Flying from Guam to Manila seemed like heaven after a long flight from California to Hawaii and an even longer non-eventful flight from Hawaii to Guam. I was #5 on the upgrade list as Premier Platinum with only 3 seats open in first, so I knew there was almost no way my upgrade was going to clear.
Upon landing in Guam, I headed straight to my departure gate, for my plane was already boarding and was technically supposed to depart 5 minutes earlier. However due to the delay of the incoming flight from Honolulu, all flights from Guam were held for connecting passengers. I reached my gate without a problem. Thankfully, it was only two gate over because I could not find a single monitor for flight information anywhere in the airport and not a single United Representative was at the gate upon disembarkation.
By the time I was about to board the plane, my United app was showing that I was now #2 on the upgrade list with zero available seats. Sure enough, every seat in first already had a person sitting in it, so I knew I was going to be enjoying economy for my final leg of this trip. My seat was an exit row, window seat, on a dated Continental Micronesia 737. Boarding finished and about 10 minutes later we were pushing back from the gate, only 20 minutes delayed from our original departure time.
As we pushed back from the gate, I did a little jig in my seat, for I knew I was now only approximately 3.5 hours from Manila! After a long day of traveling, I could not want anything more than to be at my destination. Additionally, I was laughing to myself as I overheard the people behind me speaking to each other on how they were never going to fly United again via HNL/GUM to get to Manila. For any price would be better than “this”. I chuckled, not only because I agreed that paying a few extra hundred dollars to fly another airline via an Asian hub would be better, but because it was the same conversation I had with the person sitting next to me on my way to Guam, and was very similar to another conversation I had with the group of travelers both in front of me and behind me on the jet bridge while waiting to board the plane. Clearly, United had left a bad impression on just about everyone flying them from the mainland to Manila (there were 90 people connecting to the MNL flight in GUM from HNL and beyond).
The Plane pushed back from the gate and then sat on the Taxiway for what seemed like an eternity, but in actuality was closer to 10 minutes. I knew something was wrong, for planes never sit on the taxiway without moving for that long, unless there is an issue. The pilot then made an overhead announcement that we would be returning to the gate due to a maintenance issue. The man sitting in front of me was a Continental Micronesia United mechanic, and despite being on his way home to Manila for his 3 days off, he jumped up the minute we got to the gate to see what he could do to assist. There was no way he was not getting home tonight! Thankfully, whatever Dan the Mechanical Man did, he fixed the problem, along with UA ground staff! Now, an hour delayed, we were pushing back from the gate a second time and were going to attempt to make our way towards Manila.
Thankfully, we took off without further delay and about 40 minutes into the flight, the flight attendants were in the aisle doing what they do. Smiles and all, the FA offered dinner to each passenger in coach, consisting of some type of chicken or beef dish. Again, since I had a special meal request the FA offered me my vegetarian meal before serving the rest of the cabin. My dinner this time was roasted vegetable spaghetti, salad, and fresh fruit. My meal honestly looked 100X better than the processed meat my seatmates were eating.
Other than meal service, the flight did not have any other special services offered. Only 1 drink service (at meal time) was offered and then about 45 minutes before landing, after cleaning up the meal trays the FA passed through the cabin with water or hot tea for those who wanted a second beverage. There was an overhead movie—standard on continental flights—that played some movie that I had no interest in watching, but was different from the other overhead movies that were played between LAX-HNL and HNL-GUM. By 10pm local time, we were touching down and I had finally made it to Manila! Over all, I was only an hour delayed, after experiencing delays on all three flights!
Landing at MNL is typically a breeze, and this being my 4th trip to the Philippines in the last three years I must say that immigrations is always easy here; wait times rarely exceeding 10 minutes for foreign nationals. Tonight my wait time was less than 5 minutes and I made it to baggage claim before the luggage even started to appear on the carousel. However, despite having “priority luggage”, my wait for my two large boxes was not quick and my luggage did not have priority. I waited and I waited and I watch box and bag come one after another.
First a number of priority bags, then the carousel stopped. A few minutes later, it began again. The carousel stopped and started 3 times over the course of 30 minutes. With each stop of the carousel, I started to fear that United had lost my parcels. However finally, the last two boxes appeared on the belt from down below and sure enough, they were mine. Almost 50 minutes after landing, my “priority” marked bags had made it. Late or last is better than not at all, however now that I was almost two hours pass my scheduled landing time, I was ready to be out of the airport and on my way to my destination for the evening with friends, family , and loved ones who had all flown across the pacific that day, but on different airlines and aircrafts.