This United Airlines Economy Class review from Paris to San Francisco on a Boeing 787-8 is sort of a mixed bag. On one hand, the in-flight entertainment and crew members were fantastic. The flight attendants were attentive, polite and made an effort to make sure everyone was comfortable. But on the other hand, the catering and seats were terrible. The catering was barely edible and the seats were hard and uncomfortable. This was probably my least favorite United Airlines Economy Class flight in a long time and I’m hoping this isn’t a trend for things to come.
For those of you who love to hate United. . . I will throw you a bone here. United has (or had) a fantastic configuration on their Boeing 787-8 aircraft. These seats offered the most pitch (32 inches) and recline (5 inches) of any aircraft in their entire fleet and it was always a joy for me to fly them. But for some reason, this aircraft was different. Instead of the normal soft cloth seats, this Boeing 787-8 had the new leather(?) slimline seats found on their domestic aircraft. Here’s a picture of what the seats should have looked like on this aircraft.
Instead, these were the seats installed on this aircraft. I know it doesn’t look like much but trust me, the soft cloth and padding on the old seats make a world of difference. I’m not sure if this was a “one-off” or if all the Boeing 787-8s have or will be going to this new slimline seat. If the old seats are being replaced with these, that’s not a good thing in terms of passenger comfort. Compared to the old seats, these seats only offer 31 inches of pitch and 3 inches of recline. That’s a reduction of 1 inch in pitch and 2 inches in recline. Yuck.
United Airlines Economy Class, Boeing 787-8 Paris to San Francisco
At Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, United operates from Terminal 1. The check-in counters are located in Halls 3 – 4 and open approximately 3 hours prior to departure time. The United departure gates are located between gates 40 and 48.
United Business Class and Star Alliance Gold members are invited to use the new Star Alliance Lounge in Terminal 1. The recently remodeled lounge is open and spacious with hot food options throughout the day. There’s even an outdoor garden space to get some post-security air before your flight.
Keep in mind that the Star Alliance Lounge is located post-immigration but pre-security. I recommend you leave at least 15 minutes prior to boarding time to get to your gate and clear security. This also means that you can’t take any filled water bottles or drinks with you through security.
However, there are water fountains located after the security check to fill up your water bottles and a snack stand to pick up some drinks and snacks before boarding. I don’t recommend getting to the gate area too early as there is not much to do here. There are only a handful of shops and workstations at the gate area and the small space does get crowded and loud.
Aircraft: Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
Paris (CDG) to San Francisco (SFO)
Depart: 09:15 AM on Tuesday
Arrive: 12:00 PM same day
Duration: 11hr 45mn
Seat: 27A Economy Class
Boarding was called approximately 30 minutes prior to our scheduled departure time. Business class passengers boarded through door 1L and the rest of us boarded through door 2L. On this trip, I had pre-selected my seat ahead of time. I normally choose 27A, which is my favorite seat on the Boeing 787s. But seeing as to how this flight was nearly empty, I moved back a few rows and took an entire row to myself.
Quick tip: The emergency exit row seats are sold as “Economy Plus” seats as they offer extra legroom. However, the window seats of the emergency exit row (27A, 27L) are considered regular economy class seats and can be selected ahead of time for free. The seats offer unlimited legroom but the space around your knees is slightly limited due to the protrusion of the emergency exit door. Click here to read my guide on the best economy class seats to select on United’s Boeing 787 aircraft.
Each seat is configured with individual entertainment monitors, a USB port, electrical outlet (2 for every 3 seats, found underneath the seats), air nozzle and personal reading lamp. Entertainment-wise, United has a fantastic selection of new Hollywood movies, TV shows, video games and music entertainment. It doesn’t matter how long your flight is. You won’t run out of entertainment on any United flight.
Storage-wise, the large overhead bins can accommodate all your roll-aboard and carry-on bags. And at the seat, you can keep your smaller personal items in the seat-back pockets or underneath the seat in front of you.
Waiting at my seat was a blanket and flimsy pillow. Prior to takeoff, the flight attendants came by to offer complimentary, disposable earbuds to all passengers seated in economy class. The captain then came on the PA, welcomed everyone onboard and advised us of a slight weather delay. Due to the snow and ice, we had to do a quick de-icing bath prior to takeoff, which eventually caused us a 40-minute delay.
After our bath and takeoff, we then made our way to Los Angeles. The seatbelt signs were turned off once we hit our cruising altitude and the flight attendants prepared for our first meal service. Service started with a pre-meal drink and a Stroopwafel snack. I was an idiot and didn’t realize this was a breakfast service (and not a lunch service). Otherwise, I would have ordered a coffee for my Stroopwafel.
The flight attendants then came by with our breakfast trays. By the time they got to me, there was only one option left. It was some egg dish with potatoes and sausage, served with a side of fruit and a muffin. I’ll let the picture speak for itself but this wasn’t the best meal. Thank goodness I ate in the lounge beforehand.
However, an ice cream cup followed the sub-par breakfast and it was tasty.
During the meal service, drinks were refilled several times and trays were cleared quickly. This was a fantastic crew. They were proactive and walked the cabin frequently to check on passengers. The cabin lights were then dimmed and window shades darkened. I worked on my laptop for a bit, watched a couple of movies and then got some rest.
Comfort-wise, I had a whole row to myself and tried to make myself a little economy class suite. . . it didn’t work. The seats were hard and lumpy and the stupid armrests kept falling back down. After a few tries, I just slept in a seated position with my trusty GoSleep travel pillow and sleep mask. With it, I was able to fall asleep for a few hours.
Halfway through the flight, the flight attendants came by with a snack bag and some drinks. The snack bag consisted of dried apricots and some cookies. It wasn’t anything special but it helped pass the time.
About an hour outside of San Francisco, a small pre-arrival meal was served. Again, there was only one meal option. I’m not sure if they just ran out of food or if they only catered one item per service but my one option was a warm turkey sandwich, served with a bag of chips and side of fruit. Again, it wasn’t the best.
United Airlines Economy Class final thoughts
Overall, this was a mediocre flight. The highs included a great crew and steller in-flight entertainment system. The crew was attentive and they really went out of their way to take care of passengers. The in-flight entertainment system was loaded with a ton of entertainment and I was able to catch up on several movies I had missed in theatres.
However, everything else just fell a little flat. The catering was terrible and barely edible. I know airplane breakfasts are not great to begin with but only having one option per service was unacceptable. And these seats, oh my gosh. They were hard, uncomfortable and barely had any recline. I’m normally a United fanboy and can forgive a lot of things but I have to admit, this flight was rather disappointing (even by my low standards).
Have you flown United Airlines Economy Class recently? If so, please share your thoughts with me in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!
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