United Airlines First Class with the 757-200s of PMUA FLL-ORD-IAD-FLL
United Airlines is certainly a controversial corporation in today's post deregulation aviation industry. CO supporters loathe the new airline and their employment practices, while UA lovers lament the loss of the Saul Bass tulip and Jeff Smisek. Just last week, United announced $600,000,000 USD of losses in the first fiscal quarter of 2014, with the shareholders leaving the stock call with less than tarnished feelings.
Love it or hate it, this trip report will document my journey on the pre-merger United 757-200s.
Why? The three 752s in this report are from the pre-merger United Airlines, as in, 757s delivered to United and painted in Tulip livery before the arrival of the omnipresent golden globe. I can't seem to find the original post, but someone mentioned here on ANET that the "May 3rd FLL-ORD 752 is a one-off event". From what I can tell, they are soon to be retired from service, replaced by Airbii or 739s. These old girls have no IFE, but they do have channel 9. Looking at the United fleet page on Google, it seems I was right: some of the domestic 752s are marked for complete retiration and are going to be sent to Victorville to be scrapped.
This route, FLL-ORD-FLL, ranges from around $600 in First during the slow winter months and up to $1,500 in July. When searching for flights I was initially trying to get a routing involving a lie-flat internationally configured BusinessFirst 757 with a splash of some Silver Airways S340s mixed in. To do that I would have to go to Newark, connecting through Orlando.
Since I did a lot of hard work trying to find out which routes the BusinessFirst 752s run on, I shall share it here so it won't go to waste:
ORD-EWR ( also operates on a three class international 763 occasionally)
IAH-ORD (this flight is also served by a frequent 787)
The routing would be FLL-MCO-EWR-MCO-FLL, with two Saab 340s, a 739, and a BusinessFirst 752. But the cost was $1,200 which wasn't so bad, but I figured I could get a better deal for my money. My reasoning behind this is that there is routings with one-time pricing that doesn't occur very common, if at all. Looking at the fare calender for FLL-ORD, May 3rd was listed "$715 USD, one stop" What stop, I asked? Turns out it was IAD.
A week later I looked at the prices again and the routing for FLL-ORD-IAD-FLL in United First Class had dropped to $675. Right then I decided to buy it, as we all know by now, UAs' domestic 752s are only disappearing from service and that price was waaay too good to pass up. The BusinessFirst 757/Saab 340 combination looked attractive, but I can do that pretty much every day of the week.
Every now and again United offers me an sweet deal. Here we get one more flight in first for $11 USD!
Picking my seats for FLL-ORD after checkout.
Along with this flight is the fact that I'm trying to bridge my Delta/SkyTeam alignment with a Star Alliance frequent flier program. I hope to reach United Silver by the end of the year, and in order to do that I need to get 23 more active segments on Star Alliance flights and/or 25,000 MileagePlus revenue miles. I'm hoping that I can do several more Intrafloridian flights on Silver Airways and maybe a few legs on United First, which grants a bonus of 150% miles and 1.5 active flight segments. What does everyone think the preferable option would be? (I was pretty disappointed to find out US Airways had switched to the OneWorld Alliance earlier this week. That Envoy report may or May not happen to that end....)
I was jarred awake by my phone alarm just in time at the early hour of 3:00 AM EST. I bid my snoring folks goodbye, and went outside the beachhouse to call a cab. Yellow Cab sent a taxi my direction, or at least they said they did. After thirty minutes, at 3:30 AM no cab had arrived. So I called Intercity Cab and their car arrived in less than ten minutes, while YC kept ringing my phone, who I kept hanging up on. The cab driver was friendly local named Julio, and agreed on Yellow's terrible customer service, then proceeded to give me his number for future use. We took Commercial Boulevard to I95 all the way down to FLL. Once we arrived at FLL, I tipped him very well and thanked him for his nice service. I promised to call him for my next daytrip, which I will.
Yellow Cab? No cab arriving any time soon from them.
Thank goodness that Intercity Cab actually is on time, punctually arriving ten minutes after the call to the company.
Julio and I share a lively discussion as we speed down I95.
I didn't immediately go inside of Terminal 1 because I knew the Kiosks weren't working and I wanted to preview my aircraft. FLL makes it a piece of cake to see your aircraft, even placing benches on the overpasses between the terminals. N563UA, a legacy United Airlines 752, was parked in plain sight at gate C2 lying dormant against the thick night sky and the fluorescent ramp lights. Quite humorously a "Continental" sign was posted a few feet away on the jetway attached to the L2 boarding door.
N563UA lies in rest before the flight to ORD.
FLL airport authorities have made almost entirely no effort to remove the CO signage posted all over Terminal 1 and Concourse C.
I then walked a few hundred steps to the other side of T1, to snap a few pictures of the last two remaining FL flights. FLL only sees two AirTran 717s a day now, good thing I caught one before they were gone.
As of May 3rd, 2014, N968AT is still under AirTran banner serving flights.
Walking back into Terminal 1, I stroll past the campout of passengers scrawled across the various seating areas lining the walls and find United's Premier Access lane. Impressively, United has set up a detailed wall backdrop for the Premier Access lane, with a dark blue board separating the small, 2-koisk desk from the three economy checkins. Of course, there is no line or any other people in the queue when I walk up, but the economy class stretches to the door of the terminal--I'm not sure why it is always that way, but I enjoy being able to not wait in line for a kiosk.
I quickly printed my boarding passes and headed downstairs to go through security, which is currently closed. I guess all the airlines must have contracted a single agent to make sure the First Class security is not used by Y class passengers as they have a single airport employee guarding the entrance, looking quite bored. Five minutes later I am nudoscoped, X-rayed, and ready to take my flight. No secondary search this time, thank goodness.
Well, it turns out that coming this early was a mistake-I had no breakfast before I left, all the restaurants and the United Club are closed, and there are no vending machines. The United Club opened at 5:00 AM, so I decided to do a little impromptu spotting. For those who do not know, UA only sends mainline aircraft to FLL--apparently, quite a rarity as according to some people UA has a penchant for E145s and CR2s-- other than the S340s of Silver Airways which I'm sure no one on ANET would mind. UA actually pulled out of FLL completely amid a severe recession in 2008. With the merger of CO/UA the whole terminal was inherited and the CO Express B1900Ds (Gulfstream International Airlines) were replaced by the rebranded Saab 340s, along with the newly acquired CO aircraft and Airbii. However, there is CO signage and logos everywhere, crudely crossed out or covered, but a lot of the time just left there, as with the CO signs on the jetways.
United Premier Access T1 Checkin.
Printing Souvenir boarding passes. Even if they are just receipt paper and not cardstock, I still love collecting them!
Going down to security.
Concourse C, as in "Charlie", looking dreary as my stomach growls for food when no vendors are open.
I sat in a comfortable leather chair and people watched while my stomach grumbled and various people wondered where they could get food. Nothing would open until 5 AM, and there were no vending machines around, or atleast I couldn't find them. So I spent a little time catching up on the ambiance of Concourse C.
Concourse C, left side. Note the Airbus peeking through the window. Airbus aircraft never served Concourse C until the merger as CO had no Airbus frames.
Continental logos are still prevalent throughout the area.
At my gate, C2, someone has half-heartedly attempted to cross out the Continental Airlines font. How sad.
Soon, Hudson news opens. I find a small little section of United branded die-cast models and purchase a 744.
At 5:00 AM EST a United agent shows up and unlocks the United Club, located just past security. Unlike the rest of the makeshiftingly-converted terminal, the former Continental Presidents Club was completely stripped out and had a new interior built inside. A mob of passengers formed a line leading into the club, with me being third. Walking into the marble and mahogany lined entryway leading into the bar, buffet, and seating area, I was quickly loving the new United Club. Food options included cereal, doughnots, munchkins (ball-shaped doughnuts), fresh fruit, bagels, and pastries, A full bar with a bartender serves up cocktails and soft drinks, while hot drinks can be self-brewed by the customer near the food selection.
The bartender, Jennifer, served me up a frosty cold glass of Coca Cola, and I helped myself to the club's breakfast-oriented offerings. Quite strange, everyone in the club was either silent or in hushed conversations with their partners--compare this to the loud madness of a Delta SkyClub at ATL! I didn't eat that much, only enough to satisfy my empty stomach, as breakfast would be served on my flight.
Entrance to the United Club.
Checking into the club.
Food offerings, I would say these are slightly better than the Delta Sky Club at FLL.
A continental breakfast. (no pun intended)
At 5:40 AM I left the club, tipping both Jennifer and the agents at the desks, and lined up in the Premier Access lane with a bunch of older gentlemen who seemed to be going on business trips. First disabled and elderly passengers were called to board, followed by Global Services members and uniformed military personnel, and finally us first class passengers. United now uses a boarding zone style ALA Southwest, having people line up in numbered "zones". Zone 1 is First Class and Premier Access. The jetway was quite short, and in no time at all I found myself aboard the 757-200.
My ride to Chicago today, N563UA, a legacy United Airlines 757-200 that was 21.1 years old by the time I rode on it.
Walking down the jetway.
Boarding the ship.
As I step into the aircraft, a male flight attendant bears a smile and welcomes me, while directing me to take the novel "left turn" into First Class. The seats....wow. They are large 2-2 abreast black leather chairs with a massive center console, slide out cocktail tables, excellent padding, and some of the best legroom I've seen for this class. Peggy, a senior purser, comes around with a silver tray taking pre-departure beverage orders, so I order a coffee and am asked "How do [you] take it?" with a smile. Cream and sugar, please
First Class cabin during boarding. Peggy is the woman on the left.
The very comfortable legacy United 757 first class seat. The headrest at the top could be moved up or down. (this seat is actually 6F, 6B had somebody in it already so I used the other pair of seats across the aisle to take photos)
Excellent legroom with full leg extension.
PDB, which I had to move across the aisle once the owners of 6D/6F showed up.
Unfortunately, CRT screens are the only IFE on this aircraft other than the audio entertainment.
Back in my assigned seat of 6A, I can see the inside of the jetway through the window.
Throughout the boarding process, we are reminded by Peggy over the PA to expedite our boarding process by sitting down and clearing the aisle. Once all the passngers sit down, the main boarding door is closed and we are pushed back for a taxi to runway 10L. While we are being pushed back, a welcome video featuring Jeff Smisek plays, followed by the first five seconds of the safety video. However the CRT screens then completely shut off, with the flight attendants scrambling to get it restarted. The first five seconds play again, and again the screens die. Finally, the third time, the screens stay on and we are marshaled out of the C gates.
The safety video plays for the third time as we are pushed back.
Pushback past a G4 MD-83 and a Virgin A320. I would try Virgin First Class, but it's extremely expensive ($1,500 RT)
Taxiing past the US Airways terminal. I'll see you in a couple of weeks!
Turning onto runway 10L.
I had worries up to that point, but they all faded away as the Pratt and Whitney 2000 turbofans spooled up and we roared down the runway. We intercepted Hallandale beach before being cleared to turn left back onto the Floridian mainland to head north to Illinois. Meanwhile, a stunning sunset blanketed the cabin as we rocketed towards Chicago.
Roaring down the runway, with a Fedex BCAD 727? What is BCAD?
Blowing past the Fedex Cargo Terminal.
Turning back to Florida.
Climbing to 10,000 feet.
Once at cruising altitude, Peggy wasted no time at all starting the meal service. We first were asked what beverage we would like as a hors'dheuvers, and I ordered another coffee. With a smile, Peggy delivered it to my seat in a big porcelain mug, then asked what I'd be having for breakfast. What? A meal? The last time I had an actual meal service on an airline was in July 2012 in Delta BusinessElite: . Anyway, today's choices would be an English Muffin with sausage and egg, fresh fruit, yogurt, and a choice between a melting cinnamon roll or fluffy croissant, or Honey Nut Cheerios with fresh fruit, a banana, yogurt, and again a choice between a cinnamon roll or croissant. Peggy delivered the pastries in a wicker basket lined with a cloth napkin, which I thought was a nice touch.
hors'dheuvers of coffee.
Breakfast Service: English muffin egg and sausage sandwich, YoPlait Greek Yogurt, and fresh fruit.
Macro shots. Mmmmmm.
A melting cinnamon roll hand delivered to each passenger. You could also get a croissant.
Before you shoot down United (no pun intended, again) for what seems like tiny portions, realise that the food was excellent and that other airlines may not even have meal service even on a flight of this length. Not to mention that the food was hot, fresh, and delicious. The sandwich was excellent, with fluffy eggs with nice texture, and juicy sausage, while the fruit was sweet and chewy. The cinnamon roll was covered with cream cheese icing and chock full of scrumptious filling, almost like it was baked fresh aboard the aircraft. All throughout the meal service, Peggy asked the passengers if they needed any refills on their drinks, being personable and professional the whole flight.
Cabin during cruise.
An airfield on a platform?
Even though Channel 9 wasn't working, the captain announced over the PA that we would be in Chicago in less than 15 minutes. The approach was quite spectacular, even though I've did it before, I had forgotten the details such as passing straight over Lake Erie and being able to see the entire Chicago Skyline. Approaching the airport, we were gusted around a good amount of times, I guess they don't call it the "Windy City" for nothing! As we touched down, the pilots engaged reverse thrust then cleaned up the airplane before we began our long taxi to ORD's Concourse C. To end the flight on a high note, Peggy made sure all the First Class passengers deplaned first, which sometimes doesn't even happen in F on Delta. Before I left, I requested a cockpit shot, to which the captain kindly obliged.
Turning to start the approach.
Overflying the lake as we descend.
A nice view of the Chicago skyline with the black monolith of the Sears Tower standing out between all the skyscrapers.
Programs: United Premier Silver/*S, US Preferred Silver/Oneworld Ruby, Delta SC Executive, United Club Member
Stepping out into the concourse of this massive airport, you quickly realize that you are in United Territory. The entire fleet is here, from Q400s all the way up to the 744. But not only United is here, from Delta to Air China to KLM and everything inbetween, I had plenty of spotting opportunities before I could even think of trying out the United Club. First, I started by playing a new game I would like to include in future trip reports: flower gathering. Flower gathering is when you try to find and capture as many images as possible of pre-merger United Tulip livery aircraft. The point of this venture is to help A.netters ride the Tulips before they are all gone.
ERJ-145 N847HK is still painted in the tulip livery.
CRJ-700 N503MJ is still painted in the tulip livery.
CRJ-700 N518LR is still painted in the tulip livery. Trivia question for all my Boeing fans and 777 lovers: What is the significance of N777UA?
ERJ-145 ?????? is still painted in the tulip livery.
ERJ-145 N846HK is still painted in the tulip livery.
CRJ-700 N504MJ is still painted in the tulip livery.
Number of flowers gathered: 6 flowers gathered.
Now, for some more general spotting.
All Nippon Airways 777 JA788A
China Cargo 747-400F B-2428
I then start heading over to the various United Clubs. The first one I visit is in Concourse C. Previously I had not been able to capture an UA 744, so I headed into the club. No more complimentary passes, so I swipe my card and fork over $50 for the pass. The agent asks me if I would like a shower suite, to which I politely decline.
Well, this particular club is very crowded--nearly all the nice easy chairs are filled, and I couldn't find a pair that were alone (I find it really awkward to have someone across from you in an airline club, just a pet peeve of mine I guess) and elect to sit at the bar instead. Food choices are almost the same as the FLL club, but this one adds oatmeal and snack mixes instead of cereal to the selection of munchies.
The seating area.
There's the 744, sneaking it's way up to the gate
On the other side we have another UA 777-200.
Airbus with her poor randome all scratched up.
Exiting the club, I venture under the tarmac to the next terminal over. ORD has a psychodelic light tunnel similar to DTW that lights up by the way of motion sensors when you walk by.
Entering another United Club, which displays a much more modern style than the Concourse C one. Does anyone know which terminal this club is in?
Delta has a smallish-medium operation in ORD, sending Airbii and RJ oddballs here along with the occassional 717. The airline used to have a hub here that was closed way back in the day.
The club's food selection.
At around 12:30 PM CT, I started heading back to the C Concourse to gate C25, which is where my 1:10 PM flight to Washington Dulles (IAD) would be departing.
A large 744 bids me farewell as I go back to the C concourse.
Arriving at gate C25, I was greeted by a large crowd of passengers lined up throughout the end of the concourse. I snaked my way through to the Premier Access lane and waited, while the gate agent droned on about how the flight would be full and only two carry-ons are allowed. Like the flight in Fort Lauderdale, first disabled passengers were invited to board, then uniformed military personell and Global Services members, and finally Zone 1. Surprisingly, there were no disabled, uniformed military, or Global Services members, so I was soon walking down the jet way to my ride, N520UA, a 23.7-year old legacy United 757-200.
My ride to Washington Dulles, N520UA, a 23.7-year-old legacy 752.
Gate C25, my gate for the flight to IAD.
Walking down the jetway.
Boarding the ship.
First Class cabin during boarding.
This time, I would be seated in First Class seat 6F.
Slide out cocktail table.
Legroom is as good as you would expect for this class with room for full leg extension and more than ample knee space.
Old style PSU.
Again the CRT monitors are present.
John the flight attendant welcomed aboard everyone in First Class by name, quite professionally and asked us if we would like something to drink. Meanwhile, tunes were playing throughout the cabin while drinks were delivered. I considered going up to the cockpit, but elected to wait until the end of the flight for a cockpit visit.
After a short while, the rest of the Y pax boarded and the safety demo played on the overhead CRT screens. ORD was quite busy at this hour, with planes taxiing and roaring by literally every second. The diversity of the traffic was amazing, and I got plenty of good photos. When we got to the hold short zone, we waited for a UAX E145 to take off, with a China Airlines Cargo 744F on the taxiway across from us. Since our aircraft was full and heavily laden, our takeoff performance was less impressive than last time but still pretty nice as we zoomed down the runway and lifted off. The captain struggled with the prevailing winds of ORD, shortly after reducing power during climbout he increased it again to 80-90% as the 752 struggled to gain altitude. Then he steered it away from the clouds as we ascended over Lake .
PDB of Coca Cola Classic.
The safety demo is played as we are pushed back.
Cabin during taxi.
United's Star Alliance 777 passes by us.
American Eagle ERJ145 takes off.
United Airbus A320 takes off.
American Airlines Super 80 N592AA takes off. Pity that these will be dissapearing in the not too distant future. Any ideas what routes these take out of MIA so I can catch one before they're gone?
China Airlines Cargo B16721 lines up on the taxiway next to us.
The 744F holds short for us as we takeoff.
Rocketing over the Chicago Suburbs and Lake
ORD Airport from the air.
The captain attempts to steer us through the gaps between the heavy cloud cover as we climb out.
As the turned to the southeast to line up with D.C., John announced the inflight service and turned on a series of re-runs on the overhead CRT monitors. Walking to our row, he asked us if we would like something to drink. My seatmate, sound asleep, snored away while I ordered a coke. Then came out the snack basket, filled to the brim with Cape Cod Kettle Chips, Toblerone Honey and Nougat Swiss Chocolate, and Walkers Shortbread Cookies. I asked for one of everything (taking one extra of that delicious Toblerone chocolate ) and John nicely agreed. At the same time, the flight deck came onto the PA and announced our ascent to cruise, and promising to give us a smooth ride down on this short intrahub flight. Channel 9 didn't seem to work on this flight, so I resigned to looking out the window and sleeping. These seats have very good recline, even in the last row (row 6) where the bulkhead behind did not seem to impede on the seat pitch.
The service starts out with a coke served in a classy United glass. These glasses seem much larger than the glasses in Delta Domestic First Class.
John brings the snack basket to our row. He refilled and later brought it back.
Cape Cod Kettle Chips, Toblerone Chocolate, and Walkers Shortbread Cookies. The chips were alright, not the best chip I've tasted but not the most terrible either. Of course, the chocolates and cookies were delicious.
John again brought another round of drinks and the snack basket around. This time I elect for a Seagram's Tonic Water and another bag of chips.
Cabin during cruise.
Beginning the descent to DC.
After an hour or two our captain announced our descent into Washington D.C. and turns the fasten seat belt sign on as "there will be a bit of uhh...severe turbulence". The scenery surrounding Chantilly was amazing, mountainous terrain and lush forests as far as the eye could see. It made some amazing photo opportunities as we flew parallell to IAD then made a right 180-degree-turn to line of with Dulles. I didn't really feel any severe turbulence, but John made a strange announcement on the PA "....and fasten your seatbelts in preparation for landing. In the event of an evacuation, leave all carryon bags behind." My seatmate and I shared a laugh as we heard him.
Turning out of the clouds. Look at that wing flex!
Dulles comes into view on base.
Turning onto long final.
Touchdown, spoilers deployed and reverse thrust engaged.
Turning off the runway.
If you've ever wondered how large a 777 is compared to a Saab 340B+...
7th flower gathered today, a non-wingleted 763. Any help with the registration on this one?
Two identical 767 BBJs. I wonder who uses these?
Parked at the gate at IAD.
As soon as we had pulled in and shut down, the jetway attached and John allowed the F class passengers to leave first, but I stayed behind and walked up to the cockpit. I requested a cockpit shot from the captain and he agreed. The captain was a middle age Indian man, from New Delhi that moved to the USA during his youth. Quite a friendly induvidual. I deplaned and headed out into IAD.
United 757-200 N580UA Cockpit.
Snapping a shot of this legacy United 757-200 domestic configuration's First Class cabin. John is the man in the aisle.
My seatmate and I's seats.
Deplaning through the jetway.
Looking at N580UA one last time.
Heading into the United Club to get a one day pass. This club, as the agent prudently told me, has no food at all. How strange.
Programs: United Premier Silver/*S, US Preferred Silver/Oneworld Ruby, Delta SC Executive, United Club Member
WASHINGTON D.C. - DULLES AIRPORT
As soon as I left the United Club I quickly was building an idea about this airport. Barely any windows and the ones that were there were very tiny, the ceilings were low, and the terminal was so crowded that it was very hard to walk through. I decided to catch a welcome reprieve in thee nearest United Club I could find. I then discovered that Dulles has a very intresting international terminal- B747-8s, A346s, A330s. But not only that, United shows its regional turboprop arm at the far end of Concourse A, with the Saab 340s of Silver Airways, Q400s, and Dash 8s. I had only a couple of hours before my flight and was very hungry, so I decided to grab a quick bite to eat in the Concourse C United Club and spend the rest of the time exploring Dulles Airport.
As soon as I took this picture of the United Club entrance, I was bumped by someone not looking where they were going. This terminal is quickly getting on my nerves....
Thankfully, the United Club is quiet and with large windows. Totally worth the $50 cost of a day pass, and here we see Aeroflot 767-300 VP-BDI being pushed back.
Air France A388 F-HPJI
Look at all the props! Saab 340s, Bombardier Q400s, DeHavilland Dash-8s (background), the only thing that is really missing from this scene is the United B1900s that I saw in CLE, which were unfortunately retired in April.
Speaking of Beechcraft, a King Air lands in the distance.
Looks like my flight back to FLL is on time, thank goodness!
This United club adds freshly baked cookies and snack mix to the ring of food offered. For this one night I pig out and enjoy the snacks.
The ground-level sitting area.
Outside the ground-level window we have a couple of UAX Embraer ERJ-145s lined up.
Once I had enough food and beverages to satisfy my inherent hunger, I ventured out into the madhouse terminal again on the UA club agent's advice to take the train to get to the international terminal. However, I discover that the "trains" are not actually trains at all-rather, they are these massive 4x4-wheeled moon buggies called the "driving lounges!" I was previously under the impression that these had been retired, I guess I was wrong. We drove down the central taxiways between the terminals, providing excellent spotting views as the vehciele has humongous windows and is very high off the ground. In no time at all, I was stepping off the buggy and into the international terminal.
In the international terminal I stumbled upon a mini-Smithsonian Musuem store and immediately sauntered inside. They had a large collection of aviation toys, models, books, clothing, and just about anything you can imagine. I, however, was most interested in the SkyMarks Snap Together Airliners wall. I bought a Fedex MD-11 and an AA Oneworld-livery 777, along with four packs of Astronaut Ice cream, which is my favorite candy. I also got a free mother's day gift for spending exactly $100 and was soon on my way back to the moon buggy to take back to the gate where my flight would be departing. I elected to walk instead of taking the people movers, as I figure exercise never hurts.
A rainbow block glass sculpture leads you in the direction of the "trains".
The moon buggies.
The interior or lounge, as they call it.
A 717-200, N989AT, and ERJ-145, N258JQ, make up the grand tota of two Delta aircraft at IAD.
Lufthansa B747-8 Intercontinental D-ABYF
Over at the International Terminal, the Smithsonian Family Store with its aviation section.
Back onto the moon buggy.
Glad to see this Fedex MD-11 taxiing by as we crawl to the terminal.
United Boeing 767-300 legacy N665UA
We stop and let an impressive Saudi A340-600 pass by us before continuing.
Checking the seat map for my flight home. Looks relatively empty compared to the full flights before.
My ride for the final flight home, United legacy Boeing 757-200 N521UA.
I hung out in the United Club for 20 more minutes, and at 6:20 PM EST headed to Gate C23 to board my flight back to Fort Lauderdale.
Arriving at the gate (being bumped and jostled by other passengers in the small, crowded terminal) I found that there was much less passengers than the last two flights but still a good amount. The usual boarding sequence of disabled passengers, uniformed military personell and Global Service members, and finally us First Class passengers. I was kind of melancholic as I scanned my boarding pass for the last time, as I had such a great time and service on my first United First Class flights.
Boarding at the gate.
Walking down the jetway.
Boarding the ship.
Walking past Y as I do the novel "left turn" exclusive to the 757 (domestically, of course )
First Class Cabin during boarding.
On this flight, I would be back in First Class seat 6A.
The sun starts to set halfway through boarding.
Peter would be servicing the First Class cabin during this flight, as was all the other flights a PDB was offered. I ordered yet another Tonic Water (what a surprise ) and it was delivered in a plastic United cup. Meanwhile, a deadheading pilot took 6B! We started up a very long and drawn out discussion about the industry, what he had flown, the merger, and what he thinks of being a pilot. Two other nonrevving FA's took 6D and 6F, who were legacy United flight attendants and seemed quite attractive. Peter came back near the end of the boarding process, and all four of them discussed at length the merger and Jeff Smisek. One of the flight attendants sneered "Smisek screwed us all over, whether you're from United or Continental". Wow, I didn't know even both employee groups have such a low opinion of Smisek. Who knew?
Once the Y passengers finished their seating, the boarding door was closed and we pushed back for an on time departure. No time to pay attention to the safety demo when you have a senior PMCO pilot sitting next to you! He pointed out that it is quite easy to tell if the 757-200 you're on has lie-flat BusinessFirst seats: if it has winglets, it's internationally configured. Jeff (the PMCO pilot sitting next to me, not the CEO) said he flew the 727, DC-10, nearly all of CO's 737 variants, and the 757 all the way up to the merger. He lamented the poor direction that Smiske was taking the company in, and cited that such a $600,000,000 loss could put even his high-seniority job at risk. By the time we reached the hold short zone, I had learned more from this man than anyone else in the world. We made a straight out departure with a few aircraft behind us, and after liftoff we made a hard banking, 270-degree turn to take us all the way south to Florida. Once we had reached about 15,000 feet or so, Peter sprang into action and began the inflight service.
A pre-departure beverage of Seagram's tonic water was served up by Peter.
Turning onto the runway.
TOGA engaged as we roar down the runway.
Climbing away and turning to the south as we depart IAD.
Climbing to cruise altitude.
As we were climbing, the captain came on the PA and announced our flying time of a little more than two hours down to FLL, and telling us that channel 9 was on and our callsign was United 452. United is trying really hard to impress me, and they are doing quite a good job on it.
Peter then came by to each row and gave each First class passenger a hot towel with tongs off of a silver tray. Yes, a towel service on a domestic flight. The last time that actually occurred....was...never. Never in all my years of flying have I had a hot towel service in a domestic First class flight. It was not too hot or lukewarm, and only slightly damp. Kudos to you, Peter. He then came around and asked if we would like a light dinner or "snack" consisting of rice salad, yellow lemon, black olives, gouda cheese, baby artichoke, red bellpepper strips, hummus, and pita chips. On a similar Delta flight I would have just gotten a snack basket.....
The sun starts to set as the meal service starts.
The meal service begins with a hot towel, perfectly most and not scalding but not lukewarm either.
Followed by a light dinner or "snack".
Macro shot of the food, which was delicious. I ate every last bite.
The captain had a weak smile as he saw this glass, telling Peter that he was a PMCO pilot and if he could keep it. Of course, Peter let him keep it. Looks like atleast -some- of the PMUA and PMCO crew do get along.
Listening to channel 9, which was quite busy at this hour.
After the meal service had concluded, the sky faded to blue and then black.
Dark cabin as we cruise down the east coast.
At about 150 miles off of FLL, the captain came onto the PA one last time and announced that we would be on the ground in twenty minutes. We flew through a few rainclouds before finally overlfying I95 westbound. "They gave him a short approach", the PMCO Captain sitting next to me, Jeff, claims. He was right, we made then customary U-turn to line up with FLL's runway 10L while following the highway all the way down. The approach was relatively smooth, a rarity on a stormy Floridian night like this.
150 miles out of FLL, we encounter a small rainstorm making for some interesting photos.
Flying diagnally down through downtown FLL.
Long final, following I95 eastbound.
Walking up to gate C2, where I had started almost 15 hours agao.
Even though I don't have any checked bags, here is my customary baggage claim shot.
I went downstairs, called a taxi, and went home to get some rest and to conclude a day of fantastic United flying and service.
I really don't get where all the hate for United is coming from. These three flights were some of the best I've had in a long time, and the service was with a genuine smile and professional. I will definately look into flying more revenue First Class Flights with United.
Programs: AS MVPG, SPG Platinum, Marriott Silver, Global Entry, UA
Did you intend to have a PMCO 757 as the cover photo?
Ha - maybe I'm missing the irony given the title of the report.
Edit: Also, I believe N777UA was the 7th 777 to be produced. N774UA is the oldest 777 in UA's fleet, being #2 off the line. N7771, which was 1st off the line, is flying with CX under the registration of B-HNL. While I'm at it, the newest air-frame, 1203, is off the line and headed to Garuda.
Lastly, the two "BBJs" are ex/current North American Airlines 767s.
Last edited by MonThruThurs; May 5, 14 at 11:54 pm.
Programs: AS MVPG, SPG Platinum, Marriott Silver, Global Entry, UA
Originally Posted by Flubber2012
Seven minutes of my life spent
Thanks for ....
OP's TR adds vastly more to the FT community than your belittling commentary. Especially as the 757 is retired, it's nice to have the plane memorialized in such a fashion. We're all fan boys in some way - if you don't appreciate it, no need to comment. Simple as that.
Programs: United 1K/*G, Marriott Gold, SPG Gold, Amex Plat, Global Entry
LPDAL, thank you for your hard work on a fantastic report! To answer your question, the new United Club at ORD is in Terminal 2. Also, just some gentle corrections: Etihad is based out of Abu Dhabi, UAE, not Saudi Arabia. Also, the FedEx bird you spotted is, I believe, a DC-10, not MD-11.
I will indeed miss the 757 for its powerful takeoff and large F cabin (read: high upgrade percentages ).