Booking The Trip: Flying The Friendly Skies to India
Review: United Airlines 777-200 Transcontinental Economy Plus Los Angeles to Newark
Review: DoubleTree By Hilton Hotel Newark Airport
Review: United Airlines 777-300ER Polaris Business Class Newark to Mumbai
Review: United Airlines 777-300ER Premium Plus Mumbai to Newark
Review: Pop Up United Club Lounge Concourse C, Gate C124
Review: United Club Lounge Concourse C, Gate C74
Review: United Airlines 787-10 Business Class Newark to San Francisco
Well, well, well, that trip section is looking pretty empty compared to my normal trip lengths especially since I like super long ones, but this time I only have a week in India and so there was no time for long, fancy fun trips to the moon and back. Now onto the actual trip: another visit back to Mumbai.
There numerous airlines that fly one stop between LA and Mumbai and I’m sure I’ve just about tried all of them, though I certainly haven’t reviewed United’s long haul product in a while so I thought I’d give them a try. United is single-handedly my most frequently flown airline to the point that I have gold status with them, though I haven’t flown them intercontinentally in over 6 years. United has lately introduced a new premium economy product called Premium Plus and I thought this would be a perfect time to review it.
Here’s the route that I chose for the outbound. Now I probably picked the route with the longest layover. Why did I pick this route? Not because it’s the usual thing I do, but rather I have family in New Jersey I wanted to visit. So I’d land around 7:10 AM, get out by 7:45 if that, and visit out until 4 or so at which point I’d return to EWR for my night flight to Mumbai.
This gives me the perfect opportunity to review United’s transcontinental economy, and United’s premium Plus product on their flagship aircraft. But of course, since I got upgraded on the second flight, I can try out their flagship aircraft’s Polaris cabin for the 15-hour flight.
Now about the return segment:
On the day I was returning, I had a really, really tough choice to make. $2000+ for economy or $1664 for premium economy?
Now with this, I opted for a 9-hour layover in EWR. Again, as before, I’ll either visit family, or I might try and cover all the United Clubs at EWR for a review. In this case, I’ll be flying Premium Plus on the 77W again, but the second flight will be on United’s transcontinental business class.
So all my bookings are in premium economy.
So that just about concludes my flight selections, though since this is United, there’s one fine little mess I decided to add to my journey. A global services friend had expiring PlusPoints that they weren’t going to use, so they decided to upgrade all my flights, or rather waitlist. Unfortunately the routes I am flying are very tough to get upgraded on. Los Angeles Newark flights are regularly filled with business travelers so only 1 or 2 get upgraded on that route. As for Newark-Mumbai, this route and Newark-Delhi are among United’s most profitable routes and Polaris regularly fills up completely with paying passengers. Though we will still shoot our shot. Now for the outbound journey, I am traveling with my dad, so my friend waitlisted both of us on both outbound flights and I am also waitlisted on my inbound flights.
So at the end of the day, being on Global service sponsored upgrades already puts us way ahead of the pack as most people on upgrades are on 1K upgrade instruments.
For the LAX-EWR flight, we didn’t clear as they were able to fill the cabin with all paid customers. For the EWR-BOM flight, the upgrade cleared at the gate, which was very lucky. The upgrade cleared because there was a no-show, which happened to be at a true window seat. More on that in the actual review.
On the return flight, for the Mumbai-Newark flight, thanks to United’s horrible IT issues with the order in which they process upgrades on planes with premium Plus, I didn’t clear, even though I should have.
On the EWR-SFO flight, I was #1 on the upgrade waitlist for Business and I cleared, though unfortunately into a non-window seat. Still, plenty to write on that note.
On the first flight, because of mine and my dad’s status with UA, we can pick economy plus seats free of charge
For this route, I had selected 20L for my seat in the Premium Plus cabin, which I would say is the best seat in the plane.
But as I was saying earlier, I waitlisted a Global Service upgrade and it cleared during boarding, so my new seat is as below. Note that this isn’t the exact manifest from the flight I took as my Polaris cabin was full and I got the last seat, I just pulled a flight from many weeks later and made a dummy booking to show you my seat position. This is easily one of the toughest routes to upgrade on in United’s entire route network so it was definitely a blessing to get an upgrade on this route.
On this route, at booking, I had selected 21A, though later on seat 21L opened and I switched to that instead.
On this aircraft, any seat in row 20 is the best, and I prefer the right side, so 20L will be the clear choice here. This will make for a useful review as United just recently rolled out Premium Plus on its domestic trancon routes, so hopefully, this will provide insight as to how this looks compared to its equivalent offering on international routes.
But of course, since the upgrade cleared, I ended up in seat 7F. It wasn’t a window seat, but I still found a way to make a YouTube video and blog review about it :).
Los Angeles International Airport
No lounges will be covered at LAX simply because I don’t have access on the way out. Since my LAX-EWR flight is domestic, there’s no club lounge access for Star Alliance gold members who have their status through United.
Newark Liberty International Airport
At Newark, upon landing from Mumbai, I’ll visit these 3 club lounges:
- Pop Up United Club Lounge Concourse C, Gate C124
- Pop Up United Club Lounge Concourse C, Gate C93
- United Club Lounge Concourse C, Gate C74
The pop-up United clubs are temporary Club Lounges while EWR figures out a more permanent and large scale club to compensate for their Polaris Lounge taking the space of a club. Now on the return, if I get upgraded to Polaris from Mumbai to Newark (slim chance), then I’ll also review the Polaris Lounge at EWR, though this is unlikely to happen. I’ll be certain to update this if it clears.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (Mumbai)
So this one hurt. Normally, with Star Alliance Gold status, I would have access to the GVK East Wing Lounge prior to my United flight, however as of January 1st, 2020, Star Alliance Golds traveling in economy or Premium Plus on United don’t have access to non-star Alliance partner lounges anymore. So one cannot access the GVK Lounge when flying United anymore unless they are flying in Polaris Business Class.
Now with my flight from LAX to EWR landing at 7:10 AM and my connecting flight to BOM being at 8:05 PM, I had nearly 13 hours in between, and this was on purpose. I needed a hotel in the morning to stay in, get a few hours of sleep, and a shower. I was visiting family friends about 45 minutes south of Newark so I needed to be fresh to drive.
I had plenty of options to burn some Hilton points as well.
I chose the DoubleTree Hotel next to Newark Airport. As always, Hilton gold members have a choice of 1,000 points or free breakfast and I will always choose free breakfast over those 1,000 points.
Since all toom types were the same, I just went with the premium room reward which came with Executive Lounge access, a perk usually reserved for Hilton Diamond members.
With that being said, this isn’t a super involved trip like my other trips have been, though I hope you enjoy these United reviews and get utility out of them. Always with any trip, I’m going to enjoy making these videos and writing these reviews, even if it’s with an airline I spend too much time with. Hope you guys enjoy too!