The news of the Boeing 747-400 operating ORD
and return for the duration of March had me anxiously trying to figure a way to get on board as a non rev and enjoy riding the 747. I had never flown on the 747 of any type and for years had always tried to get on one, and also wanted to grab a triple 7 too. I messaged Matt who works for a UAEX carrier and we made some plans to make a trip out of the entire thing. The week of my trip I had off due to spring break. So we formulated a complex itinerary and different classes to try each service out on United Airlines. We selected to try the following itinerary…
United Airlines Boeing 744
United Airlines PS
United Express CR2
United Airlines Boeing 777-200
Once we had the itinerary selected and all, we just had to wait and hope everything would go smoothly and the seats would remain open enough for us to get on board in the classes we wanted. Finally March 8th rolled around and to steal a line from United-It’s time to fly.
March 9th, 2009
In the morning we were checking the loads and it was NOT looking good at all for us to get Business Class. We elected to try it but if that didn’t work, then we planned to make a get way to fly out to AMS
for a night as the 767-300 operating it was open enough and it was due to have the new business seats also. It was a good thing I had brought my passport in case there were change of plans. We got to ORD
not knowing where we’d be flying, out west to SFO
, or out east overseas to AMS
? How exciting!
I checked in for the AMS
section to grab a pass to get through security. I walked through and it was fairly quick. I headed my way to gate C-10 to stare at the giant of the Boeing 747-400 at the gate.
We were standing near the gate area just watching the stand by list, the highest I was I think was around 26 or so. Unfortunately this would NOT be the highest number I ever stood by so far on this trip haha.
We just stood around the gate as they were boarding the 747. I love watching a 747 be boarded it seems so grand and amazing no matter the airline it is. We stood around convinced we were not getting on board and we were just gonna go to AMS
instead. Which wasn’t entirely too bad but I really wanted to grab the 747.
They completed boarding and there are maybe five of us standing around. The agent said if we had not heard our name be called to come up to the podium and we’d be assigned seats. So it seemed like we would be getting on board!
We went to the gate and they gave both of us economy plus seats, which helps, but they were middle of middles-40 row. Blah! Oh well, you win some, you lose some. Least I was able to get on a 747 for the first time in my life!
We boarded and got in our seats and I was just amazed at how huge it was inside. It blew my mind away.
I had forgotten UA
had channel 9 feature so I put it on to listen to the ATC chatter. I was gonna try to experience as much of United Airlines and the 747 as I could possibly experience!
We got comfortable, as comfortable as we could be for a middle seat in the 747 haha and settled back as we began to taxi. The safety briefing was shown as we taxied out to the runway.
In the ATC chatter my buddy had a reaction so I asked what, and he said that it seemed like a plane was pushing back unaware of us taxing by and our wing would have clipped the tail of the aircraft if it hadn’t stopped in time! Oh boy! Was this gonna be an omen of bad things coming to our trip?! I hoped not!
We taxied to the runway and we were cleared for take off. I was gonna pay close attention to this take off as I didn’t know if I’d ever get to experience another one like it again for a 747. We lumbered down, and it felt really heavy but light at the same time if that makes sense. We shot down the runway, and at liftoff, felt the nose groan as it fought gravity lifting into the skies. I felt the gear shake and rumble underneath as we left the concrete. Once we gained air and loss of gravity, we climbed up as the thump of the 747 wheels all came into the wings and body of the aircraft. It was done! We actually lifted off into the air!!! Amazing! I was just smiling the whole time.
We had a four-hour flight ahead of us and then some, as we were fighting 112 MPH headwinds heading west to SFO
. How grand…we cruised to FL370, which I thought, was kinda low but I am not a pilot so I digress haha
The snack box came around and I checked the UA
magazine and one snack box looked quite good so I got that one and a can of coke to go along with it. I thought it was actually very good, while I don’t like paying for it; it was an ok price, which was 6 bucks for the snack box.
I played around with CH
9 and listened to my ipod and chatted with my buddy as we passed the time. At the 2-hour mark we decided to walk around and check out the rest of the Boeing 747, more so for me to check out haha.
I was still in awe of just how grand the 747 was, huge and all. We walked around some more and it started getting bumpy again so we went back to sit down. I just relaxed playing my ipod while Matt checked CH9 out or played his games.
That was really all we did until it was time to start descending for SFO
F/A’s came around picking up trash and tray tables and all as usual. Typical pre landing routine.
Matt motioned to me he heard the UA
Flight going SFO
fly by on CH
9 so that was kinda neat to hear.
We got near SFO
, flaps and such coming out, We were assigned to land on the right side so we were hoping to get a take off or landing on left runway. Sure enough as we came in a Cathay Pacific A330 was taking off. Pretty sweet!!!
We touched down and the braking of the 747 was equally awesome as the take off. It felt so amazing and just so cool to feel that.
We shuddered to a near stop as we swung off the runway and headed to gate 82. That concluded my FIRST Boeing 747 flight and I was happy as a clam! This concluded my first United Airlines mainline flight as well and I have to say UA
did good and I would book them again only if I knew I’d be able to get econ plus. We got off the plane and headed into SFO
That was it! We were done for the night! So I thought…
We were checking loads for tomorrow, and we saw that UA
had swapped the two AM PS
to 767-300’s. WTF?! Great…we were not going to ride coach, and we really wanted to try the PS
service on the 757 and all. We checked other loads and nothing seemed to our satisfaction out of SFO
Then out of the blue, I hear “you still have your passport right?” Me “ya why?”
Matt “let’s go on the LHR
flight leaving n an hour and a half. Biz is wide open, and it’s a 777. You got your 747, let’s go for the 777!”
Me “wait, are you joking?! We just got off a 4 hr and a half flight, and we are gonna fly off to LHR
We must have been OUT of our minds, cause that’s what we tried to do. We went to the Customer Service desk to try to change our itinerary but unfortunately the way Shuttle America works, I had to be authorized for each new itinerary that is done. Since SFO
was not planned, I had to be authorized after being checked in. Since we didn’t do this we were not able to get on the LHR
flight in time. We know now what to do next time. We had been so confused on why this step, but once we spoke to some folks we figured it out.
After spending over an hour at SFO
trying to get to LHR
we gave up and figured let’s get to a hotel and figure where to go next the next day. Our trip was as random as it could be!
March 10th, 2009
The night before we decided we wanted a United PS
plane with a 757 so to get that and get into NYC in time, we had to fly out to LAX
and catch it there. F was wide open out of LAX
so to get to LAX
we had to fly out ASAP of SFO
that morning, and to do so we listed on the Airbus A319 outta SFO
. This would be a new route for me also so I was excited, even though it was an Airbus. Oh well, it seems I have to go through a bad spot to get to the goodie hahaha.
We went to SFO
Airport, got our security documents and we walked around for a bit. We talked to our respective friends txting or calling folks from home to let them know our new itinerary. I am a Boeing Fan and was texting my buddy back home whom is more of an Airbus fan. We argued as typical what is better, and I without thinking go “Boeing rocks and Airbus rocks so there!” I didn’t catch my fatal mistake, and my buddy then texted “I knew it, you spoke from the heart, airbus rules!!!” I never heard the end of it from him…
We walked around SFO
, as I didn’t really get to see it the night before. I spotted the 763 that was operating the PS
flight to JFK
Then I spotted the 777 heading to HNL
as well too!
We got our boarding passes, economy plus again, and a window seat over the wing/engine. Not bad at all! This was my first Airbus flight with United now, so I could compare it with the NWA one I flew back in 2005.
I saw a cool shot in the back where the tail of AA
were side by side showing “American and United” so I snapped that, came out pretty good!
It was time to board and so we boarded the tiny Airbus!
I was impressed with how nice the interior cabin was for United on the Airbus. Granted it was econ plus, but I noticed they all had the headrest and such, which I fly AA
S80 just for that reason as I use it. It is certainly a big plus to know it is on United too. I took some shots of the legroom and out the window too here as well.
We joked how bad Airbus are as usual going are we gonna make it or whatever, and out of nowhere the lights flickered on and off and then a real big shudder. We just looked at each other like now what…
Then an announcement “due to the TV
not working on board, we will be doing a live manual safety briefing on board the Airbus A319 aircraft, please pay close attention as we do the safety briefing”
Go figure, we are on an airbus so it breaks and TV
doesn’t work. GO UNITED! Just kidding of course.
The F/A did the briefing and we chatted with the one working in our area. She was very nice and seemed to enjoy her job quite well.
We backed out and taxied to the runway, as usual taking pics on the way to the runway.
Taxied to runway and we took off!
We turned left just as the bridge slipped under the right wing. Darn it, really wanted to see it! Oh well.
We cruised along to LAX
in excitement in hoping to get First Class on the United P.S. to JFK
Drink service came around and we both got Coke.
Took a quick snapshot of the cabin inside…
I have flown intra California routes before doing SMF
, as well as SNA
, so SFO
while new route for me; the scenery was all the same!
At this time they announced we would start descending for LAX
. I was getting excited, I had not been to LAX
in forever so was anxious to see how it was and to see heavies once again!!!
We turned and descended, and turned, flaps come out, level, cruise all that jazz. F/A collected trash and drinks and we settled back for the landing into LAX
. We were 2 miles out behind a JAL 747.
In no time we touched down at LAX
, and taxied to our gate.
The 747 is heading to NRT
and the 757 was the PS
heading to JFK
Heading to IAD
Once we reached our gate, we got off fairly quickly.
We walked to our gate and just sat at the gate.
United Airlines P.S (Premium Service)
This was the flight we both were preparing for. United Airlines Premium Service on board the Boeing 757-200. The flight had a 21 min delay inbound from JFK
, but not a problem, we were not connecting so I really could care less.
The gate across from us on the waiting area was boarding to NRT
, and I glared at Matt to NOT even think about it, but he grinned at me and said Business is open!!! I swear…
I quickly shut him up and said NO; we are doing PS
and nothing else!
The stand by list was looking very good and at this rate we were due to get the First Class seats.
I also said to Matt, considering this is a Los Angeles to New York City flight, I wondered if we’d have a celebrity on board or not. I really had hopes we would but the likelihood of it happening probably was not in my favor.
At 1pm, our names were called to the gate and we gave him our security documents. We were handed back the boarding passes and it said UNITED FIRST! Woo Hoo! He gave me thumbs up, finally, we were gonna get what we wanted!
The plane finally pulled up and was excited to see it in new colors, and also that it had winglets too! This would be my 2nd 757 flight with winglets.
They announced that we were to being boarding for First Class so we lined up and handed he agent our pass. They scanned it and gave it back to us in its entirety. I was thankful, as I really wanted to keep the boarding pass, my previous two UA
flights; they had ripped the boarding pass.
We walked into the plane, and I almost turned right being SO used to coach and all, I wondered why Matt turned left, and then it dawned on me again. I was riding First Class, cross-country on the PS
service. This day just could NOT get better for me. But alas, it did!
I sat down and we put our stuff away, and I snapped a picture of the seat and space.
As we sat down, I looked over and I saw a Black Woman getting into her seat. She looked so familiar to me and I couldn’t place it. I was suddenly getting excited thinking just MAYBE I had a celebrity in our midst! I looked again and she turned around and we stared face to face. I gasped. It was Audrey McDonald, who plays Naomi on the show “Private Practice” I gasped again, and turned to matt in a very loud whisper “Oh my god Matt that is Audrey McDonald!” I uttered it in a very hissed voice. He looked at me like WHO? No way…
I looked to make sure, and I whipped out my blackberry and googled her to get a picture. Sure enough it was one and the same! I showed Matt a pic of her and he looked again and went “wow that is her!”
I am a HUGE fan of her show and her as well, so if riding F on the UA PS
service wasn’t good enough, to share the cabin with a famous actress and might add extremely gorgeous, was just the icing on the cake!
I of course like most anyone else texted all my friends and family about this celebrity spotting I had. This is not the first time I have mingled or flown with celebrities but for some reason just the excitement of riding PS
combined with her, just really highlighted the day for me.
After I finally calmed down, I started to enjoy the seat and all. Now I cannot compare the service of UA
to when I flew AA ORD
in the new Biz seats so I will simply compare the SEAT of AA
’s. Quite honestly both were pretty much exactly the same. However one personal thing I wish we had was AA
’s pouch is on the side, yet UA
didn’t have one. Unless they considered the one in front of us on the other seat. However that is to far for me to reach. Since the F/A made us stow EVERYTHING away for take off, I had to grab what I wanted with me in my seat for take off and the flight.
We backed out, and taxied to the runway. As we were taxing, I was snapping pics of cool planes and such I considered cool, while the F/A was taking our orders.
Coastal Breeze- Mix of traditional Bay Breeze, adding Absolute’s Mandarin Orange Vodka, to cranberry juice cocktail, with a splash of grapefruit juice.
To begin: Smoked Salmon roll on a bed of marinated cucumbers.
Fresh Seasonal greens with cherry tomato, garbanzo beans, and chopped pecans.
Served with your choice of dressing: Ranch or Asian Sesame Ginger
Spinach and ricotta stuffed chicken with red pepper sauce
Couscous with chives, stir fried vegetables.
Egg fried rice, California stir-fried vegetables
Layered focaccia sandwich
With turkey, roast beef, and salami served with fried sweet potatoes
Chocolate and grand vanilla ice cream-with a choice of hot fudge or mixed berries topped with toasted almonds and whipped cream.
Warm chocolate chip cookies.
It all looked amazing and good but Matt and I both decided to get the coastal breeze drink and the stir-fried shrimp meal for lunch.
We took off and turned left over the ocean heading back to LAX
and onward to JFK
. I got some sweeeeeet pics of the departure and such so check them out just below!!!
Our drinks came and we said cheers and drank it. Wow, it hit me, I don’t drink period to be honest MAYBE once a month or so, I was not used to it. It was strong for me. And I was feeling it very fast. Yes I am a wimp I know when it comes to drinking haha.
We decided to take a couple pics of the menu and napkins just to see how it looks.
Soon our starter came and it looked delicious! I of course took a picture before I started to eat it.
I showed Matt the butter which was shaped like a Star. I joked United knew that we would have a celebrity in the midst and that they had star shaped butter for it. But matt raised an interesting point and commented it could be shaped Star for the Star Alliance. So we thought who better to ask then the folks of airliners.net?! So any reason why the butter is star shaped or just a coincidence of it?
I looked out the window to see what scenery was passing by, it was becoming very pretty and we were flying over Vegas and the surrounding areas.
Finally our lunch had come and it looked amazing and delicious once again!!!
After we finished it, we had it cleared to eat dessert. We got both the cookies and the ice cream so here they are!
After that was finished and our trays were cleared we settled back to sleep, watch TV
or whatever, simply just enjoy the seat now!
I closed the window shades but took a few more pics before the dark settled upon us.
I went to sleep for an hour or so listening to my ipod. Feeling the turbulence sway back and forth. Lying down turbulence is actually kind of fun.
I woke up and it was pitch black out, so I watched some more shows of Grey’s Anatomy and Ugly Betty.
I was gonna pull up my laptop to work on it, and start the trip report, but when I plugged it in, my laptop wouldn’t read it. The power thing on the seat would not charge my laptop. Darn, since it didn’t work I was unable to work on the laptop.
So I just settled back and enjoyed the ride.
I did get up to walk around to see the rest of the PS
Aircraft. I spoke to a F/A in the back galley and she told me wonderful stories of working on PS
and working the route. We chatted for quite a bit until it got bumpy again and I had to come back and sit down.
Soon it was time to start the clean up and all for the descent into JFK
The F/A came around and picked up trash, drinks, and food, plates whatever was left behind. We had a beautiful full moon outside and it lit up the cloud layer so it was amazing, what a great way to end the cross-country flight.
I looked out and the engine was well lit so I went ahead and snapped one final picture of the flight.
We turned and went under the clouds and the city of NYC was seen below us. Matt mentioned to me we would be behind a 747 into JFK
as to caution for wake turbulence haha.
Gear and flaps came out, the usual and we gently eased into the runway at JFK
Plane shuddered to a stop, and we taxied off behind the 747, on our way to the gate. Cabin lights went on, and we collected our things, and we followed everyone else off the plane into the terminal. My first time to JFK
To conclude the PS
section, I was VERY impressed with the service. UA
just blew my expectations away. I believe this is well worth the money to spend. I have seen prices as high as 2,400 for the First Class section. Do I have the money to pay for it, of course not, but if I did I would certainly look at the UA PS
service when it comes to flying Cross Country. The seat however between AA
I’d say was pretty much tied. AA
for example, the seat stretches out so it is impossible to get out if you have a window seat, versus UA
where it is easier to climb over. However UA
is missing a side pouch, where AA
has one. Service wise, AA
has Internet on board, UA
didn’t, but this is coming in June so this will help even out the competition. Aircraft wise, 757 versus 767 make no difference to me, as the seat is the same. Having a wide body does help, however doesn’t make a difference. So if you have the money and can afford to fly UA PS
in First, I would highly recommend it to anyone who can do so.
We went to his apartment in NYC to hang for the night and plan to see where we wanted to go tomorrow. However, the plans totally fell apart due to ATC flow delay at IAD
and massive delays and cancelled flights. I will go into this more on the next segment.
Due to the high loads JFK
we decided to non-rev out of LGA
instead on the CHQ
Flight leaving at 2:30pm. We went to grab lunch and went to check the screen, everything is on time!
We go through security (keep count of how many times we go through security by the way…) and we walk down to the UA
gates to sit. We hang out for a bit, and I got this funny feeling to check the monitors. I went down and checked it, and saw IAD
FLIGHTS DELAYED DUE TO
ATC CONTROL” Our flight which was scheduled to leave at 2:35pm was pushed back to 6:20pm. This was going to make us misconnect our 777 flight out of IAD
. Scratch that plan, no 777, we gotta get home now. All UA
flights were delayed or cancelled via IAD
so we figured there is no getting out of LGA
at this time. We figured let’s go try AA
had open seats to ORD
on the S80 leaving at 3:30pm.
We leave UA
, and we go back through security for the AA
flight at 3:30pm. I was stopped by TSA
and was demanded to put my bag in the bin to see if it would fit. Without thinking I was about to say, “it fits, I’ve flown over 200 times and I have never had a problem” But I stopped. One, I am a non rev, keep the mouth shut, and two, this wouldn’t be the first time TSA
had it heard it, and certainly didn’t need to hear it from a Non Rev. I put my bag in the bin and to my panic it didn’t fit. I could see the conversation now, “you need to check it sir” Me “great, and where shall I check it to? I am non revving so I haven’t the foggiest idea what flight, airline or WHERE I am going IF
I am even getting out?!” …So with a swift kick, I pounded and kicked the bag in and it ended up fitting just fine in the bin. Whoo! So TSA
seemed satisfied and let me go through with the carry on bag.
We walked down to the gate where the 3:30pm was and sat and waited. We then watched our SB
list grow and grow, and grow until it reached 38. Apparently AA
had cancelled some ORD
flights too and also delayed some of theirs. Keep in mind I was traveling the same day that AA LGA
MD80 had the engine problem and diverted. So I can’t imagine this helped AA
’s operations much at all there.
We checked the loads as the seat loads got smaller and smaller as our SB
got bigger and bigger. Oh boy, we were pretty convinced we were not getting on this flight. The next LGA
was at 4:45pm and then a 757 was leaving at 5:20pm afterwards. If we didn’t make the 4:45pm we for sure 100% were gonna get on the 757 as it was WIDE open, hardly any stand by’s revenue or non rev, and only booked to round 46 or so.
Once the 3:30pm departed the SB
rolled over to the 4:45pm departure and it just got huge, the SB
list grew to like 45 or so now, and I was going this is ridic, we are NOT flying out of LGA
tonight. But Matt was like don’t worry we are getting on the 757.
The 757 pulled up at 4:30pm, so we now had two ORD
bound flights at the gate and the odds were in our favor, one of those flights would be taking us!
We stood at the 757 gate watching them board and once the 4:45pm departed as we expected we were rolled over to the 757. At 5:00pm everyone on that flight had boarded. They were now clearing the revenues, and at the time the 757 had 96 or so open seats, and only 30 or so revenue stand bys and 3 or 4 non-revs. We were getting on! So at 5:00pm they were calling names and clearing folks, we saw our name pop up on the cleared list. We were going home! I was standing near the gate waiting for them to call our name so I could just jump in grab the pass and leave without taking up time as I knew those agents would want to get everyone on board as fast as possible.
5:10pm rolls around and our names still are not called, nor are the other revenue paxs…Odd. Matt pointed they were being very slow about getting people cleared, and that they were taking a long time. But what the hey, the flight was already massively delayed as it was supposed to leave at 4:10pm, but now scheduled at 5:20pm. No big deal, leave the agents alone and let them do their thing.
5:15pm rolls around, and still nothing. What? At 5:20pm, pretty much no one had been given a pass, and the AA
Mgr at LGA
yells “Ok, that’s it we gotta go, leave them behind we gotta push” As SOON as I heard that I thought “oh shit, there is gonna be a fight in 5 seconds I am getting out of the line of fire” I quickly dived away from the gate area and within seconds…
“What?!” You can’t do that! Rev paxs literally attacked the gate agents screaming at them demanding they be let on. They were told and promised they were going to be on that 757. Matt and I looked at disbelief, we both did CSA for WN
and have experience traveling around airlines and had NEVER seen this happen in our career at the airlines OR
as revenue passengers. You just DON’T leave behind revenue passengers. We stared in disbelief as the 757 with 96 seats open left the gate stranding revenue passengers. Non rev ya we knew not to raise hell but when you are told we are cleared, and knowing the flight was wide open, that just is NOT cool at all.
Absolutely stunned. That 757 woulda saved AA
a LOT of hassles for the rest of night and the SB
list probably would have been a lot less too. We checked the SB
list and noticed, some of the rev paxs that were left behind were Gold, Plat, Elite, some had paid Y fares, We were in disbelief, these were not just 100 dollar fares paxs booked, some of these were high paying Customers and such. NOT a good thing to do to your passengers.
So once that happened we figured, crap we are NOT flying out tonight at all.
Next flight was to leave at 7:15pm, so once again our list rolled over and because of that 757 incident my SB
list grew to 60 SPOTS! This was entirely ridiculous and we knew we were not going to get on the 7:15pm either. The next after that was 8:45pm and then finally the 10:25pm. All delayed of course. I even checked LGA
, and that wasn’t gonna work either. Grrrr. Matt checked UA
again and there WAS an open flight leaving at 9:45pm. So after the 7:15pm left, he went over to UA
counter and they told us if we didn’t get on their 8:47pm departure we would for sure be on the 9:47pm departure as it was wide open. *sarcasm-then again AA
told us that too and look where we wound up*
We finally gave up on United, and for the THIRD time mind you all, we went back over to the UA
gates to try UA
. Will United save our ass this time?!
We went over and sat down. Matt heard our names be called but for a different UA
flight? Turns out, they wound up canceling the UA
Flight to IAD
we were listed on and kept rolling us over all day. So unbeknownst to us, we were being rolled over for two destinations on two diff airlines! What a hoot I really wanted to laugh but I was just too tired at this time. We were on stand by for near 7 hrs…
Matt resolved the confusion for the IAD
flight and we got off that list and made sure we were still on SB
for the ORD
one. The 8:45pm left without us on board. So the last chance was the 9:45pm one and if that didn’t work then back to AA
for the 10:25pm departure, yes that woulda meant going through security for the 4th time which I R-E-A-L-L-Y did not want to do haha.
At 9:15pm or so our names were FINALLY called to get our boarding pass for the UA
flight to ORD
. Same seats 10-D so you guessed it! Another Airbus A319. Truly I didn’t give a rat’s ass what I was flying at this time. I would have flown a B1900 for 3 hrs or so if it meant I was getting home haha.
At 9:30pm they started boarding and we were able to get off the ground at 10pm. We made it into ORD
at 11pm. Service was drinks only, and I just listened to music and was just thankful for getting a flight out. Not to say that’s what you get for non revving, but AA
royally screwed that up by letting the 757 go, and we woulda been home by 5pm or so. Since that happened, it messed the entire day up for AA
We landed and got off the plane and matt went to get his car and picked me up and went home. I was truly; jet lagged, but honestly was so glad we did it. I got to ride a United 747-400, an Airbus, and UA PS
in First. I got to fly four new routes to add to my flight memory website. I got to spend time with my friend whom I hadn’t seen him and his wife in almost a year. I got to experience ALL
levels of United Service in a way except Business but who cares when you got first on the PS
? It was a great spring break for me, some people laid down on the beach; I laid down in first class in a plane!
United was a great airline, and now I flew them for the first time mainline I really enjoyed them. Would I switch alliance, probably not but not unthinkable either. UA
still has a lot to do and change for me to want to fly them out of STL
, example bringing more mainline back to STL
. Again, I digress though. It was a great trip, and I agree with United, it WAS time to fly, and fly I did, around the country, in four days.