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Old Apr 17, 17, 9:47 am
Join Date: May 2010
Location: AVP & PEK
Programs: UA 1K MM (soon to be Gold), Hertz PC
Posts: 2,967
Air-travel on UA; my perspective.

So, Mrs. narvik flew UA from EWR (Newark, NJ, USA) to AKL (Auckland, New Zealand) on April 15th. Here’s the rundown:

- Mrs. narvik is 1K through my MM status.

- Booked a business class saver award flight on short notice (April 11th) for 70k + U$31.10 for Mrs. narvik using my miles. Only routing that was all in premium cabin was EWR-ORD-SFO-AKL. All UA metal. It’s just before UA shuts down SFO-AKL for the (Southern Hemisphere) winter months.

- Drove Mrs. narvik from Northeast Pennsylvania to EWR, about 100 miles. Get to EWR very quickly. It’s Saturday after all and the Easter weekend; no school buses, hardly any commuters. Flight EWR-ORD leaves 1:30pm, we get to check-in counter at about 11 am.

- EWR C terminal. UA changed -ONCE AGAIN- where 1Ks check in. It’s now where the Premium check-in used be before. Was at a different but close-by location for a few months. Oh well, still easy enough.

- Since travel to NZ requires proof of onward ticket, the check-in kiosk throws the oh-so-popular exclamation point with wording to WAIT FOR UNITED REPRESENTATIVE. What UA really means here is not to WAIT for a UA representative but to go and seek a UA employee out, as no one hardly ever proactively checks these screens. The wording should read: PLEASE ASK A UA EMPLOYEE FOR ASSISTANCE.

- We ask for assistance; they check documents, and boarding passes print. The EXTREMELY grumpy baggage employee checks identity and takes the one piece of luggage and puts in on the conveyor belt. I am used to both great and awful staff here at EWR check-in. Today we have someone who CLEARLY does not want to be there. No eye contact, no emotion. She wants to be at home, at the beach, at the movies: ANYWHERE but here at work. This is exactly the kind of employee that no amount of training will help. They simply should not work there.

- Luggage is checked in all the way to AKL: GREAT!

- We leave the check-in area, and I mention to Mrs. narvik to keep the baggage tag safe, as she may need it in AKL. Surprise! No baggage tag was given. We go back to the check-in area, and ask someone to check for our baggage tag. Yep, it’s sitting there behind the counter. First time I have experienced the baggage handler not giving the tag to a passenger. But then again, I wasn’t paying attention either, so...

- TSA-Pre line is non-existent. Mrs. narvik gets through security in about 2 minutes.

- I wave “goodbye”, pay the U$8 parking, and make my way home. I am just at home when I get a text: Mrs. narvik missed the EWR-ORD flight. She gets to the boarding area late, and the gate is already closed. Urghhh! Oh well. She is at a United desk, and they get her on a direct flight EWR-SFO at 4:30pm, albeit in E+, and a middle seat. Better than nothing though, and plenty time to still catch the SFO-AKL flight. Phew! Apparently this was lucky, as the EWR-SFO flight is chocka-a-block full due to other passengers being moved to this flight for an issue with an earlier flight. Thanks, and well done UA, much appreciated.

- Mrs. narvik asks about the baggage, and is told it should still make it without intervention. Nice one.

- On a whim, I check for the details of the itinerary changes. Wait, this can’t be: “THIS ITINERARY HAS BEEN CANCELED”. Yep, apparently the United agent canceled the ticket after making the changes. I call the 1K helpline. They see the issue, and put me on hold while a supervisor sorts it all out. 5 minutes….10 minutes…..20 minutes. “Thanks for holding, it’s all okay again, we restored the itinerary.” Thanks. Good job.

- Mrs narvik is about to board. Scanner goes red, and she is issued a new boarding pass after being asked to wait to the side. Plane leaves on time. By that I mean “on time for EWR” which means within one hour of scheduled departure time.

- Flight EWR-SFO is super cold. Jacket, extra socks. Still cold. Mrs. narvik in E+ pays for a snack, as she doesn’t know she is entitled to a free snack & free drink as a 1K (my bad for forgetting to mention this to her). Later during the flight, a different FA comes up to her seat and verifies her name, and then proceeds to inform her that she is entitled to a free drink & snack, and says the previous FA should not have charged her, asks for the same credit card used to purchase the food, and issues a refund. Nicely done, and I am surprised they caught this. Must be a very observant FA. Kudos!

- In the whole seat block (D, E, F) the seat-back IFE doesn’t work for the whole flight. Mrs. narvik still has her book (the same one that made her miss the EWR-ORD flight in the first place. Must be a good book! ) She is requested to go to 8750 miles are given.

- SFO lounge has sashimi? Really? Nice.

- SFO-AKL has excellent FAs. Very attentive and helpful and courteous and friendly. She asks for and gets slippers and pajamas. It’s the old UA 777 with 2-4-2. Not my favorite, but she gets some sleep although it’s an oven according to her. She especially commented positively about the great food, and the self-serve snacks provided during the flight. They had red Peeps!

- AKL, luggage gets there. Not sure if it went the original route but well done!

- It’s raining in NZ.

Overall, I am impressed:
We can travel half-way around the world in very little time.
And we can get there on time most of the time, well fed, and with some sleep on the way.
And all that for only ~U$1400.00 in J.
And all that after missing the first flight segment!
And all that with some great, some neutral and some horrible employee interactions on the way.
And all that with some ups and downs: some are their 'fault' some are our 'fault'.
That's life!

narvik is offline