My First Flight With United Airlines in Years

Y ears have passed since I last flew as a passenger aboard an airplane operated by United Airlines — not for any other reason that I simply had not felt compelled with the opportunity to do so — but the airfare of $116.20 round trip including taxes and fees between Atlanta and Washington Dulles International Airport was the least expensive of its competitors and I had a conference in the District of Columbia; so I snagged the deal…

…which, by the way, is still available for select dates through Monday, December 19, 2016 — unless you would like to take advantage of an airfare of $86.18 round-trip on Spirit Airlines between Atlanta and Baltimore, which did not work for me for a number of reasons.

My First Flight With United Airlines in Years

One thing which I have always liked about United Airlines since I became based in the Atlanta area is that their flights operate out of gates in Concourse T — meaning that I can always walk to the gates and never have to consider taking the airport train which transports people between concourses and baggage claim. The experience with American Airlines used to be similar until its merger with US Airways, whose flights always departed from Concourse D — and still do today as part of American Airlines.

I arrived at gate T13 for the departure of the airplane for the flight on which I was to become a passenger. The first group of passengers — which included those who were assigned seats in the first class cabin; as well as members of the MileagePlus program who achieve Global Services elite level status — boarded first in their own lane; followed by other passengers who earned various levels of Premier elite level status and boarded in a different lane designated just for them.

United Airlines

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

As the passengers were boarding, I noticed that they were scanning their own boarding passes prior to boarding the aircraft — regardless of whether the boarding pass was physically printed on a piece of paper; or digitally displayed on the screens of portable electronic devices.

United Airlines

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

I decided to take a photograph of this — and at the last second, one of the gate agents decided to have a little fun and pose for the photograph. I explained to her that passengers of Delta Air Lines usually do not have the opportunity to scan their own boarding passes, as my experience is chiefly from one of my brief stints as gate agent for a day. She explained to me that they encourage this policy because they do not want to be responsible for breaking a portable electronic device in the unlikely event that it is accidentally dropped while scanning an electronic boarding pass. That made sense to me…

…although almost immediately after that explanation — as if on cue — one passenger almost dropped his portable electronic device as he scanned his electronic boarding pass. That was a close call.

Boarding for everyone else was through the open area, as no one was permitted to use either of the designated special lanes — I suppose to keep them clear should passengers who qualify to use those lanes arrive at the gate late.

I boarded the Airbus A320 aircraft and passed by the first class cabin, which appeared to be typical of those found in airplanes used for domestic flights. I did like the idea of coat hooks located on the bulkhead walls at the rear of the first class cabin; although I was unsure as to whether the flight attendants hang the garments as usual. One drawback is that the garments — which had tags attached to them with the seat assignments of their owners written on them — are out in the open and not hidden in a closet.

The Seat

After passing through the Economy Plus section — which did not look like anything special to me — I arrived at my seat.

United Airlines

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

The seat to which I was assigned was located next to the window; and it appeared to be made out of leather. It also had an adjustable headrest.

United Airlines

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

I thought that the seat was reasonably comfortable — especially as the legroom was acceptably ample for me.

United Airlines

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

After every seat was filled with passengers, the boarding door to the aircraft was closed; and the airplane departed on time as the lead flight attendant recited the usual set of announcements — including the addition of the current ban on Samsung Galaxy Note7 devices anywhere aboard the airplane.

The Snack

The in-flight service eventually began after I completed greater than half of the crossword puzzle found in the Hemispheres magazine — in ink with a pen — and I pulled down the tray table, which was not spotlessly clean.

United Airlines

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

The snack was a small bag of — well — some mixture of nondescript crunchy snack items whose taste had an odd hint of seafood.

United Airlines

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

I tore open the bag to see exactly what I was eating…

United Airlines

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

…and then I reviewed the ingredients. Interestingly, I was right on the money with that hint of seafood, as seaweed was the fourth ingredient of this snack mix, which was comprised of Oriental rice crackers and sesame sticks; and contained such odd ingredients as soy sauce and beet powder.

United Airlines

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

Aside from the sesame sticks — whose taste and texture I found to be as interesting as dried old glue — the snack was not half bad; but I had to wonder who arrived at the decision to serve this snack mix as the only option to an airplane packed with passengers…

…as well as why. This snack mix would never be my first choice — nor would it be something I would ever crave to eat.

Thank goodness my cup of orange juice with no ice arrived to wash down the odd flavors. Delta Air Lines serves a larger cup with a greater amount of beverage — but the difference in airfare did not justify that larger serving, as I could purchase at least a dozen 59-ounce containers of orange juice at a supermarket for what I saved on airfare for this relatively short flight.

I remember the days when those containers actually held a half gallon of orange juice — but I digress yet again, as usual.

I did have a little chuckle to myself when I saw that a coffee pot used to store items on the drink cart proudly emblazoned the logo of Continental Airlines — the airline with which United Airlines merged; as well as the airline on which I once was a member of the OnePass frequent guest loyalty program of which I had earn top-tier elite level status.

Ahh, memories.

United Airlines

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

If I really had to absolutely nitpick about an otherwise pleasant flight, the window shade next to my seat was missing a handle for some reason. Other than the tray table, the airplane was relatively clean and comfortable; and the flight actually was early upon arrival of the airplane at my destination.

Return Flight

United Airlines

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

When I arrived at the gate, I mistakenly thought that the flight was for Southwest Airlines, as I saw the signs which pointed out which lane each group should use.

Unlike on the outbound flight, the gate agents were scanning the boarding passes instead of the passengers doing the scanning themselves.

United Airlines

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

On the way to the runway, the trademark odd droopy wings of a parked Antonov AN-124-100 transport aircraft caught my eye as I looked out the window. According to the official Internet web site of this airplane, “It is the biggest series heavy lifter in the world.” Note all of the wheels at the bottom of the airplane.

In-Flight Entertainment

No in-flight entertainment option was built into the aircraft — had it been, earbud headphones would have been distributed free of charge to passengers seated in all cabin classes and I probably could have once again listened to the pilots and air traffic controllers speak live on Channel 9 — but in-flight entertainment was available virtually when traveling with a portable electronic device.

United Airlines

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

I had downloaded the official mobile software application program of United Airlines onto my portable electronic device. There was an ample selection of movies, television programs and shows for children available; but I was not interested in any of them…

United Airlines

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

…rather, I preferred the information screen, which displayed a map of where the airplane was located and remaining flight time in real time…

United Airlines

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

…as well as information displayed in real time using both imperial and metric measurements — such as the speed of the aircraft; the wind speed; the outside temperature; and the altitude of the airplane.

A rare occurrence happened at the conclusion of the flight: the pilot “greased” the landing — meaning that had my eyes been closed, I would have never known that the airplane landed. I actually accomplished a “greased” landing while piloting a Boeing 777-200 flight simulator and am still quite proud of that. I complimented and congratulated the captain of the aircraft upon leaving the airplane; and he looked up from working in his seat in the cockpit and smiled, as he was pleasantly surprised and grateful. I suppose I made his day that I actually noticed how smoothly the airplane landed and let him know.

Other than that, the return flight was generally the same experience — type of aircraft, snack and all. Although the airplane departed from the gate nine minutes late, it actually arrived at its destination early — despite it originally supposed to arrive seven minutes late.

Summary

When traveling on a short flight of fewer than 90 minutes, the choice of airline can basically be based primarily on price…

…and despite the negative experiences about which I have either heard or read — and while there was nothing spectacular or memorable which occurred — there was nothing significantly bad about my experiences as a passenger of United Airlines on the two flights which comprised the round trip.

I personally have never had anything against United Airlines; but the opportunity finally presented itself this time for me to be a passenger.

Sometimes trying something different is good…

All photographs ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

7 thoughts on “My First Flight With United Airlines in Years”

  1. JEM says:

    Strange… I have NEVER had a Delta GA take my phone to scan my e-boarding pass – I’ve always scanned it myself. For that matter, I can’t remember the last time a Delta GA took my paper pass, either.

  2. Mick says:

    I had to fly to NYC last July (2015) from London (England),
    Due to it being short notice, the only flights that arrived on time were United, I booked and paid for premium economy upgrade. Then did some checking and discovered, its not a separate cabin and the only difference was a little extra legroom.
    We had just had a holiday in Dubai, so had recent experience of Emirates (Definitely my favourite airline and thanks to code share Quantas (The customer service was much better than reviews suggested it might be) ), and had flown the A380 in Business class, which was superb.
    Standing at T2 at Heathrow I looked out to see a 767 which looked tiny and on boarding looked surprisingly tired, the In Cabin Entertainment was dire, (a screen no bigger than an original iPhone which just played different “channels” and this was behind a semi opaque plastic cover)….
    At this point,I was thinking I had just made an awful mistake and should have flown BA/Virgin and arrived later than I wanted.
    BUT and this was a big but, the flight crew were excellent, as I sat there on my 12″ MacBook, (a perfect companion for flights I might add), the steward pointed out that there was in flight WiFi (Sky-Fi?) once we were airborne and for a fee of $18 (This was pre Brexit when sterling wasn’t so devalued) .
    Well the crew were fantastic, the food surprisingly good but the Wifi? That was brilliant and made the flight not just bearable, but surprisingly enjoyable as I chatted with friends on Facebook, Who were pointing out to me that “Shouldn’t you be on your way to the states”? 🙂

    Overall it turned out to be a great flight. The fact that while walking in Central park, I almost literally bumped into President Obama and his daughters was incidental, (A brief tip, if you are ever in this situation DO NOT blurt out “Good morning Mr President, I love you”, but I was kind of surprised and his daughters seemed to find it funny.

  3. Joe says:

    This sentence reads as though it was entered through Google Translate:

    “I arrived at gate T13 for the departure of the airplane for the flight on which I was to become a passenger.”

  4. Rjb says:

    Mick
    I’m guessing you are not from the USA since you would not be do enamoref with Obama. He is a divisive individual without the ability to lead. The press loves him despite his dearth of achievements as the leader of the free world. Fortunately, his reign is about to end. Good riddance.

    1. Mick says:

      Rjb,
      luckily I am English, (as Rudyard Kipling allegedly said) “To be born an Englishman is to win first prize in the lottery of life”.

      As an outsider looking in, he seems to have been a great President, when the global financial meltdown happened, the action he and Alan Greenspan took probably helped to prevent a global depression and Obamacare although very limited in comparison with the British National Health Service, seems a step in the right direction. Us Brits are always amazed at your healthcare system as we have a cradle to grave one.

      But this is not the time or place to discuss politics, have a great day. 😉

      Mick

  5. gobluetwo says:

    I like the oriental snack option and don’t think it tastes “odd” or like “dried old glue” at all. Nothing wrong with soy sauce and seaweed, either!

  6. matthew BROWN says:

    The oriental ish mix is better than the zesty ranch. If you squeeze into their embraer 145 jets you often get pelted with pieces of dirt from the vents, and see disconnected wiring next to the exit door above the wing. The attendants are often nice as can be as well as the pilots. The pilots do not give up so easily at taking off. They will sit that runway at all costs. This can be frustrating and at the same time comforting when you are trying to get home. The Airbus 320 Wi-Fi systems are compatible with my phone whereas the Boeing 737s are not. Chicago is the bad luck zone for me, sometimes the ground control will fall to secure parking a at the gate for the plane. So this can kill your time advantage to the next gate. The airline refuses to slow up the connecting flight even if you go from the end of F terminal to middle of B terminal with 4 minutes to spare. This is a marathon sprint and they will charge to change the flight.

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