Tall Tails & Mile High Hopes: My United Airline Trip of Disappointment

Tell me if my expectations were too high for my recent airline trip to San Francisco.

I was recently invited to the Audi E-Tron SUV unveiling in San Francisco, CA. I was excited for a few reasons. 1. I was invited to an Audi event. 2. I didn’t have to pay for any travel arrangements. 3-100. I didn’t have to pay for any travel arrangements. Yep! I had to make sure you read that right.

When the travel agent called me to make the reservations, I basically gave her carte blanche to secure a direct flight to Cali from DC on any airline (except Spirit).

Surprised, she mentioned that most travelers prefer certain airlines because of frequent flyer miles, etc. I explained that since I travel for my job, I had FF accounts with most airlines and there wasn’t really an advantage of choosing a specific airline because of that.

So she booked me on a United flight. I searched my email to find my frequent flyer number to update my arrangements. I couldn’t find one. So I created an account and went on from there. About 2 weeks prior to my trip, I saw that I could upgrade to First Class for only $270. This was a steal to me because I paid $0 for my flight. Eager to jump on this bargain, I did what any independent, employed, mother of 4 would do. I asked my mom if she’d treat me to it. Look, judge someone else. I’m broke and like nice things. I’ve never flown First Class. Like ever. I remember when I was 10, they overbooked a flight and my 8 year old brother was seated in First Class. I’m still baffled by that whole thought process. But whatever.

So, my mother recognized that I needed a break and she wanted me to enjoy my trip. She gifted my upgrade under the understanding that this was my Christmas, Kwanzaa, Easter, Birthday and wedding anniversary present. Keep in mind, I only did it flying out. Not for the return flight. I looked forward to the trip EVERY.DAMN.DAY! I felt like my 8 year old when we went to Disney.

I tried not to smile too hard when I stood in the Group 1 line before boarding. Now in all the years that’s I’ve traveled for work and personal, you’d think I’d have a realistic idea of what the experience would be. I tried to think back on walking through the First Class compartments before. I’d always look straight ahead. I didn’t want to look at them being fancy on the plane. I simply marched to my cramped Economy seat. But my mind wandered and I imagined something like this:

airline first class
Photo Credit: TheRichest

When I boarded the plane, I realized that the First Class section was in a different direction than Economy. That meant people wouldn’t see me. They wouldn’t get to glare and wonder what I did for a living, not knowing my mama paid for this luxury. Again, judge your mother… This is how I think.

My seat was in the very first row. Which sounds nice but was problematic because it meant I had to store my purse in the overhead compartment. Nonetheless, I sat in my firm (read: uncomfortable) seat and looked around at my surroundings. Not bad. I expected more. But not terrible. The airline crew were very nice. They smiled, they asked our meal preferences and they made sure we had what we needed. What we needed more than anything was the internet to work. Which it didn’t for a majority of the almost 6 hour flight. I was shocked on one hand that my First Class experience didn’t come with complimentary wifi and then double shocked when the flight attendants said it barely works on that particular plane a majority of the time.

You’re telling me that people shell out over $20 for a service that might not work. Only to simply suggest we ask for a refund on their site. They’re banking on folks forgetting and then they’ll keep the money.

United Airline
Notice the wifi isn’t working.

About an hour and change after our breakfast, I heard a customer ask for a snack to which the attendant said they didn’t have snacks. He was shocked because there was so much more time on the plane. In my mind I gasped. I attempted to watch TV, but most of the images looked like this.

So, no wifi and no TV. Fun times. I’m living the life!

About 30 minutes prior to landing they did come out with warm cookies. They tried to buy us off with cookies! Those cookies were so good though!

We landed and I attended my super fabulous event.

Fast forward to the next day. As much as I was unimpressed with First Class coming, I considered trying again. They were booked. So I looked into Economy Plus. Score! I grabbed up the first seat and felt confident in what would turn out to be another dumb ass decision.

When I got my boarding pass from the agent, I asked if First Class was truly booked. He confirmed and then said “but the flight isn’t full so you can probably find a row to yourself.”


See, I’m constantly making bad decisions. This was one of them. I tried to be cute and ended up failing. My seat was an exit row. So now I paid to be on the flights emergency response team, should the plane crash. I was also in the front. And despite a person paying extra money for extra room, you’re still treated basic. This means you don’t board quicker (that’s extra). I was group 4 and that meant by the time I got on the plane, I couldn’t put my luggage anywhere near my seat. And since I was upfront, I had no where to tuck my purse.

I confirmed with the flight crew that they wanted me to put my expensive purse with my maxed out credit cards and negative balance debit card in the back of the plane. She said yes. Shiiiiiiiiiiiid, no ma’am. My friend, who booked his First Class ticket that morning because now he’s above sitting with the common folks (kidding), was only a few feet away from me. I called him, since I can’t step foot in their cabin and asked him to store my bag.

I sat next to a man who was probably convinced no one would be foolish enough to buy the seat next to him because it literally hugs the emergency exit door. If the door flew off, I was toast! I asked the attendant if I could order food and she said she had to see what they had left. See they started taking orders in the back. My overpriced seat didn’t mean anything other than a few inches more of uncomfortable leg room.

I ordered the nastiest thing they had because you know…I make bad choices. And nibbled on it until I felt like it might come back up. I have back problems and no lie, the seat aggravated it so much that I had to take pain killers to alleviate the pain. And go figure the wifi didn’t work on the return flight. I think it never works and they just say they have it to get people excited. I’ve never had these issues on other airlines.

First Class meal vs Economy meal

I’ve never seen lettuce and tomato in a baggy like that.

I will say that all of the attendants were extremely friendly and helpful. They even gave me a bag of gummy bears because they know their airline is NOT the bees knees.

All in all, my first First Class experience let me down. And maybe those who travel more for pleasure have tips on how to get the best experience when flying First Class. For now, I’ll continue getting my low budget flight tickets and be content with my place in the social stratosphere. I’m basic and I’m ok with that. Lol.

Do you fly United? Is this their norm?

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