Quick review of United’s new international first class

This past Sunday I ended up in United’s new first class product from Chicago to San Francisco on a 767-300. It was an evening flight, and I was quite looking forward to giving their product a try without “wasting” an international longhaul segments on United, when there are other (better) options out there, like Cathay, Singapore, and Swiss, just to name a few.

All that being said, I was damn impressed. United’s new international premium cabins are shockingly good. Before I get into a quick review of the first class product, feel free to check out the review I wrote of United’s new business class.

I was in seat 2K on this flight, which is usually a pilot crew rest seat on international flights. You gotta love that this plane only has six seats, and one of them is a crew rest seat, which makes for a very “intimate” cabin. The nice thing about sitting on the “K” side of the plane is the wall which separates 1K and 2K from the rest of the seats. So if you’re traveling with someone else you’ll definitely want to sit on the other side across from one another.

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Seat 1K and 2K…. no Global Services allowed!

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Now that’s privacy!

I’m not even going to try to sound like Samantha Brown trying to describe a hotel, so let me just say that the suite was great. Much like the old suite it’s great for sleeping, but I also found the new one to be much more comfortable for lounging. The padding is perfect, unlike the old suite which was a bit too hard, at least when trying to sit up.

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TV screen

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Seat controls, iPod thing, and other technology stuff I don’t understand

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Doesn’t really show anything, but I kind of like the picture

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Comfy pillows and blankets

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First and business class even has the Boeing Signature Bins. Yes, coach is still ghetto.

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While it has nothing to do with the new product, I’ll never pass on an opportunity to post a picture of my hot nuts

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Huge tray table

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Typical pathetic meal service

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Plane upon arrival at SFO

So in summary the actual hard product is competitive to some of the best out there, save Cathay Pacific and Singapore’s new products. My only complaint about the hard product is the fact that the entertainment options are identical to what they play domestically, which means I’ve seen virtually every sitcom and movie they have. Nonetheless it’s a huge improvement compared to the old cassette player and looping video.

One thing that doesn’t change is the soft product. The service ranges from fantastic to friggin’ horrendous (at least for those without a certain t-shirt), and the food is ok at best.

Nonetheless I’m extremely impressed and after trying this product domestically might just try it on an international overnight flight where I want to sleep.

PS: If you want to see my travel pictures before I blog about things, check out my Flickr account.

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Comments

  1. What United needs to do is to improve the soft product to compliment their new seats and IFE. There should be better meals, wines, a spruced up amenity kit, and how about nice qulaity pyjamas. Considering the $25K price UA charges to go from the US-SYD in F, it is a small cost that would reap much in benefits relative to their competition.

  2. Did the seats have a shoulder belt? They have them in First on the new Premium 747-400 config and made several announcements to use them. Any idea why they’re necessary?

  3. @ chitownflyer — Agreed, although the challenge is that so few people pay for first class on United. It’s filled with upgraders, award passengers, and non-revs. It goes back to the “chicken or the egg” question. Which comes first, a paying first class passenger or a good product? The answer is obviously the latter, but United doesn’t seem to want to make that investment.

    @ Mark — It’s funny you mention that, because I was really looking forward to trying out the shoulder belt thing. I kept looking for it, but my seat didn’t have one, at least I couldn’t find it. I’m not sure if that’s because I was in the pilot crew rest seat or because I’m just stupid. Either way the flight attendant didn’t say anything.

    My understanding is that it’s necessary due to the angle of the seat, because it’s not facing forwards. At the same time other airlines like Air Canada, Air New Zealand, and Virgin Atlantic, with angled seats don’t have the same strap. Maybe it’s because there’s more open space in the suite?

  4. @ Blondie — This was actually a domestic flight, so that’s the standard offering, unfortunately. Much better than the salad or sandwich they service in business class, which is pathetic as well.

    Just saw your blog post about TPA. Hey, that’s my Tedditory, er, territory! 😀

  5. It’s often the little things that count when it comes to the soft product, IMO.

    The meal, though underwhelming, could have been served course-by-course directly on your tray table rather than everything squeezed onto one tray.

    That would have at least made it seem a little more like tri-cabin First.

  6. Hi every one, are you excited for this shitty first ?
    I fly ANA, Cathay Pacific, Turkish and British and the business seat are pretty same or better ( in case of ANA and new Cathay) of this 1st United.
    I believe US fly company can not match the quality of Asia or Europe business and most you save thousands of $……….

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