Around the World

Miles flown for stories
2014: 269,302
2013: 330,818

Taking the Inaugural United Airlines Boeing 787-9 Flight

United’s 787-9 parked at the gate as a 787-8 taxis in next door

United’s 787-9 parked at the gate as a 787-8 taxis in next door

This story was originally published on Airways News by Seth Miller.

The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner entered service with United Airlines Monday, making the Chicago-based carrier the third airline in the world to offer service on the type. The first flight operated from Houston to Los Angeles, a route the carrier has used for 787 training and proving runs since taking delivery of its first 787-8 two years ago. After a short period of domestic flights, the aircraft will enter international service this fall. The first route the 787-9 will serve is Los Angeles – Melbourne, which will be the longest 787 route in the world when it launches in late October. Airways News was a guest of United’s on the inaugural flight.

The forward BusinessFirst cabin of the 787-9

The forward BusinessFirst cabin of the 787-9

For most passengers (and the airline) this was business as usual; just another flight from Houston to Los Angeles. There was no special reception at either end, no balloons and nary a cupcake to be seen. Yet there was still a bit of excitement in the air. For some passengers it was just about flying on a Dreamliner. For others being on the inaugural was a specific goal. Neil Gamrod was up at 4am Eastern to make his way down to Houston for the inaugural flight.

Like others he studied the airline schedules and adjusted his plans a few times, just to make it on board. And by the time we wrapped up the day with a celebratory dinner at the In-n-Out adjacent to LAX he was absolutely convinced it was a worthwhile trip, even if he was exhausted. Like many other 787 passengers Gamrod noted the more comfortable cabin comfort and the quieter ride as just a couple of the advantages the Dreamliner brings to the skies.

Continue reading Taking the Inaugural United Airlines Boeing 787-9 Flight on Airways News

Flight Review: United Airlines 747 – Global First

I've always wanted to fly in seat 1A on a 747 - Photo: Blaine Nickeson | AirlineReporter

I’ve always wanted to fly in seat 1A on a 747 – Photo: Blaine Nickeson | AirlineReporter

Recently, my wife and I took a trip to Japan to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary.  Because we have two toddlers (who were NOT coming with us), we wanted to travel in luxury and make it something very special.

Besides being an AvGeek, I also happen to be very savvy with airline miles and hotel points.  While that’s not a topic AirlineReporter focuses on (there are lots of great sites out there that do), I booked all of our flights using United miles that I’ve collected through various means.

On the outbound, I booked us DEN-SFO-NRT, with the SFO-NRT segment operated by the 747-400 (the bulk of United’s 747s operate out of SFO to Asia, with a handful of 747 flights also based out of Chicago O’Hare).  I could have booked us on United’s direct flight from Denver, operated by a Dreamliner, but United’s 787 fleet doesn’t feature a first class cabin (which United calls “Global First”).  Also, I really wanted to check out the United Global First Lounge in San Francisco.

United Dreamliner on the ground at SFO...viewed from inside a Mercedes! - Photo: Blaine Nickeson | AirlineReporter

United 787 at SFO…viewed from inside a Mercedes! Photo: Blaine Nickeson | AirlineReporter

Full disclosure: on our last big trip without the kids, we flew Lufthansa First Class and got to visit the Lufthansa First Class Terminal.  Both were so good, I think it ruined us for any future flights.  As much as I love United, I didn’t have great expectations.  Here’s the shocker/spoiler: our United experience was really good.

Continue reading Flight Review: United Airlines 747 – Global First

Flying First Class…On a United Q400

United Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 at Durango - Photo: Blaine Nickeson | AirlineReporter

United Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 at Durango – Photo: Blaine Nickeson | AirlineReporter

As a Silver Premier member with United Airlines (their lowest-level elite tier), getting a complementary first class upgrade happens almost as rarely as spotting a unicorn.  In a year and a half of being an elite, I’ve gotten two first class upgrades.  Recently, upgrade number two came in an unlikely form; on a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400.

That’s right, folks – United is offering a first class cabin on planes with propellers.  I caught my upgrade on a quick business trip from Denver (DEN) to Durango (DRO), Colorado.

All of United’s Q400s are actually operated by Republic Airlines, one of many regional carriers for UA.  They are configured with 71 seats; seven in first class, 10 in Economy Plus, and 54 in economy.  As to be expected on a regional plane, “first class” really only meant a wider seat, more legroom, and a free beer.  Well, we got some pretzels too.   Continue reading Flying First Class…On a United Q400

United Takes Delivery of the 8,000th 737

United Latest 737-900ER taxiing at Boeing Field

United’s latest 737-900ER, taxiing at Boeing Field

On Wednesday April 16th, United took delivery of its latest 737, but this one was special.

A 737-900ER was delivered from Boeing Field, marking a special occasion for not only Boeing but also United.  The aircraft was the 8,000th 737 to roll out of the Renton factory, and became one of over 550 of the type to be delivered to United since its inception.

Continue reading United Takes Delivery of the 8,000th 737

BIG TRIP: 6 Flights; 24,000 Miles; 3 Continents; and an 8-Month-Old

Start 'em early! Author's son planespotting at SFO. Photo: David Delagarza

Start ‘em early! Author’s son planespotting at SFO. Photo: David Delagarza

“That’s insane.”  That seemed to be the reaction most people, many of whom were seasoned fliers, had to our plan.  My wife and I had schemed it up over a year ago while she was pregnant with our first child.  We had always enjoyed traveling, and I had gotten into collecting miles and points when we found out that we would be adding a baby to the mix.  We didn’t want to stop traveling once the baby was born, so we booked one of the most ambitious itineraries we could think of – flying to New Zealand, with stopovers in Japan and Australia. And, yes, we would be taking the baby with us.

11 months prior to the trip, we had the miles saved up. We had accumulated enough to book the trip in business class (at least prior to the recent United Airlines MileagePlus devaluation.)  After diligently researching and waiting for availability to open up, I finally found a business class route that would work – at least until I saw the infant fare. United charges 10% of the cabin fare for lap infants on international flights.  For economy cabins, this can add up to a couple hundred dollars.  However, for the premium cabins, we were looking at paying nearly $1,000 each way.  Although I did briefly consider footing that bill, we decided to go in economy and use the extra miles to put our son in his own seat (when we could find the award space) and stay in some nicer hotels along the way.

Routing - Image: GCMapper

Routing – Image: www.gcmap.com

Our outbound itinerary ended up beginning with Denver to Tokyo Narita on United’s 787 Dreamliner.  We had a 20-hour overnight stopover before continuing onto Singapore aboard Singapore Airlines’ A380.  The final leg took us from Singapore to Christchurch, New Zealand on Singapore’s 777-220ER.   50 hours, four countries, and 14,000 miles just to get there.

Our return trip was a bit easier – Christchurch to Sydney on an Air New Zealand A320, followed by a 23-hour stopover in Sydney before continuing onto San Francisco on a United 747-400, connecting to Denver on a United A319.  The only hitch was that I was unable to find any kind of routing that made sense for the return trip once my son was born, so he was going to fly home as a lap infant.  It was sure to be quite the adventure.

Continue reading BIG TRIP: 6 Flights; 24,000 Miles; 3 Continents; and an 8-Month-Old