I have flown plenty of domestic United Airlines flights and found them to be less than pleasant. The thought of experiencing that same level of service and product quality in a long haul international flight was absolutely dreadful. But in the interest of fair reporting, and not reviewing a product for which I had no personal knowledge of, I decided to take a long haul flight on United’s BusinessFirst product so that I could give them a fair shake.
Flight# UA 927
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400
Frankfurt (FRA) to San Francisco (SFO)
Depart: 5:25 PM on Tuesday, July 9
Arrive: 8:25 PM Delayed (Same Day)
Duration: 11hr 25mn
Seat: 16A Business Class (Upper Deck)
Much to my surprise, I actually had a very pleasant experience on this flight and I would recommend this product over Lufthansa’s 747-400 Business Class product. The United Airlines Boeing 747-400 we flew was configured with a four class cabin: Global First, BusinessFirst, Economy Plus and Economy.
BusinessFirst Hard Product
The hard product on the Boeing 747-400 was actually not bad. The positives included the completely lie flat seats and gigantic 15 inch AVOD screens. The seat was pretty comfy in both sleep and sit positions. Although a bit narrow, you can lower the arm rests to allow your arms and shoulders to “spread out” a little more. The shared armrest in between the two seats was fairly wide and offered plenty of arm space for both passengers. There’s even a small divider between the seats to offer additional privacy if needed. There were 110v power ports at every seat and USB connectivity if you wanted to connect your iPod or iPhone.
Overall, the hard product was decent but I had some very minor complaints about it. My first complaint is the staggered, front and rear facing, seat configuration of the Boeing 747-400. United and British Airways are the only two airlines that offer this configuration and I’m not a big fan of it. Not because of the “flying backwards” bit but because you are staring at your fellow passengers during the flight and that can make for an awkward time.
I don’t know about you guys but I’m a mess when I’m flying. My hair gets “flat head,” my clothing gets disheveled and there are boogers in my eyes. Nobody needs to see that, especially that guy across from me who just woke up with drool all over his chin. Yum, who’s ready for breakfast??
The other complaint about the BusinessFirst hard product is the gigantic screen. There were no controls to dim or brighten your screen. You can turn your screen off if you’re sleeping but you can’t just dim it if you’re trying to be considerate to your sleeping seatmate. Again, very minor but still worth noting.
And lastly, there is a shelf located in front of your seat, just below the television screen. It’s a great space and I’m sure it was designed for keeping small objects such as your cell phone, camera, eyeglasses or whatever else on during your flight. However, there is no lip that prevents your items from falling during takeoff or turbulence. During our initial takeoff, I saw a guy’s cell phone and amenities kit slide off the shelf and slide down the aisle towards the galley. The shelf was not bad during flight but a small lip would have been a much better design for the overall experience.
BusinessFirst Soft Product
As we entered the plane, we were directed to the stairway to our upper deck seats. Shortly after sitting down, our Flight Attendant, Beverly, came by to take our drink orders and hand out printed menus. My drink choices included champagne (unknown brand), orange juice or water. I chose the orange juice. As the other passengers were still boarding, Beverly came back around to take our first and second choices for dinner.
Waiting for us at our seats were the amenities kits, headphones, pillows and duvets. The headphones were standard, noise reducing headphones and the pillows and duvets were large and comfortable. The amenities kit was pretty standard but had more than what you would expect on a United business class flight. It’s a simple nylon case with a top zipper, branded with a United BusinessFirst badge. The kit contained socks, eye shades, comb, ear plugs, lip balm, pen, hand and face cream, tissues, mints, oral hygiene products and a sanitation wipe. Nothing fancy but had all the items to keep you comfortable.
Once we reached our cruising altitude and the seatbelt signs were tured off, our Flight Attendants came around to pass out hot towels, ramekin of warm nuts and another round of drinks. Dinner was then served in courses and honestly, was not that good. I won’t spend too much time on it but you can judge from the pictures below.
Thanks to Beverly, I now know that Bailey’s Irish Cream is a great addition to the ice cream sundae. They were kind, patient and appeared to genuinely care about taking care of us. Every preconceived notion that I had about grumpy old United Flight Attendants were thrown out the window! Kudos ladies!
After dessert, I watched a couple of movies (Jack the Giant Slayer, Hansel and Gretel) and snoozed for a bit. Breakfast was then served about an hour and a half before our final descent into SFO. I chose to sleep through breakfast but my friend told me the tastiness was along the same lines as dinner. Glad I decided to get some extra zzz’s.
Okay, so that’s the end of the trip report but I have to add one more thought. This flight was taken just three days after the Asiana flight #214 crash and we were landing into SFO on runway 28R, right next to the crash site on runway 28L. NTSB was still conducting their investigation and thus, had not allowed for the cleanup of debris or removal of the crashed airplane yet.
Now, I don’t have a fear of flying by any means, but I would be lying if I said, it wasn’t a little unnerving to land alongside a crashed airplane and see the aftermath firsthand. Leading up to this trip, we had seen plenty of television coverage of the crash site but seeing it firsthand, was something more unreal and indescribable. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for the pilots and cabin crew either and I tried to throw some positive energy their way.
The passengers on this particular flight were all fairly young and were in good spirits. All the passengers in the upper deck were chatting and socializing with each other during the flight. However, as we prepared for our final descent into SFO, you could feel the tension build in the air and the mood of the cabin change. I was partly relieved to see that I was not the only one affected by seeing the wreckage. Some people held their loved one’s hand and others just sat there quietly, but the one thing we had in common, was the collective sigh of relief after we had landed safely. I don’t know what we were all worried about. Aviation is still the safest way to travel and we all knew that. But it was still hard to not think about what happened and what could happen.
Our thoughts and prayers goes out to everyone affected by the Asiana flight #214 crash.
So that’s my review. Sorry it was a little wordy. I’m new at this travel blogging thing and please let me know if you have any questions or comments on how I can write better reviews. Thanks for reading!