As I mentioned on Tuesday, I spent the day gallivanting around the country on United Airlines to celebrate the completion of another semester of law school. No bumps or even skykits, but I did have a great time.
I was traveling with three checked bags and two carry-ons, which made the trip from my apartment to Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station, then on SEPTA to the airport quite challenging. I am about ready to replace my battered American Tourister bags, but I do love how all three rollerboards (a large, medium, and small one) snap together for easy carrying. With the three bags rolling behind me, a backpack on my back, and a duffel bag on each shoulder, I squeezed onto the train and claimed a row to myself. John, the same SEPTA fare collector I see every week on the 4:34a train, commented that I must be going on a long trip. Indeed.
Stepping off at the Terminal D rail stop, I slowly maneuvered my bags up the elevator, across the concourse, down another elevator, and over to United’s check-in area. I usually travel on Fridays or Saturdays so my "regulars" weren’t there, but my bags were quickly tagged and I was soon on my way to TSA screening. PHL has an elite line on the far left side of the Terminal D checkpoint so security never takes more than a few minutes to clear. No nude-o-scopes yet!
Check-in at PHL
Once on the secure side, I trekked over the Red Carpet Club to have some breakfast and chat with my favorite RCC agent. She was off too, but another agent who I deal with frequently was there and in a pleasant mood. My first flight, a United Express flight to Washington Dulles, was lightly booked, so I did not bother to even inquire about a bump. I left the club 15 minutes prior to departure and was the last passenger to board the flight.
The Trans States (a United Express subsidiary) flight attendant must have been new because he thought we were going to the city of Dulles in Washington State. All the flight announcements were "blah blah blah to Dulles, Washington." With the plane only half full and a flight time of 45 minutes, there was plenty of time to serve beverages, but "due to the short duration of the flight to Dulles, Washington, there will not be a beverage service today."
My connection was only an hour at Dulles and my next flight, another United Express flight from IAD to JFK, had been zerored out for a few days. With only one bump the whole year on United (way back in January), I hoped to end the year on United with at least one more. Consequently, I skipped the Red Carpet Club and proceeded directly to the mobile lounge pickup in Terminal D to take me over to Terminal A where my connecting flight was departing out of.
As expected, no bumps were needed, but as a consolation there was no crew so we were delayed an hour. During that time, a group of three TSA employees decided it would be essential to national security for everyone to show their IDs and boarding passes in the gate area. I resisted. More on that in a later post…
Finally, a new crew showed up and we left just over 45 minutes late. I was seated in row one next to a Japanese tourist. She was quite friendly, but appeared agitated when the FA told her she’d have to put her bag up in the overhead bin for takeoff. I figured it out later (as she busily snapped hundreds of pictures during our descent into Kennedy): she wanted to take pictures of the takeoff.
The flight was uneventful and having the sum total of 5 hours of sleep the last 60 hours and zero the last 29, I took a little snooze.
I met up with my brother in the Red Carpet Club at JFK and made some phone calls while waiting for our flight to Los Angeles. I find the JFK RCC agents (and actually most of the agents at JFK) to be quite friendly–especially for New Yorkers.
Boarding time finally came and as I stepped aboard the p.s.-configured 757 that would take us to LAX, I sensed immediately this was going to be a good flight. The crew was quite jovial and extremely attentive and friendly–my two pet peeves. I had reserved a seat in exit row 9, which on the p.s. planes is a business class seat with about five feet of legroom. My brother, a lowly Premier, marched back to economy. I booked his ticket about a month after mine and even though I applied a systemwide upgrade to his reservation, it never cleared and he was way down on the upgrade list. I wasn’t willing to give up my business class seat to my kid brother, but I did send him back an ice cream sundae and a couple chocolate chip cookies during the flight, which seemed to mollify his earlier griping ("Why can’t I have your seat?").
The main course choices on the menu were shrimp with veggies, herb chicken, or vegetarian chili in a sourdough bread bowl. For years (because UA doesn’t change their lunch menus on this flight…) I’ve thought about trying the chili and finally took the plunge. While I would not order it again (the chicken or shrimp are a better choice), I do not have anything bad to say about it. The chili had a rich flavor and texture and the sourdough bread bowl was so good I ate the whole thing. Far too many carbs to eat that on a daily basis!
Meal service began with hot nuts followed by a salad and appetizer (the same ‘ol appetizer I had last December) of asparagus wrapped in smoked salmon with cucumbers on the side. A delicious (looking) ice cream sundae was served for dessert that, as I mentioned, I had a FA bring back to my brother.
United distributes personal media players to business and first class passengers on p.s. flights which include movies, television shows, games, and music. I watched two movies during the six hour flight, Salt (starring Angelina Jolie) and Charlie St. Cloud (with Zac Efron). Both were decent, but I liked the action-thriller Salt much more.
I left time for a two hour nap and awoke just as the hot chocolate chip cookies and frothy glasses of milk were being served. I love p.s. flights, especially westbound ones, because they are long enough to actually enjoy a meal, watch a couple movies, and still get some rest.
We landed at LAX on time and headed to the RCC for a few minutes. My brother’s trip was done, but I still had to fly up to San Francisco and down to San Diego. I sent him home with instructions to pick me up at SAN around 9:30p and managed to get a lot of work done during my two-hour layover.
My 4:30p flight to SFO was originally delayed to 5:30p, but moved back up to 4:30p just after 4pm. On my way to the gate I ran into Glen, one of my favorite agents who used to be at Burbank when mainline was still there. After chatting with him for a bit, I hurried over to the SFO gate and where the flight was in the final stages of boarding.
A vivacious purser greeted me, took my coat, and offered me the beverage of my choice as I settled into 3B on the 757 that would take us up to the Bay Area. As it turned out, there was some miscommunication between United and ATC and our departure time was still delayed to 5:55p. A collective groan radiated through the cabin as the captain sheepishly apologized, but the purser knew exactly what do.
Quickly springing into action, she began a movie and instructed her colleagues to do a beverage service in economy. She came through the first class cabin with a beverage service and the snack basket twice during the one hour delay and patrolled the cabin during the whole delay, ensuring that everyone was comfortable. I hate to say it, but you know many United FAs would have just taken a seat and gabbed or read a newspaper under similar circumstances.
The purser had flown for United for 23 years and though an older lady, had a vibrant beauty radiating from her face. She also touched everyone on the shoulder or arm while talking to them–something I find very personable though I know those who highly value their personal space might disagree.
The movie, Eat, Pray, Love starring Julia Roberts engrossed me, but sadly the delay + flight time wasn’t long enough to finish the 133-minute movie. Once airborne, our flight time was a quick 50 minutes and we arrived at SFO just under 45 minutes before my connection to SAN.
I had a Christmas card ready for Rosemary, my favorite UA employee at SFO, and spied her working at the Customer Service Desk near Gate 82. There was a line of people waiting for service and she was in the middle of helping a passenger, so I felt a bit odd walking right up and interrupting her. I’m sure the passenger was surprised to see a kid hand an airline employee a Christmas card, but I’m glad I didn’t wait in line. We chatted briefly before I apologized to the guy she was helping and excused myself to catch my final flight of the evening to San Diego.
The 1hr, 10min fight was uneventful. After the phenomenal service on the flight up, I suppose I was let down a bit by the "standard" service on the flight down to SAN, but the flight crew was just fine. Jackets were hung, drinks and snacks were promptly served, and the crew was friendly.
The flight arrived 30 minutes early and my brother (driving down from LA) was late, so I waited outside baggage claim for a while (how refreshing to be able to wait outside in 55ºF weather at 9:30p compared to the windy 20ºF walk to 30th Street Station to start my day). My brother and I had dinner at Fillipi’s in San Diego’s Little Italy before making the two hour drive home.
Both of us must have been extremely tired, because we pulled off at a rest area just past Carlsbad and snoozed for three hours. Finally at a few minutes past 3:00a we pulled up at our house. It had been a good day.
How do you followup a good MR? With another one. I write this now, at 2:36a in the morning at LGA on a Continental mileage run, fretting over whether my upgrade will clear on my morning flight to Houston. I’ve written enough. Let’s save that for another post.