Not only was the United party at the W Brisbane, they were staying there as well. So breakfast before the flight meant running into plenty more people from United, which was kind of cool. Hot food items at breakfast were pretty good although some others were a miss, then it was back to Brisbane Airport for the flight home, aka the inaugural return.
Wasn't quite sure what to expect for the inaugural return flight, but it was clearly apparently it was a big deal. United Airlines Senior VP Patrick Quayle and Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka were both in attendance, as was a small area open to the public for food and pictures. Made a formal introduction to David Ishmael (aka Aviator Dave, United's ambassador for the SFO hub) as well who was documenting both flights for United's social media. Yesterday's flight attendants were working the inaugural flight back as well, although the pilots were different-- the inaugural SFO-BNE pilots were present but were deadheading home.
Managed to snap some pictures with United SVP Patrick Quayle and Captain Horanyi, then it was time to hustle through security, immigration, and to the gate, where a much bigger crowd awaited. I'm fuzzy on all of the executives and VIPs who were there, but it was a huge deal yet again. Managed to snap some choice photos as well thanks to Carl Brothers' Global Services status as his GS agent, Yana, pushed us ahead of the lines a few times. (not sure how I feel about this taste of GS life as it's not something I could ever justify affording on my own, but it's clearly next level o_0 ).
Once on-board, the swag wasn't quite as good. No stuffed animals or special printed momentos, but the flight attendants had the same enthusiasm. The fish was an overcooked-and-definitely-not-actually-seared "seared" barramundi, but I did manage to get a bite of the BNE-SFO cake, which was, according to Carl, significantly inferior to the SFO-BNE cake. And due to the morning departure it was definitely hard to sleep, so spent quite a bit more time socializing with the passengers and crew.
Managed a couple hours of sleep in the end, had a bit of a tummyache from breakfast (a terrible frittata), then an early arrival at SFO. Sat at the gate for a bit before they would let us deplane because customs hadn't opened yet, then was off to Polaris Lounge for the uintentionally extended layover.
Turns out LAX had a carbon dioxide accident (firefighting system) at one of the two terminals used by United that morning, hence the extended layover. Even boarded the flight to LAX-- then had to deplane when it became apparent the delay would be a while. This gave just enough time to hustle back to the Polaris Lounge and get a seat at the Polaris Dining Room for some proper Chinese congee (jook) for breakfast, then back to the gate as everyone's phone went off saying boarding was starting.
Smooth flight back to Los Angeles, said farewell to Carl as he ran off to meet his husband, and then down to baggage claim for one last surprise-- saw a CBS 2 news crew interviewing passengers affected by the mornings' accident. Coworkers later saw me in the background on the evening news.
In the end, turned out to be one long fun and definitely crazy extended weekend. Definitely the biggest deal of an inaugural flight that I've been on, beating both IAD-AMM (Jordan) and LAX-SIN (Singapore).