United business class

For the past year and a half, I've been spoiled by the excellent Cathay Pacific (and Bain's financial support). Every now and then, I visit NYC and I have to venture away from world's best airline.

I had the fortune to travel on United's new business class on my latest trip to Chicago (on to NYC). They have the new flatbed service that's now so prevalent in premium airlines. Some quick comments... as consultants, we have to break everything into framework... so I submit my own: bed, seat, TV, food, service:
  • Bed: Excellent! I've actually never been on a flat bed before and I really like it. Bottom line: it's easy to fall asleep on. Chairs that recline to the Nth degree are not bad... but the positioning of your feet really affects how well you can sleep. Flat bed solves that problem. The only caveat is that sleeping sideways will be difficult if that's the way you sleep... you've be facing the side of the chair which can be disturbing.
  • Chair: Call me silly, but I love the United buttons. There's a button for take off and landing so I don't have to fidddle away with different buttons to get my seat upright. Comfy and no complaints. Seats are either forward or backward facing (none of the ridiculous diagonal facing Cathay seats with all the stinky feet sticking out in the hallway). Me being me, I was seated at a backward facing seat that looked straight into economy. It's a bit weird during take off when the large white lady kept staring at me wondering why Asian parents spoil their kids with business class and her kids wouldn't upgrade her. (Thanks, Mike, for the wonderful seat) Not bad though... sitting backwards gives you a new perspective on how the engine works though. You have to see it.
  • On-Demand TV: Well, put it this way... the screen is bigger than the TV PNGF uses in NYC. Nice TV. I played around with all the functions, including the Audio book (not going to work, but good try) and games (might elbow the passenger next to you... it's still fun though). The only problem I had was that the programs weren't that great. Whereby Cathay economy had shows such as 24 (all episodes!) and some of the latest and greatest movies (I saw Iron Man, Hancock, Hulk, Cars, Blood Diamond, and Indiana Jones during roundtrip to NYC last October), United's lineup paled in comparison. Maybe it's January and all the blockbusters have expired. I ended up watching Clone Wars, Wall-E, and Vicky, Christina, Barcelona (review another day). On the flip side, for TV, there was House, Entourage, and Desperate Housewives (just kidding). Ultimately, since I'm using the TV to pass time, this will do.
  • Food: Honestly, I can't remember any of it. I guess that means a passing grade. I wish there were ice cream on board though. (Cathay didn't have any... nor does United. But DragonAir from HKG to Shanghai always did)
  • Service: As usual, US service cannot compare to Asian services. Some would argue the American service levels are "more friendly"... I say it's more of a lack of attention to detail and formality. For example, don't try and pour water into an empty cup while it sits on the arm rest. Take the cup, place it on your tray, then pour water. Will reduce spill risk to zero. I'm just saying.

The worst is Continental. I don't want to ever think about it. Bed: N/A. Seat: bad. TV: Almost N/A. Food: bad. Service: very bad.

Cathay economy is surprisingly good. It has on-Demand TV and that's all I ask. The seat is kind of plasticy but it slides just enough for me to sort of be comfortable. Not that I really have to though, thanks to the TV. Bed: N/A. Seat: pass. TV: excellent. Food: pass. Service: good.

United economy is in between. It's more comfy than Cathay but the lack of TV hurts it a lot. 10+ hours on a plane and you realize how nice it is to have something distract you. Anything. Without TV, it's a grind to complete the the trip, especially with a transit in Chicago. Bed: N/A. Seat: good. TV: Almost N/A. Food: pass. Service: pass.


shmoo said...

How are you posting this already? You just left SFO!

I dunno man, I'd probably rather see Wall-E and Vicky Christina Barcelona than any two of the Hancock, Incredible Hulk, Cars, Blood Diamond, and Indiana Jones group. Iron Man definitely beats Clone Wars though.

I should note I've only seen Iron Man, Wall-E, Incredible Hulk, and Indiana Jones of the above.

Laughing Man said...

I took United Business three years ago. Had a terrible flight from HKG to ORD and a pretty decent flight on the way back.

HKG2ORD: The attendant serving me must must must have been PMSing. When my tray came she literally dropped it onto the tray table. She poured water into my cup from behind which startled me. She snapped at me throughout the flight and again, literally threw a plate of cake onto my tray table. Ironically, another stewardess passed out a very detailed comment form.

ORD2HKG: Service was great. Attendant very polite and went out of her way to get me a glass of port from first class (though biz class had port available on the way over).

No TV? Read a book ;)