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LGA-SAN With Stop In DEN In UA F Class

Sun Oct 12, 2003 1:59 am

Date: October 9, 2003 (Thursday)
Route: LGA-(DEN)-SAN
Airline: UA
Flight Number: 1091

Segment 1:
Scheduled Departure: 4:45PM
Actual Departure: 4:55PM
Scheduled Arrival: 7:05PM
Actual Arrival: 6:45PM
Equipment: Boeing 757-200
Registration: Unknown
Class Traveled: F (2 Class)
Class Paid: F (2 Class)
Seat: 1A

I left my office in midtown around 3:00PM since LaGuardia is fairly close to midtown NYC. The traffic was bad, of course, initially, but smoothed out as we got over the 59th Street Bridge. I arrived at LGA at around 3:30PM, with plenty of time to kill.

Check it was simple using a UA kiosk in the central terminal. I had pre-selected seat 1A with my travel agent after consulting, and that’s the seat I was assigned all the way to SAN. This would be my first time on a flight that stops somewhere but does not require a plane change. I was surprised that I did not receive two boarding passes for the flight. I had thought that they would give two passes since we were going to get off of the plane in DEN, but only one. It was interesting seeing a boarding pass say LGA to SAN, since that’s a route that would not be flown out of LGA non-stop. There was no mention on the boarding pass of a stop in DEN. I thought that was funny.

What is the point of flights like this? Why have a one flight number going from LGA to SAN? Why not just make it a connection? Is there any advantage to UA or me by doing this? Also, how do they decide on what routes to do this on? Is it for marketing purposes? Is it so they can say that they have a direct flight on this route since they are competing with AA and CO who have non-stops to SAN from NYC? That makes some sense to me, however, I imagine that most people would be smart enough to check if it stops or not!

Anyway, boarding pass in hand, I headed to the Red Carpet Club. I am not a member, but I remember once when I was flying from SFO to JFK in F Class (albeit a 3 class plane), I was invited to the Transcon Lounge. So I when into the Club and asked it my full fare transcon ticket entitled me to access. She said, “Well, tonight it does!” That was nice, since she bent the rules a little for me. It’s nice to know that $2,000 for a seat gets me a little more. That’s how to continue attracting and maintaining high-paying customers.

The Club was somewhat nice. Most importantly, it had a nice view of the tarmac. Spotting at LGA is somewhat boring, but here is what I saw: several AA (Eagle) RJs, Delta 757s, a Song 757 (my first – I thought it was neat looking!), a UA 757 (my plane that evening), a UA A32x going to ORD and a bunch of US metal, mostly Shuttle. The Club decor was dated but comfortable. I attempted to log into my office server and check email, but was unsuccessful. Dial up is terrible! Are there any Clubs with high-speed access?? I went to the bar, and ordered a Diet Coke (got Diet Pepsi) and confirmed, once again why I would never join the Club: they charge for booze! My soda came in a plastic cup, a surprise. I then took a look at the available food, which was pretty weak. There were packets of cheese and crackers, apples and oatmeal bars by Quaker. I am NOT complaining, as I was not a paying member of the Club and the lady was nice enough to let me in, however, I think, for $500 a year, they need to step it up in the food and drink department!

About 30 minutes before my flight, I headed down to rent some DVDs. I love being able to rent DVDs at the airport and then mail them back. I watch them on my laptop, and then drop them in the mail when I get home. It’s about $5, and totally worth every penny! I then proceeded to the security line and found it long and chaotic as it often is at LGA. It moved quickly thought, and I was through in 10 minutes. I walked down to gate C14, and got in line to board the 757.

There was a long line in the Jetway. Boarding had begun some time ago, and they were already bringing bags back out to gate check them. Upon boarding I was asked if I was in Coach of First, because all Coach passengers had to check their bags. Up in First, there was plenty of room for my bag, but that’s where the good news ended!

The legroom in 1A was TERRIBLE. Seatguru had said that people prefer the left side bulkheads on the UA 757 since people didn’t recline into you. However, the site doesn’t say that, even with this cutout, the legroom is miniscule compared to the other F Class seats. I desperately looked around for another seat, but it was full upfront (and in the back). The only worse seats in F were 1C and 1D, where there is no cutout. Their room is REALLY pathetic for First. I think it’s terrible that they have a First Class seat with this lack of room. I know it isn’t great in the rest of the cabin, but these seats are really terrible. Especially considering this was a 757, a plane they use on long transcon flights. Maybe the transcon 757s are better? I doubt they have a different layout for those!

Crammed into my seat, I got ready for the flight. My bag was placed in the closet since I was in the bulkhead (another disadvantage of the bulkhead). I just watched the tarmac for the next few minutes. They were still trying to sort out the bag situation in Coach, and we got delayed for a few minutes. After pushback there was a relatively short taxi, and we took off heading over Brooklyn. We circled around south over Staten Island then back east over Long Island than west over LGA and right over Central Park in Manhattan. I love that take off. I could see my office building on 57th Street clearly from the plane. With binoculars, I could have seen my desk!

We continued due west just north of EWR, and there was a nice view of planes taking off and landing there. At FL180, we broke into clouds, and I could not see much more. In flight service began at this point. My briefcase didn’t return to my seat as promised, so I got up and got it out of the closet. No biggie! My dinner order was then taken. Options were chicken with gnocchi or beef with garlic butter, potatoes and asparagus. I chose the beef. The FA then came around with a bag of some nut mix and offered me a drink. I chose a red wine. The nut mix was horrible. Burned almonds and pretzel mix. It was also really disappointing that no ramekin of nuts was served. Also disappointed that the red wine wasn’t shown to me before being poured. The FA was very nice, but it seems like her first time serving F Class. The red was a Cabernet/Merlot blend. It was decent, but not wonderful. I sometimes wish they would have some lighter reds like Pinot Noirs.

I was thinking that the service was not very good at this point, and then the reason occurred to me! While this flight was going to SAN, it was really just a flight to DEN, and so did not get the high lever of service that transcons get. The B Class service on a transcon is much better that this supposed F Class on this flight. This speaks to a point that I have felt for a long time and have expressed in the forum. Why is 2 class domestic service called First and Coach. It should be called Business and Coach. That’s what it is! It isn’t even as good as domestic Business! Anyway, I have tried to make this point over and over to people, but they don’t seem to agree with me!

Our FA then served me dinner. No linens were laid, but there were linens on the tray. I like when there is a linen on the table and then the tray, but call me picky! The man behind me at this point started ordering screwdrivers light on the OJ, and proceeded to get drunk and annoy the FA. This made her more rushed and hectic. I don’t blame her for the lack of very attentive service, though. The F Class cabin on a 757 has 24 seats, and that’s a lot for one FA to serve. I know there is another in the galley, but still, it’s not easy. I just think that UA should increase the service in domestic F Class to be as good as domestic B Class, especially on a 4.5-hour flight on a 757. That’s almost transcon. Considering this flight goes on to SAN, it really is a transcon.

The meal was served with a bowl of fruit and a piece of bread. There was no salad and no breadbasket service. I think they considered this a “snack” since that’s what they had in Coach. The food tasted good, however. The steak was somewhat dry until she brought me the garlic butter that she had forgotten to put on. She brought it in a plastic contained and plopped in on my steak with a fork! It was somewhat amusing. The potatoes were very good, as were the veggies that came with it. I didn’t have the bread, and the fruit was refreshing. At this point, I was wishing that I had taken the transcon to LAX and then the prop plane down to SAN.

The movie began at this point. It was “Hollywood Homicide” the same movie I had rented!! I decided that I would watch “Italian Job” on my laptop and save “HH” for another flight. During my movie, a freshly baked cookie was served with cold milk. I didn’t have one, but it was a nice touch! For the rest of the flight, nothing really substantial happened. I listened in on UA Channel 9, a nice feature by the way, and learned that we were at FL390! It’s that pretty high for the normal course of business? It was quite a view out the window at that height.

Towards the end of the flight, I was thinking about an after dinner cocktail, and I kept thinking that, on, so many of you seem to drink Bailey’s on the rocks. Why is that? Well, I tried it, and it was pretty good! It was VERY rich and creamy, but kind of heavy. Anyway, after that, we began our decent into DEN. When we were on final, we were coming in parallel to a UA 737 that was landing at the runway next to us. That was pretty cool to see since we were matching each other speed and landed at the same time. According to our captain on Channel 9, we were landing on runway 16R. What runway was the 737 landing on? The landing was very smooth, and we taxied to gate B34 quickly. We were 20 minutes early. This was nice, but it didn’t help me at all since I was going onto SAN and THAT flight would not leave earlier!

At that point, I learned an advantage of being on a continuing flight: you don’t have to take your bags off the plane! So, I grabbed my briefcase only and headed to the check in counter to change to another seat since 1A was so bad. I got 6A. 6 is probably the second-worst row, given the lack of recline, but I didn’t care. After changing my seat, I realized that I left my wallet on the plane, so I went back on, against the current of people deplaning, and got it. The FAs said, “Welcome back! You couldn’t get enough of us?” They were very friendly.

After getting my wallet, I tried my trick at the Red Carpet Club, but it didn’t work. She said as a Premier Executive, I would have to be flying internationally to get in, even if I was in coach. If someone from UA is reading this, PLEASE explain this to me!! My ticket was $2,000. I could fly internationally in coach for a lot less than that, but I wasn’t allowed in the Club. This makes no sense. I can go to London for $400 and go to the Club, but I can fly to SAN for $2,000 and can’t get in. They should make it a $ amount for access not a routing!

Anyway, rejected at the Club, I headed to find a bar. I went to Pour La France and Wolfgang Puck’s, and bother were REALLY crowded. The smoking bar wasn’t crowded, so I went in there, it was WAY too smoky. Sometimes, I smoke, but that place was too much! I finally settled on Puck’s. There, I sat at the bar, had a Pinot Grigio, and waited to board the second leg of my flight to SAN.

Segment 2:
Scheduled Departure: 8:10PM
Actual Departure:
Scheduled Arrival: 9:23PM
Actual Arrival:
Equipment: Boeing 757-200
Registration: Unknown
Class Traveled: F (2 Class)
Class Paid: F (2 Class)
Seat: 6A

I got to the gate a little late. They were in final boarding. However, I went to board, and there was a serious line up in the Jetway. Just like the last flight, this one was packed to the gills! I waited off to the side in a seat while it cleared a bit, and when I thought the Jetway was empty, I boarded. Well, when I turned the corner in the tube, the big line was right there! Once again, they were gate-checking bags. Good thing I left my bag on board. Finally getting on the plane, I took a left into the First Class cabin (love 757 boarding door!) and spotted my seat 6A. The lady in the seat next to me must have been 300 pounds. The legroom here was much better than 1A. I settled in and was offered a pre-flight cocktail by a VERY friendly FA. I chose a Diet Pepsi (didn’t ask for Diet Coke this time!) Soon, we began a short taxi with a lot of UA metal.

We took off a few minutes later and as we flew out of the DEN area, we had a nice view of downtown Denver. A few minutes later the captain announced our FL at 290 on the way up to 350. At that time, I looked out the left window and saw a beautiful view of the snow-capped Rockies. I wonder if they stay snow-capped all year round. Some of them must be, as the snow line is at 12,000 feet, right?

I had asked the FA if there was food on this flight, and was disappointed to learn that there was not. I think that for a 2.5 hr flight in F Class, there should at least be a snack; not just the nasty nut mix! If there is no food in full-frills airlines, then what do they have over an LCC? Maybe nothing? The LCCs have PTVs too!

The drink service came around with that horrible snack mix. The white wine was Burgundy, and it was quite good. The FAs service was also good, and my glass was never empty. There were two F Class FAs on this flight too, and I think that it’s ridiculous that there are two FAs from LGA to DEN when a meal is served and then the same for this flight where it’s only drinks! The reason that this flight was so good was because this F Class cabin was properly staffed versus the last leg that was understaffed. There is something wrong with this system. Either way, cheers to this crew.

We landed on time into SAN and taxied to our gate just a little afterwards. I deplaned and proceeded to take a Yellow Cab (the only ones that take credit cards) from SAN to my hotel in La Jolla. There, I saw (and remembered) that my hotel bar is “the” place to be in San Diego for a Thursday night, and I went to the bar with colleagues for a little while.

Return trip soon to be posted: SAN-LAX in a Brasilia and LAX-JFK in F Class (3 Class).

Hope you enjoyed the trip report. Please comment!

Posts: 984
Joined: Mon Jan 17, 2000 9:18 am

RE: LGA-SAN With Stop In DEN In UA F Class

Sun Oct 12, 2003 3:27 am

Nice trip report. As for the snow covered rockies, most of the high peaks are covered in snow year round. If we have a really hot summer and not alot of rain some of them may loose there snow. But most keep it year round. Look forward to reading your return posting.

Two rules in aviation, don't hit anything and don't run out of gas, cause if you run out of gas yer gonna hit something.
Posts: 1484
Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2001 1:41 am

RE: LGA-SAN With Stop In DEN In UA F Class

Sun Oct 12, 2003 5:12 am


You have writen another very entertaining trip report. I too have wondered at times just what a full-frill airline has over the LCC's ha ha ha.
God bless through Jesus, Jeff
Posts: 367
Joined: Tue Jul 22, 2003 3:50 am

RE: LGA-SAN With Stop In DEN In UA F Class

Fri Oct 17, 2003 5:47 am

Benjamin - enjoyed your report. As a UA frequent flyer, it is always nice to hear how other customers view their trips.

I chuckled at the "Bailey's on the Rocks." I was turned on to this 10 years ago by a very attentive and professional UA purser on a 757 flight from DEN to LAX. After dinner was cleared, coffee was served, and then he came out and suggested to passengers that they try the Bailey's.

I always try to get rows 2, 3 or 4 when on the 757. As you found out, rows 1 and 6 are not all that.

I was puzzled why you get to the gate late when the main cabin is boarding. You can avoid the line, have plenty of room for your carry-on, and enjoy your pre-flight drink by taking advantage of the first class priority boarding.

As a paying Red Carpet Club Member, it is not a good idea to advertise your ability to get in or, or your attempts to get in. I don't like the idea that others are getting in, when I paid for my membership and my first class ticket. If you find you will be flying United, or another airline frequently, the investment in the clubs is worth it.

I'm not sure how direct flights work as far as mileage credit. I was told by others that you will be credited as if you had gone non-stop LGA to SAN. If it had been a connecting flight (as your SAN-LAX-JFK return will be), then you are credited for each segment, and could possibly earn more miles, especially with the fare bonus. You might contact Mileage Plus and discuss this with them.

Hope you enjoyed your stay in SAN. It is a beautiful city, and I'll look forward to your return trip report. I've always wanted to try the Premium Transcon service offered on the JFK flights.

Oh how I long for the day when the skies were truly Friendly!
Posts: 1318
Joined: Thu Jun 01, 2000 7:00 am

RE: LGA-SAN With Stop In DEN In UA F Class

Fri Oct 17, 2003 6:46 am

hi benjamin
entertaining trip report! well the good old days of flying are gone obviously.
i remember when there was full food service on most DL flights in both classes.
when i joined the crown room lounge they asked me for simply $ 150.-
regards DALelite
They loved to fly and it showed..

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