Review: UA SFO-PHL DomesticFirst

Date: Sunday January 8
Flight: 267
Aircraft: A319
Origin: SFO
Destination: PHL
Seat: 1A DomesticFirst
Scheduled Push Back: 10:55 AM
Actual Push Back: 12:34 PM

I’ve been doing a lot of flying, but nothing different than what has been previously posted on this blog. Since I’m not doing this for website traffic, just for sharing new experiences, I decided not to discuss the same flights over and over (you’re welcome).

With that said, let’s start this post off with something interesting.

Ladies and gentlemen this is your captain. Today is not the greatest day in terms of weather with wind gust of 50mph coming from the south. The wind gust exceed the cross wind capacity for the longer runway we’d normally use. Therefore, we’ll be using a shorter runway. Since this aircraft is weight restricted we can either remove passengers or fuel. The company has made a decision to remove fuel and therefore we will be making a fuel stop in Denver.

Just to make it more interesting this aircraft is configured with 8 DomesticFirst seats. However, two of them were broken. Those two passengers got seated in economy plus and supposedly will be treated as first class with a meal service (not much of a silver lining).

Two things here that really grind my gears. One is these are the new DomesticFirst seats which were announced in September 2015 (installed 2016). Why are these seats broken ready?

 

The second thing is, this aircraft came in from Seattle the previous evening. Maintenance had all night to identify and fix the problem. This just shows how United still has poor operational performance and planning stemming from the merger.

With that out of the way, let’s start the review.

Boarding/Take Off

Boarding was scheduled for 10:20 AM, but times are a loose term with United. The aircraft arrived at the gate around this time (see poor operations rant above). I was seated in 1A on an upgraded ticket. I bought this ticket a few days prior and purchased a B fare which clears into PN (what Global Services clear into) rather than R. The flight attendants were very nice and offered PDBs. After drinks we got the news of the windy situation and our excursion to Denver. We sat at the gate with the door opened (so the crew wouldn’t be on the clock I assume) until fuel was removed from the aircraft. In classic United fashion we got emails every 15 minutes noting the flight would be delayed for an additional 15 minutes.

We finally took off from a runway normally used for landings (1R), but taxied there in an unusual way going towards and somewhat behind the maintenance facilities you see from the terminal.

Lunch Service

Since this is a trans-con flight there is three meal options offered

  1. Butternut Squash Ravioli
  2. Chicken Tamales
  3. Beef Short Rib

I went with the beef short rib which seemed the healthiest of the three options. I wish United would offer one healthy option. Something like a salad with grilled chicken would suffice.

The salad appetizer came out which was served with a balsamic vinaigrette. The salad had goat cheese which was pretty good.

The main course was as expected. Beef short rib is pretty fatty compared to other cuts but is tender. The beef was paired with a polenta which tasted overly buttered, but still good.

The flight attendant asked if she can hold off on servingĀ ice cream until after our pit stop to Denver, which works for me as I try to do the healthy thing and not get ice cream.

Flight Experience

This A319 is one of the newly configured planes and has the new DomesticFirst seat, along with SlimLine seats in Economy. While the seat back reclines like a traditional seat, the bottom of the seat also slides out like those cheap seats you see on budget carriers.

With the seating configuration in First and Economy there are no seat back screens for entertainment regardless of class. All entertainment is provided through United Private Screening which you connect to on your own device.

Generally, I don’t mind this option for domestic flights. However, the system is somewhat new and can be clunky and slow at times. I hope United doesn’t roll this out on any Asia/Europe/South America international flights.

Denver Intermission

We landed in Denver around 3:50 PM and taxied to a gate. Cleaners and staff were all confused that we were not getting off and only came for additional fuel.

We pushed back and taxied a short while then stopped. The pilot said

We’re waiting on the company to get back to us with final weights. We made several calls and have not gotten an answer

The lesson here is United even puts its own people on hold.

Survey Says

This was my fourth United flight of the year and the fourth one to be delayed. In fairness they were all do to weather in Northern California.

The new DomesticFirst first seat is modern and comfortable. The service was as to be expected. The food was good enough for airline food. If it wasn’t for the Denver stop, this would just be another normal flight.