This was an interesting trip for me. Was supposed to do entire trip on UA
but due to problems ended up coming back on DL
. Was a great chance to compare the two on the same trip in Biz (except for one leg).
I purchased a B fare LAX
on May 21st with return GRU
on May 26th for $2,600 two months before travel and applied for upgrades using miles on same date. The flight was waitlisted. I'm a Premier Exec.
Wednesday May 21st, 2008 - arrived at LAX
for 2:05 PM
departure flight 843. Check in was smooth and fast but was told upgrade would not clear for LAX
and I would find out in ORD
if upgrade for second leg was confirmed. I had emergency exit aisle seat and was comfortable in the 757-200. The aircraft was pulled back from the gate and we waited in position between T7
for about 15 minutes until the pilot finally came on and said there was a technical problem and we would have to be towed back into the gate. Once back in the gate it took about 45 minutes to fix the problem and we finally left about 1 hour and 15 minutes late. I was worried about not being able to make my connection but the pilot was able to make up some time en-route and I would have about 20 minutes to make conenction in ORD
The flight itself was OK
. The crew was friendly and I bought a snack box (no fresh choices were offered). The movie was really stupid (something about a guy who jumps from place to place) and the old-fashioned TV
's above the center aisle did not have correct color. The plane itself was very tired looking with drab, warn out upholstery. Luckily for me our arriving gate would only be two gates away from the connecting flight so I felt confident I would make connection.
Once in Chicago I ran to the gate and was told by the gate attendant to relax: the 767-300ER to be used on the flight was experiencing mechanical problems and that a decision would be made at 10:30 pm whether the flight would go out that night (an hour late). The good news was that I got my upgrade. I took my boarding pass and made my way to the Red Carpet lounge to wait. The lounge was getting ready to close but just then the lady at check-in received a phone call and asked me to wait. She said she had to count how many passengers were in the lounge and would be right back. She came back and told them how many people were there and then informed me the lounge would stay open until 11 pm. At 10:30 she made an announcement that the decision would not be made until 11:30 pm now. All the employees in the lounge had already gone home except for her and one of the other passengers decided to jump over the bar (which was closed) and discovered the beer tap had not been turned off. He subsequently started pouring free beer for everyone in the lounge and by 11:30 everyone was quite happy (and a little buzzed). At around 11:20 she made an announcement that the aircraft was finally ready for boarding.
I arrived at the gate at 11:30 and boarding began. Despite the long delay they had not boarded catering supplies yet and passenger and food/beverages boarded the plane at the same time, which was a mess. Needless to say no champagne/water/orange juice was served prior to departure as one would expect in Business. After noticing that same was being served to mostly off duty employees in First I asked a flight attendant when we could expect ours. He was very rude and said they didn't have time. It took about 40 minutes to board the aircraft and close the doors. After about another ten minutes or so the pilot announed over the PA that the luggage had still not been loaded and that it would be another half hour or so before we departed. Still, no pre-flight service, the flight attendants were to busy gossiping in the galleys. Finally at around 12:30 or so in the morning we departed.
Once in the air the flight attendants finally decided to get of their a**es about 40 minutes in to the flight and take our orders. I had already taken my Tylenol PM
and decided to just have the cheese and fruit platter that is normally served as dessert and skip the meal. About another 20 minutes later they managed to get some nuts and a beverage cart out followed by the beginning of the meal service. When I reminded the flight attendant that I just wanted the fruit and cheese she said she had forgotten but promptly went to get it. The cheese was dry and tasteless and the fruit consisted of six grapes. I decided to watch a movie but the betamax tape of the movie I was interested in was damaged and the picture kept rolling making the movie un-watchable. I played solitaire on my Blackberry and fell asleep sometime later.
I was awoken the next morning about 30 minutes before landing and had missed the breakfast service. Landing was uneventful and I quickly passed through immigration and made my way to the luggage carousel. After about 40 minutes all of the luggage from the plane was unloaded.... EXCEPT for mine! I waited behind five other customers at the customer service desk only to find out that my luggage was in Chicago and that it wouldn't arrive until the next day.
The luggage was finally delivered to my hotel in Jardins at 9:30 pm the next evening.
Monday, May 26th, 2008 - I logged onto United.com at around noon to see if my upgrade for the return flight 842 scheduled at 8:20 pm had been cleared. It had not, although strangely enough the domestic portion aboard an A319 with only 8 First seats had been cleared. I checked the flight status and everything seemed fine for departure. About an hour later, however, I received an automated flight notification on my Blackberry that the flight had been delayed until 3:30 am and would depart 7 hours late! I called United to inquire about the problem and was told it was because of yet another mechanical problem. I had an important business meeting in LA
on Tuesday and told the United representative to rebook me on Delta if possible. She was very nice and rebooked me on DL204 / DL937 GRU
in Y which was to depart at 11:55 PM
. It took her about an hour to complete the transaction but I was grateful. I immediately called Delta afterwards to ask for an upgrade using miles and was immediately confirmed for DL204 but was told DL937 was overbooked and that and upgrade wasn't possible.
I arrived at the airport at 11:00 pm due to a traffic accident and was afraid I wouldn't be able to check in because I arrived less than an hour before the flight. The last check in agent was getting ready to leave but checked me in and informed me that boarding had already started and that I needed to hurry to the gate. Luckily both security and immigration went very quickly and I made it to gate 4B in less than 10 minutes. Once at the gate we had to board a bus, which took us to a remote location for boarding. I was very happy to get off the bus and see a 777 waiting for me. Normally this route is flown with 767's so this was a nice surprise. The bus let us off next to the left engine and I was awestruck at just how big the 777's RR
engine was. I had never been this close to one before.
I was assigned to seat 12D, a center aisle Business Elite seat. The difference between this aircraft and the one I arrived on was dramatic. The UA767 was dingy and worn out... the DL777 was bright and had newer leather upholstery (but it did not have the new lie-flat seats). My seat on the UA767 had a small pillow and cheap blanket waiting for me.... DL777 had a full sized pillow, a full sized duvet and a bottle of water waiting for me. Champagne arrived less than a minute after I sat down. Even the amenity kit was nicer... and I really appreciate the fact that Delta places an ink pen in their kits because I always forget to bring one to fill out customs forms and asking a UA
flight attendant to borrow one of their ink pens is not pleasant.
Once in flight the entertainment system was made available immediately as compared to almost an hour after takeoff on United. The flight attendants started the service about 10 minutes after take off. I enjoyed a great dinner including an apppetizer of caprese salad and cauliflower soup, followed by filet mingnon for dinner and a cheese and fruit platter for desert (which was much fresher and about twice the portion size compared to United). My wine glass was kept full and I watched a collection of HBO programs until I fell asleep. I did not eat breakfast and woke up just as we began our final descent into ATL
. Immigration and customs went quickly, I rechecked by luggage and went to the lounge until it was time to board.
Boarding for DL937 went quickly and I headed to my seat 28B in the back of the 767-300. I was happy to see that this aircraft has been refurbished with the new slimline seats and in seat entertainment system. Then, just as they were getting ready to close the doors, I was paged by a flight attendant to come to the front of the plane and bring my luggage. Everyone looked at me like I was a terrorist or something but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I had been upgraded and given seat 1C. The flight attendant informed me that there was room for my laptop above seat 4B and before long we took off. The flight itself was uneventful. I worked on my laptop and watched CNBC on the live in seat TV
. Lunch was served (a chicken dish) and we arrived ontime.
Epilogue: When we landed I turned on my phone as we were taxiing and I had four messages. All four of them were from United's automated flight messaging. All the messages were about the flight I has switched from. The first said the flight has been delayed to 4 am, the second said the flight had beend delayed to 4:30 am, the third said the flight had been delyaed until 5:30 am and the final announcement proclaimed the flight would arrive in Chicago at 2:30 PM
... a full 8.5 hours late and 35 minutes after I had already arrived home in Los Angeles!