Despite my general dislike for United, I was actually pretty excited about this flight as it was the first time I got to try United’s fully lie flat business class product that is typically used on international routes.
As I have written about before, this is one of those routes where the airline operates an internationally configured aircraft on a domestic route. I usually go out of my way to try and fly these routes as they offer a cost effective way to try a premium product. While I could have flown from Fort Myers (RSW) to Newark (EWR) direct, I really wanted the chance to review the United 767, so flew west to fly east.
Introduction – Europe On A Whim
Review – United 737-800 BusinessFirst – RSW-IAH
Review – KLM Crown Lounge – IAH
Review – United 767-300 BusinessFirst – IAH-EWR
Review – Lufthansa Senator Lounge – EWR
Review – Austrian Airlines 767-300 Business Class – EWR-VIE
Review – Sky Lounge (Non-Schengen) – VIE
Review – Sky Lounge (Schengen) – VIE
Review – Austrian Airlines Lounge – VIE
Review – Austrian Airlines A320 Business Class – VIE-DUS
Review – Holiday Inn Express Dusseldorf
Review – Element Amsterdam
Review – KLM Royal Crown Lounge – AMS
Review – Air France A318 Premier Class – AMS-CDG
Review – Air France Salon Lounge – CDG
Review – Air France A320 Premier Class – CDG-LIS
Review – Intercontinental Lisbon
Review – ANA Lounge – LIS
Review – Iberia A320 Business Class – LIS-MAD
Review – Iberia Sala VIP Velazquez Lounge – MAD
Review – British Airways 767-300 Business Class – MAD-LHR
Review – British Airways Galleries Lounge – Terminal 3 LHR
Review – No. 1 Lounge – Terminal 3 LHR
Review – Swissport Lounge – Terminal 3 LHR
Review – American Airlines Admirals Club – Terminal 3 LHR
Review – American Airlines 777-300ER (77W) Business Class – LHR-DFW
As I mentioned in my review of my first United flight, to get myself to Dusseldorf, I opted to burn some United miles. While I usually try to save my United miles for a roundtrip so I can utilize the stopover and/or open jaw, with United’s changes to the rules, I just decided to burn the miles for a one-way redemption. Had I flown entirely on United metal, it would have set me back 57.5k miles + ~$90 for my business class ticket. As I was redeeming for flights operated by United’s partner, Austrian Airlines, my cost was 70k miles + ~$111 in taxes, fees and close-in booking fee. I used this clever trick to avoid the close-in booking fee since I booked 3 days before departure, which brought the taxes and fees down to ~$36.
United Airlines 557
Houston (IAH) to Newark (EWR)
Depart: 10:55 AM
Arrive: 3:29 PM
Duration: 3 hours, 34 minutes
Aircraft: Boeing 767-300
After leaving the KLM Crown Lounge, I headed for the United Club near my gate with the intention of reviewing it. Per United’s website, my business class international ticket would provide me access to the United Club. When I got to the United Club, the line was out the door and moving rather slowly.
After standing in line for around 5 minutes, I was finally assisted by a friendly agent – who promptly proceeded to deny me entry to the lounge claiming I had no access at Houston. After showing the agent United’s own website which showed I was eligible for access, the agent claimed that United’s own website was wrong. Huh!?! Since the line was still out the door, I decided this was not a battle worth fighting and left. United’s Twitter team has since confirmed that I was correct, however United’s customer service has yet to respond to my complaint on this matter as of posting. Ahh – there’s the United I remember.
After some time at the gate, boarding was announced for the flight starting with business class passengers and elite members. I boarded through door 1L and turned right into the business class cabin.
The business class cabin on United’s 767-300’s is set up in a 2-1-2 configuration and features fully lie flat beds with 75″ of pitch and 21″ of width.
I had selected seat 6A, which was a window seat in the very last row of the business class cabin.
Waiting at my seat was a small pillow and a branded United blanket in plastic.
Despite not having direct aisle access, the seat still felt very spacious. Over my left shoulder was a small storage area that contained a pair of headphones, a power outlet and a USB plug.
The United branded headphones were surprisingly decent quality for a domestic flight.
There is a small non-movable divider between the two seats which did add to the privacy feeling. With that said, I must have slammed my elbow into this divider no less than 2 dozen times on this flight. While I liked the added privacy, the pain of hitting it with my elbow so many times made me wish it was not there (or at least movable).
The seat controls were in the center console shared by the two seats and were very basic.
Slightly behind the seat controls, was the in-flight entertainment (IFE) controller, which was pretty standard.
There was also a small armrest on the side which could be raised for sitting or lowered for added sleeping space.
One thing I really liked about United’s 767 fleet is that they offer individual air vents. This may sound stupid, but I really do not get why most widebody aircraft are configured without individual air vents.
The seat featured a small ottoman under the IFE screen.
While it did feel decently spacious, my large feet had a hard time fitting in there while my shoes were on.
Visually, it seemed like the aisle seat ottoman’s were slightly more spacious, with the middle single seats looking like they were the most spacious.
The IFE screen was very large and high definition, which was great. There was also a small shelf below the IFE screen that fit a book or a laptop perfectly.
The entertainment could be accessed while on the ground, so I browsed the selections which were quite good. I of course ended on the map while we were on the ground.
If you are flying solo and do not need/want a window seat, I would strongly recommend the single center seats. Not only did they seem like they were the most spacious, but they also do not have the privacy divider for your arm to bang into.
Overall, I was pretty happy I had only selected this aircraft for a relatively short domestic segment rather than the international longhaul as I can see it being a bit uncomfortable for long flights.
After the plane was mostly boarded, the flight attendant came around to take pre-departure beverage orders. I requested a whiskey and ginger ale and got possibly the dirtiest look I have ever received from a flight attendant. She begrudgingly handed it to me a few minutes later after three other people around me ordered one as well.
United offers Jim Beam, Jack Daniels and Canadian Club whiskey on their flights. Of those three, I actually prefer the Canadian Club. I saw after the fact that United has started offering Buffalo Trace bourbon as well, which I absolutely love and made note to myself to order for my next round.
After pre-departure beverages were passed out, the purser, Vicky, came on the PA to announce that we would have a full flight. She sounded like a sweet older lady, but was seriously struggling to get through making the announcement.
We had an on-time departure and after a surprisingly short taxi, we were airborne. We had a smooth climb out and about 20 minutes after our departure the captain came on the PA to announce our cruising altitude of 31,000 feet and inform us of our flight time of just under 3 hours.
The flight attendants then came around to take lunch orders. Although no menus were passed out, the offerings were either a hot chicken and cheese sandwich, or a cold shrimp salad. The meal service started with warm towels being passed out.
Drinks were not served until a full hour after we had taken off. I could understand this if we had hit turbulence or something on the climb out, but it was a smooth flight from start to finish. When drinks were finally offered, I opted for a Buffalo Trace on the rocks, which was served with a ramekin of warmed cashews.
Unfortunately, the flight attendant murdered my bourbon with ginger ale and then copped an attitude when I kindly informed her that I had ordered mine on the rocks. It turned out that United had only stocked one Buffalo Trace on this flight, so I drank what she had brought me as I don’t want to be accused of alcohol abuse!
Service was extremely slow throughout the flight and I did not encounter a single flight attendant that was friendly or smiling. I guess this is the “new United” I keep hearing so much about?
The meal was finally served a little over an hour and a half after we had departed and was offered with a selection from the bread basket. I went for the pretzel bread, which honestly may have been better than I have had on any other airline.
The hot chicken and cheese sandwich tasted about as bland as it looked, though it certainly was not horrible by any means.
The real winner of the lunch service though had to be the salad with quinoa which was absolutely fantastic. It was served with a lemon vinaigrette, which offered a nice acidity to the salad. If that salad was the base for the cold shrimp salad option, I definitely should have gone with that instead.
After the meal I ended up order another drink and spend some time gazing out the window. I have to say, it was a gorgeous day to be flying!
About two hours into the flight, the smell of delicious fresh baked cookies started to fill the cabin. Warm white and milk chocolate chip cookies and coffee were offered about 45 minutes prior to landing. I paired mine with whiskey because in my opinion, everything goes with whiskey!
The cookie was fantastic (though I am a pretty big fan of chocolate chip cookies) and before I knew it, we had started our descent into Newark (EWR). Our route took us right over Washington D.C. and I had some great views of the monuments and the White House. Before I knew it, New York City was coming into view.
We had a smooth ride in with no turbulence and it was a gorgeous day in Newark.
After a smooth and uneventful touchdown, we began our long taxi. We ended up passing by the international terminal where we passed an Air India 777.
We also taxied by the Austrian Airlines 767 that would be taking me to Vienna (VIE) on the next leg of my journey.
After a 10 minute taxi, we finally arrived at our gate and I was off to the Lufthansa Senator Lounge to kill some time before my next flight.
I have to say that the hard product surprised me in a good way on United. The seat was pretty comfortable for a short haul flight, the IFE was good and the food was better than I was expecting. The soft product on the other hand was the same abysmal and slow service I remember from the last time I flew United. I really do not understand why it is so difficult to find smiling and friendly flight attendants these days. I get that the crew is there for my safety first and foremost, but it really does not take much to be friendly.
My experience with the agent at the lounge, as well as my experience with the poor service left me feeling like United has not changed at all. I may complain about American and their generally poor service, but this flight showed me that the grass is not always greener on the other side. I think I will keep my free agency open right now though.
What has been your experiences with United?
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