Why Rio? Well, really, why not Rio? I’ve always wanted to experience Brazil and the first thing that comes to my mind when I think about Brazil is Rio, Sugar Loaf and Copacabana Beach. Every year our hospital will pay for us to go to a CME (continuing medical education) conference and we found a great conference (the annual FIGO conference, Internation Federation of Gynecologists and Obstetricians) in a great spot, Rio de Janeiro, so the deal was sealed. Once the request was approved by the hospital, we purchased tickets and it was time for the count down. As OB/GYN’s going to Brazil, we knew that we really wanted to examine the effects that the Zika virus epidemic had on pregnant women and their babies, specifically the forgotten people in the lower socio-economic rungs of Brazilian society. As a Star Alliance loyalist and United Airlines flyer, united.com was my first stop and I actually found a well price flight (not that I cared because, hey, the hospital was paying for it) that had upgrade space available so I jumped on it.
Aviation Geek Details:
- Airline and flight number: United Airlines flight UA845
- Route: Chicago (O’Hare) to Sao Paulo (Guarulhos)
- Aircraft: Boeing 777-200ER
- Airplane: N229UA, built in 2002 (16 years old at the time of the flight)
- Miles flown: 5,363 miles
- Flight duration: 9 hours and 35 minutes
- Class of service and seat: Business Class, seat 6A
- This was my 694th overall flight.
- This was my 245th United Airlines/United Express flight.
- This was my 84th flight on a Boeing 777 series aircraft and my 66th flight on a Boeing 777-200.
You can checkout the full flight video including takeoff right here (the video links for this flight, the flight from Sao Paulo to Rio, and our interview with a family affected by the Zika epidemic will also be present at the end of the report):
Experience (Total stars): 3.4/5 stars-A pretty average experience, not much more to say.
- Check-in: 3 points- Unfortunately there are never enough actual United employees in the check-in area (lots of contract workers who just tag bags). This usually means a nice long wait for a UA rep to review your visas before you can complete the check-in procedure.
- Lounge: 4 points- What! You only gave the Polaris lounge 4 points? The lounge is a great improvement over the United Club but there are things that could be better. For one, expand the size of The Dining Room or allow people to order off of the menu even if there are no seats available in the small dining area. Also, the private bathrooms are nice but there should be an attendant to make sure that they are clean after each use.
- Boarding: 3 points- Boarding was efficient enough but as always the boarding area was too crowded.
- Seat: 2 points- The IPTE seats are being replaced thankfully but the only thing they offer is legroom and a flatbed. The seats are too narrow with absolutely no personal storage space or privacy.
- In-Flight Entertainment: 4 points- United has enough content to keep you entertained but there could definitely be more.
- Meals: 3 points- Just middle of the road. The options weren’t too inspired and the execution was just average.
- Cabin Crew: 4 points- Crew were polite and professional but not overly warm.
- Cabin ambiance: 3 points- The cabin was clean but with the exception of the Boeing 777-300 and Boeing 787 fleets, the white walls and lack of mood lighting gives the cabin a meh feeling.
- Cabin cleanliness: 4 points-The cabin was clean but as per usual on UA long-haul flights, the bathrooms take a bit of a beating.
- Price paid and value for money: 3 points-I was able to upgrade all three of us using miles at the lowest level but when you add the fare paid ($1,200) to the upgrade fee ($500) and the miles (30,000), the value paid really isn’t all that great, especially for the old IPTE seating.
- Thumbs up: The Polaris lounge is a nice upgrade and it is always nice to have a flatbed for an overnight flight.
- Thumbs down: Checkin was too slow, the old IPTE business class seat provides no privacy or storage space, no PJ’s were offered on this flight which means arriving in wrinkled clothes (aparently the flight was too short to offer PJs), the meals were kind of meh and the bathrooms took a beating by the end of the flight.
SAO PAULO-RIO DE JANEIRO:
Aviation Geek Details:
- Airline and flight number: Avianca Brazil flight O6#6252
- Route: Sao Paulo (Guarulhos) to Rio De Janeiro (Galeao)
- Aircraft: Airbus A320
- Airplane: PR-AVU, built in 2011 (7 years old at the time of the flight)
- Miles flown: 212 miles
- Flight duration: 35 minutes
- Class of service and seat: Economy Class, seat 9A
- This was my 695th overall flight.
- This was my 1st flight on Avianca Brazil.
- This was my 70th flight on an Airbus A320 and 110th flight on an Airbus A319/320/321 series aircraft.
You can checkout the flight video including take-off right here (the video links for the Chicago-Sao Paulo and Sao Paulo-Rio flights along with our interview with a family affected by the Zika epidemic will also be at the end of this trip report):
You can checkout the full flight videos including take-off and landing right here:
United 845 ORD-GRU:
Avianca Brazil 6252 GRU-GIG:
Rio De Janeiro : Zika, Microcephaly and The Beauty in Pain
Experience/Total stars: 4.1/5 stars-This was definitely a good flight and if checkin had been more efficient and the seats had been better maintained, it would likely have been a solid 5-star flight!
- Check-in: 1 point- The wait at the transfer desk was entirely too long.
- Lounge: N/A
- Boarding: 3 points- Star Gold was offered boarding first but the lines were a bit chaotic without obvious separations.
- Seat: 4 points- The seat was comfortable with decent legroom and nice amenities. Maintainance and cleanliness could have been a bit better.
- In-Flight Entertainment: 5 points- I will be honest and say that I didn’t checkout the content but the fact that such a short, domestic flight even offered a seatback TV screen, wifi, and a USB was impressive enough.
- Meals: 5 points- To have a full beverage service and a warm snack on such a short flight was a true surprise.
- Cabin Crew: 5 points- The crew were polite and super efficient.
- Cabin ambiance: 4 points- If it were not for the seat wear and tear and the cleanliness, this would have been a 5.
- Cabin cleanliness: 3 points, see above.
- Price paid and value for money: N/A
- Thumbs up: The flights were on-time, the crew were polite and professional, the seats were comfortable with nice amenities and they even managed an in-flight service on this 36-minute flight!
- Thumbs down: The transfer process took way too long, the boarding was a bit chaotic and the seats showed a bit of wear and tear and could have been cleaner.