Review of United flight Houston Rio De Janeiro in Business

Airline United
Flight UA129
Class Business
Seat 2E
Aircraft Boeing 777-200
Flight time 10:00
Take-off 28 Jun 16, 10:00
Arrival at 28 Jun 16, 22:00
UA   #107 out of 123 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 254 reviews
Nick
By 1673
Published on 28th December 2017
I haven't posted in a while as I've been trying to post more on Instagram (@lynknick) in parallel with my reports on this site.

This experience was the epitome of dealing with United Airlines. The flight was scheduled to depart at 9:25 PM, then delayed multiple times till midnight, then United decided to put off departure till 10:00 AM the next morning and put all the passengers in the Marriott for the night. Hundreds of people checking in at the Marriott in the middle of the night was a zoo, but at least I got a room. The manager told some of us that United will sometimes distribute Marriott hotel vouchers knowing that there aren't any available rooms. I wouldn't put something like that past United. They've certainly done worse.

I understand that maintenance problems happen and making these complicated machines operate safely is difficult, but what bothers me about situations like this is the lack of transparency. Why can't they just tell the passengers what's really going on and what's being done to rectify the problem? I think United mistakenly thinks they're being clever by keeping passengers in the dark, that perhaps passengers are happier with less information. The worst part of this delay was that it cost me a full day of my vacation as I'd be arriving late at night rather than early in the morning.

Now that my rant's out of the way, here are some photos of the lounge. It was a standard domestic US lounge. There was soup and assorted carbs available, but not much to make a real meal out of.



Some photos from the delay saga. Despite the headaches from United, my room at the Marriott was pretty nice and had a decent view of the airport. The distribution of hotel vouchers was painfully slow, and this was in the lounge. I can't imagine how brutal things were at the Customer Service desk out in the terminal. It was almost like United had never encountered a situation like this before. One guy asked for cab fare back to his house because he had four kids take care of. First, the woman had to check and see if they were allowed to cover someone's cab fare in lieu of a hotel room. After learning that yes - that's normal - she didn't even know how to do it.



Boarding the next morning



I tried to snap as many photos of the business cabin as I could before it filled up with passengers.



The amenity kit actually was pretty cool. This flight was last summer so they made it Olympic themed. My only gripe is that the container isn't very reusable for anything.



The food wasn't bad (except for the dirty fork). I'd peg it as average for a business class meal on a US airline. Funny how one guy ordered his meal to be served at a different time and this was a big ordeal for the crew. On Qatar that's standard operating procedure - you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want it.



The IFE was decent and had a pretty good selection. I watched at least five episodes of Workaholics.



Some shots of the seat in bed mode



Breakfast

photo img_2309

Finally arrived at GIG



I spent a day in Rio before me and the friend I was visiting headed to Curitiba, where he was living at the time.

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Verdict

United

6.3/10
Cabin7.0
Cabin crew6.0
Entertainment6.5
Meal/catering5.5

Continental Airlines Presidents Club (Terminal E)

5.4/10
Comfort6.0
Meal/catering5.0
Entertainment5.0
Services5.5

Houston - IAH

6.4/10
Efficiency7.0
Access5.0
Services6.0
Cleanliness7.5

Rio De Janeiro - GIG

3.4/10
Efficiency3.5
Access2.0
Services3.5
Cleanliness4.5

Conclusion

I shouldn't have let more than a year pass before posting this review, but this hard product on United business class will be around for years to come. Even though United has over-marketed its Polaris seats, less than 10% of the widebody fleet actually has them. Every time I see Oscar Munoz at a ribbon cutting ceremony for a new lounge or a press event showing off the new seats, I just roll my eyes. The Polaris marketing is essentially a bait-and-switch. Flights on aircraft with 2-4-2 business class cabins still show as Polaris on the United website! Also, United has serious operational problems (like I experienced on this flight) that he has no interest in spending his time on. For example, aside from the maintenance issue itself, why did distributing the hotel vouchers take so long? Distributing a hotel voucher is something they could push through their app to all the passengers immediately. Instead, he has United spending time and money on sexy marketing campaigns for a product that barely exists.

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4 Comments

  • Comment 424629 by
    socalnow GOLD 741 Comments

    Welcome back Nick. Followed you in Insta so I don't have to wait as long for trip reports, lol.

    I have had good luck with United albeit on domestic flights. I have not had the occasion or interest to try their long haul product again. I'm sorry this went sideways for you and it is a total bummer to lose a precious day of vacation.

    "The amenity kit actually was pretty cool."
    -Totally. A collectors item for sure.

    The catering looks more like domestic F than international J to me.

    "Even though United has over-marketed its Polaris seats, less than 10% of the widebody fleet actually has them. Every time I see Oscar Munoz at a ribbon cutting ceremony for a new lounge or a press event showing off the new seats, I just roll my eyes. The Polaris marketing is essentially a bait-and-switch. "
    -I'm surprised more Untied flyers are not upset about this. There is a grand total of one Polaris lounge! It's so very odd to market this entire experience that really doesn't exist except in rare cases. Is there even a Polaris equipped airplane serving ORD long haul routes?

    The pictures of Rio look awesome. I have to go.

    Thanks again and happy flying.

    • Comment 424635 by
      Nick AUTHOR 172 Comments

      Thanks for the comment socalnow! As far as I know, United operates no flights from O'Hare with the Polaris hard product. The kicker is that nearly all of American's aircraft have a modern product with all-aisle access and they already have four Flagship Lounges.

      Rio was cool. I stayed in Ipanema and went on a tour of Rocinha. I was lucky enough to visit while they had a visa waiver last summer. Otherwise, I've heard getting a Brazilian visa is quite a hassle.

  • Comment 425445 by
    KévinDC TEAM GOLD 4484 Comments

    Wow, that started out as quite a cluster$%^@ ...seems like you just keep having bad luck with UA. That or they're just consistently crappy...probably the latter ^^

    You would think at a hub they would know how to handle an IRROP...it's not like it's the first time they've ever had a delay. It sounds like they must've thrown a newbie agent to deal with the mess. The whole taxi fare thing is silly...it's logical that at least some pax originated in Houston and don't want to spend the night in a hotel when they live in Houston. Again, you'd think they would have thought of taxi vouchers for those people, but I guess that would make too much sense :-/

    Well you certainly succeeded in getting lots of clean pics of the cabin before the hoard arrived, lol. Unfortunately, it's not the most attractive of cabins with that drab bluish-grey blah-ness everywhere. Although I realize this report was pre-Fauxlaris, considering how loooooong the Polaris seat roll-out has been taking, it would have made sense to at least re-upholster the seats to try to have some consistent branding/colors in the meantime. Kind of like AA did with PMUS J. Like you said, at the rate things are going, these seats will be around for a few more years at least. Faux-laris has proven to be a big marketing Faux pas....talk about pre-mature re-branding.

    It's frustrating how UA just keeps getting it wrong, while the other 2 of the big US3 have had relatively smooth mergers and re-brandings. If UA could just get their stuff together, I'd consider taking my business to them, especially since they have a hub here in DC, but for the time being, I come come anywhere close to that hot mess!

    Despite the very meh passenger experience, you've managed a very good, detailed, and honest report with plenty of good pics. Thanks for sharing Nick!

    • Comment 425446 by
      Nick AUTHOR 172 Comments

      Haha, thanks for the comment Kevin, that's the first time I've heard the term Fauxlaris! Just a couple weeks ago I saw a decent United business class fare between San Diego and Beijing and I bought a FareLock for the itinerary because the leg from SFO to PEK had the new Polaris hard product. Sure enough, they switched one of the legs to the 8-across business cabin while I still had the itinerary held. I ended up just letting the FareLock expire and booked a ticket on American. Why stress out about United equipment changes when you know for sure you'll get a good hard product on American (and a Flagship Lounge)!?

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