It was time to get back in the saddle again after a nice, long holiday lull away from flying. This time, I was heading to New York for Wendy Perrin’s WOW List Summit. The last time she had one was three years ago down in Mexico, and it was a great event, but this time she did it in her backyard.
My wife joined me on this trip, and while we were tempted to fly the Delta 767 out with only two seats on the side, it wasn’t worth waking up so early to get a good fare. Instead, we opted for a later United 787-10 for a mere $133.30 each in regular economy (or the equivalent in Chase points). On the way back, we took the Delta 767 and had a nearly-opposite experience, but I’ll write about that in a future post.
The week leading up to travel, I saw a storm would be descending on New York the day we were planning on arriving, and I just assumed we’d be massively delayed. I contemplated taking a flight the next day instead if a waiver appeared, but it never did. It stayed warm enough that it was just a whole lot of rain, and we didn’t face a delay… until we got in the air.
There’s nothing quite like LA freeway driving early on a weekend morning. It was empty, and even the traffic at LAX was moving well. United’s Terminal 7 was relatively quiet, and the line for TSA Precheck was non-existent. This is the first time I’ve ever seen them not ask for our boarding pass at the checkpoint. Apparently there are some tests out there which allow you to just swipe your ID and the system pulls up your reservation from that. I loved it since it meant not having to fumble with my phone to produce a boarding pass.
On the other side, we found our way to the awkward gate 74. The gate is bisected by a wall, and those on one side can’t really hear the announcements. When you’re flying a big airplane, that means a lot people won’t find seating in the gate area, so there’s a lot of huddling around. You also can’t see the airplane which is a shame. We were on a beautiful, brand new 787-10 in the new livery. (It was just one month and one day old.) I was able to snap this sexy beast as I walked down to the jet bridge.
January 25, 2020
United 2418 Lv Los Angeles 815a Arr Newark 414p
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 74, Runway 25R, Depart 6m Early
Newark (EWR): Gate C121, Runway 22L, Arrive 16m Late
N12010, Boeing 787-10, 2019 Blue Globe colors, ~99% Full
Seat 49L, Economy
Flight Time 4h55m
We walked through one of the two jetbridges, and they were directing traffic. Those who were sitting on the far side of the airplane boarded through door 1L while those on the near side went through 2L. It helped avoid cross-traffic and seemed smart. The only minor nitpick? We were on the far side so we went through 1L. That meant we had to go through Polaris, and that is a very narrow aisle.
The windows were all dimmed, and the cabin had a bluish glow. We found our seats, and I was surprised to see a blanket waiting. It’s amazing that this now sounds like a luxury. I browsed through the surprisingly robust movie and TV selection, but I didn’t turn anything on.
The captain came on and told us it would be a nice flight, but the weather was miserable in Newark. He did say that we’d have a mostly smooth ride except on descent when we’d have some bumps. He added that it wouldn’t be “anything untoward.” What a great way to put it.
It was a foggy day in LA — the same fog that enveloped Kobe Bryant’s doomed helicopter the very next day — but we saw no delays. We were up and above the low layer in no time, and then we made a lazy loop around before pointing east.
I found myself wishing that United provided live television on this flight, because I wanted to listen in to the first day of President Trump’s defense in the impeachment trial. The only way to do that was to pay $20.99 for internet and hope I could stream the audio. I paid it, and sure enough, the audio streaming worked fine. But little did I know that the defense team would only use 2 of the 3 hours allotted to them, so it was over shortly after I logged on. Doh.
The flight attendants came through with the usual snacks and drinks. Then they declared war. See, I like my window seats, and I think the dimming window on the 787 is great… in theory. But when the flight attendants decide to lock it in an auto-dimmer position, I’m not happy. I had this blue hue the whole time and no other option. As I understand it, United’s standard operating procedure is NOT to lock the windows, so this was apparently the crew overriding the usual procedure for some reason. Grrr.
As always happens when the kids aren’t traveling with us, my wife had fallen asleep on takeoff and was barely awake when the food-for-purchase came by. After she fully woke up later, the flight attendant came by and my wife asked if she could buy some food. The flight attendant said she’d come back. She never did.
I ended up working and streaming others talking about impeachment testimony, so I could get caught up on what I missed. (Yes, I’m a masochist.) I left the excellent moving map on and even when the seat in front of me reclined, I was able to use my laptop.
It wasn’t the most comfortable setup, but it really wasn’t bad. Just being able to get caught up after a busy week was gratifying.
We chugged our way across the country, but once we got near Pennsylvania, we turned around. A line of weather had rolled through Newark, and the winds shifted so they turned the airport around. That messed everything up, so we had an aerial tour of the Great Lakes. Unfortunately, it was cloudy down below, so the tour wasn’t particularly interesting.
The captain kept us updated with great information along the way. Once the hold was canceled, he told us the story and said we’d have “significant bumps” on the descent.
Meanwhile, my wife had dug deep into the movie library. When her movie finished, she was pleasantly surprised by this feature:
It looks at the amount of time left in flight and then suggests other options that can be finished before touchdown. Ok, so maybe the movie choices could be a little smarter. (She had just finished watching Hustlers and they suggested An American Tail?) But the idea is great.
Once she found her next movie, she wanted to clear her area. She had an empty water bottle, and when the flight attendant passed by with another round of water, she asked if she would take it. The flight attendant said she’d come back. She never did. Sound familiar?
After we were released from our hold, it wasn’t long before we were ready to descend. I was watching the storm move through on radar thanks to the wifi, and it looked like it was clearing out. We started our descent somewhere over Pennsylvania, and I had flipped on one of United’s music stations for the ride down. Somewhere around 10,000 feet we went into the clouds. It turns out it wasn’t very bumpy at all since the storm had moved out. But it was a miserable day with panoramic views like this one:
We touched down and had a quick taxi to our open gate. The skies still looked rather threatening at that time, but the rain went away by that evening, and we had good weather for the rest of our trip.
After all the holding, we were only about 15 minutes late getting into the gate. We made our way through the bustling airport before hopping on the Airtrain to take us to New Jersey Transit into the city.
Overall, I love the 787. It’s a really nice airplane. And I find United’s seats comfortable with good entertainment options. The service, well, that wasn’t all that great.
While I was in New York, I was able to spend one night at the TWA Hotel, so I’ll be writing that up soon. Then I flew home on a Delta 767 which had great service but a not-so-great product. Look for those reports in the next couple weeks.