I arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport’s Terminal C at 0635 for flight UA1289, scheduled to depart at 0830. Check-in at the dedicated business class counters was efficient and I headed to security and immigration 10 minutes later.
Despite all the horror stories about security procedures at US airports, my experience was quick and smooth, even though I had to take off my shoes. I was on my way to the United Club lounge by 0705.
United Club in Newark’s Terminal C is opposite Gate C74. The facility itself gave a positive first impression with plenty of comfortable seats and workstations with power sockets.
The décor with a generous use of brown wood lends the lounge a classy look without being ostentatious. I also appreciated the large number of screens showing flight arrivals and departures. But as far as food and beverage options went, the selection was lacking, with just a few choices of biscuits and soft drinks on offer. The lounge has a cash bar, but it was left unattended during my visit.
According to my boarding pass, boarding was scheduled to begin at 0745. However, there was no announcement for the flight at the United lounge. I left the lounge promptly at 0745 and made my way to gate C71.
Upon arrival at the gate at 0750, I was ushered quickly onto the plane by an attendant who told me that the captain wanted an early take-off. I was shown to my seat, and offered a welcome drink of either juice or water.
The aircraft was a narrow-body Boeing 757-200 with a 2-2 configuration in business class. Most UA domestic flights offer leather recliners with extra width and expanded legroom. But on certain transcontinental flights out of Newark, the seat product offered is nearly identical to the flatbed found on the airline’s long-haul wide-body aircraft such as the B747-400 and B777-200 (United Business First).
I sat at 2A, next to the window, so access to the aisle required that I climb over the passenger next to me when she had her seat adjusted to a reclined or fully flat position.
The foot cubby was cramped, so I had to put one leg over the other when sleeping on the flatbed. This appears to be a problem limited to the B757, as I did not experience it on the B747-400 during my flight back to Hong Kong.
Overall, though, I found my seat to be comfortable with plenty of space and easy-to-use controls. And I appreciated the charging port as well as the 15.4-inch PTV that featured a wide range of entertainment programming during what was a fairly long flight. Storage space includes a small open compartment located just below the PTV, and open space next to the head cushion, suitable for placing the laptop. There’s also a power socket and USB port.
The plane pushed back at 0815, some 15 minutes ahead of schedule, and took off five minutes later. The seat-belt sign was off shortly after cruising.
Flight attendants commenced service by offering each passenger a hot towel. I checked out the meal menu in the seat pocket, and found cold and hot breakfast options. I chose the latter (herbed scrambled eggs) rather than cereal and banana.
Meal service began roughly an hour after take-off, and it was done efficiently and without fuss. I found the main course to be a mixed affair; the turkey sausage that accompanied the eggs was over-cooked to the point of being rubbery. I did however enjoy the scrambled eggs, which were pleasantly seasoned with melted Parmesan cheese. The meal was served alongside fresh fruit, yoghurt and bread.
After breakfast, I took a look at the inflight entertainment options. Along with a respectable number of blockbuster movies, United also offered a comprehensive selection of American television shows. I, however, decided to watch Guardians of the Galaxy.
The quality of service from the crew was a marked improvement over the inbound flight that I had taken into the US. A smile here and there went a long way. Still, it paled in comparison with the hospitality standards I am used to on Asian carriers – touches such as addressing passengers by name and other efforts to make us feel special were absent.
Descent was announced at 1105, and we touched down in San Francisco International Airport at 1135 – more than half an hour ahead of schedule. The aircraft reached the gate at 1140 and we began disembarking soon after.
A pleasant and efficient experience overall, with a top-notch inflight entertainment selection and reasonably good seat product, especially for a domestic flight. However, in terms of service and overall quality, it’s clear that US carriers are still playing catch-up to their Asian counterparts.
- CONFIGURATION 2-2
- SEAT WIDTH 21in/53cm
- SEAT LENGTH 76in/193cm
- SEAT RECLINE 180 degrees
- PRICE The internet rate for a midweek, flexible return flight in mid-March started from US$2,400, inclusive of taxes and surcharges.
- CONTACT united.com