You can read about my outbound trip here. My trip home Chicago could have been easy, a straight shot from Chicago to Los Angeles with an upgrade. But I opted to fly via Newark instead. Why? Social distancing…oh yes, and a lie-flat bed and hot dinner.
An Indirect Routing Home
After my appointment in Chicago, I could have just flown home nonstop. But it would have been onboard a 737-800 and I would have had someone sitting next to me in first class (the horror!). So to practice good social distancing, I flew home via Newark instead.
Nah, I cannot say that with a straight face. I flew home via Newark because I had wanted to see how United’ premium transcontinental product was holding up and because I far preferred a spacious lie-flat bed to a recliner seat for my journey home, even if it involved some backtracking and a segment in economy class. I realize most will consider me crazy, but surely some of you can understand my logic.
One of the most generous things United offers elites is free confirmed same day changes. Within 24 hours of your schedule flight, you can move to an earlier or later flight. You can also add or subtract connections: there just must be availability in your originally booked fare class. And if you haven’t checked out the app, understand that you can sometimes rebook on routings that are typically not possible. I’ve never seen a connection in Newark offered when booking a Chicago to Los Angeles ticket. But the app…
My best same-day confirmed change (SDC) was changing Seattle – Los Angeles to Seattle – Newark – Los Angeles. That was a fun way home!
Anyway, the cost for this last-minute change was flying economy class to Newark. Elites also do not receive complimentary upgrades on premium transcontinental flights, but the pandemic has meant I really don’t have a good way to burn PlusPoints, which have only been extended to July 2021. An upgrade costs 20 PlusPoints.
Flight #1 – Chicago to Newark – 737-800 – Economy Class
I’m glad one of my four legs on this trip was in economy class, just to experience it. The flight was less than half full, though, so I did not get to experience one of the crowded flights I have been warned about. I was originally given an exit row aisle seat, but opted to move back a few rows into “deep coach” (no extra legroom) so that I could have a row to myself.
The flight was very uneventful. Flight attendants offered a beverage service and that was it. No snack and no coffee or tea was available, which is limited to flights departing before 9:45AM.
My layover in Newark was one hour, which did not give me much time before boarding began for my connection to Los Angeles. I did have time to walk around a bit since I landed in one pier and departed from another. Almost everything was closed, with most chairs sealed. Starbucks was open and a bar was open with drinks to go, but I did not notice any food options open.
Flight #2 – Newark to Los Angeles – 767-300 – United Premium Transcontinental Business Class In Pandemic Era
I was excited to try United’s premium transcontinental service in the pandemic era. What would it be like?
As before, a blanket, pillow, and amenity kit were sitting on each seat.
And can I just say here how much I hate air conditioning? I had brought a t-shirt along, but was so cold practically the entire day I just left the same long-sleeved shirt on. It was so nice to finally curl up in a warm blanket…it literally was the first time I was warm all day.
As for the “throw” blanket, it’s quite comfortable, but much smaller than the old duvet United recently removed from these flights. Since the cabin was only half full, I ended up using two.
The 767-300 has 1-1-1 stating in business class. The seats are a bit narrower than the 777-3oo, but quite comfortable for me.
No pre-departure beverages, but the flight attendants were quite cheerful in performing cabin checks and making sure that everyone was fasted up prior to takeoff. It seems there were a lot of first-time upgrades or people not use to the product, because the flight attendant had to remind almost everyone to put their shoulder strap on.
We took off on time and were soon in the air.
Shortly after, dinner was served, a choice of “chicken” or “pasta” (no menus were offered). I ordered chicken and it was served on one tray with mixed nuts, pretzels, crackers, butter, a fruit cup, and cookie.
During dinner I watched a movie called The Assistant…and loved it. Very well-done; a clean movie (no gratuitous sex, nudity, or violence…just fabulous innuendo) with a sinister plot line.
Snacks were also available throughout the flight (self-serve in the front of the cabin):
Lavatories were clean:
After the movie, I reclined the bed and did not wake up until the captain announced final approach into Los Angeles.
…at least I thought.
While going through the pictures I noticed this one:
Was I sleepwalking over Denver? Did someone borrow my phone? I have absolutely no recollection of taking that picture.
LAX was again quiet and I walked over to LAXit, which was also deserted.
Traveling again was a thrill. The trip was smooth and I’m happy to report the experience felt very safe. I was under the false impression that United’s hub-to-hub flights were full, but that was decidedly not the case on all four of my flights. For all the horror stories about packed flights, there were no middle seat passengers on any of my flights unless they were traveling with friends or relatives and chose to sit there.