United Lounge @ LAX

Review: United Lounge @ LAX (Los Angeles, CA)

The United Lounge at LAX has been saying that they are currently doing renovations. This is re-assuring because I went there for some pre-flight lounge time recently and the lounge has  a style that looks like it was the hippest thing back in the 90’s. As soon as I walked in, I noticed that the feel of the lounge was off; it felt like I just walked into a corporate cafeteria and recreation room from the early 2000’s (If I knew what one looked like back then). The lounge can be separated into 3 sections. There’s a large lounge seating area in the center. To the one side of that lounge seating area are what seemed like conference tables, and on the other side is the cafeteria-looking bar.

United Lounge @ LAX

Relatively spacious lounge seating area

United Lounge @ LAX

One side of the room was filled with what looked like collaboration conference work tables

United Lounge @ LAX

United Lounge bar area that seems like it’s from a converted corporate cafeteria

At the very least, it seems like the food selection update has made it to LAX. Continue reading

United First Class Dessert

Is Flying First Class on United Worth it?

If you’re flying a domestic flight across the United States, chances are that the first class experience is going to be great, but not necessarily phenomenal. Don’t get me wrong, I’d much rather have the first class experience than not. I’ve just started getting more free upgrades with United, and am happy as a clam when that happens. However, now that I’ve gotten the experience, I can’t help but wonder if the, for some, elusive experience, really all that worth it.

This post simply describes the domestic U.S. first class experience; the international 6+ hour flights is a different ball game with those lay flat seats…

After a few first class flights, what quickly happens from the experience is the transition of pleasantly surprised –> luxury –> indulgence –> unhealthy consumption. The unhealthy consumption part is particularly true for the amount of free food and booze they try to feed you / you have access to on the flight. Alright, fine, there’s nothing wrong with free food and booze, but it’s still unhealthy if consumed in abundance and we’re still going to be looking at value since what the airlines feed you is not exactly the best of foods.

What first class domestic flight provides you—

Before the flight:

Priority Boarding: You get a special line that allows you to board 5 minutes ahead of everyone else. This also guarantees you overhead luggage space. Getting an airline credit card or having status puts you in at least priority line 2, which is essentially almost the same thing.

Free Check-in Luggage: This is a big one for those traveling on vacation with family as luggage costs have gone up  to $25 per check-in luggage. However, getting status or an airline credit card will also easily resolve this issue as you get at least 1 free checked bag. Also, learning to travel lighter without a checked bag and just a carry-on is a pretty liberating habit to have.

During the flight:

Pre-flight Drink: Since you get to sit down first and have some time before the rest of the plebeians get on, the flight attendants will come around asking you if you want a pre-flight drink. This can be anything they have such as water, orange juice, whiskey, wine, or cocktail.

Larger Seats: So this is pretty important for those that are larger in width. Otherwise, economy plus seating isn’t that bad and is comparable in the leg-room. I’m personally not tall enough to require all of that extra leg-room anyway. Definitely a perk to not have to fight for arm space with the guy next to you though.

Hot Towel:  Shortly after take-off, the flight attendant will come by with hot towels for you to wipe your face with. I actually love this, and this is a luxury that I look forward to every time to feel refreshed for the flight.

Beverage and a Bowl of Nuts: Next on the check-list is another order of your choice-beverage and a small bowl of heated salted nuts (cashews, peanuts, almonds, etc). I want to make a note that all the liquor you’ll be getting are nips of bottom shelf liquor and beer, as well as some standard wine.

United Alcoholic Beverages List (2015)

  • Tito’s Handmade Vodka®
  • Bacardi® Superior Rum
  • Canadian Club® Whisky
  • Dewar’s® “White Label®” Blended Scotch Whisky
  • Jack Daniel’s® Tennessee Whiskey
  • Jim Beam® Devil’s Cut® Bourbon Whiskey
  • Reliz Creek Pinot Noir 2011, Arroyo Seco, Monterey, California
  • Hess Select Chardonnay 2013, Monterey, California

If you wanted alcoholic beverages in economy seating, it’s $8 for spirit nips, and $16 for the half bottle of wine. If you don’t want an alcoholic beverage, it’s free for both first and economy class; the only difference is that in first class, you get your drinks immediately but have to wait a minute or two in economy.

The other work-around to the first class beverage perk is to simply buy liquor and snacks from the terminal before the flight and then be able to enjoy them whenever you want in your economy seat without paying the first-class ticket premium. Although, for some reason, if you do it this way, you might look like a degenerate to the passenger next to you.

Lunch/Dinner: One of the better perk of First Class is that it comes with lunch/dinner depending on when your flight is. The meal comes with actual dishes and silverware, which makes it feel like you’re dining somewhere as opposed to getting a quick fast-food sandwich in the slum-class seats.

Continue reading

United Lounge @ EWR

Review: United Lounge @ EWR (Newark, NJ)

The United Lounge in Newark, New Jersey (EWR) is one of the better domestic United Lounges that I have been to. It’s located on an upper floor where you need to take an elevator (or stairs) to get to. It’s a circular lounge that wraps around the food court below it and gives you a panoramic view of the terminal and air field. The decor is classy with leather lounge chairs and empty space. There’s a separate business center for printing/faxing, quiet room, bar area, as well as a TV room.

United Lounge @ EWR

United Lounge overlooking the food court

United Lounge @ EWR

One side of the lounge with airline information screen

United Lounge @ EWR

United Lounge with windows overlooking the plebeians waiting at the gate

The usual lounge chairs and work desks are there. The bar is stocked with low-tier beer, liquor, and wine, which is fine. I wouldn’t pay the extra $7 for the “premium” Corona, but booze is booze. Continue reading

NRT-Term1

Short Layover in Tokyo; Exploring Terminal 1 Options

While traveling from Singapore to Boston through Tokyo, I had a 3 hour layover in Narita Airport. Instead of going directly to the international transfer gate, I found it much more rewarding and enjoyable to spend the time in the Airport Terminal. Although it’s possible to leave the airport and go to Narita City (15 minutes away), I was looking to grab an authentic Japanese meal in one of the many restaurants in the terminal. [For a 4 hour layover, I might have explored Narita City a bit. Previously on my trip, I’ve also had a 7 hour layover when I was able to ventured into Tokyo City by taking the N’EX bullet train (~1 hour away). After arriving into Tokyo Station, there was enough time to explore Ginza, the imperial palace, and Tsukiji.].

From exiting the arrival gate to completing Japanese customs, it took about 30 minutes. That left me about 1.5 hours left to explore the terminal (to ensure a comfortable hour for security, customs, and boarding). Since I was flying on United, which is located in Terminal 1, I spent most of my time in that terminal. The Narita Airport Terminal 1 has 5 floors with a basement level.

NRT-Term1

 

 

When I first exited customs I was on the 2nd floor. Taking the escalator up, from floor 3-5, there were 3 floors of restaurants and shops to explore. On the 5th floor, there is even an outdoor observation deck where benches were arranged for visitors to relax and view the taxing, take-off, and landing of various airplanes.

While exploring the terminal for food, there was definitely a lot of options to choose from: ramen, soba, sushi, tempura, fast food, subway, etc. However, I was particularly craving for Omurice – a Japanese comfort dish that consists of an egg omelette wrapped around fried rice and laced with sweet tomato sauce on top. This can be found in Japanese “Western-style” diner-type restaurants. Thus, as soon as I saw what I wanted, I went to a restaurant called Royal Coffee Shop on the 4th floor.

Paired with a nice cold Ebisu, a Japanese malt beer, I ordered a cute little set plate of omurice, fried hamburger patty with gravy, shrimp tempura, and garden salad. This was a nice ~$15 USD meal that really hit the spot.

Cold Yebisu Beer

Cold Yebisu Beer

Omurice, Fried Hamburger, Tempura, Shrimp, Salad

Omurice, Fried Hamburger, Tempura, Shrimp, Salad

 

The decor and atmosphere of the Royal Coffee Shop was similar to what you would see at a family diner. It could be compared to a Denny’s or IHOP, but cleaner and with the great service that the Japanese is known for.

I would definitely recommend venturing out of the airport gate area if you have time to explore the terminal; if not for just the food, then for the observation deck and many boutique shops in the terminal. It would definitely give you a better taste of Japan without having to enter the city.