Monday, June 9, 2014

New United Seats

Flight #86 - United Airlines 134 
Newark (EWR) – Zurich (ZRH)
Monday, June 9, 2014
Depart: 6:30PM / Arrive: 8:40AM
Duration: 8hr 10min
Aircraft: Boeing 767
Seat: 21D, 21E and 21F (Economy) 
Earned: 3,946 miles
Lifetime Miles: 167,889 miles

After a few months of staying in the United States, we dusted off our idle passports and took off from Newark Liberty International this past Monday night.

Our ultimate destination was Israel to visit my grandparents and extended family, but we had a stopover in Zurich, Switzerland (the direct non-stop EWR-TLV would have cost an additional $300/person). Plus, we had never been to Switzerland and thought it would be a nice place to swing by on the way to Israel.

Despite Zurich being a wonderful city, we probably weren't planning to make it a final destination anytime in the near future. So we decided to make the most of the layover and choose a connecting flight much later that day instead of jumping immediately on the next morning flight to Tel Aviv. So we booked the 10:45PM Swiss Air flight, giving us about 14 hours in Zurich.

But before we got to Zurich, we'd have to navigate an 8 hour red-eye flight across the Atlantic.

As you LCD readers know, we're pretty loyal to United Airlines. It's not really because of any other reason than they have a hub at Newark where we can get a non-stop flight to basically anywhere. The other benefit is that their frequent flyer miles are (were) some of the best to redeem in the industry because of their Star Alliance partner network.

However, their actual "hard product" (the actual seat and in-flight amenities) still lags some of the other major US carriers like American Airlines and Delta. Those airlines have been making hard product upgrades continually and have implemented wifi on most of their domestic flights. United is still in process with the wifi. In fact, of the multiple United flights we've taken, I can count 2 that had wifi available.

Back to the flight.

So since we paid cash for this flight (instead of using frequent flyer miles), we were seated in Economy. But at least we were towards the front in Economy Plus so had some extra legroom for my father's abnormally short legs. We were also the only 3 people in our row and both of my parents had aisle access (as well as an overhead storage bin each). While we generally side along the windows (to prevent me from escaping as they sleep), we were quite happy with the seating arrangement.

After getting settled, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that this aircraft had the newer seats that seemed to be slimmer but didn't sacrifice comfort.

But the biggest upgrade was the entertainment system. Unlike the prior version, where you had a mediocre touch screen and a separate handset to control the system, this new version had a larger screen with better resolution and had an improved touch feature that replaced the handset completely. Additionally, the earplug jack was located on the screen so that it wouldn't get tangled up with my seat belt as I moved around. Plus for my parents, there was a USB port that we could use to charge our devices on the flight. I'm sure there was a way to use them as well, but we didn't try to look and just enjoyed the pre-loaded movies they offered. Fun fact about Baby Songer - I love Finding Nemo.

Since it was a 6:30PM departure, I wasn't ready to fall asleep, even though conventional wisdom is to try to get on destination time as soon as you board (which would have been 12:30AM at night in Switzerland). So I watched my cartoons, I mean animated features, and even had my mother give me an in-flight manicure and to pass the time.

So around Hour #3, I started getting fussy and screaming a little bit. I'm not quite sure, but my parents suspect I had a little nightmare that threw off my flight mojo. But I was MUCH better than the 3 year old blonde girl sitting across the aisle from us with her mother who was going crazy for much of the flight. So a win for me!

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