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Old 7th September 2018, 06:42 PM   #1
yflyer
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Default Crazy Frequent Flyer Asians: UA38/37 Dreamliner Nonstop to LA, Vegas & Grand Canyon

It was impossible not to encounter "Crazy Rich Asians" when Mrs yflyer and I visited Los Angeles last month, after arriving on UA38, United's nonstop 787 Dreamliner service from SIN to LAX. I am referring to the movie, of course, and not the the actual CRAsians, although I am sure some of them must have been present in Las Vegas (And LA) during our trip. The movie premiered in LA the week before we arrived, and it popped up everywhere: reviews in newspapers, on movie posters in the street, discussed in overheard conversations...

I was headed to Las Vegas for a business convention, and I asked Mrs yflyer to tag along. Before and after Vegas, we spent a couple of days in Los Angeles.

In LA, we stayed at two memorable hotels, the Westin Bonaventure, and the Sheraton Grand Los Angeles. While in LA, I finally got to head out for a run along Venice and Santa Monica beaches. Timings also worked out for several wonderful meals there, including dinner with HUGE AL...who had somehow managed to juggle his frenetic travel schedule to be in LA at the designated date and time, to meet us for dinner...landing in LA just hours before dinner, then flying off again the next day to be where he needed to be...

Las Vegas was an amazing place, even for non-gamblers like ourselves. We had a great time, even though we didn't spend a cent at the tables or slot machines. That said, in Vegas, there are many other ways to part with your money...

While in Vegas, we made a side trip to the Grand Canyon. I was fully prepared to either drive or take a coach tour to the Canyon, one of the world's great natural wonders, but Mrs yflyer had other plans...

"Can we take a helicopter there? I've never been on one...", she asked.

A helicopter would save us several hours travel time as well. The helicopter ride to the Grand Canyon and Skywalk was very memorable, as was the Canyon and Skywalk itself, although this was not an activity I would recommend for anyone afraid of heights. On the other hand, if vast expanses of gorgeous scenery, steep vertical drops, and staring down at the river and ground far, far below are activities that sound appealing, then a visit to the Grand Canyon Skywalk is just the thing for you...

There isn't much more time left to fly on United's nonstop SIN-LAX-SIN service. This service is slated to cease operation at the end of October this year, which is a pity, since we were both very happy with how our flights went. We flew these flights in economy class. I will cover these flights in detail in this TR, but at the outset let me say that after experiencing nonstops to the USA on several occasions, I feel quite comfortable declaring that nonstop is the preferred way to travel from Singapore to West Coast USA. Whatever airline or class of travel, nonstop is just so much more convenient than one stop, without the hassle of landing, deplaning, going through security, and then boarding again.

United's schedule for UA38/37 was perfect: A morning departure to the USA, and corresponding morning arrival in Los Angeles. And on the return, a late night departure out of LAX, where you could sleep onboard, then wake up in the morning, just prior to arrival in Singapore.

Our flights from Singapore to Los Angeles and return were both just under 16 hours in duration. Long flights, to be sure, but as far as UA's hard and soft product were concerned, these were just treated like any other long haul flight in UA's network.

Contrast this approach with the hype that some other airlines (SQ included) make over so-called ultra long haul (ULH) flights, and the exceptional demands they make on crews and passengers. I think airlines have a point about crew fatigue, and how they need to make these extended fllghts work for the tech and cabin crew. But as far as passengers are concerned, should SIN-LAX or SIN-SFO be be treated no differently from SIN-LHR or SIN-FRA? Are 16 hour sectors, like SIN to West Coast USA, the new normal for long haul?

Perhaps now is the time to move the goalposts, so to speak, and treat sectors like SIN-LAX or SIN-SFO as regular long haul, and classify only routes like SIN-EWR, PER-LHR or SYD-LHR, as ultra long haul (ULH) flights.

In concrete terms, should flights like SIN-LAX deserve special treatment and cabin configs (e.g. premium heavy J + PEY only), or can these flights sustain a more conventional cabin layout? Is regular economy class a viable proposition for these flights? Or would only crazy frequent flyers, Asian or otherwise, do such a long flight in economy class? More thoughts on this at the conclusion of this TR...

TR INDEX

1. Flight: SIN-LAX on UA38 in Economy
2. Hotel/Destination: Westin Bonaventure & LA
3. Flight: LAX-LAS on AA in Economy
4. Hotel: The Signature at MGM
5. Destination/Run: Las Vegas Strip & Run along The Strip to the Stratosphere
6. Dinner: Tom Colicchio's Craftsteak at MGM Grand
7. Dinner: Sparrow+Wolf
8. Hotel: Westin Las Vegas
9. Dinner/Destination: Fremont Street and Hainanese Chicken Rice at Flock & Fowl
10. Helicopter to Grand Canyon and Skywalk
11. Lunch: David Chang's Momofuku at the Cosmopolitan
12. Flight: LAS-LAX on AA in Economy
13. Lunch: In-N-Out near LAX
14. Hotel/Run: Sheraton Grand Los Angeles & Downtown LA Run
15. Dinner: Broken Spanish
16. Run: Venice Beach to Santa Monica Beach
17. Lunch/Destination: Little Ethiopia, La Brea Tar Pits, Griffith Observatory
18. Dinner: Tar & Roses with HUGE AL
19. Destination: Downtown & Hollywood
20. Lounge: United Club at LAX
21. Flight: UA37 LAX-SIN in Economy

Last edited by yflyer; 25th September 2018 at 03:53 PM..
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Old 7th September 2018, 07:11 PM   #2
yflyer
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We began our trip in Changi Airport Terminal 2, where we were wished good morning by a wall of clocks...



The clocks were, of course, an installation artpiece, A Million Times at Changi, which was officially launched on 1st January this year.



This is a striking, and ever changing, installation, located right in the centre of the T2 Departure Hall...



UA38's scheduled departure time was 10am (This is just over an hour later than UA's nonstop to SFO, UA2, which departs at 8.45am).

United's check in area was fairly quiet when we arrived at 6.45am in the morning.

Self-service check in kiosks for non-FF economy travellers...



Dedicated check-in lanes for Premier 1K, United Polaris and Star Alliance Gold...



Once inside T2, we headed to the 2nd level of the Airside area...



...and spent time in the SATS Premier Lounge, covered here.


Last edited by yflyer; 9th September 2018 at 12:35 PM..
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Old 7th September 2018, 07:31 PM   #3
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Two United 787-9 Dreamliners parked at T2 gates each morning, one headed to SFO, the other to LAX...



United has a dedicated security line at the gate for Business / Frequent Flyers...



At the gate, Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner rego N24972...practically a brand new aircraft, first flown just 8 months ago in January 2018...



A well organised boarding process, with passengers boarding by the group number printed on the boarding pass. A simple and effective system: Just call out the group numbers, rather than rattling off endless lists of cabin classes and frequent flyer tiers...



And best of all, the boarding pass scanners at the gate enforce the group number during boarding as well...so instead of just the "beep of joy" when your BP is rejected because of an op-up, you also get the "beep of shame" when you jump queue and board before your group number is called...

Star Gold pax got to board in Group 2...


Last edited by yflyer; 9th September 2018 at 12:36 PM..
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Old 7th September 2018, 07:39 PM   #4
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Despite this being a very new plane, the J cabin wasn't fitted with the latest Polaris seats. Instead, this was the previous generation United J product, laid out 2-2-2.



This was a fully horizontal lie-flat design, based on the B/E Aerospace Diamond seats, and the seats looked very comfortable, but they weren't the very latest United Polaris seats.



Slightly more legroom in the bulkhead J seats...



The next cabin was United Economy Plus.



UA does not currently have true Premium Economy, but instead offers Economy Plus, which are Y seats (and service) with additional legroom. Layout is 3-3-3, just like regular economy.



Economy Plus seats have a blue logo on the seat backs...



...and a light blue strip across the headrest...


Last edited by yflyer; 9th September 2018 at 05:22 PM..
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Old 7th September 2018, 07:52 PM   #5
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And finally, the economy cabin...



Overall, economy cabin ambience was fine, with the large 787 windows giving the cabin a bright, open atmosphere.



That said, the 9-abreast layout meant that cabin felt more cramped than UA's 9-abreast 777's, and also less spacious than a 9-abreast A350 (Both the Airbus A350 and Boeing 777 have wider fuselages than the 787.)



Economy and Economy Plus are both arranged 9-abreast in 3-3-3, however the legroom in Economy Plus is noticeably more generous.

That said, Economy legroom was ok...



I was less satisfied with seat width and seat recline, though. Seat recline, especially, seemed to be less than average, compared to other long haul economy class products on other airlines.

This is a picture of the Y seat fully reclined -- hardly generous...



Together with the comparative narrowness of the Y seat, this meant that pax faced a double-whammy...a narrow seat as well as subpar recline...what a combination for ultra long haul...was it tolerable? Probably. Was it as comfortable as the competition? Probably not.

For comparison, take a look at the generous recline SQ's long haul economy seat on the A350-900WXB, a type which SQ currently operates on the SIN-SFO sector.

The Y seat base is the type that moves forward a little when reclining -- this probably helped a little, but I still felt that recline was insufficient for long haul Y, much less ULH.



Last row Y seats have full recline.



The armrests go all the way up...


Last edited by yflyer; 8th September 2018 at 09:40 AM..
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Old 7th September 2018, 08:02 PM   #6
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Every Y seat came with a full size cloth blanket and a pillow.



The blanket was soft and comfortable, but I would have preferred a real fabric plllow cover rather than a disposable pillow cover...

And to rub it in, the IFE screen showed pictures of the plush Saks 5th Avenue bedding that Polaris Business Class pax received...no wonder UA had to take measures to dissuade pax from taking the Saks bedding home with them after flights...



Large foldout tray table...



Once again, I missed the foldable tray table and cupholder on SQ's A350 Y...small features in the greater scheme of things, but very convenient for passengers during the flight...

On the plus side, UA has individually adjustable airvents for each seat, something not present on any of SQ's current planes...


Last edited by yflyer; 19th October 2018 at 12:43 PM..
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Old 7th September 2018, 08:11 PM   #7
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IFE is on large, bright and vivid widescreen touch screen displays.



Regular mini-plug headphone socket and USB power under the display...



A/C power with universal sockets...



The IFE system is very good as far as Movies and TV are concerned...a very user-friendly system with a nice selection of programs.







Picture quality and audio quality (Using your own headphones) were superb...

Here is a pic of the IFE from later in the flight, showing the video controls, which were fairly responsive.



Inexpicably, while there there was an audio/music menu on the IFE screen, there were no music selections loaded in the IFE, whether CD/Audio on demand, or radio channels. A surprising, and hopefully temporary, omission.

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Old 7th September 2018, 08:14 PM   #8
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Stylish bathrooms, with sleek curves and black counter tops.





I notice the toilet flushes on UA's Dreamliners are really loud though. Pax really need to remember to close the toilet seat covers, and the toilet doors when flushing, otherwise the loud whoosh is quite audible and jarring in the cabin.
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Old 7th September 2018, 08:16 PM   #9
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A very full flight today in the Y cabin...with hardly any empty seats...



Fortunately one of the few empty Y seats was in between Mrs yflyer and myself.

We were on separate tickets/PNRs, and preselected aisle seats on either side of the middle bank, with an empty seat in between. We may not have been gamblers in Vegas, but I was perfectly willing to bet on an empty middle seat towards the rear of the plane, and on this flight, this bet paid off...believe me, in a 9-abreast 787 economy cabin, having an empty seat next to you makes a world of difference...

Last edited by yflyer; 8th September 2018 at 09:47 AM..
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Old 7th September 2018, 10:16 PM   #10
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The trend in safety videos these days seems to be destination-themed videos...

UA's safety video showcased different destinations for topic...from a snowy scene with the Aurora Borealis in the background in an unspecified Nordic country...



...to Holi in India...



...and even CEO Oscar Munoz making a cameo appearance in the Central Park sequence...



Certainly an entertaining video which was both instructive and fun to watch. The full safety video can be found on United's youtube channel here.

Take off was to the south, on runway 20C...



...before a long left turn...





A 15 hour 35 minute flight today, mostly overwater, over the Pacific...



Cabin ambience after take-off...



...with window tint centrally controlled for much of the flight...



Wifi was available on this flight...



If you are a UA Mileage Plus member, you can login to the inflight wifi, and your connection can be transferred to multiple devices. If you are not a member, any plan you purchase is restricted to that device only...

A range of time-based wifi plans were offered...



These were quite attractive time-based plans. For a flat fee, you could surf the internet to your heart's content without worrying about how many MB or GB of data you were using. Speeds were not fast (I would not want to watch streaming video, for example), but speeds were perfectly fine for WhatsApp, Facebook, email, as long as you did not expect broadband speeds. There were occasional dropouts in service and momentarily lags, but for aircraft wifi, I was quite happy with this.

Last edited by yflyer; 9th September 2018 at 12:37 PM..
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Old 8th September 2018, 09:57 AM   #11
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Cabin service began with snacks and beverages...





I asked for a Cranberry Apple Juice...



What I appreciate about UA's beverage service is that they are very generous with ice, which means your beverage is served ice cold.
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Old 8th September 2018, 10:04 AM   #12
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Next lunch was served. Meals were served front to rear, which meant that by the time the meal cart got to us, close to the rear of the plane, the only choice left was the chicken with rice. (The other option was a pasta dish...).

The tray as served...



The main was Asian style chicken curry with rice and steamed vegetables, and this was accompanied by a small salad.



The barley salad was on the dry side, and very bland, but the mild chicken curry was very tasty.



Apart from soft beverages, beer and wine were complimentary on this flight...I had a glass of Chardonnay to accompany my meal...



Dessert was chocolate ice cream...a foolproof selection what was very satisfying. Coffee and tea were also served.

Bottles of water were also handed out.


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Old 8th September 2018, 10:15 AM   #13
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The flight path that day took us first over the Philippines...



...and later south of Japan where we turned eastwards for the flight over the Pacific Ocean...



It is worth noting that on this flight, for much of the journey, the electronically dimmable window shades were centrally controlled...they were centrally darkened some time after meal service and remained dimmed for much of the flight, until we approached the West Coast of the USA in the early morning, when individual window controls were enabled.




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Old 8th September 2018, 10:24 AM   #14
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During the flight, i asked for a glass of red wine, and was given a small bottle...



6 hours into the flight, a snack was served...



This comprised a sandwich and a Kit Kat...





Was this sufficient for a mid-flight meal? Not for me...

Based on previous flights, I had anticipated that I would get hungry around Singapore dinner time, so I had packed my own cup noodles, and headed to the galley, where the cabin crew were happy to provide me with hot water.

I also purchased a G&T at USD8.99 to accompany the noodles (Remember, only beer, wine and soft beverages were complimentary on this flight...)



If you are the kind of person who needs to eat at regular meal times, I would recommend that you bring along a snack such as Cup Noodles to supplement onboard catering on this sector, because after the initial lunch service, the next full meal is only prior to landing, which means a big gap between the 2 meal services, and nothing catered onboard except a sandwich at the regular Singapore dinner time. Note that this gap between meal services is not a UA-only phenomenon...SQ's nonstop to SF also has the same issue. I also had to bring my own noodles when I flew SQ nonstop to SFO...

Last edited by yflyer; 9th September 2018 at 05:27 PM..
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Old 8th September 2018, 10:54 AM   #15
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On the topic of catering available to purchase, UA provides a small menu inside of their inflight magazine...



Their inflight magazine is named Hemispheres, and I have always found it a good read, with many thoughtfully written articles, including many travel-related features.

I did miss that old series of stories that used to run in Hemispheres magazine, though, named Row 22, Seats A&B, and written by Frederick Waterman, which were short stories woven around the theme of the two random travellers sitting in rows 22 A&B, and the unfailingly interesting stories of what brought them there, and how their lives were intertwined, or about to unfold...

These stories ran from 1997 to at least 2009 in UA's inflight magazine, and I used to remember reading them over the years on the occasions I flew UA. I wish UA (Or SQ) would start/restart a similar series in their inflight magazine.

Tucked inside Hemispheres was an embedded non-removable inflight menu...



...which outlined the range of catering available on flights within UA's network.

The beverage menu...





Availability of selections depended on route...



Wine and beer were complimentary on flights to/from Asia (Including Singapore)...



Snack selections available on flights 1.5 hrs or longer, as well as on the SIN-LAX sector...



A notable omission on this for-purchase menu was cup noodles. I think if they had cup noodles available for inflight purchase on this long sector, they would have done very brisk business...

Last edited by yflyer; 9th September 2018 at 05:28 PM..
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