Tried & Tested

United B767-300ER Business First

30 Oct 2012 by Tom Otley

CHECK-IN I arrived at O’Hare Terminal 1 at 1300 for flight UA958 to Heathrow. Confusingly, United arrives at Terminal 5, where immigration and customs are, but departs international flights from Terminal 1. It also flies from part of Terminal 2 and Terminal 5 (for arrivals). I collected my boarding card and went to security, where there was no queue.

THE LOUNGE There are several in the airport, with two on Concourse B and one on Concourse C, as well as an adjacent Global First lounge.

BOARDING I boarded at Gate 18, right by the lounge, where there was priority for business and first passengers. My jacket was taken and I was offered drinks including several juices and what the attendant called “a limited range of beers”, but which for anyone used to the typical welcome drink would seem pretty extensive.

THE SEAT The Business First layout on the B767-300ER is in pairs configured 2-2-2 (A-B, C-H, J-K), with seats facing forwards and backwards in pairs. I was in backward-facing window seat 8A. There was a lack of storage space, with only a small area under the arm. Between each pair were stowage areas for magazines, but these were filled with United’s magazines – on take-off, they slid out and landed on me. As in Global First, the tray table came out of the arm and leant down to one side, vibrating considerably when I typed – though you can jam the pillow between one arm and the underside of the table as a support. The seat not only reclined fully-flat, meeting the footstool under the 15.4-inch IFE screen, but inclined so you could work and eat more easily. There was a power point (US adaptor needed) low down between the seats.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? For flyers used to BA’s Club World, flying backwards is no big deal, but whatever direction you are facing I would choose a window seat, since the aisle seats tend to mean you are facing someone sitting in the opposite direction across the aisle. The window seats, though more private, necessitate climbing over the feet of the person in the aisle when they are fully reclined, though this may be preferable to sitting in the aisle and having someone climb over you.

THE FLIGHT Service was excellent and I enjoyed the food. There was an appetizer of giant prawns, then seasonal greens. The mains were tenderloin of beef, spice rubbed breast of chicken, grilled fillet of Amazon cod, and butternut squash ravioli – you can also have the main and dessert (ice cream) “in an expedited manner”. Wines included Pannier Brut Tradition Champagne, Burgans Albarino 2009 and Santa Duc AOP Les Buissons Cairanne 2010. I wanted to maximise the amount of sleep I got, and the attendants understood, bringing a bottle of water then leaving me alone, only waking me for landing. The flight lasted for only seven hours, and though I had no trouble sleeping it wasn’t as long as I would have liked. I skipped breakfast but my neighbour had a selection of yoghurt, fruit and cold cuts.

ARRIVAL We landed early at just after 0500 and quickly disembarked. It was a long walk from the distant stand to immigration, but there was no queue and having hand baggage only, I was quickly on my way.

VERDICT A really good service. The flight attendants were experienced, friendly and helpful, the seat was comfortable, if a little cramped and lacking in storage space, and the flight left on time and got in early.

Fact file

  • FLIGHT TIME 7 hours 30 minutes
  • PLANE TYPE B767-300ER
  • SEAT WIDTH 23.5in/59.7cm
  • SEAT LENGTH 76in/193cm
  • PRICE Internet rates for a return Business First flight from London to Chicago in December ranged between £3,519 and £5,770 depending on flexibility.

Tom Otley

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