Although I was flying to a new and exciting destination, the initial part of this trip was pretty typical for me, with domestic flights on United. Thankfully, they were uneventful, and actually arrived ahead of schedule. I got to Houston with plenty of time to relax before the long flight to Lagos. Unfortunately, when I checked this status upon landing, this flight had already posted a delay. It was strange in that the inbound flight (from Heathrow) had arrived on time, but our departure is delayed by scheduled maintenance on the 787. Sigh…
Extra time in Houston
While waiting, I looked at other options to get to Lagos, but the nonstop from Houston is one of the last international departures of the day, so there weren’t really any other reasonable options. I also had a separate ticket to Accra that was looking pretty certain I would miss that flight. I’ll talk about that soon.
Despite having a ‘first class’ meal on the flight from O’Hare to Houston, I began to get pretty hungry. Both many of the restaurants in Houston, and the United club were about to close. Thankfully, the club nearest the gate in the B terminal remained open extra hours until the Lagos flight departed. I asked at the desk if I would be able to re-enter the club if I left to get food. The agent there was very friendly, and offered to print me some food vouchers due to the delay so I wouldn’t even have to pay for the airport food, and told me how to get back in since the doors would be locked.
Better late than never
It was nice to stretch my legs a bit before the long flight, and I made my way over to the E terminal. Sadly, many of the restaurants were closing, but I managed to get some mediocre pizza courtesy of United. Eventually, I returned to the club, and then to the gate for boarding. We finally departed about 140 minutes late.
The BusinessFirst cabin was not nearly full. I intentionally booked a bulkhead seat (4L)to give myself more foot room. The seats are 76 inches long, which gives me about a spare inch of space, so I wanted as much space as I could get. There was a nice gentleman seated next to me, but once the door closed, he moved further back in the cabin, so we both had an open seat next to us (as did many others).
Annoyingly, the IFE was not activated until we leveled off. So in the meantime, I read and watched the crew work in the galley in front of me. Oddly, I noticed the mixed nuts were packed in the ramekins, then were pooled into a silver serving bowl.
United 787-8 Business Class seat
As for the seat, I felt it was comfortable for sitting, and appreciate the flat bed for sleeping, but given my height, I was touching at either end. The magazine rack is under the armrest, and since the seat is narrow, I often hit them with my elbow. Not the best design. The power ports and headphone jacks are behind the seat, which took some getting used to. The windows aren’t aligned particularly well. There is a window directly behind the power ports, and controlling the dimmer is very difficult. The front 2 windows are linked, so adjusting one will adjust the other to the same setting. I did notice that during the ‘sleep’ portion of the flight with the cabin lights off. My windows ‘locked’ in the darkest setting.
United Business Class Service
Soon a hot towel and a drink service with the previously mentioned hot nuts. This service had nuts scooped from the silver bowl back to the ramekin. Strange. Anyway, I opted for Champagne. I’m not much a connoisseur, but do drink it on occasion when flying in premium cabins. I guess I should know better, whatever United served was horrible. The menu lists several options, but I didn’t ask what this particular swill was, and the bottle wasn’t displayed.
Since our departure was about 11:30pm, I think most people wanted to sleep, but I did partake in the meal service. Here is the menu:
Smoked Salmon and shrimp with seafood cocktail sauce
Fresh Seasonal Greens
Roasted tomatoes, Kalamata olives, baby mozzarella and croutons with your choice of blue cheese dressing or balsamic vinaigrette
Short Rib of Beef
Red wine sauce, aji amarillo mashed potatoes, fine green beans and carrots
Tamale-filled Breast of Chicken
Creamy corn sauce, grilled yuca and tomatoes
Fillet of Salmon with Lump Crabmeat
Beurre Blanc sauce, barley with vegetables, collard greens and tomatoes
Creamy tomato sauce, asparagus and Parmesan Cheese
Meals do not contain pork
International Cheese Selection
Grapes and crackers served with Port
Ice cream with your choice of toppings
Fruit and light snacks are available at any time following the meal service. Please help yourself or ask a flight attendant for today’s selection
Prior to Arrival
An appetizer of smoked peppered salmon and salom-cream cheese roulade with your choice of:
Swiss Cheese Omelette
Cereal and Banana
Served with Milk
Fresh fruit appetizer, yogurt and breakfast breads
United Business Class Meal Service
Soon the place setting was arranged, and the first pass from the bread basket was offered.
It is hard to pass up garlic bread, and although it didn’t look pretty, it tasted good. This is one of those go-to items in the air. I guess the garlic flavor is strong enough to cut through the flavor-deadening that happens at altitude.
Next was the appetizer and salad. To my surprise they are on top of one another.
I asked for dressing on the side, and got both balsamic vinaigrette and cocktail sauce for the shrimp. The appetizers were fair, I suppose. I’m not much of a shrimp fan, especially cold. At least the salad was fresh.
Next was the main course. Departing from Texas, I thought the beef would be a good choice. It was fine, but nothing outstanding, and certainly not a medium rare masterpiece like I had on Cathay Pacific First Class.
By this time I was pretty tired, and looking to recline my seat to it’s fully flat position, but I started this meal, I might as well finish it. Plus, I rarely say no to ice cream.
Thankfully the service went pretty quick. The cabin was maybe 60% full, and several passengers opted to sleep rather than partake in the entire meal service. With the delayed departure, I appreciate the fast service. It was also nice to have an open seat next to me. Soon I reclined and slept pretty well for a few hours. The seats are a little narrow, and as I mentioned before, there isn’t much room for tall people. I was fortunate to have a bulkhead seat, which allows for much more foot room Other than rows 1 and 4 the foot space is quite cramped on the 787 and all planes with this particular seat.
My first view of Africa
I slept pretty well, and certainly better than I would have if I was seated in Economy. I was monitoring our progress on the in flight map, and noticed we were about to cross over Africa for the first time, somewhere over Senegal. Despite the windows being locked in ‘dark’ position, I was able to take this photo of my first sighting of African soil.
About 90 minutes before arrival, the breakfast service began. Apparently breakfast on United has no surprises. This is the same meal in first class domestically, although the smoked salmon starter was something unique to Business First.
I was pleasantly surprised to see a lime served. Most limes have been unavailable on United due to a drastic price increase. I guess I’m easily impressed.
Thankfully, one nice feature of breakfast on United is the warm cinnamon rolls. It’s a total carbohydrate bomb, but oh so good.
Another similarity on this tray to meals on United domestically is the rather weak fruit plate. I would have hoped for something more substantial on an international flight, but no such luck. There was one huge strawberry, 2 grapes, one piece of pineapple, and 2 pieces of cantaloupe.
After 11 or so hours, we were getting quite close to our arrival in Lagos. I was pretty nervous about my onward connection to Accra, and although we left late, we did make up a little bit of time in the air. Still, at best it would be very tight to make my connection, but I was still optimistic, although maybe not realistic.
In all, my first flight in Business First on the 787 was fine. The empty seat was a nice plus, and the Houston-based crew was nice. The seat was good, although there are many better business class seats out there. The soft product was predictably weak, but it was definitely worth the use of a Global Premier Upgrade (SWU), as the flat seat was much appreciated on the long flight.
I had finally made it to Africa! This was a pretty comfortable way to get there, although the delay led to some stress, and that would only increase once I got off the plane. Lagos isn’t an easy airport to deal with. I certainly have my moments of irrational anger, but my mood upon arrival was pretty reasonable I think. Getting mad wouldn’t have helped the plane fly faster. The delay was out of my control. I was one of the first off the plane, and I was trying to make my way to the transit area to see if I could get to my flight to Accra. Unfortunately, I had to wait, which is something I did a lot of during my time in Lagos. Waiting for someone to help me with transit. Then waiting for an immigration agent. Waiting to get to the ticket counter with the hope that I could make my flight. Nothing moves quickly.
Note: This flight was back in 2014. United discontinued Lagos service in 2016. Service has changed with Polaris branding, but there are no plans to change the business class seat on United 787-8 and -9 planes.
Other posts about my trip to Africa:
- A Trip of Firsts
- Initial thoughts on my trip to Ghana
- United 787 Dreamliner BusinessFirst from Houston to Lagos (this post)
- An extended layover in Lagos Nigeria and a flight on Africa World Airways
- Cash only in Accra, Ghana, and Africa in general
- The drive from Accra to Cape Coast with a van full of wedding guests
- A stay at the Ko-Sa Beach Resort, Cape Coast, Ghana
- Exploring history of the slave trade in Cape Coast
- Travel to Kakum National Park and being the only obruni on the bus to Accra
- A flight on Arik Air and a longer layover at Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos
- United 787 Dreamliner Business First from Lagos to Houston