Please accept my apologies for the short nature of this report and the lack of substantial pictures that convey the whole experience from check-in to landing. Back when I took this trip, I have not discovered FR yet and I was more interested in capturing my catering impressions rather than the overall trip experience. You could say that thanks to FR I have become a more comprehensive and inclusive reporter.
This report not only covers the trip on UA but also includes some plane spotting at MIA and a bonus of the city with some nice areas besides Miami Beach. For those that are fans of Cuban, Nicaraguan or Peruvian cuisine, I have included some of my favorite dishes and restaurants.
As some of you know, I grew up in MIA and attended high school and university there. I frequently flew from SFO to visit my parents but last July I stayed over a month due to a death in the family. It was difficult and in my grief I went out to do the things that I enjoy doing the most. One of those activities is being at the airport and looking at planes, so armed with a camera I ventured one day to the outskirts of MIA airport and spent an afternoon photographing airplanes. MIA can be one of the few airports in the U.S. that are great for plane spotting with very convenient access. Right off the road on NW 72nd Av., you can park close to the train track and watch planes land and take off. Airline enthusiasts do that frequently and on the day that I went I was joined by a few aviation geeks.
MIA is known as the unofficial capital of Latin America and it is not surprising to see an extensive presence of carriers at the airport from that region. Two of my favorites liveries are AR and AV and I got a chance to take some close ups of both. My fascination with AR goes back to childhood when I received a carry on bag in 7th grade and used to carry it to school proudly with all my supplies and books inside. I always thought that their condor logo was distinctive and elegant.
Back then I lived in SJO and on a few occasions after school I used to visit the offices of different airlines to stock up on their latest promotional brochures on inflight service and airplanes. I remember a LH and RG brochure promoting longhaul service on their DC-10's which was a beautiful aircraft. In those days without internet and social media, companies relied heavily on marketing publications to get their message across and my room looked like a travel agency full of brochures everywhere. Some were quite elaborate and beautiful displaying the best the airline had to offer. Interestingly, I don't remember U.S. carriers offering a lot of printed literature, just schedules. As a matter of fact the ones that really went out of their way to showcase their products were European carriers like LH, AF, KL and British Caledonian. Asian carriers were just beginning to work on their reputations and the only truly visible one was JAL which was the best known of the group.
Plane spotting @ MIA
The hometown carrier
Located about 4 miles from MIA, Coral Gables is an affluent neighborhood with good restaurants and diverse shopping. Its residential area is surrounded by trees and this area is a pedestrian friendly destination.
This is a leafy neighborhood with a relaxing feel. There is a small French presence here and according to the census, 1.25% of the population in this city claimed French as its mother tongue in 2000.
The Falls shopping center
A very nice shopping area with upscale stores and restaurants.
Speaking of food
La Carreta is a popular Cuban chain located throughout Miami. Food is solid and reliable and this is one of the restaurants that I visit for my Cuban fix.
Caldo Gallego - a hearty soup made with white beans, bacon, pork pieces and chorizo.
Arroz con Pollo with tostones (fried green plantains)
Pig's feet stew with maduros (fried sweet plantains)
Aromas del Peru specializes in Peruvian cuisine.
Aji de Gallina - shredded chicken in a spicy creamy sauce thickened with breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese and ground nuts served over rice.
Papas a la Huancaina - boiled potatoes served with a creamy and spicy cheese sauce accompanied by hard boiled eggs and olives.
Saltado de pollo - saltado is a stir fry with any type of meat and in this case it is chicken. The meat is stir fried with french fries and soy sauce is added along with other spices and herbs.
Los Ranchos is probably the most famous Nicaraguan restaurant chain in Miami. The quality of the food is great and reliable.
Interior of restaurant in the Falls shopping center.
Tajadas - thinly sliced and fried green plantains
Churrasco steak with chimichurri sauce and gallo pinto (red beans with rice)
Accompaniments - chimichurri, salsa picante and pickled onions
Cuatro leches with layer of dulce de leche on top and Pio V (a custard with cake infused with rum).
My trip started in FLL on a rainy day and once I arrived at the airport I went straight to the UA counter. A very nice agent checked me in and issued the boarding passes. I requested a wheelchair for my mother and after a couple of minutes one showed up to take her to the gate. Security was done in a very professional and quick way, and soon we were inside the gates. The skycap left my mom by the gate and advised that someone will return when it was time to board to take her to the plane. I made some last minute calls to relatives and friends and eventually it was time to board. When I saw that an announcement was made for elderly and families to board and no one has arrived to push my mother's wheelchair, I decided to do it myself. The gate agent was already pushing the chair of another passenger and this experience was just chaotic and disorderly. I don't blame the gate agents so much as the contracted wheelchair personnel. Once inside the jetbridge at the entrance of the door, one of the skycap agents helped my mom after he finished with his customer ahead of us.
I have requested Economy Plus seats and paid for them online. I did not have status with UA, so I had to pay for Y+. On their website, the middle Y+ seats are cheaper than the window or aisle ones. I reserved two middle seats one behind the other, but in order to get seats together I called UA reservations and requested to be seated together. The reservation agent assigned us a window and middle in Y+ without any issues and I was not charged for the difference.
The Y+ seats on UA are spacious and I would even say that they seemed a little roomier than AA's MCE.
Service was attentive with FA's that were pleasant. I purchased the Roast Beef baguette for USD 8.99 which was served cold and it was more bread than anything else. For a transcon flight of this length, I think a warm option would have been desirable. Then I had the Artisan Cheese selection for USD 7.99 which I enjoyed with the fig spread on top of crackers.
We landed on time and to be honest this flight was better than I expected with the exception of a hot catering item.
F. Lauderdale - FLL
San Francisco - SFO
Compared to MIA, FLL is less crowded and smoother to fly from. The check-in experience was great and it is always great to be assisted by a helpful and professional agent. The only disappointment was with the wheelchair agent that did not show up at the gate, but that is not the airline's fault.
Having an Economy Plus seat made for a very comfortable ride on this transcon flight. The crew were attentive and friendly, so there is nothing to complain about. IFE had a choice of different programs but I always bring a book or magazines, do I did not use it.
Catering can be improved and on a long haul like this it would be nice to be able to buy something hot, especially one that departs in the afternoon close to dinner.
Thank you for your visit and I hope you enjoy this report.
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