Saturday, August 20, 2011

8/16 - United Airlines: San Francisco - Chicago - San Francisco

I have been busy with some of my personal stuffs. So it takes me a while to organize everything and make this trip report.

Due to a Double EQM (Elite Qualifying Mile - Mile for qualifying status) and RDM (Redeemable Miles - Miles that you can use for reward) bonus promotion by United Airlines to compete new service offered by Virgin America, I have booked 3 Mileage Run (or MR) trips for me to re-qualify for next year (Since I scored the $100 ORD-HKG ticket, it does not sound like I will have another chance to fly international this year).

As this is the blog for back seat (Economy) flying, I will definitely share my experience as a elite member flying in Economy Class.

For United elites, the route of SFO-ORD (regardless directions) are considered as a "elite-heavy" route. What it means is the majority of the passengers of this routes are elite members of United. No kidding, but in many cases, elite members can be accountable for half of the passenger load of this kind of routes.

"Elite-heavy" routes also have another implication - difficult to get upgrade. One of the reasons for such difficulty is people in these routes in fact are willing to spend money to buy the actual premium seats.

Okay - back to my trip. I was booked on United 972. What so special for this flight is this is one of the few flights that United offers 3 classes cabin in the domestic market, which usually only 2 classes are offered (which includes Hawaiian flights as well). For United, only P.S. flights (SFO/LAX-JFK) are scheduled for 3-class service regularly.

So in this flight, you can find First, Business and Economy (in United's language, Economy Plus is not a separated class of service).

I was #10 on the list (as of Boarding time). What this literally means is you can board as usual, no one is getting upgrade (AFAIK - only 1 person on this list are upgraded).

No Upgrade at all...

As a elite member of United Mileage Plus, Economy Plus seating is free for me. So even I did not get the upgrade, the legroom is never a problem to me, especially I can get exit row seating (It used to be a special benefit for Premier Executive and above, but now basically, every elite can ask for it).

See how big is the space....(Seat 20B Exit Row)

Seat 20A Exit Row

In term of service, I have no complaint at all. One of the reasons are what kind of service you can really expect from a 4-hour flight. Beside, as far as in-flight service, I think United is doing okay. At least, there are 2 drink services in that 4 hours time.

Each time I think about this, I will always remember Continental non-service as I traveled with them twice on a transcon flight (West Coast to East Coast). Basically, after 1 drink service, don't expect anything else. The flight attendants from Continental did not even bother to do a water run (Water run basically means flight attendants will walk around the cabin serving water only, which are usually done in long-hual international flights).

Also, at the least, this Boeing 767-300ER has a personal IFE (In-flight Entertainment). It is still good to have (at least I knew where I was).

In the air of San Francisco...

It has been a while that I did not travel with United (before this flight, my last travel was done in April - which is in fact considered as a long time for frequent travelers). So at the same time, I have noticed some changes in United's service. One major change is now I was boarding on the carpet side (In the past, only top-tier elite and premium class passengers can use that line). Also, like other airlines, United is now trying to make more profits by allowing promotional message appearing in various places, like the cup.

Your soda is sponsor by Coca-Cola???

But this trip is not perfect - at the least, the quality of aircraft...No need to say...See it yourself...

Such a big crack...

In one occasion, I was aware that one of the passengers in the Economy Plus Section was compensated by Skykit (Skykit is a coupon-type voucher for in-flight compensation. The owners simply go online and they will be told how much they will get).

In conclusion, not a bad experience at all - at the least, I was arrived on-time.

In the coming future, I will teach you how you can score a better seat without being as a elite.

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