Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Trip Report: United Airlines, Amsterdam to Washington, Dulles (February 2017)

Trip Report: United Airlines, Amsterdam to Washington
comment below and let me know your thoughts :)

In the past, I have tried to avoid taking American carriers long-haul.  Their service, seat comfort, and overall experience fall short as compared to their international competitors.  The US carriers realized this and have started to invest in their international product, and have been providing discounted fares on their international routes.  For these two reasons, I decided to try United International from Amsterdam to Washington, DC.

United serves Amsterdam from its hub in Washington Dulles and flies the Boeing 767 on this route.  The plane contains Business Class, Economy Plus, and Economy sections.  Given it was an almost 9 hour flight, and I have previously experienced United economy to Punta Cana (review here: United Airlines - Punta Cana) and it was uncomfortable, I decided to purchase an economy plus seat.  In choosing the upgrade, there were two options available – the first was just the economy plus seat while the second was the economy plus seat, priority boarding, and access to the lounge.  There was a price difference between the two options, and in my opinion the higher price did not the extra options available.  For that reason, I choose just the economy plus option. 

The flight was scheduled to take off from Amsterdam at 12p and arrive into Dulles around 3p.  I was staying at the airport (review: Sheraton Amsterdam Airport) so I was able to quickly get to my checkin counter 2hours prior to departure.  When international flight included one free checked bag at 23kg, and when I got to the checkin counter there was no one there.  I was checked in, got my boarding pass and checked my luggage all within 5 minutes.  This gave me more opportunity to explore School airport.

I arrived at the boarding gate around 11am and the plane was already there (it had come from DC earlier that morning).  Even though I had purchased Economy Plus seating, I noticed I was in the last boarding group so I went to ask the agent if I could get into the earlier group – she replied that it didn’t matter as there were only 46 people on the entire flight! A plane that can hold more than 200 people is flying today with only 46 passengers.  Given the light load, we did not start boarding until 11:30am and we were done with boarding by 11:40am. 

There is one section of economy plus seats and one section of economy seats, and both are laid out in a 2-3-2 setting.  I had initially purchased the bulkhead seat, which is the first economy plus seat as that provides more room (although it’s restricted as no moveable armrest).  Given the light load, everyone in the plane could have an entire row to themselves, so I switched to an empty two seater for more room and comfort.  Overall, the economy plus seats provided very nice legroom.  The legroom was plenty so that you could easily stretch out, especially on the long-haul flights.  During the flight I went and tried out the economy seat – the legroom there was decent, but it would be tight for the longer flight and even tighter if the person in front of you reclined their seat. 

Each seat on the plane had its own PTV system, which was controlled both by touch and remote.  USB ports and headphone jacks were available next to the PTV and plugs were available beneath the seat.  The entertainment system was immediately available, which is a nice thing and I am not sure why some airlines only turn on the system once they reach airborne, and the movie selection was very good.  In fact, the movie selection was a lot better than I had expected – there was definitely enough there to keep you occupied for the flight duration.  The TV selection wasn’t as great, but still provided some nice episodes of selected TV shows. 

Given the light load, the flight attendants said it did not make sense to bring out the
service cart so they individually took orders and brought items.  Prior to departure, the attendant came around asking our drink order.  Once we reached cruising altitude, drinks and a snack mix were served while the main meal was being warmed.  Once warmed, the main meal was served.  The meal was decent but the portion was definitely smaller as compared to other airlines – both the size and quantity of food was compact; the flavors were alright (I’ve had better, but I have also had worse).  Ice cream for dessert was also served.  Tea, coffee, drinks, and water were offered when the meal trays were cleared.  After the service, the cabin lights were dimmed for people to relax for the flight.   

The attendants were visible in the aisles, and water, fruit, and small snacks were available into the galleys. One strange note: I asked if hot chocolate was available, and I got the following response “normally hot chocolate is only available for first class, but given the light load I will make an exception, but not this is not usually available”.  It was very offputting, and if it’s that much of an effort just say that hot chocolate is not available.  Given all the effort, I was expecting really good hot chocolate, but when it came it was the same hot chocolate that Southwest offers for free on every flight.  Prior to landing, a small snack and drinks were served.  Again, emphasis on small as the portion size on United are very small.  Because we left early, and we had strong winds behind us, we made it to DC almost 30 minutes ahead of schedule.  We quickly landed, taxied to the gate, and deplaned.  

Overall, it was an interesting flight with United.  While the entertainment selection and availability of USB ports exceeded my expectations, the food size was small, the service was decent but could be better, and I had to purchase seat comfort.  Given all this, would I choose to fly American carriers long-haul?  I am not sure; before I had avoided American carriers as much as possible.  Now, I would not seek them out but I would not avoid them.  If the price is right, and the flight time short, and the international carrier option is longer or not as feasible, then I would not avoid American carriers.

No comments:

Post a Comment