United Airlines, Business First
THE FLIGHT: Flight UA929 from London Heathrow's Terminal 2 to Chicago O'Hare, departing at 07.50 and operated by a B767-300.
THE CHECK-IN: I've travelled from Heathrow's Terminal 2 several times now but, two years after opening, the hub for Star Alliance member airlines is still hugely impressive. Despite rows of vacant self-check-in kiosks, I queued briefly at United's staffed check-in desks as I had a couple of queries about a connecting flight.
THE LOUNGE: After clearing the fast-track security area, I made the long walk to the 'B' section of the terminal – for long-haul departures – and entered United's business class lounge. At this early hour it was very quiet but soon began to fill up. There's a wide range of seating options, a long bar, showers and a hot and cold breakfast buffet. The departure gate was nearby and boarding was swift and orderly.
THE SEAT:The BusinessFirst cabin had a 2-2-2 configuration with alternating pairs of forward and rear-facing seats. I had earlier selected a forward-facing aisle seat as window seats do not have direct aisle access. The seats have a 76-inch pitch, are 20 inches wide and convert to a 180-degree flatbed. Upholstery was a bit tired and scuffed in places but the IFE screen, entertainment options and noise-reducing headphones were good.
THE SERVICE: Drinks were offered, menus and amenity kits (in large metal tins) were handed out and my jacket was taken and hung up all before take-off. A breakfast of spinach and mushroom omelette, yoghurt, cereals and pastries was served once we were in the air. Lunch – I chose the (excellent) tandoori chicken – was served a couple of hours before landing and was followed with cheese and port, ice cream sundaes and coffee. Snacks were available at all other times. Wifi access was available for $17.
THE VERDICT: The service was well above standard on this transatlantic flight – which departed and arrived right on time – and the product was good too. That said, the fact United is introducing a brand new business class seat and service, Polaris, at the turn of the year suggests the days of this existing product are numbered.
THE DETAILS: United flies three times a day between Heathrow and Chicago, with return BusinessFirst fares starting from £2,038 in Sep/Oct, including taxes See: United.com.
Reviewed by Andy Hoskins (2016)