quite long. There were a number of people that were worried about missing their flights. I had arrived at the airport 1hr 20min before my flight and had no luggage to check (it is difficult to live with no hair care products since gels are banned!). Security took about 20 minutes and there was this woman that was going to St. George Utah who was panicking. I had enough time, so I was not worried. I eventually did make it through with no problems whatsoever.
I then looked at the monitor and saw that my flight would be leaving from gate 67B. When I got to the upper level and started walking to the old dilapidated terminal 6 that UA and CO share, I saw a 747 at the end of the terminal at what looked like it could have been my gate. I walked down and eventually made it to a crowded end of the terminal and saw that there was a 747 sitting at the gate where there was supposed to be a 777. I would be in business class either way, so I was pretty happy. It was really nice to see that the plane might get upgraded instead of downgraded. I would not have been happy to be downgraded from business class. But I was still nervous that this might not actually happen and that the 747 would be taken away and replaced with the 777. But then, flight attendants boarded and I got confident that I would fly on a 747 for the first time on a domestic flight in my life.
At about 25 minutes before departure time, they finally opened the doors for the passengers to get on. The gate agent called for first class and business class only, but there was a pretty crazy rush. It was crowded. On international flights, they use both jetways, but they did not do that for this flight, so 400 people had to file through a single door. Once I got on board, I showed my boarding pass to a flight attendant who pointed me to the stairs. I did not know if I would be on the upper deck or not because I had not looked at the UA 747 seat map recently. The flight attendant also recommended that I put my rollaboard bag in an overhead compartment on the lower deck. I did this and then made my way up the stairs to find that most of the people were already there. I made my way to the window seat on the left side just forward of the exit. This would be a glorious way to fly. I put my briefcase in the compartment by the window. This is the amazing thing about the 747 upperdeck window seats. It is really nice to have a stowage bin next to you that is large enough for many carryons. I also stuffed the blanket and pillow in the compartment as a flight attendant brought a glass of orange juice for me. The last time I had been on a 747 was in April when I flew FRA-ORD in Lufthansa first class where my father and I were the only two people in the 16 person upper deck configuration. Past trip report: LH First LED-FRA-ORD-IND Alone On The 744Upperdeck (by RoseFlyer Apr 21 2006 in Trip Reports) I had also flown a UA 747 FRA-IAD on the upper deck about a year and a half ago. Zone1 who I traveled with wrote that report: http://www.airliners.net/discussions/trip_reports/read.main/55564
I just sat there and enjoyed being able to look around while they finished boarding. Eventually the captain came on to say that they were still working with the customer service agents to get some seat assignments fixed since it was a last minute aircraft substitution and they were having to reassign all of the seats. Eventually though they did finish and shut the door. We were pushed back in our heavy jet as the flight attendants did the safety demonstration by hand on the 747. It is really weird to be on such a big jet and have a manual demonstration, but UA does this since the safety demo is not played on the PTVs. We pushed with our tail to the west and eventually began taxiing to runway 25R. We had blocked in United 83 which was a 763 to HNL (that morning HNL had an earthquake and this was one of the only flights that day that made it to HNL). That flight though had problems since ATC lost their flight plan, which is something that I heard while listening to channel 9.
We made our way to the runway as they were alternating between takeoffs and landings since 25L was shutdown. We taxied in to position after a Air New Zealand 747 landed. Eventually we started moving down the and had a 44 second takeoff roll, which is quite short for a 747, but of course we were lightly loaded on a domestic flight to ORD. We rotated and started gaining altitude very quickly. It was not quite the performance of a 757, but a lightly loaded 747 has very good performance. We climbed out over the water before making a turn to the left and flying back over the LA basin.
Climbing out over the coast
We were eventually cleared all the way up to 39,000 ft, which shows how light we were since a 747 rarely can climb to above 32,000ft after takeoff due to the immense weight of the fuel. We were warned of some turbulence below flight level 370, so it is good that we climbed. The 747 is just such an amazing airplane.
The captain came on and welcomed us aboard and introduced the female first officer as well. We continued climbing and eventually the flight attendants started the service. They started the IFE pretty early which was nice. On most domestic flights with just the overhead movies, the flight attendants wait a while in to the flight before starting the presentation. I turned to the Devil Wears Prada on my PTV. United does not have the most sophisticated IFE, but you have a PTV with 4 movie choices and 5 other short subject programming channels in addition to the airshow. PTVs are really nice. It is unfortunate that economy does not get them. They got to watch Poseiden on the main screens. However UA is still one of the only airlines to offer IFE on all mainline flights, so getting a movie is a good thing regardless of what it is. I think United is pretty good since they still have IFE and many other features like pillows and blankets on all of their flights.
The purser came by now offering food options. She said that lunch would be a chicken salad or a pork tenderloin sandwhich. Since I do not eat pork, I chose the salad, but she also pointed out that we could just skip the meal and have a cookie if we had already eaten since it was 3pm California time, which is a bit odd of a time to eat a meal. However on flights that they serve meals on, United always starts with the meal right away even if it is at a weird time. After the flight attendant taking meal orders came by, the other flight attendant working the upper deck today came by with drink orders. I asked for some red wine. The 747 upper deck has 22 seats and is staffed with two flight attendants for domestic business class. This means that they provide about the same level of service as would be expected from the 2 flight attendants normally serving the first class cabin of a 757. However the 747 is just so much more comfortable, and I am sure that the flight attendants appreciate the larger galley.
The wine came with nuts and I nibbled slowly as the movie was playing on the PTV. It was quite enjoyable. I was just relaxing. I had my glass topped off and eventually came my salad. It looked fairly reasonable. It was the typical salad meal on a plane. Airlines just love serving salads for entrees. I do not particularly love eating them, but they are ok. I like the more substantial meals. Pastas, sandwiches and wraps are good, but I also miss the entrees that used to be served such as chicken breasts or even steak. At least food is still being served, but for the premium paid for an upgrade (and upgrades cost most members money on United), I would like a little more. United gives limited upgrades away to premier and premier executive flyers, but many still have to buy them. People are paying for those seats up front. It might not be triple the price of economy, but it still is more expensive.
I finished off my salad. It was the perfect size. I wished that there was more bread served with it though. That would have been nice. I really like the bread that they serve on board, although the quality like everything else has gone down recently. After my tray was cleared, a freshly baked cookie was served. Although I liked it when there were real desserts, the cookie was pretty good. It is a shame that the flight did not have a full meal service. I was on the plane for 4 hours and 15 minutes, so a full meal would have been nice, but the afternoon departure time made it acceptable. I did not feel hungry upon arriving at ORD.
The rest of the flight was pretty casual. I finished my movie somewhere over Colorado. People started sleeping as the sun was fading, so I snapped some pictures.
Us enroute over Denver
The sun setting
I was feeling somewhat sleepy after having a few drinks, so I reclined my seat all the way and raised the legrest as high as it went and fell asleep. The business class seats that United has are pretty comfortable. On a long haul flight, I appreciate angled lie flat seats more since it easier to get a full night of sleep, but if I want a nap and am tired, I can sleep very well on United. Eventually I woke up and looked around and tuned to channel 9 to find out that we were just beginning our descent. I looked at the PTV, which confirmed that and tried to take a picture, but it did not turn out well. I do not take pictures with a flash on board airplanes. If I did that on the upper deck within sight of the cockpit door, I would probably have an air marshal or at least a flight attendant on my case.
The cabin midway through the flight
I enjoyed the noise cancelling headsets on the 747. The blanket and pillow are also nicer and of international standards instead of those disgusting domestic ones. Furthermore there were slippers in the seat pocket in front of me that I was able to use during the flight. That made using the lavatory a bit nicer. It was also nice that there were two lavatories at the front of the cabin instead of just one. Things like this make the configuration of the 747 much nicer. The extra international comforts were really appreciated on this domestic flight. I love how United has widebodies in international configurations on some domestic flights including some peak time flights between the west coast and ORD/IAD.
We were descending in to darkness in ORD. The flight attendants did not really begin preparing the cabin for arrival however. We were descending slowly. It was fun to hear United 855 heavy and think of how I was on a 747 that was told to expedite down to flight level 240. That is a much more daunting challenge with the queen of the skies when compared to a 757 or lighter airplane. We made some turns for spacing and did some heading in the wrong direction. Eventually we are cleared direct to ORD and pass through 10 thousand feet. When we get through 7,000ft, the chime happens and it is time for me to bring my seat back up and stow the footrest and PTV. It was sad that this comfortable flight was coming to an end and that I would not be comfortable any more. Flying in business class or first class on a domestic flight is just pure joy. When I fly economy, I could down until the flight will be over. But it is not that way in business class. I sit there and enjoy.
The flight attendants finished collecting garbage as we were on final descent. I noticed that the two flight attendants were still in the galley when we were on a very short final. Just as we passed over the freeway and were a few hundred feet above the runway, the flight attendant finally took her seat. We made a beautifully smooth touchdown just as the flight attendant strapped in. I think she waited too long.
We were pulling off the runway just passed concourse C. We made some turns in our huge jet before making our way to gate C18, which is right next to where I had left from ORD a couple days before. We pull to a stop and the seatbelt light goes out. I pull out my briefcase from the side storage locker and make my way to the rear of the upper deck while other people were dealing with their items. I finally get down the stair case before the doors are opened and push my way back to get my rollaboard from the overhead bin downstairs. They only had one jetway in use, so I had to make my way to the first door on the left. I do not understand why United only seems to have one door on use for domestic flights even though there are the same number of people on board as on international flights.
I finally made my way out of the large door and headed in to the terminal. I quickly walked to the underground walkway, made my way to the train and was off to the long term economy parking lot. ORD is pretty easy to use. It is a big airport, but is very user friendly. It is just not friendly when it comes to delays and bad weather.
United is a good airline. I love their use of widebodies on domestic flights. I was supposed to fly on a 777 in business class, but a 747 upgrade at the last moment made the flight even better since there is a special ambience about the plane. The upper deck has the same feeling as the first class cabin on the 757. I do not understand why people would complain about business class transatlantic on a 757, but 747s are really comfortable.
United had a good meal and everything worked out well, but it could be better. That is pretty standard among airlines in the United States. I know I will be flying United a lot more in the future, although the next trip reports from me will probably be on US Airways on a trip to Seattle, and then a big SEA-LHR-BLR trip on British Airways for Christmas in Club World so that I can compare their upper deck to United’s.
I apologize for there only being a few pictures since I am very hesitant to take them on board. I feel weird with a camera and very suspicious in today's world. I hope you enjoy the trip report. Leave me feadback so I can improve future ones. I can write about my ORD-LAX journey in first class on a 767 if you'd like, but I thougt the 747 return flight was more enjoyable and interesting. Thanks for reading.
[Edited 2006-10-30 00:08:23]