I was able to use 4 Regional Premier Upgrades on this flight to upgrade my wife and her parents (and myself). I had several of these upgrades I earned from last year and it was a great way to use them (although with the way United has been upgrading (or not upgrading) 1K’s lately, maybe I need them – but different topic).
This was an afternoon (1:45 departure) flight from HNL to LAX. United uses 777’s, 767’s and 757’s between Hawaii and the Mainland. We were on a 757. I prefer the 777 on this route as it seems roomier. The 767 feels very crowded and the seats are too narrow in first class, and the 757 has comfortable seats, but only one aisle. As we entered the plane I saw that this 757 was from Continental. Unfortunately, not one with Direct TV (it did have overhead entertainment). We were offered the usual pre-departure drink. I had my usual glass of orange juice. There wasn’t a menu waiting on your seat like Alaska had, however, there was a blanket, but disappointingly, no pillow.
We took off on time and after a little more then a few minutes (maybe 30 minutes) the service finally started. Warm towels (decent quality) were distributed and the flight attendants took our drink orders and served some warm cashews and almonds. My wife was able to order a Hawaiian cocktail, that wasn’t a Mai Tai (they do serve Mai Tai’s on this flight). The overhead movie also started around this time. Because this was a Continental 757 it did not have the TV’s that are lowered over the aisle, rather the smaller screens that drop down over the seats. The screen was very small and the picture quality was not very good. In addition, there were two volumes. Off and loud!! So, besides having a hard time seeing the movie, it was very uncomfortable having the volume so loud. Still, my wife and I did watch the entire movie (Men in Black III). If it was a movie I wasn’t that interested in seeing I think I would have passed on watching it because the volume was so loud.
Lunch was served after the nuts. The choice was either Penne Pasta or Short Ribs. My wife chose the Short Ribs and I said to bring either (knowing I would eat most of my wife’s portion). That was a mistake because I also received the Short Ribs (even though I wanted the Short Ribs, I should have known my wife would not eat hers and I should just order something different). The lunch was also served with a Shrimp appetizer (I traded my appetizer for my wife’s beef) and salad. The Penne looked good, and I wish I had ordered it, but the Short Ribs were very good. Even two portions worth. It was served with Asian Noodles and Broccoli (Newman said it best – “Vile Weed”).
A few minutes after the lunch trays were removed, dessert was served. A nice ice cream sundae with a choice of toppings. My wife got Strawberry Sauce and I had Chocolate and Carmel. Besides the appetizer being included with the lunch, this was really the only big difference in service between Hawaii and the West Coast and say flying from ORD to the West Coast in First Class. Instead of a cookie for dessert we received a nice sundae (but, same as you would receive on an international flight). After the lunch was over and the movie finished I slept for an hour or so. When I woke my wife told me they came by with the usual basket of Cape Cod potato chips (usually Popchips), Toblerone, Cliff Bar, and Banana.
Our flight time was 4 hr & 40 minutes and we landed at LAX 20 minutes early on the north runway (24R), so we had a long taxi to our gate. During our taxi I noticed that two gates are being used on the addition of the Tom Bradley Int’l Terminal. Because the flight was early our gate was still occupied and we had to park for a while. We parked near United’s maintenance hanger for 10 minutes and the pilot told us the Space Shuttle was being stored there. Unfortunately, the doors were closed so we could not see it. By the time we arrived at our gate in Terminal 6 we were on time or even a minute or two late. Our connecting flight to San Diego was out of Terminal 8 so we had a bit of a walk and only enough time to use the lounge for a quick snack.
For the most part, outside of the entertainment everything was fine with this flight. Flight attendants were friendly and helpful, we were on time, and they served a nice meal. But really, there is not much difference in flying from BOS to SFO, then flying from Hawaii to LAX. On flights to Hawaii, United at least has the halfway game that passengers can win prizes to give it a little more of a festive feel, but outside of this and a slightly better meal service (I would say much better, but I also flew from HNL in the spring and received the exact same meal as a flight from ORD to SAN the very next week), United’s product is the same to and from Hawaii as within the Mainland, USA. There is another way to look at this though. To my knowledge United (Alaska may for their Elite Members as well) is the only airline that allows upgrades to and from Hawaii as they do within the rest of North America. There are a few exceptions to the service on United’s Hawaii routes. On a few routes to and from Hawaii (usually IAH & EWR) United uses 777’s & 767’s with International Business or BusinessFirst seating. In those cases there would be a big difference in the First Class experience.