Three Days in Rio de Janeiro – Introduction


United Airlines 424
Washington-Dulles (IAD) – San Francisco (SFO)
Boeing 737-800
22 February 2016

Clearing immigration took about five minutes since no one was there and I also have Global Entry. The TSA then told me I “shouldn’t have left the country” when I asked if Precheck was open after they told me take off my shoes and remove my laptop. Always a pleasure dealing with them!

I had about an hour and a half layover in Washington and about fifteen minutes after we reached the gate, I was already in the United Global First Lounge waiting for my connecting flight to San Francisco. You can use the Global First Lounge upon arrival from a Global First flight.

I ate some breakfast in the lounge and talked with family before heading to the gate about ten minutes prior to boarding. The gate was located miles away from the lounge, in the D Concourse, and therefore it took me about fifteen minutes to get there.

Boarding began right on time and the flight was oversold by a ton of people since they were offering up to $500 USD to take a later flight. I would’ve loved to take that offer, but since I was on a paid First Class ticket, I couldn’t as none of the other flights later in the day had availability in First Class.

My flight to San Francisco was operated by a Boeing 737-800, and unfortunately I was stuck in the last row of First Class, which meant limited recline. The United Airlines First Class B737 experience isn’t really excellent and a bit boring, actually. Too bad I wasn’t able to get a seat on their Boeing 757-200s which feature flatbeds and also fly between SFO and IAD.

Washington-Dulles Airport

Washington-Dulles Airport

Pre-Departure Water

Pre-Departure Water

Pre-departure beverages were offered to all passengers in First Class as they boarded. The flight was significantly full and they needed to gate-check a ton of people’s carryons.. which caused a slight delay. Legroom was standard for United domestic First Class – and actually much better than what the other U.S. airlines offer in domestic First Class. DirecTV was available.

United Airlines First Class B737 Legroom

United Airlines First Class B737 Legroom

United Airlines First Class B737 TV Control

United Airlines First Class B737 TV Control

We pushed back from the gate and made it to the runway about ten minutes late, where we were number two for take-off. It was overall a beautiful, but really cold day in Washington D.C.

Washington-Dulles Airport

Washington-Dulles Airport

Washington D.C.

Washington D.C.

View

View

Like I mentioned before, I usually hate breakfast flights since airlines can never get breakfast right. It just sucks… and of course this flight was no exception. United usually has great lunch and dinner options on their domestic flights… but breakfast is a completely different story.

My breakfast began with some tea. Three choices were offered for breakfast:

  • Cereal with Milk and Banana
  • French Toast
  • Scrambled Eggs and Sausage

Did I seriously have to be in the last row, last seat of First Class?! The French Toast sounded really delicious and appetising, but by the time the flight attendant got to my seat all that was left was cereal.. again. I did ask her about the French Toast and she said it wasn’t available anymore despite the fact that only two people had ordered it.

Tea with Lemon

Tea with Lemon

The first course of everyone’s breakfast consisted of a fresh fruit plate that was composed of grapes, strawberries, pineapple, and melon. A delicious Greek yoghurt was also included.

Breakfast

Breakfast

The second course was then what each passenger had selected (or in my case, was forced to select). To be fair, the cereal was actually much better than on my Global First flight a few hours before. Nevertheless, I ate the cereal and called it good since I couldn’t do anything about it anyway.

Cereal

Cereal

Freshly baked cookies were served about two hours before landing. These cookies are absolutely delicious and like I’ve mentioned before, U.S. airlines always get the desserts right.

Cookie

Cookie

I worked on my laptop for the majority of this five hour flight and before I knew it, we began our initial descend into San Francisco. The view outside for the duration of the flight was gorgeous.

Airshow

Airshow

View

View

San Francisco

San Francisco

We landed in San Francisco ahead of schedule and made it to the gate shortly thereafter. We landed at about 11:55 and there was an Alaska Airlines flight leaving to Seattle at 13:00, which I was hoping to schedule change to from my flight four hours later since I didn’t want to be stuck in San Francisco for another four hours.

Alaska Airlines departs from the International Terminal A in San Francisco and we arrived at gate 65, which couldn’t be any further from Alaska’s gates. I ran, ran, and ran to the international terminal and at 12:17 I made it to the counter, just three minutes before the cut-off. I was so out of breath that I couldn’t speak for a good minute and then I asked if I could schedule change to the 13:00 flight to Seattle.

Thankfully, there was one seat left and I paid the $25 USD change fee and then had to run to the gate. I had Precheck so thankfully everything went by quickly and I was boarding about seven minutes after I got the new boarding pass.

Eventually we landed in Seattle at 15:00 and I was home at about 15:30, ending my adventure to Brazil. In retrospect, I was a bit crazy to go on this trip, but then again, it was totally worth visiting a new country, flying a new experience, and earning 50k miles cheaply.

I hope you guys enjoyed reading about my trip to Rio de Janeiro, the Chicago trip report is up next!