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Shanghai-Lights: UAL 835: ORD-PVG (United Economy)


@United offers one non-stop flight a day between Chicago O’Hare and Shanghai Pudong. This is a polar flight and would be the longest flight I have ever taken.

Carrier: United Airlines (ORD-PVG)

Flight #: 835
Seat: 21G
Departure: January 24, 2013 –  10h10 / 10h22
Arrival: January 25, 2013 – 14h50 / 14h25
Travel Time: 14 hours 40 minutes / 14 hours 3 minutes
Flight Miles: 7,056

You may have noticed my panic attack earlier when I saw that United swapped out my reconfigured plane for an older style 777. Well, luckily, they switched it back and Economy seats had AVOD – making the flight much more palatable.

Since one can’t print a boarding pass at home for this flight (airline has to check validity of Visas before you travel), I planned on arriving at O’Hare at around 08h30, giving me about 90 minutes to check in, get molested by the TSA, buy water and head to the gate.  I’m not a morning person. I actually left late and ended up getting to the airport about 09h00 — 10 minutes before check-in ended for my flight.

There was no line and check-in was a breeze.  TSA was a mess though.  No Pre-Check for me, since I was flying international. I was in line for a good 25 minutes – which is almost unheard of any more.  I opt out, as always and a nice older TSA gentlemen is assigned to grope me.  For the first time ever the TSA employee really did a molestation job and judging by the look on his face, he wasn’t expecting to run his thumb over my junk. He was as shocked as I was (or he is a creepily good actor). Lovely.

No time for a lounge visit, I head to the gate (C18) and buy water. I see the gate area is pretty empty and the line relatively short, then I hear the “Final Boarding” call for the flight.  It was only 09h35 by this point. Final call 35 minutes before departure?  I hurry my way to the Premium boarding line and quickly bypass the masses. The plane is empty.

I sit and next to me (across the aisle) is a young man and his wife. I assumed they were Mormon (Midwest Mormons, not West Coast). Young, married, extremely polite, booze-free — just a wholesome look.  A family with 8 (ish) year old twins sat behind me and didn’t sit still for more than 4 minutes the entire flight.  A Chinese woman (I guess she was Chinese, she was Asian, spoke Mandarin and was going to Shanghai…it may be a leap, but I’ll take it) sat in front of me, never reclining her seat or doing anything that may annoy me — Shocking, I know. Finally a young Chinese woman (see generalization above) sat in the Center section with me, on the other side of the empty middle seat.

This is my first time on a reconfigured UAL 777. The AVOD is great. The seats recline and the seat itself slides forward reducing the amount of recline that hits your neighbor behind you without reducing your actual recline.

Drinks were served. Followed by lunch which was a choice between BBQ Chicken and Hunan Beef and Rice. I chose the latter — the Mormons chose the former (they were going to be in China for 3 week and didn’t want to jump in with both feet yet).

The AVOD was great.  I watched a few TV show including: How I Met Your Mother, Big Bang Theory, Criminal Minds, Frasier and Downton Abbey.  Then I switched to watching movies. I watched Goonies (in French, again) and Beverly Hills Cop,  then attempted to watch: Hope Springs and Avatar but found them to be so horribly bad I couldn’t get past the first 30 minutes of either of them.

I napped and worked during this period too. I probably put in about 5-6 hours of work while watching TV.

I drink a ton of water on a plane. I brought 3.5 litres of water with me and had a cup of water every time the Stew would walk by and offered it — probably once an hour, perhaps.  I had the same flight crew for this flight and my return and they were AMAZING. Read about that in an upcoming post.

Considering this was the longest flight I had ever been on (next longest was the 12.5 hour flight from LHR-CPT, following an 8 hour flight from ORD-LHR and a 10 hour layover in London), it was remarkably non-miserable.  Granted the flight was empty and the Stew Crew was fab.  I wouldn’t want to do it every week, but with this plane and this crew, I could do Economy to Asia once a month, I think.

We landed early in Shanghai and as I look out the window, I see the City shrouded in a dirty brown funk. A haze that looks as toxic to your body as it is to your travel photos. Industrialization is going full steam (coal and petroleum fueled steam engines) in Shanghai.

Customs and Immigration are a breeze.  Technically, I didn’t need a visa, since I was in Shanghai for less than 72 hours, but I didn’t want to risk it…get a visa, even if you don’t need it.

Does the idea of 14+ hours in United economy give you the hives? What is the longest flight you’ve taken in economy?

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