Here’s a rundown of the first half of my whirlwind journey to Sydney, Australia in United Business Class in order to achieve 1K status for 2020…and of course for a proper cup of coffee.
I’ve outlined the reason for the trip here, so will jump right to the flights.
I proceeded directly from a Christmas Concert to Burbank Airport in-time to make my flight to San Francisco. Little did I know I would encounter an excruciating 40-minute delay on the ground, which would have resulted in a me missing my connection to Sydney had that flight not also (eventually) been delayed.
The CRJ-200 is not my favorite aircraft in the fleet (heck, it is my least favorite), but it beat a long layover in SFO or driving down to LAX.
With my flight to Sydney also delayed, I visited the United Polaris Lounge in the international terminal. At 11:00PM it was mostly empty and the restaurant area was closed. There were some hot and cold options at the buffet, but nothing caught my eye except for some cheese.
I also enjoyed a cucumber-infused Moscow Mule, which hit the spot after running from the F gates all the way to lounge.
Finally, boarding began about 11:30pm. I proceeded down to gate G7, where boarding was already underway.
There was a man absolutely yelling at the gate agent, demanding to speak to a supervisor. Although I was tempted to hang around and watch this all play out, I just boarded…I was ready to sleep at this point.
San Francisco (SFO) — Sydney (SYD)
Sunday, December 22
Duration: 15hr, 20min
Seat: 17L (“Polaris” Business Class)
I must admit, this flight let me down…and it wasn’t the extended delay. But maybe it’s just me…
The Polaris seat was fine. I’ve reviewed it before and did not take pictures from several angles this time around. I appreciate that United was able to provide aisle access to all passengers without compromising cabin density.
United’s Saks Fifth Avenue bedding remains industry-best for business class, with two great pillows, including a cooling gel pillow, a nice comforter, and a lounging blanket.
I didn’t sleep nearly as well as I would have liked. We took off around 1:00AM, dinner finished at 2:30AM, and I was up six hours later, which is still pretty good considering my body clock generally wakes me up between 5-6AM with or without an alarm. I just couldn’t sleep any further…part of it must be the stress I am dealing with. This was a very smooth flight, so it wasn’t the turbulence.
Finally, note that no one bothered to wipe down the tray table prior to boarding…
Also, part of the suite was repaired by tape. I hope that is not a sign of things to come…
Food Was Just Fine
The food was also fine. Trying to branch out a bit, I ordered the seared lemongrass salmon topped with a coconut red curry sauce and served with Thai coconut risotto plus stir-fried bell pepper, carrots, and onion. It was different than I pictured it, but actually tastier than I had hoped. The duck appetizer, salad, and bread were standard fare.
Halfway though the flight I enjoyed a small bowl of lobster Mac and Cheese. There were also snacks available in the mid-galley buffet area.
Prior to landing, I had the creamed cheese omelet, which many complain about but I found delicious. All the fruit was ripe, the cinnamon roll was amazing, and I thought it was an outstanding breakfast.
IFE + Wi-Fi
IFE and wi-fi worked well too. I watched “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” which was very well-done, except for the gratuitous violence seemingly present in every Quentin Tarantino movie.
Wi-Fi worked, slowly but surly, every time I needed to connect. A flight pass was $23,99 but I only needed two hours of access, which I purchased for $6.99.
Even the amenity kit was fine. I’m not a Star Wars fan, but thought the Star Wars-banded amenity kit was at least useful with dark colored socks, a pen, dental kit, eyeshade, and Sunday Riley beauty products. The only thing it was missing was a comb and I had forgotten mine.
So what was the problem? I don’t want to blame the flight attendants here, but I think half the issue is they are not giving sufficient tools to work with.
For example, I asked for pajamas prior to takeoff and the flight attendant seemed a bit annoyed. She wasn’t lazy; the reason for her annoyance soon became clear.
She sort of shuffled down the aisle with my requested large pajamas then discreetly handed it to me. Then she leaned down and whispered:
“Try to not show this off. They only boarded two pairs of large on this flight.”
I cannot possibly be angry at the flight attendants for that. What a shame that United only boards a few pairs of pajamas on a flight blocked at almost 15 hours.
But we cannot just let the flight attendants off the hook. I took the pajamas and walked up to the lavatory to change clothes. We had not even taken off yet and it was a mess. Paper and water already on the floor…
Staying hydrated, I drank a lot of water during the flight. That also meant frequent bathroom trips. Sadly, the lavatory was never cleared. By the second half of the flight, the paper towels were gone…
I mentioned it to a flight attendant and she apparently restocked it, but shouldn’t that be a proactive thing?
Perhaps what saddened me the most is that flight attendants were simply not that attentive. My drinks were not refilled and the flight attendant working my side of the aisle forgot to offer bread with the meal until I asked for it.
It’s just little things that could have made an otherwise decent flight great. There was no hostility, but how about a little proactivity? Maybe my expectations are just too high…
We arrived to an army of red tails with kangaroos.
Despite not sleeping as well as I wanted, I arrived in Sydney feeling refreshed and made a beeline for the transit security checkpoint. I had three lounges to review in under two hours…
Next: Lounge hopping, great coffee, and my 787-9 flight back to Los Angeles.