A weekend jaunt to Sydney

Yes, I will be spending more time flying round trip than I will on the ground in Sydney. Yes, I plan to have a ton of fun this weekend. Yes, I am crazy.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, allow me to elaborate. A couple weeks ago United Airlines had a very brief 40% off sale for fares to Australia. Not being one to ignore a good sale I took a peek and noticed that it included trips from New York City. The price was right and the number of miles earned – almost 20,000 EQMs and almost 40,000 reward miles – are large enough that knocking out a weekend of flying was a good investment plus a great way to get back down to Oz. Tickets were booked and I didn’t look back. Now, a couple weeks later, I’m in the middle of my first segment of four on the trip, JFK – San Francisco aboard a United 767-300 with the International configuration.

The regular p.s. plane was swapped out due to a fire a couple weeks ago so I get this one instead. The plane feels especially roomy due to the fact that there are way more coach seats on this than on a normal p.s. plane though United is still only selling the normal number just in case. Pretty much everyone who wants one has their own block of seats. Quite nice indeed.

That being said, I’m a bit disappointed in the interior appointments on the plane. Yeah, I know I’m sitting in coach, but I still expected a little better. United has been tooting their own horn a ton lately about cleaning up their aircraft. Maybe they just haven’t gotten to this one yet but the insides have a few issues that don’t make me all that comfortable about maintenance habits. Like I put my armrest down and was greeted with this:


Yeah, I can put the piece back on and I did and no big deal in the end, but it’s just not right. A couple minutes later, after push-back I look across the cabin and notice the flight attendants fighting to keep a couple overhead bins closed. They’re not over-stuffed or anything; thy just won’t stay closed. Apparently a previous attempted fix – taping them shut – also didn’t work. So there we were, cleared to taxi into position for take-off, and the crew was scrambling to find somewhere to store a few bags. Again, our plane was empty enough that it wasn’t an issue but not comforting to see that even the “just duct tape it together” approach wasn’t working. IMGP1944

And, to top it all off, the IFE was broken. I’m not sure how entertaining watching a movie on these tiny screens would be; watching the moving map was hard enough though I do applaud United for not going to the fully advertising sponsored model there. Still, not having an option on the video was a bit annoying when I woke up from my nap. The good news is that United is familiar enough with things going wrong on flights so their flight attendants are prepared. They made an announcement about an hour prior to landing and came through with the compensation certificates for the entire cabin without prompting. They definitely have the service recovery part down pat.

And the flight itself hasn’t been all that bad. I got some work done, had a nap and read a bit. Not bad at all. Of course, this is the short flight, only 5:50 in the air. The true test is coming up in a few hours when I strap in on a more crowded 747-400 for the 14ish hour overnight flight to Sydney. Good thing I’ve stoked up on drink chits for the RCC in advance of that.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. Same experience on my last UA flights as well: on the first one (B757) a mechanic came aboard to duct tape an armrest cover that had popped. On the second (A320) the male FA was really manhandling the overheads to get them to close.

  2. Hope your SFO-SYD segment was good.
    Never had a problem on UA flights (except WX delays).
    But the only 2 flights I took on CO’s 757-200, the AVOD was not working on my seat. IAH-EWR and MIA-EWR.

  3. I think one of the things that breaks those overhead bins is pax and FAs trying with force to shut it when it really is filled beyond capacity. I have iPhone video somewhere of an idiot who for two minutes banged on the poor bin when it was clear to anyone watching that there was no way it would shut and remain shut.

  4. I was mostly surprised that they tried to put anything in a bin that was already being taped closed. Especially on a 763 that was 60% full in the back at most, meaning there was a TON of space available. Such is life.

    I’ve already cashed in my SkyKit certificates and I’m looking forward to using my $250 in vouchers for future trips. 😀

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