Old Jul 18, 17, 11:10 pm
Join Date: Oct 2012
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SEA-SFO in UA Y, AMEX Centurion SFO, and SFO-SYD in UA J

Flight #: UA 214
Departing: SEA 6:15pm
Arriving: SFO 8:25pm
Booking Class: XN, waitlisted for I class (did not clear)
Equipment: A320
Seat: 19F (exit row window)

Funny thing is I used the SEA DL A SkyClub prior to this United flight. The check-in agent and I shared a look of terror when I mentioned I had to fly UA tonight.

The new DL SC shines as one of the best US3 carrier lounges in NA (besides special FlAAgship or Polaris lounges). Good food options, wide salad spreads, and rotating hot dishes. Large space accommodates many people and the new design concepts are slick.

On to the flight. This was your standard UA domestic flight, I guess. I haven't flown UA in a long time (being a frequent DL flyer for work), so originally was allocated something like 30F but then checked in at T-24 and grabbed an "Economy Plus" seat on accord of my (now) UA Premier Silver status.

I had requested a "Plan B" upgrade by calling into the Premier Silver desk (is that actually a thing or just a marketing spin to make us peons feel special?) and it took a few tries to get the agent to understand what I was talking about, but it was done correctly. I ended up being 4 out of 20 on the list, which methinks was done correctly -- but maybe others were using instruments. Normally I would have done more research but I didn't care as much about this leg and was happy with my extra legroom, exit row seat.

Nothing special to write about here. No IFE so I just streamed some random TV shows. I didn't mind being in Y for this short hop down to SFO.

AMEX Centurion Lounge SFO

Flight from SEA arrived on time -- it was pleasant enough. First things first -- I had to pick up some Blue Bottle coffee beans for my friends in Sydney. I had a 2:30H layover here in SFO so figured I would look for a gift (be it Blue Bottle or not) and then visit the AMEX Centurion lounge (it was that or the UA lounge and supposedly the AMEX Cent wins by a mile).

After perusing through the UA domestic terminal (G?) and the International terminal and finding nothing (and looking through the SFO terminal directory), I decided to settle on some Ghirardelli chocolates.

To the AMEX Centurion Lounge I went.

The lounge is located one level up from the main departures concourse area, located between the UA domestic terminal and the international concourse.

A friendly agent (I find all the AMEX Centurion Lounge agents to be quite nice) welcomed me and processed my check-in and mentioned dinner was to be served until 10:00pm.

On the menu tonight:

Stewed chicken tasted fine -- standard lounge fare, methinks. Generally I find lounges tend to do some sort of protein that stands up well to prolonged time on heating elements and won't dry out. Stewed chicken satisfies both requirements.

Some veggie options.

My sampler plate. I didn't finish anything -- just wanted to try out all the options knowing I'd get a full meal on UA's late-night SYD departure.

I didn't take any pictures of the lounge -- it was quite crowded. The food options were just fine. Perhaps I am jaded now in frequent flying when it comes to lounge food options. No self-service drink station (besides water and iced tea) meant I had to ask the bartender for a sparkling water (I'm not much of a drinker when it comes to flying).

I also didn't visit any other lounges on my trip to SFO. Normally flying into SFO I'm on DL or AS so the Centurion lounge is inconvenient to use.

As an aside, I laugh when I see "dandelion greens" being masqueraded as haute cuisine. A look at the description brings me back to childhood pulling dandelions out of the ground and blowing their spores everywhere. The taste is fine -- bitter with a bit of zing. I don't mind them but it's just funny how far we've come. I did decide I needed a bit of greens in my life so had a second helping.

Overall, the Centurion Lounge is okay. It's quite busy during the late night as many international flights are departing (and I'm assuming SFO has a large population of AMEX Plat/Cent cardholders given the demographic).

SFO - SYD in UA "Polaris" J
Flight #: UA 863
Departing: SFO 10:50PM
Arriving: SYD 6:50AM (+2 days)
Booking Class: I Class
Equipment: B787-9
Seat: 5E (middle right side aisle)

Ah, tonight's main event! I haven't flown UA in a long time (and I don't think I've ever flown UA J in recent memory) so I was interested to see how this flight would be.

UA's 787 seats have been described in great length in other trip reports and blog posts, and I will not detail them here. However I will say while reverse herringbones and SkySuites ala KE and JL are far superior, I actually don't mind this type of seat -- I believe these are the BE Diamond seats. KLM has installed them across their fleet (minus their A330s which desperately need updating, and their 787 which have a nice reverse herringbone product), and I've flown them a few times and have been satisfied. DL has installed these seats on some of their 757 fleet and the first time I flew those SFO-JFK I was pleasantly surprised on how much I slept (could have been the incessant Napa "wine tasting" and drinking that occurred that weekend as well).

They are not the widest but the foot cubby is sufficient. I definitely wanted to get row 1 but of course that was booked already. Again, to put things in perspective, I was happy just to get a decent lieflat on this 15 hour redeye flight down under.

I also find that the UA iteration of these seats is well... Boring. They almost seem like your factory-standard seats, with little customization or design elements (like the KLM seats which have a little bit more of a designer's touch with the fancy partition between seats).

Some cabin shots.

Shortly after boarding, the flight service leader Melissa came around and introduced herself to all the J passengers individually. What a lovely individual who knows what she's doing. Tonight's crew was PmCO. Apparently the Australia flights have a mix of both senior and junior FAs and I was too woozy to understand the contract differences, but Melissa mentioned that she had just flown in that morning from SYD and does this route quite frequently. She was pleasant, though she did walk quite heavily, I did notice.

I'm not sure if the blue (and they are BLUE) FA uniforms are new, but I quite liked them--and I think this is only due to the fact that I am used to the black/white attire of DL FAs with their splash of red here and there. But either way the uniforms are done quite nicely, I thought. The blue provides a splash of color in an otherwise bland looking cabin.

I also requested the sleep items (gel pillow, mattress pad, duvet, pajamas, slippers) and figured I would get them after takeoff, but the FA working my row (Tanja) delivered them pre-takeoff... Consistent UA J flyers know that with the introduction of the new Polaris service items, there is absolutely 0 space to store any of this. You get:
  • A Polaris/Saks amenity kit
  • A light blanket
  • A full sized pillow
  • A gel pillow
  • A mattress pad
  • A duvet
  • Slippers
  • Pajamas
  • Noise cancelling headphones

Of course in the BE Diamond seats there is nowhere to put these, so I stuck everything in an empty mini-overhead bin with some others in nooks and crannies around my seat. Of course there are "no stowage during takeoff and landing" stickers EVERYWHERE, and being used to BR (who require you to put EVERYTHING in the overhead bin) I put all the sleep items up above and left my travel pack (a repurposed DL TUMI amenity kit, haha, with chargers, chapstick, etc. in it) in the tray below the IFE screen. Wasn't asked to remove anything.

Menus were passed out and PDBs offered. I took a sparkling water with lime, my drink of choice.

Tonight's dinner menu.

I chose the poached salmon for dinner and was curious how UA would do a salmon. DL tends to do fantastic salmon dishes IME.

Against better judgment, I chose the southwestern omelette for breakfast and already knew it would not be good. I can't remember the last time I had an egg dish (that has been sitting in the cooler for 15+ hours) turn out nicely. Perhaps I need to fly LH F, OZ J, or CX to get some nice eggs.

The captain welcomed passengers on board and the standard safety video and departure formalities were conducted with an on-time pushback. Normally I like to get a window seat but the thought of 15 hours of needing to climb over a seatmate pushed me into an aisle seat.

J was full tonight, with 44 booked passengers (interestingly full for a Wednesday night) and 4 nonrevs.

30 minutes after takeoff dinner began.

I began with a nice red tasting flight just to sample as I don't really drink when flying. Can't remember the wines (and I forgot to bring the menu off the flight with me sadly), but the Spanish one to the right was nice. Was it a Tempranillo? Who knows. Perhaps I'm partial to Spanish wines as I spent nearly a year studying in Southern Spain.

Next up the starter, the nori wrapped salmon and cabbage salad. FAs came around and distributed bread.

The salmon was actually divine. Funny thing is apparently each FA gets 12 seats. If you can imagine both forward and aft J cabins being in a grid, each FA gets 12 seats to serve (two on the window side and one from the middle), x4 rows = 12 seats. For example, FA 1 gets Rows 1-4 ABD, FA 2 gets Rows 1-4 EKL, FA 3 gets rows 5-8 ABD, and FA 4 gets rows 5-8 EKL.

This meant my FA, Tanja, actually had to serve her half of the aft J cabin and then her 3 seats in row 5, in the forward J cabin since the galley separates rows 5 and 6.

Essentially she has to run between the forward and aft J cabins, which means her hand appeared out of thin air from the curtain and would plop something down on my tray and hustle back to the aft cabin.

It was also funny watching FA 2 come and look after rows 1-4 EKL and turn right around once she reached row 5, to the dismay of the couple traveling in 5KL.

Closeups of the starters.

The cabbage salad is fine. Nothing too special. I would have liked some sort of rocket/parmesan combo, perhaps with some little tomatoes and cucumbers? I guess the theme was Asian here so generally cabbage is pretty acceptable. However the EVOO/balsamic dressing combo strayed from normal Far-eastern ingredients. A bit of east-meets-west, I suppose.

The famed UA salt and pepper shakers. I wonder if these are disposable/single-use? I did not find a opening to deposit more S&P.

The entree arrived some 1.5 hours into the meal service. I noted that I was the last to get the poached salmon as 5KL were informed that there was no more salmon.

Bravo, UA! Nicely tender and translucent pink on the inside, and HOT! Of course, I would not call these cruciferous stems "broccollini," but rather your garden variety. Nonetheless, actually a quite tasty dish which I finished all of it. I did not think I'd like the lentil chili (being personally adverse to both lentils and chili), but it was quite nice with the salmon.

While this dish was somewhat pedestrian (I am used to DL's new fanciful menu marketing and preparations), it did the job and was nicely executed. I guess Tanja's rushed service finally turned into something good.

Tanja came around and offered cheese. Being a sucker for a nice cheese plate I succumbed. We chatted about PmCO crews and the differing contracts and how UA expects all crews to have similar contracts next year when a single operating certificate is achieved. I know little about the UA/CO merger (never flying either) but I guess I spoke the right language (I have VS/AS merger experience, I guess) so Tanja stayed chatting with me for a little bit before returning to her duties. Apparently the FAs (at least these PmCO FAs) get a 5 hour paid break on this flight. Not too shabby. Apparently they layover for 24 hours before flying the return back to SFO and are paid 5 flight hours for that 24 hour layover. Again, not too bad IMO.

Again, quite standard, though I wish UA would offer some sort of fig jam, berry compote, or onion marmalade like DL does.

Last but not least, the famed dessert. 5KL were not impressed as they were stuffed (and a middle aged couple wanting to watch their weight), but with some persuading from myself and Tanja, we got them to share a sundae.

I of course, sampled everything, except for the apple pie (which curiously looks exactly the same as KLM's "Dutch apple pie" dessert... You mean to tell me LSG SkyChefs cater all airlines?!?!).

Salted caramel pretzel bar and some oat thing (did not finish the oat thing, only the bar).

The UA sundae with all the fixings, minus the chipping glass cups.

Tanja mentioned that it's quite nice catering pre-scoops all the ice cream for them, but also mentioned that she wouldn't mind doing it -- it would be a fun aspect of the service.

After the service concluded, the cabin lights were dimmed, water bottles were passed out, and most people went to sleep. I finished off my movie (The Accountant, very good) and also prepared to head to sleep.

UA's 787s have a J cabin between doors 1 and 2, and then a mini cabin behind door 2. Unfortunately, row 5 is the last row in the front J cabin which means close proximity to the lav and the galley. However, being as tired as I was, and with the assistance of a dangerous Melatonin/Benadryl combo (you didn't see that here kids...), I slept quite well for nearly 8 hours!! UA doesn't offer any sort of turndown service (not that I asked, being a rather independent traveler), so I made up my bed myself... It is quite a time consuming process but the bedding is fantastic. What a huge improvement and even better than what DL provides.

I woke up with about 3.5 hours to go, and thought about inquiring about what the "hot snack" options were but ended up letting it go. I actually was quite hungry though, but figured breakfast would be soon.

Indeed, a 2 hours to departure, the lights were turned on and breakfast service commenced.

Nothing special here:

The omelette was actually quite spicy, and I figured the level of heat probably was not appropriate for the general North American public. But being of Asian descent I appreciated it and wanted even more :P

At least the fruit was fresh.

I watched another movie (Allied with Brad Pitt, also a decent movie if you don't want to think too much) and pretty soon were were landing in SYD. Immigration cards and fast track arrivals cards were passed out.

I popped in my Telstra SIM card I had topped up from a previous SYD trip and off we went to SYD.

Arrivals was generally a pretty quick process, though area for processing is not well signed-- many confused people. I've done it before so I knew where to go, but the fast track arrivals slip that UA gives its J passengers is pretty useless -- IME nobody looks at it and just waves you through. Early morning is a pretty busy time at SYD as all the overseas redeyes are arriving (including fellow DL 41 from LAX).

Having no checked bags I made my way to the Sydney Airport Train and caught a ride into town.

Emerged out of St. James station and it was like deja-vu with this view.

The Hilton Sydney was a short 3 minute walk from St. James station.

NEXT UP: Hilton Sydney and Sydney sights

Last edited by bj27; Jul 19, 17 at 1:17 am
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