United First v LAN Business (The Return) - EZE/SFO

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by Bay Pisco Shark, Oct 26, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. Bay Pisco Shark
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    Bay Pisco Shark Gold Member

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    Part I

    The outbound report is contained here:
    http://milepoint.com/forums/threads/united-first-v-lan-business-sfo-eze.20433/

    After a few nice days in the city, it was time to return to EZE. Remember, this is a UA F v. LAN J comparison report for the full SFO/EZE/SFO routing, and is based upon 1 UA F trip v. an amalgamation of various LAN trips over the recent past.

    EZE Check-in. UA and LAN use the same terminal. UA has 3 cabins/distinct check in lines, while LA has 2. I don't know if the agent guarding the LA check-in area (as you enter) asks extra security questions if your flight is destined to the USA (which would only be the MIA flight), but UA has a security questioning counter before you are directed to check-in. I was directed to the F line, which was unmanned, but was told that an agent would call me over. When the nearest C/Elite agent opened up, the agent tried to wave me over, but there was a conchuda who insisted that she must be helped first. It took the agent almost 2 minutes of politely trying to get rid of her so that he could check me in. She eventually relented. Had UA manned the F counter and called over the C pax when not busy, this scene could have been alleviated. Agent was nice, check-in was efficient, and I was on my way. LA check-in is sometimes a bit more time consuming - not sure why, and usually not significantly longer. The J line is usually short at the time of my LAN departures. Between the 2, probably a wash, except of the extra security questioning, which is only mildly annoying.

    EZE Lounges. UA uses the now-rebranded United Club, and LAN uses the American Admirals Club. It is really a wash. They are both inferior lounges, severely overcrowded at peak hours, and have an array of drink and snack that is fitting of this terminal at EZE. F gets you nothing better than this. If you like olives, toast, and cheese, then you will still dislike the UC, but you will have what to eat.

    24octEZERCC.jpg

    EZE Boarding. UA - you have the gate security circus. Body w/hand wand, and then bag on a table. LA - just board like any regular flight. However, you cannot buy any duty free liquids while flying LAN as you will not see your checked luggage again until SFO, and you can't board with them @ LIM. If flying UA, you can place your liquids in your bag @ IAD during the connection.

    EZE/IAD v. EZE/LIM. On LAN EZE/LIM, you receive "cena express" which is a one-tray dinner (viewable in some trip reports somewhere, probably on TOBB and/or Airplanefood.net). It is a couple courses short of the SFO/LIM service, and while is usually sufficient in quantity, it is similar to a domestic F transcon meal of a few years ago. The champagne isn't as good as what they serve on the SFO/LIM service, but is of acceptable quality. My EZE/LIM crew experiences have ranged from pretty good to pretty amargo.

    On the UA flight, unlike the outbound, I was presented with a request for my choice of beverages within a minute of boarding. It seemed like this was going to be a very nice crew. Shortly after takeoff came some bubbles and nuts. Same as the southbound, but served faster, and much more competently.

    24octezeiadbev.jpg

    Then came the generous bath of soup.

    24octezeiadsoup.jpg

    Then came the salad, with some bizzare crusted chicken strips. The southbound salad was a lot better, except this competent FA put my dressing in a little cup, most of which I did not use.

    24octezeiadsalad.jpg

    The croutons were disgusting. They were so soggy, and there was so much remaining flight time, that I decided to make mini-matzoh out of them.

    24octezeiadsalad2.jpg

    A choice of 4 mains - I had the fish with quinoa, which was pretty tasty, and not overdone by much. The quinoa was almost too salty to eat.

    24octezeiadfish.jpg
    I had the bordeaux that hadn't been boarded on the southbound. A disappointment for the most "premium" wine on the aircraft. I thought I was going to have cheese and fruit, but when I saw the sorry pre-plated selection, I passed. I had the ice cream.

    24octexeiaddessert.jpg

    I asked not to be awoken for breakfast if I was asleep. Although I didn't sleep much (fitful, on and off, wishing there was some sort of pad covering the seat), it is a very comfortable seat. About 35 minutes prior to arrival, I got up and the FA asked if I wanted breakfast - I had the omelette, and ate part of what was served, with some hot tea, followed by a second cup of hot tea. I was impressed how close to arrival that the UA crew would present the F breakfast. No Channel 9.

    25octezeiadbreakfast.jpg

    The crew was very nice, competent, and if only they had a better product to serve, it could have been an outstanding flight.

    The Connection Experience - LIM v IAD

    LIM is a pleasure, generally. All int'l to int'l connections must go through transit security, which is typically a short line. Laptops usually out, but shoes stay on. Typical time from disembarkation to back in the departure area is 15 minutes. Duty free liquids can be purchased here. The SUMAQ lounge which LAN uses is acceptable enough, but quite overcrowded at this hour. It is better than any EZE lounge.

    IAD is a disaster. The hour of the flight's arrival is a disaster. Several international flights arrive at the same time (6:30-ish) and if you do not have Global Entry and plan on an IAD transit, I highly recommend it. You could miss your connection without it. GE had me through immigration within minutes after disembarking. However, the narrow hallway to get from the plane to immigration moved slowly and was quite crowded. I then awaited my luggage, which came out in a reasonable amount of time. GE also has a special customs lane @ IAD - thank goodness. This dumps you out at baggage re-check, where you can put your liquids in the checked luggage, etc. You then face the
    horror of the departure security lanes. Your status, class of travel, how shiny your metal card is, nothing gets you any priority here. For a relatively short line, it took quite some time.

    The IAD IFL isn't quite open at this hour, so it was off to the UC, for a cup of putrid coffee. After the coffee, I went to the men's room, which was extremely overcrowded, with a line for the various facilities, and I left without waiting. I then went to the UC closer to the gate, where I used the not-crowded men's room. I then decided that as boarding time was nearing, I should probably head to the gate, as the 2 cabin 767 has tiny overhead bins. 50 minutes before the flight, the first few were already in line. A few minutes later, I joined the line. By the time (a timely) boarding commenced, no less than 50 people were in one of two disorganized lines.

    End of Part I
     
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  2. Bay Pisco Shark
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    Bay Pisco Shark Gold Member

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    Part II

    IAD/SFO v. LIM/SFO

    LIM/SFO starts off with a nice choice of pisco sour, champagne, or water served in a proper glass. As most people want to sleep on this segment, and many are connecting from elsewhere, there is an available snack right after takeoff (similar to the pre-LIM arrival snack from SFO). LAN's usual selection of nice wines are available. Then, it is lights out, and if you want any service, you have to ask (including water refills, etc.) You are also presented with a hotel room service-style breakfast menu, and you just check off what you want, and it will be delivered at breakfast time, prior to SFO arrival. LAN tends to serve its breakfast service quite early - too early. Not always, but frequently. Maybe with the smaller J cabins, this will improve. Maybe not. Breakfast quality is so-so, at least the hot products. The best part of the LIM/SFO segment is that the last 9 or so hours of the trip are stress-free, lie flat, knowing that when you land, you are home. Further, the flight usually arrives before 8 AM (seasonally-
    adjusting a bit). SFO immigration and customs at that hour are usually easy, even though there isn't a GE customs lane. All GE gets me at SFO is faster to an empty baggage carousel.

    IAD/SFO started off with a choice of beverage - what a concept for UA F. Nice nice crew. I had water with ice. Then came the gourmet breakfast.
    25octiadsfobreakfast.jpg

    Also, a snack basket was offered approximately 1:30 prior to arrival. The fact that I was sitting up in a fairly narrow 767 F seat for the last nearly-six hours of this trip was not a very pleasant way to end the trip. The crew was nice - frequent beverage offers, friendly, etc. Domestic 2 cabin IFE, and of course, I forgot my headphones
    because I've become so accustomed to flying on LAN just using what they have on the plane. No Channel 9. If this was the only flight of the day, it would have been an "ok-enough" flight. As the last segment, after a crappy connection experience, it was not the most comfortable thing. (If there was a 3 cabin plane on this segment, the dynamic of the last flight changes substantially.)

    SFO Arrival

    LAN arrives into peace and tranquility, into a calm and fairly quiet international terminal. UA arrives into Domestic T-3, where my priority baggage tag proved to be purely decorative on this segment. It was just over 30 minutes from disembarkation to getting my bag.

    To sum this all up - UA F v LAN J on the SFO/EZE trip. For me, it isn't a close call - LAN is overall the more comfortable trip. This is mainly because of the UA Transcon domestic experience and the IAD immigration/security/connection situation on the return. What cuts one way on the outbound (short flight LIM/EZE where the LIM connection cuts your rest) really cuts worse in the other direction - LIM/SFO provides a nice long flight, with an arrival over 3 hours prior to UA (only leaving EZE about an hour earlier). I noticed how much more tired I was all day on the day of arrival, and even the day after.

    My UA crews were generally all friendly, and on the return, really nice and competent. The UA F suite is a great product. If this was a nonstop to nonstop comparison, this would possibly have a different outcome. Food? The UA domestic F food and drink is crap. The UA international F food and drink is ok. The UA lounge situation other than the SFO IFL is so so. The UA IFE on domestic is crap, and on international is pretty good. Funny how my inferior UA segments had Ch. 9 and my superior segments did not.

    My LAN crews are variable. Some are robotic, some are pretty friendly. Some are a bit amargo. It will never be as friendly as the best of the UA crews. (This was different when LAN had the F cabin.) The food ranges from OK to very good. The drink for a business cabin is very good, and mostly better (and better selections) than UA
    has in the F cabin.

    The aircraft - LAN has a clean and modern 767 on all segments. Overhead bins are either retrofitted, or 777 style, and fairly spacious for the model. IFE is great, and I use it. The availability of a lie flat seat throughout the entire trip is a big deal. It may be narrow, and in fact, more narrow than I'd like, but the tradeoff over not having a flat seat on all segments is an easy one.

    So, if I'm ever given the opportunity to fly UA F at the same price as LAN's discounted J on an SFO/EZE routing, if I don't particularly need the UA miles, and the other ticket restrictions are the same, I will probably fly LAN.
     
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  3. Navysuby3

    Navysuby3 Silver Member

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    The second part to the story, another great read and food for thought. Thanks for sharing
     
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  4. Bay Pisco Shark
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    Bay Pisco Shark Gold Member

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    You may have hit the nail on the head. UA's food is for thinking, not for eating! :D
     
  5. Gaucho
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    Gaucho Gold Member

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    Excellent report....... even better than part 1 !!!
     
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  6. ducster
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    ducster Gold Member

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    Excellent report; thanks for putting so much time into writing these up.
     
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  7. Toula
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    Toula Gold Member

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    Great report. However reminds me of how unappetising most airline food is.
     
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  8. eponymous_coward
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    eponymous_coward Gold Member

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    Thank you. That really comports with my experiences of UA F of the past year that I've sampled: my crews have been good, the SFO IFL is their best lounge in the USA, the international hard product is very nice, the soft product pales compared to others, Channel 9 is cool, SFO's wx delays are absolutely brutal.

    The last one is the biggest reason why I won't be retaining elite status with UA.
     

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