A review of United’s Economy Plus product on the Chicago-London service
I arrived at Chicago O’Hare Terminal 1 at 1615 for my departure on flight UA931 at 1820. It was very busy at this time on a Sunday. I checked in at one of many self-service kiosks and dropped my bag at one of the desks. There was a fair queue at security but it moved quickly and I was airside at 1635.
My flight was departing from Gate C15 so I walked to Concourse C. Boarding started on time at 1735 and was well organised, with passengers split into five queues – as an Economy Plus passenger I was in group 5, which was last to board, meaning that by the time I got on all the economy passengers behind me were already seated. I was in my seat, 24B, at 1750.
The flight was full and some people were struggling to find room for their hand luggage in the overhead bins – not a huge amount of help was offered to them by the crew.
Economy Plus seats on this three-class B767-300 are located at the front of the economy cabin (rows 19-28); see seat plan here. They are the same seats as in regular economy, in a 2-3-2 configuration (A-B, C-E-H, JK), but offer greater legroom (34 inches rather than 31) and an extra inch of recline (five inches instead of four). Seat width is the same, at 17.6 inches. Note middle seats 28C-E-H are standard economy. The food and drink is also the same, although you get served before regular economy passengers.
Upholstered in dark blue fabric, seats have fold-down tables and small seatback in-flight entertainment (IFE) screens, the control buttons for which were in my right armrest. This being an older aircraft, the IFE system was not on demand, instead offering nine film and TV options on a loop. Headphones were provided. There was no in-seat power.
The aircraft was wifi equipped (US$16.99 for the flight) and you could also stream entertainment to your device with United’s Private Screening offering. To use this, you connect to the wifi network (free when using this service) then go to unitedwifi.com and select your film or TV show. If you are using a mobile device rather than a laptop, you have to download United’s app before the flight.
WHAT SEAT TO CHOOSE?
Exit row 19 and exit row seats 20A-B and 20J-K offer the most legroom in Economy Plus, and you also get served first and can disembark more quickly. Having said that I was just as happy in 24B as I was on my outbound flight in 19K (flight reviewed here), as I could extend my legs under the seat in front and I preferred having a seatback table and screen. However, my companion in 24A was restricted in terms of legroom by the IFE box under the seat in front, so that is one to avoid.
We pushed back 20 minutes late at 1840, and then there was a considerable wait for take-off. At 1910 the captain announced that it would be another 30-40 minutes until we did so as there was a queue of aircraft owing to weather conditions. We eventually took off at 1935.
Half an hour in, the meal service started – there was a choice of chicken or pasta. I asked the attendant what the pasta option was but she didn’t know. I decided to take a punt – it was spinach and tomato cannelloni, which was pretty decent, and certainly a lot better than the food I’d had on the outbound flight. It came with a salad, a warmed roll and a choice of drink – economy passengers can have complimentary beer and house wine as well as soft drinks.
After that, vanilla bean ice cream tubs were handed out, which was a nice touch, and another drink and a bottle of water offered. The lights were then dimmed and more water was offered during the flight. Service was efficient.
I switched on my non-AVOD TV screen and watched the second half of Eddie the Eagle, followed by the first half, then settled down to sleep. I got more rest than I would expect to on a long-haul flight, which I’m sure was also down to the extra legroom I had in Economy Plus.
An hour and 15 minutes before landing, a light breakfast was served – a croissant with jam, a strawberry yoghurt and a choice of drink.
We made up time during the flight and landed slightly late at 0837. I was off the plane and through the e-passport gates at Heathrow T2 quickly, and was airside at 0900.
It’s been a while since I have had to watch the second half of a film before the first half on board, and this needs upgrading, but this was a comfortable long-haul experience and the food offering was decent quality. I do recommend purchasing Economy Plus for the extra space this provides, especially on a night flight.
Internet rates for a return Economy Plus flight from London to Chicago in August ranged between £921 and £1,356 depending on flexibility.