San Francisco, Part 1: Farewell to the Queen

A few weeks ago, I entered a raffle on Twitter sponsored by The Points Guy and ended up winning tickets to United’s Family Day at San Francisco International Airport. I was absolutely psyched, as I’d get one more encounter with The Queen of the Skies before all the US carriers retired her at the end of the year.

Even at nine days out, tickets turned out not to be terribly expensive, with an economy ticket around $660 round trip. I went ahead and sprung for a first class ticket on the outbound trip, which was only $330 more, and would allow me to sample the transcontinental service from Washington to San Francisco. For the return, I noticed that the flight into Norfolk was only booked 1/20 in first class, so I figured I’d have a great chance at getting a CPU upgrade to first class, so I just stuck with economy on the return.


Norfolk to San Francisco

I arrived at the airport with ample time to spare and made it from the front door to the gate in a lightning fast 5 minutes with TSA PreCheck and no checked bags.

United 6123
ORF [Norfolk] to IAD [Washington Dulles]
October 7, 2017
Depart: 2:51 PM
Arrive: 3:50 PM
Duration: 59min
Aircraft: ERJ-175
Seat: 1D

First class on the ERJ-175
Dark skies on my departure out of Norfolk

After correcting a minor mechanical issue, we taxied towards the runway around fifteen minutes behind schedule. As it was a short flight, there was no meal service, but the crew did provide a drink service along with a snack basket with better options than I’ve had even on some mainline flights.

Snacks onboard the fifty-nine minute flight

After an almost timely arrival in Dulles, I made my way across the terminal to catch my 777 to San Francisco.

United 825
IAD [Washington Dulles] to SFO [San Francisco]
October 7, 2017
Depart: 12:36 PM
Arrive: 2:34 PM
Duration: 3hr58min
Aircraft: 777-200
Seat: 4A

After what seemed like a very chaotic boarding process, as the aircraft was downgraded from an internationally configured 777 to the domestic 777 with 20 less seats in the front cabin, I made my way on board.

The 777-200 that would be taking me to SFO
Seats 4A and 4B in the domestic first class cabin
Domestic first class cabin

After everyone got seated, we pushed back and queued up for takeoff. After about 30 minutes in the air, the flight attendants began the drink service and took our dinner orders. I went with a Moscow Mule and the chicken entree, which had some fancy name that I don’t remember. Then, after the meal, I got my long awaited ice cream sundae.

Moscow Mule and warm nuts
Dinner service with salad, chicken, grits, and wine
The dessert cart

I tried out the wifi service, which was somewhat usable, but not as fast or reliable as I’ve had on previous flights. It seems like Panasonic still has some work to do with speeding things up, but I was able to get some stuff done throughout the flight.

Sunset somewhere over the midwest

Before landing, the crew handed out freshly baked cookies.

Freshly baked cookie

After a timely arrival in San Francisco, I grabbed the shuttle and made the short ride over to my hotel.


Fairfield Inn SFO

For this trip, I figured it would be of most convenience to stay near the airport, since I would be spending a good portion of my time there. I then narrowed it down to find a place that was near a BART station, so I could have easy access to the city. The Fairfield Inn & Suites San Francisco Airport/Millbrae fit the bill on all accounts. I booked two nights for a total of $361.37, netting me 6747 Marriott points between the room rate, elite bonus, and credit card.

Upon checking in, I was upgraded to a suite, due to my Platinum Elite status I have with Marriott.

Suite at the Fairfield Inn San Francisco Airport
Suite at the Fairfield Inn San Francisco Airport

The room provided more than enough space for my two night stay and was located down the hall, away from any commotion. After getting settled in, I headed to bed to rest up for the adventure that was waiting the next day.


Farewell to the Queen

I excitedly awoke and caught the airport shuttle from the hotel and took another bus from the departures level to the employee parking lot, which was a short walk from United’s Technical Operations building.

Flyer for Family Day
Entrance to United Tech Ops

All the TPG ticket winners were greeted at the door and escorted to a meeting space upstairs for a reception and Q&A session with United’s operations personnel. Each of us received a bag of United swag along with a MileagePlus polo

Bag of swag

After a quick group photo, we were escorted downstairs and onto the ramp to line up first for our tour of the Boeing 747.

Group photo with The Points Guy
Heading on board

I made my way up the air stairs and turned left to check out the first class cabin.

747 first class cabin
Checking out seat 1A

Next, I made my way through the lower deck business class cabin and walked up the stairs to the upper deck.

Upper deck seats on the 747


Checking out the 747 cockpit

After snapping a few cockpit photos, I made my way back downstairs and explored the economy cabin. Looking at the galleys, you could definitely tell that this thing was straight out of the 90s.

No smoking during food handling?
Is that an Airfone?

After a checking out the plane at length and talking to a few former flight attendants, I made my way out the rear door and grabbed another selfie with the Queen.


I used this opportunity to snap a few other really cool photos that I’d not otherwise get the chance for.

Posing underneath an engine
Wide shot of The Queen on the ramp

Next up, I grabbed some lunch items and made my way to the hangar to see the landing gear demonstration and check out the 737-800 on display.

757-200 landing gear demonstration
A 737-800 on display

After watching the demonstration, I took a tour of the engine shop, where they had multiple widebody engines on display along with personnel on hand to answer any questions we had.

Engine off a 777-200

After about five hours, the event was finally coming to a close. On my way out, I got a good look at one of the 787-9s.


After an awesome afternoon of avgeeking out, I headed back to the terminal to catch the BART into the city to do some exploring.

Part 2 coming soon!

Happy travels,


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