NH-NRT-UA: I'm not doing this again!

Old Dec 10, 18, 2:23 pm
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NH-NRT-UA: I'm not doing this again!

As Gold, I'd normally prefer UA metal for its E+ at booking. But this time, a family member (general MP member) booked HKG-NRT-LAX before me so I matched the same date/route. This was my first time on NH, and I won't do it again:

(1) UA app sent me to NH to OLCI, but NH only allows API/passport data entry.
(2) NH's (undoable) OLCI locks up seat selection. UA's app also locks up seat selection. At T-24h, you suddenly lose the ability to change anything.
(3) At HKG, counters open T-2:30h (UA always T-3h).
(4) Essentially all HKers/Japanese end up in the have-BP bag drop queue, and the don't-have-BP queue has all the Americans/UA customers.
(5) One standing sign says Business, so I didn't go there. Only after T-2:30h when the overhead monitors came on, that screen showed Business & Star Gold!
(6) Only then did I realize Star Gold was printed on the business line carpet. By that time it was pointless to join the end of that queue.
(7) NH812 departure was Gate 24. UA/TG lounges were too far, ended up at SQ which had no working restrooms and had bad mobile signal.
(8) NH812 arrived at a remote stand, so there was a bus ride. Fortunately it was 23C (73F), which was rare for a December afternoon at 3 pm. I think UA always gets a real gate at NRT.

I don't know how different/worse/better LAX-NRT-HKG would be.
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Old Dec 10, 18, 3:43 pm
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Very interesting post. I'm sharing some of my comments/thoughts below

Originally Posted by HkCaGu View Post
As Gold, I'd normally prefer UA metal for its E+ at booking. But this time, a family member (general MP member) booked HKG-NRT-LAX before me so I matched the same date/route. This was my first time on NH, and I won't do it again:

(1) UA app sent me to NH to OLCI, but NH only allows API/passport data entry.
--- I've done HKG-HND-ORD, and I was able to check in online not at T-24 but about T-18.
(2) NH's (undoable) OLCI locks up seat selection. UA's app also locks up seat selection. At T-24h, you suddenly lose the ability to change anything.
--- Yes, it is strange that NH does not allow me to check in online at T-24. However, I tried again at T-18 and it worked.
(3) At HKG, counters open T-2:30h (UA always T-3h).
--- This is a big problem indeed. I arrived into HKG at around 3pm on a separate ticket for the midnight HND flight, but the NH counter was closed. My solution? Take the Airport Express train to the City! NH has an excellent in-town check-in counter, which gladly accepted my bag! So no need to wait for the airport counter to open.
(4) Essentially all HKers/Japanese end up in the have-BP bag drop queue, and the don't-have-BP queue has all the Americans/UA customers.
(5) One standing sign says Business, so I didn't go there. Only after T-2:30h when the overhead monitors came on, that screen showed Business & Star Gold!
(6) Only then did I realize Star Gold was printed on the business line carpet. By that time it was pointless to join the end of that queue.
(7) NH812 departure was Gate 24. UA/TG lounges were too far, ended up at SQ which had no working restrooms and had bad mobile signal.
--- The randomness of gate assignment is indeed a problem for all flights, even the host Cathay Pacific. However, the three UA flights seem to have pretty consistent gate assignments (around Gate 40).
(8) NH812 arrived at a remote stand, so there was a bus ride. Fortunately it was 23C (73F), which was rare for a December afternoon at 3 pm. I think UA always gets a real gate at NRT.
--- In some sense it is not surprising that long-haul flights get priority over regional ones for boarding bridges. I've indeed had a few regional NH flights arriving at remote stands, but not the long-haul ones.

I don't know how different/worse/better LAX-NRT-HKG would be.
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Old Dec 10, 18, 7:47 pm
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I'm not clear if you were on an NH ticket stock or UA ticket stock, and to what degree this would have mattered. That said...
I have done MNL-NRT-USA on UA over a dozen times. MNL-NRT on NH, NRT-USA on UA. Ticket issued by UA.
I use the NH record locator and populate their system/website with all my details within a day of my UA ticket being issued. I make my seat selection then too (I'm in J if that matters).
I don't need to rush to check-in at T-24, but I do check to ensure there wasn't an equipment change which changed my assigned seat once check-in opens. I then check-in if available or if not just go to the airport and check in with a live agent. Never any hassles, the NH agent gives me my UA boarding passes, etc. Good to go.

Can't speak to the gate issues you raised, but I always expect the worst connection logistics and appreciate when it goes well for me.
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Old Dec 10, 18, 8:03 pm
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Less experience than PP, but also did MNL-NRT-USA recently (and vv). In both instances I was able to select seat in advance on NH website (economy) using the separate record locator. Choices were limited, and opened up within T-24 (I think), but I could use both online and the app to modify seat choice and get BP (on outbound the BP was issued by United but I could also get BP via NH website after checkin).

I think OP had an unfortunate experience that perhaps could have been avoided in some respects by digging deeper on NH website (unless there was ticket issue), and some are problems created simply by UA not having intra-Asia connections (such as lounge access)
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Old Dec 10, 18, 8:08 pm
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Not one mention of the actual flight experience.....

I never set foot on a UA airplane whenever NH is an option.
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Old Dec 10, 18, 8:19 pm
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Originally Posted by worldtrav View Post
Not one mention of the actual flight experience.....

I never set foot on a UA airplane whenever NH is an option.
Aside from the vastly superior inflight experience on NH, which I've flown countless times, I have always been able to manage my reservation on the NH website (if on a UA ticket, usually only the NH operated segments are visible or can be managed), check-in online 24h before departure, and get a mobile boarding pass (if any issue, you can get a paper boarding pass from a kiosk). As to HKG, yes the SQ lounge restrooms are still (it's almost two months now) being renovated but the food and service are great or you can choose the UAC or the Thai lounge, etc etc.

Remote stand seems to be a random thing - I've had it a couple of times on arrival, but I almost always depart from a proper gate.
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Old Dec 10, 18, 8:50 pm
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I've taken NH 812 many times before. Most of the time its been a 767 but a couple of times it was a 787. I actually love NHs 767; older/smaller IFE screens but they actually have tons of music vs UA having none. Plus aromatic kabosu and hojicha to drink onboard.
Just like @drewguy above, I use the record locator and find my reservation on NH website and choose seats. The check-in counter has never been an issue, agents are relatively fast at processing the queue. I would be annoyed like OP about not knowing of the StarGold/Business line but nothing that would linger with me.
Gate selection is usually anywhere from 20-36 at HKG which isn't too bad either. At least it isn't at the North Satellite or either end of the "Y" of the terminal. No more than a 15 minute walk from either SQ or UA lounge in my experience.
The only issue I wholeheartedly agree with is arriving into NRT through a remote-stand. It just adds an extra layer of stress for connecting flights. And any carry-on just becomes a hassle to walk down stairs and into crowded buses. But again, I've been on that particular flight and for the most part it arrives right into Terminal 1 at NRT.
Sorry to hear your flight was not too your liking but I really feel you should give it another try.
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Old Dec 10, 18, 9:02 pm
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Been there, done that, understand the frustration. You can't really blame that on NH though, overall I've found their service to be quite excellent and whilst it sucks that the check in desks open so late at HKG, that's to be expected with airlines there that don't operate a regular schedule.

One thing you should keep in mind when travelling on * partners is that you almost always get to use any lane/line that says Business. I have yet to encounter any * partner that scoffs at a Gold using a J lane (FTers tell me if there are exceptions to it). In terms of seat selection and the like, generally speaking you need to pop in the NH confirmation number on your UA itinerary for that to work properly.

Agree with you that HKG is really the dumps when it comes to Asian airports (way better than US airports but that ain't saying much) be it the malfunctioning wifi or the sheer lack of amenities. In terms of * lounges at HKG, the UC is probably the best there: they've got working showers and the food spread is decent if you want western style food. Agreed that it is a bit of a hike although those in the know use the gate train to get them close to that area. SQ lounge is really lacking (i.e. no showers when I was there in June) and TG while nice and a bit more private than SQ was also lacking. Having been to a couple SQ lounges (including their flagship at SIN) I can confidently tell you that SQ is not known for their lounges (for that you'll want to visit an NH lounge).

Hope that clarifies things.

Safe Travels,

James
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Old Dec 10, 18, 9:34 pm
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Originally Posted by j2simpso View Post

Agree with you that HKG is really the dumps when it comes to Asian airports (way better than US airports but that ain't saying much) be it the malfunctioning wifi or the sheer lack of amenities.
I'm guessing that you don't fly around China very often. HKG is the best airport on my normal travel circuit by a country mile, and in town check-in is a godsend.
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Old Dec 10, 18, 9:40 pm
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Originally Posted by moondog View Post
I'm guessing that you don't fly around China very often. HKG is the best airport on my normal travel circuit by a country mile, and in town check-in is a godsend.
I'm excluding China from the comparison as I haven't been there. From what I've heard, the Chinese airports aren't any good in terms of lounges and facilities (i.e. Beijing is still waiting on an airport). That being said, I would implore you to visit SIN, HND and NRT airports and tell me how HKG fares to them! Again, I'm not saying HKG is a bad airport per se, certainly better than any US airport I've been to! All I'm saying is you can't tell me that HKG is on the same level as SIN with a straight face!

Safe Travels,

James
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Old Dec 10, 18, 9:59 pm
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Originally Posted by moondog View Post
I'm guessing that you don't fly around China very often. HKG is the best airport on my normal travel circuit by a country mile, and in town check-in is a godsend.
My wife and I really loved that the whole border control and security process in HKG only took 10 minutes when we flew back to ORD. No lines at all. We were impressed! We only wasted a few minutes wondering what to do with with the return slip from the immigration form. We were just standing there with the forms in our hands. An agent came and told us that since we used the machines, those forms were not needed.

Arriving at HKG was as efficient. Short line for immigration. No line for paying for the Express Train. Express Train very fast.
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Old Dec 10, 18, 10:28 pm
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Originally Posted by j2simpso View Post
I'm excluding China from the comparison as I haven't been there. From what I've heard, the Chinese airports aren't any good in terms of lounges and facilities (i.e. Beijing is still waiting on an airport). That being said, I would implore you to visit SIN, HND and NRT airports and tell me how HKG fares to them! Again, I'm not saying HKG is a bad airport per se, certainly better than any US airport I've been to! All I'm saying is you can't tell me that HKG is on the same level as SIN with a straight face!
SIN offers a lot more terminal amenities than HKG/TYO for a connecting passenger, but it is quite inadequate in terms of lounges (whether it's SQ/OW/ST or PP lounges). HKG on the other hand may lack all the terminal amenities of SIN, but it has much better lounges (CX/ST/multiple *A, Amex Centurion and PP and even HX). NRT/HND are no better or worse than HKG, TYO airports are just large efficient duty-free terminals catering to all the Mainlander tourists.
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Old Dec 10, 18, 11:24 pm
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Originally Posted by worldtrav View Post
Not one mention of the actual flight experience.....

I never set foot on a UA airplane whenever NH is an option.
I don't get the romantic view of NH. Competitive and different, sure, but I can't go so far.

Some time take one of their high density 788 recliner seats in biz TPAC, and then we will talk. If you have, then I admire your strength. I had the same plane, no kidding, MNL to HND, and then HND to YVR. Crossing the ocean I was longing for a sCO 78x seat. Having done a ton of MNL<->NRT flights on those 788 seats, I can't find a reason to be happy with it.

I like their herringbone long haul product though - I think it was SIN to HND. Great stuff.

The people, are always great - I do appreciate the NH attention to service. But I will gladly arm wrestle with the grumpiest UA FA for another Buffalo Trace over the NH 788 intra-Asia.
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Old Dec 10, 18, 11:29 pm
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Originally Posted by katan View Post
I like their herringbone long haul product though - I think it was SIN to HND. Great stuff.
NH doesn't have a herringbone or reverse herringbone product. All their J seats are staggered aisle-access.

Though I agree, I will take UA 2-4-2 lieflat over NH 788 torture seats. And even in OP's case, I will take UA E+ over NH Y.
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Old Dec 10, 18, 11:33 pm
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Originally Posted by hirohito888 View Post
SIN offers a lot more terminal amenities than HKG/TYO for a connecting passenger, but it is quite inadequate in terms of lounges (whether it's SQ/OW/ST or PP lounges). HKG on the other hand may lack all the terminal amenities of SIN, but it has much better lounges (CX/ST/multiple *A, Amex Centurion and PP and even HX). NRT/HND are no better or worse than HKG, TYO airports are just large efficient duty-free terminals catering to all the Mainlander tourists.
Yes, the CX lounges are awesome, but I simply love Popeye's.
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