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Posts tagged united

I needed to buy a last minute ticket for work recently and Delta was the only option left that had seats and a schedule that matched what I needed. After I bought the ticket, Delta gave me an option to buy-up to first class. The price was right and I had wanted to compare what I had read about Delta’s first class product being great to what I had experienced on United, so I purchased the buy-up.

Time to examine the hype.

The App

For work travel, I rely heavily on airline iPhone apps to keep me updated and to do basic maintenance on my reservations (change seats, make reservations, etc.). The first thing I noticed using the Delta app is just how clunky it is. Sure, picking a seat is relatively easy, but making a booking in the app is a frustrating process. The app does validation before you submit a flight search and will pop up an error if your origin and destination are the same. So, if you need to reverse your search, you have to put in a third airport code to be able to switch the origin and destination without error. There are quirks like this throughout the app. It is the same thing for flight information as well. Some items are clickable and lead to more info, but there is no visual way to know that an item has that feature without clicking on everything so you end up sitting there, hitting random parts of the screen, looking for what you want. Compared to United’s app, which is powerful, yet relatively easy to use, Delta’s app seems to need some serious work.

The Trip

Before traveling, I had added my known traveler number to the reservation and on check-in received PreCheck. Knowing I have PreCheck allows me to show up at Portland’s airport about an hour before boarding and have plenty of time to grab a cup of coffee and do some work before getting on the plane, so that’s what I did. I walked up to the security area, opened up my mobile boarding pass and saw an orange icon indicating that my flight had been delayed. Knowing that an agent would be able to help me at the gate, I proceeded through security.

Making it through security, I look at the delay one more time and realize I will miss my connection because of it. I proceed to the gate and get in line to speak with the gate agent. An agent comes over and asks if I need something, to which I reply, “I believe my flight to Minneapolis is delayed and I will miss my connection”. She says, “I am closing out this flight and I’m not working that flight, walk down the hall and there are phones where you can call Delta”. Ok, that makes sense, so I walk down the hall and sure enough, there are phones. They’re all taken by people trying to fix their plans as well but there is a sign with a 1800 number so I dial it. The prompts ask if I am in the airport and when I reply yes, the wait is no more than 2 minutes to speak to an agent. The agent tells me that she cannot find any options on the same day but that she will see if she can find something on another carrier. A few minutes later she tells me my only options are to spend the night in Minneapolis or take a redeye via Atlanta. I ask if the hotel in Minneapolis will be covered to which she replies, “you would need to ask the agents in Minneapolis”. I am not willing to take that risk so I ask her to explore the American Airlines flight to Chicago that is showing an F seat for sale. She can’t find it. I run to the AA gate to see if they will simply sell me the seat (I’d refund the Delta ticket). Nope, they just cleared a standby into it. Sorry.

Back on the phone I accept the redeye option, simply because I was not comfortable spending the night and trusting that Delta would take care of the hotel (there was weather that night in the area). Well, time to head home because I have another nine hours before my new flight leaves. Here is what I originally booked (red), versus what I was rebooked on (navy).

Nine hours later I was back at the airport for the red-eye to Atlanta. I had hoped to review the meal options on the original flight but the delay squashed that idea. Now my goal was to get as much sleep as possible but I knew that would be a challenge. Onboard there was a bottle of water, a small pillow, and a blanket at the seat. The seat pitch was pretty standard but what I noticed was the lack of an adjustable headrest on the seat. It seems that most of the Delta domestic fleet is the same, missing the adjustable headrests that you can manipulate to rest your head to one side. The flight attendants come by asking if passengers would like anything before we take off. I order a whiskey and water, a nightcap if you will, and it’s quickly delivered.

The safety video comes on. It’s cute but man is it lengthy.

The pilot makes a quick announcement that he won’t be making any other announcements until our descent into Atlanta and that our flight time will be four hours (OUCH!). A few minutes later and we’re in the air. I put on an eye mask and attempt to get some sleep, but, to be honest, it didn’t go well. The seats are comfortable but there is not a lot in the way of lumbar support and without an adjustable headrest I can’t really lean one direction. The entire flight was spent with me readjusting to try and get comfortable and I ended up getting maybe 1-2 hours of sleep.

We landed in Atlanta on time and that gave me about 35 minutes to use the restroom, brush my teeth and make my connection. I walked from concourse A to concourse B and made it to the gate right as they were starting to board. I looked for a coffee shop nearby but there was nothing, the upside being I could try the much touted Starbucks coffee that Delta serves in first.

Legroom in First on the Airbus A320.

Onboard the flight attendant greeted everyone with a friendly “Good morning!”. She then came around first class asking if we would like anything before takeoff. A few minutes later and I was tasting the coffee. It wasn’t bad. Not great, but drinkable, which says a lot about airplane coffee. The taste was much more of what you expect in coffee and less of that metallic and chalky taste you sometimes get from airplane coffee. I was in the bulkhead seat on the Airbus A320 and found the legroom to be fine. There is a little cut out for your feet and that makes it comfortable. If I was a little taller the legroom would have been tight.

There was no overhead entertainment so the safety demo was done by the flight attendants and it went by much faster than the video shown above. A short time later we were in the air.

It was a quick flight to Milwaukee so the only service was beverages and a snack basket (I had a banana and some Biscoff cookies, if you were wondering). I tried to use the Delta Studio streaming entertainment but could not get it to work. Every time I connected I received a screen like below and could never get to the list of shows.

Failed attempt to try the streaming entertainment

An hour and half later and we were on the ground in Milwaukee and I was on my way to work.

Conclusion

Overall, there was nothing about the experience that blew me away making me want to switch permanently to Delta. The boarding process was just as chaotic as United’s, with people blocking the boarding lanes 15 or 20 minutes before the flight is scheduled to board.

Boarding. Just as chaotic as on other carriers.

The way the delayed flight was handled left a lot to be desired. I didn’t want to go into details above but the agent was not proactive in finding other options and I had to suggest a number of things. She also insisted on putting me in coach until I pushed back about being in first class. I am not an elite on Delta so I wonder if that had something to do with it.

For flying a relatively old fleet, the Airbus I was on is 23.3 years old, Delta does a pretty good job keeping the interiors clean and well kept. I didn’t see any panels loosely hanging or build ups of dirt and grime anywhere. The lavatories on both flights were the cleanest I have ever seen on an airplane.

I was happy to finally get to try Delta on a mainline flight in first. I am planning a few more flights on them since some of their schedules to certain destinations are better than what United offers. I am also flying Alaska back to Seattle at the end of this week and hope write a review about their new E-175 service as soon as I can.

United’s partner earning rates were posted this morning and on a whole, the numbers aren’t good. If you are flying coach on most of United’s partners, earning rates for reward miles are being slashed. In some instances, reward earning rates go up but the majority of fares will earn fewer miles.

Read through United’s partner earning page to learn more (click on a carrier to find what you will earn when not flying on a United, 016, ticket).

Also, Seth has a great analysis of the new partner earning rates here.

Last week flying Portland to Washington-National airport via Chicago for work, I had a very strange experience with an upgrade that really wasn’t. 24 hours before my flight I checked-in online and noticed that I received an upgrade on Portland-Chicago. Great news! There were still a few seats open and I selected 1A. For my second flight, there were not a lot of good seats so I stuck with my bulkhead window.

On the day of the flight as I started to pack for the trip, I decided to look and see if any better seats had opened on my second flight between Chicago and National. That’s when I found my seats completely gone for both flights and if I tried to check-in again, an error occurred. I immediately called United as I was more concerned about not having seats than not being checked-in. The agent reselected my seats, confirmed I was in first class for the first segment and hung up. I was able to check-in with no issue and felt a little relief. I wanted to make sure everything was ok with my reservation so I logged onto United.com via my computer and sure enough, there was still an error telling me to call reservations.

The second phone call was a little more productive. The agent was able to see the problem, a note had been added by airport staff that first class may be oversold and that they would need to deal with it at the airport. I asked if she could preserve the seat choice I had made for the second flight and she stated that she could not but that they should be able to fix it at the airport. I finished packing and headed to the airport much earlier than I had originally wanted, throwing my afternoon plans with my wife off.

When I arrived at the United check-in desks and explained the issue, the agent saw the problem and called the gate. They stated that a first class seat was broken and that I was the only upgrade so I was downgraded. The check-in agent preserved my seat for the second segment but told me the gate would have to get a seat for me for Portland-Chicago.

At the gate the agent apologized and gave me a voucher for $250. That was definitely nice but led me to wonder what seat I was going to get as a result. The conversation after I said “thank you” went something like this:

Agent: hmmm, I can put you on a later flight to Chicago

Me: But then what time would I get to Reagan?

Agent: Oh, your destination isn’t Chicago?

Me: Uhhh, no. I have an hour connection to the last flight of the night to Reagan.

Agent: I see… Well, I can get you to Dulles at 1am by going through Denver.

Me: If there are no other options then I guess Dulles it is.

I was told later than I should have pushed harder at this point because it was painfully obvious that no one had actually looked at my full itinerary when making the changes and that’s what had messed up my connection seat selection. It was also obvious that the Portland-Chicago flight was oversold and this agent was looking for a way out.

The agent ended up giving me a middle seat from Portland to Denver and then first class from Denver to Dulles. She also provided me another voucher for $350. All told, the airline gave me $600 for the screw up and though I would have much rather gone to National, I was willing to put up with a late Dulles flight for the compensation.

Looking at the situation now I wish someone had paid more attention to my reservation when performing the downgrade. It would have saved them a little bit of money and me a headache. I also think they (United) got around the involuntary denied boarding by claiming ignorance about my connection and then offering me a different flight. Based on what I saw, they were out of seats completely in coach so there was nowhere to put me after the downgrade. In addition to that, I saw a young lady show up to the gate late and she was denied boarding since they had closed the door. So in reality, coach went out with an empty seat that I could have taken.

It all worked out but was a headache to deal with, especially having to get to the airport early to sort it out.

The week of June 30th was insanely busy. I was traveling from Austin to New York for work, then back to Austin to start our move/drive to Portland and, to top it of, the end of the week was the Fourth of July. My trip started smoothly and it was a relatively standard week at work until Wednesday. The northeast was hammered by a large storm on Wednesday night and those same storms were predicted to flare up again on Thursday.

Knowing that I had to be home on Thursday night, I decided to look for seats on earlier flights out of New York but found nothing, probably due to the storms the previous night. I made my way to LaGuardia a little early, hoping to get on any flight that would get me out of the New York metro area earlier. Different agents did their best, but every single option was full.

My routing to Austin was LaGuardia-Chicago O’Hare-Austin and we actually boarded the LaGuardia-Chicago segment right on time. Then we sat at the gate. And sat some more. Then kept sitting. In all, we spent about 45 minutes parked at the gate with the door closed. When we started our taxi out to the runway the captain announced that it would be a while and we were free to use our cellphones. I started looking at the later Chicago-Austin flight on United, deciding that was a good backup in case things did not improve in New York and booked myself on it.

After another hour and 45 minutes the captain announced that we were ready for takeoff but that we were really close to the FAA three-hour tarmac rule and he was not sure if we would make it to the runway in time to be in compliance so we would be returning to the gate. By this point, I was in danger of missing my newly rebooked later flight from Chicago to Austin and was really worried that the beginning of our move was in serious jeopardy. I used different websites and the United iPhone app to look at different options to Austin, Lubbock, Albuquerque, Dallas, and Houston to see if there was any way to get to that region either late at night or early the next morning. In my experience, holiday travel, or travel on an actual holiday, is usually pretty light but from my searches, July 4 was the complete opposite. There were barely any seats out of New York at all.

When the crew opened the door to the plane to allow people to buy food, go to the restroom, and talk to the agents, I searched even more frantically for a seat on any airline from NY to the general Austin region. I was in luck, JetBlue had a non-stop flight from JFK leaving at 9:30pm and arriving in Austin at 11:45pm and there were two seats for sale. I spoke to the lead flight attendant and he said there was no way we were going to make it to Chicago in time for my connection. My options were JetBlue, be stuck in Chicago with very few seats available, or be stuck in New York with a few more options the next day. A few of the passengers around me asked what I was worried about and I told them. I also expressed my concern about beating the Van Wyck at 7pm. They understood and helped me weigh my options.

Just before the door was going to be closed to attempt another go at getting out of NY I grabbed my suitcase and told the gate agent my intentions. She was fine with it and walked back into the now chaotic terminal with me. Other flights were being cancelled left and right and I told her that there was a JetBlue flight I was going to catch. She told me that United could not move my ticket over to JetBlue and let her know that I was fine with that and to just uncheck-me in, which she did.

Before heading to JFK I made one last attempt to see if there was anything out of Newark or that evening but had no luck. The agent at the United Club “protected” me on the July 4th evening flight non-stop from Newark to Austin. I knew I was not going to use that but it at least gave me options. I then headed straight for the taxi stand at LaGuardia. The one in front of the central terminal was very crowded but the one at the end, near the American Airlines gates was completely empty and I was quickly on my way to JFK. While changing airports, I tried to book the JetBlue ticket online but it kept failing. When it finally looked like it was going to work, I was within the 1.5 hour before flight time cut-off for online bookings. I would have to try my luck in the airport.

The cab driver knew I was in a hurry and was more than willing to speed, arriving at JFK only twenty minutes after leaving LaGuardia. Yes, you read that right, twenty minutes from LaGuardia to JFK. I have never departed JFK, only arrived, and I had definitely never been to JetBlue’s Terminal 5, but I quickly found one of the ticketing/check-in lines.

The line was long, but not nearly as long as the line for cancellations and rebookings. I was also on the phone calling JetBlue, just in case I could get through and book the ticket that way. Luckily, the line moved relatively quickly and thirty minutes later I was being called to the counter. I asked the agent, Neomi, if I could buy a seat on the non-stop to Austin, to which she replied, “I am not sure we have any seats left, but I will check”… A few tense seconds go by, she raises her eyebrows and says, “Look at that, we have two seats, let me get one secured for you”. This all took place about forty five minutes before the scheduled departure time. She took my credit card, ID, and my Known Traveler Number and printed out a boarding pass, with PreCheck! I told the agent how much it meant to be getting home that night and told her “I could hug you” and surprisingly, she obliged, coming from around the check-in counter and giving me a huge hug.

Through security in no time, I decided to charge my now dead phone and give my wife a call to let her know I would be getting to Austin that evening. As I watched the flight status boards, I noticed my newly booked flight become delayed. This wasn’t a surprise, there was a large storm cell passing nearby and there was a lot of lightning.

After giving my phone a little more life, I went to the gate and learned the delay would extend until 11:30pm ET, with a scheduled arrival into Austin at 2:30am CT. Hey, at least I am getting there. I checked the status of my original flight and it too was delayed until 11:30pm, so I made the correct decision. Being really late into Austin is much better than being really late into Chicago in need of a hotel room.

The delay gave me a little time to explore Terminal 5. I walked around a bit and found that there were a number of seating areas with a decent number of places to charge devices, though I would prefer a few more. The food options are good and I was able to buy some fruit, a granola bar, and some water without much of a wait. I did not visit a bar but there appeared to be a number of options there as well, including the little kiosks near some of the gates that allow you to order food and have it delivered to where you are sitting.

Eventually, boarding was called for our flight and being in an Even More Space seat, we were called to board near the beginning. Unfortunately, everyone else was tired of the delay and decided to make boarding very chaotic. No big deal, there was plenty of space in the overhead bins for my rollaboard and the seats were so spacious I had no problem putting my backpack under the seat in front of me with room to spare.

The seats were comfortable and spacious, my only complaint being the lack of “wings” on the headrests. If they had the adjustable headrest the product would be unbeatable, even if it is a little older. Without the wings, it was very hard to rest my head in a manner that was comfortable. I didn’t watch the free DirecTV but the picture looked fine before I turned it off.

Our flight landed in Austin at 2:30am and I was quickly on my way home. The next morning we started our drive to Portland delayed just over an hour due to me needing a tad bit more sleep. We kept our schedule pretty well and arrived in Portland just about exactly when we had planned, all thanks to a speedy cab driver and JetBlue.

My first experience on JetBlue, even with taking a delay, was extremely positive. The staff were friendly and helpful, the plane had nice seats, and, most importantly, the flight got me to Austin. Given all of the weather that had moved through the northeast, it was very likely I would not have reached Austin before 6:30pm the next day had it not been for JetBlue.

If you missed the news, United is lowering the value of their mileage currency on February 1, 2014. The main area of impact is international premium cabin rewards, with those flights on United metal going up in price slightly, but flights on partners going up significantly.

Be sure and book your rewards soon if you want the lower prices. After February 1, 2014, any change to an award that requires the ticket to be reissued has the potential to be repriced at the new reward levels. I do have a prediction: the implementation/roll-out of this new price reward chart is not going to go off without a hitch.

If you want more information on the devaluation and what different flights will cost, Seth has a great breakdown here.

I won’t go into the details of the changes to the MileagePlus reward charts, Seth has done a good job of that. The quick summary is this: United raised reward rates and in the case of rewards on partners, the numbers are really, really ugly. One example, a business class reward Mainland U.S. to Europe on United becomes 57.5k miles one way, which is not a bad increase, but a business class reward on a partner is now 70k miles one way. That’s a 40% premium over the original 50k mile one-way reward that has been the norm for a while.

There is a lot of speculation as to why United made these changes. Some point to the 3rd quarter 10Q and the liability mentioned for outstanding miles. While I am sure this is part of the reason, United also likely wanted to offset some of the costs that they are obligated for when a passenger redeems a partner reward.

United's Jeff Smisek Talking about the 787

Is the sky falling?

While the changes are definitely not great from a customer perspective, it is not the end of the world. You can still redeem reward trips for reasonable rates on United and Copa operated flights. I think the biggest negative is that for those of us in Houston or Denver (or even Los Angeles) our options to Europe are somewhat limited. People will be looking for the more affordable mileage option to their destination, meaning United metal. Without a lot of non-stop flights out of certain hubs to Asia and Europe you end up with a lot of people competing. So while the prices may not be restrictive, the availability may become very scarce. Some travelers will give up and pay the higher rate for a partner flight while others will look for different dates for their trip. I doubt there will be a mass exodus from United, but I am sure there are those, like me, who have started looking at other airline options.

One of the caveats of the rewards is that you can redeem partner flights at the United rate if the partner flight is in a lower cabin. So if you flying Houston-Frankfurt in United BusinessFirst, you can connect on Lufthansa in coach for the United redemption rate. While this is great for places like intra-Europe where business class is a coach seat with a nicer meal, it stinks for places you cannot get without a partner or where partner availability is scarce. I am thinking of Africa where you can get as far as Lagos in BusinessFirst but then what do you do? Or southern South America (Chile, etc.) where your options are really Copa or Avianca, the latter of which you will pay a premium for.

What to Do

I have received a couple of e-mails from Houston based flyers asking what they should do in the wake of the changes announced by United. I will be quite honest, I do not know what I am going to do. If you are a leisure traveler who was mileage running on United for miles and you are willing to hunt down United operated rewards, then I would say nothing should change for you. The 57.5k mile business class reward to Europe is still a good deal.

My travel revolves mostly around work and rewards were the bright spot of being on the road. I could redeem for a very nice trip for my wife and I and be happy. Keeping that same focus is probably my best course of action, even though I am tempted to jump ship to American Airlines. One thing holding me back is the impending merger of US Airways and American. We have no idea of what the results of that union are going to be, leaving me uncomfortable devoting a lot of my flying to either of those carriers. Once that becomes more clear, I will start thinking about my options again.

These changes certainly are not the end of the world and like Seth points out, there is an even more impactful devaluation in Northern South America upgrades, but United’s changes to the partner reward chart are certainly a kick in the gut. Sure, other Star Alliance airlines have different reward prices for flights on partners, but MileagePlus was United’s shining star. I have flown them weekly for the nearly the past three years and the product has suffered but I stayed loyal because I do like redeeming my MileagePlus miles and hardly had any problems doing so. I will have to see if that continues.

United has a pre-flight video that talks about reward travel with MileagePlus and how United has a vast network of destinations. They should leave that video but add a disclaimer at the beginning or end that lets people know they will be charged a premium to get to some of those destinations on partners.

Last night as I boarded my flight home from a week of work in New York City, I noticed that the seats on my United Airbus A320 looked a little different. Turns out I was experiencing the newly converted A320 with the Recaro slimline seats with the “comfort” upgrade. These seats are very similar to the Lufthansa NEK seats that have caused a bit of stir in their frequent flyer ranks, the difference being that United’s install has more padding and are supposed to be a more comfortable experience. From my three hour and fifteen minute flight last night, my conclusion are that the seats are a downgrade for passengers.

Recaro Slimline Seat 1

My immediate reaction to the flight last night was a little bit of the knee-jerk, “I hate change!” type but after gathering my thoughts and reading through my notes, my summary is this – the seats are not a one for one swap with regards to passenger comfort when compared to the previous United A320 seats and the new seats are certainly not an improvement. United’s reasoning for these seats was clear from the get-go, they wanted to fit an extra row of seats on the plane and these seats allowed them to do that by moving the rows closer together.

I was seated in row 21, seat A, an exit row window seat, for my flight last night. The first thing I noticed was that the legroom in this particular row had been severly reduced. The previous seat configuration here gave so much legroom that a passenger could barely touch their bag if there was one under the seat in front of them. The exit rows were clearly the losers when it came to where rows were squeezed closer together. The second thing I noticed was the somewhat cheap feeling of the seat. It is flimsy, just like the Lufthansa seat. When you or others in your row move, the lightweight metal frame of the seat is not very forgiving, allowing that movement to be felt by everyone else in the row.

Recaro Slimline Seat 2

The magazine storage has changed so that the magazine and safety briefing card are now in a small plastic divider behind the tray table. I was not surprised by this, I have seen the setup before on Lufthansa and it is actually a smart way to store the magazines. Where the negatives are for the passengers is the standard storage sleeve. What used to be a pocket in the seatback in front of you is now a shortened mesh pocket that is not good for storing much. I typically carry a small bag with my headphones and electrical accessories and between it and an iPad mini, the storage area could barely hold them. The seatback pocket is great for holding things and allowing a passenger to stay in their seat and avoid moving things around in the overhead bin.

Recaro Slimline Seat 3

The tray table on these new seats is noticeably smaller. In the exit rows the tray table used to be held in the armrest, that is no longer the case. I did not see what the setup was for the bulkhead rows but in the exit row, the tray table is now on the seat in front of you. The width has been reduced but I would say the depth is about the same as what the tray tables were when stored in the armrests. Again, the metal connections feel a little flimsy here. I rested my hands holding a book on the table and without really pushing I could feel a significant give in the table.

Lastly, the seat itself and a number of aspects that I find contribute to the overall uncomfortable feel of these seats. A lot of people think it’s the padding alone but with the things I list below, I think it is a group of things that really make these seats a downgrade for passengers.

  1. The comfort package does not add a significant amount of padding. There is definitely more than what Lufthansa offers but it is certainly not a huge improvement. It slightly removes the wood feel of the Lufthansa seats.
  2. The bottom cushion of the seat is a standard width but does not extend as far forward under the passenger’s legs as the previous seats. I would say the bottom seat cushion reminded me more of an exit row seat on a regional jet where they had to reduce its length to comply with safety standards. Thinking about this now I wonder if it is the same case on the A320s, the exit row required the seat cushion to be shorter. If you’ve flown in a regular row (rather than an exit row) on this converted plane I’d love to know if you felt the same way about the bottom cushion.
  3. There is very little lumbar support. In United’s announcement about these seats it was stated that there would be more lumbar support than the seats installed on Lufthansa but if it was there, it definitely was not noticeable. I thought reclining would help a little but it did not.
  4. The armrest width and length has been significantly reduced. The armrest is no longer as long as the seat is deep, ending up around four to five inches shorter. The width suffers greatly as well. I used to be able to share the armrest with a neighbor, each of us taking a little bit of it, but that is no longer possible. My seatmate and I were being polite and trying to do just that on the flight but we both commented that it wasn’t really possible.
  5. Tapering of the back of the seat. Halfway down the seatback, the seat tapers inward, leaving larger gaps between the seats. I have not noticed this before on Lufthansa flights but doing a quick Google Images search shows that it is there as well. My only comment on this is that it leaves you feeling a little more exposed. The armrest used to fill this void now there is nothing there. It is not a huge deal, just really different.
  6. The multidirectional headrest is small but slightly padded. I do not see any real benefit.

All of the above, especially items 1-4, combine to make the seat uncomfortable. Let me explain. Since there is less support under the forward portion of your legs your butt slides forward some so that your back takes on more of a support role, but there is no longer significant lumbar support so you continue to slide forward. To counteract this you have to use your feet to push yourself back into place. This process repeats until finally you leave your feet firmly planted on the floor to keep from sliding forward. In the exit row window seat there is no armrest attached to the seat on the window side leaving you with the middle seat’s outer armrest to try and keep your balance. This leaves you kind of squirming in the seat trying to find a comfortable position. I tried leaning back against the headrest but to keep from sliding into a slouched position I had to plant my feet and push myself into the seat to use the headrest.

Recaro Slimline Seat 4

If you can’t tell from the short novella I have written, I do not find the seat very comfortable. I think it is a downgrade for customers and a poor choice for United to make, no matter the extra revenue United squeezes out of those six extra seats. And I was not the only one making negative remarks, I heard plenty of people comment that they could not find a comfortable position in the seat. My co-worker leaned over and asked me “why have they not removed these old harder seats for those nicer padded ones”. I am serious, that is what I was asked. When I replied that these were new seats and were coming to the Airbus fleet he simply shook his head.

One last item. In the United announcement a comment was made about the entertainment options on these planes. There are none. While it was stated that Wi-Fi would be available, it definitely was not on during my flight last night and I also noticed there are no power ports to charge devices when they do get Wi-Fi on these planes. If they are going to be streaming entertainment via the Wi-Fi then they are going to need a power source of some kind. Also, the pilot announced Channel 9 was available but there is no audio on the plane and thus, no way to listen to air traffic control.

Recaro Slimline Seat 5

All in all the seat is a disappointment and I hope decision makers at United are flying on these planes and noting the issues that customers are having. I cannot imagine sitting in one of these seats for a transcon or even a red-eye, which are bad enough without uncomfortable seats thrown into the mix. The revenue of those six extra seats may look good on an accountant’s business case but it is being earned on passenger’s lower backs and rear ends.

I know this was a lot of words to describe a seat but when you are in one of these things twice a week, every week, it kind of matters.

My Monday mornings are rather mundane. I am up at 4:15am to make sure I get to the airport with plenty of time. Usually, I arrive too early (this has become more common with PreCheck) so I usually buy a cup of coffee and hang out at the gate. Today was just like any other Monday except for two things.

The first, was four women and a baby traveling together. It was, I’m guessing, the grandmother, the daughter, and the two granddaughters along with a great-grandchild. The grandmother had a walker and had trouble moving on her own. When they called for people with disabilities to board first, the grandmother stayed seated. The made the same announcement again, this time with the gate agent looking right at the older woman. Nothing. She sat there and waited. Near the end of boarding I see all four women walking down the jetway. They had waited until the end of boarding so not to hold anyone up. Very thoughtful of them, though I wish an agent would have approached them before boarding to ask if they’d like to get settled before they started regular boarding. Maybe an insignificant observation but I thought it was interesting.

The more random incident occurred about halfway through boarding. A woman walked on-board and stood at the front of the plane, looked at the first class cabin, then exclaimed, “this must be the man’s club”. Sure, every seat in the cabin was occupied by a man, but that had to be the most random thing I have experienced on an airplane in a while. I am not sure if she was joking or what, but the whole thing was odd. I have been seated next to plenty of women in first class so I don’t get the “man’s club” reference. Maybe she missed her upgrade, I don’t know. In any case, it made for an interesting Monday.

About a month ago I had the opportunity to be on the tarmac at IAH for the delivery of United’s new Boeing 787. I took a bunch of photos and have just really started going through them. As I edit them, I’ll add them to this post.

The United Boeing 787 Arrives in Houston

United Boeing 787

Update

A United spokesperson has now confirmed that the remaining 787 deliveries have been delayed and they will be adjusting the schedules as a result. In a bit of good news, they will allow free changes/refunds for these special flights. If you have a 787 flight booked and are affected by the schedule changes you should receive a communication from United. If you do not, give their reservations number a call.

The current status of United’s 787 is that it is still undergoing FAA certification. A few domestic flights were to start in early November but there have been reports and rumors of issues. A few tweets from the AirlineRoute account seem to suggest that some of the November schedule is going to change. United is to receive their second 787 some time next week. If that schedule holds, then some domestic routes will still be operated by the 787. If you’ve booked one of these flights just to fly the 787, check the your reservations after this weekend’s schedule changes take place.

The United Boeing 787 Arrives in Houston