After another successful trip to Chicago, it was time to go home again. As I was dropping off others, I was at O’Hare very early. So at 3pm, it was time to check in (as well as checking myself in, I was checking people on UA and US Scareways flights, so I wasted a good few hours at O’Hare)
As it has been a particularly successful week, I decided to splurge and go from standard cattle class to Premium Cattle Class. After ponying up $350 for a U bucket ticket, I was given a new boarding pass with a window seat, nearer the front of the plane (a first for me after the mileage run and a new for me since I’ve been flying n and out of Chicago every 6 months or so).
PE is an interesting product, in that unlike UA’s Economy plus, this is actually a different section of the cabin, with larger seats, more legroom, Economy food, and better service. The biggest change is that the seats that were in the business class cabin have been moved to this cabin, so there are less people in it than the original PE cabin.
Since I have heard a bit, I thought it would be fun to try out “life nearer the front”.
Long security queues, not a lot beyond security… this is a lasting memory of how people who visit Chicago will remember this city if they go from the international terminal.
Come on Chicago Airport authorities… its time to redevelop and modify the terminal to include more facilities beyond security. Food outlets would be a good start. More shops dotted around the terminals would be good too. Give a great impression as people leave the country, and heaven help, they might want to come back!
The A330 was tugged in (there was a SAS A330 Earlier on at the gate, which had pushed back) and the crew boarded, leaving everyone else to wait to board.
In the usual tradition, Business and Star Alliance Gold were allowed to board first (along with special services), then the PE cabin. I took this opportunity and made myself present.
I was welcomed aboard and directed to 12A, my seat for this flight. In the old configuration, these seats weren’t desired as these had windows deleted. In the new configuration, the deleted panel is now slightly ahead of the seat, between rows 11 and 12.
Whilst we were waiting, a water and orange juice service was completed, with menu cards, and the revised passenger kits given out. The PE kit is now “quilted padded” as opposed to the plastic in Y. Load factor in PE was 15/30, so half full, allowing the crew to be very attentive.
I found the personal underseat storage was more limited in PE than Y (due to the depth of the seat), but as there was no one next to me, this represented no issues
Once airborne, Drinks and food orders were taken (I went for a coke and a sparkling chardonnay – both served in glasses as opposed to plastic cups), with the FA giving a very personal service to the customers in the cabin. I was very impressed with the individual service given to everyone in PE. Papers were offered in-flight (the Daily Mail)
The seat is the old business seat, which is a recliner style with electric large lumbar support and tilt. I twiddled with the settings, but defiantly one I like.
Now I’m going to sound like a school kid here in a candy shop, but the amount of legroom is truly amazing. I’m used to life in the back, 2 seat Y special if I’m lucky and 32” of space. Now I’ve got 49” pitch, space and relaxation area (and 2 seats to boot).
One spill of sparking chardonnay later, I was cleaned up, and a pair of noise reducing headphones, I was watching the in-flight voyager system, which looks a lot better than it did on a seatback system (Transformers was a reasonable movie to watch first – although here was some audio cutting during the movie - just slightly annoying)
Dinner was Teriyaki Chicken with rice, salad, with cheeses, KitKat and Ben & jerry’s ice cream. One slight disappointment – the main dish was served in a foil container, which cheapened it slightly. Wine was offered – I went for the sparkling chardonnay (again)
The lights went down and the seats were extended. No requests were made to lower the blinds. A water bottle service was made.
The PE seat lights were not over-configurable (it took me a 1/3rd of the flight to find a good angle for the stalk light).
About half way through the flight, the IFE was rebooted. It played up for a good half hour, with limited access to programmes and audio, before attempting to settle down, and then looping and crashing.
Breakfast was the standard economy fare (muffin and fruit), but I skipped as I was having a very nice sleep in the chair.
Touch down was half an hour early, and we were gated onto Gate 44. From there it was a matter of getting past passport control, then waiting for luggage (which took some time), and finally the long trolley push from T3 to the coach station for the long ride home.
In summing up
If I did well or OK in Chicago, I said I would treat myself if there was room. I’ve now gone and spoiled myself FAR too much… and life in the back of the bus will never be the same again… Damm you cheap upgrades!
The service for a PE product was excellent IMO, and if the price were right, I would seriously consider switching a Y ticket for a PE seat without blinking. For those of you who fly UA and think PE is the same as E+… it’s a TOTALLY different experience. One that if you flew from LAS or ORD might make you think to switch carriers.
There does need to be little refinements to the product – I have a feeling Voyager may not be up to it for much longer and an AVOD solution will have to be sourced – although AVOD solutions are not crash proof to put it nicely. In addition, the foil tin was really unforgivable for a PE cabin (even Manchester makes the plastic packing look semi professional).
The staff were excellent again – always good to see the BMI onplane staff excelling.
BMI… keep up the VERY good work!
my favorites are 7, 9, 11, & 13