To use the term ‘Flying Bus’ has never been more appropriate when reviewing the flight from Hawaii to San Francisco in United economy.
The plane that United uses for this route is the Boeing 777-300ER, with economy being in the following configuration of 3 x 4 x 3, with 204 seats in this class.
Being assigned into seat 47D, between two non-descriptive Asian tour groups, I got to witness the full scale of the cattle wrangling that United is doing on this route.
This is the first experience I had with the boarding process of United flights, which for the uninitiated, is when they class each group of passengers by a number which determines their boarding sequence.
Number one would be first class, number two other passengers who have paid extra to go first, with the number sequentially increasing from there with lower and lower status. For the seat I was flying in, I was categorised in number five, meaning I had to wait a good 25 minutes to board the plane.
The flight was delayed by an additional 20 minutes as passengers failed to find their seats, much to the frustration of the cabin crew, who calmly and very reassured through gritted teeth explained that the seat was on the ticket and they couldn’t just sit anywhere.
With the cabin being a 3 x 4 x 3 configuration, you could not pack any more people into this space, with the seat selected for my flight in the middle of the aisle, this felt like fighting follow passengers for the use of the armrests. The seat in front was very close and was difficult to place items underneath.
The flight was uneventful from Hawaii to San Francisco, flying over the very calm Pacific Ocean for 5 hours.
United has moved onto the model of only providing entertainment content and not the actual device to watch it on. They appear to offer some complimentary content that was free of charge for passengers but to access this they needed to connect to the United Wi-Fi with the United app already on the device. This seems to be increasingly common across a few airlines today allowing them to cut installation and maintenance costs for seat-back displays.
When it came to meal service – there was none unless you paid extra. There were only six bathrooms for the economy section for all 200 passengers.
Flying United Economy is so utilitarian, it’s fine for the purpose that it is but is hardly an unforgettable experience. It’s cramped, very noisy and I was very conscious that I was sharing the same oxygen as all other 200 people in the economy section. Would I pay the $800 fee to upgrade to business class? Or would I simply look for another airline to travel between these two destinations?
With Hawaii being such an expensive place, this shuttle service is a great way to save money which would be better spent on cocktails on a beach, however. But if you do choose it, good luck! But please have no expectations and realise that you literally are just taking the 6 AM bus back to the mainland.