Flying Across the USA in International Business Class

Friday was a long day for me, but it was a fun one. A bulk of it was spent at airports--6.5 hours in the air and 5 hours in two United Clubs, but I ended up flying from Newark to Los Angeles via Chicago in "international business class" on United, which made for quite a nice ride.

My original itinerary was Newark-Chicago-San Francisco-Burbank on United, with Newark-Chicago on an ex-Continental 757-200 with 16 BusinessFirst lie-flat seats, then Chicago-San Francisco on an ex-Continental 757-300 with 24 seats in domestic first class, and finally San Francisco to Burbank on a SkyWest CRJ-700 with six seats in first class.

The first flight was fine. The lie-flat seat was great and the lunch and service was decent, though my IFE did not work (apparently, it did not work for half the aircraft...). The FAs dutifully rebooted the system about five times, to no avail. But whatever. I had a book to read and the flight was only a tad over two hours.

My flight to San Francisco was delayed about 30 minutes, but when I arrived at the gate about 25 minutes prior to the updated departure time, boarding had not begun and the gate agent indicated that the aircraft fuel pump was not working and there were no spare parts available in O'Hare. The flight was delayed another half hour and I returned to the United Club.

Back at my usual desk, I promptly called the Premier Line and was protected on an evening flight to Los Angeles in first class. After I got off the phone, the guy sitting next to me leaned over and said, "I couldn't help but overhear you. Is the LA flight delayed further?"

I explained to him what my predicament was and he said he was on a delayed flight to LAX that had been upgraded from an A320 to a 747-400.

You can imagine the look on my face...

I tired to pull up the flight on ExpertFlyer, but since departure time had already passed, it was gone. I pulled it up on and found that it was indeed a 747-400 that would be leaving for Los Angeles in about an hour. I also spied two business class seats that were unassigned, though I could not see if the cabin had checked in full.



Back on the phone, it took no more than a couple minutes to switch my flight and I was ecstatic to be confirmed in business class on my lovely 747-400, even if it was a middle seat on the lower deck!

The flight was delayed another hour, but thankfully it was once we were onboard and I had no trouble passing the time taking advantage of UA's great AVOD system (superior to the CO system on the 757-200). I watched two movies on the flight--Hemingway and Gellhorn and To Rome with Love--and recommend them both. 

Since flying domestically in business class, there was no meal choice and the food was same slop UA has been serving all year (beef with Asian noodles), but it was at least filling. Service was not overly friendly, but was attentive.

So in the end, I may have spent a large chunk of the day in transit, but I completed a lot of work, enjoyed two great movies, and had horizontal lie-flat seats for both flights. Not a bad way to spend a Friday afternoon crossing the country!


Brad October 14, 2012 at 08:23 am

Nicely done. I feel these 'premium' flights are becoming more difficult to find domestically, but they are a great way to fly.

Mike October 14, 2012 at 08:58 am

How did you confirm as biz class seat? Were you on a CPU? Whenever i have a confirmed upgrade and try to SDC to a different flight i never get confirmed into biz or first...only coach and then go back on the upgrade list...

During irr/ops, you can often get re-confirmed in R if it is available, even if on a CPU, but in this case I was traveling on a GPU.

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