United Airlines Global First Class Flight 918 Washington Dulles-London Heathrow – Review
Today, first class cabins are few and far between on international flights, but United Airlines has long had a respected product on its long-haul routes. It was one of the first carriers to launch a suite for passengers although it has since been outdone with seats that have doors that close and minibars of their own.
Having begun my journey at LaGuardia on a US Airways flight to Washington’s Dulles International Airport, I checked in with a somewhat dour US Airways agent . Since the airline is a member of Star Alliance (until it joins oneworld following its pending merger with American), my boarding passes for the United flight to Heathrow printed when I checked in. The agent properly checked that I had a valid visa to India (my final destination) since it is the first airline‘s responsibility, on a multi-segment flight, to verify proper documentation.
Once at Dulles, I made use of United’s dedicated Global First lounge, which had quite a choice of sandwiches and crudités. The dearth of hot snacks (when I was there, I only found small quiches and spanakopita) was a disappointment. A wide selection of wines, international beers, and champagne was available on a self-serve basis.
Boarding was somewhat of a zoo, thanks to a line of main cabin passengers that made it impossible to get to the Premier Access lane when the agent called first class for boarding. Once aboard, however, things were calmer and I received a warm greeting from Janet, one of the two flight attendants serving the first class cabin.
The somewhat sterner purser was in the aisle introducing herself, hanging up coats and distributing menus. Janet graciously offered me a pre-departure beverage, with a choice of essentially anything as long as it was in her “pre-departure kit,” which is somewhat limited in scope, unlike what I have experienced on other carriers, where practically anything under the sun is offered. Once it was announced the flight would be delayed for an hour due to a mechanical issue, she was back in the aisle offering more drinks and serving hot nuts.
In past flights where I’ve flown international first on United, I’ve been somewhat disappointed with the older seating, but not today. Indeed, compliments are certainly due for the airline’s new fully flat first-class cabins and seats, which on the Boeing 777-200, are in a 1-2-1 configuration. The first-class seat is 78” in length fully extended and the width is 22”.
My seat, 1A, had no neighbor and plentiful storage space. I loved being able to charge my phone while storing a large water bottle, magazine, book, newspaper, and small bag without having to get up to open the overhead bin.
The seat had multiple positions, all individually adjustable. I chose to enjoy the first half of the flight in a recliner mode, but switched to a fully and spacious flat bed during the second half. Air vents, often missing on long-haul aircraft, were powerful and needed on board the warm aircraft.
United advertises a turndown service with a seat topper providing extra padding, but no mention was made of it before or during the flight. Only one passenger took advantage of it, most likely someone who has flown with United before or had done his homework. Sadly, the flight attendants never offered it.
Headsets were tucked away in a side pocket where they were tethered to the seat, although non-noise canceling pair United provides. Movies and television programming, however, were plentiful including a variety of options available on the easy-to-use navigation system that also included a clever map navigation system that allowed zooming in and out.
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