I enjoyed four Hawiian flights on United Airlines last month and provide this brief review of each flight to demonstrate that onboard amenities have improved since I compared United and Continental between Los Angeles and Honolulu last year.
Flight 1 - Los Angeles to Honolulu, Breakfast
This flight would turn out to be the best of the four for one reason: Purser Leslie "Sunshine" Chung was simply outstanding. I've raved about UA's Honolulu-based flight crews before and Les exemplified how a purser should act. He introduced himself to each passenger in first class and addressed us by name. He was friendly too--not because he forced himself to be but clearly because he was just a friendly guy. Speaking came easy to him and he struck up a conversation with many passengers, including my uncle and me.
Breakfast was anemic--the "egg" patties and "cheese" left much to be desired--but I am to blame for opting for that over the fruit plate.
United plays a "Halfway to Hawaii" in which passengers are encouraged to guess the exact time when the aircraft will be, well, halfway to Hawaii. The captain or first officer provides some information including departure time, distance, speed, and head/tail wind, making it mathematically possible to calculate the exact time the plane would theoretically reach the halfway point. But with changing altitudes and varying speeds, the best anyone can actually do is estimate. I was not a winner this time.
It was not just Leslie that was good--the two other first class flight attendants were in a great mood and took good care of everyone. Mai Tais were flowing freely and the snack basket was welcomed a couple hours after breakfast.
IFE was simply overhead video or nine channels of in-seat audio--nothing spectacular in that area. I was able to fall asleep for a few hours so the lack of IFE variety did not bother me.
The flight landed on time and the crew smiled and thanked everyone as they departed. Not a bad flight.
Flight 2 - Honolulu to Los Angeles, Lunch
After a great time in Japan and South Korea, a long flight in economy from Narita to Honolulu and couple hours in the Red Carpet Club, I was happy to be back in first class, even if only a domestic product.
HNL Red Carpet Club
The service was not quite as friendly on this flight, but still warm and personable. The purser did address passengers by name when taking meal orders and the Trader Vic's meal choices, either a beef stir fry or macadamia nut-encrusted chicken, were very tasty and featured large portions. Hot nuts to start with Mai Tais and a hot chocolate chip cookie for dessert.
Again, a snack basket was served prior to landing.
Flight 3 - San Francisco to Kona, Dinner
This was the flight I blogged about a couple weeks where the purser silently took meal orders. Other than that oddity, though, the flight was good.
Hot nuts and Trader Vic choices again--this time the macadamia nut-encrusted chicken or a seafood plate with shrimp and prawns. I chose the chicken and like the flight from Honolulu to Los Angeles, the portion was huge. A hot chocolate chip cookie was again served for dessert.
The FAs disappeared for a while after the meal service, but were generally good about monitoring the cabin and keeping glasses full. A snack basket was again available prior to landing.
IFE was more of the same and I did not partake, but the many leisure travelers in the cabin seemed to be enjoying Hawaii Five-0.
We landed early in warm and breezy Kona.
Flight 4 - Kona to Los Angeles, Snack
My layover was only a couple hours (this was part of my 40K mileage run) so I did not leave the secure side of the airport. Kona airport features open-air and semi-enclosed seating and offers a gift shop and sundry shop, and a small restaurant.
Soon, it was time to board my flight. There are no jetbridges in Kona: stairs are wheeled up to the aircraft just like old times.
I was shocked when I got onboard--the purser looked like she was pushing 90 years old (and who knows, maybe she was). I expected a very soft and frail voice, but she had a shrill, loud, and commanding voice that made her sound like she was 40.
The aircraft was lightly filled and the 757 first class cabin had six open seats (out of 24), including the one next to me. Snack orders were taken soon after liftoff: a choice of a hot turkey sandwich or cold pasta salad--standard snacks on United redeyes. Both were served with soup and a cookie and I had one last Mai Tai with my sandwich.
I had trouble falling asleep (the doughy, but tasty sandwich probably did not help), but eventually managed to get an hour or so of shuteye.
We landed at LAX 20 minutes early.
While other carriers offer international service onboard their mainland to Hawaii flights, I was perfectly happy with the service provided by UA. All four flights were on-time, service and food was good, the aircraft was clean, and I enjoyed complimentary upgrades.
Honeymooners and lesiure flyers looking to splurge on an extra treat will not be disappointed by United First.