Here’s a brief review of my United Airlines business class trip from London to Los Angeles onboard a 787-9 in business class. I already dedicated a post to the food served onboard and now will briefly offer a rundown of the entire flight.
United Airlines 787 Business Class London – Los Angeles Review
I booked this ticket for $713 one-way, having flown JetBlue on the way out. There was confirmed upgrade space (PZ fare class) using my PlusPoints, which moved me to pay more than I typically prefer for a one-way fare in economy class.
Prior to the flight I enjoyed some time in the United Club and Global Services Lounge…the food in the lounge is far better than the food onboard, so consider eating a heavier meal than you might otherwise do before a long flight.
Boarding was late, though the departure board showed an on-time boarding and eventually “final call,” prompting confusion in the lounge. The agent called down to the gate just to make sure and said he would make an announcements. I was not worried because United always sends out an SMS when boarding begins and that had not arrived yet (and did arrive when delayed boarding began).
London (LHR) – Los Angeles (LAX)
Thursday, June 2, 2022
Duration: 11hr, 05min
Distance: 5,974 miles
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9
Seat: 1L (Business Class)
I was dismayed to see an equipment swap about 48 hours before my flight from an aircraft configured with “new” (now six years old) Polaris seats versus the older B/E Diamond seats. Every “true” Polaris seat has aisle access while my window seat would not have direct aisle access….and that became a bit of a problem on the flight.
I’m sure the passengers who were seated in Premium Plus, United’s premium economy section, encountered an even bigger letdown when they found their cabin did not exist on this older aircraft.
There was a kind but very immobile old man on my flight. He was settled in his seat when I arrived, but could not move himself. His wife was seated across the aisle and I asked if she wanted to sit next to her husband but she said she preferred to have an aisle seat as well.
He was a talkative old man…a farmer from Bakersfield at the tip of California’s Central Valley and dressed like a stereotypical farmer too in his checked shirt and dungarees.
Anyway…more on him in a bit.
I’m not a huge fan of this seat. Sure, it is still lie-flat, but I do prefer the privacy of not having anyone next to me. I chose row one because the cutout for your feet has a great deal more legroom than in non-bulkhead rows.
I don’t have many pictures of the seat in order to protect the privacy of my seatmate, but I’ve reviewed this seat on this plane many times in the past:
Importantly, United offers an excellent duvet and two pillows (a standard pillow and cooling gel pillow), which helped me to take an extended nap for the majority of the flight.
Food + Drink
Before departure, a choice of water or sparkling wine was offered.
Table cloths were laid after takeoff, which mark another step in United’s slow return to pre-pandemic service. Warmed mixed nuts were offered along with a choice of beverage.
Printed menus were not boarded. Instead, prior to takeoff the purser welcomed passengers onboard then took their dinner orders. Choices included:
- Beef short rib with a Porto red wine sauce, brown butter pureed carrots, wild broccolini, and glazed pear onions
- Chicken breast with Provence herbs with pumpkin risotto, grilled baby zucchini, sultanas, feta, and toasted pumpkin seeds
- Roasted halibut with arrabbiata sauce, shaved fennel, and pickled onions
- Braised Celeriac with truffle puree, sautéed kale, carrots, and herbed breadcrumbs
It’s nice to see four choices back and a deviation, if ever-so-slight, from the same choices we’ve seen for years.
I love halibut and fennel, so the choice was easy for me. The meal arrived about an hour after takeoff and I give kudos to United for the improved presentation. Finally, it looks like a premium cabin meal again…
That said, I was dismayed that the green salad has been replaced with a roasted cauliflower and fruit salad with almonds, dates, sultanas, apricots, and grapes. It wasn’t bad (though looks like bird food), but I greatly prefer a green salad.
The pretzel roll was served warm.
As for the main course, I’ve had far better halibut. The fish smelled fishy, which is an imperfect way of saying that it was passable, but not great halibut. I’ve also had far better arrabbiata sauce and found the fennel to be rather tough.
Dessert was a highlight of the meal and also a disappointment at the same time.
- Cheese plate with crackers
- Raspberry tart
- Vanilla ice cream with brownie pieces
Prior to the pandemic, you could have one or you could have all three. I requested all three, but was told that I could only have one. I chose the ice cream and found it to be delicious, with a strong flavor of vanilla beans.
It was still hungry, though, but decided just to take a nap.
When I woke up, I saw that a snack basket with packaged treats were available in the front of the cabin:
I got up to use the lavatory and found another cart in the mid-cabin galley and there I spied that raspberry tart I wanted earlier. I had a cup of coffee with it and found it very good – not too sweet and yet still rich.
Hopefully United will board plenty of extra desserts so that more peckish passengers can enjoy a couple items.
Prior to landing, I was offered a choice of vegetables with couscous and pesto sauce or a cheeseburger. I chose the vegetables and found the dish quite satisfying (served with ripe fruit and a packaged cookie).
However, after finishing I was still hungry and asked if I might have a cheeseburger. This time, my request was obliged. It was not bad at all.
IFE + Wi-Fi
United’s library of movies and TV shows is updated each month with fresh content and includes a number of recent releases as well as classics and frankly a whole bunch of movies I would never waste my time watching.
My headphones were broken – I requested another pair so I could watch a movie called Moonfall (with Halle Berry just as beautiful as ever, but still a horrible actress). I’ve noticed that the headphones are non-functional more often than the past…I think it is time to replace them.
A wi-fi pass on this flight was $32.99, which would have been fine if I had work to do…but thankfully it was all done and I used the time to sleep and relax.
The views were really lovely departing from London, with a clear view of Heathrow Airport as we took off.
As we landed in Los Angeles, we flew over downtown LA and then SoFi Stadium, home of the Los Angeles Rams NFL team.
Service was satisfactory on this flight. The purser introduced herself and greeted passengers by surname prior to takeoff, taking meal orders as I indicated above.
The other flights attendants were polite, but not nearly as personal or cheerful. Yes, they just seemed to be going through the motions on this flight, though they were by no means bad.
Let me illustrate by one example. My seatamate did not eat his dinner. He didn’t like it. The flight attendant did not offer him another choice (even if it was from economy class). They didn’t ask how he liked his meal, which seemed like an obvious question when he took only one bite of his beef.
He certainly devoured the cheeseburger prior to landing…
I dedicated a post to United’s popular new Away-branded amenity kit, so I’ll just note that I appreciate that United includes a pen in its amenity kit, but wish that a brush or at least a comb would be included.
While those traveling with companion may prefer these older seats, I cannot wait for them to be retrofitted out. Just know that if you are traveling on the 787-9, which is United’s international workhorse, you may wind up with this seat due a last minute equipment swap or you may be fortunate and find the older seat swapped out for the newer Polaris seat.
While I am happy for either seat while upgrading, I would not be pleased if I was paying sticker price for business class and found the old seat.
Here we are in July 2022 and United’s food presentation has improved greatly over the last several months, but the quality of the food has not. It is time for United to spend a bit more on catering as well because the food should not just look nice, it should taste nice too.
All that to say, the flight was fine. Service was fine. The seat was fine. The food was fine. But “fine” should not be good enough for United. United did just fine…but United can do better.