Review of United flight Osaka San Francisco in Premium Eco

Airline United
Flight UA 34
Class Premium Eco
Seat 17K
Aircraft Boeing 787-8
Flight time 09:55
Take-off 08 Oct 15, 16:40
Arrival at 09 Oct 15, 10:35
UA   #115 out of 133 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 291 reviews
NGO85
By 5411
Published on 10th October 2015
Background:

This series will cover a quickie to San Francisco aboard United Airlines (UA).

Part 1 – KIX-SFO [UA 34, Boeing B787-800, EconomyPlus] – You are here
Part 2 – SFO-KIX [UA 35, Boeing B787-800, EconomyPlus] – http://flight-report.com/en/report-12282.html

To get to San Francisco, the options given to me were NGO-NRT-SFO or KIX-SFO. I decided to try out the direct KIX-SFO route, which will be my first time flying out of KIX and my first time aboard a DreamLiner. The downside is that this is a UA-only operated route.


Pre-flight:

I took the Shinkansen from Nagoya to Shin-?saka at noon, had some authentic okonomiyaki for lunch, and then returned to Shin-?saka in order to catch the Haruka to Kansai Airport. The Haruka takes about 50 minutes to get to KIX and costs ¥2,850 for a reserved seat, which I think is really expensive.

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The train arrives at KIX and the signage is clearly marked to get to the international terminal.

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Entering the arrivals level of Terminal 1.

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Escalator up to the departures level.

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The UA check-in counters are run by NH agents. You use a kiosk to check-in. The typical garbage that US carriers use nowadays: screen after screen of extras for various fees (like a cash upgrade to J for $700, which was tempting). My haste to skip all of that stuff meant I missed the screen where I checked my bag. The NH agent that was standing there gives me some sass for my mistake. I really did not appreciate the way the NH agent addressed me.

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Reaching the bag drop counter, the NH agent there was much friendlier. She checked my bag and handed me my boarding pass indicating my boarding group and boarding time.

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I didn’t have much time and couldn’t figure out where the bus to the observation deck was (the observation deck at KIX is not at the terminal). I just walked outside and did some long-distancing spotting from the curb.

MU A320.

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LJ B737.

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CX Cargo B747.

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This was interesting; the CX Cargo B747 must have approached too slowly because the CargoLux B747 right behind it aborted its approach at the last minute. I could actually hear the roar of the engines as they hit full thrust and veered off.

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TZ B788 in final approach, you can also see a NH B767 circlimg in the distance.

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JL B738.

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NH B763 with downtown Kobe in the distance.

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A pair of CX B77Ws highlighting their large presence in Japan.

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With that, I headed back inside Terminal 1 at KIX.

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Airline guide at KIX.

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Main lobby at KIX.

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FIDS.

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Decorations hanging from the ceilings in the departures hall.

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There were maybe 200+ people in the line for security and immigration, but the line moved extremely fast and I was airside in less than 20 minutes.

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Duty-free shopping.

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Tram to get to the gates from the shopping area. I actually really hate this about KIX.

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Some spotting from the tram.

7C B738.

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CX B77W.

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Walking to the gate.

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The first glimpse of my B788.

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AC Rouge B763 at the adjacent gate heading to YVR.

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Despite my disdain for the short, stubby B788. It actually looks good in the UA livery.






——————————-

United Airlines, UA34
Equipment: Boeing B787-800 [N26909, delivered January 2014]
Departure: 16:40 (ATD: 16:44)
Arrival: 10:35 (ATA: 9:57)
Flight time: 9:13


Boarding was actually called early for this flight, but I was in Group 4.

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Scanned in by the NH gate agents and headed down the jetbridge. Arriving at the threshold of the plane, 2L.

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Fuselage shot.

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Entering, the FAs were busy getting welcome drinks ready for the J passengers so not a very warm welcome on board. No offer to direct me to the correct aisle based on my seat so I just headed through the galley. Passed through the rear J cabin, and here is my seat/row for this flight. This is the second row of EconomyPlus. Blanket and pillow are preplaced in the seats.

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I had strategically picked the middle seat knowing that I would more than likely secure an entire row to myself since no one would want to occupy the aisle/window next to me. Psychological warfare always works :) Seat pitch is good in EconomyPlus, but then again, it better be good.

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The recline was located in the inner arm rest. The window seats, however, have the arm rest right up against the wall so there is limited width for that seat.

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Looking out my window, I can see the AC Rouge B763 get backed up and depart for YVR.



NH B763 departing.

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The front door closes and we start up the B787 specific safety video.

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As we get backed-up, I get some better look at some ground movements. 7C B738 taxing to the runway.

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TZ B788 taxing to the runway.

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CX A333 taxing to the terminal.

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NX A319 taking off.

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Cabin shot during the taxi.

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Aligning onto the runway.

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As we head off down the runway, we pass a CA B738.

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Heading past the terminal.

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We lift up and rise into a cloudy Osaka Bay.

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The IFE is available as soon as you board the plane, the screen is your standard size. There is no remote so everything is done by touch screen. The plane is still new so the IFE was crisp and responsive. I found there to be sufficient diversity in the programming.



There are headphone and USB jacks under the screen.

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The power supply is located under the seat. There are two per three seats.

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The UA earbuds that were distributed before takeoff. I was taking a picture out the window when they were distributed so the FA just threw them into my lap. I thought that was kind of rude.

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Rising into the sunset.

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Seatback contents.



Drinks list and BOB menu.



Safety card for the B787.



The pillow. It has that nasty sterile cover that is standard on US carriers, which I hate.

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This is never reassuring to see.

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The blanket was polyester and very thin. I needed two blankets to stay warm since the cabin was frigid.

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I had a great view of the wing from my seat.

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The cabin as we prepare for aperitif service.

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Drink cart arrives at my row. The burly FA asks me “what you want?”

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I asked for an Asahi and water. This was served with some sundried tomato bruschetta.



Sunset outside.

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Dinner service started almost an hour into the flight.

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The “curtains” were closed. Not sure what kind of privacy mesh gives the premium cabin.

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Second meal service involved drinks and your choice of entrée. No menus were provided, I was given a very cold “chicken or beef?” No other description of the meals were proposed.

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Second round of drinks served with dinner.

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My “beef” tray as received.

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Plastic cutlery, toothpick, and oshibori.

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Tasteless main consisting of tough strips of beef in a tomato sauce served with steamed vegetables and potato wedges.

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The starter containing a salad (1 tomato and 3 pieces of lettuce with no dressing) and Japanese style beans.

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The size of this meal was pathetic. The tray is woefully small and the offering was tasteless. Very disappointing meal offering.

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After the meal trays were cleaned up, ice cream was served along with a bottle of water and another drink service. I took coffee and water.



The frumpy FAs making their rounds through the cabin. Not a single crew member was smiling. They all looked tired and didn’t want to be there.

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Meal service concluded here and the cabin was soon plunged into blackness.

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I turned my row into “Economy First” to make a flatbed seat. Who needed the $700 upgrade to Business First?

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I lounged until around here.

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Trip to lavatory was in order. It was moderately clean.

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Going into the middle galley, there were no drinks or snacks in sight. But we do get to see these remnants of the past. Long live CO.

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I went to the rear galley and there were 2 FAs talking. As soon as they see me, they stop, and just look at me. I ask for water. She just points in the corner where there are some cups of water pre-poured before continuing her conversation with her colleague. I’m sorry I interrupted them. On my way back, a cell phone shot of the cabin mid-flight.

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I watched a couple of movies until we got closer to the coast. The crew came through one time in the middle of the flight offering water, other than that they were completely absent.

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The sun was beginning to rise.

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Cabin service started up around 90 minutes prior to arrival.

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Breakfast service started with the question “do you want a breakfast sandwich?” followed by “what drink?” Breakfast tray and my coffee as delivered.

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The breakfast sandwich was miniscule and was not very appetizing. It was about the size of a credit card, use the toothpick for sizing reference. It was two bites. I guess I should be thankful there was also a yogurt.

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I asked for a glass of orange juice after the trays were collected. The FA told me that they were almost out, but he’d check. He said this was the last of the orange juice in Y. Definitely had a processed taste.

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I didn’t find the windows “big” like everyone claims. They may be tall, but they are just as skinny. The dimmer works well. Here is a dimmed window on the right and an open window on the left.

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Customs forms were distributed at this point, about 40 minutes to arrival. I left my pen in my suitcase so I went to the galley and saw a business class FA doing some dutyfree paperwork. I asked politely to borrow her pen, she joked with me and gave me a hard time, but let me have it. That was the only positive interaction I had with a crewmember, she was in a good mood.

Approaching the coast quickly now.

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Entering the peninsula just south of the Golden Gate Bridge.

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View of the cabin as it was prepared for arrival into SFO.

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We made our U-turn around Palo Alto to approach SFO from the south.

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Crossing the San Mateo–Hayward Bridge.

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Air-to-air with a plane that will be revealed later.

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San Francisco and Oakland are still both plunged into the early morning haze.

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Clearing the seawall and landing at SFO over 30 minutes early.

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Here is the plane I spotted in the air-to-air, a DL B752 in SkyTeam special livery.

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QR A332.

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KL B744 and UA hangar.

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Taxing around, we also spot a VX A320.

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We pull up short of the gate and are told we have to wait 10 minutes. We eventually get engaged by a tug and get pulled into our gate.

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Deplaning, the crew half-heartedly thank passengers. I bolt to the automated passport control. While we were waiting to pull into the gate, several heavies arrived from ICN, NRT, PEK, and PVG so I knew it was going to get real crowded at immigration. The line wasn’t too bad and I was into the baggage claim within 5 minutes. Bags had started circling already so I was out the door and on the shuttle to the hotel within 15 minutes of deplaning.

Thanks for reading this report and please stop by for the return segment of this series!
See more

Verdict

United

5.8/10
Cabin8.0
Cabin crew4.0
Entertainment/wifi8.0
Meal/catering3.0

Osaka - KIX

7.0/10
Efficiency8.0
Access4.0
Services7.0
Cleanliness9.0

San Francisco - SFO

8.2/10
Efficiency9.0
Access8.0
Services8.0
Cleanliness8.0

Conclusion

This is my first time flying UA in over a year. It’s been all hype and no improvement based on my experience. The B787 is also overhyped; I don’t see any improvement over the B777 (as far as cabin comfort, air quality, and overhead bin space). The crew and catering were both disappointing. The IFE was acceptable and on-time performance was good. Overall, there is nothing that excites me about this product and reminds me why I dumped UA.

Cabin comfort: The 787 is tight in a 3-3-3, but I had a set of 3 seats to myself to make a bed. The seats actually had good lumbar support and were more comfortable than NH’s seats.

Crew: No smiles offered and service was done with concise questions to get it over with. They seemed completely disinterested in passengers and my interaction in the galley mid-flight also reflected this. I will give credit to the J-cabin FA that lent me her pen and had a good sense of humor.

Meal and catering: Very disappointing. This is a TPAC, both meals were woefully undersized. The quality is also very poor. Dinner felt like it was a $3 microwave dinner from the grocery store and the ‘breakfast’ was insufficient for a 9+ hour flight. This is not a TATL and should be catered differently.

Entertainment: No newspaper offered. Standard seatback literature. IFE screen is a little small, but good variety. Limited moving map (you have no way to control anything).

On-time performance: We left the gate early and we landed over 30 minutes early.

Related

12 Comments

  • Comment 148386 by
    eminere™ 271 Comments

    Wow. Moral of the story I guess is not to fly UA?

  • Comment 148387 by
    JonathanNd 21 Comments

    Thank you for sharing this FR.
    Excellent report-disappointing flight, as watching the FA´s pictures I sensed their attitude.
    The only good thing was the B787. Expecting to see the completion of your journey.

  • Comment 148389 by
    Caribel 114 Comments

    Next time ask to speak to the purser and make sure to share in excruciating detail the way the crew made you feel special, appreciated, welcomed, proud to sponsor their company and invited to never return again.

  • Comment 148391 by
    jetsetpanda 2296 Comments

    The NH agent that was standing there gives me some sass for my mistake. I really did not appreciate the way the NH agent addressed me.
    - A bit uncharacteristic from an NH agent. I guess there are exceptions to everything in life.

    She checked my bag and handed me my boarding pass indicating my boarding group and boarding time.
    - What happened to the hard cardboard boarding passes? They switched to the flimsy ones?

    Entering, the FAs were busy getting welcome drinks ready for the J passengers so not a very warm welcome on board.
    - This set the tone for the rest of your flight.

    Seat pitch is good in EconomyPlus, but then again, it better be good.
    - Did you pay for it? I understand that even if you are *A Gold with another airline you cannot get these seats. UA wants to charge me USD 177 to switch to E+ on my SFO-LHR. No way!

    The burly FA asks me “what you want?”
    - If I were you I would start by saying a glass of water, then a cocktail with 1/3 orange juice, 1/3 cranberry juice, and 1/3 sparkling water with a twist of lemon. I would pull a Meg Ryan scene from the movie When Harry Met Sally.

    I was given a very cold “chicken or beef?”
    - I guess vegetarians don't fly UA.

    Plastic cutlery, toothpick, and oshibori.
    - No oshiboris on AA. UA +1

    The starter containing a salad (1 tomato and 3 pieces of lettuce with no dressing) and Japanese style beans.
    - Natto? :P

    Very disappointing meal offering.
    - But your tray is completely empty. It looked like you ate it with gusto. :P

    After the meal trays were cleaned up, ice cream was served along with a bottle of water and another drink service.
    - Good frequency of drink service here. Ice cream is such a treat, unlike those packs of cookies or brownies. ;)

    Not a single crew member was smiling. They all looked tired and didn’t want to be there.
    - They must have had vinegar instead of orange juice for breakfast.

    I turned my row into “Economy First” to make a flatbed seat. Who needed the $700 upgrade to Business First?
    - You hit the jackpot. Nice bed. Maybe you should have asked the first burly FA to do your turndown service. :P

    Going into the middle galley, there were no drinks or snacks in sight. But we do get to see these remnants of the past. Long live CO.
    - If you want a snack after the meal service it is now B.O.B.

    I went to the rear galley and there were 2 FAs talking. As soon as they see me, they stop, and just look at me. I ask for water. She just points in the corner ....
    - This makes the crew I had from MIA-GIG almost benign.

    The breakfast sandwich was miniscule and was not very appetizing.
    - Yikes. I better order a special meal again.

    Next time you are in SFO, let me know.

    Thanks for sharing this enlightening experience Michael. See you on your next leg.

  • Comment 148414 by
    KL651 TEAM 4449 Comments

    Thanks for this FR.
    What a disappointing experience.
    The meals actually look worth than what you get on TATL flights!

    That's surprising, most airlines seem to make a special effort on catering for flight out of Japan.

    Did they offer the BoB snacks between meals?

    Hope the return flight will be better.

  • Comment 148421 by
    Benoit75008 GOLD 7079 Comments

    Thanks for this report,

    Catering is really bad, which is sad as B787 was a good chance for UA to upgrade their services.

    You were lucky to get 3 seats for yourself as seats are slighlty narrow

    See you!

  • Comment 148428 by
    ashleyyau 212 Comments

    Thanks for sharing this flight report!
    It seems that the plane has many empty seats, right?
    The location of power sockets is a little bit strange. 2 power sockets per 3 seats and all are on the roadside seat. I cannot imagine if 3 passengers use notebook together and all need a plug.
    Aw Jeez United still maintain its infamous food services :(

  • Comment 148429 by
    byromania 35 Comments

    What I find particularly sad is that United recently made a huge announcement regarding upgraded meals on their TPAC and TATL Y class flights. This meal is obviously part of the upgrade, but I see no hint of the promised substantially larger portions and increased quality of meals. Also, many people have constantly complained about the surly crews at United all being part of the sUA side of the operation. This crew was sCO because of the 787 aircraft. No sUA flight attendants can work this aircraft. I suppose maybe both sides are still rather unhappy with UA. In any event, while I enjoyed reading your report, it made me even more resolute than ever to stay away from United. I only hope that the new CEO, Mr. Munoz, is able to reverse the negative atmosphere and miserly cost-cutting mindset that was forced onto the airline and its employees under the tenure of ousted former CEO Jeff Smisek.

  • Comment 148434 by
    Rl 777 810 Comments

    Thank you for sharing this FR with us!

    Nice spotting at KIX! Love the shot of the two CX birds together. The sunset shot from the wing was lovely!

    You were lucky to get three seats for yourself, that must've made the flight more bearable.

    IFE looks modern with a good resolution. I'm a big fan of those lights surrounding the ports, looks pretty cool IMO.

    Catering seems like a huge letdown. The first tray is so small, not satisfying at all. The main looked good on pictures, too bad it was tasteless. I wouldn't call the second service for a 'breakfast' service after looking at your pictures, seems like a small pre-arrival snack or something. Unacceptable on a flight of this length.

    I think the FAs should get some more training on the service aspect of being a FA, disappointing.

    See you on the next one!

  • Comment 148439 by
    KévinDC TEAM GOLD 4904 Comments

    Here I am expecting your next FR to be BOS-HKG with CX in J, and instead I see UA...in Y! Oh, the horror :-P
    I would have been very tempted by the $700 upgrade charge--a good price for a TPAC upgrade.
    Yeah, the updated UA livery on the 788 is much better than the normal Unitental colors. It almost looks modern--almost.
    Speaking of dated--it's kinda sad that the 788 Y cabin is already looking old and drab on such a new plane! The UA seats just look oldschool.

    I had strategically picked the middle seat knowing that I would more than likely secure an entire row to myself since no one would want to occupy the aisle/window next to me.
    - That's one hell of a gamble right there. Considering when agents check in pax, they can just randomly assign the next available seats those could have been the two next to you. Oh how horrible being stuck in a middle on a TPAC flight would be!

    It's a shame you had a surly crew, but it seems to be the norm on UA anymore. At least the new CEO admits that UA has a major problem with customer service. And it's mostly because the employees have been put through a lot with the merger. It's incredible how badly this merger was handled and continues to be such a problem 5 years later! The AA/US merger started years behind UA/CO and they are already way ahead of UA/CO on integration...craziness.

    I turned my row into “Economy First” to make a flatbed seat. Who needed the $700 upgrade to Business First?
    - HAH, yeah, you got lucky! A whole row to yourself in Y these days is very very rare. Especially in Economy Plus.

    He said this was the last of the orange juice in Y. Definitely had a processed taste.
    - Not surprising...it's also a weird fluorescent color...I'd be afraid to drink it.

    This is my first time flying UA in over a year. It’s been all hype and no improvement based on my experience.
    - You can say that again! The improvements in Premium cabin catering seem to be reasonably well received and are more obvious, but I don't see what about this meal is improved over the old catering. UA continues it's supersonic race to the bottom!

    Thanks for sharing and sorry you had to take UA for this last minute trip back to the States--on the bright side, you invented EconomyFirst so all was not lost :-)

  • Comment 148464 by
    Chibcha 425 Comments

    I'll have nightmares over UA after this FR... I'll surely avoid them like the plague (they charge for food on their BOG-IAH, BOG-EWR flights which last over 5h!)

    The pictures were great though, thanks for sharing!

  • Comment 148466 by
    lagentsecret SILVER 10554 Comments

    Thanks for sharing this comprehensive FR

    The Haruka takes about 50 minutes to get to KIX and costs ¥2,850 for a reserved seat, which I think is really expensive.
    This is way too expensive

    Did you pay for the Y+ seat ?

    The BOB was available on this flight ?

    A lot of gorgeous pictures of the wing

    Waow how wide is the US passport lol

    Very disappointing meal offering.
    Who is travelling with an US company (or LH/BA) to have a good meal ?

    Definitely had a processed taste.
    Oh not freshly squeezed ? ;)

    The breakfast (mini) sandwich is not appetizing : fortunately it's miniscule

    What a bad and rude crew

    See you soon for the return leg

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