Despite what you might have heard, travel writers usually travel in economy class. That’s not a complaint, mind you. I’m not especially tall or pampered, so I’m happy to go “cattle class” like most other people – provided I can get an aisle seat. Is that too much to ask? (Apparently yes, on occasion)
Business Class upgrade
However, on the occasion when I’m offered an upgrade, I won’t say no.
In April, United Airlines carried out a long-overdue upgrade to their fleet, so on my next flight to the US, I was offered a place in the BusinessFirst cabin of one of the new Boeing 777-200 airliners to San Francisco.
As I haven’t been in the best of health, suffering from back pain especially, this offer was a godsend. But say I wasn’t on a work trip.
What if I was paying for this myself? Would I bother paying three or four times as much as a normal Sydney-San Francisco fare (which is already something of an investment)?
United Airlines BusinessFirst
Possibly not – but then, I don’t have a regular income, so I watch my pennies. Also, if I were on holiday, I’d save my money for the holiday itself. But if I could afford it? OK, let’s see what’s so special about United Airlines BusinessFirst.
Of course, reviewing a business class seat sounds like bickering. With the relative cosiness (I won’t say “luxury”, which is what I assume you get in United Global First), how could you complain? No raw chocolate with your vegan, sugar-free meals? No episodes of Orphan Black in the video on-demand?
For starters, I’ve been upgraded on United Airlines flights in the past (due to being a very frequent flyer, especially to New York). I always quite liked being in the “pointy end”, but the 777 shows a definite step up in quality.
The design gave the impression of extra legroom, with a 180-degree seat recline, enough sleeping space for a six-foot-tall person, a seat width of 51 centimetres, and large personal video screens with excellent picture quality and fairly good audio, this marks a definite improvement.
A few things were missing – like my pillow. This was a nuisance, as a pillow would have nicely complemented the seat’s ability to flatten out almost perfectly into a bed. I asked a flight attendant, who said that, sadly, they didn’t have any spares because it was a full flight.
I’ve heard the “full flight” excuse from United in the past (usually to explain why they couldn’t provide me an aisle seat if I only give them a week’s notice, or why they couldn’t provide my vegetarian meal because someone else accidentally stole it). “I could look for one in economy class,” the attendant said, but he said this in a way that made it sound so cheap and nasty.
As he seemed to advise, I told him not to worry, but I would have loved to take a pillow from one of those spoilt people in the cheap seats.
Even better, I would like to track down the person in United Airlines BusinessFirst who was greedily using two big pillows. But as you can see, when you’ve been upgraded, any complaining seems merely petty.
Well, I might not be the one to ask, as I was going vegan after my recent health issues. My meals were somewhat ordinary, especially as I had to politely decline the ice-cream sundaes that they were offering in between meals. The people on either side of me, however, seemed very satisfied with their dinners.
I landed in San Francisco feeling pretty good, after 13 hours in the sky, in which I had enjoyed some sleep, a few movies, several television episodes, and even some work time.
Would I pay for it if I had plenty of spare change, and if I was in rude health? Perhaps, but in such circumstances, I’d just as soon fly economy.
If the comfort of BusinessClass means more to you (and who could blame you?), these new cabins are the best way to fly the friendly skies.