Yesterday I wrote about the new challenges on the horizon for United employees at JFK. In the story, I shared a couple pictures of my first and last p.s. flights on United at JFK. Here’s a brief trip report of both those journeys.
First United p.s. Trip – September 20, 2005
I had just finished a summer internship on the Hill and was flying back to LA to begin my second year at UCLA. Although I usually traveled home from Washington on UA947, the evening 777-200 nonstop from IAD to LAX, this time I routed through JFK to try out United’s still relatively new premium transcon service from JFK to LAX/SFO. I was traveling with my uncle and used two CR-1s (confirmed regional upgrades) to upgrade to business class.
We had actually been in Norfolk the previous weekend so flew up to JFK from ORF via IAD, arriving about two hours before the flight to LAX. At that time, United did not give business and first class customers complimentary lounge access, but I had two lounge passes from eBay. The lounge was nothing impressive — cheese, crackers, apples, cookies, chips and bananas. First Class lounge was a bit better. Bathrooms were in need of remodel and there were not great tarmac views because the windows were frosted.
Boarding began on time and we were among the first to board. I was only able to get a blurry picture of my seat, but it was a leather-covered non-lie-lat recliner, similar to what United then used on its widebody longhaul fleet.
A cheerful JFK-based crew greeted us and served pre-departure beverages of water, orange juice, or sparkling wine. Menus were also distributed along with a basket of amenities.
Orders were taken prior to takeoff and my uncle and I both chose grilled lamb chops. Other choices were lasagna or macadamia nut-encrusted chicken.
Takeoff was delayed by about 40 minutes; the usual evening congestion at JFK.
Once in the air, portable video players were distributed. Although they were supposed to be battery-operated, mine shut down if it was not connected to a power source, which each seat was provisioned with.
Hot nuts and beverage orders were distributed next. The signature cocktail was Bellini, but I went with cranberry juice.
Next came appetizers which were seriously good. Sesame shrimp with tahini lime sauce and goat cheese Napoleon along with a salad with Gorgonzola dressing.
Service was not rushed and the FA working our side of the asile, with a thick French accent was very kind.
Out came the main courses. The lamb was delicious, served with vegetables and mashed potatoes, but the portion size was very small. I was left hungry.
Dessert was either a cheese plate with fruit or ice cream (one scoop of chocolate, one scoop of vanilla). I had ice cream.
Halfway through the flight I really became hungry and asked one of the FAs if there might be any leftover meals, even from economy class (back then, hot meals were complimentary in economy class). There were none left, but the FA said he would try to scrounge something up.
Sure enough, moments later he came back with three pieces of bread, two strawberries, and an apple. It wasn’t the lasagna or chicken I was craving, but it was sufficient.
We landed in LAX slightly ahead of schedule and everyone exited through door one, via the first class cabin.
Good crew, good service — it was a great introduction to p.s.
Last United p.s. Trip – October 24, 2015
Just over a decade later, I never imagined that I would be arriving at Kennedy to fly United for the very last time. I was out until 2:30am in NYC and rather risk falling asleep and missing my flight, I returned to the airport and made use of the Wingtips Lounge in T4, which is open 24 hours.
At 4:45a, I boarded the Air Train for T7, checking in for my United flight one last time and wishing the ticket agents a seamless transition to LGA or EWR. I could not help but to shake my head that staff had taped up the Tulip at the Star Gold check-in counter.
Security lines were long and Pre-Check was not open — it took almost 15 minutes to clear security. I proceeded directly to the United Club where three famliar faces greeted me and thanked me profusely for my business over the years.
The lounge was not crowded and I asked a cleaning assistant to take a picture of me in the same place I had been photographed a decade earlier.
I chatted a bit more with the ladies at the front desk before proceeding downstairs where boarding had almost concluded. I again wished the gate agents all the best and settled down into my seat, 4K, once again upgraded with a regional upgrade (though now called a RPU instead of a CR-1).
A smiling FA offered me a choice of pre-departure beverage and another FA came by with a basket of amenities, virtually unchanged from 10 years prior. The seats are differnet now — full lie-flat beds that are much more comfortable.
The captain came out to greet each business class passenger and gave an overview of the flight plan, noting the flight would be a bit bumpier than usual today.
We took off a few minutes early and soon were airborne — we would be in 30 minutes early.
There were no menus distributed on this flight — breakfast orders were taken from front to back, with choices being a quiche with cooked tomatoes, potatoes, and chicken sausage; cheese blintzes, or Chex cereal. I ordered quiche and asked the purser if I might delay breakfast by a couple hours so I could sleep. He retreated back to the galley to check with his colleague, then came back and told me no problem.
I had a pulled an all-nighter after all and slept for the next two hours, being jarred awake by a heavy chop over the Midwest. I logged into gogo internet, using one of my complimentary flight passes from American Express Platinum (otherwise $33.95), and responded to a couple clients prior to flagging down a FA to eat breakfast.
The breakfast spread was good — with a fruit plate, Greek yogurt, and a cinnamon roll to start, followed by the main course. The main course was very flavorful and I ate every bite.
During the meal service, I began watching an English movie called Far from the Madding Crowd, but did not finish it — quite honestly I fell back asleep, sleeping for the rest of the flight. I will note that IFE has come a long way since the days of portable DVD players. Great movie and TV selection along with the aforementioned wireless internet.
Sometime during that slumber, cookies were served but it was probably better for my waistline that I skipped them.
Upon landing in SFO, the purser made a heartfelt announcement over the PA thanking everyone for flying United, announcing that this was United’s last day flying out of JFK, and again thanking loyal passengers who have flown United for years between JFK and the West Coast. There was a bit of sadness over his tone and he did not mention Newark once.
I spoke to him after landing and he shared his frustration with the company’s decision to abandon JFK and like so many others I have spoken to over the last weeks, believed that the move by United was “penny wise, pound foolish.” I told him I would see him at Newark and he forced a grin and said, “I guess so.”
Final Thoughts on United’s History at JFK
United Airlines has meant a lot to me over the years and I was happy to fly on p.s. out of JFK one last time. While I will miss United flights out of JFK tremendously as well as the ease of getting into Manhattan, I will continue to fly United via Newark and am happy that I had the experiences I did over the years at JFK.