This is part of a series article: From Shanghai to US – A Handbook. These articles are to help my friends (obviously in Shanghai) to plan their first time visit to U.S. To be concise, I only outline information that I think helpful for this group of people. So don’t be surprised if it left some important information outside the scope.
To go to U.S. from Shanghai, there are not too much choices of flight. If you visit San Francisco, there is actually only one flight: UA858 (status) you may take. Most U.S. company including Microsoft and eBay choose this flight. Here is the schedule:
12:45 pm Depart Shanghai (PVG)
Arrive San Francisco (SFO) 8:53 am (next day)
Duration: 10hr 47mn
According to the PVG (Pudong Airport Policy), the international check-in opens 2 hours before the flight (that is 10:45 AM), and closes 45 minutes before the scheduled departure time (that is 12:00)
According to my experience, before 10:45 AM, many people already lined up at the check-in counter, with big baggages. The line should already wind around the counter, with at least 100+ people. Most of the passengers are either first time visitors (like parents visiting children in U.S.) or returning residence with big luggage.
If you are the first time visitor, I suggest you to get to the airport as early as possible. The excitement of travel well compensate the 1 hour of waiting. If you arrive on time, you will be surprised, and worried whether you will be late to your flight (actually, you will never be late…)
If you have visited many times, and just have a small bag with you, you can go there as late as 11:30 AM, when the line is short, and all the other passengers completed their checkin process.
The custom inspection may take time too. Pudong Airport has already been a busy port. The 10 – 20 inspection counter still cannot handle the passengers in rush hours.
If you go earlier enough or you call United Airlines one day before, you can choose your seat. I would recommend you to take a window seat, since the scene outside flight window attracts me most.
UA858 is a Boeing 747-400 plane. If you can, choose the seat numbered with A, like 41A, 42A… Never choose row 32 to 40 – they are just above the wings of the aircraft, and you can see almost nothing. 46A to 46K have extra spaces (they are the emergency exit). The view is bad, but you can relax your legs.
The reason I suggests the left side window against the right side is, you will be able to see Mount Fujisan in Japan (35.36 N 138.73 E) within one hour. There are a lot of mountains and ports to see when the flight is about Japan.
Photograph by Jian Shuo Wang, Nov 10, 2002
UA858 does not stop at NRT (Tokyo Narita Airport), but it flys by.
What to Do on the Flight
The flight is long, but it is still OK – just 10 hours and 47 minute. The flight sometimes arrives several minutes to 20 minutes earlier than scheduled.
I suggest you after the flight leaves Japan, try to fall asleep ASAP. Scene outside window will be completely the same – the pacific ocean, clouds or darkness. You won’t miss anything. Don’t watch the on-flight movie, or browse on-flight magazine for too long. You will experience serious jet lag in SFO if you don’t sleep well. The eyes cover helps me a lot.
The screen will help you to figure out where you are
At around morning the next day (or the same day according to your calendar), you will arrive at San Francisco Airport
Here are some reports I accumulated in the previous years of travelling between SFO and PVG.
SFO – San Francisco Airport
When UA858 arrives, there are English, Chinese and Japanese language welcoming you, and it is easy to get to the lugage claim area, like this: