United we stand
The Optus wireless zone doesn't seem to quite reach this far, so you won't be reading this until I get stateside.
I also had a random bag search before checkin, which was new. Thankfully I didn't also have my checkin searched after the metal detectors. I have learnt by now not to take aerosol cans in my hand luggage. I'm not sure when that became an issue but it's probably a hazard just like smoking in the toilets. It always amuses me that you used to be able to smoke on the whole plane, but now it's a "fire hazard".
The other interesting United experience is that the flight is overbooked, and there was an announcement that if you were willing to wait for the flight the next day they would put you in a hotel and pay you 800 USD. If I didn't have to work on Monday it would be seriously tempting!!
Ok - flight boarding now.
Onboard United (which is where I am right now) is an unusual combination of experiences. Unusual isn't really the right word, but Tom Jones is singing "It's not unusual" on my iPod right now, so it's the word I'm stuck with.
The first thing that hit me was the seat. The best way I can describe it is as a silghtly upmarket version of the Qantas business class seat from 2 revisions ago. Not the one before the business bed - the one before that. Part of the seat makes the United website a lyer (on top of being disorganised) and that was the 15 vdc Empower power port. The United website told me that I would be able to use my laptop power supply without an adapter. That means I need to stop blogging and get coding because I still don't have the SkypeMenuX project linking under XCode 2.2 yet.
The second thing that hit my was a glass of water. My glass of water. Tim will be no doubt rolling around his government funded office guffawing with mirth, or perhaps a small smile will creep onto his face as he knows all is right in the world. I thought perhaps a new era had dawned as I successfully negotiated four international flights earlier this year without spilling a single drink but I returned to regular form when I managed to spill a glass of water on myself anD my seat before we disembarked from the gate.
I guess an airline that has filed for bankruptcy can't afford new seats. Ironically the things I am loving are probably what sent it bankrupt in the first place. In great contrast to the BCG-designed efficiency of Qantas, the onboard service is impossibly good. After the usual champagne/juice/water before takeoff and a really long taxi (thanks to Sydney's 34R runway) came a drink and nuts. That's pretty standard, but the bourbon and dry was mixed for me, very well too, and the nuts weren't in a cost effective foil pouch - they were in a small dish and warmed to perfection. I honestly don't think I have eaten better tasting nuts.
The rest of the food was nothing to rave about but the wine choices were above excellent (Australian, French and Californian) and the service was again well above par. I've probably never had better service on a flight. The detail and demeanor of the staff matched Qantas first class.
Back to the fitout, the tv screen is abysmally small (again comparable to Qantas business class screens from the early 90s). That doesn't matter because the only movies worth watching are all on ther return leg. Unfortunately the headphone jack is different to all of the airline headphone adapters I have so i can't use my noise cancelling headphones.
Which brings me to another great thing - I think the iPod and podcasting are probably the best thing to happen to air travel recently. I don't have to put up with the looped music channels and I can listen to both Adam Curry and Dr. Karl while well above the clouds.
So all in all a mixed bag. I really hope I will be able to swing Qantas or BA for my flight to London in January though.
I'm a good few hours into the flight now (sorry, I'm not tempted to use the in-seat phone to upload this blog, so you readers get this in one hit) and I have two things to rave greatly about. Well three really. The first is Aaron Hillegrass's book on Cocoa programming. The sort-of-third thing is that Cocoa programming is so cool in the first place, but then you already knew that ;) The book is well written, wastes few words or screenshots, and is massively helping my self-taught Cocoa programming no end, and I'm only up to chapter 5. The other thing I want to do is reiterate my earlier comments about the United crew's service. Every time my glass of Bourbon and dry becomes empty, my friendly cabin crew asks me if I want a refill and knows wxactlly what I am drinking. That would be easy on the upper deck but here in main cabin business class there are more seats per crew member and I am mightily impressed. I guess it's also a testament to the clarity of Aaron's technical writing that it is still making sense (and compiling) after quite a few Bourbons and some Savignon Blanc. Dehydration be damned ;) If I can add a fourth, the backlit keyboard on my Aluminium Powerbook is a lifesaver with the cabin lights out. I feel sorry for the sucker in 22H with a Lenovo laptop running Windows XP!
06:19 PM, 04 Dec 2005 by Mark Aufflick Permalink
Mark, you'll know that I'm serious here. Thanks for your complete and authoritive review of UA Business Class, I found it fascinating. Shame about the water (but not totally out of character). You may remember a few years back, when booked (LAX-MEL) on QF Business Class I was upgraded to UA 1st. class -- you probably remember the story, I ate out on it forever. UA actually held the entire 400+pax 747 up for 45 minutes so I could board. ("If we can't do this for our 1st. class passengers Mister McLafflan, who CAN we do it for?") Yup, no wonder they've gone bankrupt! Tim/DB
by Unregistered Visitor on 12/04/05