Monday, May 6, 2013

United BusinessFirst - Boeing 777-200ER : UA79 Newark to Tokyo Narita

The recent merger of Continental and United Airlines has created a mega-carrier with over 700 aircraft in the mainline fleet and nearly 90,000 staff. It is an absolutely mammoth operation with a route network covering the entire globe. The airline has so many different aircraft types it is hard to keep up with what's on offer! For my recent trip from the New York area to Japan I booked a flight on an aircraft which was formerly the flagship of the Continental fleet, the Boeing 777-200ER in a two class configuration featuring the airlines 'BusinessFirst' seating. Under the United brand the seating name has stuck and the airline has acquired a new hub in Newark. My flight, UA79, from a very cold New York would be operated by former Continental Airlines crew members.

The United B777-200ER operating my flight



UA79 from Newark  to Tokyo is scheduled at just under 14 hours in duration so being up the front is definitely preferable! I had selected a window seat in the first row of the second business class cabin, seat 8L. Check-in was easy at the many vacant kiosks at the premium check-in zone for United passengers at Newark. I was soon through security and into the United Club (formerly the Continental Presidents Club). The lounge is very basic as I have come to expect in the USA with very limited food and beverage options. Fortunately there is a nice view of the apron and my aircraft at Gate 102 was filling the window nicely!


United Club Newark
It was soon time to board and I headed  to the gate to make use of priority boarding. Before long I was  onboard and taking snaps of the seat (the crew seemed fine with it unlike the way a fellow blogger was treated recently on the same airline).

Seat 8L

Seat 8L
Unfortunately there is only one window for passengers in row 8 but this didn't worry me too much as the crew were quite strict about enforcing a window shades down policy for the entire flight, despite the amazing views over northern Canada.

Welcome Aboard

Great engine and wing view
A noise cancelling headset, slippers and amenity kit were placed at each seat. For my seat they were to the rear of my right shoulder, along with the power outlet and headset connections.

Headset, slippers, power outlet

Today's flight over the top of the world
The flight was full  in business class and my seatmate soon appeared and made himself comfortable. The crew came around with drinks and I had a champagne in a plastic cup...  not very classy but stock standard on US carriers for pre departure beverages.

The place for your feet in  bed mode

Amenity Kit
Before too long we were pushing back and making our way to the runway before the long takeoff run and a gentle climb, goodbye New York!


The Engine is made by GE as you can see
After we reached cruise altitude the service commenced and I continued to drink the (rather average) champagne. Nuts and a glass of water were also provided and the grey table cloths laid out.

Pre-lunch drinks and nuts
I started using the quite decent Audio Video On Demand system and settled back for the 13 hours ahead. The crew had already requested window shades to be put down but I wanted to take a peak every now and then to see the changing landscape.

Snow!
Then it was time for the food to start rolling out of the galley. If there is one thing I do compliment United on is the way the table is set up with everything placed individually on your tray table and not handed to you on a pre arranged tray (like Thai Airways).


Air dried beef with kiwi and melon
The appetiser was an air dried beef with kiwi fruit, melon and a sauce of some type, with a bit of lettuce thrown on the side! It was an interesting combination but pretty tasty. Next up was a salad course which was basically lettuce and a few cherry tomatoes. There was a choice of two dressings which were spooned onto the salad by the crew.

Salad Course
I had a beef fillet for the main, and again I do appreciate the way the meal is individually plated on a large plate and not just presented in a casserole dish like some carriers do in business class.


The beef was actually quite tasty and I was feeling pretty satisfied overall with the meal service. The male flight attendant working in  my zone was friendly and always had a smile on his face, and he always made sure my drink was replenished. Some grapes, cheese and crackers were up next. To go with it I had a glass of Baileys.


I sneaked a peak  outside and found a completely snow and ice covered landscape, it was stunning!


The ice cream sundae trolley soon made its appearance and I ordered mine with caramel sauce, nuts and whipped cream (no cherries thanks). It was delicious!


The meal service over it was time to recline my seat and watch some movies. The BusinessFirst seat is FULLY FLAT and really pretty comfortable. Here is a photo to show you the seat in bed mode (not my own image):


As you can see it's nice and flat but of course if the person sitting on the window wants to get out they will need to climb over the other person. This can be achieved without waking them up... if you are careful!

At some point I looked out the window and  the light had faded away but there was some amazing snow covered mountain ranges outside. Simply stunning! And most people probably didn't even sneak a peak either.


With most passengers sleeping or watching movies in bed there is no mid flight meal service as such, but snacks are available. Sandwiches, cakes, cookies, that type of thing. I ordered a cheese sandwich and a piece of cake which came on a plate and I was offered a linen napkin and proper cutlery to go with it.


I eventually went to sleep and  woke up when it was time for breakfast. The table  clothes wre again laid on the tables and service commenced with a bowl of fruit and a yoghurt. I do like the way the yoghurt was in a proper ceramic bowl and not a plastic tub thrown on a tray like some carriers offer. It makes it feel that little bit more premium.


Next breads and jams were on offer so I had a croissant...


The main course I ordered was egg and sausage and this is where I was let down. The egg was just plain bad and the whole thing looked like a $2 McDonalds offering:


I don't think many people  finished their egg including myself, it was tasteless! I washed it down with a cup of coffee and started filling in my Japanese arrival card. Despite having just finished breakfast the actual local time in Japan was approaching 1pm.

Breakfast items were cleaned up and the cabin was prepared for landing. As we made our final approach to Narita I noticed the Narita Hilton passing by the right hand side. I was actually booked into that hotel for that night so it was good to get an idea of where it was.


A beautifully smooth landing and we were in a cold and cloudy Tokyo.... although it was warmer than the -9 degrees celsius I had left behind in New York. We made our way to the United terminal, were you could easily be mistaken for thinking it was an American airport with the number of United tails lined up...



Overall I was quite a happy customer. My expectations are pretty low when flying any American airline so I can safely say this flight definitely exceeded my expectations. The wine list was ordinary, the breakfast main course was bad but the seat itself was very comfortable. The service was always with a smile and whilst not as polite and polished as some Asian carriers I found the crew operating my flight to be above average. I was also impressed with a few aspects of the catering including: yoghurt served in a proper bowl, main course plated individually and tables set properly and not on a tray.

I now would like to try American Airlines on their new product to see how they compare, I have heard  good things!

10 comments:

  1. Thanks for that great report! I am looking forward to my upcoming EK flights back to Europe this week. Best regards from South Africa. Heinz

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  2. I find your reporting & blog very interesting..very good work.

    Thanks, The Masonic Phantom.

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    1. thankyou Masonic Phantom :) appreciate the feedback

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  3. Another great report! Looking forward to your next set of reviews.
    Regards from Melbourne. Marcus

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  4. Some nice pics in this one! Do you ever have trouble with the FA's regarding photography and/or video? They always say anything with an On-Off switch should be turned of for take off and landing, but I see you have taken several videos off both. Do you they ever give you grief over it?
    Cheers
    JKC

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  5. Thank you very much. I am looking to book business on this flight as the first of a threee leg trip to Jakarta. It was a very helpful review and I will make the reservations with confidence

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  6. glad you found it useful. It's a reasonable product and perfectly comfortable!

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  7. Thank you so very much for the thorough recap. I now have a clear understanding of my upcoming trip.

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  8. I fly with United often, once every other week, and find the service in 79 and 78 (EWR-NRT) the least pleasant. The flight attendants, especially the Asian crew members are surprisingly rude. They give you water while looking away, and didn't even say "here you are" or anything sign like that. I suddenly saw a hand and glass right in front of my eyes while the FA was looking at somewhere else. Just one of many examples. Other Asian routes (ORD-NRT, SFO-NRT, DEN-NRT, etc.) are fine.

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