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Part II: My first Flight EVER On United IAH-SAN

After my short hop from Birmingham, Alabama to Houston, I had a 1 hour layover and then was on my way home to San Diego. I landed at Terminal B and had to transfer to terminal C. I honestly thought an hour lay over would be plenty of time, but I found myself somewhat rushed. The Houston airport is like everything else in Texas…BIG! It took me 45 minutes to get from my arriving flight to my connecting flight! Not to mention, terminal C was so crowded I had to honestly push my way pass the gate lice huddled around gates in large mobs that extended into the narrow corridor of Terminal C.

The Crowded C Terminal

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As I arrived at my gate I found myself still on the upgrade list, still in the #1 position with two seats left.Upgrade here I come I thought! I waited in line to speak with the gate agent because I also knew the flight was oversold and I wanted to offer my seat if there was any chance they were seeking volunteers. After a short 5 minute wait, I approached the gate agent and asked, she had told me that they weren’t going to need any volunteers because of missed connections (darn) and she kindly processed my upgrade for me instead! 

The gate area was extremely full and finding a seat as I waited for the incoming aircraft to finish disembarking wasn’t an option. So I leaned up against the wall and explored my United app, for it my my first time using United and my first time using their smartphone application. It was already departure time, and again the gate monitors and the United app claimed the flight was taking off on time. Knowing this wasn’t true, I sent a quick text over to my ride home in California and informed them I would be late.

Finally, 15 minutes pass departure time, the plane started boarding. This time though the plane boarded in a fashion that I was not use to. Even before boarding was announced, the priority boarding line had about 50 people in it. I was confused by this and just decided that United FFs are definitely gate lice! As boarding progressed it went like this: Disabled and those with Children (the gate agent even made an announcement asking if there was anyone who did not identify as disabled but needed a wheel chair assist—maybe learning from the Alaska airline Debacle last week?), then Military in or out of Uniform (really? This was new to me, didn’t bother me just thought it was a bit strange), and then they called their Global Service and 1k members. By this point honestly the line had not moved and almost no one had boarded. Yet, with the next announcement the gate was flooded with people. Zone 1 first class and star alliance gold the agent said. As I worked my way to the gate, I felt as though ½ the plane was in line in front of me. Only having a first class cabin of 24 seats, the mob of people did not add up to 24, but I worked my way in towards the front of the line and slowly worked my way onto the plane.

2012-08-10-17.44.50 The line of people above lined up before boarding even began, Below a picture I snapped of the economy cabin

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The plane was an Old 757 with overhead TVs and standard domestic first class Seats. It wasn’t anything fancy, but the flight wasn’t very long and domestic business class always beats coach. I dropped my bag off and worked my way to the forward galley to met my flight attendants and to make a special request. They were busy breaking up ice and talking amongst each other. I kindly said, excuse me ladies, I don’t mean to interrupt, but I was wondering if you could answer a question for me. I paused and the both gave me a look of death as though I was honestly bothering them. I continued and explained to them that I was a vegetarian and asked if there was a meat free dining option on the flight tonight. I explained to them that I was in the back of the Biz class cabin and I understood they aren’t suppose to take requests for food before take off, but asked if they would make an exception since I had a diet restriction. One would think I just asked these ladies for a million dollars. They started to play good cop, bad cop, and bickered back and forth between each other. One demanded to know why I didn’t place a special meal order, while the other one informed her that special meal orders weren’t taken for domestic first anymore (is this true?). I honestly could barely get a world in as they argued back and forth. Finally I said, I understand and I would highly appreciate if they could save me a pasta, but if not I understood the policies. I thanked them and walked back to my seat in utter disbelief. The FAs were not only rude about my special request, but also slightly unprofessional. Note to self; do not ask a United FA for anything before take-off.

Pre-departure drinks were served and after another 45 minutes of tarmac delays we were finally on our way to San Diego. Service began about 45 minutes into flight with initial beverage and warm nuts being served. I was delighted to see that United offered Warm Nuts 2012-08-10-21.32.54(like American) vs Delta’s packaged nuts/pretzels. Warmed nuts are defiantly a nice treat at any time of the day! After initial drink service, the FA came around and started to take meal orders. Despite there being two FA working the first class cabin, I only ever saw one. The other remained busy in the galley the entire time. As the FA came to take orders I do not recall her referring anyone by name and she didn’t even acknowledge me. She took the order of the gentleman next to me and then continued on.  She had told the older fellow next me that his only option was beef with Asian noodle, so I assumed I would either not be eating or they were going to remove the beef chunk from my plate and serve be what they had left (as they had offered earlier).

A few minutes later dinner was on its way. Surprise! I was actually served pasta! I thanked the FA and prepared myself to dig in. Meanwhile, the FA came back through the cabin and started refilling drinks. She refilled drinks of everyone in the cabin, including the gentleman next to me, but left my drink empty, not even offering to refill it. I had assumed she had just overlooked it and I let it be until her next pass through the cabin.

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Dinner itself was fairly bland, but not horrible. It consisted of small salad, bread, a shrimp cocktail, and pasta in a marinara sauce. It was nothing fancy, but also not bad for only a 3 hour flight. About the same time I finished my dinner, the other FA appeared with a basket of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. The cookie was gooey and delicious and being that it was warm, it upped the ante! Now we were almost 2 hours into the flight and my drink had remained empty. The FA had passed by about 15 minutes earlier and I had asked her for another drink and a club soda. She told me she would be right back with it and continued about her business. She refilled other drinks again, but never brought me my request. I started to find this to be weird, was it coincidence that she 2012-08-10-20.19.39skipped offering me a refill the first time and now had ignored my request?

Finally she came by to clear my trays and said, can I get you anything else? I again smiled and politely asked me my drink. She looked down and said, OH my, did I forget to get that for you? I’ll be right back! I took it as a sincere apology and just smiled at her. She came back with a bottle of Jim bean and a can of club soda. Dropped it off and left. So now, I had a cup of ½ melted ice, a bottle of jim and a can of soda water. My original request: Jim on the rocks and a glass of club soda. URG! I guess this is what you get when you bother the FA before takeoff! I drank my Jim over the 1/2 melted ice and drank my soda water from the can.

From this point out the flight was uneventful. I sat back in my seat, worked on a project for school and enjoyed the movie from the tiny overhead monitors in first class. Once the movie ended I switched over to my MP3 player and listened to music of my choice as I continued working. This plane also didn’t have Wi-Fi so it kept me from being as productive as I could have been. However reguardless I was able to get a good amount of work done.

Overhead Monitors in the Business class cabin2012-08-10-20.45.14

 Overall the flight wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t amazing either. My service was far from top notch and defiantly could use some improvement. In flight entertainment was mid-level for a domestic flight, however the addition of power ports and Wi-Fi to the United fleet is a must if they want to be an industry leading airline. Food was adequate for a flight of this length.

So my final decision on United? Luke-warm. Although I will say, after 1 flight and poor interactions with the status match team/customer service department, I have not become a fan of United and really have no desire to fly United again. Despite this, I am not 100% turned off. I know that every experience on an airline isn’t going to be the best of experiences. However, since this was my first time flying United and the first time using my Status match it defiantly wasn’t the service I was hoping for or expecting. Will I throw my service loyalty behind United? I haven’t decided yet. I guess my flight next week to Asia will really help me weigh in on my decision. If I have a similar experience next week, then I know I’ll be going back to Delta or hitting up American or US Airways.

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Comments

#1
Wandering Aramean August 15, 2012 at 03:16 pm

Awesome Freudian slip in there....

"it defiantly wasn’t the service I was hoping for"

;)

#2
Idaho Wood Sheds August 15, 2012 at 09:55 pm

Sorry to hear about your experience, but unfortunatly it's very representative of the "new and improved" United :( Hopefully they will get better soon.

#3
BR August 16, 2012 at 04:12 am

@WanderingAramean LOL!!!!

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