After some days of eating, enjoying the beautiful Ocean and drinking many Pisco Sours in Lima, it was time to return up North with United Airlines. The last time I tried United was probably in 2012, immediately after the merger with Continental Airlines, United took over the Houston-Lima flight with their Domestic configuration Boeing 767-300. Due competition with the far superior products offered by Delta, AirCanada, American Airlines and LanPeru, United had to step up their offer and switch Lima to their Business First product on both Newark-Lima and Houston-Lima flights.
A bit off topic, United had the advantage of taking over the very successful ex Continental routes to Peru which had run since the mid 1990’s with non stop service from both Newark and Houston with their Boeing 757-200. Continental was already consolidated in the market, United on the other hand had a brief service to Lima from their discontinued hub of Miami back in the 1990’s with a daily flight to Lima on a Boeing 757-200 and later with an Airbus A-320 before closing their Miami hub due the direct competition of the old time winner of the market: American Airlines.
Stepping back to 2016 I was looking forward to try their newly configured Business First product on this 06:15mins flight from Lima to Houston. I arrived early for check-in and was directed by the very friendly agent to the Sumaq VIP Lounge that serves many of the international carriers that fly out of Lima, including: American, Delta, British Airways, Iberia, Air France etc…
Lima/Jorge Chavez Airport
Lima Jorge Chavez Airport was inaugurated in 1967 just off the Port of Callao, nowadays with a single runway operation runs one of the most important Hubs in the Latin American continent hosting both LATAM and Avianca Airlines and handling over 17.5 million passengers per year. Current plans for a second runway and a new mega terminal are about to be finalized between the Operator and the Government as there has been a delay due to the take over of nearby land that was had to be taken by the State to be passed to Lima Airport Partners, construction is planned to start by mid-late 2017.
After Immigration Control I found the Duty Free area…
There are two VIP Lounges at Lima, Sumaq and VIP Club. Both can be accessed via an invitation of the Airline or by holding a Priority Pass card, there is also the option to pay with a credit card or cash in USD or PEN at the counter.
Offer is a bit limited, some cold sandwiches and cookies. Open bar yes with middle shelf options and the National Drink of Peru: Pisco Sour ( Pisco, lemon juice, egg yolk, Angostura bitter and sugar). Also note that fresh squeezed Orange Juice is offered at the Sumaq Lounge, something not very common elsewhere.
Boarding was called by Gate 17. The B767-300ER was already waiting for me and my assigned seat was the perfect one for a solo-traveler 2D.
The cabin was modern, well illuminated and to my surprised the cleaning team did an amazing job! The seat was dark blue, elegant and had the amenities already placed by the Crew…a big pillow, a duvet and the amenity kit for the night.
Doors were closed at 00:35 and we proceeded to Runway 15 for a departure to the South and then quickly making a left turn towards the North to head direct to Central America and the Gulf of Mexico towards Houston.
Menu was distributed by the very friendly and approachable ex-Continental Cabin Crew…
Even though United sells the USA-Peru-USA sector as BusinessFirst product it is indeed a little bit of an hybrid. Because of the flying time which can be reduced to 05:50mins at some times of the year (as winds vary) the service is simplified, a Wine Menu is avoided for some weird reason (how much can it cost?). Amenity Kit in full is offered which is OK but the Meal Service is simplified too…no appetizer and no Ice-Cream Sundae… if you compare to LATAM, AA or Delta…United clearly is a step behind.
The very friendly Purser offered me a decent Chardonnay ( I am not expecting fancy wines in United!) together with some warm nuts.
To your Health and the Friendly Skies…
Dinner came in a single tray presentation…it was just delicious…great job from the new catering company from Lima! It consisted of a simple salad, Peruvian style chicken with aji amarillo (yellow chilli) sauce with rice! Simple but really amazing taste, tasted home cooked!
No Ice Cream Sunday was offered to my disappointment but instead a caramel cheesecake was served…I was impressed! Excellent taste…small size and presentation left a lot to be desired…but once again taste taste taste! A+ (I am a huge fan of cheesecakes!).
After Dinner I headed to the Galley and had a very interesting chat with the very friendly Cabin Crew: Amy and Cathleen…If you see them around expect nothing but a great flight with them!
Had a picture with them and with their permission I can publish it here for the future United travelers!
As every good moment it has to come to an end…Descent into Houston was announced and I returned to my seat. After a quick vector to the ILS we landed sharply on-time at Houston Airport.
Welcome to Houston, home of the new United Airlines!
I was not very eager to fly United, I can get excited to fly the International Delta One product or even the AA CIP Business Class to Lima on their Boeing 767. The merger between United and Continental was kind of a mess and it was well known in forums and travel experts that many frequent customers of United were leaving due to a cut in the quality of service, upgrade priorities, Wine/Catering downgrades and many other ”enhancements” under the Jeff Smisek administration of the company.
To my surprise I was happy with the flight, I did not have high expectations as when I fly Qatar Airways, Emirates or sometimes British Airways/Air France or other European carriers but United did their job. The Cabin Crew was simply fantastic, genuine and very approachable. Catering was simple but tasty, Wines were OK and the cheesecake was outstanding. Arrival was on-time which is something I value and the seat offered is perfect to sleep, the IFE variety is excellent and the screen has a decent size compared to other similar airlines.
I truly hope that United can overcome some of the turbulence it has experienced in the last few years and bring back the old spirit of pride and service it was well known for in the 1980’s and 1990’s.
Come fly the friendly skies!
The Executive Pilot.
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