It has been a few years since I’ve been back for a visit to Australia and given my relative work flexibility nowadays, this year ended up being a perfect time to spend another couple of weeks down under. Also, with my flexibility, I was able to book flights on United for which confirmable upgrade space using Systemwide Upgrades, now Global Premier Upgrades, were available.
After spending a bit of time in the Terminal 7 United Club at LAX, I headed down to gate 77 a bit early as the flight was zeroed out in availability and there might have been a chance for a VDB. It didn’t turn out that way, which was fine, but I would have likely jumped on it given my flexibility.
Boarding started as scheduled and after the concierge/GS agent boarded the first class passengers she walked to the gate from the International First Lounge, I was among the first few to board. I reserved forward-facing seat 14K on the upper deck.
After getting situated, I headed up to the flight deck for a chat with the pilots, as well as a quick trip to the lavatory.
While in the lav, I overheard the gate agent mention to the captain that the flight was weight restricted, there were 30 revenue standbys in the gate “biting at the bit” to get onboard the nearly full flight, and he offered up the option to offload some bags to accommodate a few passengers. I don’t know how many passengers were able to make it on, but there was one cart of huge bags they indeed pulled off that didn’t make the flight.
I settled back into my seat and we took a delay while they processed the passengers and removed the bags, which I could see from my window.
Flight attendants brought around the menu and amenity kit, as well as offered pre-departure beverages. By 11:30pm PDT, we were “wheels up” and service began with hot towel service (the bigger Continental-style ones), warmed nuts and drink service off the aisle cart.
I always appreciate how quickly United gets the meal service going on the late flights to Australia. To begin:
The non-descript “chilled appetizer” was a salmon-wrapped piece of some type of fish I couldn’t identify and I neglected to ask the flight attendant what exactly it was. I went with the buttermilk ranch dressing on my rather common, but tasty salad. Croutons were added separately from a dish from the cart.
United recently upgraded the business class menus to offer four main courses instead of three.
I went with the grilled pork chop, which ended up being huge and delicious – a marked improvement from my last international business class meal on United.
While I normally skip the cheese and dessert courses to sleep, I went ahead with them since there’s just sooo much time to sleep on the 14.5 hour flight.
Shortly after having my tray removed, a flight attendant brought bottled water prior to me reclining back into lie-flat mode to get some sleep.
I previously mentioned how I preferred the Continental lie-flat seats on my Dublin flight review, and my impression was reinforced on this flight. The reason? Being 6’1”, I use the entire seat space when sleeping and have to rest my head on the pillow lying over the very hard headrest. It’s fine when simply relaxing in the seat in an upright mode, but damn is that headrest stiff as a board and uncomfortable on the neck when in lie-flat position.
I only ended up getting about 4 hours of sleep total, unfortunately, and tossed and turned for a while before getting up to grab a snack. The offerings:
In addition to the sandwiches and fruit, chips and nuts were also available. When I asked for a coffee at the back galley, the flight attendant said she’d prepare it and bring it to my seat.
I watched a couple of new movies and then scanned the TV programs, which didn’t seem to be any different than the offerings on-hand since April, sadly. Still, there’s enough entertainment to keep anyone busy for such a long flight.
Breakfast began about 2 hours outside of Sydney and I went with the scrambled egg dish. It was very similar to any domestic first class offering, but satisfying enough.
Now, a note about the service. The two main flight attendants serving business class upstairs were the best I’ve experienced on United. While not quite as perfectionistic as those I’ve encountered on other international airlines, they consistently smiled, had a professional disposition, weren’t rushed and accommodated every request with pleasure. By United’s standards, they were excellent and I have since sent a note to the 1K email giving them compliments. Well done, United!
We touched down about 7:00am and I’ve never seen the immigration lines so long in all the times I’ve arrived in Sydney. Fortunately, United provides business (and first) class passengers with the express lane passes and I made it from aircraft door to the customs exit within 20 minutes max.
I simply love Australia and I’m excited to get to spend a couple of weeks here. This coming week, I get to experience Virgin Australia’s business class service from Sydney to Perth, as well as review a couple of new hotels. Stay tuned for those posts in the coming days.