United: Newark to Hong Kong, United Airlines flight UA179

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This was the return leg of the journey whose outward leg I covered here.

Checkin

I checked in at Terminal C at Newark which was a bit of a zoo. There were long queues so I used a self check in machine which provided the sort of thin paper ticket which immediately gets crumpled in one’s pocket. The machine informed me that the flight was overbooked and asked if I wanted to bid to be bumped if necessary. I did, but heard no more about this.

At the airport

The security queue was short and as the United Club was closed for renovations I headed to the temporary club just yards from the departure gate (123). It had surly staff, no hot food and very limited food and drink options generally – nothing like as impressive as United’s Hong Kong lounge.

Equipment

This was operated by a Boeing 777 (registration N69020).

The seat was reasonable with a blanket and pillow on board upon boarding. As on the outbound, infight entertainment options were fairly limited compared to American or Delta, for example, let alone Emirates or Cathay.

There was a power socket underneath the seat (hard to find with the lights dimmed, my seatmate rustled around for a while trying to use it).

Flight

Economy class was totally full. We pushed back on the nose and had a smooth flight up over eastern Canada, over the polar route, down central Siberia and Russia then across China to Macau, turning back towards Hong Kong. We landed at the located convenient gate 16 about fifteen minutes ahead of schedule.

Service

This cabin crew was proficient but appeared disinterested, as shown by their absence from the cabin between services, the way they curtained themselves into the galley and the fact that, upon me deplaning, most of them had their own luggage in their hand and some of them didn’t bother to acknowledge departing passengers, including the purser who was busy using a phone.

Announcements were in English and Mandarin, with one also provided in Cantonese.

There was no menu, and meal options were announced over the public address system. The service started shortly after takeoff with drinks and a small packet of supposedly Asian style snacks, followed quickly by lunch. There was a snack service mid-flight, and breakfast around an hour and twenty minutes prior to landing.

During the flight a bottle of water and some juices were set up outside the rear galley, although the crew put the curtain up so passengers couldn’t go into the galley. Often there were three or four crew there, not providing and indeed activiely avoiding any immediate passenger service, while others rested. As a passenger I would have liked them to put more effort into taking care of passengers, for example passing through the cabin with more drinks services.

Food and Drink

The food and drink quality here was as poor as on the outbound flight.

The main meal was an option of Hainan chicken or miso kimchi noodles (whatever that means). I chose the latter as it is often harder to mess up vegetarian meals, but it was small and fairly unappetising. There was for dessert a “sea salt caramel gelato” which was actually just salt caramel and half melted.

The mid-flight snack was a tasty peppered meat and cheese sandwich with small bag of chocolate sweets.

For breakfast the choice was noodles or cheese omelette. I chose the latter – the omelette was just okay though the accompanying potatoes were tasty.

Conclusion                       

I was happy to be off this plane with its low service level. If I never fly United again that would be fine.

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