I flew an eight-segment mileage run last month that included a roundtrip from Boston to Tokyo via San Francisco. And due to an unadvertised promotional first class fare (about $3,000) out of select U.S. origins to Tokyo (or Beijing), I was able to fly in comfort and nabbed my favorite seat onboard any United aircraft – 2K on a Boeing 747-400.
My flight into San Francisco from Boston arrived just about on schedule, leaving me with enough time for a quick visit to the Global First lounge to catch up on emails. At the check-in desk when I was welcomed as “Mr. Booth,” the person next to me asked, “Darren Booth?” Turns out he reads my blog – what a small world. It was nice to meet you, Sean!
I headed to the gate ahead of boarding time to… well… be a “gate louse” and position myself near the front of the Premier Access lane. Why? Because those darn 747s have such limited overhead space in first class that I didn’t want to stow my bags in business class, which often happens. I was about the 10th person on and I settled into my seat (and yes, got my coveted overhead bin space). Oh, and for those unfamiliar with United, there’s absolutely no priority given to Global First passengers over business class (or many elites).
The menu, pillows and blanket were awaiting me at my seat, and the amenity kit and slippers were already stowed in the side console compartment. Pre-departure beverage service was slow as the lead flight attendant in Global First spent an inordinate amount of time gabbing with a couple of passengers. And I noted some friction between the lead and purser, which I wrote about in my “The Reality Check That Is United Airlines Global First Class” post.
Newspapers were offered and positioned on the console across from my seat. We pushed nearly on-time and were airborne within about 15 minutes.
The lead noticed my camera and said, “You’d better get your pictures in quick before we take the left turn toward Japan!” I chuckled and said “Thanks,” but little did she know my main intent was to capture the meals. Hot towels, warmed nuts and beverages started the lunch service. Check out the turbulence in that water glass.
Here’s the menu:
The warm appetizer and sushi were served nearly in tandem. I did quite like the beef empanada and pastry, but didn’t touch the sushi as I’m not a fan.
Besides a warm vs. cold appetizer, the only other noticeable difference from Global First to BusinessFirst meals is the addition of a soup course. It was only lukewarm and required a bit of salt to make it tastier.
A rather basic salad followed and I went with the Parmesan-pepper dressing.
For my main course, I chose the Tenderloin of Beef. It was very tender and delicious, the latter likely due to the Delmonico’s steak sauce. I have had decent green beans in-flight before, but these were rubbery and tasteless. And the potatoes cooled off very quickly and were equally bland. More salt.
By this point, I was ready for a nap having been awake since very early Boston time to catch the 6:00 a.m. flight. And so I skipped the cheese and ice cream sundae. Here’s the remainder of the menu:
There was absolutely no mention of the “new” turn-down service for Global First passengers where flight attendants will lower your seat into bed mode and spread the sleeping cushion over the seat. And on the return flight with the same crew, the lead was very vocal how she felt about it saying, “What are we a hotel?!”
The crew spruced up the lavatory as best they could.
A cart was setup near the galley with the assorted sandwiches and nibbles from the “mid-flight snack” menu appearing above. They looked identical to what’s offered in BusinessFirst and not particularly appealing.
About 1.5 hours before arrival, breakfast was served although it was 2:00 p.m. local time in Tokyo. Other airlines flying this timeslot will serve a more time-appropriate meal. I went with the herbed scrambled eggs, ham, turkey sausage and potato gratin… err… tater tots.
While each flight attendant was friendly in their own way, there was certainly nothing exceptional about their service. It was just a typical United flight and I suppose worth what I paid. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to pay full-fare for United’s Global First.