My day started way before the sun broke through the eastern horizon on the 29th of December. With chilly temperature hovering in the Fahrenheit scale of higher 30's, I traveled towards the Fresno Yosemite International airport clothed in layers of shirt and a jacket. I was at the airpport at 3:50 in the morning to catch the first flight out to Los Angeles at 5 o'clock. United Express check-in counter was still close when I came and there were about 30 people that formed a single snaky line waiting for the airline counter to open, which not to my knowledge, starts their daily routine at 4 A.M.
Three check-in kiosks were available but nobody was on them and that made me wonder what the 30 or so people were lining up for. I walked up to one of the kiosks, slid my United Mileage card and printed out my boarding pass with a big 01D for my first flight seat. The monitor told me to wait for an attendant to tag my bag for check-in. After I took my boarding pass and started heading back to my seat, I noticed a few people leaving their line and mimicked what I have just done. At a few ticks before 4 AM, United Express agents looking fresh and friendly, opened their counter and called my name. Realizing that I was the first person to check-in, made me think that perhaps more publicity has to be done to encourage people to use check-in kiosks for a more efficient check-in. While I was leaving the counter and heading towards the TSA security area, I noticed a few pairs of eyes with raised eyebrows from people that have been waiting perhaps 20 minutes or more wondering what I did to check-in without getting on the line.
TSA security checkpoint was still close when I got there and waited for a few minutes while they are turning on their scanning and security imaging equipments and rolling up the steel mesh, signaling the start of daily airport terminal operations. I made my way past the security and walked towards my gate for flight 6516. A few moments after, our flight attendants came and a simple smile led to some chatty minutes until she had to leave me to do her pre-departure routine. We boarded our CRJ-200 N919SW aircraft at 4:40.
Stephanie, our flight attendant, closed the cabin a few minutes before 5 AM and our cramped CRJ-200 that is full of passengers taxied to runway 25R for an on-time departure.
The flight lasted about 50 minutes with no beverage service - not even coffee on a first flight to LAX! Our aircraft landed safely in LAX and I said my goodbye to our flight attendant that will have four more flights for the day.
Catching my next flight was easy albeit a barely 30-min connection time in-between. I made my way to my gate to board the B757-200 aircraft to Denver without having any more time to plane spot and piddle putz.
Aircraft N551UA, a B757-200 in new United colors sat on gate 71. Gate personnel announced boarding a few moments after I made it to the gate. Alas! My first experience on United's domestic First Class product is about to commence.
I hung my jacket at the back of the cabin where all the jackets are, looked for my seat, adjusted my headrest, and sat in comfy as the only thing that I could see outside my window was the jetbridge. A flight attendant came up to me while other passengers were still boarding and asked if I could trade seat with another passenger who had an aisle seat to let her be right next to her husband. (call me a meanie but letting go of my window seat on my first B757-200 flight on F class and having chosen my seat a few days ahead would ruin my experience). The flight attendants were not so friendly on this flight, or it was only probably towards me after I declined to give up my seat.
Seating on 05A gave me a spectacular view of the engine and the feeling of spaciousness of the First Class cabin makes one feel the luxury of space in contrast to the coach class of the same aircraft. I asked for coffee before departure. The coffee that I was given was in a ceramic cup, served in the right temperature, and with stainless steel spoon. That again, in contrary to the paper cup and plastic stirrer they give in coach class.
We undocked on-time and taxied to runway 25L, took-off, and with the powerful engines of the B752, we climbed up to 30,000 feet with ease and then up to a higher altitude afterwards.
Breakfast was soon served. Hash brown patties, omelette and hollandaise sauce, sausage, a piece of ham, and some fruits complete the breakfast tray. Bagels were also served on the side but I did not want one. The food tasted great altho I know that some airlines have better breakfast meals on their F-class product.
But then again, I don't think anybody would complain whatever the meal is if you have a bird's eyeview of snow-capped mountains while enjoying your food.
We started our descent to Denver in what seems like a snowfield. Snow everywhere and it almost looked like white out. Snow covered mountains from tip to the base and plains covered in clean, fresh snow accumulated from a snowstorm that beat Denver area just a few days ago. I tuned in to channel 9 - from the flight deck - audio and matched the movement of the aircraft with the instructions from the air traffic controller. It's a simple amusing touch of United for their aviation-enthusiast customer. I truly like this feature. Approaching Denver airport, I heard an ATA aircraft requesting landing clearance after they burn some fuel because of an emergency in-flight, for whatever reason which I did not hear was mentioned.
Our pilots lined up our aircraft to the runway, we descended, and touched down in tera firma smoothly.
Snow and slush covered almost every pavement except for the taxiway center lines that were visible in the midst of a snowy taxiway. We headed towards our gate and docked to the Denver International Airport terminal wrapping up our 2 hours and almost 45 minutes flight.
My connection to my next flight was supposed to have been only an hour. After 4 gate changes, some passengers on our flight to PIT were getting irritated. At one point, I asked a gate attendant where our flight was moved to, if we are actually departing from her gate only to be told that she was not sure herself. Our pilot, overhearing what I asked, jokingly told me to just stick with him and I affirmed that no matter where our gate is, our plane is not leaving without him. I later saw him doing his pre-flight check of the aircraft on the ramp amidst the snow and temperature well below the freezing point.
After this "old-colored nose" United aircraft left the gate, our B737-300 ride came and pulled in.
All said and done, the plane from Tulsa that we were flying on arrived, docked and we boarded the plane 30 minutes after. We sat in the plane for a good 30 minutes as ramp agents hastily loaded our luggage and serviced our aircraft.
Skychef truck that delivered our meals and drinks to the aircraft finally came and we pulled out of the gate an hour and a half late right after all cargo doors and cabin doors were locked and secured. We taxied to the active runway, took off, and headed eastwards to Pittsburgh. Seating on seat 01D on a B737-300 aircraft is a great experience. With a legroom where you can actually stretch your legs and a comfy seat makes one feel that he is actually "flying" with a bonus of a good view of the engine.
I sat right next to a wonderful chatty lady who, on her 70's, has flown four times and first time on a first class cabin.
The flight attendant then started serving beverages as soon as it was safe to unbuckle our seatbelts. I asked for a glass of bloody mary and for the eight of us seating in the first class, warm nuts were served along with a hot hand towel.
Enjoying the snowy scenery at bird's eyeview while seated on a comfy warm cabin and nibbling on some warm nuts with a drink is something every flier would want to experience.
Our flight attendant, purser Karen on flight 1144 is the best United Airline flight attendant I have ever flown with. She was so attentive, friendly and very helpful. We talked about aircraft, new United P.S. service, her job, and among other things. I know with my knowledge that United does not serve iced tea on flights, but, at one time, when she asked me what I wanted for drink, I asked her if she has iced tea and to my surprise, she told me that she can make me one. That gesture showed me how she would do extra work just to satisfy her passengers. Understanding how much effort that would be in her part, I opted for a diet coke instead. However, not to her knowledge, when I got back from my trip, I wrote a letter of compliment to United naming her as an excellent flight attendant and wrote about my flight experience with her.
Karen started serving us lunch almost about an hour into the flight. I had a salad which wasn't really good. I would say I could get a better salad from some average restaurants. It came with a whole wheat roll, butter, and warm chocolate cookie. It was warm enough that the chocolate chips in the cookie melted and the chocolate smothered my tongue when I bit on it.
One lady in my flight got her meal request for a low-fat diet but to her disappointment it was a high-carb meal loaded with corn.
The flight went by fast with drinks flowing non-stop and with a chatty lady right next to me, before we even realized it, our plane started the initial descent to Pittsburgh airport.
I had a very good view of downtown Pittsburgh and its 3-river system.
Soon, our plane was lined up to the runway for a smooth touchdown, arriving almost 2 hours delayed on an almost 3-hour flight.
Despite the delay, with a friendly crew - from the pilots to the flight attendants - and an adorable chatty lady, it sure was a good flight experience.
We docked at our assigned gate and my seatmate asked me if she could come with me to the baggage claim area as she did not want to get lost in the airport. I happily carried her checked-in bag after we got off the aircraft and we went together to the baggage claim area where her daughter has been waiting for her. As for me, I waited for 10 minutes before the carrousel started running and my baggage labeled "priority" made its way out. My best friend in Pennsylvania has been waiting for me for 20 minutes. I had a great time in PA, and will do a similar trip on the 17th of January flying FAT-LAX-IAD-PIT also on United. As to my return flight, I have some stories to tell you . . . but that will be in the part 2 of my trip report.
Quoting Planecrazy2 (Reply 2): Nice report and pictures! Good thing you got a real hot meal on your 737 flight and it wasn't an ex shuttle aircraft.
That's exactly what our purser said! She's happy that our B733 has carts unlike her previous flight which was an ex-shuttle aircraft that didn't have them. So how did you know it was not an ex-shuttle equipment?
Looking forward to it! If your neighbour doesn't want her high carb meal, she can always give it to me!
low fat equals to almost little or no taste. Anyways, your trip report was quite good. I have to admit the snow pictures were a bit monotonous, but otherwise good. Again, looking forward to your return trip!
J.I. Tsui, American Advantage Member, United Mileage Plus (Premier)
Quoting Jasp25 (Thread starter): (call me a meanie but letting go of my window seat on my first B757-200 flight on F class and having chosen my seat a few days ahead would ruin my experience).
I did the same thing on an AA 763 ORD-SFO last month. I used miles to upgrade on that leg because I knew it would likely have the new C interior, and I flat out wanted my window seat which I had pre-reserved a few weeks prior.
Any trip report with FAT on it I'm ready to comment!!! I did enjoyed your words, photos and videos. I'm was quite surprised to see that on the FAT/LAX flight there was no in-flight service!!! My only guess is that it was so early that passengers "probably" don't want anything! In October 2006 I flew LAX/FAT/LAX with UA ( well, actually it was in both flights Skywest EMB120's with full liveries...) and we always had a bag of pretzels and a drinks. I also enjoyed that you've mentioned your flying time on that flight, 50 minutes...in the turboprop EMB120 I logged 1:08 minutes from LAX to FAT and 1:12 minutes FAT to LAX, still it's around almost 20 minutes less in a jet!!!
Anyway, I'm looking forward to see the "Part 2" Trip report!!!
Have a great 2008!
Quoting Jasp25 (Thread starter): The flight lasted about 50 minutes with no beverage service - not even coffee on a first flight to LAX!
- Pretty poor really, on a 50 seat jet the least you could do is serve a drink on this segment!
Quoting Jasp25 (Thread starter): A flight attendant came up to me while other passengers were still boarding and asked if I could trade seat with another passenger who had an aisle seat to let her be right next to her husband. (call me a meanie but letting go of my window seat on my first B757-200 flight on F class and having chosen my seat a few days ahead would ruin my experience). The flight attendants were not so friendly on this flight, or it was only probably towards me after I declined to give up my seat.
- I'd have don the same as you, I love my window seats, that's why I book them, not to give them up to others.
Quoting Jasp25 (Thread starter): when I got back from my trip, I wrote a letter of compliment to United naming her as an excellent flight attendant and wrote about my flight experience with her.
- Nice of you, not enough people take the time these days.
Quoting BA319-131 (Reply 13): - Pretty poor really, on a 50 seat jet the least you could do is serve a drink on this segment!
Considering the time that it takes to get to a reasonable altitude to start serving, and that there is only one flight attendant to take orders, serve, let the passengers enjoy their beverage and snacks, clean up, and perform his/her other required duties, 50 minutes is pushing it for anything more than water.
On many mainline flights under an hour, nothing is served as well, and they have 4-5 times as many flight attendants.
The EMB-120 on this route is able to get away with a service because it is longer with less passengers.
Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.