Yes, 37E is a middle seat. Yes, it also happens to be in the last row of the United Airlines A320, which means limited recline. In just about every situation it is the least desirable seat on that plane (though I’d say 37B is worse because of the lav on that side, but only by a small margin). It is simply not where you want to be sitting. And yet I was incredibly happy to be there.
Do you want to sit here??
I was on my way home from Colorado and really wanted to get home in time for a reasonable dinner at home. Alas, the flight which let me do that meant a 28 minute connection in Denver and – not surprisingly – they don’t let you book those normally. So I booked the cruddy connection and planned to just run for it when I made it to Denver. Of course, when booking the cruddy connection I didn’t actually mean to book the REALLY bad one which would get me home near midnight but apparently that’s what I actually did. All of a sudden this SDC/standby game became much more important for my sanity. We landed on time into Denver and I checked the flight on mobile.united.com and it said seats were available. I was off to the races, from B69 to B37 (about half a mile, at altitude with a rocking hangover and people to dodge).
I made it to the new gate at T-12 minutes, and that’s when the agent told me there were no more seats available. Ughhh. The cutoff for passengers to be on-board is T-10 minutes and there were two not yet on-board so I had a chance. She added me to the list and told me I was first in line. They paged the passengers again and one showed up. Then the other showed up. Not good news for me. Except that apparently one of the passengers was intent on playing shenanigans.
It seems that one of the two was a non-rev, looking to fly on her pass benefits. She gave her name to the agent and a BP was printed and then, as the passenger was getting on board, the agent called out to stop the boarding. Apparently there were two people on the flight with the same name, one male and one female, and the non-rev accidentally got the paid guy’s BP. I’m not 100% certain that they were playing games with refundable bookings and trying to block a seat for the non-rev, but it sure seemed that way to me. Either way, it was now T-10 and the one passenger hadn’t shown up. The gate agent printed my new boarding pass and I was off down the jetway as the last passenger to be loaded on the flight.
View from all the way down the back of the plane
So, yeah, not the most comfortable place to spend 3.5 hours, but I got home in time for a late dinner and I even managed to sleep a bit in that middle seat with limited recline. I’m not going out of my way to choose it again for next time, but it turns out I survived just fine.
With the grounding of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner now in its 6th week and looking to stretch into several months the long-term impact on flight schedules is starting to build up. With no certainty of the planes reentering service anytime soon airlines are extending route cancelations or aircraft swaps, depending on the circumstances. For United Airlines the groundings are affecting a number of routes, even those not scheduled to operate on the 787.
United has officially removed the 787 from their schedule through June 5, 2013 (or they will be with this weekend’s schedule updates). The only flight on the 787 expected earlier than that is Denver-Tokyo, a route which was supposed to launch on March 31; the new launch date for that route is May 12th, a delay of 6 weeks. And that date is soft, depending on the 787s getting back into service. Because United has other routes scheduled to be operated by the 787 which are now being operated with other planes the ability to continue expansion efforts are also impeded.
United’s flights from Los Angeles to Tokyo and Shanghai, as well as Houston to Lagos, Nigeria, will continue to operate, but with the 777 rather than 787s. Flights between San Francisco and both Paris and Taipei, both scheduled to start in the coming weeks, are pushed back. Paris service is now slated to begin April 26th and Taipei is expected to start June 6th; these dates are several weeks after the originally announced route launch dates.
For me, the delay on the DEN-NRT flight creates a personal problem for me: I was supposed to fly on the inaugural. United is being quite flexible on rebooking and reroutes, including positioning flights to Denver, and so I now have to decide what to do. I’m still inclined to get the new line and I’d still love to be on the inaugural. Plus, I think I can make the timing work with another event near Denver that weekend. So that’s probably what I’ll do. But I’m tempted to get creative on the way home, extending my mileage run. Maybe a routing via Honolulu? Or something else. Hong Kong or Singapore might be a bit too much, I think. I’d love to get the Island Hopper in there, especially since I’m on a B fare so upgrades would be easier, but I want to do that flight on the daytime, westbound version so that doesn’t work out for me. Any other suggestions??
And, more importantly, ever get into a fight when you realize they paid less than you did??
A JetBlue flight en route from New York City to San Diego diverted to Denver last week when a passenger in the Even More Space section of the plane (extra legroom seats) became upset that another passenger was reseated during the flight into an adjacent seat. It seems that the passenger reassigned into the EMS seat didn’t pay the same fee as the passenger who booked it in advance. The passenger who paid became so upset, fighting with the flight attendants, that Federal Air Marshalls apparently intervened and then the plane eventually diverted to offload the passenger. No charges were filed, though the passenger had to find another way to make it to San Diego.
I hate to wonder what the passengers who actually pay for their premium cabin seats would think about me if they knew my award ticket cost so much less. Then again, I’m glad I don’t have to deal with them yelling at me, so that’s probably a good thing.
Looks like it is time to schedule a trip to Houston. United Airlines announced in an internal memo yesterday the routes they will be flying with their first Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft. While the Denver-Tokyo route was the first to be loaded into the system for sale it won’t be the first operated. The plane will visit a number of other destinations in the coming months. Here’s what was written in the United Daily briefing:
The places we’ll go on our 787s
Amsterdam, Tokyo, Lagos, London and Shanghai are the first international cities we’ll serve with the newest addition to our fleet, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. This weekend, we’re loading the 787 into our schedule for the following routes:
• IAH to AMS (Amsterdam) between Dec. 4 and March 29, 2013
• Daily service between LAX and NRT, beginning Jan. 3, 2013
• IAH to LOS (Lagos, Nigeria), five days a week, beginning Jan. 7, 2013
• IAH to LHR (London Heathrow) between Feb. 4 and March 29, 2013
• Daily service between LAX and PVG (Shanghai), beginning March 30, 2013
The 787 will replace other aircraft types on each of these existing routes and will be reflected in our published schedules starting on Saturday.
The previously announced new service between DEN and NRT, which starts March 31, 2013, is already out for sale.
“The 787 is the right aircraft for these routes because of its many passenger-friendly amenities and superior operating economics,” Network SVP Greg Hart said. “With 50 787s on order, we look forward to the many new route opportunities that we will be able to offer to our customers in the future.”
As a mid-size aircraft with a long range, the 787 offers about the same capacity as a Boeing 767 but it can travel as far as the larger Boeing 777-200ERs. We will leverage the 787’s fuel efficiency and environmental advantages to serve markets that can’t support larger aircraft.
We will soon announce plans for 787 domestic flying, which will precede international flights.
No surprises here at all. The routes announced are in line with previous statements and rumors. still, nice to see it official. Bookings should open on August 25 for all these flights.
An interesting change showed up on the United Airlines upgrade award chart this afternoon.
Denver is no longer listed on the list of destinations from which CPUs are excepted when flying to Hawaii. Considering that the route is not being served with the BusinessFirst configured 764s anymore that is a logical change. It is nice to see the company recognize that and update the policy.
It is not at all uncommon for new routes to have fare sales associated with them to build hype and attract new customers. So it is not much of a surprise that United Airlines is doing exactly that with their new Denver-Tokyo route. What is somewhat surprising, however, is just how available the deal is.
Rather than booking the sale in one of their lower fare buckets, limiting the number of seats available, the current deal of $980 all-in ($298 r/t base fare) is actually booking in to the B fare class. That’s the second highest fare bucket in the coach cabin and it comes with no co-pays for miles-based upgrades (30K points each way) and it also earns 150% PQMs towards elite status. Oh, and it is basically wide open for availability any day you want to fly.
There was some concern yesterday that the fare was going to be updated and pulled from the system. It was updated, but the update actually wasn’t too huge a deal.
So, no, you can not book to join the inaugural flight on this deal any more, but any other trip in the first three weeks should be just fine. The fare has a 3 day minimum stay as well, so there’s an opportunity to explore Tokyo, too. The fare must be purchased by 24 May 2012, so another 36 hours or so before it vanishes. It certainly isn’t the best mileage run ever, but it is a pretty good deal and there is some 787 novelty value, too. Plus, it makes for a huge chunk of points in one trip.
Looking to further leverage the value of the 787 Dreamliner on long, thin routes, United Airlines has announced today that they will be launching service between their Denver and Tokyo hubs starting in 2013. The route will begin with the 31 March 2013 departure from Denver; the first departure from Tokyo will be on 1 April 2013.
UA123 DEN1155 – 1500+1NRT 788 D 31MAR13-
UA122 NRT1640 – 1230DEN 788 D 01APR13-
Also of note on the schedule is that the total round-trip time for the flights is just over 24 hours. This means that there will be other connecting flights in and out of Denver to get the planes into position to operate the flights. Look for Houston-Denver to show up on the timetable operated by the 788 in the same timeframe.
The purchase of AirTran by Southwest was, in large part, to gain access to significant gate and slot portfolios at a few major airports where the company had previously had difficulty establishing a presence. So it should come as no surprise to see those operations leveraged in a way that better integrates with the route and operational structure that Southwest has built over the years. Southwest CEO Gary Kelly announced a number of new routes from Atlanta today at a meeting with local business leaders, kicking off the first notable shift of legacy AirTran resources to fill gaps in the Southwest network.
Starting on February 12, 2012 the company will add 15 daily frequencies out of Atlanta to five airports, four of which serve as hubs for the company’s operations. The new routes include service between Atlanta and:
- Austin – two daily nonstop roundtrips
- Baltimore/Washington – four daily nonstop roundtrips
- Denver – two daily nonstop roundtrips
- Houston Hobby – three daily nonstop roundtrips
- Chicago Midway – four daily nonstop roundtrips
Certainly not a major overhaul of the route network or even scratching the surface of the capacity the carrier has to work with in Atlanta. But it definitely shows the beginnings of the integration of Atlanta into a major point on the combined carriers’ network and how passengers will flow through the other hubs for onward connections. Expect to see similar moves at the other big airports the purchase came with (e.g. LaGuardia and Washington National) soon.
I’m sitting on a United Airlines 767-300 somewhere over the Pacific Ocean right now, wondering just which screws are loose in my head today. Yeah, I’ve always been a little crazy, particularly when it comes to travel, but today might be the nuttiest yet. And so, as we pass the half-way point to Hawaii (I hope I win the contest!) I’m wondering to myself just what was I thinking. I chose to downgrade myself for no good reason.
My flight itinerary is reasonably simple, if not a bit circuitous. I’m booked from New York City‘s LaGuardia to Denver to Honolulu to Tokyo‘s Haneda airports on the outbound half of a weekend mileage run to Japan. By virtue of my elite status I received upgrades on the first two segments and I happily selected my seats in row 1 as I often do. There was a bit of a delay getting out of LGA but we did eventually and I even had time to grab some food in Denver during the connection. Sure, I was upgraded but I like choosing my own meal when I have the chance so I grabbed a burrito for the flight and made my way over to the gate.
Boarding was pretty simple and I was all set to curl myself into my assigned seat, 1J, and enjoy the flight.
The guy sitting in 1H asked if I’d mind trading seats with his wife in 2A. Window for window and while I’d be losing the bulkhead row that I generally prefer I’d get to be on the port side of the plane which, when flying into Honolulu generally means better views on the landing (similar to San Diego). All in all a relatively fair trade and it doesn’t cost me all that much to make two other people quite happy. I gladly accept. That’s when things get strange.
The man in 2B, acknowledging that it is a long shot, asks if he can "make it worth my while" to trade with his wife who is seated in row 17. That’s in the Economy Plus section of the plane, not the first class cabin. I’m pretty sure I shocked him and his wife when I said yes. More so when I refused to take the cash he tried to offer me in trade. I know I was a little surprised at myself.
And so I ended up with this view for the 6.5 hour long flight.
Needless to say, the Purser was quite confused when they started to take meal orders up front as there was no Mr. Miller to be found. She eventually tracked me down in 17J and she too was surprised that I made the trade of my own volition and without remorse. She admonished me just a tiny bit but was accepting of my explanation that I did it of my free will.
Here’s the craziest part of the whole thing: I’m not really sure I got that bad of a deal. The 767-300 domestic configuration on United is called the "ghetto bird" for a reason; the first class cabin really isn’t all that significant an upgrade over Economy Plus. I had the meal that I wanted. I had the drinks that I wanted (I have more than enough drink chits anyways and there may have been a comp or two as part of the trade). I have enough leg room that I can cross my legs when I feel like it. Yes, my seat is a bit narrower, but it isn’t sufficiently so that I really notice. So why help another couple on their way to Hawaii start the trip off a bit special?
Yeah, I know that I’m nuts. A part of me is wondering while writing this why I don’t really care. After all, I was sweating the upgrade before it actually came through. In the end, however, I legitimately do not mind having made the swap.
Definitely a few screws loose.
ps- Just bought my seat mate a beer with my drink chits. Gotta use ‘em some how, right?
As part of the merger between Continental and United Airlines, Southwest picked up 18 slot pairs at Newark. The first of those slots become available in March and that service was previously announced: 6x daily to Chicago Midway and 2x daily to St. Louis. The balance of the slots become available on June 5, 2011 and today the airline announced 4 new cities that will receive service at that time.
The new service is “connecting the dots” for Southwest in a big way. The carrier will serve Phoenix, Houston (Hobby), Baltimore-Washington International and Denver, all cities with significant existing presence. Perhaps most significant, however, is that the move puts Southwest in competition with the new United in a very direct way. Although they cannot compete on frequencies, Southwest will be offering direct competing service to four hub cities that the new United serves. Sure, Midway and Hobby are different than O’Hare and Intercontinental, but there is still going to be competition on routes that haven’t seen much in quite some time.
Chicago – Newark is priced with a significant premium for passengers on short, mid-week trips. With the new competition in place odds are that the new United will have to respond or see a decent chunk of business head to the south side. Houston is similar; this is the first time in recent memory that another carrier will ply the Houston – Newark route.
When JetBlue announced new service on the Newark – Boston route the pricing impact was significant. The prices for the initial launch sale in these markets are not quite as low as those JetBlue fares were, but with a max of $129++ each way there certainly is going to be some real price pressure in these markets and quite likely in many others that Southwest can provide connecting service to. It will certainly be interesting to watch for the Continental/United response to this move.