It was that time again. Time for another vacation somewhere around the world. This time my parents and I are going to Eastern Canada for 9 days. After finishing up work for the day, my parents and I headed out to Van Nuys FlyAway terminal to catch the next bus to LAX. By now, I have lost count on how many times we’ve taken the FlyAway bus to LAX from both Union Station and Van Nuys. For short weekend trips that include more travelers than yourself, it is more economical to take ones car to LAX and park with one the parking services, but if traveling for a week or more, the FlyAway comes out ahead. We arrived on time to take the next bus to LAX which was leaving at 6:30PM. Unlike the last time we were here at the Van Nuys FlyAway, it did not seem too busy at all. Once the boarding for the 6:30PM departure was called, our tickets were scanned, and we handed over our three bags to the baggage handler who tagged our bags for Terminal 7 and then placed them in the bus’s baggage hold.
Our FlyAway bus departed on time and we made good speed over Sepulveda Pass on the 405 freeway before hitting traffic near the 10 freeway interchange. After the usual stop and go traffic on the 405 freeway which is familiar to practically every SoCal resident, our bus got off and used the Manchester Ave route to get to LAX. I was expecting the worst in terms of traffic as we approached the departure level, but traffic was fairly light. Since United Airlines is located at Terminal 7, which is the last terminal stop that the FlyAway bus makes at LAX, it would be a while before our turn came up. While we’ve been on FlyAway buses that did not have to make stops at all terminals, this bus would not be one of them. United Airlines being located at Terminal 7 makes it the last stop for being dropped off and also the last pickup stop. My parents and I have run into a situation last year where by the time the FlyAway arrived at Terminal 7 to pick us up, there were only 3 seats left on the bus. Lucky for us that we got on the bus but one of these days, the bus could easily be full by the time it arrives at Terminal 7.
Newly Renovated Terminal 7 At LAX – First Class
Our FlyAway bus dropped us off right at the entrance to the Premier Checkin area. The last two times we’ve been through Terminal 7, construction was still going on in the checkin area but it looked like the construction for the checkin area was 99% finished. The Premier Checkin area and the Economy Class checkin areas have been swapped from their previous locations and in between them, is now the consolidated and bigger security check area. Checkin went smoothly and we were also told by the agent that our flight to Chicago was running late. The agent was also able to get me preliminary gate number for our Toronto flight so I would know if our Chicago flight and the Toronto flight would be departing from the same concourse. I thanked the checkin agent and with our boarding passes in hand, we headed to the PreCheck security lane. While PreCheck only had couple of people ahead of us, those couple of people caused a traffic jam and slowed down the process. Long story short, an elderly lady who could not speak any English kept setting off the metal detector and kept the rest of us from going through. The TSA Agent finally pulled the lady out and had one of the female agents pat her down instead.Ever since my parents and I obtained Global Entry last year, and have had access to TSAPre, we have consistently run into slowdowns and jams initiated by travelers who are ignorant about the PreCheck security check. It has alway been something such as travelers taking their shoes off, taking out their computers, etc. essentially doing everything they paid NOT to do. Since the PreCheck is still being granted to random people who have not signed up for TSAPre, or other programs such as Global Entry, this could be the explanation for the hiccups. For travelers such as myself and my parents whom have all signed up for Global Entry, paid the fee and went down to San Diego for an interview with a US Customs Agent, these slowdowns can be really frustrating.
The New United Club At Los Angeles International Airport Terminal 7
Once we were through security, we headed upstairs directly to the new United Club. The new LAX United Club was still under construction the last time we flew out of here so I was excited to see the new and improved club. While I am a member of United Club, but since we were flying on a international itinerary in United’s premium cabin, we have automatic access to the club. One of three club agents scanned our boarding passes and welcomed us in. We took the escalator up to the second floor where the main club is located. The new United Club was big, bright and had plenty of seating area. We found ourselves a table in the dining area and helped ourselves to the food buffet. The food in the club would be our dinner tonight since our flight to Chicago is a refreshment flight IE snack basket flight. The food itself has not changed from our visit to the old club last year. Couple of the items have been changed for something else and a second soup was available but generally the items were the same. Both the chicken noodle soup and the roasted red pepper and smoked gouda bisque were very good! My mom even made a comment that both soups tasted as if they were made from scratch and not from a can. The salad bar items were fresh and so were the celery and carrot sticks which were located with the cheese cubes. Staff in the club were constantly refilling and cleaning the food area and dirty plates were promptly cleared away. Fresh whole fruits were available along with couple snack mix dispensers.Both brewed coffee and an espresso machine were available in the club. A soda machine with touch screen which can dispense many different soda flavors was available in the new United Club. Assorted bread was available along with butter and crackers to enjoy along with the soups. The soups also came with condiments which one could add to their soup if one chose to. For dessert, both cookies and brownies were available. The bar which is located in the center of the dining area, was big and seemed to be quite popular with the passengers in the club. My dad and I had couple of glasses of wine which were complimentary. The United Clubs have free alcoholic drinks but anything premium is extra. Once I was done eating, I headed out to the patio seating area of the new United Club. Frankly I was disappointed with the patio seating area. From all of the press regarding the patio seating, I was expecting something big but in reality it was just a small area with dirty windows to look down at any aircraft parked at gate 70A. Quite a few people were out in the patio and I can see it becoming very crowed easily during busy times. I was expecting a patio area more like what I experienced at Swiss Airlines Zurich lounge in June and not a little dinky sitting area with dirty windows. At no point during our stay was the patio empty. While I was disappointed, others seemed to rather enjoy the patio.
United Airlines app was showing where about our aircraft was and the estimated time that it would arrive in LA. Based on the data, that I saw, it was going to be very difficult to impossible to make our connecting flight in Chicago. I proactively went over to the customer service desk inside the United Club and after a giving her a brief explanation, the agent checked my reservation on her computer. She told me that she could put me on a later flight but after I reminded her that there were three of us all in First Class, the flight in question was not doable. Instead, she put us on Air Canada flight which would leave Chicago around 9AM-ish. She explained to me that we were booked in both our original flight and the Air Canada flight and if our original connection was delayed, we could still take that flight to Toronto. I thanked the agent and headed back to my parents and explained the situation to them since they were worried about missing the connection. I also reminded them that delay and misconnection situations such as this is why we pay for First Class and also pay for United Club membership.My parents dozed off in the Club waiting for our aircraft to arrive while I went around the nearly empty United Club snapping pictures without feeling like some freak. As soon as the United App notified me that our aircraft had arrived, we gathered our stuff and headed to the assigned gate which had also changed. We lined up in the Group 1 boarding line which already had a significant number of people standing in it. While waiting for boarding to commence, I checked the United App and found that the estimated arrival time into Chicago was updated and now we would be arriving after our original flight to Toronto’s departure time. I told my parents. “Oh well, it looks like were taking Air Canada” and planned on having breakfast at the Chicago United Club. The gate agent make couple of announcements asking passengers with connections to not come up to the podium and instead call the customer service line since the agents needed to prepare to board our flight. Again it is times like this I am glad that I have United Club membership and can get problems solved at the Club.
United Airlines Flight 660
Once boarding of passengers who need assistance was completed, the GA announced for First Class passengers only to board since the Coach section aisle was blocked with an aisle wheelchair. As soon as we got down the jet bridge and to the aircraft door, boarding was blocked by wheelchair handlers and we could not board the aircraft. The First Class passengers ahead of me were for sure were frustrated based on the expressions and hand gestures that I saw. This holdup went on for about good 10 to 15 minutes before the wheelchair block was cleared and we were allowed to board. Mind you, these were empty wheelchairs and handlers blocking boarding. The people who were brought down the jet bridge were already aboard. Not sure why the wheelchair handlers thought it was needed to block the door standing in front of it, but it happened and after 5 minutes had passed, I was getting annoyed myself.The wheelchair jam finally cleared and my parents and I headed to row 1 to our seats. Seats 1A and 1B on the Boeing 757 300 have extra storage space in front but seats 1 E and 1F does not because the galley carts take up the space. At each of the First Class seats were blankets sealed in plastic pouch. The seats were definitely old from the looks of it and also from the squeaking noises that they made every time I moved a little. The headrest height could be adjusted and came with the side flaps as well. The electrical socket was located on the center armrest far down that it was hard to see it without leaning forward and turning on the reading light. Once seated and settled in, the flight attendant came over to take pre departure drink orders. I went with a gin and tonic and nothing for my mom. Since boarding on this aircraft was through the second door, there was no traffic jam in the aisle from people trying to board which was nice. Also the flight attendant did not have to swim upstream for pre departure beverage service.
Once everyone was boarded, and the usual safety demonstrations and routines completed, we were off to Chicago. As soon as our aircraft started moving on its own power, there was no further delay and shortly we were on runway 25R and powering down the runway towards the Pacific Ocean. The Boeing 757 300 seemed to liftoff the runway sooner than the Boeing 737 900 that we have taken many times out of LAX before. Due to the delay of our flight, there were two United Airlines leaving simultaneously for Chicago tonight. I heard the 10,000 feet chime and the flight attendants slowly started to stir and announcements were made regarding service aboard todays flight. We were also told that the seatbelt sign was still on and to stay seated. One thing that I and others have noticed about United Airlines is that the seatbelt sign is kept on for a longtime. On many occasions I have had to just ignore the sign and go use the bathroom. Other airlines that I have flown on shut the seatbelt sign off at 10,000 feet unless there is adverse weather ahead but for whatever reason, United Airlines likes to keep it on until the aircraft reaches cruising altitude. VERY ANNOYING!!! It is not only myself who has ignored the seatbelt sign before, but others in the cabin, after waiting and waiting just get up and head to the bathrooms.On redeye flights, United Airlines only serves refreshments except for on certain routes which will have a snack service or a full meal service. Flight 660 even though a 4+ hour long flight was refreshments only in First Class. Refreshment service started with drink orders taken by the flight attendant which were delivered on a silver tray followed afterwards by the snack basket. I ordered another gin and tonic which was delivered in real glassware and from the snack basket, I chose the potato chips and a bag of almonds. Since the cabin was dark, the flight attendant used a flashlight so I could see what was in the basket. She also let me take a picture of the basket when I asked. Having eaten in the United Club, I did not eat any of the snack items that I took from the basket. I took them really just for the photo. When the flight attendant saw that my glass was empty, I was offered a refill but I passed and she cleared the glass away.
After the snack service was completed, I reclined my seat back and tried to get some sleep. These seats on our Boeing 757 300 were so uncomfortable that I just could not sleep at all. I tossed to the left and to the right and each time the seat kept squeaking and creaking and also the sciatica in my left lower back started to act up from sitting in the seats which made sleep even more elusive. The bottom seat cushion had no padding and seemed to be full of odd pressure points which caused pain. Last year when we flew on United Airlines 737 900 to Houston, the First Class seats were a lower back killer but these seats on the 757 easily beat the other seat for painful and uncomfortable. I just kept looking at the flight progress map via my iPhone and United WiFi checking to see how much longer till we arrive in Chicago. I did try to watch a movie on the BYOD streaming via United WiFi but after scrubbing through it, I went back to the flight progress map.
The rest of the flight was uneventful. The usual landing preparations and announcements were made including asking passengers who did not have a connection to let passengers with connections disembark first. We landed in Chicago and taxied to the C gates and parked at gate C21. I checked the United App to see what was going on with our flight to Toronto. The app showed that the flight to Toronto was delayed as well. Once the aircraft was parked and the door opened, the gate agent went on the intercom and made an announcement for connecting passengers who missed their flight to collect their new boarding passes at the podium and for Toronto passengers, which was my parent and myself, to head to the gate since the flight was delayed.
This concludes flight UA660 portion of the report and I will continue on the report for the flight to Toronto.