Hello IFC this is a trip report heavily modeled off of those done at the points Guy, which you can view here. This is my second trip report that I have written, and I hope to work at The Points Guy as an intern in college. If you would like to view my other trip report that can be done here.
This flight was a tricky one. I booked this flight two days before I left and so prices were delicate. I booked the flight for 380$ in economy, upgraded myself to economy plus, and put in a request for a plus point upgrade. (Spoilers, I got it). 380$ one way is more pricey than I would normally recommend, however because of the drought in cash flow the aviation industry is going through, I figured it fair.
Check In and Ground Service
This flight was a Red Eye that departed Los Angeles for ORD at 12:45am, meaning that I did not arrive at the airport until around 10:15. Check in was smooth, as there was no one in front of me, or behind me. I was through security and at the gate in less than five minutes. United’s terminal seven at LAX is rather lackluster. There are not many shops, not very good apron views, and nothing special. Normally this would not matter, however at LAX premium transcon is incredibly competitive. United has a Polaris lounge and a United Club, however these are limited. For one, the Polaris lounge is currently closed due to Covid-19 and the fact that UA 787-10 with Polaris seats are either grounded, or not flying premium transcon routes currently. The United Club is only open to “Day Pass” passengers it seems, and day passes cost upwards of 50$. Another large competitor is Alaska’s lounge for paying first class passengers, which is more than United offers for Domestic First Class passengers.
Just like my last trip report on Alaska in their first class on the exact same route (minus the Red Eye) the flight was operated on a 737. A 737-800 in fact, the airplane was old. Still sporting United’s old first class seats.
The seat was just like my Alaska flight. It sat at an awkward angle when not reclined. This meant that when the seat was in its upright and locked position it pushed you over, and made for an uncomfortable seat. However once the plane was airborne and it was safe to recline the seat became large, and comfy. Unlike Alaska United has no current plan to upgrade these seats to new United first seats. Which in unfortunate, because it will push many premium passengers away.
I sat in the Bulkhead which any frequent flyer knows is not the smartest place to sit, especially for a Red eye. However I had no choice on my seat due to the upgrade. This flight was more than half way full, the First Class cabin was full minus two seats.
Overall, I was not impressed with the Hard Product, it was outdated and like many of United’s products is inconsistent. Another touch on why this flight was rather disappointing, this flight is normally operated on United’s 777-200ER aircraft, which are laid out in a 2-4-2 configuration in business. This also means the seat are lie flat, so this Red Eye would’ve been more enjoyable.
Service was fine, nothing special or memorable about it. The Flight attendants were eager to please, and seemed like they enjoyed their job (which is always a good sign!). The large drawback was being in the bulkhead I could hear every single word they were saying, through my noise canceling headphones. This was rather agitating because the point of this flight, (and the upgrade) was to sleep. That being said I did manage a few hours of shut eye on this quick 3 and half hour flight to Chicago. Due to Covid-19 United has no “in-Cabin” service, meaning no meals, or drinks served in glassware. All drinks and snacks were served in closed (safe) packages. During boarding we were offered a bottle of water, which is standard protocol for premium cabin “before departure” service. In my Alaska review I complained about this as the “easy” way to do “pre-departure” beverages by cabin crew, however on this flight it’s a pass because first class boarded last. After takeoff drink orders were taken, and soon after, our choice in snack boxes were delivered. I opted for the “Tapas” snack box. I was actually impressed with the amount of food in the snack box. The snack box included, humus, bruschetta, cheese spread, flat bread, olives, almonds, breadsticks, chocolate, and ginger candy. Everything was tasty, and seemed well thought out. It was a nice gesture due to the lack of service applicable on this flight. After I woke up, I asked for an apple juice and watched the sun rise, a nice morning wake up if you ask me!
As we came in on final into Chicago I was reflecting on this flight, and came to the decision that this upgrade was worth it. Despite the old seat and lack of service the actual impression of the flight left me somewhat rested and ready for my next leg. However this is a massive problem United faces everyday. Inconsistency. Any frequent flyer with United knows that aircraft type is incredibly important when flying the “friendly” skies, because if you don’t choose correctly, you might not find the skies so friendly after your flight. As United iron’s out these kinks they will slowly start to become competitive on basic domestic routes, where Delta currently dominates. Delta has the most consistency over cabin’s on all their airplanes. You never have to be scared when boarding a Delta plane, and that speaks volumes. Business travelers that are expecting a strong hard product will find United difficult to fly with. However if inconstancy does not bother you United can be great, a solid route network, diversity over airframes, and key hub cities make United a contender for the best U.S airline. With all that said, I look forward to improving my experience with United in the future, and look forward to seeing how they improve these hiccups in hard product consistency.
This is small, but United did a fantastic job of dealing with the Caronavirus outbreak on our flight. Social distancing was upheld, and wipes were held out to passengers as they boarded.
Feedback is welcome, however pleas be considerate :).