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For my flight to Guam, I wanted to try the new United Business Class 787 Dreamliner. I have flown with United from San Francisco to Osaka many times. It used to be operated by a 747 and was later run by an old 777. However, the business class flight has been upgraded from the 777 that used to run this route to the brand new, but smaller, 787.
Before my flight, I went to the American Express Centurion Lounge and feasted on their breakfast buffet. The catering with United Business Class is very hit and miss – in the past, I either had great food or stayed hungry for a long 12 hours, so I wanted to ‘cover my bases’.
Business class was completely full on this flight. The United Business Class seat is a good product, but dear God, is it cramped! I had selected a window seat and while my seat mate did not recline his seat once the entire flight (!) I had to juggle each climb out of my seat. It’s really small. It felt smaller than domestic first class.
The United flight attendants were very friendly, but in an odd way. It always feels like seeing front line customer service agents who were sent to a butler school as they forgot to smile at customers decades ago. Yes, they will know how to be friendly and provide a service afterwards, but it does seem not genuine. I found the service to be working well, but also bossy and odd.
We hit some turbulence after takeoff and lunch service started right after that. The champagne served wasn’t great at all. I did not inquire as to which brand it was, but it was a mile away from the one served at the American Express Centurion Lounge. The salad was barely edible and the dressing downright horrible. I did not dare touch it.
I went on to the main course. The chicken was mushy and the filling of the chicken breast was pretty bad. No restaurant would survive with such food for more than a month.
As always, the best part of the meal was the dessert. The cheese dessert was pretty good and the ice cream sundae was absolutely delicious. So the trick here is to feast on as many desserts as you can and skip the main meals. I had 3 desserts in total on this flight 🙂
I requested an espresso and the flight attendant mentioned that there is an espresso maker on-board, but as it turns out, it is not being used anymore since United only supports fleet-wide equipment – so the espresso maker flies empty on all Dreamliners. Oh, well.
The Purser announced that we would have internet during the flight and I was curious to try it out. It’s the same internet I used on my flight from Mexico to San Francisco last year. I logged on, paid $16.99 and it was absolutely worth it. I spent the next 8 hours working instead of watching a mindless movie re-run.
The speed varied and the ping times were long, but it was usually good enough to read websites and send emails. I was able to edit in WordPress without issues while we were going all the way to Alaska and down to Siberia. A very impressive feat of technology!
United has installed an updated IFE system for your entertainment. It comes with a snazzy touch pad. It was great before, with its crisp screen and lots of entertainment options – and now it is even better! However, since the WiFi worked so well and I had already seen all the available movies, I did not actually use it this time.
The 787 has these cool window shades that you can dim (instead of the on/off traditional set-up),. They are fun to play with, but they have some drawbacks. Firstly, the new shade does not block out strong sunlight as effectively as the old window shade. Also, the crew set it to ‘dark’ about 3 hours into the flight and there is no way to override the setting with the switch provided.
Another feature that United supports is the larger business class bathroom in the middle of the cabin. It almost feels a bit like the huge A380 bathrooms that the Lufthansa First Class and Emirates First Class both feature.
I easily get headaches on the older generation of planes (especially the 747!) but I tend to have a much better experience with the 777/787/A380. This long flight was very pleasant with no building headaches and no bloody noses from the altitude and super-dry air. The cabin also seemed much quieter, which is a great piece of engineering!
So all in all, this was a good flight. It is not my favorite business class product, but the fast WiFi and the lovely new plane itself made for a great flight. If United could just finally switch the catering company and provide some consistent food offerings, we would all be much better off.
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About the author: Torsten is a serial entrepreneur who started almost a dozen ventures on four continents. Torsten's love for travel has brought him to 130+ countries and travel with most of the world's airlines. You can reach Torsten at [email protected]
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