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United P.S. JFK-SFO on UA011 in First

United P.S. JFK-SFO on UA011 in First

Old May 26, 09, 11:21 am
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Join Date: Oct 2007
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Programs: CX DM, BA G4L, QR PLT, EK PLT, Hyatt CourtesyC, HH DM, AA PLT, BonvoyGld, LH, AI, UA, DL
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United P.S. JFK-SFO on UA011 in First

After a couple of days in Chicago facing the coldest day in decades (won’t bore you with TR’s on UA beverage service in whY EWR-ORD-EWR), and a week of sub zero temperatures in NY/NJ, I was looking forward to some California sun. I confirmed my carmel car to JFK from NJ and printed off my $5 off coupon from the website, and checked the flight load. It was showing full in Y, 60% C and 30% F. I went online to web check-in and got that wonderful offer for an upgrade. Given that this was an SQ redemption on expiring miles from my mum’s account, I was happy with the PS C class seat, but after bouncing back and forth a few minutes, temptation got the better of me and I spent the $408 dollars to upgrade myself to F. (In retrospect given that it was a day flight, it wasn’t really worth that much as I later learnt).
I headed towards JFK after an adventure getting the taxi up the driveway of my uncle’s house given that it was still icy, and I dreaded the thought of carrying down my 2 65pound bags down that slope. The car ride was relatively uneventful and without major traffic, we pulled up to JFK T7 at 9:15for an 11:00 departure on UA011. I was originally booked on UA893 at 08:00, which would have meant a 5am departure from home, but luckily snagged an opening in the redemption availability by calling Krisflyer in SIN two day’s prior.

At T7 I was being taunted by my longing for some stiff upper lip BA service – BA, BA everywhere but not a drop for me. I proceeded to the United premium check at the far right of the terminal, and found a surly check-in dragon who tagged my bags and checked my id. She was about to say something about their weight, when I flashed the LH Senator card that entitled me to three pieces of 70pounds each, which I was well under.

Security was empty as the BA wide-bodies to LHR had departed and most of the CX 841 Pax had already gone through, baring a few Japanese smokers who were busy puffing way outside in the freezing cold. I joined them lit up and stubbed out because it was just too cold and I am not that much of a smoker (or so I tell myself). I love T7 – it is modern, yet quaint and easy to navigate. Out through security, shoes back on, belt back on – the usual dance we are all so familiar with – and took the two escalators and went to check out the UA First lounge.

The lounge is a protected sanctuary within the RCC with a glass sliding door keeping the unsuspecting stradler from drifting in. I presented my b’pass at the entrance and was directed to my left into the First Class section. There were drinks, a reasonable continental breakfast selection and some very nice Westin non-alcoholic citrus beverage (flavored water to be less snotty). The desk inside was unmanned, but a friendly gentleman appeared in UA garb shortly and sat down to check his computer. He acknowledged everyone in the lounge as they walked by. Some Hollywood producers (at least that’s what they looked like) and Chevy chase were sitting together, each taking turns on their cell phone speaking at deafening volumes. I wanted to walk around the terminal so I put my carry-on’s in the cloak room and headed out. The lounge dragons sitting outside gave me a funny stare, so out of fear for my belongings I asked if it was ok if I left them in the cloak room. One of the ladies jumped up and said no, no way. I explained that we were in a secure zone and they had been through security already but she insisted. Quite taken a back by her brashness, I collected my belongings and marched over to the BA Terraces (which I was planning on stopping by in any case). I presented by boarding pass as I hunted for my BA card. The attendant at first looked a little puzzle but the minute she saw me rummaging she figured what I was looking for. She looked at my BP and referred to me by name and said “Mr. Mahtaney, if you can’t find your Gold card, I can look you up in the system by name.” I told her I knew my number by heart if it was easier, and called it out. Just as she confirmed I was Gold, my card magically appeared. We had a chuckle about it and I told her about how I was scolded in the UA lounge and how I was going through BA withdrawal. She said she knew this wasn’t my usual first cabin on BA (I think she remembered me from my more frequent days into and out of JFK), but hoped it would help satisfy my craving and told me I could leave my bag in the cloak room and roam around the terminal and she would keep an eye on it for me. As I walked away she joked “I assume you know where the cloak room is?” I joked back “better than I know where the one in my house is.”

I went to the Hudson news, bought a magazine and some mints and headed back to the lounge where I stocked up on the UK edition of Business traveler for the month, fresh off the press from LHR and some international newspapers for my UA flight. The lovely BA lady came to find me and tell me she called the UA lounge and they had just announced boarding for my flight (she told me on check-in they don’t make announcements for UA and I was preparing to head over in any case, but it was a nice touch). I told her to say hello to a friend who worked ticketing at JFK – more like a savior who had handled many an AONE reissue for me, and she said she would.

Boarding was chaotic at the crowded gate as people clamored for upgrades and seat changes (boarding at T7 is usually quite chaotic since the holding areas around the gates are quite small, but it beats the giant mess some of the other terminal at JFK are in). I maneuvered my way to the red carpet and was invited to board and greeted my name (so far so good, my second UA P.S. experience – I was impressed the first time, but that was in C).

We were boarding from door 1 which meant that everyone entering the aircraft passed all cabins. My previous experience ex SFO boarded from door, which meant FCL pax took a left into their private haven. This meant the FA couldn’t start his pre-take off services till after boarding on during the breaks of streaming passengers on this full flight. He handled it very well, sneaking in and out of the cabin and apologizing for not being more efficient. We had a chat about how door 1 boarding was a pain, and he told me I must fly very often to notice these things, I smiled in agreement. I listened to some music on my ipod and had sipped on some orange juice while flipping through my latest edition of BT (thank you BA), and charted out my reading for the day. There were no entertainment guides so I wasn’t sure what was going to be playing on the devices (AA provides these details on the website but that is because all their 767 services have the same entertainment choices, whereas for UA it’s only on the P.S. flight to my knowledge that they have the handhelds). Boarding completed and the FA and GA where chatting about how painful it was to have boarding through L1 and how he couldn’t greet his guests properly. I was eaves dropping and they caught me and we had a laugh and I told the FA he did a great job in spite of the boarding (note to self and other FT’ers – always compliment an FA early on in the flight to ensure good service). Menu’s were distributed and shortly thereafter orders taken:
Here’s what the menu looked like:


Welcome to p.s., United’s premium service offered on flights between New York and Los Angeles and New York and San Francisco. On today’s flight we are pleased to present a menu offering a variety of selections designer by our culinary team under the guidance of United Airlines Executive Cheff, Gerry Gulli.
To complement your mail and add to your enjoyment, we invite you to pair each course with an exception wine selected by author and connoisseur, Doug Frost. Mr. Frost is one of only three experts in the world to have earned the prestigious distinction of being both a Master of Wine and a Master Sommelier. He brings his passion and expertise to our international wine choices.
Thank you for choosing United.



featured cocktail


COASTAL BREEZE
In celebration of our partnership with Westin Hotels & Resorts, we’ve created Coastal Breeze inspired by the company’s SuperFoods program, which seeks to enhance your well-beign via nutrient-rich whole foods. Named for our coast to coast Premium Service, our Breeze takes that traditional Bay Breeze and turns it on its head, adding Absolut’s delicious Mandarin Orange Vodka to cranberry juice cocktail and throwing in a splash of grapefruit juice.

to begin

SMOKED SALMON ROLL ON A BED OF MARINATED CUCUMBERS

Fresh seasonal greens with cherry tomatoes, garbanzo beans
and chopped pecans

Served with your choice of dressing:
Ranch or Asian sesame ginger



main course

SPINACH AND RICOTTA STUFFED CHICKEN WITH RED PEPPER SAUCE
Couscous and chives, stir-fried vegetables

STIR- FRIED SHRIMP
Egg fried rice, California stir-fried vegetables

LAYERED FOACCIA SANDWICH
With turkey, roast beef and salami served with fried sweet potatoes



dessert

CHOCOLATE AND GRAND VANILLA ICE CREAM
With a choice of hot fudge or mixed berries
topped with toasted almonds and whipped cream

Winelist

The wines served aboard United’s flights are chose in consultation with Doug Frost, columnist and author (On Wine, 2001; Uncorking Wine, 1996). Mr. Frost has been nominated for the prestigious James Beard Foundation Award and is the one of only three people to hold both the title of Master Sommelier and Master of Wine.
Mr. Frost and United Airlines have taken a truly global perspective in selecting wines for your appreciation and enjoyment

featured wines

white wine


LOCKWOOD VINEYARD CHARDONNAY 2007 MONTEREY
Califonia’s reputation for buttery Chardonnay doesn’t from Napa Valley’s wines; it comes from the Central coast of California. Lockwood’s Chardonnay is cut from that cloth, with pear, spices, warm buttered toast and green apples. Lockwood is one the stars of the Monterey area, and a great producer not only of excellent Central Coast reds, but of voluptuous American Chardonnay too.

red wine

AQUINAS NAPA VALLEY 2005 CABERNET SAUVIGNON
This lush Cabernet, full of black plums and spice, and further proof that the Napa Valley deserves it spot on top of the heap of the world Cabernet. Warm days and cool nights contribute to the richness and power of Napa’s wines, but the Aquinas has a bit more seductiveness than the typical sheer power seen from the Napa Valley Cabernet.

beverages

STARBUCKS COFFEE

TEA

ASSORTED SOFT DRINKS


UA has an order taking hierarchy, which I personally think is a great way to tackle the fact they are catering exact number of meals in the current economic situation. The FA’s have this down to a discrete art (for the most part), while it can be embarrassing if the person seated next to you doesn’t get their choice because order their order is taken last for being a lowly base member. Luckily for me 1A was staff travel so she didn’t get her meal choice, and I was saved the embarrassment of a revenue pax being denied so for me. If I am not wrong (UA guys jump in here if I got this wrong) the order is Global Services / Full Fare F, 1K, Premier Exec & *G, Exec & *S
Our FA did a good job handling this and I was third on the pecking order for meal choice, which meant my Shrimp choice was very much available. The last time when I was flying rev biz on PS the FA forgot that UA was a *a member and ignored my status, when I pointed this out, the purser arranged a meal from first from me.

No delay, push back bang on time and we were expecting an early arrival. Passed the wonderful CX 773 which I haven’t tried yet and a BA 747. My pangs of BA longing continued as well as CX nostalgia from the week prior – not to worry I would be spending the longer half of my trip on them in finishing up the last two segments on an AONE3 that had served me well the year prior.
Take off was smooth for the 757. As we reached cruise, the Another FA who was serving Biz handed headsets and entertainment devices (UA have cost cut here two, it used to be 2 fa’s in first, 2in biz and they had a trolley service in first, which is now replaced with Purser in first, 2 in biz and the biz FA helps out in first by distributing headphones, entertainment devices and sometimes helping out during the service

After take we were offered warm nuts and drink of choice. I stuck with my pre-noon beverage of choice – diet pepsi (no coke on UA). Nuts were refilled promptly with a third round offered as well, which I declined. The entertainment device was a little cumbersome to handle, given that you either had to prop it up with something your tray table on hold it throughout the flight, but the variety and the on demand features were great (still find AA ahead on entertainment though). After a couple of rounds of drinks, table cloths were laid out and our friendly FA began with the appetizer service which was good and a choice of salad dressing was offered.
These were cleared very efficiently (given the 16 seats being handled by one FA), and main courses followed suit. Bread, drinks etc. were constantly being offered and the FA managed to get everyone their main courses within 15 minutes. With an average of less than a minute between passengers, that efficiency competes with the best of restaurants. I opted for a glass of the Chardonnay which lived up to its description and was served at the perfect temperature (I am a Cali Chardonnay fan though, so I may have been pre-dispositioned to like it).

The biz FA came by to assist with clearing and to set up the desert cart, coffee and liqueur cart which was very well presented. The ice-cream was a mix of chocolate and vanilla and the berry topping was delicious. Ice-cream quality on AA last week was better. Overall the meal was very good for a transcon flight. Note that the cookies were not served as desert as mentioned on the menu but as a pre-arrival snack which is always the case to my knowledge.
I continued to spend the bulk of the flight watching movies and TV shows and chatted briefly with the FA about SF weather and how I was looking forward to getting out of the winter cold. He warned me it was scheduled to rain which would but a dampener on my Friday evening clubbing plans and offered me some more ice-cream, which I part took in. The seat belt sign went on and off occasionally but nothing major. I briefly peeked on to Channel 9 to figure out which ATC station we were in touch with. I noticed the cut backs and later found that the menus in Biz and First were now identical – again, something I just don’t understand about US airlines – this is seriously not the way to justify charging more for a product. In retrospect the upgrade wasn’t worth that much. The lie-flat seat was ok, but for a day flight I would have preferred the recliner. Other than access to the FCL lounge, which was meaningless for a BA gold card holder departing ex T7 with the terraces option open, there was nothing to distinguish between the products. Given the opportunity to upgrade, I would save the $400+ dollars for a 9W flight from MAA-DXB or MAA-SIN. Don’t get me wrong I am a huge fan of the P.S. product and service – I just don’t see First as worth the money over Business.
An hour and a half out and the smell of fresh baked cookies filled the cabin. These were brought out a few minutes later with a glass of milk, and since much of the cabin didn’t part take, seconds were offered.
As we began our descent into SFO it became evident that the clouds had started to clear and you could see the sun filtering through, which closer to touch down created a beautiful glow around the hills and the bay.
We arrived at the gate right next to body shop who was having a sale – oh dear! Spent half an hour there, and reached the belt to find my lonely bags waiting for me to collect them. In a cab and off to the Grand Hyatt San Francisco for a sinful SF weekend with friends.
January winter crossing of the Pacific and connection to BOM to follow in a couple of days.

Last edited by avm2806; May 26, 09 at 2:13 pm
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Old May 26, 09, 11:30 am
  #2  
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Overall, I would rate the UA's premium service a consistent solid way to get between the coasts. Would love an EWR departure (CO 752 is a good option, but only flies to LAX). AA's widebodies do have a more spacious feel for such a long flight VS. these 757's but the problem with AA is consistency. I've had very mixed bag of service. Plus on JFK-SFO operates a mix of 763 and 762 and gives differnet benefits (e.g. an F class on a 762 3 cabin can use the Flagship lounge, but if that same person were to delay departure to a 763 2 cabin operated flight, the access would be only to the Admirals Club). Given that not too many crew are trained on UA for this unique aircraft, it ensures that the FA'S know eachother and develop a good rapport. It is definitely ear marked and marketed as a special experience and that attiude spills across the staff making it a solid experience for US domestic travel
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Old May 26, 09, 12:18 pm
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Originally Posted by avm2806 View Post
There were drinks, a reasonable continental breakfast selection and some very nice Westin non-alcoholic citrus beverage (flavored water to be less snotty).
The Westin created beverage is actually OJ and green tea mix rather than flavored water. If you have been to SFO and LAX RCC Westin's Renewal Lounge, both served the same thing.

Originally Posted by avm2806 View Post
After take we were offered warm nuts and drink of choice. I stuck with my pre-noon beverage of choice – diet pepsi (no coke on UA) .
No Coke on UA ? I wonder how long ago you took this flight ? UA had switched back to Coke products for quite some time.
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Old May 26, 09, 1:33 pm
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I have had inconsistent service on p.s. too. FA's are usually good, but on one particularly memorable flight, the most bubbly and effusive FA was paired with the surliest IAD lounge dragon taken flight.
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Old May 26, 09, 1:58 pm
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Originally Posted by avm2806 View Post
desert

CHOCOLATE AND GRAND VANILLA ICE CREAM
With a choice of hot fudge or mixed berries
topped with toasted almonds and whipped cream
Was dessert really misspelled on the menu?
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Old May 26, 09, 2:16 pm
  #6  
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apologies for the typo, would be nice if you focussed on the intent which was to provide a detailed description of the UA P.S. Service, rather than zero in on the one of possibly a few more typo's.
Also flight was in January 2009 - and I was offered diet pepsi.
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Old May 26, 09, 3:38 pm
  #7  
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Originally Posted by avm2806 View Post
apologies for the typo, would be nice if you focussed on the intent which was to provide a detailed description of the UA P.S. Service, rather than zero in on the one of possibly a few more typo's.
Also flight was in January 2009 - and I was offered diet pepsi.
^ Excellent trip report--very similar to my JFK-SFO travels in p.s. F.

Sorry to hear about the lounge attendants snapping at you at JFK--they have always been very pleasant to me.

I agree that it is not worth it to pay for a C --> F upgrade, especially on lunch and dinner flights.
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