When I purchased these tickets, I knew I wanted to use my friend’s GPU (Global Premium Upgrades), so I purchased some slightly higher priced coach tickets (technically 50% more expensive than the cheap, non-upgradable tickets). Our outbound upgrade cleared almost immediately, but hours before our return flight we were still in coach. It would have been quite a frustrating turn of events to pay extra for an upgradable seat, but not actually get upgraded. Our upgrade cleared, but not until we got on the high speed train to the airport – cutting it a little close for comfort.
After we left the SilverKris Lounge, we headed off to our departure gate (Gate 65). Once we arrived, I looked around the boarding area and I felt like I was on a flight to Canada: everyone was neatly lined up, boarding pass and passport in hand, not at all like the traditional mayhem that a gate area in an Asian airport usually is.
We boarded through door 2L and turned right for our BusinessFirst Seats. These weren’t the (relatively) great BusinessFirst Seats we had on the way to Hong Kong, our seats for the return were in the middle section, not only that, but the middle two seats of the middle section. If I wanted to use the lavatory, I had to either crawl over one or two people. No carrier can rightfully say they have a quality business class product if they don’t offer aisle access to every seat on the plane.
Flight: United Airlines 896 (BusinessFirst)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200
Seat: 9 D&G
Departure: 11h10 (13h10)
Arrival: 11h45 (11h31)
Luckily EAD and I were able to sit next to each other, and share our misery. I am pretty sure I’d rather be in this middle middle BusinessFirst seat than an aisle in coach, but as I sat for 15-ish hours wondering if I should wake the guy up next to me, so I could go to the lavatory, I wasn’t sure.
As usual, I started my on-board consumption with some champagne. This time, I asked for champagne and the stew corrected me, saying they were serving sparkling wine only – guess I can’t win, can I? I had two glasses of their mediocre sparkling (but hell, a mediocre sparkling is better than no sparkling at all).
After the door closed, we had a quick taxi to the runway and a fast take-off roll. We were airborne shortly after the door closed and we were on our way back home. I was pretty tired at this point – I guess a 4 day trip to Hong Kong can do that to you. I was looking forward to eating, then curling up and sleeping for a few hours.
The menu was new on this return flight, compared to our original outbound. I opted for the dried out chicken breast, which, when coupled with the sauce it was served with along with a big drink of wine, it was perfectly acceptable. I did have a cheese course as well as an ice cream sundae – which was paired with a United Port.
The meal service was completed within about 2.5 hours after the door closed and I was really exhausted at this point. I decided to stay up and watch a documentary called “Rich Hill”, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. This film was really good and depressing. After the film, I flipped on some Big Bang Theory and closed my eyes. I then proceeded to sleep off and on for the next 8 hours. I woke up, after missing the great mid-flight dirty dishwater soup (that I seriously enjoyed on the previous flight). I killed the rest of the flight by watching some bad TV and debating on doing some work or studying French – neither of which I did.
It still surprises me that the 15 or so hour flights can go by so quickly. I wouldn’t like doing this every week, but once or twice a year it is perfectly acceptable. While I do think doing this trip in BusinessFirst is better than coach (here or here), I’ve done both and both are survivable, as long as you come prepared. Bring lots of things to entertain yourself – movies and TV shows on your laptop/tablet, a book or two, plus hours and hours of music. You’ll do just fine.
Have you taken this flight to Hong Kong before? How do you survive the two-thirds of a full day in the air?