2010 SOUTH AMERICA TRIP REPORT
Crowded boarding area at Washington Dulles
I did not have a lot of time, so I proceeded immediately to the Buenos Aires gate, where I was issued a boarding pass for BUSINESS CLASS! The flight was lightly filled in both economy and business (with only six seats, first class was full), so this was not an operational upgrade. Furthermore, when I was rebooked to fly to Buenos Aires a day early, I was not booked into business class or “full fare” economy.
But I didn’t ask questions: A decent meal and a good night’s rest sounded wonderful. Business class was only half full and the seat next to me remained open during the flight. Like my trip to Moscow earlier in the year, this allowed me to tune in the map on one screen and a movie on the other.
The movie selections were quite good. I had wanted to see Green Zone since it came out and appreciated the film’s take on the war in Iraq. Having gone from a neo-con to a reluctant dove over the last six years, I think political films like Green Zone help to show why it is in America’s best interest to exert extreme caution in the future before invading another country or two.
Service was disappointing, though not bad. The crew who worked business class was actually professional and even somewhat friendly. One FA wanted to know why I was taking pictures of the food and after explaining to her that I was a travel blogger and would be authoring a trip report on this journey, she was much more attentive and friendly to me (not that she wasn’t attentive before). The problem was the purser. He was an old man who limped through the cabin and was very abrupt in his manner. Prior to rollback, he made his way through the business class cabin with a manifest in his hand merely asking each passenger, “What would you like for dinner?” No addressing by name, no smile, no chatting, no thank-you for flying on United, no explanation of the various meal choices. Just a brisk robotic service. After taking meal orders, he did not make contact with C-Class passengers again the entire flight.
Again, I have to question why UA tolerates such poor service. Maybe some of you will dispute that this was poor service. After all, he was not rude and he did his job efficiently. But I like warmth and interaction with customers and this purser seemed to be in pain and anxious to quickly get the service done so he could relax. All I ask is that UA’s crew try to act a little more friendly and please address us by name, at least when taking the meal order.
The menu was identical to my choices on my trip to from Dulles to Moscow in January. Remembering how poor the steak was, I ordered the Charlie Trotter chicken dish. It was served with a salmon appetizer, green salad, and bread. The chicken breast was served with a heap of warm potato salad. I noticed that soup was offered with the express dine choice so I requested soup along with the meal (I didn’t ask the purser), and was obliged.
The meal was tasty. The cream of asparagus soup had a very nice flavor and you really can’t screw up a salad. The portion size of the main course was large and the chicken breast and potatoes both were piping hot and spiced nicely. Most surprising, was the cheese. Usually I don’t even look at the cheese selection and just order the dessert (today it was tiramisu). I noticed, however, that there was a basil and sun dried tomato cheese selection that sounded really good. And it was. I like UA’s jalepeno jack cheese, but this was even better. In fact, it was so good I even stopped by Whole Food’s after my trip to look for some. When clearing away my dishes, the friendly FA asked if she could get me anything else. I jokingly stated that she could grab me an ice cream sundae from first class, to which she responded she would check up front. She never got back to me, so I assume either everyone in first had a sundae (less likely) or the purser just said no (more likely).
I am a night owl and was still on west coast time, so I did not get a lot of sleep on the flight. I watched another two movies before finally fully reclining my seat into the lie-flat mode and sleeping soundly for three hours. Being a night owl means that I like to sleep in when I can, which is a problem when the flight arrives before 9am (5am west coast time).
United has salvaged the former faux-down blankets and pillows that used to be fixtures on p.s. flights and now offers them on international flights to premium class customers. The bedding is a huge improvement over the scratchy blue blankets and dime-a-dozen pillows that have tarnished United’s first and business class cabins for years. A soft, light blanket is very appreciated.
About 45 minutes prior to landing the sound of clinking dishes and the aroma of warm croissants awakened me. I was about ready to turn over and go back to sleep, but a FA noticed my eyes were open and immediately came by and offered me a beverage and inquired whether I preferred breakfast. Another UA omelet sounded good, so I brought up my seat and pulled out my tray table. Moments later, breakfast was served on a single tray. I quickly devoured it.
Our descent into Buenos Aires had begun and before I knew we had landed and were taxiing to the gate. I was ready to hit the ground running.
United’s hard-product is great—I cannot complain about it. Well, actually there is one thing…I would love UA to rotate the Seat 22 A&B stories. I’ve flown seven longhauls over the last year and a half with UA’s new AVOD system and I am still waiting to finish one of the stories I began on a SFO-ORD flight two years ago. It’s time to rotate the choices!! But that rant aside, the seat is comfortable, the AVOD is great overall, and the plane was immaculately clean.
United’s soft-product is not industry leading, but it is also not bad. FA friendliness continues to be an issue, but I was satisfied with the meals and bedding and even recommend UA if you are considering a trip to Argentina from North America.