Captains Log, May 2, 2021

The last time I wrote a post here was Jan 5 of 2020. The world was a lot simpler back then, perhaps more innocent too.

I was certain that I would make my million lifetime miles on United that year. I had no idea what was about to be unleashed.

After that January trip to California to film a corporate golf outing, I made one more trip before the lockdown – my annual month long job live-streaming the Iditarod Sled Dog Race. I remember it very clearly, staying in Nome for the finish and my wife told me the NBA had just cancelled their entire season. Then the full weight of a global pandemic was in full effect. My team and I decided to wrap the job earlier than expected because we thought the airports would close down.

I remember how eerie the Denver airport was as we connected from ANC to EWR. I did not imagine the impact the next 16 months would have on everything.

I made two trips in 2020 during the lockdown, both to the west coast. The first was in June, and there was much fear and hesitation in actually accepting the job. Everything was a question, how to move around, how to eat etc.

The second and last time I flew in 2020 was in December. Things were a little less intense, but still a hassle. Wearing a mask for a 5 hour flight is not pleasant. No club access at the airport, rental car counters were a disaster.

2021 started with promise. A early trip to Flordia with a skelton crew to handle a corporate live stream. The client sent no one to the event, just the video crew and the talent. But the promise of a vaccine was close and real.

The Iditarod was planning to hold their event in March of 2021, but due to the health of my father, I decided to handle that job remotely from home. That was a smart decision as my dad’s heath worsened and he passed in early April.

Since then, I have been fully vaccinated and my work schedule has been planned. This means heavy travel from June to December.

Things are certainly looking up for me now. That million lifetime mile mark seems within reach. The bigger challenge will be to make my 1K status now.

The Year I hit 1,000,000

My first flight of 2019 starts with a 4am wake up and a 45 min peloton spin. This is a west coast job, so lots of checked bags.

The way the schedule looks, I will be able to send my gear by truck to the majority of events with the exception of a December LA job. I guess it will be like bookends.

Last trip for 2017

Dec 10, 2017 EWR-LAX

These west coast routes are my least favorite trips. Something has changed with the check-in system with mixed status fliers on same reservation. Plus sky cap at Newark didn’t feel like loading our cases.

Luckily I got my seat, 21C and no one is on the middle.

UA747 The Final Flight

I just returned from a crazy, exciting, and tiring week centered around United’s final 747 flight on Nov. 7, 2017.

If you don’t know, United (and others) have been taking the Boeing 747 out of service in favor of smaller more efficient planes. Reference article here.

United proclaimed that it would re-create it’s first 747 flight from San Francisco (SFO) to Honolulu (HNL) on Nov 7th. It sounded like a great experience, and quickly sold out in 2 hours.

auction-snapI was not amongst the lucky few to purchase a ticket before they sold out, and I thought I had missed my opportunity. Then, in my email, I noticed that the MileagePlus group at United was going to auction off a pair of tickets.

After I gauged my wife’s interest level in the trip, and the logistics of who would watch the kids, I was given the green light to bid.

I am selling the experience short. It was not just a pair of tickets on the last flight, but tickets to SFO, and back from HNL to home. It included 2 nights at the fabulous Ritz Carlton Waikiki and the privilege to board the plane first. Plus a piece of the actual plane , after the flight 🙂

November 6, 2017 – Travel Day

My wife and I boarded UA912 from EWR-SFO. I was able to use additional miles to get an upgrade, so we enjoyed the first class trip across the country.img_0130

After realizing that my wardrobe might not make the cut, my wife and I ran out to the nearest mall to find a Hawaiian style shirt.

November 7, 2017 – Event Day

Our day started early, as we needed to check bags at SFO, and wanted to get to the gate by 8am.

On the shuttle from the hotel to the airport, we happen to run into a United pilot, and strike up a conversation. Turns out he is one of the two captains that will fly the 747 to HNL. I have to ask for a photo, and Captain Tom obliges.IMG_0141

At the 1K desk, we check our bags and notice that all the United employees are taking pictures with the 747 signage made for the event. There was a palpable buzz in the air.

As we walk from security to the gate, there are some people dressed in vintage 70’s outfits and others like me in Hawaiian prints. We all just give a nod, like “yeah see you on the plane”.

IMG_0172The boarding area was a circus like atmosphere, with media, aviation luminaries, United employees and corporate brass. It was a mix of block party meets high-school reunion. A velvet rope separated the haves from the have-nots. This ticket was like gold.

The MileagePlus Awards team did an exceptional job of making this a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We were treated like royalty. We were allowed to tour the plane while the festivities took place at the gate, and presented with commemorative certificates marking the day.

Time to Fly

Oscar Munoz, United CEO was at the gate to check me in. As the first passengers to board, there was a media frenzy around us. We were escorted to the plane by the “retro” flight attendants.IMG_0184

As the plane filled up, the party atmosphere continued. Many of the passengers were media or United employees who purchased tickets on their own. People were in the aisles almost the entire flight.

As we taxied out, everyone on the ground waved and snapped pictures. The pilot seemed to pose the plane for a photo op for the ground crew.747 ground crew

We were served a TV diner style meal on a retro tray while Grease and Tootsie played on the bulkhead screens. My son later commented “that was the only screen?” I felt sorry for the flight attendants who struggled to get the service carts up and down the aisles.

The party continued at HNL, with a giant Lai draped over the plane. Drinks and speeches continued.747 Gets LaI'd

By this point, my wife and I were both exhausted and decided to head to the Ritz Cartlon where we would spend the next two nights.

The Swag Bag

Each passenger was presented with a canvas swag bag which included commemorative pins, a coin, a glass bottle of Coke with 747 Farewell, and even a bag of Pop-Rocks.

 

Final Thoughts

I can say this was one experience that I will never forget. Yes, it was a lot of hard earned miles, but what’s a chance to say goodbye to the Queen of the Sky worth? Some would say PRICELESS.

EWR-SFO

Flew today to SFO on a 757 from Newark Liberty. This trip is part of a Mileage Plus exclusive to take part in the final 747 flight for United. More about that tomorrow.

This was booked via a United rewards account so I am not sure this will count towards my PQMs. If it does, that will put me over 1K for this year. Cheers for now.

Polaris Business on new 777-300

IMG_0077On a recent trip to SFO, I was seated in first on a brand new 777-300 with the Polaris cabin. I have been on other flights with “Polaris” branding but the cabins were not the upgraded ones.

setas

The seating config is 1-2-1 and the seating pod is more enclosed and private if you will.

I found that the space for my legs and large size 11 feet was a little small, but overall the seat was very comfortable and relaxing.

The 747 Farewell Trip

On November 7th, United will retire it’s last 747 from service. United has planned a special one-way trip to commemorate this occasion from SFO-HNL. Tickets sold out fast, and I wasn’t even aware of this event until they seats were sold.

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 2.42.37 PMLuckily, I was able to bid and win a pair of tickets on this trip! Very excited, as I don’t win anything, ever!

I have flown twice on the Queen of the Sky, once in 2012 SFO-HKG and again in 2015, SFO-ICN. It’s a beautiful bird, no doubt, but my fascination is also with the golden age of jet setters. This trip will be done in retro 70’s style.

I cannot wait!

Oct 1, 2017 – EWR-MCI

2186 PQM’s, 86,991 PQM’s YTD, 776,021 Lifetime Flight Miles.

This was my second flight on these newer regional jets, the Embraer 175. They are much bigger and better on the inside compared to the EJR145’s.

Plus, GoGo Wifi works much better than United’s own offering. More speed, more consistent connectivity.Embraer_175

The horror of a last minute flight

I usually have four weeks notice for trips, or sometime more. That works out well, as I have time to prepare and plan. Minimize the variables that can cause trouble, and make everything as comfortable as possible.

ewr-sfo-timetableRecently, I needed to fly EWR-SFO with 5 days notice. United has many daily non-stops for this route, at least 14 flights, so this seems reasonable, right? Wrong. So wrong. Even with this capacity, the likelihood of getting a aisle seat, forget exit row, is slim. Maybe there is a window seat with extra leg room, but more often it’s middle only. I’m not doing it!seat-map

The window seat for me is torture. If I want to get up, it’s like a contortionist freak show. Out of courtesy to my follow travelers, I will wait until middle or aisle makes a move, and then like a cat, sprint for the aisle too. I am good at reading body language.

My question is this: Why are so many people going to SFO from NY? They all can’t be tech moguls commuting back and forth, can they? I mean come on now.