Initially we thought that it would be great fun to arrive in China in a hot air balloon, but, alas, we didn’t have 80 days (or 40 as the case may be), so instead we booked the 14-hour United Airlines Flight 835 (UA835) from Chicago to Shanghai. That was February 1. We later discovered from Bao, the Hangzhou Foreign Languages School liaison, that Flight 835 is the flight most often chosen by arriving teachers.
The journey itself was long, but uneventful—except perhaps for some slight tension created by a takeoff delay for our connecting flight from Minneapolis to Chicago. We sat on the runway for a half hour in Minneapolis, and the delay caused some hurrying and anxiety on the O’Hare end of the connection. We were among the last to board the flight, but still arrived with about 10 to 15 minutes to spare.
I have never been on a flight of this length, but I was pleased with UA835. I was concerned about how I would withstand a 14-hour flight. I cannot sit for long periods and the last flight I was on returning on the Miami-Minneapolis leg of a trip to Curacao was absolutely dreadful. But it worked out well. Here’s why:
- The aircraft was a Boeing 777-200 and revealed itself to be quite comfortable.
- Our choice of seats proved a good one. We chose seats across from the lavatories. This may seem a bad choice, but actually, we hardly noticed the traffic. The big deal was that our seats were immediately in front of an emergency door and, thus, there were no seats behind us. This allowed us to conveniently step out of our seats and stretch and walk about the cabin.
- Another good choice was our upgrade to Economy Plus seating. As I am big, I like the extra space between rows. I was able to easily extend my legs under the seat in front of me. The upgrade to Economy Plus was about $130 a seat. Total fare, with seating upgrade, one-way to Shanghai for two, was $2,050 ($1,025 each).
- The UA crew was very attentive. Crew came by often—every 30 to 60 minutes, maybe—offering water. The flight included two hot meals and a snack. All beverages were complimentary, including alcoholic beverages.
Based on our experience this one time, I would certainly recommend United Airlines and Flight 835. It was a pleasant ride.