United's 2012 Family Day

For the seventh consecutive year, United has hosted their Family Day open house event at the SFO Maintenance base. Though the event is geared towards United employees and their family, a small group of customers are invited to the event, as well as those who are lucky enough to grab their tickets through FlyerTalk or MilePoint.

As is normally the case with an early flight, I elected to the spend the previous night at the Hilton MCI. I was given the same kind of room that I got on my last visit to the Hilton, although this one was not next to the elevators!

The next morning, I boarded my first Q400 operating under the United Express brand. Previously, the Q400s were operated by Colgan Air as Continental Connection, which then merged into United Express. Colgan had been the subject of intense scrutiny since the February 2009 crash of Colgan 3407, flying from Newark to Buffalo. Unfortunately, all of the passengers and crew were killed upon impact. The Colgan crash led to greater scrutiny on the practice of outsourcing flights to regional carriers. On September 5th, 2012, Colgan ceased operations, and all of their Q400s were transferred to Republic Airlines. Until the transfer happened, I was not willing to take my chances aboard a Colgan flight.

Offering the DEN>SFO upgrade for $179, versus confirming elites on the waitlist. Welcome to Continental d.b.a. United.

United had been planning to add first class & economy plus seating to the Q400 fleet, although I had not seen much information regarding which aircraft featured the new product. The day before the flight, I noticed that the seatmap had switched from an all-economy layout, to one that featured First & Economy Plus.

On-board, the First Class cabin looked the same as the one you would see on a United Express CRJ-700 or ERJ-170, although the seat pitch is a bit different.


3C & 3D

While I was seated in first class, the flight attendants treated it just like the economy cabin. Drinks came on the cart, versus being delivered by the flight attendant on a tray. There were also no snacks provided after take-off. None of that mattered to me, although I would expect the Republic flight attendants to treat this as a real first class cabin on future flights. I have a couple Q400 flights coming up that are already showing the new seatmap. United.com is also selling first class tickets for those flights, which are quite a bit more than what I paid for my K fare ;). For the people that actually pay for first class, I would think that they would be disappointed if all they received was one drink service, and a slightly larger seat.

An hour later, we landed in Denver, although it took about twenty minutes for our gate to become available. Unfortunately, this delay meant that the unaccompanied minor (16 yrs old) sitting in front of me missed her connection to Wyoming.

Brisk morning on the ramp

Inside the terminal, I visited the Red Carpet Club to say hello to one of my favorite agents. The agent had been out of commision during the summer for knee-surgery, but I was pleased to see her in back in the swing of things. Many of the "Denver regulars" have gotten to know her throughout the years, and it was sad to not see her every time you visited the lounge.

As expected, I was waitlisted for the upgrade, and figured that I would be sitting in my exit row seat on the ride over to San Francisco.

Thirty Minutes Later...

Apparentely there were a couple of misconnects that were seated in first class. While I feel bad that they missed their flight, I was pleased to hear my name paged for a new boarding pass. It's been quite a while since I've gotten a complimentary upgrade with my 1K status. Often time, I feel like 1K is the new Premier.

Once airborne, the choices for lunch were a beef burrito or a shrimp salad.

Notice the tacky credit card advertisement on the tray.

The flight went by fairly quickly, though some of that is thanks to the DirecTV installed on this ex-Continental 737. While I would not have paid for it if I were sitting in economy, I did enjoy the ability to watch some of my favorite shows. Best of all, it was free in first class.

Descent into San Francisco

The tulip lives!

The following morning, I took the Hyatt shuttle over to SFOs T3. From there, I met up with a good friend, and then walked downstairs to pick up the shuttle bus that would transport us to the maintenance base.

As we rolled up to the front gate, there were at least five hundred people in line to enter the facility. Fortunately, a table was setup near the entrance for customers to receive entry wristbands.

Inside the main gates, the United A320 Friend Ship retro jet was on the ramp, along with the Continental retro jet, a United DC-3 Mainliner, and a United 747. To my surprise, none of the aircraft on display (minus the 777 in the hangar that you'll see later in this post) featured the globe. Certainly made me happy to see! :)

Shortly after entering the base, a small parade went past.

The stormtroopers were also there!

Although I did not take many photos of the cars, there was a nice collection of classic vehicles.

United gave away vehicles to their employees that had perfect attendance in 2012

the first A319 with satellite wifi access

Through FlyerTalk, I signed up for the "plane pull". The goal is to pull the aircraft twenty feet in the least amount of time possible. I was a member of the SFO Flight Attendants team, as well as the FlyerTalk team. Unfortunately, we are still waiting for the winning results. Team Frequent Flyer (FT) has been the winning team for the past three years.

photo courtesy; Pat89339

photo courtesy; flaii

Entering the hangar

The wavy lines indicate a crack in the fuselage

Unfortunately, the mainliners club did not have any merchandise available that featured the tulip. However, I did get the contact info for the person that had a nice stock of tulip items in the backroom. :)

Inside the next hangar, a Boeing 777 had been suspended on four jacks. The purpose of demonstration was check the landing gear upon deployment and retraction.

I've got to say, it was pretty cool to see this happening at ground level!


The Queen of the Skies!

Just like a flight, I received a stand-by pass to visit the flight deck of the 747 on display. Unfortunately, a large number of these passes were given out, so my friend and I spent more than an hour waiting in line.

Escape slide demo. Also check out the 747 escape slide video from a previous United Family Day in 2010.


Economy seating

Imagine that legroom on a fourteen hour flight!

Row 22, my normal row when I sit in economy on the 747

 United Business on the Upper Deck

By the time we got upto the flight deck, the family day was starting to wind down. My friend and I spent about two minutes in the Captains seat, and were then sent on our way.

United First Suite

Upon exiting the 747, I noticed that it was already past five o'clock, thirty minutes after the event was supposed to end. My flight to Calgary was scheduled to depart in a little over two hours, although I still had to return to the Hyatt to retrieve my rollerboard and backpack.

Stay tuned for a photo report from Calgary/Banff, as well as a review of the Rim Rock Resort.


Darren October 16, 2012 at 06:11 pm

I had tickets, but was unable to attend sadly. Thanks for the review! Looked like another beautiful day - at least 3 years in a row it was sunny.

Glad you're feeling better! Hope to see you there in 2013 :)

Brad October 17, 2012 at 12:21 am

Great photos! Thanks for doing it.

@Brad: Thanks! It was a great day to be at the base. I was only able to attend two hours of the event in 2011, due to the oneworld MegaDO launch party that was held in L.A. on the same evening.

Believe I was one of the last people to leave this year!

GoodBoy October 17, 2012 at 03:10 am

good one Daniel, enjoyed the read and pics

"Imagine that on a 14 hour flight" I had that for the 14 hour flight SYD-SFO. Not as bad as it looks, because there is some room under the slide enclosure to put my foot, but I wouldn't complain if I were in 25A (as I was LAX-SYD). Seeing all these pictures, I certainly regret declining the ticket United offered me, but I'm sure the chance will come sometime.