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LHR – IAD Business
This was a rather full flight, and I had only managed to reserve ahead of time a middle seat in a 2-4-2 business class configuration. Fortunately at online check in a window seat became available, and I nabbed it.
United requires everyone flying to the US to pick up their boarding pass at the airport, in order to do a document check. That was fine, as I needed to check in my luggage, but I could see this as being annoying if you only had carry on. The attendant fulfilled his duties without really engaging much. Not a big deal, although I would have appreciated knowing the flight was leaving late.
On to the Star Alliance lounge at T1, which is acceptable without being exceptional. Offerings for food were breakfast related, even though it was 11 am. Again, there was no information as to the late departure. Staff working the lounge have no more information than what’s on the screen.
After the departure time had passed with no information, I enquired with the staff. I was basically referred to the United desk outside the lounge, although one kind woman took it on herself to find out what was going on and reported back to me that it was running about 30 minutes late. Being a dedicated Star Alliance lounge, I would have expected they’d have more information readily available, but sadly this is not the case, and you might as well be in a contract lounge for all the personal attention and knowledge.
Boarding went smoothly. Even though the seat was facing backwards (United has forward and rear facing seats, albeit by row and not yin and yang like BA), this is not felt in flight and had no effect once airborne. Certainly the middle seats would have felt very crowded for a business class flight, especially if you are travelling alone. In contrast the window/aisle combination felt spacious and provided plenty of room. As it was a day flight, I didn’t try out the flat bed, but otherwise the seat was comfortable. The general state of the airplane was good, and it looked quite fresh.
The IFE was second to none, which is important on a day flight like this. The screen was huge, and had good definition even in sunlight. There was a choice of about 200 films, with a good mix. I was very impressed with the sound as well. I compare this to BA, where I have taken 3 business flights in the last few months, and the comparison is, well, incomparable. Screen size, screen quality, the ability to fast forward/reverse, selection and sound were all vastly superior on this United product. A big thumbs up here.
I had expected food to be where United would fail, with the expectations of US carriers. I was pleasantly surprised. Service was considerate, but not too slow. My main of a seafood stew was delicious. Cheese was freshly cut from the choices I selected. Port wine was available. Dessert was typically American, hot fudge sundaes, but fun. Portions were substantial, and the flight attendants, while familiar, were not overly so. In fact, the crew were available when necessary, and quick to offer assistance when appropriate.
Landing was just a few minutes late, and on to the horrors that is Dulles airport, which goes beyond the remit of the review.
All in all, an excellent flight that exceeded expectations for food, comfort and service. Given the choice of BA and United on the route, overall from gate to gate I’d prefer the United service over BA anyday. BA would gain some on the ground services and lounges, but once inside the aircraft I’d have to go with United.