UA vs. AC Transcon J Comparison

Old Jul 25, 19, 3:13 pm
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UA vs. AC Transcon J Comparison

So I've heard lots of folks sing the praises of UA's transcon J (or domestic F) product relative to that of AC. Writing this aboard UA608 (SFO-YYZ) today in a rare changeup. TLDR: WHAT A JOKE.

1) Lunch was limited to 2 options: chicken salad or mac & cheese. I opted for the salad and while it tasted fine, the portion was that of a snack at best. Most of the cabin also wanted salad and there weren't enough, so many had to settle for something that is likely much unhealthier than they would have liked.

2) Single FA serving the J cabin of 12 was extremely rude. While taking meal orders, she asked me if I would like the mac & cheese if the salad was no longer available. I was confused by the 'if' since on AC, they do the math real-time and wouldn't offer you something that's not available. When I asked what she meant and what other options I had, she responded with "please don't make this difficult". I was so stunned I didn't even know how to respond.

3) During the flight, the FA was rarely available and never proactively offered drinks. I was quite thirsty and asked for water a few times when she passed by. On maybe the 4th or 5th time, she gave me a snarky "seriously?!" and eye roll before stomping away. When she returned with the water, she slammed it on the tray table, picked up the napkin and cutlery left over from the meal service with such force that the knife went flying and almost right into my laptop screen.

Yes, this is only 1 datapoint, and yes, this was not a Polaris or widebody route. But after today's experience, it's going to be a while before I give United another shot.
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Old Jul 25, 19, 3:31 pm
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I personally despise UA F/J. I have only done it 3x but had similar “service” as OP each time.

Disclaimer: have never flown Polaris.
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Old Jul 25, 19, 3:42 pm
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The J or as they like to call it F on UA (for domestics) is a real hit and miss. You were on a narrow body and I've had similar experiences. I've taken 787 wide-body domestic flights and it does seem better but UA loves the mac & cheese and or cheeseburger meal options.
The best service I've had on UA is with their 2nd Tier carriers on the EMB's and CRJ's.
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Old Jul 25, 19, 3:55 pm
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It sounds like most of your complaints are about the FA, and would therefore be more appropriate in the UA forum.

For the rest, I feel like you're better off comparing UA SFO-YYZ to AC YVR-BOS or some other non-PLH, non-Signature route, if you just want a "transcon" comparison.

If you want to make this a SFO-YYZ comparison, then that's fine, but AC wins in pretty much every respect there, without even thinking about lie-flats.

In terms of being asked your "second choice", UA just does it differently. Rather than zig-zag through the cabin, they go front to back and then figure it out in the galley. Given the complaints I've read on this forum about the zig-zag behavior on AC, I can definitely appreciate why they do it differently. I'm not sure which I prefer.
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Old Jul 25, 19, 3:55 pm
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Originally Posted by capedreamer View Post
So I've heard lots of folks sing the praises of UA's transcon J (or domestic F) product relative to that of AC. Writing this aboard UA608 (SFO-YYZ) today in a rare changeup. TLDR: WHAT A JOKE.
It depends on whether you are flying a United ps route or not. I would expect regular UA service on SFO-YYZ, which does not measure up well against AC domestic J, even without the rude FA. (You should complain about the FA -- that sort of behaviour is unacceptable.)
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Old Jul 25, 19, 4:02 pm
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Even though AC and UA are competing on the same route, it's really apples or oranges as far as product. On YYZ-SFO AC flights, this is a Signature Service route on Widebody aircraft and Premium Long Haul on narrowbody, so gets a better meal spec vs. a standard transcon flight. UA's comparable route would be their EWR-SFO/LAX routes with upgraded meal service. So yes, AC's product is far superior on this route vs. UA, as AC treats this as a premium route whereas for UA, it's like any other narrowbody transcon. Agreed that UA's meal portions on their standard domestic flights are quite small and could use some improvement.

Re: the FA asking if your second choice is OK, this is the standard approach for UA. AC will often zig-zag the cabin by status. UA typically takes meal orders front to back and then discreetly prioritizes by status in the galley, with Global Services and 1K members getting first choice.

It definitely sounds like you got a bad apple as far as UA FA's go. I find most of them fantastic, but similar to AC, you get a few bad apples who seem to think that service isn't part of their job description. I find I encounter one of these grumpy UA FA's at about the same frequency that I encounter grumpy AC FA's. It's definitely frustrating when it happens.

I wouldn't really use a 737 narrowbody flight as a proxy for what to expect on a Polaris flight. I personally prefer UA's Polaris seats to AC's J seats, but both are quite good.
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Old Jul 25, 19, 4:09 pm
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AC better than UA

I'm United 1K and can confirm that AC hard product is much better than UA. The food, presentation, napkin, wine, etc. is better on AC. FA's can be good or bad on either... I'm just making comparison to the hard product that does not change. Hate the cheap, grey 100% polyester napkins and tray cloth on UA. The wine on UA must be $5.99 a bottle max.
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Old Jul 25, 19, 4:38 pm
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...but I DO like the Bloody Mary's on the UA morning flights served at the gate before pushback!
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Old Jul 25, 19, 4:44 pm
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Originally Posted by james dean View Post
...but I DO like the Bloody Mary's on the UA morning flights served at the gate before pushback!
Or Mimosas. Or Coffee & Baileys. UA does have the edge in the pre-departure beverage department.
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Old Jul 25, 19, 4:57 pm
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AC is better than UA any day of the week. Though UA does offer cheap fares to Hawaii with lie flats a lot of the time.
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Old Jul 25, 19, 5:11 pm
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If you're paying for J, AC wins hands down SFO-YYZ, but as others said, it's not a particularly fair comparison. With that being said, I generally prefer the premium product on AC over UA in most regards, except the long-haul J seats. It could just be from familiarity, but I sleep like a rock in the pmCO BE Diamond seats.

But as 1K, most Canada routes, including YYZ-SFO, are pretty easy upgrades except IAH and A319 flights, so I will continue to fly UA transborder. (for some reason, I am allowed to buy Lat FPs for even short hops in Canada and YYZ-NYC but have to fly in the back of the bus for other transborder/US travel unless it's a transcon...)
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Old Jul 26, 19, 9:31 am
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I think the summary is correct that AC is better than UA in pretty much every way on long haul flights (three vs two meal choices, menus vs no menus, bread basket vs single roll, cookies/ice cream vs plated dessert, snack basket vs hunger, OK wine vs paint thinner), but not sure why people feel it is an unfair comparison to look at SFO-YYZ on both carriers. The fact that UA only prioritizes NYC/EWR - LAX/SFO for upgraded service doesn't make the comparison unfair. Without exception AC long haul service is superior to UA's comparable long haul route with or without Signature service.
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Old Jul 26, 19, 10:21 am
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This is an assessment of a single personal interaction, rather than any objective comparison about competing service between two airlines. Agree with many of the above responders with some of their onboard preferences, but some pretty important factors such as price, schedule and connectivity beyond O&D have been overlooked. Most people who consciously select an airline consider more than colour of napkin or quality of salad.
I've trended towards AC for my domestic flights and with UA on most transborder flights. On either carrier, in thirty years of flying, I have yet to encounter a rude flight attendant. I don't believe it's luck or a fluke.
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Old Jul 26, 19, 10:42 am
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Originally Posted by yyzgigi View Post
I think the summary is correct that AC is better than UA in pretty much every way on long haul flights (three vs two meal choices, menus vs no menus, bread basket vs single roll, cookies/ice cream vs plated dessert, snack basket vs hunger, OK wine vs paint thinner), but not sure why people feel it is an unfair comparison to look at SFO-YYZ on both carriers. The fact that UA only prioritizes NYC/EWR - LAX/SFO for upgraded service doesn't make the comparison unfair. Without exception AC long haul service is superior to UA's comparable long haul route with or without Signature service.
I agree that AC long haul is better, however, do you think it would be fair to compare SFO-EWR with YVR-BOS?

If you want to compare "transcon J", you need to look at routes that are either both considered premium, or both not.

If you want to compare SFO-YYZ, that's fine, but then it should be "SFO-YYZ", not "transcon". It's not that it's an unfair comparison in general, it's just an unfair comparison given the thread title.
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Old Jul 26, 19, 10:58 am
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Meh. A thinly-disguised rant dressed up as an objective comparison.
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