Saturday, July 16, 2011

Penang to Portland & Austin: Singapore to Portland on United Airlines


To get to Portland, Oregon, I decided to route my flights through Tokyo to enjoy the United and ANA lounges and Los Angeles to meet up with college friends from USC (go Trojans!) who I haven't seen in more than a year. 

Got up at end ungodly 4.30am and after a quick shower (the water could have been much hotter) in the common bathroom, I headed to the transfer counter in terminal 3 to reconfirm my luggage was on the flight and to add my BMI frequent flyer number onto the ticket. For some unknown reason, I couldn't do this via the United website successfully. I next headed off the Krisflyer Gold Lounge, the designated *A Gold lounge in terminal 3 for some breakfast.

Got to the gate around 10 minutes boarding. Boarding was done per the different levels with interestingly, folks serving in the military were allowed to board together to United's top tier Global Services. The flight was completely full but I did get my preferred aisle seat thanks to checking in on-line earlier. United does a breakfast followed by a snack service right before landing on this flight. Having flown this route about a year ago, I was surprised that the options were still the same for breakfast - a choice between carrot cake and eggs & sausage.
Carrot cake

This flight and the subsequent flight to Los Angeles was operated by United 777. The seating in economy has a horrible 2-5-2 configuration which United has started to change to 3-3-3 config but I don't think any are own the Asia routes. The 777 do come with a personal TV screen but there is no AVOD.

I was surprised that when I was seated, I heard someone calling my name and it turned out to be a college mate from Malaysia who I haven't seen in a couple of years and who is now living in Los Angeles and was heading back after a vacation back in Malaysia.  What a coincidence to be on the same flight.

On arrival in Tokyo, all transit passengers had to undergo security screening again. Lines were long that day with United agents calling out for passengers who were leaving on earlier United flights and who were still stuck in the line. There is a dedicated 1K, First, Business and *A Gold line which I used and help my friend and wife to get through the security screening. I tried to get my friend and wife into the United Red Carpet Club but the agent followed the rules and only allowed one of them in only per the lounge guidelines. I said goodbye to my friends and headed into the lounge for a a much needed shower. Most of the flights were full today and this contributed to a almost 45 minute wait for a shower which I used to enjoy a couple of beers from the infamous beer machines.

Beer Machine at NRT United RCC
After the shower, I headed over to the ANA lounge for lunch. The ANA lounge has better food offerings than the United RCC. The ANA lounge has some sushi, breads and soup but the better options are the fresh Udon and the Fauchon ice-cream. The Fauchon ice-cream is not listed and is only available per request from one of the staff. There's also a pretty impressive sake bar but sake is not really my thing and didn't have enough time left to try it.
Udon Bar
One of my favorite ice-creams..
When I got to the gate, boarding had already started. I didn't get my preferred aisle seat on this flight but was put in Economy Plus instead. The leg room was a couple of inches more than standard economy and I would have stuck to my preferred aisle seat instead of the additional space. I popped a couple air sickness pills that helps make one drowsy and sleep once we were airborne. Right after the dinner service, I slept a good ~5 hours. Those pills sure does work. The service on this flight was a dinner service, followed by a snack service and breakfast right before landing. The food again was just horrible. The one cool thing on this flight however was having Channel 9 turned on (this ended being the only flight on this trip that the captain decided to turn it on). Channel 9 allows passengers to listen on the pilot's communication. It was pretty interesting to listen on the captain advising other flights nearby about a patch of turbulence we just flew through and asking those in front of us if there were any more turbulence ahead when we flew through the Pacific Ocean.

This would be my first time arriving in LAX on United. I was again pleasantly surprised that I was out of immigration and customs, collected by drop of my bags and was at curbside waiting for my friends to pick me up in just 15 minutes after I got out of the plane. There were virtually no lines and this sure beats the experience of going through the Bradley International terminal where most other foreign airlines fly into. 

I spent the next couple of hours catching up with friends over drinks in Santa Monica. The weather was fine with the sun out.

Headed back to LAX a couple of hours before my flight to Portland. Spent the time in the LAX RCC catching up on email and a couple more beers.
View from the lounge

Bar at LAX RCC

The flight to Portland was on a CRJ200 and was uneventful. I was too tired to take any more pictures and has happy to have a real bed to sleep in when I finally got to Portland.

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