I don’t write in-flight reviews very often anymore because, quite frankly, I tend to bore myself writing them. Just how often can I describe the same seat on the same plane? But when I get a new experience I try to share it as they aren’t quite so boring to me. With a number of new (at least to me) experiences over the past few weeks there will be a few of these posts coming out. Hopefully they are vaguely interesting. And with that…
As part of our new years trip to Asia I had managed to score a pair of first class award seats on Singapore Air‘s San Francisco – Hong Kong service. Not living in San Francisco, however, I had to figure a way to get there. United’s p.s. service was the best candidate and given that I had already redeemed for a first class award that meant the trancon was a free add-on. Sign me up! The inventory was actually readily available for the flight we needed so I booked it and a few weeks later we were on the AirTrain at JFK, headed to Terminal 7.
United Airlines still operates their GlobalFirst lounge at JFK. It is a holdover from many years ago when they used to have a significant international presence at JFK and they still use it for their p.s. customers and international connections. It is small but sufficient for the number of guests on any given day. And it is quite a sight nicer than the United Club is it attached to. Nothing earth-shattering, to be sure, but a decent place to wait, especially considering the barren wasteland that is JFK’s Terminal 7.
We only had about 45 minutes in the lounge prior to departure so I had a quick sip of Champagne (self-pour on all the booze) and some finger food before we headed down to the gate and boarded.
For domestic service the p.s. First Class seat isn’t bad at all. That said, I cannot wait until they are replaced with the new flat beds in the coming months. I’m not going to be flying in first again and the new models are more comfortable to me, even if they are officially only a business class product. No pictures of the seats because, well, they aren’t all that inspiring. They were great last decade when they were put in service but definitely showing their age.
The p.s. meal service is rather similar between business class and first class on the p.s. flights. The only thing I noticed at all slightly amiss is that we were not asked for a first and second choice on our entrée orders; they just asked for the one. Maybe they ensure that first class always gets their first choice before doling the rest out to business class. Or maybe I was the beneficiary of GS status on this one. Either way, I ordered the steak and hoped for the best.
First course was a salmon and tuna appetizer. The salmon was just a big chunk of smoked salmon but quite flavorful. The tuna was pastrami-style or something like that. Also not too bad, though definitely a different flavor than I am used to with tuna.
The steak was, surprisingly, not particularly a mistake to order. Not the best beef I’ve ever had on a plane (ANA provided that later in the trip) but a reasonable texture, flavor and size. The green beans and potato thing served as sides were also decent.
And, finally, the ice cream sundae. I don’t know why I get so excited by them when flying but I do. I had this one the same way I always do and it tasted just like all the others. Not the absolute best ice cream but close enough.
There is a snack basket passed around a bit later during the flight and available in the galley at any time. I’m not particularly a fan of the products they have in the basket but I’ll write that off as me not liking them rather than that they aren’t good; I know I have my quirks in that regard. Unlike the breakfast flights westbound the lunch and dinner flights are, to me, well catered both in quality and quantity of food.
For in-flight entertainment on the p.s. flights there are a few options. One is the overhead CRT monitors which are invariably craptacular. They just suck. All different colors, often fuzzy/shaking picture and also, unfortunately, generally not something I’d want to watch at all. For business class and first class passengers there are also digEplayers distributed with a few movies to watch. I’ve used them before and they are OK, I guess, but the technology is a bit tired and the reliability of the systems is less than spectacular. They are being retired as part of the p.s. fleet renovations so it isn’t all that surprising that the maintenance on them is a bit lacking. And then there is gogo in-flight internet. I had a free code left over so I used that to pass the time a bit. Service was actually decent on this flight which is not my usual experience. I doubt I would have used it had it not been free.
Finally, there is the time-tested IFE system which I love the most: staring out the window as we fly across the country. I was able to pass quite a bit of the trip that way.
I also took a nap for a couple hours, further reducing my need for IFE.
The crew working this particular flight was fine. Not particularly warm and bubbly nor overly harsh. Just a typical service. They did everything just fine but nothing special. That’s not a problem in my book though they also don’t deserve special praise in any way.
Overall the trip really was "just another flight" in pretty much every way. The product is a bit tired and it is nice that United is going to be updating it, even if the "new" version isn’t exactly the newest product available.