Review of United Airlines flight Tokyo Los Angeles in Economy

Airline United Airlines
Flight UA33
Class Economy
Seat 29C
Aircraft Boeing 787-9
Flight time 9:10
Take-off 22 Jan 16, 18:00
Arrival at 23 Jan 16, 10:10
UA   #86 out of 106 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 195 reviews
ashleyyau
By 3375
Published on 20th March 2016
Hi and welcome to my second installment of flight reports!

Background

This series will cover my quick business trip to a destination. In order to make the reports more interesting, I will reveal the routing as we go on. This is my first time in UA and Boeing 787.

The report will be broken down as follows (all in Y):
1. NH812 HKG-NRT B767-300ER [http://flight-report.com/en/report-13628.html]
2. UA33 NRT-LAX B787-9 [You are here!]
3. UA5200 LAX-SFO Embraer E-175 [http://flight-report.com/en/report-16442.html]
4. UA869 SFO-HKG B747-400 [http://flight-report.com/en/report-16498.html]

Since I had my online check-in on ANA website, seat choosing on this UA-operated flight was unavailable. I then switched to United website. Unfortunately it did not allow me to choose it and instructed me to do it on ANA website lol. Finally I did it until the counter check-in at HKG earlier that day. As per my request, the HKG agent picked an aisle seat 29C for me.


Flight Report

Erstwhile on last report, I was here once I cleared the security.

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There are several FIDSs in front of the security exit. My flight (ロサンゼルス) was listed on the last row of the bottom left FIDS and showing a 17:35 depart at Gate 35, which is located at No.3 Satellite.

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Here is the boarding pass for this flight (I took it in HKG). It showed the departure time was 17:00

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There is a smoking lounge next to the security exit. So I had a break first.

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Inside the lounge. It was in black color design and no windows. Personally I think it was too dark.

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Next I went to the washroom on the another side of the security exit. It is common in Japan that the toilet will help you cleansing^^

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Since I had something to do at NRT and in order to estimate if there was sufficient time to do so, I went to have a look of my gate first.

Bypassing the United Club.

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Tons of cargo containers were waiting for loading

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Walking along the No.3 Satellite. A bit tricky there. You can see it is a hallway but it is called a “satellite” because it was once really a circular satellite of Terminal 1 many years ago. In the last expansion NRT added a No.5 Satellite to the south of No.3 and changed the latter into a linear concourse

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My gate for this flight. Airport staff were preparing

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Our plane was already here! A Boeing 787-9. A NZ B787 was taxiing behind.

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Passengers sat aside and waited. There was a man in grey striped windbreaker, who sat with his back towards me at the second foremost seat row in this picture. He later turned out to be my middle seatmate.

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Finding out my gate was not very far from the central building, I backed to the main lobby and completed my most important task (apart from business trip): to buy some omiyage requested by my family and friends.

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My only target was 東京ばな奈 (Tokyo Banana), which is extremely popular in HK.

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I instantly grabbed some Banana boxes and paid them. Although the cashier line was very long (mostly HK people and mostly bought the Banana), it was quite fast.

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Task done. So I walked around in the South Terminal

ANA vs UA tails line-up

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The airport was broadcasting the live Sumo Tournament

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There was traditional ししまい (lion dance) performance! Kawaii!

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An United advertisement. Would I really fly the friendly skies on them???

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I made some UA plane spotting. A B777 to Singapore.

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A B747 to San Francisco

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I reached my gate again. The gate still not open but some Group 1 passengers already lined up.

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Still having time, I had another break. There is another smoking lounge next to my gate.

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Inside the smoking lounge. Much fancy design than the previous one with seats overlook the tarmac. Aw jeez the tarmac sunset was fantastic! It is so far the most beautiful smoking lounge I had visited. I stayed at this lounge until boarding was called.

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Boarding had started a while. I queued last minute until the line of Group 5 started moving

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Embarking. I went on the right side jet bridge



A FA welcomed me on board (she turned out to be one of the FAs working on my aisle in the Y cabin). And I said “Konnichiwa”

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Passing the business class cabin.

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The economy cabin is a surprise! The UA newest leather seats are installed! Not the one in legacy CO pattern.

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The tag with long live Continental globe was installed on each seat.

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The economy seat in 3-3-3 configuration

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My seat 29C was here. Pillow and blanket were already placed on the seat. The seat is comfortable and has good seat pitch (sorry I did not take picture for it)

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The middle bulkhead seats on my right hand side are Economy Plus

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The overhead bin. Mirrors are installed inside the bins

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My window seatmate (29A) was a lady and already settled down.

The IFE with the USB port below. It should be the same model with CX and is responsive.

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My seat view of the Economy Plus cabin.

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The cabin LED mood lighting system for B787.

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Later the aforesaid middle seatmate came and he is a Chinese.

The blanket

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The pillow with a disposable cover.

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Our route today. The air show was default in either English or Japanese only.

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The seatback materials

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Safety card

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Duty free catalog

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The UA route map

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UA said they would not use low-cost coffee beans anymore…

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The headphone was distributed before push back. It looks pathetic compared with NH.

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Spotting the bulkhead seats only had one person, the middle seatmate asked the FA if he could change to those seats. Agreed by the FA, the man later moved to it. He had a free upgrade to Economy Plus ;)

Soon the plane pushed back sharply on 18:00 and it was already in darkness outside. United corporate video was played (you can watch it on YouTube).

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It emphasizes UA invested a lot in advanced technology in order to not mishandle your bag…

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Following was the UA brand new safety video (you can also watch it on YouTube). The ORD based FA taught you how to fasten your belt.

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During taxiing the captain made on board announcement. He firstly welcomed us for flying with the United newest B787 which was just delivered in last Sept. He introduced the cabin crews: totally 15 crews (I forget the exact no.), which composed of half Western and half Asian, including one Chinese and one Korean among the Asian crews. Due to the strong jet stream, the Captain aggressively expected we would arrive at LAX 1 hour earlier.

But later things got odd where he started selling UA in the announcement. He insisted that UA was a very good airline which crews were very friendly and catering tasted good lol. He even encouraged the passengers to make best wishes to Oscar (the UA CEO who recently undergo a heart transplant) @@ UA should gave the most loyal employee award to him :O)

The FAs were checking whether the passengers had fastened their belts. Today the Y cabin was only 70% full where many middle seats were empty.

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Cabin lighting and windows were off during took off. And all the windows were set in darkest by default most of the flight time.

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We had a U-turn to Pacific Ocean.

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Once the seatbelt sign was off, the FAs started distributing the immigration forms.

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I browsed the IFE. It contains adequate selection of languages and programs.



There was a little surprise: It features the newest Chinese Pop songs and what I heard was the current HK TV drama theme music (愛·回家!) @@

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The text-only Games menu did not attract me to play it

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The 787 Wi-Fi seemed fast. Yet I did not use it.

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Aperitif service. Both my seatmate and I requested water. Otsumami were provided.

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But suddenly the IFE freezed. I asked a FA nearby to help me. She replied me she would fix it after finishing the aperitif service. However she reset my IFE shortly after the conversation.

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Dinner services started about an hour into the flight.

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No menus were provided, the FA asked “chicken or pasta?” Meanwhile I was doubt if the pasta contained beef (I am a no beef person) so I asked the FA. She answered me no and indeed it was vegetarian option. She even pointed out the ingredients of each option in detail. Both my seatmate and I chose the pasta one.

For the drinks I had orange juice and here is the tray. The size is a bit small, but expected in UA standard.

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I used the passport for size reference

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The bread was a rubber. But the 2-bite salad was very delicious! The pasta also tasted good.

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Ice-cream and bottled water were distributed after the tray was collected.

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It was green tea ice-cream from Glico and very tasty! Overall the dinner was good excluding the bread. An improvement of UA TPAC catering?

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After the dinner the FA dimmed the light for resting. The woman kept watching movies and messaging on her iPad while I went to toilet before taking a rest.

When I was waiting outside the rear toilet, the crews gathered in the galley and having some casual briefing. Once passengers entered, at least one FA would smiley asked if anything they could help. All of them were in very good mood and high spirits.

Inside the toilet, it was new and clean.

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Cabin shot outside the rear toilet.

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I then had a very good 2.5 hours’ rest. I woke up here mid-flight.

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I headed to the rear galley for stretching and drinks.

2 FAs were sitting in the galley and playing their phones. Once I entered, they promptly put their mobiles aside and stood up and smiley asked what I need. I asked for water and one of them gave me a cup of water. Then I walked back to my seat but unfortunately I tripped and the cup fell down! It spilled on the rear door of the plane!!!

I was so embarrassed and kept saying sorry lol. The FAs jaw dropped at first, but immediately turned back in professional manner. One took out the towel to clean the door while the other was very care about if I got hurt or my clothes dirty. She said “That’s ok. We had seen it millions of time.” And even joked I was the first one to spill on this plane :p She told me to return my seat and would deliver a bottle water to me afterwards (she really gave it). Wow very good handling!

I napped again. In the second half of flight the cabin was very cold. I had to use 2 blankets in addition to my jacket covering myself for napping. The FA put another bottled water on my tray while I was resting

Another cabin shot on the way to toilet after the second nap

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The rear galley

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You could still find the legacy of CO there.

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Breakfast service started when we were approaching to San Francisco (サンフランシスコ).

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The FAs turned on the wake-up lighting scene and released the window dimmer.

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Passengers started waking up.

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Questions only again: Omelet or Pancake? I did not want a sweet breakfast, so I chose the omelet and orange juice. The lady declined the breakfast and told the FA that she was in diet…

Again the size for your reference. Size was small. I should be happy they also gave 2 pieces of cookies.

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It was the boring UA style Omelet and totally non appetizing. Omelet bland. Sausage bland. Hash brown bland and mushy. Only cookies not bland. The very UA-standard breakfast was just fair as I expected.

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Breakfast service finished when we were near San Jose (サンノゼ).

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After the breakfast I completed the immigration form.

The cabin after the breakfast service. You can see the different dim levels of the B787 unique windows.

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We prepared to land.

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This was my only shot of aerial view. The lady stuck on her seat for the whole flight. She did not move until deplaning.

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We had another U-turn for landing and our plane eventually landed on the north runway.

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Taxiing to the United Terminal 7. We passed the United Hanger

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Our plane arrived at Gate 76 in Terminal 7.

The captain made the arrival announcement. He informed that we landed 50 minutes earlier and the current temperature in LA was 20c, 20 times hotter than HK!!! (at that time HK was a record-breaking 1c only!) He explained although we arrived at the gate early, we had to remain on seats since the gate would not be opened to our plane until the boarding of another flight at other gate completed. He even commented the LAX design is very bad especially the crowd control @@

Deplaning only started after a 20 minutes wait.

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Walking along the Terminal 7.

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We took the escalator down to the immigration.

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Maybe we were the only international aircraft arrived at United Terminal, the immigration counters only had our plane passengers lined up.

The Asian immigration staff said good morning. He took my passport, scanned it and I got fingerprinted. He asked my nature of the trip. He was very interested in my carry-ons and asked how much once he knew that they were the Bananas. I cleared the immigration in 10 minutes.

After the immigration I went through a very long hallway to the baggage claim

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The Terminal was undergoing renovation

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The baggage claim. You can imagine how your baggage transported in LAX.

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My baggage was already on the conveyor belt. I immediately took it and packed the Bananas inside (I was looking like smuggling :P). And then went to the customs. I passed the customs form to the staff. She didn’t ask me any questions and let me go.
























Did you think I'd arrived at my destination? Perhaps you'd hoped I had.






















After I exited the customs there is a recheck area. A friendly staff stood at the corner welcomed us and kept asking passengers if they needed to recheck their bags. Therefore I passed my baggage to him and exited the Terminal 6.

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Again, next to the recheck counters there are several FIDSs and my next flight was already on the list. Could you figure it out?

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This is the second part of flight report and please stop by the rest of this series! In next report I will also reveal the story behind the first report's cover picture of this series.


Now I am giving an obvious hint for my destination: I saw this in my final destination.

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Thank you for your reading!
See more

Verdict

United Airlines

8.5/10
Cabin8.5
Cabin crew10.0
Entertainment8.5
meal/catering7.0

Tokyo - NRT

9.0/10
Efficiency8.5
Access9.0
Services9.0
Cleanliness9.5

Los Angeles - LAX

7.8/10
Efficiency8.5
Access7.5
Services7.5
Cleanliness7.5

Conclusion

My first time in UA flight. It was surprisingly another pleasant flight experience beyond my expectation!

Cabin comfort: Good. A brand new B787, the cabin was equipped with latest leather seat and it was comfort with good seat pitch. But the cabin was very cold in the 2nd half of the flight (norm for US carriers?). Also you cannot control the mode of air show and the tray table is lack of a cup holder.

Crew: Very good. I even cannot believe I would give this score on a UA flight. But the crews actually deserved it. Crews were in very good mood and had a high team spirit. The captain was very funny while the FAs were very responsive and attentive. Very professional handling for abnormal situation. Genuinely surprised.

Meal and catering: Not so good. As expected, the catering service was always the weakest point of UA. The size was small compared with Asian carriers. Overall food quality was satisfactory where dinner was much better than breakfast.

Entertainment: Good. Responsive and functional IFE (with variety of programs and language choices). Standard seatback materials.

On-time performance: Very good. We arrived 50 minutes ahead of schedule.

For LAX, immigration and baggage claim was much faster than I expected since we did not arrive at TBIT. The airport has enough guidelines for arrivals. A good impression at this point.

Related

6 Comments

  • Comment 161636 by
    757Fan 310 Comments

    Thanks for sharing your report of your flight to Los Angeles with United. Looks like the food has improved quite a bit in International Economy with them; the Green tea ice cream looks good!

    I would love to fly on the 787 soon. The last time I passed through Denver, I saw a United 787 getting prepared for a flight to Tokyo. What a great looking aircraft!

      0
    • Comment 338161 by
      ashleyyau AUTHOR 153 Comments

      Thanks for your comment 757Fan!

      - Since this is my first time in UA, I cannot comment whether it has improved a lot. IMO the ex-Japan food could not be too bad^^

      “I would love to fly on the 787 soon.”
      - Me too! I think the 787 is very stable and quiet during flying. And the UA unique 787 livery looks better than its other fleets!

        0
  • Comment 162066 by
    jetsetpanda 2095 Comments

    Thanks for this nice report on UA.

    Catering can improve in its quantity but overall this is an improvement from what UA used to serve. Glad that you had a good flight.

      0
    • Comment 348814 by
      ashleyyau AUTHOR 153 Comments

      Thanks for your comment jetsetpanda and sorry for very late reply!
      - Agreed with you that there are still rooms of improvement on catering i.e. quantity. BTW the catering on this flight was not the worst in my experience.

        0
  • Comment 162495 by
    NGO85 1581 Comments

    Thanks for sharing this report on UA! You got lucky with a good UA crew^^

    Tons of cargo containers were waiting for loading
    - Nice scimitar winglets on the plane to GUM^^ NRT isn't a great airport, I find it to be pretty lacking of amenities relative to other airports in Asia, but it does have plenty of smoking rooms^^

    A B747 to San Francisco
    - Fantastic shot with the sunset^^

    The UA newest leather seats are installed! Not the one in legacy CO pattern.
    - My B789 flight from FRA-IAH was also with the newly installed cabins. I was equally surprised to see them, but they have been on the narrow-body fleet for a while now. I on the other hand, did not find these seats to be more comfortable than the older ones. I found them to be fairly stiff.

    But later things got odd where he started selling UA in the announcement.
    - This selfless advertising is all over the place. The Friendly Skies ads all over aiport terminals and what not. They are by far the most aggressive in advertising, AA and DL seem much less in your face.

    Then I walked back to my seat but unfortunately I tripped and the cup fell down!
    - Better than the orange juice you spilled all over yourself on CX ;)

    Breakfast service
    - If you remember my KIX-SFO flight on UA, we weren't given a second meal so this is a very different side to UA, lol. Overall, the food looks consistent with the new UA catering. The taste of the mini salads and mains has greatly improved, but at the expense of the quantity. The packaged bread they serve is not good.

    I cleared the immigration in 10 minutes.
    - LAX has always been very good for arrivals in my experiences.

    Now I am giving an obvious hint for my destination
    - I don't consider a giant hole to be an obvious hint... I'll guess San Diego since most of the destinations you had listed on the FIDS were directly accessible from NRT or were in different countries.

      0
    • Comment 348815 by
      ashleyyau AUTHOR 153 Comments

      Thanks for your comment NGO85 and sorry for very late reply!

      “NRT isn't a great airport, I find it to be pretty lacking of amenities relative to other airports in Asia, but it does have plenty of smoking rooms^^”
      - NRT's Terminals are not very big, so it might not have many amenities compared with other airports in Asia. Personally I think the amenities are adequate (especially the smoking rooms^^) and very hygienic. And NRT is very convenient for transit if you have connecting flight in same alliance.

      “Fantastic shot with the sunset^^”
      - Thanks so much! It was winter time and I was so lucky to capture this moment.

      “I on the other hand, did not find these seats to be more comfortable than the older ones. I found them to be fairly stiff.”
      - IMO one advantage for this cabin is easy to clean (for spill case :P) I am satisfying with their seat since I could sleep well for few hours. And I am now looking forward to your review on 789 flight with this new cabin^^

      “They are by far the most aggressive in advertising, AA and DL seem much less "in your face."”
      - The situation in HK is totally reverse to what you said for those 3 carriers. Maybe UA has a well-established HKG base for many years so they don’t think they need to advertise in HK. On the other hand, as mentioned in your previous report, DL and AA still keep fighting in HK (from my observation DL seems to lost a bit in HK recently)!

      “Better than the orange juice you spilled all over yourself on CX ;)”
      - Water is always better than OJ :D I am profoundly surprised on the efficiency of UA crew for this incident (the main reason for giving full score on crew). Now I would think my experience on CX was totally a BS lol

      “Overall, the food looks consistent with the new UA catering.”
      - Your UA KIX-SFO flight experience is a legend :P Agreed with you and I found that the food offering on this TPAC flight looks consistent to your IAD-MUC TATL flight: the dinner was good (not the bread!) but pathetic for breakfast.

      “LAX has always been very good for arrivals in my experiences.”
      - It is true for arriving at the UA Terminal. For TBIT, I haven’t been arriving there so no comment^^

      “I don't consider a giant hole to be an obvious hint...”
      - Ok I give a more obvious hint… the name of destination has occurred in this flight report many times. BTW I traveled to there again recently with a totally different routing.

        0

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