Carolyn and I were flying from LGA to DCA early this morning. I booked an award ticket through UAL on USAIR, but mine was a connecting flight through PHL as there wasn’t any availability on the direct for award tickets. On UAL this means you have a confirmed flight on the less optimal route but if there are seats at the gate the agent will get you to your destination the most efficient route available, which is also the lowest CO2 emission route and the lowest cost route for the airline: everybody wins.
I called US air the night before to verify that I could fly standby (no problem, I was told) and that there were seats (looks like plenty, I was told). No problemmo.
But not with US-Air. Not that they weren’t friendly enough, but as my booking class was “X” and they didn’t have any “X” seats left, they couldn’t book me even though there were plenty of open seats. I tried with the gate agent, the supervisor, all to no avail. I called UAL but they don’t have any visible inventory because US-Air doesn’t share it with them. US-Air tells me UAL has to get me into one of their open seats. UAL shows no open seats.
So I figure I’ll just go to the gate. Gate agents have special powers over last minute seating. I show them my ticket and they immediately hand it back “no, we already called United, they won’t put you on this flight.” I’m thinking there must be a note on my ticket – but no, apparently the counter had called the gate and specifically told them not to let me on the flight. I get on the phone with UAL and they tell me “I don’t understand why they won’t just accept your coupon.” No budging.
I thought maybe I’d take the shuttle over to JFK and fly direct to IAD, but Carolyn pointed out there was a UAL express flight from LGA-IAD. As I have to get back to IAD later in the day anyway, it is a better option (pick up a rental car and drive myself into DC and back out). UAL got me on it no problem. I bus myself over to the UAL counter, and a very cool and very knowledgeable agent at the counter tells me about his family in Italy and his recording business in Rome while he gets me a very good seat on the LGA-IAD shuttle and clears my upgrade and tickets me for tonight’s flight back to SFO. Friendly agents, premium seating, no hassle, expedited security line.
UAL win: USAir Fail.
Glad I’m not causing a transfer payment after all. Lesson: it is worth flying a less convenient route on UAL than a more convenient one on USAir.
I took my first “post merger” (announcement) Continental flight, BOS-IAH today. So far, not quite there yet.
First, the upgrade queues are not merged yet, so as a UAL customer, I’m at the back of the list. An uncomfortable place to be (literally) as I didn’t even manage to score their equivalent of an economy plus seat. Star alliance gold is the highest status Continental recognizes from UAL, which is pretty far down the list. I was about 8 for 2 spaces on the way out and this time much close, 2 for 1 space. No advance upgrades for UAL customers.
The BOS Club is attractive, but they have less goodies than the BOS RCC. Currently serving beer and wine only, and a few packaged snacks. The Presidential club is also effectively berift of outlets, so don’t plan to charge your devices there. It is probably easier to find an outlet in the concourse. I spent 10 years lobbying UAL for more outlets in RCCs, and each club remodel has brought more. Continental does win on wifi – just connect and go; no password hassle at all.
The IAH club is nice than BOS: fewer work pods but more comfortable seating and a few comfortable seats with outlets. The feature that Continental brought to UAL is free well drinks (not open wifi 🙁 The feature UAL is going to bring to continental clubs is no entry for amex platinum cards (starting late winter).
Continental charges $6 to watch their stupid DirectTV feed. Live broadcast TV is just as hopeless on a plane as it is on the ground. The days of people staying home to make sure they catch their favorite shows are long over, let alone hoping something happens to be on while you’re on a plane. That’s a minus.
The seat power seems to work right, that’s a plus. United has implemented Empower 110V 60hz plug in seat power, but they seem to have consistently derated it so you can’t run a 90W power supply on it for more than a few minutes without tripping the breaker. I like the old KID DC systems better – I have no problems with my W500 on them. But the Astronics 1215 systems on UAL planes seem to be cut back to about 75W per seat (this can be done via a 1176 AMCU, but I haven’t verified this yet).
Apparently the merger is supposed to get a little close to complete by the end of next year. Until then, I’ll preferentially fly connecting UAL flights over direct continental ones, at least long-haul. Once the merger is complete it’ll be nice to have such a large network with full elite privileges. Now if only we could merge Lufthansa and bring their culinary standards along…
I’ve never heard of an “anti-skid system” failing on a plane, but it seems to be the equivalent of anti-lock brakes. Today Carolyn and I were in Zurich, on our UAL 767 waiting to fly to IAD… waiting…. waiting… about 3 hours.
Then they come grab us and hustle all the 1st and business people off the nice, updated 767 and tell us to run to the ZRH-FRA gate a terminal away. Off we go: by the time we land in FRA our ZRH-IAD flight was on it’s way. At FRA we run a few miles through the terminal and get to a 777 (unconverted, old style seats) and lots of very unhappy people from the ZRH-IAD flight. But no problem, we get to IAD. I miss my 8:00 flight to SFO, but get on the 10:00, all upgraded and such.
Now I’m sitting on it… 30 minutes past departure time at the gate because… the anti-skid system is broken. 1000’s of planes over the years, never had a bad anti-skid system. Now two in one day: it’s an epidemic!
- Crazy delays on UAL LAX-SFO today. Long few days: LAX-SFO-dinner w/ Mr. Cerasoli and the Gerbil Team-IAD-Germany (embassy)-LAX-Bako-LAX-SFO #
- Why so cold and gray, LA? #
- Reallty sweet FA just called my name out as I was walking through the airport and gave me a great hug, made my day but #iflytoomuch #
- A hat blew into the air conditioning duct of my UAL SFO-JFK flight: delayed. Not quites as unlikely as a bird dropping a baugette in it. #
- Hat has been extracted. On our way. #
- Just read about this builing's bankruptcy in the WSJ. Is cool looking. #
UAL Triple 7, three class plane, cross country flight (SFO-IAD): about as far as you can fly CONUS to CONUS, and I can’t get my nuts warmed?
I’d trade the puffy comforter for warm nuts any day.
I haven’t tried the iPod interconnect yet, but I will; I need to put some video on the iPod first. I’m not sure why they decided to use a proprietary cable. That was kind of stupid, there’s a USB port in the pod. The proprietary cable takes analog video and audio, but how hard would it to be to build a local decoder for MP3/MP4 content into the pod? Or just build a dock like the table radios at modern Holiday Inn’s that have an iPod dock built in.
The TV system is pretty good. It has a lot of content on it, but the TV shows they have are limited by source (NBC) and while The Office is pretty good, they only have two episodes. Air Canada has a lot more content and a wider variety of sources.
One of the best things Air Canada does is sponsor Canadian film makers and then showcase their work on the in-flight system. UAL should do this too, though internationally. If I was in charge of the UAL in-flight system, I’d offer an annual prize for films: the rules being if you submit, it may be shown on UAL flights as long as UAL wants, maybe $20k for first, $10k for second, $5k for third… for $35k they’d have some entertaining content. Almost every little twiddle on the Air Canada student collection beats anything by NBC.
Another problem, and this drives me nuts everywhere, is that now that there are about 2 standard aspect ratios (4:3 and 16:9) nothing is ever shown in the right one. Everything I see is squished one way or the other. The UAL system does not letterbox, so WTF? Why not blackbar the source? Is it that hard? It’s all transcoded anyway, do the black bars at transcode – they don’t take any space up in the compressed output and it would always play right. No squished faces. It really took away from my enjoyment of the cinematic experience that should have been Max Payne.
I find the lack of temporary storage space in the pods a bit irritating. It sort of sucks to have to put everything in the overhead, especially on takeoff, and then wait until the seatbelt sign is off to get it back, especially as the in-flight system can’t be enabled until a safe altitude is reached as it apparently “interferes” with the nav system. Just like iPods do… of course if the RF leakage from an iPod interfered with the nav system, what on earth are planes doing flying into urban areas with their multi-kilowatt radio and tv transmitters littering the landscape and god forbid airports with the radar sweeping around so that cell phones get knocked off their towers.
But the lie flat seats are very comfortable. This is the first long flight I’ve been on where I got to enjoy them. I was on a 767 from ORD that had the new pods and they were cool, but 4 hours is hardly time to experiment with the new features. Now they’re in 747s and I gather the 777s will be the last to be converted.
Which reminds me, I listened to the wonderful News Quiz podcast on the way and the following were two wonderful gems of many from the recent show:
“You know how the temperature is adjusted for windchill? Surveys should be adjusted for stupidity: surveys say that 1 in 3 Britons think the world was created in the last 10,000 years, but adjusted for stupidity, nobody does.”
“Instructions for sperm donors: on arrival ask for Mr. Hancock.”
Very nice. Lie flat, ac, usb, 10BaseT. No place to keep your laptop during takeoff is an oversight.
There’s a custom interface for to connect an iPod to the entertainment system. The cable runs $30 and connects the audio/video outputs of the iPod to the IFE so you can listen and watch your video on the 17″ monitor. That’s pretty cool, but one can imagine some interesting moments with unedited films or pr0n.
- The pod should have room to keep your laptop and other stuff at your feet during takeoff so you don’t have to wait for the seatbelt light to turn off.
- The LED lights behind the seats are cute but useless – it would be better to have a couple of LED’s under the edge of the center table to illuminate a keyboard or magazine unobtrusively.
- The iPod interface is a cool idea
- UAL should run a contest like AC does for student films. The AC shorts are the best things on the IFE. But Canadians are pretty funny.
Related only in that it was on my iPod and I heard it on the plane, the always amusing BBC NewsQuiz had a wonderful moment: “Survey results should be adjusted for stupidity. According to a recent survey one in three Britons believes the world is less than 10,000 years old, but adjusted for stupidity nobody does.”