PHL-SFO-HNL is why I keep flying United

I’ve flown the PHL-SFO leg on United’s Airbus A319 four times in the past four months (and I can’t remember how many more times previously) and it’s the flight that got me partway back to Hawaii for the holidays this time around. Since I’m so fond of the routine I’ve come to associate with the flight, I’ll run through the details of this uneventful trip (uneventful is a good thing).

1. I booked PHL-SFO-HNL using 40,000 United miles (as opposed to 20,000 since it’s winter and everybody seems to want to get to Hawaii) and spending 5 dollars in fees.

2. I chose my favorite seat after glancing at SeatGuru.

SeatGuru plan for A319

That would be seat 7A in Economy Plus. Snagging a window seat means I’m less likely to get motion sick and throw up on my seat mate. Row 7 on the A319 is also directly behind the First Class section and therefore bulkhead seating. The pitch in Economy Plus is typically 35 inches (as opposed to 31 in Economy), but there’s of course even more room in row 7. If you’re unfamiliar with SeatGuru, green is good and yellow is not so good. Avoid red.

As I already am fully aware and as SeatGuru will tell me, the armrests contain the tray tables and are therefore immovable in row 7. That’s fine, I’m traveling alone so I won’t be cuddling up to the person sitting next to me. (Unless they’re irresistibly cute or nice smelling. Just kidding.)

3. Having Premier status in 2011 means I’ve had access to Economy Plus (aka ghetto first class) seating at no charge and at booking, but the chart is changing next year. The 2011 status chart can be found here which you may compare to the 2012 program overview here. For the new lowest elite level, Premier Silver, Economy Plus will only be available at check-in and only one standard bag may be checked for free. This will mean one of two things for me: I’ll either fly United a whole lot more on revenue tickets to get higher status or I’ll be flirting with American. Elite qualifying miles can only really be earned by flying. All the other miles earned from shopping, dining, checking in on Facebook, etc — are redeemable miles and do not count towards status.

4. As my departure looms, I pack and prepare.

packing my hand-carry


5. Check-in online 24 hours prior to departure, show up at airport before the crack of dawn, drop off two tiny bags at check-in counter. (My cousin had borrowed my long-trip suitcase when she visited me last month. She maybe shopped a little too much. She’s lucky I don’t have to pay to check bags.)

6. Having elite status also means I don’t have to wait in line to get through security and this morning the line was super crazy long. I felt a little bad for the people in it who were wailing about potentially missing their flights.

7. Once boarded, I settle into my seat. I’m a rather small person (but large in personality) and I have so much legroom I’m quite literally flailing. It’s impossible to properly curl up in my seat (I fly like a sleeping cat) so I mostly just sprawl, which works, too.

stretching out a booted foot

I know, I’m more or less a complete waste of extra legroom, but I do get claustrophobic and then faint (you can always tell the quality of a flight attendant by how nicely they revive you). Access to United’s Economy Plus seating makes things soooo much better.

8. We get into SFO ahead of schedule so I have time to stop at Tomokazu to pick up a moderately thrilling and mildly yummy bento box for my next flight.

moderately thrilling pork katsu "deluxe bento" from Tomokazu

9. SFO-HNL on a Boeing 777. I like this flight a lot. People on it are generally quite cheerful. They are, after all, going to the most beautiful and most awesome place on earth. The flight attendants may be aged, but many still wear fake plumerias in their hair and treat you like you’re a human being. They’ve accepted my expired drink chits and called me “sweetie.” I have never fainted or vomited on this flight.

10. I did not win the Halfway to Hawaii game (the prize this time was a Lonely Planet guide to Hawaii. I wanted it.). I have never won the Halfway to Hawaii probably because I have no math skillz whatsoever and always try to cheat off of the person sitting next to me.

11. We arrive in Honolulu half an hour early. As usual, the air smells like flowers and rainbows.


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