The worst crew and the best crew I’ve had in ages, all within hours of each other

Yesterday I flew SFO-LAX-SFO, both flights being in first class on the 757. The flight from SFO-LAX was awful. While there were pre-departure beverages, there was no service once we were airborne “due to the short duration of the flight.” Now, I’ve probably flown this route 100 times, and I’ve always had a beverage service, be it in coach or in first class. Oh, and this was a smooth flight and the seatbelt sign went off shortly after takeoff and went back on pretty late in the flight. All the flight attendants did was distribute bottles of water to passengers in first class, while coach got nothing.

Mid-flight, as the flight attendants were chatting away in the galley I approached them about this in a nice way, as I was curious. I asked “Just out of curiosity, is there no longer a beverage service on the San Fran to LA runs? This is a first for me.” The flight attendant explained that beverage service was at the pilot’s discretion (someone’s mixing up Channel 9 and drinks), but that excuse didn’t hold up since the captain announced from the beginning that it would be a smooth flight. She then said that she’d hate to start serving some people and not be able to finish. Great.

Anyway, later in the day I board my LAX-SFO flight. This crew was fairly senior and on their third leg of the day, but nonetheless they were cheery and as attentive as could be. Despite being on a packed 757, they offered pre-departure beverages of choice, with at least three rounds of refills, and that’s just on the ground! I jokingly asked the flight attendant whether there wouldn’t be a beverage service once we’re airborne, and her response was “Are you kidding me? I have 52 minutes to serve you and make this flight worth the money for you.” I told her about my earlier experience, and she was shocked.

As if the service on the ground wasn’t amazing enough, I’ve never seen such spectacular service after being airborne. I was in row six on the 757 (meaning 23 people were served before me), and I had my first drink 15 minutes after takeoff! Simply unbelievable. The first class aisle flight attendant offered a few refills and then told the first class galley flight attendant that she would go help out in coach since they might need her. Now that’s the attitude everyone should have.

Anyway, flying United I get to experience the good, the bad, and the ugly, but for me it’s rare to have such extremes within hours of each other.

About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

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Comments

  1. While I agree with you, I wouldn’t get bent out of shape about not getting a Coke on a SFO-LAX trip (or vice versa). I think everyone will survive.

  2. @mark — Sure, everyone will survive. But is it now up to the FAs to decide what length of flight warrants them getting their butt out of the jump seat to offer drinks? I’ve been on flights only slightly longer than SFO-LAX where a full meal was served. In coach. Oh, right, I forgot, that was not in the US.

    @Lucky — are you going to write UA about this?

  3. My record on this flight is 4 vodka tonics, although 3 is the norm. Never had your situation happen to me. Once had a pregnant FA hustle for the entire hour by herself.

  4. Lucky, I have to agree that United seems to provide the highest highs and the lowest lows. On a trip last December my outbound to Madison via Denver had an outstanding pair of FA’s in F (SAN-DEN). They were very appreciative when I gave each of them an “attaboy” coupon. On the return, I was lied to by ground staff and then stranded overnight at the airport. I even had a boarding pass for a flight to a different SoCal airport, got to the end of the ramp and was told I had to return to the gate as she just closed the door to the plane. Instead of leaving the terminal to brave negative temps outside to get to a hotel, I crashed out in the terminal (nice and clean and warm – props to DEN). It was ugly, ugly, ugly.

  5. You have to write a letter to UA WHQ to report the inconsistencies in the F service on the sfo-lax flight. FAs should not be allowed to arbitrarily decide whether he/she thinks the flight is of “short duration” that a service cannot be offered. The line about the service being at the pilot’s discretion is bull, imo. As you have noted, there are examples of other airlines which are capable of offering beverage and meal service on flights of similar or shorter duration than sfo-lax – intra europe and australia are the ones I have experienced – so the FA’s reasoning is flawed.

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