Dedicated to the 55 people I’ve met on my amazing journey across the heartland of America, with them, I’ve witnessed pure natural beauty in awe and amazement. For the 7 days we’ve shared together, we developed a special connection that I will forever treasure for the rest of my life. Despite the spectacular sights we have seen together, the most memorable scene that I witnessed was the gift that could not be bought: The Gift of Friendship.
If you don’t care or too lazy, you can skip these “few” paragraphs about the back story of my trip to the lovely customized “Day of the Trip” banner. But I highly recommend that you do, will you, please?
In this modern day we live in today, one can not ignore the stress that air travel brings. No liquids on carryon, extensive and sometimes offensive security checks, take off your shoes, X-Ray scanners and rude TSA agents is now the common sight and practices at your local airport. Much to everyone’s disappointment, the dilemma doesn’t stop there. You could also add weather and mechanical delays, cramped seating, baggage fees, crying babies, impolite flight attendants and so on. These problems are inevitable and are usually the norm for most airlines these days, except for a handful of highly praised Asian and Middle Eastern carriers with their lie-flats, model-like flight attendants, topnotch meals and world class products. For us living or traveling with the US, one can not expect those 5-Star qualities, in-fact, they’re just a far away fantasy that lives within our mind. With the global economic turmoil and the cutbacks that airlines have gone through, it is refreshing to see that some airlines still offers you a decent hard and soft product. Although a mile away from the service, efficiency, highly professional and polished service of Asiana Airlines or the state-of-the-art product that Singapore Airlines offer, one airline in the United States has won my heart and possibly most of my future domestic flights. From reading the title, you obviously know what airline I’m talking about. I will thoroughly explain my experience with United Airlines, the good and the bad. Despite some minor issues with them, I believe that they are America’s Top Airline and this is coming from a huge Delta Fan. So how did United win me over? Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride: Welcome to My 11th trip report on airliners.net, Welcome aboard United Airlines.
As a side note, I will constantly compare United with Delta, two of the world’s largest airline and probably the most facebook fans of any legacy carrier.
This trip has to be one of our family’s longest planned vacation. Although it is only a domestic trip and one that I wasn’t really looking forward to compared to previous longhaul journeys, it was planned nearly 10 months in advanced. If you read my previous trip report:
50 Days In Asia W/ A 5-Star Airline: Part 1 (pics) (by JetBlue777 Sep 2 2010 in Trip Reports)
50 Days In Asia: Island Paradise, Part 2 (pics) (by JetBlue777 Sep 19 2010 in Trip Reports)
50 Days In Asia W/ A 5-Star Airline: Part 3 (pics) (by JetBlue777 Oct 24 2010 in Trip Reports)
You’ll know that my family went to the Philippines in 2010 for 50 Days. My mom and I flew with Asiana Airlines while my dad flew with Continental. Due to the long distance from New York and Manila, we racked up a few thousand miles, enough to buy as an award ticket on United. Both my parents and I only racked up around 10,000 miles. Despite flying roundtrip on Asiana, our ticket was only eligible for 75% of the total mileage flown while my dad only flew with CO on the return leg: a rather frustrating and long journey from MNL-GUM-HNL-IAH-EWR when a one-stop flight with CX or EY was only a couple of bucks more, but then, it was all about the star alliance miles. After we went home to New York, I was already planning our next summer vacation. With UA’s generous Mileage Plus program, I was able to take advantage of our earned miles. As you know, 10K isn’t really going to reach places I’ve dreamed of. (un)fortunately, the only way we could use our miles was to pay $137 and the only destination available was Denver.
The mile high city, at first glance, is nothing but a typical mid-sized US city with a few tall buildings downtown and mostly surrounded by picturesque ala Wisteria Lane type of suburban homes. Upon further research, I found out that the neighboring states of Colorado offers much more. I went to www.gotobus.com, a great website to search for bus tours and vacations all over the world. They offered a 7 Day, 6 Nights tour from Denver to Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton, Mt. Rushmore, Salt Lake City, Arches National Park and other sites visiting 6 States and a total travel distance of nearly 3,000 miles. What’s the price? A little around $450 and to make things better, it’s buy 2 take 1! So I got in for free, as usual with these typical Mandarin-English bus tours. Keep in mind that these bus tours can be stressful as you visit as many attractions as possible in a limited amount of time and your hotels are far from the luxuries of Shangri-La or the comfort of your typical Hyatt or even Marriott. Despite that, the experience is unforgettable. You get to travel with a diverse mix of people, witness amazing sights and attractions and meet new friends along the way!
After our hassle-free separate booking on united.com, we were set to fly with United. $137 + 10K Miles was actually a great deal with a flight from NY to Denver could cost you around 400 bucks. As usual, I didn’t choose the obvious choice: The Nonstop Flights. Since ORD and DEN are both UA hubs, widebodies usually operates some of the flights between the two cities. In this case, the 777 and 767. Originally booked on a 757 flight outbound and a 777 inbound, due to the ongoing merger, our reservation changed quite a bit. I originally booked an 8AM flight departing from LGA, however, the connecting flight to DEN has been moved earlier leaving us 50 minutes to connect through ORD. Way too risky, I thought. So by the help of friendly UA agents in India, I requested a flight an hour earlier. UA’s second daily flight to ORD departs at 7AM, no problem, we’re used to waking up early. Months later, for some reason, we were moved to the 6AM flight, way too early I thought! So, once again, I called UA to change our flight, so I requested a mid-morning flight that will allow me to fly on the 757 to DEN (At that time I haven’t flown on the 757) UA happily agreed considering that you could change your flights without any fees when your flying on an award flight, I don’t know if this is the case today. As luck was against me, there was a schedule change once again. A little bit frustrated, I called UA (Again!) and with the help of friendly agents, the only reasonable flight was the 11AM A319 flight to ORD connecting on a 3:15PM 777 (Domestic) flight to DEN. Oh well, who can complain? Two Triple 777s = Double the Fun! Amazingly, our return flight hadn’t changed a bit. Although I tried changing to a later flight so I could fly on a 767-300 and only one seat was available, thank goodness I kept the same flight, more on that later.
Finally, we bought another ticket for my grandma. It was a non-refundable $650 ticket, F9 and UA did offer cheaper flights but we wanted her to fly with us. Unfortunately, she was unable to fly to the US due to medical and personal reasons, so we had to cancel her flight. Long story short, after more than 10 calls, 3 E-Mails, 1 Fax and a Real(!!) Paper Mail (This thing still exists?!) My mom family got her credit back on her card after calling CitiBank. Ha. Although it’s still temporary. Double Ha.
Various Travel Options including upgrade to Economy Plus. Since it was a short flight, we decided not to opt for it.
Online Check-In, it was odd how it showed an A320 for UA 231 when it was actually operated by an A319.
Seat Map on UA 909 (Domestic 777)
ARE YOU GONNA STOP TALKING ABOUT YOUR BORING LIFE STORY, GO ON, SO, HOW DID UNITED WIN YOU OVER??!
Uhm btw, if you just skipped the whole thing and started reading from here: Shame on You! Blah. Blah. Blah. Waiting game. But at least your reading this, I know some people will just look at that pictures. And oh yeah, the trip report: