United Airlines transcontinental business class. And an awesome gate agent.

After my rather lovely stay at the Freehand, NYC, I checked out around 7.30am and jumped in a cab over to Penn station and grabbed a NJ Transit train back down to Newark station.

A few minutes later I was through the TSA PreCheck security line and airside.

United has two types of lounge, their regular United Clubs and the new Polaris lounges.  Despite me connecting from a United Polaris flight, as it wasn’t on the same day, I wasn’t allowed access to the new Polaris lounge.  I instead headed for the regular United Club.

The Polaris lounges are very good, the regular ones are pretty much the opposite end of the spectrum.  Perhaps the best thing I can say is that it wasn’t too crowded, but clearly hadn’t been touched since the early 90s.

IMG_0929
United Club Newark ‘Modem’ connection

Thankfully it wasn’t too long before it was time to board the Boeing 757 via door 2L and for the five hour hop to San Francisco.

United has got the B/E Diamond seat installed on these aircraft in a 2×2 formation.  That means a 6’ flat bed, although if you’re in a window, it can be a little bit of a pain to get out of.  American Airlines also has the same seat installed in their A321T aircraft in business class, and United has fitted it across their 787 fleet.  It’s perfectly adequate for a flight of this length.

Pre-departure drinks were offered, and I opted for a Mimosa.  It wasn’t long before we pushed back, took off, and the main service started.

IMG_0930
United Airlines business class mimosa

Hot towels were offered around.  Again, like in Polaris they were of good quality unlike the dish rags that British Airways still insists on offering.

They interestingly had an old-fashioned drink special on the menu, so opted for that – I have to say it was rather delicious and wouldn’t normally have opted for that.  As is almost mandatory, they were accompanied by some warmed nuts.

Meal orders were taken and I opted for the chilled smoked duck starter, followed by the braised beef.

Both were good, but not outstanding.  However perfectly acceptable for a business class transcontinental flight.  Dessert was the obligatory ice cream sundae.

I was struck at how similar the United and American business class products are – down to the exact same seat type.  Surely there’s room for some more innovation, or perhaps that’s where products like JetBlue’s Mint (which I’ve yet to try) come in?

The flight landed in San Francisco on time and I headed to the United Club there, which was pretty packed, but found a seat, some power and waited for my flight up to Portland.

I headed up to the gate and waited in the queue for group 1 boarding.  However after maybe a couple of minutes my name was called by the gate agent – strange.  I walked up to the podium and the agent handed me a new boarding pass for a non-stop to Seattle.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I actually booked two separate tickets, one from London to Portland, and the second from Portland to Seattle.  However critically, they were all on the one booking reference.

The new boarding pass was for a flight boarding in 45 minutes and in first class as well, getting me in three hours earlier.

I’m guessing that the Portland flight was overbooked and the Seattle one wasn’t – either way, I didn’t care and was immensely grateful!

I hung around the terminal for another 45 minutes and boarded, half expecting there to be a bad beep on boarding.  But there was no issue and I settled in for the 90 minute flight.  Not having had my regular gin and tonic, I decided to take advantage of the hospitality and before long Mount Rainier appeared out of the window.

Thoughts

United Business class on the 757 is a very solid product.  There’s nothing terribly innovative about it, but nothing wrong with it either.

The gate agent at San Francisco though was a perfect example of an empowered employee taking the initiative and both helping the airline and a passenger get where they were going.

I suspect I could probably call Alaska and get some credit for the unused segment that I didn’t fly, but that would probably be bad travel karma.  So for the moment, United are in my good books!

 

 

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.