What is United Airlines’ economy class product like on its 10-across 777-300ER between Europe and the USA?
Once in awhile, a bit of a reality check is nice. Although I love premium cabins and am fortunate to routinely secure upgrades, I still fly a fair share in economy class. This is usually by choice, typically to save money, but also because I actually survive just fine in economy class.
Earlier this month I had a choice to make: fly Lufthansa First Class for the fifth time this year or save the miles and fuel surcharges and just fly United Economy home. I opted to fly United.
One big disclaimer. The flight was wide open…only about a quarter full…and this greatly influenced my choice. Had the flight been full, you’d see a very different report below (and truthfully, I would have just flown Lufthansa).
Boarding began at 12:15p and as a United Premier Gold member, I boarded with Group Two. As I usually do when I fly economy class, I moved out of my Economy Plus window seat with an open middle seat in order to secure a row to myself toward the back of the plane.
If you are going to do this, make it clear to the gate agent that you want the entire row…and read below for how you will have to guard it onboard. Don’t just move yourself.
Frankfurt (FRA) – San Francisco (SFO)
Saturday, December 09
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 47G (Economy Class)
I stepped onto the United’s brand new 777-300ER in the middle of the Polaris Cabin and was directed through the galley and back to my seat via the far aisle.
United Airlines 777-300ER Economy Class Seating
Seating in both Economy Plus and Untied Economy is 3-4-3 on the 777-300ER. 10 across is a tight squeeze, but I do think the seat is well-padded and not so horrible that it would be unbearable even if the flight had been more crowded.
The seat has legroom of 31″ and a seat-back monitor with the same IFE as in Polaris business class. USB and power ports are available at each seat.
But with only a handful of passengers assigned to the rear economy class cabin, today’s flight would be the kind you could spread out in.
Call me territorial, but I chose to fly economy class instead of upgrade for a very specific reason: because I could secure a whole row in economy class. Absent that, I could have easily upgraded. In fact, I believe a handful of non-revs were even upgraded to business class on this flight. Consequently, I “staked my claim” by throwing my coat down and lowering tray tables across the middle section of four I had been assigned, sitting down in one of the middle seats.
This was absolutely necessary as many additional passengers began coming back to the rear cabin looking for a row of their own. Trust me, all you have to do is ask the gate agent. That’s far easier than trying to find one on your own after boarding.
By the time we took off, the rear cabin had one passenger in every section of three or four seats.
United Airlines 777-300ER Economy Class Dining
Meal #1 – Lunch
After takeoff, a lunch service commenced. On longhaul international United flights, beer and wine is complementary. Other alcoholic beverages are available for purchase. Service began with a bag of breadsticks and choice of beverage.
Three main choices were offered for lunch: chicken, pasta, or Indian vegetarian. While Indian vegetarian is usually the best choice, I felt like pasta and ordered that, which turned out to be ravioli and manicotti with ricotta cheese.
On the side was a grain-based salad and a highly-processed white roll that was not worth eating.
Dinner service was followed by another round of drinks, ice cream, and a small bottle of water. The toffee ice cream was excellent (and I dare say better than the yellow-vanilla ice cream served in business class).
Meal #2 – Light Snack
Halfway through the flight, FAs distributed a plastic snack bag containing:
- snack mix
- Gouda cheese
- Kit Kat bar
Another beverage service followed and more bottles of waters were offered.
Meal #3 – Snack
60 minutes prior to landing (it’s usually 90 minutes before), the last meal service began. That included a turkey sandwich on a pretzel roll, potato chips, and sliced fruit.
Half the time the sandwiches are served warm, half the time cold. Unfortunately, on this flight they were cold. Still very tasty, though. This last meal is actually something I look forward to and sometimes even request when flying in business class. I love these sandwiches.
United Airlines 777-300ER Economy Class IFE + Wi-Fi
After pulling an all-nighter, I opted to take it easy onboard. In addition to six hours of solid sleep, I watched a couple movies (Dunkirk and All Saints) and watched a weird Tribeca film called Beautiful Dreamer, Beautiful Dreamer. United offers Tribeca movies and films and the selection rotates each month.
I recommend you bring your own headphones. United distributes complimentary headphones and they are about as good as any airline’s economy class headphones. Still, even the simple white earphones from Apple makes huge difference in terms of sound quality and volume.
The in-flight map was not working on my monitor (same thing happened when I flew in business class to Hong Kong), but worked fine on the seat next to mine:
Also note that United’s new 777-300ERs feature “From the Flight Deck”, hearkening back to the good old days on pre-merger United in which Channel 9 was available on nearly every flight.
Also note that in addition to seat-back screens, United offers streaming IFE (“United Private Screening”) on your handheld device. Just ensure you download the United app prior to takeoff. Use it to screen most of the same movies and TV shows as on the seat-back monitor (though not all of them).
Lastly, wi-fi was available at a cost of $36.99 of the flight or $14.99 per hour. That’s steep.
United Airlines 777-300ER Economy Class Lavatories
Lavatories are not huge, but far better designed than 777-200s and other older aircraft. The rectangular sink makes it easy to wash your hands or brush your teeth and there a a bit more room to move around.
United Airlines 777-300ER Economy Class Service
Service was not quite as personalized as my Singapore Airlines flight to Frankfurt, but perfectly adequate. The crew was in good cheer, fairly friendly, and attentive in terms of offering water runs between beverage services.
I’d love service in economy class like Singapore, but that just isn’t the service culture in the USA and Europe and I am not going to deduct points for FAs failing to kneel at my seat or call me by surname.
Service was more than adequate for economy class…other than failing to warm up the sandwiches, it was good.
Is the 10-across United 777-300ER economy class survivable? Absolutely, and I think it would be even with a full cabin. It’s not as ideal as 9-across Air India with three extra inches of legroom, but the flight was about as pleasant as an economy class flight can be on a U.S. carrier. Don’t worry: it will be fine.