United Business First, FRA to SFO

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  1. Dozer

    Dozer Silver Member

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    Flight# UA 927
    Aircraft: Boeing 747-400
    Frankfurt (FRA) to San Francisco (SFO)
    Depart: 5:25 PM on Tuesday, July 9, 2013
    Arrive: 8:25 PM Delayed (Same Day)
    Duration: 11hr 25mn
    Seat: 16A Business Class (Upper Deck)

    Now, I have flown plenty of domestic United Airlines flights and found them to be less than pleasant and the thought of experiencing that same level of service and product quality in a long haul international flight, was absolutely dreadful. But in the interest of fair reporting, and not reviewing a product for which I had no personal knowledge of, I decided to take a long haul flight on United’s Business First product so that I could give them a fair shake.

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    Much to my surprise, I actually had a very pleasant experience on this flight and I would recommend this product over Lufthansa’s 747-400 Business Class product. Click here for my Lufthansa Business Class trip report comparison. The United Airlines Boeing 747-400 we flew was configured with a four class cabin: Global First, Business First, Economy Plus and Economy.

    Business First Hard Product:

    The hard product on the Boeing 747-400 was pretty nice. The positives included the completely lie flat seats and gigantic 15 inch AVOD screens. The seat was pretty comfy in both sleep and sit positions. Although a bit narrow, you can lower the arm rests to allow your arms and shoulders to “spread out” a little more. The shared armrest in between the two seats was actually wide and offered plenty of arm space for both passengers. There’s even a small divider between the seats to offer more privacy if needed. There were 110v power ports at every seat and USB connectivity if you wanted to connect your iPod or iPhone.

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    The IFE was enjoyable and had a decent collection of new and classic movies, audio channels and games. There was plenty of storage space available: under the foot wells, overhead bins and the window seats have access to additional storage bins located in between the seat and the window. The bins were actually big enough to store two backpacks and both sets of duvets and pillows for me and my friend. I’m sure the side bins were designed for both passengers but I would imagine it would be weird for the aisle seat person to store his/her belongings in the bin and have to crawl over the window seat person every time s/he needed to get something, if they didn’t know each other. It works much better for people traveling together.

    Overall, the hard product was decent but I had some very minor complaints about it. My first complaint is the staggered, front and rear facing, seat configuration of the Boeing 747-400. United and British Airways are the only two airlines that offer this configuration and I’m not a big fan of it. Not because of the “flying backwards” bit but because you are staring at your fellow passengers during the flight and that can make for an awkward time.

    I don’t know about you guys but I’m a mess when I’m flying. My hair gets “flat head,” my clothing gets disheveled and there are boogers in my eyes. Nobody needs to see that, especially that guy across from me who just woke up with drool all over his chin. Yum, who’s ready for breakfast??

    The other complaint about the Business First hard product is the gigantic screen. There were no controls to dim or brighten your screen. You can turn your screen off if you’re sleeping but you can’t just dim it if you’re trying to be considerate to your sleeping seatmate. Again, very minor but still worth noting.

    And lastly, there is a shelf located in front of your seat, just below the television screen. It’s a great space and I’m sure it was designed for keeping small objects such as your cell phone, camera, eyeglasses or whatever on during your flight. However, there is no lip that prevents your items from falling during takeoff or turbulence. During our initial takeoff, I saw a guy’s cell phone and amenities kit slide off the shelf and slide down the aisle towards the galley. The shelf was not bad during flight but a small lip would have been a much better design for the overall experience.

    Business First Soft Product:

    As we entered the plane, we were directed to the stairway to our Upper Deck seats. Shortly after sitting down, our Flight Attendant, Beverly, came by to take our drink orders and hand out printed menus. My choices included champagne (unknown brand), orange juice or water. I chose the orange juice. As the other passengers were still boarding, Beverly came back around to take our first and second choices for dinner.Waiting for us at our seats were the amenities kit, headphones for the IFE, pillow and duvet. The headphones were standard, noise reducing headphones and the pillows and duvets were large and comfortable. The amenities kit was pretty standard but had more than what you would expect on a United Business Class flight. It’s a simple nylon case with a top zipper, branded with a United Business First badge. The kit contained socks, eye shades, comb, ear plugs, lip balm, pen, hand and face cream, tissues, mints, oral care and a sanitation wipe. Nothing fancy but had all the items you would need.

    Once all the passengers were boarded, the Captain came on the PA announcing our delayed departure and arrival time into SFO. We were expected to arrive approximately 30 minutes later than our scheduled arrival time. Not a big deal and pretty standard for SFO delays.

    We began our takeoff and once the seatbelt signs were turned off, our Flight Attendants came around to pass out hot towels, warm nuts and another round of drinks. Dinner was then served in courses and honestly, was not that good. I won’t spend too much time on it but you can judge from the pictures in my original report.

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    However, what was delicious was the ice cream sundae cart. Who can resist ice cream with all the toppings such as nuts, cherries, chocolate and caramel sauce and whipped cream? Not this guy. But you know what else was amazing that I didn’t expect from this flight?? Our cabin crew. That’s right, I said it. . . our cabin crew. The Upper Deck was served by Beverly and her partner (I didn’t get her name) and they were fantastic. They came around several times throughout the flight, filling up our water bottles, and practically shoving alcoholic drinks down our throats.

    Thanks to Beverly, I now know that Bailey’s Irish Cream is a great addition to the ice cream sundae. They were kind, patient and appeared to genuinely care about taking care of us. Every preconceived notion that I had about grumpy old United Flight Attendants were thrown out the window! Kudos ladies! After dessert, I watched a couple of movies (Jack the Giant Slayer, Hansel and Gretel) and snoozed for a bit. Breakfast was then served about an hour before our final descent into SFO. I chose to sleep through breakfast but my friend told me the tastiness was along the same lines as dinner. Glad I decided to get some extra zzz’s.

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    Business First Soft Product:

    Okay, so that’s the end of the trip report but I have to add one more thought. This flight was taken just three days after the Asiana flight #214 crash and we were landing into SFO on runway 28R, right next to the crash site on runway 28L. NTSB was still conducting their investigation and thus, had not allowed for the cleanup of debris or removal of the crashed airplane yet.

    Now, I don’t have a fear of flying by any means, but I would be lying if I said, it wasn’t a little unnerving to land alongside a crashed airplane and see the aftermath firsthand. Leading up to this trip, we had seen plenty of television coverage of the crash site but seeing it firsthand, was something more unreal and indescribable. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for the pilots and cabin crew either and I tried to throw some positive energy their way.

    The passengers on this particular flight were all fairly young and in good spirits. All the passengers in the Upper Deck were chatting and socializing with each other. However, as we prepared for our final descent into SFO, you could feel the tension build in the air and the mood of the cabin change. I was partly relieved to see that I was not the only one affected by seeing the wreckage. Some people held their loved one’s hand and others just sat there quietly, but the one thing we had in common, was the collective sigh of relief after we had landed safely. I don’t know what we were all worried about. Aviation is still the safest way to travel and we all knew that. But it was still hard to not think about what happened and what could happen.

    Our thoughts and prayers goes out to everyone affected by the Asiana flight #214 crash.

    My original report and pictures can be found here: http://pursuedadventures.com/trip-report-ua-united-airlines-business-first-review-fra-to-sfo/

    Thanks for reading.
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2014
  2. chrislacey
    Original Member

    chrislacey Milepoint Guide

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    Thanks for the trip report! I find that pmUA BusinessFirst is a pretty good hard product, especially upstairs on the 747. The seats are a bit too narrow for my liking (and I'm not a big guy)...but lowering the arm rests does help quite a bit. As with almost every airline...the difference is really the crew, and it sounds like you had a good one. Thanks for sharing your experience with us!
     
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  3. satman40

    satman40 Gold Member

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    Flying seated backwards, takes a bit of getting use to on the landing approach, thing just move the wrong way..,
     
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  4. Dozer

    Dozer Silver Member

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    Haha. I've never flown backwards before. I might have to give it a try one of these days to see how different it is. Although I would imagine the takeoff to feel more weird than landing, no?
     
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  5. Newscience

    Newscience Gold Member

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    I recall sitting in seats placed "backwards" on an USAF C5 MAC flight a long time ago. No Baileys ice cream sundaes, lie flat seats (I recall that my seat was immobile), and Beverly was MIA! ;) But, the price was right, and the destination (WRI to FRF) well worth the hassle. :)
     
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  6. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    It definitely is a different feeling, but I like it because it's different, so all things being equal I book backwards-facing seats. I suspect most people prefer the forward-facing ones, so I am perhaps helping my fellow flyers out with my choice :)

    (just make sure to check that the magazine holder between the seats is secured or they'll fly all over the seating area)
     
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  7. estnet
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    estnet Gold Member

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    Interesting how different people experience same thing differently, if u have dry skin you might have noticed that UA cut the skin care from 2 small tubes to 1 SMALLER tube. The again, if you like champagne you might be upset that they only stock 1 bottle for the entire upper deck for a 10 hour flight! Let's see is that 1 oz per passenger after take off?
     
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  8. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    You should fly with me. Not only do I take the backwards facing seat, but I also don't have dry skin and am willing to give away my tube. And I don't drink Champagne, so you can have my 1oz.

    Jokes aside.. Seriously? I think I *will* have champagne next time... Everyone should. #flyerfriendly
     
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