With United recent mile devaluation I was lucky to have booked a a business class trip right before the deadline. I ended up booking a trip from San Francisco (SFO) to Bangkok, Thailand (BKK) with a 3 hour stop over in Seoul, Korea (ICN). The first leg was on a United 747-400 and I got to sit in the upper deck (seat 13A), which is my favourite place to be since it feels more private than the business class seats on the bottom deck. The flight from Seoul to Bangkok was on Asiana Airlines business class, which I will review later on.
United Club Lounge
United boards from SFO’s fantastic international terminal, but their lounge is a total disaster. It is often crowded, bathrooms are dirty and the food and beverage selection very lacking (they make you pay for most of the good alcohol). Its only redeeming value is that its free with your business/first class ticket and its better than their domestic lounge (which is often worse than just sitting outside by your gate).
United Club Service Desk
United Club Bar – premium alcohol (almost all the good stuff) was extra $$$.
United Club Lounge area: bananas (literally) best described how bad it was. Free coffee, tea and drinks made from powdered ingredients.
Boarding was uneventful with the usual United order of Global Services, First Class, 1K, Business Class, Gold, Silver, then by economy boarding groups. Since so many people have United co-branded credit cards there are lots of people in Group 2 (right behind Business/gold) and United Silver will get you into Group 2 as well. At SFO there are two doors since the 747-400 is a large plane and I used the business class one.
Seats / Upper Deck
This is where I started getting excited. Walking up the 747 stairs reminds me of when I was a young child and having the United flight attendants escort me up to the cockpit so I could sit in the captains chair where they would let you try on the flight cap and then give you a model plane. Those days are long gone, but the memories will remain. Somehow the plane seemed much, much larger when I was young 🙂
The queen of the skies.
These stairs lead to a magic place.
Business-First upper deck on the 747-400. Not a lot of above head bin room, but lots of room next to the seats.
I had to put both of my carry-ons in the storage cubbies next to my seat, which was nice but made it hard to get the wheelie out. The seats themselves are the newer Business-First seats that have fully 180 degree lie-flat configuration. They fold down to allow 6’4″ of sleeping space with a 20″ across section (that is most narrow around the shoulders strangely where you think you would need the most room). Seat seat has a 15″ IFE personal entertainment screen that had lots of the latest movies, in flight map, music and more. I usually end up watching lots of the movies to kill time but try to sleep on long flights.
Lots of controls to play with if you like to adjust your seat. Had a air cushion for lumbar / massage, but it didn’t work very well. Overall the seats were 8/10 for business class seats, not as good as the newer pods on some european / asian carriers, but for a trip I booked for 120K miles I was not going to complain about being able to sleep on the 12+ hour flight.
To be continued in Part 2: Food and Drinks.