After killing time at the Lima Airport food court and watching arrival passengers from the upper level where the airline offices and the airport chapel is located, my parents and I headed down to the checkin area and wait for United Airlines checkin desk to open. While it still wasn’t exactly 7:30PM, which is the time the United Airlines baggage office staff member said the checkin would open, when we arrived at the checkin area, the checkin desk was already open and it looked as if checkin had been open for a while. We headed to the premier access line, where the staff member guarding the entrance only asked if we were flying in business class or not before allowing us to proceed without checking any documentations or passport for proof.
Premier access does not have a dedicated staff and counter space, it lets you cut in front of the coach passengers checking in. A couple from coach tried to go next but they were stopped and we were waved over to the checkin desk where we were greeted by a Peruvian Japanese woman in Spanish. I responded back in Spanish but once she heard me speaking English with my parents, she switched to communicating in perfect English with me. Once our bags were tagged and boarding passes printed, we were advised that our flight was slightly delayed. The checkin agent also handed us two invitations to the Sumaq Lounge. Each invitation was good for two people so we were given two for the three of us to center the lounge. While leaving the checkin area, I tried to take pictures of the some of the signage around United’s Lima Airport checkin area. When the lady in the picture saw what I was doing, she tried to tell me that picture taking was not allowed. What is funny about the no picture rule is that she was the only one who seemed had a problem with it. No other airport staff or security personnel gave me grief about taking pictures in the terminal expect her. I just shrugged my shoulders and walked away.
With boarding passes and lounge invitations in hand, we headed directly for immigration and security check. Since we have been killing so much time at the airport, that at this point, the only thing we wanted to do was go into the lounge and relax. The main entrance to security at Lima Airport is the same for both international and domestic flights. Once you are past document check, you go right for domestic departures and left for international flights. Before going though security check, we passed through immigration where an aloof Peruvian Immigration Agent ignored my “Buenos Noches” and checked my documents, stamped by passport with the exit stamp and handed it back to me without a sound.
While going through security, I was stuck behind a young couple who was wearing way too many layers of clothing and carrying way too much crap that they were fumbling to take off the layers of clothing and put all of their crap through the scanner. I was getting impatient waiting behind the two amateurs, watching their convoluted dance with their belongings and clothing holding up the security line. I just did not understand the need for four layers of clothing not including the sweater tied around the guys waist.
Once my parents and I were all through security, we headed directly to the Sumaq Lounge. In Lima, United Airlines contracts with Sumaq Lounge for their Business First Cabin passengers to use. The agents working the front desk of the lounge, collected the two invitations cards and stamped our boarding passes so we could reenter after leaving the lounge later, if we wanted to explore the terminal. As soon as we got inside the lounge, I found us a table where we could camp out until boarding time.
Compared to other lounges that I have been in, I would say the Sumaq Lounge was average. Better than most US Airlines clubs, but not on par with say the Star Alliance Lounge at LAX. There were plenty of bottled water and Inca Kola at strategically placed refrigerators throughout the lounge and a small food buffet with different snack items, both sweet and savory. A bar was located at the far back of the lounge with a bartender mixing and serving drinks. The lounge did have a fresh squeezed orange juice machine, which I thought was an odd amenity to have in a airline lounge. The screw drivers that I ordered for my dad and myself was prepared with the orange juice from the machine. I did not think my screwdriver tasted any better than the ones prepared with commercial orange juice.
The Sumaq lounge is used by many airlines that fly into Lima so it got really busy throughout the evening and the crowds in the lounge did not seem to shrink by much. At one point, the lounge was so full, people were walking around trying to find a place to sit. One absolutely annoying thing about the Sumaq Lounge was that the checkin staff would make an announcement for EVERY FLIGHT over the intercom. I do not think we ever had a long stretch of quiet time in the lounge.
Since we still had a lot of time to kill, my mom and I left my dad in the lounge to look after our belongings and we headed out to the terminal to do some shopping. I wanted to spend all of the Peruvian Sol that I had left before leaving Peru. The international side of the terminal is much nicer than the domestic part. This side of the terminal has exponentially more shopping and dining options than what we experienced on the domestic side of the terminal a week ago. Nothing as grand as the bigger airports in Europe, but for an airport the size of Jorge Chavez Airport, I thought the variety and numbers were more than adequate.
My mom had been wanting to buy a coat made of alpaca wool while we were in Peru. She tried some on during our two week traveling through the country but did not find the one she liked. We went into Kuna, which is a store that specializes in natural fiber clothing such as those made from alpaca wool. She found a cream colored coat that she liked and the store had one in her size that has never been tried on and still sealed in the plastic packaging. After trying it on, my mom told the sales staff that she wanted to purchase it. While the staff was wrapping up the coat, I paid the staff before my mom could pay for it. I told my mom that it was her early birthday gift so she better not expect anything on her real birthday. Before I could remind the sales staff to charge my credit card in local currency, she charged it in USD. She voided the USD transaction and reran the transaction in Peruvian Sol. By paying in local currency on my credit card, I saved $9.00+ vs paying in USD.
Next we headed to the Travel Mart, where my mom spent the last of the Peruvian Sol I had on me to buy chocolates for her coworkers and boss. The coins and bills that I had were not enough so I paid the balance with my credit card. While I thought I had used up every PED coin that I had, I found couple of them when I got home. After buying the alpaca wool coat and the chocolates, we headed back to the lounge where my dad was waiting.
After killing more time in the Sumaq Lounge, we headed to the gate that our flight would be departing from when the United App on my iPhone showed that our aircraft had landed. By this point in the evening, I just wanted to go stand around for a bit since I had been sitting since our flight from Cusco landed in Lima. When we arrived at the gate, it was completely full, with no place in sight for the three of us to sit together. We decided to just stand leaning up against the glass divider that separates the gate holding area from the terminal corridor. Others had the same idea including the couple in the picture above. It was not long before a bunch of airport staff members arrived with equipment to setup the boarding group lines and tables for performing a final visual security check of all carryon bags before boarding.
When we first stood leaning up against the glass divider, there were people in front of us, but as soon as it turned out that where they were standing was for Group 1 boarding group, the couple in front of us moved to their boarding line and my parents and I ended up being first in the Group 1 boarding line. The gate agent made an announcement that we should all sit down since it was going to be a while before boarding in a somewhat annoyed tone. Where exactly she thought we should all sit in the full holding area with not enough seats was beyond me. Gate 16 was too small for all the passengers of a fully loaded Boeing 767 300 aircraft.
Shortly after the boarding group lines were setup, the new crew for our flight arrived and they had to maneuver around the waiting passengers to get through to the boarding gate. Once the crew were checked in and aboard, and given some time to settle in and prepare the aircraft for boarding, pre boarding announcement was made. There must have been at least about 20+ adults and children pre boarding for this flight. Once the chaotic pre boarding group had completed the final security check, which involved baby formulas having to be fed to the baby in front of a security check personnel, and they were down the jet bridge, Group 1 boarding was called.
Our backpacks and my moms purse were searched, and the bottled water from the lounge was confiscated during the final visual security check before boarding. Once we were given the clear to proceed, the gate agent scanned our boarding passes and we proceeded down the jet bridge to our aircraft. We were greeted at the door by a flight attendant and after returning the greeting, I made my way to our seats on the other aisle.
We were sitting in the same seats that we sat in when we flew down to Lima two weeks earlier. It turned out that this was the exact same aircraft that we flew on two weeks ago from Houston. Unlike two weeks ago when the aircraft was thoroughly cleaned, the Lima cleaning crew did not do a good job preparing the aircraft after it arrived from Houston. Trash from the previous flight were still left in the storage space of my seat. I am not sure if the cleaning was neglected due to the late arrival of the aircraft or if this is typical of the job the Lima cleaning crew does.
At each seat, amenity kits and headsets were already placed next to the power outlets. Pillows and sealed blankets were already on the seat cushion when we boarded. While the cleaning crew may have not been thorough in collecting all the trash, at least all the amenities were properly stocked for the return trip back to Houston. The amenity kit is the special tin version that commemorates Team USA for the 2016 Olympics. The tin container itself is flimsy and useless. I would have preferred a bag/pouch style kit than this tin version.
During the boarding process, menus for the late dinner service were distributed, followed by orders for pre-departure beverage. I ordered a vodka and cranberry for my drink. My mom did not want anything to drink. Before departure, orders for dinner were taken and I was asked if I wanted to be awoken for breakfast. I told the flight attendant to “shake me like a major earthquake,” and she cracked up laughing before telling me that she was not allowed to do that. But suggested that maybe my mom could if I was a heavy sleeper. My mom chose the beef dish, and I chose the chicken for the main course. Once everyone had boarded, the aircraft door was closed, inflight safety video shown, and we pushed back from the gate. Once engines were started and warmed up, we began taxing the short distance to the runway. We powered down the runway and we were on our way to Houston. While Peru was nice, but after spending two weeks throughout the country, the three of us wanted nothing more than to get back to the US. Flying back home on United made it feel as if we were “almost” home just by being aboard the aircraft. It is hard to explain, but being aboard United’s aircraft made it feel like I was in a little bubble of “America” where the food, culture, and language was familiar.
Once we reached 10,000 ft, the flight attendants jumped into action preparing for the late night dinner service. Just as before on our flight down to Lima, the drink cart was rolled out into the connecting walkway between the two aisles. Table clothes were removed from their plastic packaging and prepared to be distributed. Hot towels were handed out followed by table clothes being place on the tray tables by the flight attendant. Even though this was a late night flight, there was no skimping on service.
Warmed nuts were delivered on a silver tray by the flight attendant working our aisle and she also took our beverage order. I ordered a gin and tonic for my pre dinner beverage. The flight attendant serving my parents and myself was efficient, attentive and pleasant. There was no need to ask for a refills on beverages or ask for something to be cleared. The flight attendant was right there to make sure nothing ran low or finished plates sat around too long. I was surprised at how energetic the crew seemed so late in the evening.
The drink and warmed nuts were followed by the meal trays. Probably due to the late night departure, the appetizer course is omitted for the return flight to Houston. The appetizer course was part of the meal service on our way down to Lima. Our main course along with a salad and dressing was on the meal tray. The bread basket with warm bread followed right behind the meal trays. During the meal service, I was asked if I wanted another gin and tonic. I asked the flight attendant if she could replace the gin and tonic with ginger ale instead. She said no problem and brought me a glass of ginger ale and left the can, which she would come by and pour out of to refill by glass.
Once we were done, the trays were cleared away and dessert was offered. My mom was so tired, she decided to skip dessert and go to bed. I myself for the sake of taking pictures of all courses of the diner service, agreed to have dessert. Along with the dessert, I was offered coffee or tea, but I asked for bailey’s and cream instead. The flight attendant asked with or without ice and promptly delivered the bailey’s over ice served in a wine glass . The dessert was called “sweet cream custard” on the menu, but it turned out to be flan. It was really good and unlike traditional flan which can be a little heavy, the “sweet cream custard” tasted light.
By the end of the dessert course, I could barely stay awake. Once the tray table was cleared, I reclined my seat to full flat mode and quickly fell asleep. Just as during the flight down to Lima, United’s Business First seats are VERY comfortable in bed mode. There are no odd pressure points on your back which has been a problem before on other airlines for me. Along with the plush overstuffed pillow and the clean and sealed comforter, I was able to get 4 hours of good uninterrupted sleep.
I awoke about 15 min or so before breakfast service was to begin. Breakfast again started with table clothes on the tray tables and a drink order. I ordered good old orange juice to go with my breakfast. Shortly after the drinks arrived, the breakfast trays were distributed two at a time by hand. I tried to wake my mom up for breakfast, but she did not want to get up from her comfortable sleep. When she did get up, she said it was the best sleep she had ever on a airplane.
Breakfast consisted of warmed croissant with butter and jam along with a fruit plate and what tasted like shortbread cookie. I thought the shortbread cookie was a little odd and looked out of place on the tray. The fruit plate was chilled and tasty. It was a perfect light breakfast after just waking up from a really comfortable sleep. The whole cabin was not awoken for breakfast. Fight attendants, served each passenger as they awoke on their time.
When my mom finally woke up, I asked the flight attendant if she could still have breakfast, but just as I finished asking, the landing announcement was made so all the flight attendant could offer was a beverage. Once we landed in Houston, we parked and disembarked at the same gate that we departed from two weeks earlier. At this time in the morning, the corridors to customs and immigration were empty and it looked as if we were one of the first international flights to arrive today.
Just as two weeks ago, when we headed down to Peru on United Airlines, the flight crew on our return flight did an excellent, efficient and friendly job in Business First Cabin. As I mentioned in the report for the flight down to Lima, we chose to fly United Airlines on a international itinerary for the first time because United Airlines was the only viable Star Alliance carrier to get us to Lima Peru and back. After experiencing United Airlines international premium cabin service for ourselves, we will choose United for more international Business First cabin flying in the future.