Home > California, Lounges, Star Alliance, Trip Reports, United Airlines > Asia 2012 Trip Report: United LAX-SFO, United International First Class Lounges at LAX/SFO

Asia 2012 Trip Report: United LAX-SFO, United International First Class Lounges at LAX/SFO

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: United Airlines LAX-SFO, United International First Class Lounges at LAX/SFO


A quick 15 minutes on the Metro rail to Union Station and a ride on the FlyAway bus brought me to LAX. On the way to the airport, we passed the 10 Freeway, which has a sign in Santa Monica calling it “the Christopher Columbus Transcontinental Highway.” Unlike Chris, I would actually find India on this trip. Hopefully.

Arriving at LAX. Despite this building recently turning 50 years old, I can’t imagine it not being here …

This was my first time flying UA internationally in sixteen years, the last time being on the old UA Flight #1: Los Angeles-Hong Kong-Delhi on a 747, with the infamous Kai Tak approach. While I got off in Delhi, the flight number continued with a 767 to London-Heathrow to New York-JFK back to LAX. I found it fitting to be flying an LAX-HKG itinerary that included this aircraft, albeit going the other way (and sans checkerboard landing).

I headed over to the left-most United line at Terminal 6, the one reserved for Global Services (United’s Invitation-Only Elite Status Tier) and Global First passengers. A United agent asked, “Global Services?” That was nice of her, since I really don’t look the part. “No, but I’m flying Global First from San Francisco to Frankfurt.”

The agent at the desk did a double take as he looked up my reservation. “I’ve never seen a routing like this before!”

Unfortunately, SFO was under an Air Traffic Control hold because of foggy condition, so my original flight was delayed massively and would cause me to miss my connecting flight to Frankfurt. I was put on an earlier flight, though in coach since First Class was full. Domestic First Class really isn’t much to talk about, especially on a short 1-hour morning flight. The only plus is legroom, but the agent gave me an Economy Plus exit-row seat.

United has had a lot of problems with their recent merger with Continental, especially with the reservation system. Fortunately, the Apollo-era computer system spit out 2 tags all the way to Hong Kong. I was given boarding passes to Zurich, as the ZRH-HKG flight had yet to open. A baggage handler told me to take a picture of my bags, since it’d probably be the last time I see them, given the routing.

See you in Hong Kong … hopefully!

The United Club, the domestic lounges with pay-access or free access for international business/first customers, was packed. I skipped that for the LAX International First lounge a bit down the way. It’s not a particularly amazing lounge, but it had the peace & quiet that was otherwise lacking in the general club. At most only 4 people were in the lounge at one time. The staff was incredibly welcoming, and joked about how I was accessing the club as an Economy passenger to SFO, though my First Class ticket to Frankfurt was what was important.

Peaceful and serene

Drink selection

Subpar breakfast selection

A bit too early in the morning …

The lounge agent told me to keep an eye on the screens, but came by the tell me that she thought boarding would begin soon. Indeed, she was correct, as boarding began about 1-2 minutes after I arrived at the gate. Despite my new boarding zone number (7), I showed my ticket from SFO to FRA and explained to the agent that I had been rerouted. Not that I absolutely needed to board first, but on domestic routes in coach, I’d rather get my bags on as soon as possible.

United 954, LAX-SFO
10:20am-11:40am (1h20m)
Airbus A320
Seat 21A, Economy Plus

There were several passengers on this flight who were in similar predicaments as me, as many had a tight connection to Beijing. I was given 20A on my BP but mistakenly sat in 21A (the 2nd of the two exit rows). 21A later arrived and I had a “D’Oh” moment as a potential seat poacher. I then noticed that there was another passenger in 20A … the seat poacher got poached? Turns out we were both assigned the same exact seat on the flight. Way to go, United reservation system. Fortunately, all parties were understanding, and the passenger assigned 21A found an aisle seat he preferred open in row 22.

Not bad for a 1-hour flight

With ATC still placing holds on SFO traffic, we were placed in a taxi holding pattern, visiting parts of LAX I’ve never even seen before. United Channel 9, a live listen-in to the Air Traffic Control the pilots are listening to, kept me up to date. We were able to take off during a short window of availability.

Taxiing in a before unknown area of LAX.

The flight was nothing to write about, just your normal LAX-SFO run. A short drink service and before you know it, you’re in Northern California.

Phew … finally at SFO.

Since San Francisco is United’s major west coast hub (larger than Los Angeles), I was excited to check out United’s International First Lounge here. Indeed, it’s way nicer than the one at LAX (which has only a few international departures compared to the many out of SFO).

Great tarmac views.

Oh hey there.

Still sporting the old United colors.

Decent noon-time spread

Nice sushi, cheese, wine selection. Although I wonder what made them put a sign about not taking food into the shower …

With about 15 minutes left until boarding, I decided to head over to the gate. I like SFO’s method of placing the gates one level below the main concourse, which gives both areas a little bit extra space.

Up next … a subpar first international First.

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