[This is the second part of my Million-Mile Trip Report. You can read the introductory post by clicking here.]
My inbound flight from Reno arrived about four hours prior to boarding for the Seoul flight, so I had plenty of time to set up shop and get some work done in the international terminal United Club.
There was a slightly later RNO-SFO flight I could have booked to reduce my layover, but since the Express flights are the first to get delayed by low ceilings at SFO, the 5:30 a.m. departure from Reno is always my preference.
It was a beautiful morning and I situated myself near the windows after grabbing a morning snack from the assortment of fruit, cereal, yogurt, muffins or bagels. There wasnâ€™t a toaster for the bagels anywhere in sight, which I thought was odd.
As I obsessively do, I monitored my aircraftâ€™s inbound flight to SFO (from HKG this day) and watched it turn the corner to park at gate 95.
Three hours in the club zipped by since I was busy working. About 15 minutes prior to boarding, I packed up and headed to the gate, snapping the best pictures of the aircraft I could through the â€œannoyingâ€ sun shades on that side of the terminal.
After the solo Global Services passenger boarded, I was probably the fifth person in Group 1 to make my way down the corridor and jet bridge to arrive at the aircraft door. Flight attendants were busy in the galley, though said a cursory â€œhello!â€
I had seat 15A on the upper deck, and after stowing my rollaboard in the back of the upstairs closet, I settled in. The BusinessFirst amenity kit and noise reduction headphones were on the shelf under the IFE monitor, with menus distributed later by a flight attendant.
The upper deck filled up slowly, with flight attendants offering a pre-departure beverage and later asking for each passengerâ€™s first and second choice for lunch. Before pushback, I quickly visited the lav as I had consumed an enormous amount of coffee in the club and knew I wouldnâ€™t make it to cruising altitude to go again (TMI, I know).
The usual bottles of cleanser, facial mist and moisturizing lotion from philosophy were stocked and nearly full. [Side note: Iâ€™ve never used the cleanser in all of the years of it being offered (philosophy, Murad, H2O+, or whatever)â€¦ do you?]
We took off on-time and flight attendants were quick to come around with a hot towel, followed by beverages and warm nuts prior to the meal service.
A look at the menu:
I didnâ€™t touch the appetizer, but the salad hit the spot and was complimented with garlic bread (other selections were also available). The beef was cooked (heated) to my liking and tasted great, and the potatoes were just average. I donâ€™t know why Unitedâ€™s string beans always come out rubbery, but these were exceptionally so.
After the main course, a cheese selection (I passed on it) and ice cream sundae with a choice of toppings were offered. Iâ€™m a rather basic ice cream guy and simply had both chocolate and caramel sauce on my sundae.
As trays and setups were collected, bottled water was handed out by the flight attendants, who were efficient and friendly all throughout the service. Iâ€™ll call that above average for United.
Before taking a nap, I finished a couple episodes each of Nurse Jackie and House of Cards on the in-flight entertainment system.
I probably only slept for 3-4 hours solidly, then just relaxed with my eyes closed in between mid-flight snacks.
I normally balk at the hummus and pepper jack cheese sandwiches on United, but I was apparently hungry because I had three of them! And two bags of chips and chocolate and nuts andâ€¦
Like clockwork, at about 1:30 from Seoul, the cabin lights came up and flight attendants began the pre-arrival meal service.
I was happy to see a non-breakfast option since it wasnâ€™t anywhere near breakfast time, but the soup didnâ€™t appeal to me, so I went with the egg dish. Itâ€™s basically the exact same thing you get on Unitedâ€™s domestic mid- or trans-cons. Just â€œmeh.â€
As I mentioned above, service was friendly and efficient with nothing standing out as particularly stellar (or the other way around). For United, I suppose thatâ€™s top notch.
We arrived close to 30 minutes early and even though I was upstairs, I was among the first dozen or so off the flight and headed to immigration via the underground train from the midfield concourse. Â I was through it and customs relatively quickly, grabbed some cash from an ATM, and headed outside to the bank of scheduled buses for the various downtown Seoul hotels.
Up next is my review of the less than one-year-old Conrad Seoul. [And after proofing this, I realize that I didn’t mention the seat (comfort, etc.) at all. I have to remember that not everyone flies United as much as I do! I’ll include seat info on my return flight’s review, and I’m sure I won’t forget since I had a problem with it. 😉 ]
â€“ Follow Darren Booth on Twitter, @FrequentlyFlyin, for more airline, hotel and travel industry news, reviews and opinions.