I spend three blissful days at the Amangiri. The hotel is beautifully laid out. The simple, clean lines of the hotel contrast dramatically with the striking and ragged landscape that surrounds it.
GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
I leave the Amangiri just after ten in the morning. My flight to San Francisco will not be leaving until 19h40, so I’ve still got loads of time to do some last minute sightseeing. Only, if you’ve ever been to Page then you’re probably quite rightly wondering ‘what sightseeing?’ Admittedly, the town is not exactly fun city central but the Colorado River’s Horseshoe Bend is very close by and definitely worth visiting.
The journey by car from Page to McCarran airport takes five hours to complete by car. I arrive at the car rental facility just before 16h30 and hand back the car keys. From the rental car facility on the south side of the airport there is a free shuttle that takes approximately five minutes to make the journey to Terminal 3, from where United operates. I’ve already checked in on my mobile, so I can head straight for security.
Date: 28. January 2013
From: Las Vegas
To: San Francisco
Aircraft: Boeing B 737-800
Cabin: Domestic First Class
AT THE AIRPORT
Right behind security are the signs for the D concourse. To get there, you must take the escalators two floors down into the basement, from where you catch the tram that runs underground across to the D satellite. The airport is not very busy this time of day.
There are no proper restaurants on the D concourse, so eventually I settle for a cheese sandwich from Port of Subs, which tastes pretty much like a cheese sandwich from Subway’s, but I’m guessing that’s the big idea.
The United Airlines lounge is located on the third floor. The lift to access the lounge is between gates D33 and D35. Access to the lounge is restricted to Star Gold passengers, either that or for some other reason my First Class boarding pass does not appear to be sufficient to grant me access and the receptionist wants to see my Senator card as well.
As I approach the lift, I notice a Cinnabon take away. There is a lovely smell of cinnamon rolls wafting through the terminal. I cannot resist and get myself a pecan and caramel cinnamon roll. The only problem is that when I reach the lounge, there is a big sign saying that no food is allowed in the lounge. So I have no other choice but to stuff the greasy and delectable corpus delicti in my bag and smuggle it into the lounge, hoping that nobody will see or smell it. Once inside the lounge, I surreptitiously take it out of the bag and try to demolish it as quickly as possible without being seen and, moreover, without making a complete mess.
The lounge itself is a nice surprise. I was expecting another one of those horrible old-fashioned and dark lounges with ugly furniture. But instead, I am surprised to find the lounge is very bright, relatively modern and nearly empty.
THE CABIN & SEAT
Boarding starts exactly on time. There is a separate lane for First Class passengers and frequent flyers with status and they are invited to board first. The friendly gate agent scans my mobile and wishes me a good flight.
The aircraft is obviously an ex Continental aircraft and fitted with the new cabin interior that includes newly devised overhead bins and mood lighting. Contrary to my expectations, the general impression is that the cabin looks somewhat cramped. However, that may have something to do with the rather bulky looking First Class seats installed in the forward cabin. Unlike the European Business Class model, where basically you have a standard row of Economy seating with a slightly greater pitch and an empty middle seat, United has proper Business Class seats in a 2 + 2 configuration in its domestic First Class.
The inflight entertainment has live TV and there is a wide selection of feature films. In First Class, the use of the inflight entertainment appears to be complimentary, while in Economy Class it is only available for a fee.
Alas, there is not really much good I can say about the crew on this United flight. Quite evidently, they are trying to start a new trend whereby frumpy is the new chic. But to be honest, I wouldn’t hold my breath that this will catch on, even if it seems to be quite common among the United staff. One of the crew is behaving as though she’s never actually seen a B 737 in the new cabin interior. She keeps asking her colleague up front how this works and where that is. I suspect she is probably unaware of the type of aircraft she’s on!
Service on the ground consists of a free choice of drinks, served in plastic cups. I take a cup of still water.
I’m not sure which of the runways we use for take-off. But my impression is that it runs parallel to The Strip. As we accelerate, a line of gaudy hotels with flashy lights and ridiculous names fly past. And then shortly after we become airborne, we execute a wide left turn, passing right over central Las Vegas as the pilot points the aircraft in the direction of San Francisco.
This is where United Airlines thwarts my plans of writing a trip review with some decent pictures. The crew seem to be having fun fiddling with the mood lighting and keep the cabin in a dimmed blue light throughout the flight. I feel reluctant go flashing away with my camera and eventually I just give up.
Once we’re airborne the crew do another drinks round, serving every passenger individually, rather than from a trolley. This time they also use proper glasses and not plastic. With the drink, the cabin crew pass through the cabin with a basket with a selection of snacks. I choose a packet of almonds and peanuts coated in an apple and cinnamon powder. And I really must say they are an abomination. The taste is absolutely vile and completely artificial.
Before I manage to finish my drink, I start to nod off. It’s been a long day. I am awoken a short while later when the crew switch on all the cabin lights to fully bright white to prepare the cabin for landing.
We arrive in San Francisco after a flying time of only one hour and fifteen minutes. As we taxi in, we pass the Lufthansa flight to Munich I’ll be taking later on in the week, but it’s too dark to take any pictures anyway.
I disembark and head for the exit marked ‘Hotel Shuttle’. I’ll be spending the night at the Hyatt Regency close to the airport. Fortunately the shuttle arrives just as I reach the boarding area. The trip form the airport to the Hyatt takes approximately ten minutes, the shuttle stops at one of the many Marriotts littered around the airport on the way.
Flying domestic with United is certainly not much fun, I must say. Trying to get any decent pictures is a difficult thing to do and from what I understand there are basically two options: either you wait until the initial scrum for the aircraft is over, at the risk of there being no more room in the overhead bins for your things, or you try to board with the first group of passengers, in which case you are met with the collective wrath of all the passengers waiting behind you while you attempt to get a few good cabin shots.
The service on this short flight is nothing special, but given the duration of the flight, I think there isn’t really much else one can expect. But still the cabin crew were simply beyond belief. Apart from the fact that they all look frumpy – at the end of the day they can’t really help that, can they? – you get the impression that most of them really hate their job or at least have the greatest disdain for the passengers, their customers, who pay their salary at the end of the day, and ‘service’ is a term that seems conspicuously absent from their vocabulary. Having said that, I’m assuming their salary has a lot to do with their apparent ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude.