The airline with the best average rating is Virgin America with 8.0/10.
The average flight time is 3 hours and 13 minutes.More information
Always a fun one seeing the USB3’s wide body operations are within the States. Keeping aside the Hawaii bound flights which vary in length greatly, it’s the hub to hub operations that keep me interested. Be it repositioning of an airplane, be it high demand on the route, it is always nice to see log in the odd wide body flight: maybe a sub-par hard product internationally but really sets the standards domestically. I was on a good run recently, with the 777-200ER on ORD-EWR, followed by AA’s fantastic 777 on DFW-MIA, and a blast back to the past with the 767 on MIA-ORD. I was a little downbeat on not being able to log the original 777-200, United’s age old UA257 service DEN-SFO, but the cheaper fare on the 787 was worth it.
So in spring 2019 (and even in Spring 2020 a little before COVID-19 hit) United operated a 787-8 service between Denver and San Francisco on Wednesday. 15 minutes prior to their usual B737 service. Of course, being a hub to hub route it was clear to see that United prioritized frequency on this route, but there were the two wide body later in the day services too.
So there I was then, in terminal B, 1225 hours hours, 5 minutes before the scheduled arrival time of UA5244, 3hr30min till departure, and the potential for a delay due to weather in SFO. First order of business would be planepsotting. Being a hub for United & Frontier, and Southwest also having sizable operations it is no surprise who dominate around here. I believe the 4 gates in concourse B that handle wide bodies are B32/36/38/42. This is where I headed first, and UA428 would depart from B36 anyway.
LAX bound B757-300
At B36 was a 787, UA143 bound to Narita. This alongside Heathrow & Frankfurt make up for the long haul operations out of Denver, all on 787s. This flight departed due to a delay owing to weight & balance recalculations.
After about an hour I decided to get some lunch, it would be a burrito and 7up for the first meal of the day. 1330 hours MST, 2hr15min to departure, 5hr45min since I left home in Grand Forks.
Killed some more time, and headed back to B36, and there she was! N30913, a 4.3 years old Everett built birdie would take me over to SFO. She had actually flown in from Narita as UA142 and parked over at concourse A before being towed across.
Around 1400 hours I headed to concourse A for spotting things that’s not United, just for variety’s sake I suppose! Took the train over. FlightRadar24 showed a Lufthansa A330 from Munich and a British Airways B747 from Heathrow. Score!
In the meantime however, the penny dropped. 1436 hours, the unsurprising delay text:
‘Strong winds in the Bay Area have reduced the number of planes the FAA will allow to land per hour in San Francisco, impacting your departure. We're sorry for this inconvenience, and your estimated departure time is 04:45 PM, arriving into San Francisco at 06:14 PM.’
And to follow up to that, 1452 hours:
‘Your 345pm United flight to San Francisco is delayed because air traffic control reduced the number of planes allowed to land each hour until weather conditions and/or air traffic improves. Once that happens, we'll be on our way. We're sorry for the inconvenience. UA428 now departs Denver at 445pm and arrives at 614pm’
Just an hour delay went to show that the situation gradually started to get better, but it meant that I had a little bit more time to kill. Did some planespotting around Concourse A, waited for the bigger planes to arrive, and checked in for the next flight, the international flight(s).
Now time for the internationals, yes! :D
Enjoy some Boeing 747-400 action here -
And then, another update! Was my delay about to get just that much bigger?! Not quite! 1522 hours, 30 minutes since the delay announcement -
‘Update: United flight 428 to San Francisco now departs Denver at 400pm and arrives at 529pm’.
Hah, my first un-delay! All of sudden I had 38 minutes to head back to Gate B36 from concourse A. This meant I wouldn’t be able to see the Lufthansa B747 from Frankfurt come in, but hey at least this meant I was on my way. From no activity by N30913 30 minutes ago to pallets of cargo & luggage being loaded it, things were going quick! The gate are was empty too, boarding was well underway.
It's looking busy! :)
‘Say, they want the flight to depart quicker, what’s up with that?’ ‘They want us to be wheels up as quickly as possible, they’re sending this overseas!’ was the conversation I had as I boarded, the crew looking relaxed and quite welcoming. Polaris looked quite inviting, but as always I’d be in the back, seat 31A, the 2nd cabin.
Quite clearly it's the one airline dominating here :)
Cabin filled up, but a little slow: looked like seat 32B would remain empty!! A quick word from the flight deck at 1546 hours, one minute late OR 14 minutes to departure: explanation for the delay, some bumps after departure over the Rockies among others, and a flying time a quick 2hr10min.
Doors closed, jet bridge detached, we pushed back at 1559 hours, 1 minute before the rescheduled time. Unfortunately as much as I was excited for the GEnx-1b firing up, the crew decided to dim down everyone’s window shades, no control for anyone. Darn! Really unfortunate.
What a view…. not. :(
Cold engines starting are always fun as a puff of smoke showed up on both sides due to the oil being burned off. This is fairly relatable to firing up a Piper Archer in sub zero temperatures (C or F), but hey the piston plane likes the cold weather! Safety video played, and the United welcome aboard message which was all very festive.
Made a 90 degree turn and carried on with our taxi to runway 25. It’s the taxiing that really makes you fall asleep - the gentle rocking, the hum of the engines: you don’t wanna miss the take off! Got there with no stops along the way, throttles pushed forward and we were on our way 1610 hours
With the windows dimmed, views over the Rockies were far less than ideal. Usual climb announcements happened as the bumps were strangely soothing, I was going in and out of the sleep phases again.
Snack service started, and it was a while before they’d get to row 31: it was 45 minutes or so in to the flight. Once again, it was just the pretzels: when I asked about stroopwaffels they’d mention that this was a morning only item. Thankfully, this was changed not too long after as by the summer United offered stroopwaffels on all flights. Brilliant! The drinks followed, I opted for diner ale & water: service was more or less completed within an hour of the flight.
Pretzel sticks, ginger ale & water.
Excellent window view.
Spent the rest of the time on the map pages, browsing through seat back pocket content, and also headed for the lavatory. Turbulence got real bad real quick as I was in the lavatory thankfully nothing end up being a disaster, whew! Along the way I noticed a sign written in blue pen on a piece of paper in Mandarin, basically saying ‘crew only’ - perhaps this being the crew rest area on the 787-8.
Seat pocket contents
Just under 2 hours in to the flight, descent commenced. This was followed by another announcement from the flight deck where it would be 55F, no rain for a bit, and solid winds from the South. As we slowly came down & the crew got the cabin ready for arrival, sunshine beamed through the massive windows of the Dream)liner as they finally let us regain control of the window tint. Finally! Just in time for the approach in to SFO, I guess.
We'd be descent via the DYAMD5 STAR. The weather system was still around - as evidenced by chopping through some of the cumulus clouds in the area. We lined up with Runway 28R but you could tell the pilots had their work cut out maintaining centerline and crosswind correction with lots of aileron action: the same can be seen in the video trip report here. :)
Welcoming us were a CRJ-200 of United Express lined up and ready to depart from 28L, an American Airlines A321: planes that would normally take off from 01L/R. It was good to be back in SFO: of course the last time being the very first time I came in to the USA on an Emirates A380. Hello (again) San Francisco! The clouds looked menacing, as we touched down at 1724 hours Pacific, a flying time of 2hr14min. Had to wait for the departing CRJ-200 and A321, before us and another Delta Connection E175 crossed over Runway 28L towards our respective gates.
And it’d be gate 87 for us: another big rain shower came through, further slowing down operations at SFO. As far as our flight was concerned, engines were turned off just prior to being pulled in to the gate, where a tug would take over. It was 1734 hours as we docked in to the gate, a delay of 13 minutes, technically making it an on time arrival!
I thanked the crew - who were wonderful during this flight. I disembarked at 1741 hours, through a jet bridge that did have some water seeping through. While it was pretty impossible to see through the watered down glass, I checked on FlightRadar24 real quick where N30913 would head to next: crosschecking it with the United app, she had another long mission ahead - UA9 over to Chengdu! This confirmed the repositioning flight between the two busy United hubs, which made me wonder why there was another 737 flight departing DEN within 15 minutes of this one. Ah well….
…with just my cabin baggage, why end the day of travel here?! I decided to get as close to Concourse G as possible, while still being in the TSA secure zone, in an attempt to spot some international stuff.
And boy was that a great decision! Barring the rain fall, there some pretty fun stuff around: Icelandair 767, the ever elusive Singapore Airlines A350 (this being the ultra long range 9V-SGB), an Air New Zealand 777-300ER… it was 35 minutes since N30913 docked at the gate.
Not the greatest pictures due to the rain… :(
Evaluating my options for supper close to the BnB I made my way towards Parking Lot A: another place for some decent spotting opportunities. And they did not disappoint: a Korean Air 777-300ER, a Qantas 747-400ER - now retired of course - as they fired up her APU, and two very British Boeings: a Virgin Atlantic 787-9, and British Airways flight BA287 from Heathrow, a B777-200ER. This was awesome for the one who’s used to all them Piper Archers & Seminoles :)
I had spent a good hour planespotting, walking around, getting my steps. March 6th 2019 was a memorable day, it brought back so many memories of my first visit to SFO, and the USA. I retired to my Bnb pod thingie - a cozy space before setting off for the long haul.
With that, the first two parts of this trip come to an end. I was all well & set up for the next flight, one that I was nervous yet excited about. I was quite happy with what I got on United: the only negative being the lack of stroopwaffels. Booking on the phone app was just fine - although they didn’t take my card for whatever reason. Check in at Fargo was just fine, as was the flight on SkyWest.
On to this flight, my 3rd flight onboard a United wide body, and easily the best one of them all. Not sure what happened with tat delay - an hour, then un-delayed to 15 minutes before making an on time arrival. All part of the fun, I suppose! The crew were excellent, the seat was just fine (helped by the empty seat in the middle) and IFE was just fine. Bummer that the windows were set to it’s dimmest setting, overridden. A fun flight, glad I could in on a weekly repositioning flight!