March 12, 2016

Review: United Airlines 777-200 Global First Washington to London

Planning & Booking
Planning & Booking II
Washington Dulles (IAD) Lounge Hopping
United Airlines 777-200 Global First Washington to London
United Arrivals Lounge London
Andaz London Liverpool Street
Etihad Airways First & Business Class Lounge London
Etihad Airways A380 First Class Apartment London to Abu Dhabi
Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi
Etihad Airways Premium Lounge Abu Dhabi
Etihad Airways A380 First Class Apartment Abu Dhabi to New York
American Express Centurion Lounge LGA

Boarding was called promptly at 9:15 and we were greeted at the door of the 777 and shown to our seats.  We were seated in 2C/2H in the so called "honeymoon" seats in the center of the cabin.  Waiting at our seats were two medium sized pillows and a super comfortable (and light) duvet.  

We were highly excited for the flight as it would be our first time flying United Global First.  After more than 20 international first class flights on some of the best airlines in the world, we were both eager to see how United would stack up.  Expectations were low but we both went in with an open mind.

United 777 Global First Seat 2C
The cabin filled up and in the end, 7/8 seats were occupied.  The 8th (2A) was reserved for crew rest.  I found the seat to be exceptionally comfortable - both for lounging and sleeping.  The only negative is the shoulder harness you must wear for takeoff and landing.  While I'm not sure on the reason for the harness (something around the angle of the seats maybe?) I felt like I was ready for blast off in the space shuttle.  So that was pretty cool.  The seat had plenty of storage on both sides as well as multiple power and USB outlets.

2A reserved for crew rest

Our crew was "mature" to say the least.  There wasn't a single flight attendant serving the first class cabin under 50.  Jim seemed to find pleasure in calling Emily "doll" and "love" while refreshing our Champagne (okay I think it was Cava) out of a glass split with a twist top.  But he was totally professional and friendly and made everyone in the cabin feel welcome.

Ready to go

Amenity kits were handed out they were impressive.  The kit was filled with Cowshed amenities, a pen, socks, and an eyeshade.  Definitely reusable for a (small) tablet or kindle case which is pretty cool.  United doesn't provide slippers or pajamas but we did bring our own (slippers and pajamas).  Printed menus were handed out as well although we both planned to sleep so declined dinner.  

Apparently United provides turndown service and I did see the mattress pad in one of the storage cubbies in the seat. While we both made it clear that we were going to sleep after takeoff, turndown wasn't offered which I found a bit surprising.  It wasn't a big deal as the seat and duvet were both comfortable enough to just recline and go straight to sleep.  We were also asked if we'd like a wake up call/breakfast in the morning which we both declined.  We knew we'd be able to get a decent breakfast after showering in the arrivals lounge.  While we didn't eat, here's the menu for those interested.


Bar service

Service overview
Boarding finished up and after a 30 minutes maintenance delay, we pushed back from the gate.  After a quick taxi, we were soon in the air.  Both of us reclined our seats and slept soundly for almost the entire flight.  The flight attendants did leave the lights on in the cabin for what seemed like an eternity during the meal service.  They did eventually turn them off but it must have been 2+ hours into the 6h30m flight which seemed a bit odd.

Seat 2A

I woke up around an hour outside of London and watched the airshow before landing at Heathrow.  Fast track immigration cards were provided which I'm sure are incredibly valuable during peak times at Heathrow.  Luckily we landed around 10AM on a Saturday and immigration queues were non-existent.  

We landed right on time despite the 30 minute delay and taxied to our gate in the brand new Terminal 2.  After saying goodbye to the crew and making our way through immigration and customs, we were in the arrivals hall on the way to the beautiful United Arrivals Lounge.

Our ride from the US next to Singapore's A380

Final Thoughts:

For such a short flight, the seat (in business or first class) is all that matters.  If you eat on this flight, you're looking at <4 hours of sleep which doesn't seem like enough if you have plans to accomplish anything the next day upon arrival.  We both found the seat to be very comfortable.  The cabin was cool and the pillow/blanket sufficient to get nearly a full night's sleep on the plane.  United Global First isn't going to win any awards or make any top 10 lists.  But the premium (10,000 miles per ticket each way) over Star Alliance partner business class is a worthwhile investment.  I would fly United Global First again to Europe given the short duration of the flight.  To Asia, I think the additional miles to fly a Star Alliance carrier in First (Asiana, ANA) are worth it.

In terms of United business class...United BusinessFirst on the 777 is setup in a 2-4-2 you have a 50% chance of having to "hop" over someone to go to the bathroom in the middle of the flight.  That is a no go if getting a great night's sleep is important.

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