My day with United – Dublin to Dulles, to LA and San Francisco

I booked a trip from Dublin to San Francisco with the cheap fares that were being offered earlier in the summer. The routing allowed me to travel with United from Dublin for the first time, onwards to LA on a three class 777 and then a short hop to San Francisco.

Dublin Airport

The US carriers operate from Terminal 2 at DUB, which is good as this is the new modern terminal. Check-in is on the ground floor and there was only a short queue for United as I arrived between their Newark and Washington flights were checking in. There was a huge queue for the USAirways queue.

In order to get to Security you have to go up two sets of long escalators. There is a Fast Track line to the left of Security area and I was though in about 10 minutes. No shoes off here!

The real advantage of Dublin (apart from the fare), is that Dublin has US Preclearance.

There was the usual range of Duty Free shops which I ignored and went to the Dublin Airports Authority lounge. Lucky covered the nicer AerLingus lounge in his recent post about the experience at Dublin. The DAA lounge is small, but also has a limited range of snacks.

The lounge was packed when I arrived, but cleared after the Delta flight to Atlanta was called. On arrival they advised me to leave the lounge about 75 minutes before my flight in order to get through preclearance in time to leave. In fact I left earlier than this as I noticed that both UA and US had flights leaving within 10 minutes of each other.

You cannot take pictures inside the Preclearance area, but the process was pretty simple.

  1. Complete your paperwork at a special desk and then approach a Dublin Airport rep who checks your paperwork and scans your boarding pass. Presumably so they know you are in line.
  2. You then join a queue – either US or non-US and start the shuffle to the immigration inspectors.
  3. The queue stopped for no apparent reason, I think whilst they equalled the lines and got the US line down to a reasonable wait.
  4. After about 40 minutes I got to an Inspector. He asked how I made my living, how long I would be in the US and what I was doing.
  5. Having scanned my passport, he asked for four fingers and my photo and I was done.

A further Security check – laptops only out and shoes on – and I was at the gate.

The 400 gates are in a long line with only one coffee bar and a few waiting areas. Not wise to arrive early.

United Flight UA127 DUB to IAD

The flight was late boarding but once it was underway it work quite efficiently.  The flight had been booked for 4 people in Business (out of 16) at the point I did online check-in, but by the time we boarded it was full. Presumably upgrades, and staff entitled to upgrades. I was called forward by the Global Services concierge and was ready for an argument when she told me I had been assigned a new seat. The reason was legit – the audio did not work – and I had gone from 1E to 3E so no big deal. The Business Class cabin is 4 rows of 2-2 and every seat, except 2 was full by the time we took off. Those two were my old seat and another with failed video.

The crew were great – nothing was too much trouble and the champagne kept flowing. There was cheese AND ice-cream sundaes too. I watched a movie and had a short nap. There was a warm sandwich with a small salad and fruit cap an hour before landing.

A quick flight time allowed us to arrive at Dulles early and as we were now a domestic flight I was off in 2 minutes and in the terminal.

 United Flight UA967 IAD to LAX

This flight operates a three class 777 from DC to LA and I applied to use one of my certificates to upgrade from Business. This had been waitlisted since the time of booking and when I checked in I was number 1 on the list. However, over the day I slipped down the list, behind Global Services members. However, at boarding time I was number three and there were four empty seats. The Agent cleared me once I got to the front of the line for boarding.

After closing the door we were about to leave when it was found that a seat belt did not work and we had to return to the gate to get it fixed. This caused about a 15 minute delay.

Once on board the crew were pretty inattentive. I was napping just after take off and they would not have offered me a drink or a meal if I had not explicitly asked. After that I slept the rest of the way to LA. We were late when we got to LA and still later when we had to be towed in to the gate and it took a while to locate the tug. Luckily TripIT PRO had texted me that my connection was late.

United Flight UA731 LAX to SFO

The aircraft operating this flight initially was about 45 minutes late, so I slipped off to the United Club. I had not been to LA for some months and so was surprised to see that there is considerable building work going on in the United terminal. The lounge was busy and I left to go to the gate. At the gate the two teenagers behind me were loudly complaining that their dad had “status matched” their mother to Global Services so they wouldn’t get an upgrade. At boarding time, the mother asked everyone in the queue if they were Global Services and moved herself and the kids in  front of each one who was not. No shame! (Of course GS members are entitled to board first but there were lower status revenue passengers that she pushed past too. Me included. As the kids I knew were not GS this did seem a bit of cheek and I was tempted to say something, but didn’t!)

The plane eventually arrived but the departure got pushed back further and further. In the end it took United nearly an hour to turn a flight with no catering requirements. After pulling off the stand we were told that there was a ground stop at SFO due to runway works and we would have to wait 25 minutes before we could leave.

The flight itself was uneventful and we landed about 90 minutes at the gate.

United operates some flights from Terminal 1, misleadingly called 92 gates – e.g. Gate 92A is really gate 31 in Terminal 1. Passengers without bags can exit via Terminal 1, whilst those with luggage have to get on a shuttle to Terminal 3 to get their bags.

Overall

The trip went from Excellent to Poor over the course of the day, but it’s still nice to know that United crews can excel when they want to, even if most of them are not that good.

Comments

  1. It is a pretty sad experience flying in the US more often than not these days. And that woman typifies the entitlement culture that we now have – people have no class and no shame.

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