A day trip to Rio – the flights

My trip to Rio was pretty ridiculous. I was scheduled to be on the ground only about 12 hours in total, with a travel time of about 16 hours each way. Probably not the most rational trip, but that just means it makes more sense to me. Flying via Houston in both directions I was fortunate to be on one of the United Airlines 767-400s that has been retro-fit with the new lie-flat seats up front and AVOD and E+ in the back. I was seated in coach for the long-haul segments (the short-haul upgrades did clear, but nothing particularly remarkable there) and I was very much looking forward to giving the new seats a try.

For the southbound segment I was seated in the bulkhead window seat and I had an empty seat next to me. The bulkhead offers up plenty of legroom and I generally prefer the fixed arm-rest in between the seats. The main drawback of this seat, as seen in the photo, is that the window is missing. It is possible to lean forward an look out, but that isn’t particularly comfortable for very long.


The food was rather awful – long-haul coach meals have suffered greatly in my recent trips – but it was enough to hold me over until the movie was over and I was ready to sleep, something that I did reasonably well with the space I had available, along with the pillows and blankets from both my seat and my unoccupied neighbor.

Speaking of the movies, I was very impressed with the selections available on the system. There were roughly 150 titles listed. Filtering out the multiple language listings of the same films there were still around 100 to watch and the collection spanned a broad range, from true classics (e.g. Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Casablanca) to more recent classics (e.g. The Princess Bride & Ferris) to a decent smattering of recent releases. It isn’t the absolute broadest collection I’ve seen on a plane, but it was more than enough to keep me entertained. I was also quite happy to see that there is a USB plug attached to the video screen. Charging my phone from there while I slept meant waking up with a full battery, ready to attack the day.

The return flight was roughly the same. I was still in a window seat in the E+ section but not the bulkhead. To me it felt like about the same amount of space overall, with the obvious difference of having a seat reclining into me. The food was similarly awful and the sleep similarly coach-induced.


I had a bunch more photos to share of the in-flight experience. Alas, I left my laptop on the plane at the end of the trip and when I returned 3 hours later it was gone. If anyone sees a used red Asus eee 10" with a gouge in the top cover on sale somewhere please let me know. I’m in the market for one.

Also, keep an eye out for a couple more posts from this trip covering the time I spent on the ground in Brazil. I may have only been there for 12 hours but I packed a whole lot of fun into the trip.

Read more about my trip to Rio here.

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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. I always find an empty seat next to me helps–no matter what the cramped conditions. But the seats do look a lot better than the average long haul cramped coach seats…such as my recent Royal Jordanian trip. Glad there were enough movies on board to distract.

  2. You are completely nuts. But feel free to invite me along next time!

  3. 16 hours each way is brutal (esp with only 12 hrs on ground)..glad u at least had no roommate next to you though:) every little thing helps on long haul trips (extra blanket,decent meal,good movie,cabin temp. comfortable etc). Thanks for the story

  4. Glad to hear you had a great time in Rio. Maybe next time you have a chance to spend 12 days instead of 12 hours and get to know some of the wonders of our continental country!

  5. This story cracked me up at FTU. I am not up for this as I view it as more punishment than fun, but think it is hilarious you did it.

    1. My financial situation is pretty easy to describe, Andrew. I’m hardly wealthy but I focus basically all of my discretionary income towards travel. I work part time but am lucky enough to do so in an industry and at a rate where I make enough money to travel, too. I’m incredibly fortunate to be in the position I am in and I celebrate that as much as I can.

      I definitely plan to spend more time in Brazil, mpinheiro. But when the deals come around sometimes this sort of thing has to be done.

  6. Did you apply GPU’s and they did not clear? I have 6 GPU’s and no Int’l travel (on UA anyway) scheduled this year.

    If you would like a couple of my GPU’s, I would be happy to give them to you. PM me on FT, LarkSFO.

    I appreciate your constant fight against the anecdotal bullshit that is presented as ‘fact’ on FT! Keep up the good work.

    1. I didn’t try to upgrade; the fare I was one would have made that quite difficult indeed. Appreciate the offer of the GPUs but I still have one or two left and I’m using them where I can.

  7. To be honest, that kind of travelling is exactly why I think taxes like the one imposed by the EU now for air travel should be implemented WORLDWIDE. Selfish behaviour on account of the environment. Thank you very much!

    1. Is there really a difference if I stayed 12 days instead of 12 hours? I’d still have to fly both directions to make the trip.

      More to the point, does taxing air travel actually do anything to help the environment? The evidence I’ve seen thus far suggests no. The EU scheme was built to enrich the banks, not to protect the environment. And it isn’t even doing that very well.

  8. Flying UA73 SFO-HNL on 764 tomorrow. Currently a regular E+ window with my girlfriend but 16AB are open and I’m contemplating switching. Worried about not as much room to stretch and not having a window, but would be nice to not have one recline into me. Thoughts? Advice?

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