Introduction: Journey To Kazakhstan
Review: Korean Air First Class 747-8 Vancouver To Incheon
Review: Nest Hotel Incheon Airport
Review: Asiana Business Class Lounge Incheon Airport
Review: Air Astana Business Class 767 Incheon To Almaty
Review: Ritz-Carlton Almaty
Review: Air Astana Lounge Almaty Airport
Review: Air Astana Business Class A321 Almaty To Astana
Review: Marriott Astana
Review: Air Astana Lounge Astana Airport
Review: Air Astana Business Class 757 Astana To London
Review: Sofitel London Heathrow Terminal 5
Review: United Lounge London Heathrow Airport
Review: Singapore Airlines Lounge London Heathrow Airport
Review: United First Class 777 London To Los Angeles
London (LHR) – Los Angeles (LAX)
Monday, September 27
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200
Seat: 2A (First Class)
I boarded through door L1 at around 11:30AM, where I was greeted by the purser, Schy, and directed towards my seat. The thing about flying with US legacy carriers is that they’re consistently inconsistent, and the crews can either make or break the flight.
In this case I could tell immediately that the crew was great, as Schy welcomed me aboard with a big smile and a genuine “welcome aboard!”
United’s 777 first class cabin consists of a total of eight seats, spread across two rows in a 1-2-1 configuration. The configuration is comfortable, though not especially private.
I had selected seat 2A, as I prefer to be in the last row of a premium cabin, so I can observe everyone.
The seat had a huge console along the left side of the seat, plus an ottoman and a personal television in front.
The ottoman was a good size, and there was plenty of room under the ottoman to store a bag.
Most of the seat’s functions were along the left side of the seat. There was a headphone jack, USB outlet, seat controls, and entertainment controls.
The seat controls were easy to use as there were only a few functions, though that was plenty to control the seat in any way you wanted.
Then at the very front left of the seat was a power outlet.
One great thing about this seat is the amount of storage it has. There’s a big storage compartment at the front left of the seat.
Then by the aisle on the right side is an even bigger storage compartment, where the mattress pad and duvet were stored.
Then on the right side above that was a pouch that was big enough to store magazines or even a laptop. There was also a reading light next to it.
Moments after settling in, Silvia, one of the other first class flight attendants, came by to introduce herself and welcome me aboard. She offered me a pre-departure beverage, and I ordered a glass of champagne (it was served in a plastic cup, though that seems to be the norm for too many US carriers). I was also offered the menu for the flight.
After that, Silvia offered me a Global First amenity kit. As she handed me the kit she said “may I unwrap this for you?” That’s a very nice touch, and one I typically only otherwise find on Singapore Airlines (it’s not often you can draw a service comparison between Singapore and United). 😉
Unlike American, United doesn’t offer pajamas to first class passengers on this route, though I liked the kit itself.
I was impressed by the number of amenities in there, including eyeshades, socks, earplugs, a comb, a pen, mints, anti-bacterial wipes, etc.
Also waiting at my seat on boarding were headphones, which weren’t especially high quality.
While economy on this flight was pretty empty (less than half full — the seatmap is below), first and business class quickly filled up.
As each first class passenger arrived I witnessed Schy and Silvia greet them with big smiles, address them by name, etc. These ladies were fantastic.
At 11:55AM the forward door closed since premium boarding was done, and then 15 minutes later door L2 closed, at 12:10PM. United’s first class seats have shoulder straps that have to be secured for takeoff and landing, so the crew came around to make sure that all eight passengers had them on.
Around this time Captain Rick came on the PA to add his welcome aboard, informing us of our flight time of 10hr18min. He anticipated that the flight would be mostly smooth, and that we’d arrive in LA on schedule.
Once his announcement was done, Schy made her announcements, which were some of the best I’ve ever heard. She was clearly an old school United flight attendant, so said “welcome to our friendly skies service to Los Angeles.” To give another example, after landing she announced “we thank you for giving us the privilege of being the carrier that helps you unite your world.” Somehow she managed to say that without it sounding cheesy, which is a damn near miracle.
At around 12:15PM the safety video played. Since the Olympics had been over for a while, it seems like it might be time for a new video.
At 12:20PM we began our pushback.
We were departing from runway 27R, which is just a very short taxi from Terminal 2. So we only had to taxi a few hundred meters to the runway, though obviously that took a little while as there were several planes ahead of us for takeoff.
I enjoyed watching an Air Canada 777, British Airways 787, British Airways A319, and another United 777 take off ahead of us.
Finally at around 12:35PM we were cleared for takeoff, immediately ahead of a Malaysia Airlines A380.
Our takeoff roll was quick, and we had some lovely views of Terminal 5 on the climb out, as is the norm when taking off on runway 27L or 27R.
I tried to tune into Channel 9 to listen to ATC, though unfortunately the captain hadn’t activated it on this flight.
Our climb out was smooth, and once we passed through 10,000 feet I tried to connect to United’s wifi. United charges $19.99 for a wifi plan that lasts the entire flight without data caps, which is as good as it gets. The wifi speed was excellent (second only to the speeds I had on JetBlue), so I was even able to work for much of the flight. One of the awesome things about my job is that I can work from anywhere. A first class seat across the Atlantic isn’t an especially bad office. 😉
About 20 minutes after takeoff the flight attendants began their service. Schy came around the cabin to once again welcome each first class passenger and to take their meal orders. She was just so lovely, as she took a couple of minutes to talk to each passenger, ask how their trip was, etc.
The lunch menu read as follows:
And the drink menu read as follows (oddly United doesn’t publish a wine list, as the options are constantly changing):
There was also a page dedicated to the overall first class services, which read as follows:
Service began with hot towels being distributed.
After that a tablecloth was brought out, and then drinks were served. I ordered a gin & tonic, and also had a still water. That was served with mixed nuts. Silvia came around several times with nut refills, and I don’t think my water glass was ever less than half full.
About 45 minutes into the flight the tables were fully set.
The appetizer consisted of a chicken skewer with tabbouleh salad. While perhaps not the most “first class” starter, it tasted good.
I was also offered a selection from the breadbasket. Options included garlic bread and pretzel bread, which are my favorites.
After that I was offered a creamy shiitake mushroom soup. The soup was flavorful, though the bowl was quite small.
After that a salad cart was rolled through the aisle. While the salad came pre-plated, Silvia placed croutons and dressing on the salad on the trolley, and also offered pepper from a pepper mill.
For the main course I ordered the cioppino. After I ordered I thought to myself “hmmm, do I really want to be ordering this in first class on a US airline?” Well, much to my surprise, it was exceptional. It was one of the best fish dishes I’ve had on a plane in a really long time.
After lunch a cheese trolley was rolled through the aisle, and I asked for a little bit of everything.
Lastly I was offered an ice cream sundae — I had it with strawberries, whipped cream, and nuts.
After the meal I was offered a bottle of water.
The pace of the meal service was excellent, as the entire meal was done less than two hours into the flight. I know many will say that this isn’t the most gourmet first class meal out there, though everything tasted great, in particular the main course.
However, it’s the service that impressed me. Schy and Silvia were gems. They memorized the names of all eight first class passengers, and passed through the aisle every couple of minutes throughout the entire meal service. Most importantly, they did everything with a smile.
I worked for a bit after lunch, and before I knew it we were eight hours from landing in Los Angeles.
While I wasn’t planning on watching anything (since I wanted to work on my laptop and then sleep), I browsed the entertainment selection. It was unmemorable — I wasn’t impressed, but probably could have found something to watch as well.
After lunch I checked out the lavatory. There’s only one lavatory at the front of the 777, which is shared between first class passengers and the cockpit. It’s a fairly small lavatory since it’s in the center part of the cabin, and wasn’t in especially good condition.
However, it did have Cowshed toiletries.
I worked for a little bit, and then around seven hours before landing decided to sleep for a bit. I took out the mattress pad and was going to place it on the seat myself (after all, this isn’t some intricate turndown service), but Silvia caught me doing it, and quickly ran out and said “please let me do that for you.”
Turndown service includes two plush pillows, a comfortable but light blanket, and a thin mattress pad. Truth be told the seat probably doesn’t need a mattress pad, since the padding is excellent.
I managed to sleep for about three hours, and woke up about four hours from landing in Los Angeles. While United’s first class seat isn’t especially private, the padding is excellent, and I slept well (admittedly I was very tired).
I got back on my computer, and within minutes another flight attendant, Diana, came to my seat and asked if I wanted something to drink. I ordered some coffee, which was served with a chocolate Biscoff. While United does have Illy coffee, unlike American’s 777-300ER aircraft, they don’t have espresso or cappuccino drinks.
Diana kept my coffee cup full, and about 30 minutes later returned with freshly baked cookies. She was delightful as well. When she noticed I had coffee in my cup for more than 20 minutes without emptying it she’d insist on “freshening up” my cup.
I got lots of work done over the next two hours. Finally about 90 minutes before landing the crew began their pre-arrival snack service.
The menu read as follows:
The choice was between grilled chicken and a cheese and charcuterie plate. I ordered the former. It tasted fine, though certainly wasn’t what you’d expect to be served in international first class. It was served with a selection of bread as well as a fruit plate.
The tray was cleared quickly, and then I kept working for a bit. I briefly spoke with Schy and thanked her for the great service the crew was providing. She said “I love being based in LA, it’s a smaller base all the crew are so nice, we’re like family.” She then asked if I heard about United Polaris, because clearly she was excited about how the airline is reinventing their product. Then she started talking about how much she loves Oscar Munoz, saying “he’s not like the other guys, and really cares about us and the product.”
Regardless of how you feel about the situation at United, it’s great to see the pride that some employees are now taking in their product.
As we began our descent Schy, Silvia, and Diana each came around to all first class passengers and thanked them for flying United.
As we passed through 10,000 feet and the double chime was heard throughout the cabin, Schy announced “that double chime is music to our ears, that we are on final approach to Los Angeles International Airport.”
We touched down on runway 25L at 2:45PM.
From there we had a 10 minute taxi to the gate, which only took so long because we had to wait a while before we could cross 25R.
We pulled into our gate at 2:55PM, well ahead of our scheduled arrival time.
United first class bottom line
This flight was a great reminder of how the quality of a crew can greatly impact the perception of a flight. United’s first class hard product is decent, the catering was tasty though not especially “first class” (which doesn’t bother me so much, but will bother others), and I loved how well the wifi worked.
However, what really stood out to me about the flight was the exceptional crew. If only US carriers could make it so that all crews were as good as Schy, Silvia, and Diana. I’ve run into the same thing at American, where I’ve had flights with incredible crews, and also flights with terrible crews. Kudos to these ladies for “making” the flight.
Lastly, keep in mind that United will soon be phasing out international first class and instead have business class (which they’re calling Polaris) as their premier product, so I’m curious to see what that will be like. If it ends up being as good as they’re promoting, I suspect the business class soft product will be even better than what I got in first class. I can’t wait to try it.