My 757th Flight on a United 757-uber fail

Thanks to Flight and my  friend Tony (see blog post), I know exactly how many fights, miles and hours have been spent in pressurised tubes of metal flying around the world. Even after many flying hours, and despite the determined efforts by some airlines to make travel as horrible as possible,  I am still wildly excited about plane travel.

United flight 967 at gate in LAX
Flight 737 on a Boeing 737 with Southwest was a fun experience. Flight 747 on a Qantas Boeing 747 was made very special by the delightful cabin crew. Flight number 757 was United's turn on one of their aging Boeing 757s and it epitomised the worst of air travel.

In DC for a client conference, the flight back to LAX was my 757th in my life so I sought a Boeing 757 flight.
Thanks to my friend Troy, we found United flight 967 out of Washington Dulles

What went wrong with United 967:
  • Modern flying means being cramped
    My seat is in red!
    There was one empty seat left on the plane-the one next to me-was I lucky or what? My seat 40C, aisle seat at the very back of the plane was not near the extra legroom room Economy Plus section nor was it in the  757s' very generous exit rows and despite United automatically wait-listing me for an upgrade it wasn't  in the First cabin either. Like most United flights, they actually had oversold it (ie sold more tickets than seats on the plane hoping enough people would not show)

  • Washington Dulles airport is a horrible trek
    The airport is 41km out of downtown DC. A new metro line is being built and will be finished by 2014 but in the meantime there is a slow local bus or a coach/metro combination or taxi with bad traffic.  I opted for a cab organised by my hotel which was driven by a lovely 20 year old college guy from rural Maryland. Turned out to be driving the cab for a cousin and he did not know the way out to Dulles airport:  "Dude I am on the left land of the freeway heading toward Richmond, where should I be? "

  • Check In Friendly Fail
    I never usually check luggage in but was carrying extra stuff as I was Australia bound. The Premium Economy check in line was fast but the actual human interaction was underwhelming- Mr Check In couldn't give a damn. It never ceases to amaze me how US airlines fail to support their employees to be friendly at every touch point. I know check in staff are underpaid and stressed but United needs to help them make an effort to make customers feel welcome. I get tired of the videos by United saying what a great airline they are and how happy they are we have chosen to be with them when every employee makes me feel like they resent me being there. The actual welcome aboard was friendly and the Crew even offered to stow some extra luggage in a closet for me.

  • My Technology Prowess uber fail
    I had chosen to download the boarding pass to my phone.  As I stood in the security line holding my carry on bag, my passport and my cell phone, I somehow advanced my Iphone screen so the boarding pass disappeared.  There was no cell phone signal in then security area so after 7 minutes of trying and letting people in front of me, I returned upstairs. There I found cell phone coverage and re-loaded the boarding pass. I have now sworn off mobile boarding passes particularly as I have no hard copy evidence of my boarding pass

  • On my 757th flight
    United Nil Interest in my 757th flight
    Despite tweeting about it and mentioning it to ground and flight staff,  there was no reaction. Airlines I know are  more focused on more important matters such as safety and viability and not eccentric passenger quirks! Oh well- it excites my dork side!
  • Two Hour Weather Related Delay
    The doors closed two minutes after departure time but we sat at the gate while ATC gave us  a “rerouting” to avoid nasty weather. After a while we pushed back, we lumbered slowly around the airport to come to a halt on the tarmac with a line of other planes. Soon there were planes everywhere all grounded because of the weather. After about two hours we finally were cleared for takeoff. As the rain started, we launched off into turbulent skies. To his credit, the captain briefed us 3 times while we were waiting but I think one every 15 minutes would be better -we were given a glass of water and a football show during the wait time
  • Meals run out
    With the removal of catering for economy passengers on United, on a 5hr 5 minute flight, the airline sells snack boxes, chips, candies, cookies. At row 36, the crew ran out"that's right, no food left"nine hours between meals.

  • Movie was single screen – The 757 is an older plane so in seat entertainment is I didn't engage in watching as my sound was crappy

  • Drink service was slow on a fully laden flight with with the poor woman was serving by herself

  • Cabin Safety
    757 Safety Card on flight
    I love watching approach and landing but the guy by the window in my row was a closed window man. Airlines in Australia and NZ insist on window shades being open for landing saying its for safety. United has no such stipulation. I find it amazing that we can fly over amazing landscapes and passengers snap their shades closed to watch movies set in the same landscapes! He would peek out his window every now and again and when he did I would edge forward and stare outside. Finally he left the window shade for our last 45 seconds of flight. 

When we finally landed in a stunningly smooth landing.  We got thanked for flying the friendly skies. my entire row laughed at this point. If nothing else, the last row bonded!

Luggage return was fairly prompt.  I got to the empty V Australia counter at 923pm for my 1020pm Sydney bound flight to find it was closed.  Thankfully the supervising agent re opened it for myself and two other weather delayed passengers.

Rating: 4/10 for my Flight 757. Seeing my average rating of all flights with United is out of ten -that's consistent with my overall United experience. I did like being on the 757 and am excited I managed to score another significant for 767 on a 767.

Okay Mr Jeff Smisek you apparently are producing a great airline---hurry up!

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