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Sampling Transcon p.s. and AFS Business Class

Sampling Transcon p.s. and AFS Business Class

Old Mar 13, 11, 8:48 pm
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Sampling Transcon p.s. and AFS Business Class

In late February, I received news that I had been admitted to grad school into a nice university near Washington, DC. The university was a top choice of mine so I knew I had to go out to DC from San Francisco to pay a visit to the school and take a tour. I arranged to travel out to DC from March 8-12. Due to my flying savvy-ness that I had picked up from lots of FTing, I chose to use New York JFK as my connection point instead of flying nonstop. This would allow me to try out United p.s. as well as American AFS. On the outbound, I redeemed a Business award SFO-JFK-IAD for 25K miles from my Dad's 1K account and on the return, I purchased an AA coach ticket DCA-JFK-SFO and upgraded with my AA miles.

Tuesday, March 8
United Flight 34, SFO-JFK
Boeing 757-200 p.s.
Business Class, Seat 9C

I picked this flight so I could fly redeye across the country and not lose most of a day flying east. I figured the p.s. Business seats would allow me to at least get some decent sleep. I would later regret this choice, not because of anything UA did, but because I have a hard time sleeping on planes due to the dry air. Around 7pm, I hopped on BART and headed out to SFO arriving about an hour later. Initially, I was seated in 6D, as exit rows are reserved for Premier Executives and up. When I arrived at the airport, the friendly check in agents re-assigned me to 9C on my request. I then went through the International terminal security as it was closer from where I was and then went to the Intl RCC. The RCC agent welcomed me in and I proceeded upstairs to relax for a bit. The intl RCC was fine, but I decided after a few minutes to head over to the domestic RCC and be closer to my gate. The domestic RCC agents were cordial and welcomed me in. When I headed over to the food bar, I was surprised to see carrots available to snack on. It's a nice break from the normal cookies/crackers you see in airport lounges. I grabbed a few and found a nice chair to sit in and pulled out my iPad and watched MegaMind while waiting for my plane. The RCC is a nice perk that comes with p.s. C and F tickets, but I don't think I'd actually pay money to use it. If it had showers, I'd definitely buy a pass or even a membership.

Soon, it was time to head to my flight. I grabbed a banana on my out and walked over to my gate, where boarding was already in progress. Thanks to my C ticket, I got to zip down the red carpet line (something I don't get to normally do on UA) and board the aircraft. This would also be my first time on p.s. I must say, seat-wise it definitely was a step up from the typical domestic flights. When I got to my seat 9C, I couldn't believe how much legroom I had. The FA's were also quite friendly and offered to hang up my jacket. One of them even showed me how to use the seat, which was a bit new to me. The only premium seats I've had on UA were the older Intl F suites and the typical domestic F seats. Soon, it was time to take off and I quickly reclined my seat, and got comfortable. I managed to sleep for about 3.5 hours but woke up dehydrated. I was quickly reminded of the number 1 thing I don't like about air travel, the dry air, but unless you fly on a private jet, it's just the nature of being in the air. I figured if I couldn't sleep anymore, at least I could use a nice snack. Since everyone else was sleeping, I didn't want to hit the call button, so I quietly waved to the FA's sitting in the jumpseat, and inquired about the snack offering. I chose the fruit plate, which was quite delicious. Afterwards, I kept drinking water and more water to rehydrate myself, after which I felt a lot better. Soon, we descended and landed at JFK. Upon entering the terminal, I was surprised at how small the terminal was. Since JFK was one of the largest international O/D airports, I was expecting some grand terminal like SFO's intl terminal, so I was a bit surprised at how small T7 was. The gate agent at our gate was kind enough to give me a quick rundown of where everything was in the terminal as this was my first visit to JFK T7.

After taking a stroll through T7, I decided to try my luck with the RCC. I had heard reports of people arriving on p.s. C/F flights being let in, so I figured why not give it a shot? I walked up to the agent who politely told me that even though technically I didn't have access on arrival, she told me not to worry and invited me inside. Once inside, I sat down and relaxed for the over 2 hour layover, surfing the web on my iPad. The granola tower provided for a nice breakfast. When I had to use the bathroom, it was being cleaned and the agent let me use the IFL bathroom. On the way out, I had a brief chat with the agent about p.s. and she told me that even though technically they weren't supposed to let arriving p.s. passengers in, they had an unwritten rule to let us in anyways because there's not many connecting passengers going to IAD and few people care to use a lounge on arrival, especially one that doesn't have showers.

Time to board the CRJ-200 to IAD.
United Express 5698, JFK-IAD
Economy Class, Seat 1C
Atlantic Southeast Airlines

I arrived at the gate towards the end of boarding the CRJ-200. My favorite seat on the plane is 1C, and I try to board at last call. Why? So I can spend as little time as possible on it! By being in 1C, I can be sure that I'm one of the first ones off the plane. Luckily, there was no one in 1D so I had some extra room. It was a short uneventful ride down to IAD. Upon landing, I managed to spot for the first time a UA/CO hybrid livery plane, before I had only heard of it, now I had seen it. After arriving, I got on one of the mobile lounges for the ride to the main terminal, my first ride on such a vehicle. Once in the main terminal, I quickly understood why people don't like IAD, it took me forever to get out of the airport. I had to ask several TSA agents that I came across how to leave the airport. Finally, I managed to get out and headed to car rental, picked up my car and drove to my hotel.

#------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
After arriving at my hotel, I unpacked, took a shower, and headed out to my new school to take a peek at it. I was quite impressed by the facilities. Everything was modern and brand new. While historical buildings are nice to look at, I prefer the functionality of new buildings. IMO, things from the past should stay in the past. The next day, I spent the entire day on campus visiting my new department and meeting professors and learning about the graduate program they had. I left very impressed and wanted to accept their offer on the spot, but I knew I had to wait until I heard back from a few other schools that I applied to.

The third day, I went out to DC proper and spent the morning walking around the National Mall. Even though parking around DC is expensive, the free admission of most of the museums offset the parking costs. My first stop, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The White House seemed a lot smaller than I expected, but that's probably because of watching too many close up shots on TV. I then strolled over to the Washington Monument, obtained a ticket for a noon tour which I ended up missing, and visited a few of the Smithsonian museums, and finally Congress. Afterwards, I went out to go see a high school friend who was now living in DC. We went out and had dinner, hung out, and had a good time. Soon, it was time for me to head back to my hotel and get ready to fly back to SFO the next morning.

#------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
For the return trip, I'd be flying on American and departing out of DCA. Upon arriving at DCA, I can see why people prefer DCA. You just can't beat the location! After checking in, I realized I had a full 1 liter bottle of water that I had purchased the night before. Not wanting to throw it away, I quickly drank the entire thing before proceeding through security. I thought about going up to the Admirals Club and purchasing a day pass but since I only had about 10 minutes before boarding, I decided to wait until I got to JFK to decide if I wanted one.

DCA-JFK
American Eagle Flight 3837
CRJ-700, Seat 1A
First Class

This would be the first time ever for me on Eagle's CR7 service. I quickly seated myself in Seat 1A and noticed the enormous width of the seat. It was nice to spread out and to have a window seat that had direct aisle access. In the end, I noticed we had 4 of the 9 seats empty, so I could've burned an e500 if I hadn't upgraded with miles. The flight was nice and short. The FA made sure I was well taken care of, constantly bringing me drinks and snacks. On my 5 Eagle flights to date, I haven't had a bad experience so far. We soon landed in JFK and it was time to head into the terminal and figure out what I would do for 3 hours before my next flight.

While still deciding on whether or not to go buy a day-pass to the AC, I stopped at a charging station to plug in my iPad and call my mother. The conversation went on longer than I expected, and after finishing talking to my mother, I decided to shoot some juice into my iPhone before heading to the AC. I happened to be right next to a Pakistani woman who was struggling trying to get her iPhone's dead battery to charge and she asked me for some help. Turns out the charger she was using was defective, so I lent her mine. Turns out she used to be a GA for United and she started telling me stories about passengers she's dealt with over the years. By the time we were done talking, all my gadgets were fully charged and her phone was almost fully charged as well. She was really grateful and offered to buy me a snack but I declined since I'd be having dinner on my flight.

Now with just 20 minutes before boarding, it was no longer worth buying a pass to the AC so I bid her farewell and proceeded to the monitors to figure out where my flight was. This is where I had a moment where I knew I'd been flying too much. For some reason, I kept looking for New York on the departures screen, and couldn't find it. I checked another screen and still couldn't find it. Exasperated, I went up the nearest gate agent and explained that I couldn't find New York on the departures screen. Laughing, she told me I was in New York, and she took my BP and looked up my gate. Turns out it was the next flight leaving that very gate.

American Airlines Flight 17
JFK-SFO, Boeing 767-200ER
Business Class, Seat 10G

Soon, boarding was called. When I boarded, I found out that the Business cabin only had 13 of the seats occupied! I realized that if I had been brave enough to play upgrade roulette with my e500s, I would've won the lottery that day! Oh well, as a Gold, if I really want an upgrade, I know the only way to guarantee it is to use miles. One of the FAs then let me visit the flight deck and the pilots invited me in to have a chat with them. I learned quite a bit about the differences between the 762, 763, and 752 flight decks. We then had a talk about other types of planes that they've flown. After a few minutes, I thanked them for the chat and let them get back to work. Seeing the empty cabin, I decided to move to 10A for takeoff and 10B for the flight. I did notice that the 762 J seats were a bit narrower than other planes but it sure as heck beats coach on a 6 hour flight! We left the gate, and rolled down the runway and I was on my way back to SFO. Before dinner, the FAs handed out the little personal video players and headphones. Both of mines were defective and the FA quickly swapped my kit for another one.

During dinner, I watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 1. For dinner, we had the customary salad and cajun chicken slices for the appetizer. I then chose the beef fillet for the entree. I noticed the beef was tasting strange, but then I realized it was the sauce that was contributing the taste. After taking off the sauce, the beef tasted much better. Whenever I fly in premium cabins, I pick something off the alcohol menu that I've never tried before so I can learn about all the different alcoholic drinks without spending money. This time, I chose Bailey's Irish Creme on the rocks. The thing was amazingly good, and went really well with the mixed nuts. Now I have two favorites, Mai Tai and Irish Creme. For dessert, the FA let me have both the cheese plate and the ice cream sundae. The ice cream was as usual delicious and a great way to cap off a meal at 35,000 feet.

I then kept watching the Harry Potter movie. I never thought I'd finally be seeing it on a plane! After the movie was over, I plugged in my iPhone and took a nap until the FA gently woke me to collect the video player and headset. Next time, I'm going to buy my own QC15s, which I won't have to give back! I'm not sure if they did the cookie service, if they did, I must've slept through it. I was quite full anyways, and I needed the sleep more than the cookie. We landed at SFO about 30 minutes early, which made me really happy as I had an hour long BART ride back to the east bay, and the earlier I could get home, the earlier I could sleep! Normally I don't mind my premium flights going long but this time, I really wanted to get home ASAP! After leaving the plane, I asked an SFO gate agent about the chances of a flight being as lightly loaded as mine in J and he told me it was very unusual and not to expect any e500 upgrades as a Gold member. I would've won the lottery that day if I had played, but for a 6 hour flight, I wasn't about to chance a lottery upgrade.

I picked a great day to fly west as that night, we'd be back on Daylight time. I basically gained three hours on the time zone change, and lost an hour on DST. Overall, still a net gain of two hours, so my sleep schedule was minimally disrupted.

Overall, I was quite impressed by the transcon p.s. and AFS service of UA and AA. It was exactly as it was defined, a step above domestic service, but nowhere near international service. I've flown International F before, as well as a few domestic F flights flown on International aircraft, but never a dedicated domestic Flagship aircraft. Definitely a nice use of miles and something I'd do again, except for the redeye flight, which I must learn to avoid! Eagle F was also nice and I'm now batting 2 for 2 in getting an empty seat next to me on United's CR2 aircraft.

Next time, I'll try to sample UA and AA's p.s./AFS First Class service. I don't want to spend all the miles solely on a domestic flight but since UA and AA both fly to PVG from LAX, I can try out the 3 class transcon F flights as part of an intl F award ticket.
bniu is offline  
Old Mar 15, 11, 12:39 am
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If you fly enough to know one needs to hydrate the day before or the day of flight so one does not get dehydrate.


Originally Posted by bniu View Post
I managed to sleep for about 3.5 hours but woke up dehydrated. I was quickly reminded of the number 1 thing I don't like about air travel, the dry air, but unless you fly on a private jet, it's just the nature of being in the air. I figured if I couldn't sleep anymore, at least I could use a nice snack. Since everyone else was sleeping, I didn't want to hit the call button, so I quietly waved to the FA's sitting in the jumpseat, and inquired about the snack offering. I chose the fruit plate, which was quite delicious. Afterwards, I kept drinking water and more water to rehydrate myself, after which I felt a lot better.
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Old Mar 16, 11, 3:06 pm
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One of the best trip reports I've ever read. Thank you very much!!!
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