The First International Premium Class Experience – Start Small & Build Your Way Up

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united businessfirst review 777-200
More space than in the back!

Shawn Reece’s First International Premium Cabin & United BusinessFirst ORD-LHR Review

As I have previously written, I surprised my son with a business class ticket on our recent trip to Scandinavia. I had told him that he would be flying in the back and that I would be in business class. He didn’t take the news well, but as the months passed his frustration subsided.

Our morning started with a flight from LAS-ORD in domestic first class on United. This was his first experience with that product and he was treated with a falling roof panel and almost no service. I suppose at that point he wasn’t impressed with how the other half live.

Of course in Chicago to real treat awaited when we boarded a United 777-200 to London. Now of course United Business class is about as low on the totem pole as you can get when it comes to premium cabins, but you have to start somewhere! Best not to spoil the kid right away!

On Board

united businessfirst review 777-200

United’s 777 fleet has 8 across seating in business class. Some seats face forward while others face the rear and they are all lie-flat. We were seated in seats 8J and 8K. These seats face the rear which is a strange sensation, but the biggest issue is how narrow they are. For sitting I didn’t have a problem, but when trying to sleep I found it was difficult to move.

Shawn Reece was of course happy to be in such a large seat and to be given an amenity kit. He has received amenity kits before (on Air Berlin international economy for example), but this was a bit nicer. I actually think the faux leather bag is an improvement over the old version. Inside was the standard assortment of creams, toothbrush, socks, etc.

Meal Service

united businessfirst review 777-200
Taking off out of Chicago. Lake Michigan and Downtown Chicago in the background.

The meal service was started very shortly after we reached elevation. In BusinessFirst you are served an appetizer, main course and dessert. They also have the delicious sundae cart as well. The one thing I noticed about the meal service was the flight attendants. They seemed rushed and stressed. The 777-200 does have a large business class cabin, but it was less than half full so I don’t know what was going on.

Before moving on to food, I will say the drink selection is terrible. Their premium scotch is Dewar’s White Label and that is just the beginning. United also doesn’t publish a wine list in their menu, but instead has a couple of bottles on board. I didn’t have a chance to try any, but based on the spirits menu, I wouldn’t expect much.

united businessfirst review 777-200

The appetizer for our flight was Seafood with Remoulade Sauce. In reality it was a chunk of smoked salmon which was very good. It was served alongside a decent salad and a choice of bread. They won me over instantly by having pretzel bread. Overall not a bad way to start a meal.

For mains, the choices were: Short rib of beef, Tamale filled Breast of Chicken, Filet of Salmon with Lump Crabmeat & Tri-color Ravioli. I almost chose the salmon but ultimately went with the beef while Shawn Reece chose the Ravioli. He said the pasta was decent. I found the vegetables and mashed potatoes on my plate to be greasy. Surprisingly despite the look, the beef was decent. It was a little dry, but tasted good.

united businessfirst review 777-200 united businessfirst review 777-200

Following the main course the flight attendants rolled around a cart with cheeses and then eventually the sundae cart. My favorite is strawberry with whip cream and a cherry. None of that chocolate stuff for me. It is a simple dessert but very good.

united businessfirst review 777-200

About an hour before landing they served a very light breakfast with a croissant, fruit and some juice. I was a bit out of it and forgot to take a picture. It definitely wasn’t substantial and I was glad to see real eggs in the lounge when we arrived at London Heathrow.

WiFi

As a quick note, I did get a chance to thoroughly test United’s WiFi on this flight. The cost was $17 for the entire flight which I find somewhat reasonable. Despite a few hiccups, it generally worked well. There were definitely slowdowns at points, but I would say it is faster than Gogo’s domestic service and really came in handy to get some work done.

Sleeping

united businessfirst review 777-200
He couldn’t wait to lay the seat flat!

Since our flight left Chicago late afternoon and arrived in London around 5am, it was pretty much lights out after the meal. As I mentioned before, I found the seat is incredibly narrow for sleeping, however Shawn Reece being a bit smaller had no issues. He went to sleep pretty early on while I worked and slept during the last couple of hours.

Overall Impressions

Overall the experience was what I expected. It isn’t luxury on any level, but it is about 1000% more comfortable than flying in coach. I had flown United International BusinessFirst before, so knew what to expect, but this was all new for Shawn Reece. As someone who has logged well over 100 flights in coach, he was impressed and happy to be flying up front.

I know this type of trip is a luxury, but it is definitely one of the reasons I collect miles & points. Life is exciting when you get to do cool things like this. Of course the next time I’ll have to step up my game and get him onto a better airline. Plans are already in the works.

Conclusion

Despite a rough start to our journey with the falling roof panel, we had a great flight on United’s BusinessFirst to London and then eventually on to Stockholm. The product isn’t extraordinary and neither is the service, but it is a decently comfortable way to cross the ocean and being able to share that with my son was priceless.


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4 COMMENTS

  1. You know what you should do bro? A small time capsule for your son (or maybe even w/ entire family), but more specifically with your son in this case to really outline the value hes getting by being your son. He has no idea. He should log his thoughts. Of course, he could read all your blogs from day 1 too.

    But its like a kid hating their piano lessons. Then when they get older, its like CRAP, I shouldve paid more attention! Not that Reece is hating anything. Just saying he has no idea of the future redemption value hes getting from being your son in first class.

  2. Start small and build your way up… yeah… I started in wrong direction… my first long haul international trip in 30 years… first ever in a premium cabin was Emirates A380 SFO to DXB F suite. That completely ruined everything else afterward… 🙂

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