As I reported a few months ago, United started flying their brand new 777-300ER (77W) airplanes on one of their 2 daily flights between Newark and Tel Aviv less than a week ago.
The afternoon flight is still operated by a pre-merger Continental 777-200 (772) aircraft with subsidiary Continental crew members, but the evening flight is operated by the 77W with subsidiary United crew members.
DDF member Moishebatchy and his wife were booked to fly on United from Newark to Zurich last night and then on Swiss from Zurich to Tel Aviv.
There was no business class availability with miles, so he used “hybrid points,” which is an excellent way to get to Tel Aviv in coach or business class. Traditional airline mileage seats are very hard to find on Tel Aviv routes and awards are expensive. Paid coach and business class tickets are relatively inexpensive, making Hybrid points a good deal.
Luckily for Moishebatchy, he provided his cell to United and opted into text notifications for flight issues. That way he found out right away that their Newark to Zurich flight was delayed and that was going to cause them to misconnect in Zurich.
The most critical thing to do in that situation is to find an agent to help you out and get accommodated before alternate options fill up.
One of the nice perks of elite status and premium class travel is lounge access, especially during irregular operations. Club agents will often go the extra mile for you and lucky for him, he was in the club when he got the text message.
The United Club agent was having trouble finding alternate flight options so she called an internal help line to see what could be done.
The nonstop flight to Tel Aviv flight would have been a good option, but it was showing as fully booked:
It turned out that despite United.com showing that business class was booked full, there were actually 2 seats that were booked but not ticketed. The help desk agent cancelled that reservation and rebooked them into the new United Polaris business class. The lounge agent also made sure that their bags were properly rerouted and that they had kosher meals on the flight. Now that’s impressive service!
Another DDF member, srf60, was also on the flight and the story gets even crazier. The person sitting behind him in Economy Plus said that his travel agent was holding the last 2 business class seats for him, but that someone else wound up getting them. Oh the irony!
As previous flights to Tel Aviv have always been operated by subsidiary Continental crew members, this was the first time that the United crew members were flying to Tel Aviv.
And being a flight to Tel Aviv, things can get a little crazy. Most of the passengers were going to Israel for Lag B’Omer and had kosher meals. One flight attendant told srf60 that he just wanted to go home in middle of the meal service. Flying the route for the first time is probably quite the learning experience.
The Wi-Fi on the flight did not work and of course everyone complained about that.
And then comes the minyanim taking over the galleys…all quite an experience for the first time a crew is working a Tel Aviv flight!
Moishebatchy’s seat adjustment buttons stopped working and the crew had to get out the manual to learn how to fix it as they had never flown on the 77W before, but on the plus side it still had that new plane smell. And they had the Saks pillows, mattress pad, gel cooled pillow, etc. There were even Pajamas available, despite the flight being under 12 hours.
srf60 notes that he sat in the exit row with a lot of extra legroom, but people kept congregating there and talking for the entire flight. So he got lots of legroom, but not much sleep. The seat was also very tight, exacerbated by the tray table being in the exit row armrest. On the plus side though, he was able to get a set of Pajamas from a friend who was in business class.
The 77W has 60 all-aisle access seating in business class:
Coach is less pretty. United has crammed 10 seats across throughout the 102 Economy Plus and 204 Economy Minus seats. Better to fly on the 772 if you have the choice.
Moishebatchy shared a few pictures that he took on DDF:
Here is a look at the D/G seats in odd-numbered rows. They are the best business class seats for passengers traveling together. There is a middle divider that can go up or down.
In this picture you can see the difference between the D/G seats in odd numbered rows that are together and the D/G seats in even numbered rows that are apart from each other:
The best seats for solo passengers will be the A/L seats in odd numbered rows that are near the window and have more privacy from the aisle:
Whereas the A/L seats in even numbered rows are angled towards the aisle and have less privacy, though they are better option for solo passengers than the D/G seats in even numbered rows:
Have you flown on the United 77W yet? Share your thoughts on the plane in the comments!