The Skies get friendlier

This is Part Three of a Three Part description of my flight with United from Mel to Syd to LAX to ORD (Chicago). This covers the longest hop from Sydney to Chicago.
Part One: Across the Pacific the "Friendly Way"
Part Two: Mel-Syd unfriendly-way

My Craft foreground-the other United plane heads to SFO
After a brief sojourn in the Air New Zealand Lounge (the heavenly Koru Club), we boarded our Los Angeles, California bound 747 pictured right at Sydney airport.

At 105pm, there was a Business class seat left so it looked like my upgrade for the 13 hour cross Pacific hop was happening. BUT at 110pm, it had been filled by a business fare paying passenger- I still had my Emergency Exit seat!  Really appreciated the service of the lounge staff as they tried to get me the upgrade...Thanks team. 

Welcome aboard was good and staff more engaged and way way way more friendly (what happened on the last flight???) but again a lack of hands or help to guide people to their seats. I saw one woman approach a flight attendant because someone was in her seat. "tell him to move" replied the attendant !

On the other side, one passenger later demanded the cabin crew suspend meal service so he could use the restroom. Upon being told to use the other restrooms he abused the FA. Shame you cant throw some passengers overboard.

Me (Martin J Cowling) on Board the 747 
The passengers around me included a large contingent of navy reservists from USNS Mercy which had been assisting Indonesians with medical supplies and attention. Dave, the  guy next to me a firefighter from North Carolina was  heading home after  a very powerful period of Service in various Indonesian communities and a brief R & R in Darwin. Dave is hoping to come back and vacation in Australia and or NZ (Hey Dave, I hope you made your Chicago connection!)

Takeoff over Sydney's Cronulla Beach was stunning. 

Beverage service brought another drink and those mini pretzels  followed by a choice of  Asian Chicken or tortellini was adequate. On FA recommendation, I went for the pasta. To my surprise United still do effectively three meal runs with a middle of the night meal service. (Qantas gives out a snack Bag and bottled water before switching off the lights. In the middle of the night, United gave us a sandwich with a non-descript meat plus coke slaw and  a bland pecan cookie. This was followed by a drink service and then a rubbish collection service. The effect of all of this was to wake people up. 

This added to the restlessness on the flight.  After each movie, for example,  people would get up, wander and talk. Individual entertainment  units do keep people on their seats and docile. On top of this was that  the lights don't seem as dim as they do on other crossings I have had -and people chatted a lot making sleep harder.

Breakfast (pictured left) was the worst I have ever been given on a plane. The eggs tasted worse than they looked and the blob of yellow dumped on the plate did not look good! The sausage was bland, the mushrooms had some flavour but looked sad. The croissant was awful. I could have had fruit as well but I was starving.

Touchdown in LA was Perfect!! Thanks Pilots! (110%!!!!) And we were early!!

On this segment;
Welcome aboard: 7.5 out Of ten
Cabin Crew: 7.5 out Of ten
Beverage / Meal Service: 4 out of ten
Entertainment: 2 out of ten 
Farewell from plane: 8 out of ten


So on board this segment: 29 out of 50 

Total score for my United airlines experience so far: 96 out of 150...64%


Customs and immigration were not so bad. The good thing about flying United Airlines as opposed to Qantas or Air New Zealand is that most of the passengers are Americans so the line for "Visitors" at US immigration is far shorter!!

I had my boarding pass so quickly re entered security, grabbed some food and had time to check the net including finding another negative review of UA840

Boarded the third segment of United 840 to find the purser from the SYD to LAX segment was travelling to Chicago as a passenger (she told me she was going to Europe). My friend Dave (see previous post) was turned away at the door of the aircraft as it was  a completely full flight (I did note there were quite a few crew travelling for free as passengers. Whats the best priority here I wonder?)

Staff on this flight were incredibly friendly, pro active, polite and went out of their way to help. The contrast to my Melbourne-Sydney flight was palpable. 

United flight 840  starts in Melbourne, Australia and finishes in Chicago, USA  travelling via Los Angeles. En route, it changes planes and crews twice.  To me, it seems strange that the one flight does not have to have the same craft or crew? What makes it the same flight?

Meal service consisted of a free drink and the sale of snack boxes. I bought the Eat for Good snack box. It impressed me for three reasons:

  1. The contents are on the healthier end but not that exciting...after 15 hours of travel, I would have killed for fresh fruit,
  2. $1 from each box is donated to Feeding America®
  3. packaging was designed by an 18 year old high schooler engaged in a development program in Chicago

Not so impressive is the claim that 1 in 6 Americans goes hungry. One has got to question what is going on in a country when this is the situation?

We landed early---again!

Welcome aboard: 8 out Of ten
Cabin Crew: 10 out Of ten
Beverage / Meal Service: 6.5 out of ten
Entertainment: 4 out of ten 
Farewell from plane: 7.5 out of ten

So on board this segment: 36 out of 50 

Total score for my United airlines experience: 132 out of 200...66% NB I did not check bags. My last Qantas flight across the Pacific, I gave 95% to. My Air New Zealand flight on the same route got 96%. United has a long way to go to match the service, food, aircraft amenities, cleanliness and entertainment of its competitors on this sector.  See my list of top 21 carriers.


Would I fly them again? 
For a substantial price discount? Yes. 
For the same price? Only if I knew I could get an upgrade to business class.
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  1. I did indeed fly United again on that sector -this next trip was so bad...I vowed NEVER to do it again! Check out: http://mjtravlife.blogspot.com/2010/10/thats-it-united.html


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