One of the best things about having points and miles friends is that you never have to travel alone. It’s always nice having a travel buddy to fly with you and on this trip, I was lucky enough to have one of my friends, Orlando L., join me. We both decided to visit Japan and New Zealand together and he had enough miles with United Airlines to make it happen. You can read about how we planned and booked our trip to Japan and New Zealand using United miles here. Our trip was booked prior to the United devaluation.
Because of our schedules, I actually left a day earlier to spend some time in Seoul, Korea before Orlando met me in Tokyo. He was originally booked on Air China’s business class from Los Angeles to Tokyo via Beijing but due to an Air China/United technical error, his ticket was never confirmed. Luckily, we were able to resolve the issue and United opened up an award seat on their own metal from Los Angeles to Tokyo for him. It actually worked out in the end because he wasn’t too thrilled about flying Air China to begin with.
Coincidentally, this was the same aircraft that I flew on from Tokyo Narita to Los Angeles back in September of last year. Unfortunately, I was in economy class and did not have the same experience that Orlando did. You can read my United economy class review here. Fellow UPGRD Blogger, Brad, also flew and recently reviewed his United BusinessFirst trip from Houston to Lagos, Nigeria. You can read his trip report here.
United Airlines currently operates one version of the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner. It is configured with a three class cabin: BusinessFirst (business class), Economy Plus and Economy. There are two BusinessFirst cabins totaling 36 seats. Both cabins have 18 seats each in a 2 X 2 X 2 layout. BusinessFirst seats are true lie-flat and offer 22 inches of width and 78 inches of pitch. Behind the aft business class cabin is the Economy Plus cabin with 70 standard seats in a 3 X 3 X 3 layout. Economy Plus seats offer 17.3 inches of width, 35 inches of pitch and one additional inch of recline over economy class seats (6” recline). The rest of the plane is filled up with 113 standard economy class seats. Economy class seats are 17.3 inches in width, 32 inches of pitch and 5 inches of recline.
The last three rows of the Economy Plus cabin are actually regular economy seats. There are no advantages to these seats over the seats in the main economy class cabin (other than a less dense cabin).
United Airlines 787 Dreamliners feature a quieter cabin, LED mood lighting and larger windows and overhead bins. The windows are 30 percent larger than traditional windows and are electronically controlled. No more plastic window shades here. The bathrooms are bigger and are equipped with automatic flushers. The aircraft also boasts a lower cabin pressurization system that enables passengers’ bodies to absorb more oxygen and thus, leave the plane feeling more refreshed. Supposedly.
For the purposes of consistency, I provided all the technical data for this trip report but Orlando will provide the pictures and talk about his experience flying United’s BusinessFirst (business class) product from Los Angeles to Tokyo Narita. Please welcome my good friend Orlando to the blog. If he does a good job, I just might let him guest post more often. 🙂
Flight: UA 32
Aircraft: Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
Los Angeles (LAX) to Tokyo Narita (NRT)
Depart: 11:50 AM on Friday (12:27 PM actual)
Arrive: 15:00 PM on Saturday (15:20 PM actual)
Duration: 10hr 53mn
Seat: 2E BusinessFirst (business class)
Hi everyone. Unlike James, I don’t have an unlimited supply of vacation days so when I go on vacation, I still have to do a ton of work remotely. This flight was scheduled to leave at 11:50 AM but I got to the airport and worked in the United Club for a few hours before my flight. I don’t have United elite status or a United Club memberhip but my international business class ticket granted me access to the lounge. The terminal 6 United Club is nothing special but it gave me a quiet place to work and put out a few fires before being off-line for the next couple of days. Here’s a picture of the Dreamliner.
I kind of lost track of time and showed up at the gate as boarding was already under way. I handed my boarding pass to the gate agent, made my way down the jet bridge and entered the plane. I showed my boarding pass to the flight attendant and turned right to where I thought my seat was. . . only that wasn’t where my seat was.
I should explain I’m not a frequent flyer like others are. I have only flown business class a couple of times before this and because James booked this flight for me, I didn’t really know the layout of the plane. When I entered the plane, I looked left and automatically assumed that was the first class cabin. Knowing that I was in business class, I turned right and sat in the second row of the business class cabin. Except, I was supposed to be in the front cabin and not the rear cabin. It wasn’t until another passenger told me I was in her seat did I realize I was in the wrong cabin. Haha. I’m such a novice.
My first impression of the cabin – I thought it was very cool! This was my first time flying the Dreamliner and it was so awesome! The tinting of the windows and mood lighting above made the cabin feel very modern and welcoming. The cabin really felt more open and spacious than other planes and I immediately knew this was going to be a great flight. Here are some pictures of the cabin. They were taken on my cellphone and I apologize for them not being the best.
This is my second time flying United BusinessFirst. My first time was in the upper deck of a Boeing 747. Expecting the same seats, I was surprised to see these seats were slightly different. They were better than the Boeing 747 seats as they were all forward facing, angled towards the windows, and slightly off-set from the attached seat. These seats were also wider than the Boeing 747 seats by an extra two inches (20 inches on the Boeing 747 compared to 22 inches on the Dreamliner). No matter what anyone else says, size does matter when it comes to airplane seats!
My only complaint about the seat was the foot hole was kind of small. I’m six feet tall and my size 11 feet felt squished in the small hole. There also wasn’t a place for me to keep my cell phone and other belongings. There was a shelf in front of me under the television screen but it was more of a tray to place something on, not store something in.
Each seat had a power outlet, USB port, headphones and amenity kit. The headphones were standard airplane headphones and the amenities kits had more things than I needed – face stuff, earplugs, eyeshades, comb, dental kit, tissues, a pen and most importantly, breath mints. Pens are always handy for filling out immigration forms. The amenity kit itself is a little small for me to reuse for toiletries but I might reuse it again for cords or whatnot.
The flight attendants came by to offer me a drink and handed out menus. I ordered a rum and coke and checked out the menu for a bit. I ended up choosing the short rib of beef.
Once we were airborne, the flight attendant came by to set my table and later came back with a hot towel, pre-meal drink and cup of warm nuts. The appetizer dish was an assortment of sushi. It didn’t look that good but it was not bad. The salad was covered in dressing and the beef dish was edible. After my plate was cleared, I went with the cheese dish and a glass of wine to wash it down.
After dinner, the main cabin lights were turned off and the windows were darkened. Considering this was a daytime flight, it’s such a trip to see how dark the cabin got even without any window shades. The electronically controlled windows are so cool!
The United in-flight entertainment system had a large collection of movies and television shows, enough to keep the average person entertained for hours. The movies were pretty new and there was a large selection of music CDs also. I watched a movie, read my book and dozed off for a couple of hours.
I only slept for a couple of hours as it was more of a nap than anything else. I woke up hungry and went to the galley to get some food. They had these little finger sandwiches and other snacks set out. I grabbed a few sandwiches and went back to my seat. I watched another movie and tried to sleep some more but was unable to.
The bed itself was very fairly comfortable but the cabin was kept very warm.
About an hour and a half before arrival into Tokyo, the lights were turned on and the flight attendants prepared for my breakfast meal. I ordered the omelette and everything was brought out at once on a tray. The omelette was served with a yogurt, side of fruit and some pastries. It tasted decent.
After breakfast, my plates were cleared and we prepared for our arrival into Tokyo.
In all, this flight was not bad. The service was standard. The food was standard and the seats were standard. United BusinessFirst is an overall standard product that just “gets the job done.” Don’t expect it to wow you or exceed your expectations but it will get you from point A to point B in a relatively acceptable manner. It’s not the worst product but it’s not the best product either.
But the Dreamliner itself is a very cool airplane! It felt more spacious and the seats were more comfortable than the 747 seats. The electronic window shades were innovative and I did feel more refreshed and not as “jetlagged” when I got to Tokyo.
Other trip reports in this series:
- Introduction: How we booked our trip using United miles
- Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge at LAX
- Air New Zealand Lounge at LAX
- Air China “Forbidden Pavilion” first class Los Angeles to Beijing, Boeing 777-300ER
- Air China first class lounge at PEK
- Air China business class Beijing to Seoul, Airbus A330-300
- Hilton Seoul
- United Airlines “BusinessFirst” Los Angeles to Tokyo Narita, Boeing 787-8
- Asiana business class lounge at ICN
- Asiana business class Seoul to Tokyo Narita, Airbus A330-300
- Conrad Tokyo
- Hilton Tokyo
- ANA business class lounge at NRT
- Thai Airways “Royal Silk” business class Tokyo Narita to Bangkok, Boeing 747-400
- Thai Airways Royal Silk Lounge at BKK
- Thai Airways “Royal Silk” business class Bangkok to Auckland, Boeing 777-200
- Hilton Auckland
- Emperor Lounge at AKL
- Air New Zealand Koru Club Lounge at AKL
- Air New Zealand “Business Premier” Auckland to Shanghai, Boeing 777-200
- Air China business class lounge at PVG
- Air China business class Shanghai to Taipei, Airbus A330-300
- EVA Air Evergreen Lounge at TPE
- EVA Air “Royal Laurel” business class Taipei to Los Angeles, Boeing 777-300ER