United

I’m home!

Not the first time I’m flying United, but it’s really one of those rare times. I remembered ever flying United to Hong Kong in the past and it wasn’t too bad. Good because it is extremely early to leave Singapore, as is with most flights that go to the States, and it returns really late from HKG. But then maybe it was too early, that I have to get up at unearthly hours to reach the airport, and the price became not so good that I changed options when I’m visiting Hong Kong.

In my last flight for work to the US area, actually to Mexico City, I flew United from US to Mexico City, and it really wasn’t too bad. It was sort of like the usual domestic flight in US where you don’t get anything, even though the flight can be about 4 hours, enough for me to fly to HKG already. It’s usually a small plane, like an Airbus 319 of sorts, whatever, the kind where you have just one aisle in the middle and three seats on either side. There isn’t any service, and usually people buy their own food onboard or they just choose to sleep for the duration of the flight, while some or most, would either arm themselves with a book or their own inflight entertainment, i.e. iPad, laptop, etc.

I think as compared to international United flights, these domestic flights were considerably better. Perhaps because they are not as long in terms of number of hours, and perhaps also because you already have set your expectations really low. I used to think that it’s odd for me to be travelling on these flights where I am perhaps the only Asian on the flight. You just don’t get many Asians going to Mexico City, or maybe even Austin, although I have seen quite a number of Asians who seem to live in Austin.

The B747 that flies to/fro Singapore-Narita on United had no personal inflight entertainment in the Y class, all you get is this common screen which I didn’t care for anyway since the movies they were screening I’d already watched in the cinema or on other flights. Then there was the B777 that I flew on from Narita to San Francisco, which wasn’t too bad because there was VOD. But the one I came back on yesterday didn’t. I think I have been too pampered with VOD on most planes recently that I just cannot believe there are still flights with such ancient inflight programs that are not on-demand. I watched one movie and tried to sleep for the rest of the 10.5-hour flight, and failed. So I watched some drama episodes on my phone.

It was really a back-breaking trip that I made from here to Austin and back. If you’ve read my tweets or facebook or earlier blog entry you’d have known my SFO-AUS flight got cancelled. But it was just that the overall trip that took almost 30 hours or more, is just too much to bear.

Last night on the final leg of the flight back from Narita I just couldn’t take it anymore and so I think I did manage to sleep a little. I just dozed off unknowingly.

Service-wise, I think we all know that US carriers can’t compare when the comparative object is an Asian carrier, it doesn’t even have to be SQ. The service is not bad, but it isn’t good; just something basic, so don’t expect too much. That’s the way to go. Where food is concerned, I have heard my friends complain about SQ food quality getting lousier these days. I think maybe they haven’t tried United, or maybe the non-Asian airlines. The food portion is something I think a typical American would find inadequate, and it is just bad. In terms of the 4 flights I took that actually served food, the food quality just got worse. So maybe it’s a great idea because I always complain about over-eating and feeling bloated from long-haul flights. This time I ate perhaps 20% of the food each time, so I didn’t need to feel bloated. In fact last night when I got home I felt hungry so I had to eat something before going to sleep.

Given a choice, I think I won’t choose them. Domestically they are ok, but internationally if I have a choice I think I’d go with other choices. During my flight home last night, I suddenly thought, hey they are like a budget airline that has a little bit more frills, i.e. the food and the common screen. But really, you can actually do without them. Although I think they do have better planes with better amenities; my colleague who flew from Germany to the US actually said they have in-flight power supply in the seat, i.e. like the newer SQ planes where you can charge your phone with a USB cable. But oh wait, maybe he was in J class or the EcoPlus.. Hmm. Maybe that’s what makes the difference.

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