NYC Detour Part III: San Francisco to New York (UA p.s. F)

United p.s. Boeing 757-200 SFO-JFK

When United merged with Continental, they formed the world’s largest airline. From a customer service perspective, they may have also formed the world’s worst airline. Now, I will readily admit, after being coddled in ANA F for the previous nine hours, there is not a domestic flight in the lower 48 that was going to come close to matching the service I had just experienced on the way over from Japan, but United doesn’t even try anymore.

I know everyone has their side when it comes to this debate, but I want to say my piece…I was a pre-merger Continental flier. I loved Continental. I flew Continental to Asia and to Europe without being “forced” to by lack of other options. I had almost nothing but good experiences with Continental and Continental employees. Since the merger, I have had nothing but awful experiences with United and now I will fly Star Alliance partners from NYC to Europe even if it means connecting just to avoid being on a United plane. I know all the legacy United frequent fliers want to blame Continental for the current state of affairs, but from where i’m sitting it doesn’t look that way. Anyway…

I was surly and still a bit tired when I got off my NRT-SFO flight and I trudged to the United Club. This was my first reminder that we were not in Asia anymore. While my socks weren’t knocked off by the ANA lounge at NRT, it was obviously in a different class than a domestic United Club.

I answered some messages expressing my displeasure with being back on our fair shores, fired up my laptop and killed time until boarding. The seatmap indicated that the load in First would be a relatively light for this segment.

Boarding was a mess (as all UA flights were around this time) and upon entering the cabin, I was not pleased. United operates a “p.s.” service on select routes, SFO-JFK being one of them. This is supposed to stand for “Premium Services.” The planes (which are all Boeing 757-200’s) are equipped with three classes of service (economy, business & first), wifi and are supposed to be treated more like proper 3-class international flights than domestic flights.

The cabin is beat to hell. It literally looks like someone took a baseball bat and brutalized the ancient and downtrodden seats in the F cabin. There is one (that’s right ONE) flight attendant for the entire cabin of 12 seats. F was supposed to be lightly populated but upon boarding some names were called out and all of a sudden F was 12/12. There are no in seat monitors, so the stewardesses hand out personal video players, I declined. I looked over the menu and when the stewardess got to me (after presumably taking orders from the non-revs and other FF’s they had upgraded) they were out of the meal choice I was interested in. I told her to forget the meal service, pulled out my eye shades and went to sleep. Even in first the crappy beds (which I believe are “spacebeds” aka hand me downs of the Singapore Airlines BUSINESS class product from the 90’s) don’t go fully flat. Luckily I was exhausted and managed to sleep until we were on final approach to JFK.

I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone would ever pay miles or cash for this awful product. Now that Continental and United have merged, there are legacy Continental routes from EWR to LAX and SFO. These routes are often served by pre-merger Continental Boeing 757-200’s. All of Continental’s 757-200’s were refitted with the BusinessFirst fully flat bed international product. This “business class” product is worlds ahead of the ancient and crappy “first class” offering on the pre-merger United “premium services” flights. In the future it will be ex-Continental 757-200 for me all the way. Avoid flying American carriers whenever possible…they suck.

My family met me at JFK and we all went back to Manhattan together. As I pulled up to my apartment, everything seemed incredibly familiar, and it was hard to imagine that I had been out in Tokyo the previous night, and in Thailand less than 48 hours ago. Luckily it wouldn’t be long until I was airborne again.

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