Review of United flight Tokyo San Francisco in Economy

Airline United
Flight UA876
Class Economy
Seat 29C
Aircraft Boeing 787-9
Flight time 9:15
Take-off 30 Apr 16, 00:30
Arrival at 30 Apr 16, 17:45
UA   #86 out of 112 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 211 reviews
ashleyyau
By 2822
Published on 22nd November 2016
Hi and welcome to my second installment of American Travel Story!

Return to San Francisco: Three Days in Business Trip

This series will cover my 2nd business trip to SF in Apr. In order to make the reports not so boring, I will reveal the itinerary as we go on.

The report is broken down as follows (all in Y):
1. NH860 HKG-HND B777-200ER [http://flight-report.com/en/report-19480.html]
2. UA876 HND-SFO B787-9 [You are here!]
3. NH7 SFO-NRT B777-300ER [http://flight-report.com/en/report-20208.html]
4. NH811 NRT-HKG B767-300ER [http://flight-report.com/en/report-20581.html]


Background

There are many options between HK and SF while CX, SQ & UA operate direct flights to SF. This time my boss, the original colleague-in-charge, finally had a valid US Visa for the trip and she would travel with me. As mentioned in the previous series it is the company policy that all colleagues cannot be in single aircraft (you can click here for more information). My boss is a CX lover so she immediately picked the CX, and I won’t fly with her.

Fortunately I was notified about this trip much earlier. Therefore I could make my own choice and explore alternative routings other than direct flights. After some considerations, I opted *A since I had flown NH/UA last time and I could obtain the UA sliver status after this trip. SQ was robbed by 2 other colleagues so no hope on it. In order to qualify for the UA status, I need to have one more UA flight to complete the at-least-4-flights requirement. Communicating with the travel agent, they gave some options for flying to SF:

a. HKG-SFO on UA B747 (no thank you)
b. HKG-NRT-SFO on NH then UA B747 only as no seats on NH (no thank you again)
c. HKG-NRT, HND-SFO on NH in pm then UA (Are you kidding me?)
d. HKG-NRT-LAX-SFO on NH then UA/NH and UA (IME not bad, but this time I did not want to do it)
e. HKG-HND-SFO on NH then UA

When I heard choice (e), I was particularly interested since I had not been to Haneda before and UA operates a B789 on 2nd leg which I had good experience on this aircraft last time. The only cons was that I would have about 5 hours to be killed in HND but it doesn’t matter. As a result I picked this one and requested the same seat as my last B789 flight.

This report will also have a brief review of smoking lounges in HND.


Haneda Airport

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

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The first thing to do after a flight was to have a break. There are totally 5 smoking lounges in HND. I had plenty of time so I planned to visit them all. The first target was the one near my departure gate.

Luxury shops and an information center

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Passing by the rest zone in the middle concourse. Each reclined seat has power outlets for charging. The guy on the right-hand side later also took the same flight to SF.

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The FIDS. My flight (サンフランシスコ) was listed on the middle of the right FIDS and showing a 00:30 departure at Gate 148, which is located at left end of the Terminal North.

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Inside the smoking lounge. It is bright and clean. No seats but it has a metal sidebar for leaning. A lighter stand is installed in each smoking lounge for those who did not have lighters, while NRT has none of them.

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Next I went to the toilet opposite to the smoking lounge. It was clean in Japan usual standard.

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Changing a diaper is a man job in Haneda.

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Besides, I went to have a look of my gate. Same as SFO, in HND you need to take the escalator downwards for boarding.

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I arrived my gate. It was so early that nobody was here. Even the Gate FIDS were not ready to show my flight info.

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Therefore I wandered around the Terminal. There are several books & drugs stores.

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You can read the books for time killing

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The stores also have a wide assortment of omiyages to choose from



An ATM

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An UNIQLO store featuring Japan limited collection.

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Escalators to the floor of Lounges. I wished I could have chances to visit them lol

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I continued exploring the other 3 smoking lounges alongside the middle concourse. They share the same size and layout which their walls are decorated in Mevius branding.

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Mevius should have dumped a lot of $$$ sponsoring HND. Apart from smoking lounges, Mevius was placed on the prominent shelfs in the duty-free shops^^

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Still having time, I headed to the smoking lounge located in the South end of the Terminal.

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This is the biggest and the only one featuring couches with a TV playing Mevius commercial. I recharged and napped awhile here.

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In summary, all of the smoking lounges are super clean and have good ventilation, which are far better than HKG.

Kept smoking in the lounge was somehow boring lol I walked back to my gate.

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The passenger carts should be very happy that they did not need to work (in feeding mode).

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The gate was more than nothing: a MU A330 parked at the adjacent gate.

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There were still no one in the Terminal North. I grabbed a reclining chair in the rest zone there.

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I turned on my Surface and the Wi-Fi in HND is super-fast.

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After killing some work emails, I continued binge-watching Nirvana in Fire, the ancient Chinese reenacted version of The Count of Monte Cristo.

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I backed to my gate 1.5 hours later.

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The gate was still not ready but few passengers started to appear.

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Eventually HND came alive after 10:30pm since a lot of international flights departed at midnight. We will later find out where did the staff (right hand side in front of the duty-free shop) go.

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The JL flight to Hawaii was about to board. So many people queued.

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Our twin (JL2 to SFO) had finished its boarding and flew ahead of us.

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An interactive weather forecasting display

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The food court. Some restaurants open 24 hours!

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The sushi restaurant. It looked very delicious^^

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I backed to my gate 20 minutes before boarding.

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Passengers started lining up. Today we had 1 GS member on this flight and the staff we had seen before (holding the cardboard) served him exclusively.

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Our bird finally arrived! A brand new Boeing 787-9 which was delivered in Jan 2016 (N17963). BTW HND is a plane spotting unfriendly airport.

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The vending machines and massage chairs at my gate.

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I went to have the final break in HND. This time I tried the lighter stand by taking out the tap and lighted my cigarette. Unfortunately it was unsuccessful after I tried several times lol

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In the meantime an United FA was also smoking in the Lounge. She looked at me and asked if I needed help. She thought I did not have lighter and would like to let her lighter to me. I explained that I just wanted to try the machine. We chatted for a while and the FA shared her story how she started her career from CO, and subsequently I discovered all FAs on this flight were ex-CO.


Flight Report

Around 11:45pm boarding started and passengers boarded in order. I queued last minute until the line of Group 5 started moving

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My boarding pass for this flight (I took it in HKG)

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Embarking. A FA welcomed me on board and I replied with Konnichiwa.

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The Y+ cabin with new leather seats installed. It looks more modern than the old CO one.

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The economy cabin in 3-3-3 configuration. I could feel with the new plane smell.

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My aisle seat 29C. Pillow and blanket were preplaced on the seat. My seatmates (29A & B) were an elderly couple and already settled down. We greeted each other.

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The seat is comfortable and has good seat pitch.

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The IFE along with the USB port and headphone jack.

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2 power outlets are installed per row. But they were already occupied by the couple.

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The cabin LED mood lighting system for B787.

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We should appreciate the inner beauty of a blanket before open it^^

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Meanwhile I was busy in photographing, my seatmates looked curiously at me and asked why I kept taking pictures of the amenities. They believed that I was a hidden UA staff inspecting the inflight services. I lied to him this was my 1st time on UA B787 :P

The husband asked me in Hispanic accent “Hey boy what are you going to do in California?” They were a bit surprise when knowing that I am not a Japanese but came from HK.

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

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The seatback materials

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Safety card

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A FA came and offered pre-departure drinks to the husband since he is a 1K member. He ordered Asahi and asked her if they could move to Y+ whatever they could pay for the seats. The FA replied that today the flight was very full and she could not guarantee them for the time being. She would update the status once boarding completed.

The pathetic headphone was distributed before push back.

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The FA returned to our row after the boarding and apologized to the couple that today the flight was in full load due to the start of Golden Week in Japan hence no Y+ available. From their conversations I knew that the couple had swapped to this flight last minute.

Boarding finished ahead of schedule so the plane pushed back on 00:20. United corporate video was played which emphasizes that UA is environmental friendly.

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Following was the safety video and Joanna teaches you how to fasten your seatbelt.

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The captain made on board announcement when we had a long taxiing to the Runway D. He firstly welcomed us for flying with United. He thanked the NH agents for helping the boarding process smoothly. The captain shared some weather info of Pacific Ocean and then continued selling United is not you think so bad and all the crews are very nice (um…)

We took off. All the windows were dimmed throughout the flight and unadjustable.

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During the lifting, the husband suddenly took out a large pack of cartridges. He took out one of them, loaded into the pen and lifted up his shirt… My neighbor made a deep stab into his abdomen!!!









OK he was just injecting insulin @@ In fact I was really scared in the moment because the aircraft was shaking, which you would have accident and get injured very easily. Ultimately the skillful husband successfully made it and my worries cleared lol

We had a U-turn in Tokyo Bay to the South and towards Pacific Ocean from Uraga Channel (浦賀水道).

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Once our plane leveled off, immigration form was distributed.

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



It has UA self-produced shows (you can watch them on YouTube)

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But it is wired that they do not provide a full season of TV dramas! Only 3 episodes per drama

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I connected to the inflight Wi-Fi which was worked. Yet I did not use it.

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Suddenly my IFE freezed with a false-positioned airshow. I sought help from a nearby FA and she helped me promptly. However she had to reset my IFE several times for resuming to normal.

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Supper services started about an hour into the flight. No aperitif services provided.

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The wife pre-ordered the special meal so she was the first to be served with a Hindu meal.

The entrée on the food cart looked unappetizing lol

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No menus were provided. The FA asked “chicken or chicken?” The husband and I instantly showed a strange face and my seatmate asked "You said they were chicken and chicken. Only one choice! What are the differences?" The FA immediately apologized and explained they were Oyakodon (Chicken and egg rice) or Chicken Karēdon (Curry chicken rice). Both my seatmate and I chose the Oyakodon. Here is my tray.

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For the drinks I had OJ and water while Asahi for the husband.

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Although portion is small, to me it is adequate for supper. I used the passport for size reference

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The Oyakodon looked colorful and surprisingly it tasted really good (in UA standard)! The chicken was tender while the Japanese rice was fluffy. It was always good to have the made-in-Japan cookies.

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After the meal trays were cleaned up, a bottle of water was given away. The FA dimmed the light for resting after the supper services.

Was Matt Damon’s the Martian very popular at that time? All my neighbors watched that movie… in response to them, I watched Jimmy Kimmel Live on my Surface^^

Afterward I went to toilet before resting. Cabin shot from the rear toilet.

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I had a very good 4-hour sleep even my seatmate started leaning and sleeping on my shoulder halfway through the night.

Later I felt that my arms were twined by something and tried taking it off. I woke up here and found that I accidently teared the earphone rope lol

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View from the dimmed window.

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I headed to the rear galley for getting a new headphone. The FAs were busy in preparing the 2nd meal services in the galley. Once I entered, they smiley asked what I need. They handed me a new earphone. The FAs were in good mood and we even had a short chat since they were very interested in my apparel and kept asking where I bought my glasses/ jeans/ NB… at the end they also gave me a cup of water.

It was the time for 2nd meal services which was 3 hours prior to arrival.

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The FAs turned on the cabin lighting.

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It started with a no-drinks aperitif service. Only Otsumami were distributed.

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Drinks was only offered to those 1k members. My seatmate kept requesting Asahi.

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Same as supper services the wife’s special meal was delivered in advance.

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Question again: Chicken or Pasta? A little surprise since I assumed it would be breakfast (currently morning time in Japan). This time the FA briefly explained what the chicken option was (Chicken Teriyaki Don). I did not want the 3rd chicken meal on this trip thus I chose the Pasta. The husband ordered the chicken rice. For drinks I ordered OJ and the husband requested another Asahi

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As expected portion was small and passport was used for reference.

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The bread was again a rubber even it was manufactured by 山崎製パン (Yamazaki). The visually appealing salad was indeed deceptive, which was too raw and blend with no dressing. But the pasta was exceptionally delicious.

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Trip to toilet after finishing the main. It was new and clean.

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I am a law-abiding passenger ;)

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The rear galley. Long live CO

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Backed to my seat, the Glico green tea ice-cream was served, which was tasty! Overall the lunch was good (in UA standard) excluding the bread and salad.

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Lunch service concluded here and I completed the immigration form.

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I did some stretching after the lunch. A Y+ cabin shot.

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Our windows were eventually released until we started descending

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The captain made the arrival announcement that we would arrived SFO 30 minutes early. He also updated the SF weather info.

We had another U-turn over the Peninsula for landing.



Finally our plane landed on the runway 28L.

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Taxiing to the Terminal G. We passed an EI A330. Our plane arrived at Gate 91 in Terminal G.

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Deplaning. I helped the couple to unload their baggage.



Walking along in Terminal G to the immigration.

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The immigration counters had a long queue because several international flights arrived at SFO concurrently. I waited for at least 30 minutes.

My turn. The immigration staff took my passport, scanned it and I got fingerprinted. He simply asked my nature and length of the trip. I cleared the immigration with the staff had a funny face saying “Welcome to America~~~”

The baggage claim.

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My baggage was already circling on the conveyor belt. I picked it and then I passed the customs form to the staff and walked out the customs. I took the elevator to the departure level to have a recharge and waited for the company car.

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Welcome to San Francisco!

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This is the second part of flight report and please stop by the rest of this series! BTW the pathetic Head will appear again in the next report.

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Thank you for your reading!

(A kind reminder: Smoking is not good to health. If you haven't smoked, please don't try!)
See more

Verdict

United

8.4/10
Cabin8.5
Cabin crew9.0
Entertainment8.0
Meal/catering8.0

Tokyo - HND

9.5/10
Efficiency9.5
Access9.5
Services9.0
Cleanliness10.0

San Francisco - SFO

8.0/10
Efficiency7.5
Access8.0
Services8.0
Cleanliness8.5

Conclusion

With the same aircraft type and same seat as per my last UA33 flight, it is another pleasant flight on UA with professional crews and good catering.

Cabin: Good. Another brand new B787, the cabin is equipped with latest leather seat which is comfort with good seat pitch and I can sleep well. Toilets are clean throughout the flight. But you cannot control the windows dimmer and power outlets are not enough.

Cabin Crew: Good. The FAs are very initiative and helpful even before boarding in HND. Maybe the crews on this flight belong to ex-CO, they have good attitudes towards passengers and always smile in their interactions with passengers.

Entertainment: Good. Standard seatback materials. Responsive and functional IFE with adequate programs and language choices. But it is wired that they do not provide a full season of TV dramas. Also the airshow is in English only despite language changed.

Meal and catering: Good. UA surprisingly provides 2 full meals on this red-eye flight. Although portions are small, the 2 entrées are the best among my 3 UA TPAC flights up to now, at the expenses of the poor bread and salad.

For HND, it is very clean, spacious and has distinct signs for passengers. It has plenty of amenities for travelers. The terminal Wi-Fi is super-fast. The smoking lounges are clean with good ventilation.

Informations on the route Tokyo (HND) San Francisco (SFO)

The contributors of Flight-Report published 5 reviews of 2 airlines on the route Tokyo (HND) → San Francisco (SFO).


Useful

The airline that is scoring the best average grade isJapan Airlines avec 8.8/10.

The average flight time is 12 hours and 4 minutes.

 

8 Comments

  • Comment 375396 by
    KL651 3508 Comments

    Thanks for this FR.
    Japanese airports are so convenient and clean!
    I agree that the cabin does look modern and fresh on UA's 789.
    The meals are average at best, on European or Asian airlines a full dinner would have been served and not just a hot choice without appetizer or dessert.

      0
    • Comment 375955 by
      ashleyyau AUTHOR 165 Comments

      Thanks for your comment KL651 & Happy Thanksgiving!
      Yes Haneda looks like a mini community which its facilities can fully meet your needs. The airport is super passenger-friendly for overnight stay or long layover^^
      Although the cabin looks modern, their seats should have more functions. The catering still lag behind compared with other carriers and should be further improved.

        0
  • Comment 375411 by
    eminere™ 247 Comments

    Loved your narrative!

      0
  • Comment 375509 by
    byromania 34 Comments

    Thank you for your report. I enjoyed it. Unfortunately, United's onboard service still seems very basic and not nearly as good as their Asian or European competitors. I was hoping to see a more substantial meal, especially since they announced a year ago that they improved the meal service in economy class. Maybe this is as good as it's going to get with UAL. Again, thank you for your flight review.

      0
    • Comment 375959 by
      ashleyyau AUTHOR 165 Comments

      Thanks for your comment Byromania and Happy Thanksgiving^^
      Agreed with you that the UA in-flight services could be further improved i.e. the meal quality and quantity. IMO inconsistency of services is the biggest issue for UA which crews and catering can be very different on different aircrafts. I trust Oscar and am waiting to see how he could make United better.

        0
  • Comment 376719 by
    NGO85 1581 Comments

    Thanks for sharing UA to SFO Part 2^^

    With a 5-hour layover, why not just immigrate and grab some real food in the city? More than enough time to sneak out and back into the airport given the proximity to Tokyo/Yokohama.

    “asked her if they could move to Y+ whatever they could pay for the seats.”
    - Wouldn’t the fact that no seats were available at check-in hint that there were no seats available ;) The benefit of Y+ on UA is very minimal so not sure what they hoped to gain.

    It’s not surprising that the catering tasted good, it is ex-HND food, which should be almost to the same level as NH/JL food even if it is shrunk to fit UA trays^^ The food is definitely better than what I got KIX-SFO on UA, with 2 hot meals. I’ve had mixed pasta dishes on UA, once it was really good and once it was really bad, so it looks like you won the lottery this time^^ With the improved UA catering, only the mains have really been modified. The rest of the trays are inadequate and usually inedible.

    “I had a very good 4-hour sleep even my seatmate started leaning and sleeping on my shoulder halfway through the night.”
    - He wanted someone to snuggle with^^ I'm surprised he didn't try and get you some Asahi's as well ;)

    “Only Otsumami were distributed.” <== NH napkins

    As Byromania pointed out, there really isn’t anything that would make me choose UA over NH on this route if the prices were the same (as they are almost always are).

      0
    • Comment 377132 by
      ashleyyau AUTHOR 165 Comments

      Thanks for your comment NGO85!

      "More than enough time to sneak out and back into the airport given the proximity to Tokyo/Yokohama."
      - Japan is a luring place to me. If I sneaked out, I could not control myself from buying things. I really do not want my ex-ORD incident happen again due to crazy shopping or eating lol

      “The benefit of Y+ on UA is very minimal so not sure what they hoped to gain.”
      - Agreed with you given that the man is 1K member who already got extra services. Maybe he wanted a bigger space to stab himself lol

      - IMO the UA food is too notorious and cannot be guaranteed even it is ex-Japan :( I was surprised because the 2nd meal is a real dish but not the pathetic breakfast (which is unusual on UA). Still the portions are inadequate compared with other carriers.

      “He wanted someone to snuggle with^^”
      - I suspected his wife is a prison matron (cough)

      “NH napkins”
      - The FA explained the HND staff wrongly loaded them on this flight… Not enough UA napkins so NH was distributed.

      “there really isn’t anything that would make me choose UA over NH on this route if the prices were the same”
      - Choosing UA is inevitable because I am now stuck with MileagePlus (for me it has some advantages over Asia Miles in HK). My UA status should be maintained as I foresee the forthcoming business travel to US (which I cannot take CX). Thus I need to completed the at-least-4-UA-flights requirement.

        0

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