4th August 2013 at 21:19 #586595
Anonymous4th August 2013 at 21:19 #586596
I checked in for this flight online 24 hours before departure. There is no charge with United to select your seat at the time of booking and I had already pre-selected 3E in the Business First cabin.
When arrived at Cancun on the Saturday morning via a pre-booked taxi, I was greeted by a Porter at Terminal 3 who asked me which airline I was flying with. She was visibly disappointed when I said United but then perked up when I told her that I was flying First Class.
When we entered the Terminal Building I understood why the lady was so expressive following my responses! The queue for the Coach check-in was literally the full length of the departure terminal. Mind the queue for First Class was long enough as several passengers were checking in using their United Platinum, Gold and Silver membership cards but were not actually travelling in the premium cabins. Within the same queue, there also seemed to be several passengers who were pushing the hold luggage maximums to the limit. 50lbs was the absolute limit (32kg in the UK) but were trying to check-in bags in excess of this. I think they literally were carrying the kitchen sink!
Once I reached the desk, I was processed quite quickly and made my way upstairs to the security check. There were plenty of staff on hand to direct you and there was also no need to remove shoes.
I was then airside and I went into an extremely busy terminal. There are plenty of shops and restaurants but all seemed pretty busy on this Saturday afternoon. Despite this being an international flight, United do not offer any lounge facilities at Cancun, but I decided to use my Priority Pass card and enter the Business Lounge. It had several TV screens showing various sports and a Paid bar for alcoholic drinks. There was a chilled display area for self service water and soft drinks. The only food offering were biscuits, but it was a calm sanctuary from the main terminal.
No flight announcements were made in the Lounge but there were a couple of screens showing the departures so once I saw my flight was listed as Boarding I left the Lounge. As it happened, the departure gate was right outside the Lounge and as I arrived at the gate, they started boarding First Class passengers.
However, all we did was go down an escalator and onto a bus. This was an unpleasant surprise bearing in mind that United have numerous departures every day from Cancun. Once the bus was full we made our way to the waiting aircraft which disappointingly only had stairs at the front. Just as the doors opened, the heavens opened too with a torrential downpour. It certainly made everyone move up the steps quickly but for some there was still a wait at the top of the steps and becoming drenched!
I made my way onboard and into my seat 3E. There are 5 rows of First Class in a 2-2 configuration on this Boeing 737-900, with a further 29 rows of economy in a 3-3 configuration. I certainly like the United First Class seat, and all seats are pretty good, except for the front row, which has limited legroom and of course all of the hand luggage has to go in the overhead locker.
Once boarded, the Captain, yes the Captain, came into the cabin and welcomed the First Class passengers and asked for your choice of pre-flight drink. He then took the orders back and the cabin crew served the drinks. The Captain warmly welcomed all of the passengers and also showed his other side when he reprimanded a couple for being late! He also advised that the plane was only 3 weeks old and we were privileged to fly on such a fantastic aircraft! This surprised me as the satellite TV that was available on the inbound flight was not on this brand new plane. When I asked one of the flight attendants, he said that this was one of the aeroplanes originally ordered by Continental and the specification cannot be amended.
We pushed back a few minutes late but we were very quickly airborne. Shortly afterwards the seat belt sign was extinguished and the crew began their service by taking drink orders closely followed by lunch orders. The choice was between a chicken salad or cheese pasta. Both came with a Tomato soup. I had the pasta which was very tasty. Wine was served throughout with glasses regularly replenished. The meal was concluded with the serving of a hot cookie along with a brandy, Baileys, or similar. It certainly was a superb meal service.
We arrived into Chicago a few minutes ahead of schedule into Terminal 5. This is where the pleasant experience ended as I then had to queue for over 2 hours in order to pass through immigration. The moral of the story was not to arrive just after an A380 from South Korea!
I had been delayed at immigration so long that by the time I exited, the baggage carousel for my flight had closed and I had to go the United Baggage desk. Apparently, I was the only non-US passport holder on the flight and they had my luggage waiting for me.
In summary, an excellent flight from United though the bits before and after the flight soured the experience.
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