Flight Date: 07JUN13–As a rule, FABFLYER only reviews international first and business class flights; however there are a few US domestic flights: New York-Honolulu is one of them, that deserve special mention. With a 10 hour 42 minute flight time on the non-stop Newark-Honolulu route, United Airlines holds the title for the longest domestic US flight edging out Hawaiian Airlines’ JFK-HNL flight at 10 hours 35 minutes. By any measure this is a long time to be in the air. This time was made even longer by some dirty tricks at United.
I had reserved seat 1D, which is a middle row solo seat, well in advance and was shocked when a United staffer approached me upon arrival at Newark from Frankfurt. He informed me the flight had been cancelled and I was presented with a new boarding pass. Comparing the previously issued boarding pass when I checked in at Frankfurt with the newly printed one: the flight time, flight number etc. were all the same; however my reserved seat had been changed from 1D to 1B. I was tired and jet lagged after my flight so I decided to wait and call United reservations later to clear things up. I discussed the issue with the Philippines-based call center clerk, however his response was: ‘I cannot help you and please contact the airport staff’. Hmmm… the plot thickens. The following day I went to the airport three hours prior to departure allowing plenty of time to get to the bottom of the mysterious seat change. Unlike the call center, the check-in clerk was really nice and sympathetic. She initially said I should check-in and take up the matter with the gate staff. I said no and that I preferred to have my original seat back and asked why had they changed it without my knowledge or explanation. After some detective work and swearing me to confidentiality she revealed my original seat had been switched by a United employee!! Are you kidding me? So when a United employee prefers a particular seat they just go into the system and summarily change paying customers’ pre-assigned seating?!! I was livid, however I decided to keep my cool while the friendly clerk told me to hold tight. After nearly an hour she came back and presented me with another boarding pass with seat 1D restored!
I was eager to find out who this sneaky United Airlines employee was and lo and behold it turned out to be an off duty pilot! I was really tempted to discuss the matter with this joker, but I remembered my pledge of silence to the check-in clerk. This incident proves just how United Airlines operates. Shameless! That said–thanks to the efficient check-in clerk who went out of her way to rectify the situation, I haven’t lost all hope for United just yet (close but not quite yet).
The configuration is 2-1-2 in first class on the B767-400. This plane is actually a fomer Continental Airlines’ aircraft retrofitted with United logos.
The seat is very narrow, however as this is currently the only lie-flat business/first product serving the NYC-HNL market, I wasn’t complaining. In-flight crew were friendly and immediately came through the aisles offering drinks. I got situated and took a few shots of the cabin.
United Airlines uses this aircraft mainly on international routes and the difference between those and domestic flights are the small details: no menus, amenity kits to name a few.
There were two food choices: spinach cannelloni or chicken cacciatore. I chose the pasta dish with a glass of wine. Nothing special but edible.
United Airlines should be praised for their AVOD system which features over 200 movie choices along with over a hundred TV and short subject choices. The music selections and games were also comprehensive.
The seat-change incident by the off-duty United pilot was stressful and resulted in unnecessary waiting and fretting on my part. Travelers beware of sudden seating changes on United flights and don’t take their word for it. Ask questions and be persistent; as it may just be a United employee trying to pull a fast one on you. The flight itself was OK. For such a long flight however, I would venture to say that if Delta, Hawaiian or American stepped up with a better product on this route, United would have to follow suit. The crew were nice and friendly and I arrived at Honolulu safe and sound.