My weekend

Oh man, what a miserable weekend of travel. Despite having a cold, I still decided to mileage run. While I can’t say I regret it, it sucked overall. There were definitely some highlights, like United’s new business class product, which allowed me to get some rest, but then there were also some less pleasant (and interesting) parts. Here are a few of the things worth mentioning:

— At ORD on Saturday afternoon I saw a 767 with Greensboro listed as the destination. I’m guessing it’s one of the last few 767’s to go in for the refit.

— While the crew from ORD to SFO was friendly enough, this whole “we can’t help you stow your carry-on” mentality is getting old fast. I love how on Singapore Airlines the flight attendants try to help me stow my bag, even though I’m double their size. It’s great service and it’s the gesture that counts. Case in point, on the ORD to SFO flight, a rather small female passenger’s bag apparently wasn’t placed in the overhead bin correctly, so the rather large male flight attendant said “Hmmm, that bag looks quite heavy and bulky, can you help me move it?”

Also, there was a flight attendant (in uniform) seated in business class. I don’t suspect foul play as such (since there was a supervisor at the gate for most of the boarding process), but there was an upgrade waitlist and I don’t know of any case where flight attendants are contractually entitled to business class seats when deadheading, but please correct me if I’m wrong. It’s a different story for the pilots, of course. Anyway, during boarding one of the working flight attendants comes up to the flight attendant seated across from me and says “Do you want a bottle of water?” He says yes, and she fetches him one.

I wasn’t trying to be an a$$, but since I had a cold and was trying to stay as hydrated as possible, I went to the galley about ten minutes later and asked her if I could have a bottle of water, never mentioning that I observed the other flight attendant receive one. Her response was “Sorry, we’re not allowed to do that. The reason I gave one to the other guy is because he’s a flight attendant.” I responded with “Well, yeah he’s a flight attedant, but he’s flying as a passenger. He’s not working this flight, is he?” She responded with “Well, no, but he’s entitled to a bottle of water.” This complete BS favoritism of non-revs, especially in premium cabins, is really starting to piss me off. The worst is how indiscrete flight attendants are when giving special service to non-revs.

— I had a two hour layover at SFO on my way to SEA, so I decided to make the trek to the international terminal to try and use the Singapore Airlines Silver Kris Lounge. The walk was about five minutes, and as I entered the (empty) lounge, the attendant said “Oh, you’re flying United?” I figured she was about to lecture me about how I should use the Red Carpet Club, but instead she welcomed me in by name. I had the lounge to myself for the better part of an hour. While the Silver Kris Lounge is nothing fancy by Singapore Airlines’ standard, it has good snacks, free wifi, and I was even able to take a shower. Oh, how nice it is to be able to take a shower when flying domestically! Furthermore, there’s just something exciting about using a “real” lounge (yeah, Red Carpet Clubs don’t count) when traveling. I’m definitely going to try this more often now, since it’s literally a five minute walk from the United gates.

— As I posted about previously, I had a 5.5 hour layover at SEA. I made a booking at the Holiday Inn and got to bed by 1AM. I had to wake up at 5AM for my 6AM flight, but the whole experience was utterly miserable. Being sick and getting only four hours of sleep SUCKS. The way I look at it, a hotel stay is too short when you check in and check out with the same person on the same shift at the front desk. I’ll report back on how many points I earned as soon as they post.

— Channel 9 was off for all but one flight.

— I arrived at the gate for my SFO to ORD flight, which would once again be the reconfigured 767. I’m an idiot for not locking in the upgrade with a confirmed regional upgrade in advance. I showed up at the gate about an hour before departure, and I was number five on the upgrade list, with business class checked in full. I still figured I had a decent shot, since there are often a handful of no shows. As time progressed, I made my way up the list, to number four, then number three, then number two, and finally number one. The gate agent said I had a shot at the upgrade, but said I should board and she would get me if there were no shows. Unfortunately everyone showed, so I was stuck in steerage. Oh, how crappy, especially since I have a cold and was really looking forward to some sleep. You know what the worst part about the new business class is? The fact that the center seats in the last row face backwards, so you can see exactly what you’re missing.

I figured it would be a quick 3.5 hour flight, so it’s not too big of a deal. We taxi out to the runway, the first officer tells the flight attendants to prepare for takeoff, and we stand there for about 30 minutes. The captain announced at that point that there was some system failure, but they had it taken care of. The flight attendants were once again advised to prepare for takeoff. We sit there for another 30 minutes. The first officer comes on the PA this time and explains that his seatbelt is broken (wtf?), and that we can’t fly out till they fix it. We then taxi back to the terminal, but as it turned out we went all the way to the far end of the international terminal, which is quite a taxi. After about 20 minutes the mechanics had fixed the problem, and then we had to wait to be “topped off” with fuel. Another 10 minutes later we were finally ready to go, over 1.5 hours late.

— While I was originally booked on a 757 from ORD to TPA, I misconnected at ORD so instead flew on the later 767 (thanks to the Super Bowl), which was so exciting. Instead of boring old Ted, I got a first class seat. The cool thing about this flight was that it was nearly empty. There were eight passengers in first class, and coach had less than 80 passengers. Thanks to the light load we had the quickest and most powerful takeoff I’ve ever experienced on a 767. Unfortunately the “dinner” service on this flight was a “picnic box,” which is better than nothing, I guess.

— The purser on my ORD to TPA made the single most moronic announcement I’ve ever heard. Usually the purser will say “Due to United’s security policy, and to avoid congestion in any one part of the cabin, please use the lavatory in your ticketed cabin only.” This purser took it one stop further — “Due to September 11 and United’s enhanced security policy, please use the lavatory in your ticketed cabin only.” Wow!

— As if my day wasn’t long enough, given that I had a cold, flew coach, and misconnected, there was one more adventure at the end. The tram at TPA, which connects the airside and landside concourses, broken down half way through the ride! When I say broke down, I mean it stopped so quickly that people nearly fell down. We were stuck in there for about 15 minutes, while the operator insured us that everything was ok. Eventually a guy climbed into our shuttle, and we slowly went back to the original station, only to take the other shuttle to the landisde terminal. Just my luck, since I was hoping to beat the Superbowl traffic, given that the game was just finishing up.

Filed Under: Mileage Runs, United
  1. wow, so you did a MR instead of watching the superbowl, that’s what i call a true mileage runer. BTW, can i ask how long ago you booked this MR, i was trying to book a MR for this past weekend out of SEA about 2 weeks ago, but there was almost nothing good showing up.

  2. I think because of your BMI got your access to SQ lounge,otherwise if you show up with your RCC or 1K card they’ll direct you to RCC next door.

  3. sam, I booked this mileage run a little over a month ago, when inventory was still wide open. You’re correct re: BMI Gold.

    First, you’re correct re: being an RCC memebr or US/UA Star Gold, as I wouldn’t have had access. More to come about a note to CR shortly.

  4. I love the FA who quoted 9/11! They should allow United FAs to be able to use that for everything.

    Me: “Can I have a whole can of soda?”
    Ted FA: “Sorry … 9/11.”

  5. I was your flight dispatcher for the ORD-TPA flight, I was also surprised to see the 767 on my worksheet, then I remembered the Super Bowl and the traffic in the morning. We were sending down a few 757s and the 767 you were on. TPA had many taxiways and runway 9/27 closed at the time. I briefed the midnight crew to add extra taxi out fuel in the morning due to the likely spike in demand for departures before noon.
    Personally, I like the extra treatment I get as a non-rev. Remember the phrase “take care of your own”, and we do that.

  6. I have mixed feelings about preferential treatment for non-revs. On one hand, I agree with Matt’s comment on “take care of your own”, to the extent where it did not impact the basic quality of service. However, I’ve also seen where the FA hid the galley for most of the flight chatting with their deadheading friends and ignoring passenger requests, which to me crosses the line.

  7. ROFL laughing, uniter! Too funny (and sad, because it almost wouldn’t surprise me).

    Matt, thanks for taking the time to post, I appreciate it. It’s great to get posts from all aspects of operations, and dispatch is one I don’t hear from too often, although it’s also one of the most important ones. I hope you stick around to share more thoughts in the future.

  8. Did you at least get a Y COS bonus for ORD-TPA after the mis-connect? Gotta look for the slightly silver lining…..

  9. They didn’t discover the broken seatbelt until they got to the runway? Are pilots not wearing seat belts when the seatbelt sign is illuminated?

  10. Sorry Oliver, I didn’t explain that well. Apparently only the “harness” part of the seatbelt was broken, which is apparently only put on as the pilots get ready for takeoff.

  11. Great report. I find whenever I fly with a cold, asking for a cup/bottle whatever of water right when I board has always been super sympathetically received. I realize you asked in large part to test the system so to speak, but if you ask in a “i’m a poor guy feeling a little under the weather any chance you can make my day?” way, even power trippers can enjoy aiding you.

  12. I agree that’s the best approach, and in this case that’s what I did. As boarding was finishing up I asked the FA for a bottle of water, when I saw she wasn’t busy. Honest, I wasn’t even trying to test the system, it was legitimately because I was thirsty and sick. Oh well.

  13. The whole bottle of water in business class is ridiculous on United. Not only on some flights, such as HKG-SFO you can’t bring water from the airport on the plane, but you are entirely at the flight attendants leisure in getting water. How cheap can UA be in a premium business class? They literally must do the following math.
    20 oz Bottle of Water: $0.24
    Flight Attendant Pouring Water: 4 6 oz servings (4*.04=$.16) + Galss cleaning ($0.07)= ($0.23)
    Then Glenn calls the water department and says, let’s just go with the big bottle of water refilled from the tap and we can save another $0.02 per passenger. So, it only costs United $0.21 cents then to serve a Business Class passenger water.

    This reminds me of a HKG-SFO flight in C 2 weeks ago. Over the course of the flight I got a grand total of 2 glasses of crap sparkling wine and what would have been 3 glasses of water if I didn’t go to the galley, where 2 flight attendants were sitting on the stairs to the lower deck chatting. “o sorry to inconvenience you chatty cathy, but could you get off your A$$ and do something clost to your job, or would you just like to sit in my Business Class seat and watch a movie lazy bum?”

  14. Your observation on the UA widebody heading for GSO for a refit might be on the mark. Flying back into GSO late Sunday evening I noted a UA 767 at TIMCO. I don’t recall seeing it there late Friday afternoon when I departed. Alternatively, the bird could be there for just routine maintaince.

  15. fwiw, i once sat next to a UA FA in F (ORD-LGA) who iirc, explained that a F seat is required to be given to all FAs who are returning from a training session. She was not in uniform so i don’t know if this applies to your non-rev.

    sorry you were sick and had to endure indifferent service. feel better soon

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