One thing that I’ve always liked about earning miles and points is that I feel much better about doing spontaneous trips. My running miles and points balances is like a separate bank for storing my savings until I’m ready to use it. This last weekend I decided that I wanted to take a quick trip out to Los Angles to meet some friends and spend a good weekend to just relax. I haven’t been on any sort of vacation since last November and these little trips away really take off the stress of working and all that I’ve been doing.
While I’m not traveling around the world yet I have taken a few small domestic trips to catch up with friends and enjoy myself to places that I haven’t had a chance to go to. Once you start traveling you’ll find yourself getting addicted to exploring new places and with credit card rewards and points it’s even easier to fund those trips. On this trip I find myself heading out to Los Angles for a quick weekend trip. it’s a relatively short flight from Denver to Los Angles only taking just slightly over 2 hours and enough time to relax and stretch out in preparation for the jungle that is Los Angles.
My flight was booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal which only cost me just over 10,500 points through my Chase Sapphire Reserve equalling to a first class ticket price of $150. For a trip booked two days out that was pretty great. Booking through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal is fairly simple but I’ve had some intermittent errors when playing around with the preferences to find the exact flight I want.
When I book flights I usually like to shop around, compare different flights, and play with search settings to try to find the flight that I want. On occasion with the travel portal I will change a setting and the results will come back saying that there are no flights available even though I was just looking at existing flights. For me the fix is usually to press the search button a couple more times and the flights will reappear with the search preferences that I was looking for fixed.
Once you find the flight that you want it’s an easy guided process to get your tickets. If you’ve created a travel profile in the travel portal it will pre-fill a lot of the information for you and will leave you with minimal information to type in. This makes for quick booking if you’re trying to grab the last seats on a flight.
I like Chase’s option about how many points you want to use towards your travel purchase and opting to pay the rest via cash. For this reason I usually pay a couple of dollars on my Chase Sapphire Reserve as it will kick in my flight delay compensation if my flight happens to get delayed. You won’t get this if you don’t pay at least some of your ticket with your Chase Sapphire Reserve card.
I’m disappointed that the past couple of times I’ve been unable to pick seats directly through the Chase portal and have to wait until after booking and pick my seats through the airline’s website. I’ve had this happen for both United and Delta now, I’m unsure if this happens to be a proximity to booking thing or if you have to wait for your tickets to be confirmed to pick seats.
Check-In & Boarding
Check-in is a pretty painless process with today’s mobile apps and online systems. When it was time to check-in 24-hours prior to departure it was as simple as a couple of button presses and I was checked in for my flight. The only easier check-in method that I found is Delta of course who automatically checks you in when the time comes.
With today’s technology age I didn’t have to speak to any agents or wait in long lines when I arrived at the airport. It does really cut down on time spent in the airport when you can head straight to the gate bypassing a lot of the congestion areas.
United’s boarding process is split into 5 groups, the first two are for first class passengers and United/Star Alliance elites. The rest is split out into your priority of boarding based on fare class you’ve paid for and check-in time. Having purchased a first class ticket I was apart of the first group to board the plane and get settled in. On flights with many first class seats like this which had 6 rows totally filled with passengers boarding with the first group isn’t much of a step up and I found myself waiting for the typical passenger who can’t move into their seat to let others pass.
Once seated however it was nice to just get on the plane and relax with my feet out and enjoy a pre-flight beverage while the other passengers loaded up behind us.
The 757 as a plane is aging and airlines seem to be slowly phasing them out in preference for the 737s instead. My particular plane was tail number N78866 and is going on 15 years old. It has been passed around to a couple of airlines, originally delivered to American Trans Air (ATA) it was transferred to Continental later, and finally to United with their purchase of the airline. The interior hasn’t gotten an upgrade in quite awhile and featured the typical domestic first class bucket seats of the older generation. There was no inflight entertainment system or even overhead TVs.
Although it was an older seat and plane it was still quite comfortable and easy to sit in. I personally like soft seats and through its use the seat was pretty comfy and easy to sink into. Surprisingly there was actually in-seat power available which on longer flights that the 757 operates can come in great handy. There’s also a little cubby hole between your shared armrest that is easy to store smaller items such as headphones, phones, or even tablets while you don’t need to use them.
While the seat does show its age in the plane it didn’t give me any less comfort for domestic service and for a large guy as myself it was a pleasure to sit in, recline my seat back, and enjoy the views out of my window while we traveled across to the west coast of the United States.
I don’t know if it was because it was a weekend or the first class passengers were mostly people heading out on vacation but the first class cabin was actually quite friendly all around and my flight attendants were friendly and just the right amount of chatty. It’s probably because my last couple of flights were primarily business travelers on their way to and from business hubs but my flight attendants were friendly and joked around with passengers which is always good and made the flight go by a lot quicker.
My roughly 2 hour and 10 minute flight to Los Angels included a lunch option with some sub-par offerings that I couldn’t decided which one sounded or looked worse. We had the option of a Thai inspired chicken sandwich or a cheeseburger, and yes it sounds just as bad as you think it would. I opted for the cheeseburger myself after the flight attendant indicated that the chicken sandwich didn’t look so fantastic.
The cheeseburger was something you would find from a microwave freezer aisle. The patty was tasteless, no condiments or toppings to add to it. It was just a piece of meat with cheese on a bun. After a couple bites I put it down and instead dug in on the very tasty Kettle Chips and for dessert an Oreo pre-packaged cheesecake.
This meal service defiantly ranks down there with one of the worst food options that I’ve been offered and felt like something economy passengers would be served on transcontinental flights where a hot food option is offered.
My seat mate ended up getting the Thai chicken sandwich which came with the same sides and it didn’t look much better. It was mostly stuck to the bun and looked like a hot mess, not the good kind.
Being a basic domestic flight United understandably hasn’t gone all out with inflight entertainment. You have their two standard options which is to either download their United mobile app and watch free streaming content or connect to the inflight wifi upon reaching 10,000 feet.
I’ve had a mixed bag with both products, on this particular flight I tried both the wifi and streaming services. While slow the wifi provided enough bandwidth to browse web pages and chat with people on popular chatting applications, however when running a speed test I got under 1mbps when tested half-way through my flight somewhere over Las Vegas.
One thing to note with United’s wifi is that it’s predominately satellite based on most flight giving you access not only over land but over the water as well. That’s where I find United’s wifi service excels over Gogo based systems, however I do have Gogo passes from my American Express Business Platinum card and if I take United more and more like I’ve been doing that’s a loss to me if I don’t fly one of the countless other carries that provide Gogo internet access.
The streaming option wasn’t any more spectacular, I tried watching part of a movie but every 10 minutes the movie would pause and buffer for an extraordinary amount of time before continuing on. All the available content is supped to be locally hosted on the airplane so something tells me the wifi system onboard was of the older generation.
The seat was actually pretty comfortable for being of an older generation and I had no problems getting comfortable and settling in on my flight. My flight attendant was fantastic and fairly upbeat and personable. The food was a bit lackluster to say the least and granted it was a short flight I could have had better airport food at either Denver or Los Angles. However over the past year I’ve been expanding out with my choice of airlines and thus far I’ve not had any serious issues with United or bad experiences. I’m curious to try their international Polaris product which is supposed to be sublime but for right now I find their domestic product adequate and a decent experience to fly on.