Trip report – An Audience with the Queen of the Skies

United is retiring its 747’s soon (keep an eye out for a post about why soon) so the Fabulair guys decided to take a ride on these planes before they disappear from the fleets of carriers in the Unite d States. United has been running 747’s on repositioning flights between ORD and SFO so we booked a ride from ORD to SFO and back on a 747.  Our plan was simple – fly to ORD, stay at the airport Hilton and then take our 747 to SFO in the upper lobe business class seats facing rearwards stay over night at the Westin San Francisco Airport hotel and then head back to ORD on another 747 in seats 1K and 1A right up in the nose. After a connection with enough time to get dinner we’d head home Sunday night. Then – United happened.

I find myself on United a few times a week (though I’m writing this from a WN flight to Denver – I fell asleep in the United lounge at SNA and missed my flight – don’t ask) and I’ve learned one thing – there is never a “short” delay on United. Whenever MX gets involved you’re dealing with at least a two hour delay. Little did we know that on Friday and Saturday United Airlines ability to perform the even most basic functions of an airline would be tested.

Friday afternoon – giddy with anticipation of our trip we boarded on time at our home airport – IAH. We pushed back a few minutes late and were taxiing out to the runway when we stopped. Pilot comes on informs us we’ve got to re-route due to weather but not to worry – we’ve got extra fuel on board. Twenty minutes later we’re rolling out to the runway. We stop at the apron and pull off to the side. Pilot comes back on. Weather is developing even more, we’re going back to the gate to get more fuel to handle a trip further east.  Weather between Houston and Chicago sent us east to Birmingham, Alabama and then up.  We left two hours late and had our flight time extended by nearly an hour.  So our 2 hour flight ended up being 5 hours in our seats. Now – I’m not suggesting they could have catered the plane in the two hours we were sitting at the gate waiting for fuel. I’m sure at United this process takes months to get the paperwork done. But, five hours in a domestic first seat with a basket of chips and bananas for food is not going to cut it.  I don’t know why United does this. I fly to DC all the time, always a 2.5 hour flight and they serve food. But you go to Chicago and those cheapskates whip out that shitty basket of fried carbs and not yet ripe bananas.

We were on one of the 737’s with the blue sky interior.  I love the overhead bins on this plane and the LED’s.  I just wish United would train their cabin crew to use it. Turning on the red “sunrise” setting during a night time landing, thereby bathing the night time cabin in a pinkish red light makes me angry. Blue lights at night, red lights during the day. We landed at ORD three hours late, yet still excited and made the long death march over to the airport Hilton where we checked into our rooms with runway views.  We ordered some room service and hung out together noshing and watching planes before heading to bed both anticipating the fun trip ahead on Saturday.