I’ve had some struggles with recent travels on United, but (knock on wood) I’m pleased to report my last few trips have been smooth. My trip back home this week from Philadelphia was about as good as can be for a domestic short haul trip.
I had to extend my trip a few days, and I was somewhat hoping to use same day change to change my return, but I waited too long, and at least partially due to a very low fare class for the return leg. I had to pay a $200 change fee plus the additional fare. I was able to change to a mainline flight for the flight from Philadelphia to Chicago. Many flights on that route are now Express flights with the CRJ-700. This flight was on an A320, and somewhat surprisingly, my upgrade cleared more than 24 hours before departure.
Ceiling of XIX Restaurant in the Hyatt at the Bellevue
I headed to the airport, and thanks to the PreCheck icon on my boarding pass, I knew that I could head to Terminal C to go through expedited security. There was no one else in the PreCheck line, so I was air side in less than a minute and then made the short walk to the United Club. For those keeping score, as of mid–May 2013, the bathrooms are still closed in the United Club. This club isn’t in great shape, but its a decent place to grab a quick snack between flights.
I soon headed to the gate for boarding. Once on board, I settled into my window seat in First Class, and noticed that Channel 9 was on. Soon the flight attendant offered to take my coat as well as a drink. This was a ‘scone’ flight, but there was also a pass with the snack basket. It wasn’t an outstanding flight by any means, but friendly service, early arrival, and ‘nice to haves’ like Channel 9, and a simple snack service made it quite pleasant.
My connection to Milwaukee was on time, and even though it was ground level boarding, for once it was a nice day to be outside. That certainly isn’t always the case at O’Hare. The CRJ-200 was in the old ‘Tulip’ paint scheme, unfortunately it was in rough shape:
Skywest paint peeling
After a long run of bad flight experiences, I was quite happy with how things went on this trip. It made me realize that some of the impending changes to the United Airbus fleet are really going to degrade the travel experience. I’ve long said that United often struggles with the little things, but on this last trip, they did it all well. These changes to the Airbus fleet are a huge negative.
Channel 9 is something that really differentiates United from its competitors. Economy Plus used to be unique, but now both American and Delta offer something similar. Clearly there are options to allow for ATC communications to be available as part of the streaming offerings, but if not available under 10,000 feet, much of the most interesting Channel 9 time would not be available. Unfortunately, United seems to only be interested in nickel and diming passengers for additional revenue streams, rather than providing any sort of goodwill.