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Thursday 24 October 2019

Returning Home With United Airlines (Part 1: SFO-NRT)

Welcome to my trip report on last 2019 trip report on United Airlines! 


This is my return flight of United's Boeing 777-300ER. I have written a conclusion on my thoughts about this airline at the end of the trip report. Hope you enjoy this as much as I do!

One advantage about checking your flights on Flightradar24 for U.S airlines is that you get information on the aircraft registration a couple of days before your flight, of course, there are chances of aircraft changing during the period. 

A couple of days prior to my flight, I did a check on my flight status, and it was indeed N2645U taking me to Tokyo. Before my flight, it was flying in from Hong Kong. 

Thanks to the application, we were kept well updated. In my opinion, United Airlines has exceeded my expectation for this trip. 

The aircraft finally arrived at SFO airport, arriving late, hence a delay of my flight

About San Francisco Airport 

San Francisco Airport is the 2nd busiest airport in Califonia (LAX is the busiest), and it all started in March 1927. Since then, lots of upgrade and expansion of the airport had taken place. This airport has witnessed many airlines come and go and aircraft from the first generation, smoking the air with the black soot from the engines and the high noise level deafening the neighbourhoods near the airport. Thanks to technology, all that changed with constant improvement made to improve the environment by reducing both the air and noise pollution. Today, traffic is still as busy as before, but passengers are spoilt for choices with many airlines offering great deals, attracting the public to travel. SFO is one of the most popular tourist destinations and not a surprise, this airport is busy most of the time.

This airport is a hub for Alaska Airlines and United Airlines and plays a host to a lot of international airlines, especially from Asia. There is even a museum for this airport, showcasing history. It is located at the international terminal, so if you are there, do drop by for a visit.

This airport has 4 runways and is always kept busy for most parts of the year. This airport is well known for its parallel runways as passengers on their flights can observe aircraft either landing or taking offs on the other runway around the same time. 

Here is the map of the airport

On the day of departure

After arriving from Los Angeles, I had a few hours to spare to connect to my flight across the continent on my way home. The 10 days stay in the U.S was definitely not enough but I am looking forward to my next trip here. It is enjoyable especially if things go smoothly. 

There are a good number of shops on the airside

One of United Airlines' Airbus A320s being prepared for departure. Will we ever see the Airbus A320 NEO in United's livery? Unlikely but never say never.

EVA Air's Boeing 777-300ER arrived from Taipei

Soon it was time to head over to the gate 

There is an outdoor area to relax and enjoy the ramp in action

The United Airlines Boeing 757-300 aircraft I flew on was parked at the opposite concourse. 

G96 gate is where my aircraft was departing

It was at this moment, I spotted something special, that is one of United's retro livery, this one is featured on the Airbus A320.

It seems a lot of Asian passengers were on this flight.

A better picture of this beauty! I am certainly a big fan of this livery.

Photo: Brian Peters

My ride: N2645U, one of the airline's newest Boeing 777-300ER

Off she goes!

Route: SFO-NRT

Miles: 5,124

My ride: N2645U 

Aircraft Type: Boeing 777-300ER

Engines: 2 X GE90-115B

Configuration: C60 Y306

Delivered on 20 March 2018

1548th Boeing 777

Photo: Royal S King

Photo: N94504

Date of departure: 22 July 2019
Airline: United Airlines
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Registration: N2645U
Seat: 55B (Last row)
Gate: 96
Load: 100% Y Class
Duration: 9 hrs 57 mins
Boarding: 1126
Push back: 1220
Take off: 1239
Schedule departure: 1150 
Schedule arrival: 1415 
Actual arrival: 1437
Departure runway: 28L
Arrival runway: 16R

Boarding started late due to the late arrival of the aircraft. It didn't affect me much as I had plenty of spare time to hang around at NRT airport before my next flight. It was hard to say goodbye to the U.S after these memorable 10 days. Nevertheless, I looked forward to this flight.

I picked the seat at the last row, to enjoy more space. I had a conversation with my seatmate and it turned out that she is working for the U.S military, heading to Okinawa for service. A big salute to her and her mates for dedicating their time to protect their country.

Random photos of the cabin, for more photos of this aircraft's cabin, you can check it out over here.

This is the Polaris Business Class Cabin - an upgrade over the old Business Class product

Last look of the business class before leaving the aircraft.

Economy Class 

This flight, I chose the last row of the aircraft, for the 2-seater. 

One disadvantage of sitting here is how close it is to the toilet. So if there is a queue, you should be expecting folks lining up around your area.

3-4-3 Seating configuration is great for the bean counters at the airlines but not for the passengers. 

The seat pitch of the last row seat

Last rows at the rear cabin

This is the view from my seat 

Photo of the toilet 

How time flies, it used to be 3 or 4 engines flights over trans-pacific, but now twin jets dominate this era. 

My Inflight Experience 

Greeted by this set of friendly crew while making my way to the assigned seat. This set of crew turned out to excellent as they treated every one of us very well, in my opinion. Smiles on their faces and they were helpful especially with some of the passengers struggling to put their carry-ons to the overhead compartment.

Once everyone settled down, we pushed back and our aircraft was on our way. Our poor aircraft had only a few hours of rest before to where it came from, but luckily for her, it was a shorter flight this time. 

After the long take-off roll, we departed in smooth air and it was great weather all the way. You can't ask for a better flight than this. 

In-flight service was fantastic, I can't describe enough how professional this set of the crew they are. Even when I had trouble with my IFE system, one of them came to help me out without any frowns or sign of impatience. It is hard to believe that I was flying on United Airlines.

Just before the first meal service, I dozed off for a short while. I was woken up by the crew as the meal was ready to serve. Sitting at this row, wasn't too bad. The crowd and the noise from the toilet behind me didn't bother, but there may be some that may not like these seats near the rear as they can be noisy and the lack of privacy and also near the rear tends to be shakier when flying through turbulent condition. Overall, I glad I picked this seat as the 2-seater is more comfortable than the 3-seater. 

With a massive fleet, it is not a surprise to see this airline with so many different aircraft types. The question now is will United Airlines operate the A350 which is currently due for delivery in 2022 or will the order be changed to other aircraft types? We should know the answer in the near future.

In-flight meals

We were well fed by the airline, the meals were ok, nothing special but it satisfied my stomach. So by the time I reached Tokyo, I wasn't hungry.

This was our lunch 

I simply adore Salted Caramel flavour! 

A beer to top up my enjoyment for this flight

Breakfast time 

The flight went past very quickly and before I knew it, I was at NRT airport. You don't need to pay exorbitant airfares to have such an enjoyable flying experience. Good in-flight service depends on the type of cabin crew as they play a big role in how well the passengers get treated. I was well-taken care by United Airlines on all 4 sectors and will I recommend this airline to anyone? Sure, why not? The United Airlines of today is definitely better than the airline (before the merger) 20 years ago. 

Window shot view from the last row

This ANA's Boeing 777-300ER was also heading to NRT, around the same time. 

Thank you for the safe ride, N2645U! 

This aircraft was to fly back to San Francisco that day

My Flight Report 

My rating: 

United Airlines' mobile app: 7/10
SFO Airport Experience: 6/10
IFE system: 7/10
Cabin interior: 8/10
Cleanliness: 10/10
Seat comfort: 7/10
Aircraft condition: 10/10
In-flight meal: 6/10
In-flight service: 8/10
Punctuality: 6/10
Overall rating: 75/100

My thoughts and the conclusion of this trip report

This airline when things run smoothly, at least for my experience, shows to me how serious they are trying to be dominant in the U.S aviation market. This airline competes with American and Delta Airlines on U.S-Asian routes and seems to me, more successful than the other two. As United Airlines is a founding Star Alliance member, it benefits more as there are partners which help to feed its own customers to other destinations that the airline doesn't fly to. With it’s strong strategy, it forced some unpleasant moves by its rivals to ensure they doesn't incur more losses. One example is Delta Airlines. This airline recently makes a sensible move by shifting its operation to Tokyo Haneda and adjusting some routes as a result. 

One advantage about flying with United Airlines is that you will be taken care of if things go wrong like a long flight delay or flight cancellation. With a great frequency of flights in the U.S, you don't have much to worry about but don't book in Basic Economy Class (Not my recommendation) if you need to amend your flights. It's better to pay more to fly on the standard Economy Class ticket. 

I enjoyed my 4 flights with the airline, all went well without a hitch. This flight, in particular, is the most outstanding as the Asian crew did their best to make us comfortable even for Economy Class Passengers. The Economy Class product may not be the best in the market but I find it to be more than average in terms of comfort level, minus the legroom space. For that, you can purchase the seats with better legroom space on the airline's website and that would be the Economy Plus.

My next planned flight with this airline will be on the airline's Boeing 757-200 and the Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner.

United Airlines held a "Her Art Here" contest and 2 winning entries had their artwork published on the 2 Boeing 757 to showcase their beautiful artwork.

United's Boeing 757-200 in this beautiful artwork special livery, designed by Tsungwei Moo. (Photo by Trevor Mulkerrins)

This photo is a tribute to California.

This beautiful artwork special livery is designed by Corinne Antonelli. (Photo by Cary Liao - AeroPX)

This photo is a tribute to both New York City and New Jersey. (Below)

This is the Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner (Photo by Sierra Aviation Photography)

Hope you enjoy this trip report! Stay tuned for my next report, coming up soon. 

For my NRT-SFO trip experience, click here.

Have a fantastic week!