Flight UA426

United Airlines
Flight UA426
December 2017

Taxiing on the tarmac, Boston Airport

I was not looking forward to a seven hour flight from Boston to San Francisco after nearly 30 days of constant walking. Also, our flight from San Francisco to Sydney was only a day and a half later. Hence, upon receiving a reminder about a week before the flight, I took the invitation to upgrade my husband and I to Business Class, leaving our adult children in Economy.

After going through the online process, there was no email confirmation and no record of it on the app or website under the initial booking reference, only the two remaining passengers in Economy. I phoned United Airlines to confirm but had great difficulty understanding the woman at the end of the phone call due to the digitalised sound to her voice so I asked her to email the new reference number. I did not receive that email. I rang a second time and had a much more understanding and helpful person with a clear human voice who was quickly able to give me the new reference number.

When we arrived at Boston Airport before 6am the queues were long and people were obviously stressed. Staff were shouting out times and flights so passengers could move up the line and make their flights on time. It wasn’t clear where we had to go but once we found the place, there was a queue for ‘Priority’ passengers but did not see a sign that said Business Class to make it clear that was where we were meant to go. The man behind the check-in desk was friendly, courteous and helpful with a sense of humour which helped me to relax before a long journey.

Business Class entitled us to access the United lounge before departure but we were not allowed guests, so the kids had to fend for themselves out with the general public. It was only for forty minutes though. It was the quietest lounge I have been in but there was a snooty girl who had tone in her “excuse me” when I lingered too long in front of the bread selection.

On board the cabin crew were running about in a hurry everywhere which raised some concern in me about what was going wrong but they settled down once we took-off, about 20 minutes late. I was extremely grateful for the extra legroom. Doubling the price of the ticket bought more than double the legroom. We could also tilt our chairs all the way back to be completely horizontal and we were given a small pack of toiletries, a blanket and a pillow.

However, they ran out of hot food by the time they reached our row for breakfast orders. These hot breakfasts were supposedly also available for purchase in Economy Class. How on earth do they run out so early in the process? To compensate, we were given both cold options of cereal and fruit with yoghurt. It was filling enough and a couple of mimosas made me feel more convivial. After breakfast, I went to watch a movie or some TV but none of what was offer appealed. This is something I have never encountered before. Instead, I listened to the Hamilton soundtrack on my phone through my Bose noise-cancelling headphones, snuggled under the blanket and shut my eyes.

Business Class passengers are not any cleaner or courteous with their bathroom habits than Economy passengers. I had to use the facilities twice and both times I had to clean the seat and bowl before use and the sink was left in a mess despite a sign asking passengers to wipe it down for the next person. The second time the disposal unit appeared to be overflowing, but no, the previous passenger couldn’t be bothered pushing his paper towels into the slot properly.

The flight was quicker than expected, had only a few moments of turbulence and our baggage arrived fairly promptly at San Francisco, but not given priority in belt arrival, despite the big orange tags screaming PRIORITY.

It was so nice to have the extra legroom but the extra money didn’t buy me anything else. Cold food and drinks could have been purchased down the back and rushed crew and dirty passengers are everywhere.

UPDATE: United is going to email us a $100 "electronic travel certificate" each. I'm not sure if that's going to be of any use in Australia.


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