Back in June, I saw some really cheap tickets to China in October on UA website. The roundtrip ticket was around $800 all included. I quickly booked a EWR-NRT-PEK and CTU-SFO-EWR on united.com without even requesting vacation days at work. Given the cheap Y fare, I was willing to use miles+copay to upgrade both legs. The CTU-SFO leg was immediately confirmed at booking but EWR-NRT leg and SFO-EWR leg were waitlisted.
A fews days before my trip, it was clear that it was impossible to upgrade on the EWR-NRT leg as the J cabin was full. While waiting at the gate, the agent was calling for volunteers as the NRT flight was oversold. I checked the seats for EWR-PEK flight that would take off 2 hours later and saw a lot of empty seats in Y cabin. I was pretty sure if I volunteer I could get a seat on the direct flight to Beijing that would get me there sooner than my original flight while earn a couple of hundred dollar travel certificate.
Getting on the volunteer list was smooth and I was told the compensation would be $600. Lucky me. The trip was pretty much free…The agent told me he couldn’t print out the certificate until the boarding was finished. I waited for 30 minutes at the gate and the agent suddenly asked me to board the plane. He said one of the passengers didn’t show up so he no longer needed my seat…I was quite upset as he told me several times while I was waiting at the gate that he could not only give me the certificate but had also already reserved me a seat on the directly flight to Beijing…I told him the way he handled the volunteer process was unprofessional and unacceptable. He was apologetic and told me that he could keep my seat on the Beijing flight for free if I wanted to fly direct instead. However, he insist he could not issue the certificate as the Tokyo-bound flight was not full…
I accepted his apology and told him to just print out for me the boarding pass of the Beijing flight. I walked to the new gate and found out the Beijing fight was delayed for 2.5 hours… well… not my lucky day…
While I was trying to find a better Y seat on my UA app, I was asked if I’d like purchase an upgrade. There were two J seats left and the cost would be $1,100. After having a pretty hectic morning and knowing 30,000 miles and $600 copay would be back to my account as EWR-NRT J upgrade didn’t happen, I thought I could justify the buy-up. The purchase through UA app was quite seamless. Within 30 seconds, I got a J seat on my Beijing flight!
Now it’s time to head to United Club and have some bubbles.
Nothing too exciting about the United Club at EWR Terminal C. But I did enjoy the free prosecco. Since it was Saturday, the club was not quite busy, which was nice.
I did some work at the lounge and it was time to board the plane.
I used to like UA J seat a lot. But after flying AC J on its 773 a few times, I probably would not pay full J price for UA flight. I do look forward to the hard product of Polaris. Note the amenity kit was still the special Team USA version.
Still, pretty comfortable seat.
More bubbles, please!
Cute socks from the amenity kit.
Lunch service started 30 minutes after take-off. The crew was efficient and friendly.
Appetizer was okayish…
Salad was meh…
The fish was surprisingly tender and flavorful.
Same cheese course for pretty much every UA long-haul flight.
Ice cream always tastes better on a plane…
Mid-flight chicken noodle soup. Didn’t seem quite appetizing but it actually tasted okay.
Got congee for pre-arrival meal. Quite bland…Really hope UA can change the pre-arrival meal on its Asian flights. It just doesn’t make sense to serve breakfast while you land in the evening…
Landed in Beijing Sunday late afternoon
A not very smoggy day in Beijing
Lots of buildings
Rush hour in Beijing
A quick meal
A busy evening at T2 in PEK
CZ’s domestic lounge at T2 is okayish
Lot’s of seats in the dining area
Dinner at CZ lounge
The plane parked at a remote stand. CZ had a special boarding gate for passengers in J, which was completely separate from passengers in Y. A mini bus will pick up J passengers at the gate, which was quite nice.
Mini bus ride to the aircraft.
Boarding through one door
Nice lie flat seat
slippers were provided in this 2.5-hour flight
Nuts before dinner. Note the departure time was past 11pm. Dinner was still served.
Rather generous dinner for this short flight past mid-night. No menu was offered. Options were fish (pictured) or beef. There was smoked salmon inside that bun.
Flight attendants ensured my wine glass was always full after dinner service.
On-time arrival at Chengdu
Giant baggage claim areas in CTU.