Last weekend, I had to attend a conference in the Bay Area. Since traveling from LGA is a nightmare, my top choice was to fly United from hub to hub.

Getting there

I flew United economy since there were no great seats in premium economy and I thought that it might make sense to try to upgrade to business on the way back. I had booked a redeye flight to return to the East Coast. On the way to San Francisco, my economy seat felt crammed and barely tolerable for a 5+ hour trip. The WiFi was very unreliable and did not work during most of the trip.

This meant that since this Boing 777 is not equipped with screens there was no entertainment for 90% of the trip. I was glad to have a couple of great books on my Kindle. The food for purchase was limited. I wanted to order the bundle, but there were no breakfast sandwiches. I did not want to take any chances with the chicken burrito. Luckily for me, I knew there would be a Centurion lounge waiting for me at the United terminal.

The Centurion Lounge is located near gates 74-75. It was easier to find than other lounges. Although the place was crowded and messy, the food, drinks and staff were great.

Getting to the hotel

I took the BART from the airport to my hotel. The whole process is very easy. The ticket machines are similar to the ones in NYC, but less user friendly. The BART system reminded me of Milan’s subway system. An Uber would cost $30-$50 depending on time of the day. I was at my hotel in about an hour.

Where I stayed

View from my corner room

The Oakland Marriott City Center is very well located. Let me get the negative out of the way, ironically I found that both of the team members at the Elite desk were the staff weakest links. As a matter of fact, they both seemed hostile to elite members. Why bother with an Elite desk if the staff will make things worse for the most loyal customers? Fortunately, everybody else especially the restaurant staff demonstrated much better customer service skills. By the way, as an elite member the breakfast was complementary in leu of access to the M Lounge which was closed from Friday to Monday.

Where I ate

Most of my meals were from the hotel’s restaurant. The breakfast was the best meal each day. However, my first night in Oakland, Yelp and a wonderful hotel employee recommended Shangdong restaurant. This part of town just a couple of blocks from the hotel seems to be on the sketchy side. The place is loved by locals and people line up for a table. In our case, the ~20 minute wait was so worth it! The Shangdong beef was the best Chinese beef I’ve had in years. The wantons were plenty and delicious.

After the conference, I headed back to the airport with a new friend and invited him to the Centurion lounge for dinner.

The dinner menu was exactly the same as the lunch I had had a couple of days before. The place was less crowded at dinner time and we spent a couple of hours waiting for our respective redeye flights.

More about the flight…

At some point, it hit me that flying economy back to the East Coast was going to be too much especially at night. I tried to upgrade to business.

United was only allowing upgrades with miles (20,000) and $250. I decided to call united before transferring my points. The agent told me that if they did not accept my upgrade request the points would be refunded, however as I already knew, I would not be able to send my points back to my Ultimate Rewards account. The United agent, offered to find out how many other people were interested in this upgrade opportunity. It tuned out that 30 other people would be in line for this seat ahead of me. What United calls “Premium Economy,” is only premium in name and price. You basically get 3 more inches of space and maybe an additional inch on each side of the seat. No window or aisle was available, I ended up taking seat 17F, and I had to share my under seat space with my neighbor. In the future, if I have a choice I will not take a redeye coast to coast unless it’s in business or first class. For the most part the flight was smooth and we made it to EWR by 6:50 am EST. I don’t think I was able to sleep more than an hour during the trip.

I hope the next time I visit this area, I will do it with my family and be able to enjoy all the wonderful things San Francisco has to offer. Philz Coffee you are on my list!

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