01. Introduction: One…I mean…two final rides on the United Airlines 747
02. United Airlines 737-800 economy class San Diego to San Francisco
03. United Airlines 747-400 upper deck Polaris business class San Francisco to San Francisco
04. United Airlines 747-400 upper deck Polaris business class San Francisco to Seoul
05. Asiana business class lounge, ICN
06. Asiana Airlines A330-300 business class Seoul to Hong Kong
07. Sheraton Hong Kong Hotel and Towers
08. The Bridge – Cathay Pacific business class lounge, HKG
09. American Airlines 777-300/ER business class Hong Kong to Los Angeles
10. American Airlines ERJ-175 first class Los Angeles to San Diego
Well, this trip didn’t start quite the way I thought it would. I was feeling rather exhausted standing there in the gate area waiting to board this flight to Seoul, all thanks to that rogue flock of birds who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time several hours earlier. Gone was the giddy excitement I was feeling earlier in the day, now replaced by a rumbling stomach and a strong desire to lay down and hibernate like a bear. I’m a trooper though, and it takes a lot to get me down, so I did my best to stay positive and look forward to what was sure to be an amazing ride on my last united 747. At least I hoped it was my last one…there are only so many birdstrikes I can handle in one day.
San Francisco, CA (SFO) – Seoul, South Korea (ICN)
Thursday, October 19, 2017
Duration: 11 hours 55 minutes
Seat: 16K (upper deck Polaris business class)
One of the bright sides of the aircraft swap was that they brought in N121UA as the replacement, which just so happened to have the special “Friend Ship” titles on it to commemorate the retirement of the 747 from the United fleet. Cool! This was the aircraft I was hoping to get originally, so I guess it all worked out in the end. I did have to give up my Asiana 747 connection in Seoul though, but hey – it was a decent consolation prize I was happy to accept.
Speaking of connections and Seoul, I still wasn’t sure yet how I was going to get down to Hong Kong. The United ground staff originally said that our new departure time to ICN would be two hours after we deplaned from the other aircraft, but in actuality we didn’t start boarding until 3 1/2 hours later. That put me in serious jeopardy of missing that new connection from Seoul to Hong Kong that they rebooked me on. This was kind of a big deal because it was the last flight out that night, and if I missed that I would have to overnight in Seoul. Ugh. Oh well – this United 747 was the most important segment of this trip, so I put everything else out of my mind and just focused on that. Whatever happens when I get to Seoul will happen.
So there I was, standing in line to board the plane with all the same people I stood in line with earlier that day. It was like total déjà vu, man. The only thing that was different this time was my lack of desire to take pics of the boarding process. This was technically my third segment of the day, and I was pretty much burned out on taking trip report pictures. I knew I had to get pictures though, if only to make this trip report complete, so I just cowboy’d up and did my best to capture the experience yet again. I would like to point out, however, that I didn’t take as many this time. So…if you’re looking for a ton of pics that describes the United Airlines 747 boarding process in excruciating detail, I’d recommend you checking out my last post. There are a lot more pictures there, taken when I was a whole lot more excited about boarding a 747. This time, it just didn’t feel quite as special.
Once onboard and situated, it seemed that most of the people from the other flight were still here. The people behind me were different, but otherwise it was still the same crowd. Most of the same flight attendants were still here too – which surprised me because some of them were talking about the risk of timing out as we were deplaning the other flight. Up front in the cockpit, it was a bit more difficult to tell, but I believe three of them were from the original flight.
There was one completely different pilot though, who was very easy to identify due to the fact that he delayed our departure by another hour. He was a relief pilot coming in from another flight, so we had no choice to sit and wait for him to arrive. And with that delay, my last hope of connecting to Hong Kong once in Seoul had been obliterated. It was official – I was going to miss that flight and would have to find a place to stay in Korea that night. Oh well, I’d have to deal with that later.
Our total delay amounted to six hours as we were pushing off the gate, which really dampened my mood a bit. It was hard not to feel frustrated due to the fact that we would’ve been in the air for six hours already, halfway to Seoul by now if it weren’t for those damn birds earlier today.
Making things a little bit more frustrating was the fact of the video system wasn’t working correctly, so the flight attendants were working vigorously to reset the system and get everything sorted out. It wasn’t looking good though, and I had a feeling that we may be going all the way to ICN without video entertainment. I had to remind myself that video entertainment was not the reason I was on this flight today, so I just sat back and enjoyed the moment of this 747 farewell.
Wouldn’t it have been crazy if we had another bird problem as we departed 28L that afternoon? My fingers were crossed as hard as they could be as we were barreling down the runway on our takeoff roll, and if I had a shotgun I would’ve been ready and willing to take out any rogue geese in the vicinity. We were going to Seoul dammit, and nothing was going to stop that as far as I was concerned.
It was downright freezing in the cabin for the first 15 minutes after departure, and the video system still wasn’t working properly. I don’t really think the flight attendants were very much concerned about that though, as they knew everyone was getting really hungry by this point and they were working their hardest to get dinner served. Thankfully they turned the heat on by minute 20, but the video system never came back.
Hot towels were distributed as the cabin was warming up, followed very quickly buy a round of drinks. They also tried resetting the entertainment system once again, but I think everybody knew by this point that there was no hope. Well, let’s just hope dinner is good because that’s all the entertainment we may be getting this evening.
Long story short, dinner was a disappointment. Yes, I was expecting very good things from this new Polaris business class menu, but I’m not complaining because I know the flight attendants were working very hard to get the cabin served as quickly as possible after such a long delay. On top of that, it was obvious that this food had been sitting around for a while, because by the time it got to my tray table it looked like it had been reheated several times during the course of the day. It was dry and tired looking, which was understandable because that was pretty much the way I was feeling at that moment too.
With no video entertainment to be had, I resorted to some movies I had on my iPhone and tried to watch those during the meal. It wasn’t easy though, mostly because there simply wasn’t a place to put it since my dinner tray took up all of the available space. So far, the Polaris business class experience wasn’t living up to my expectations.
It’s a good thing I was really tired by that point, because I didn’t really feel like watching movies after dinner anyway. I needed sleep in a big way, so I put the seat into a lie flat position and was pretty much knocked out completely for the next four hours. It was very good sleep actually, some of the best I’ve had an airplane in a while, so at least that’s one thing that went right. What didn’t go right, however, was the fact that I couldn’t fall back to sleep after visiting the lavatory after that initial four hours. I was just tossing and turning at that point trying as best I could to get some shut eye since I really had no idea was going to happen once we landed in Seoul.
With 1 hour and 35 minutes of flying time remaining, the lights were turned on abruptly with no warning at all. I’m thinking perhaps that these flight attendants attended the same school that the TAP Portugal flight attendants…attended. Uh, how about a round of applause for my overuse of the word “attendants” in this paragraph? I was going to delete it and re-word the entire thing, but I’m actually quite proud of that mess that I wrote and I believe it’s worth keeping – just for the laughs alone. lol
Luckily the in-flight map was the only part of the video system that was still working, and by now you should know how much I enjoy immersing myself in maps and stats, so that’s what I used to hold my attention as I was wiping my hands with the freshly-distributed hot towel. One interesting thing to note was that we were facing a 144 mile an hour headwind at that point, which is just crazy to think about. I feel like I’m dying when I ride my bike into a 6 mile an hour headwind, so I can’t even imagine the amount of power requires to fly an airplane into winds that intense.
We were originally scheduled to land in Seoul in the afternoon, but by now it was completely dark and approaching 9 PM. I always love flying into ICN, as the views are always nothing short of spectacular coming in over the water. Unfortunately I couldn’t see any of that tonight, but it was nice to have finally arrived after such a long delay. I was feeling quite a bit anxious though about what the hell was going to happen with the rest of my itinerary, so I turned on my phone and got to work soon as the wheels hit the runway.
It’s a good thing that the Internet connection was really slow and I wasn’t really able to do anything, because immediately upon deplaning, there were customer service agents set up at a desk right at the boarding door with a solution for everyone’s problem. Turns out the solution they had for me was a voucher for a night at the Incheon Hyatt (a hotel I’ve reviewed before) and a confirmed seat in business class on an Asiana flight down to Hong Kong the next morning departing at 9 AM.
OK then, that turned out really well actually. All that worrying for nothing, thanks to United being proactive and not leaving us hanging out to dry. I thought for sure I would have to find my own accommodations for the night, so I was very relieved and very satisfied with the hotel voucher. The people at the hotel weren’t as happy about it though, as they were horribly overbooked and I almost didn’t even get a room because of it. The room they gave me smelled like an ashtray, which was unfortunate, but I didn’t complain. I was just so happy to have a place to sleep.
I was also given 15K bonus miles directly from United for the inconvenience. That, combined with the hotel voucher, was more than satisfactory in my mind for the events that occurred. The birdstrike was completely out of United’s control, and they didn’t have to be so forgiving for what was essentially an act of God. Thank you for taking care of me United Airlines – I really do appreciate it.
So that’s it. My time with the United airlines 747 is now complete. These birds have taken me all around the world several times over since 1998, and it’s going to be very sad going forward without them in my travel life. At least my final ride was entertaining and eventful. It was an unforgettable experience that was as frustrating as it was entertaining, and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
Farewell old gal. You will be missed.
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