CHECK-IN I arrived at Heathrow Terminal 1 at 1015 for my flight UA949 to Chicago O’Hare. United’s check-in was in Zone D and it had premium lines for Global First (first class) and Business First (business class) as well as the top tiers in its Mileage Plus programme. While in line, I went through a US security check, and then through fast-track security and was quickly airside.
THE LOUNGE United uses the Star Alliance lounge at T1, which was busy. Flights were not called. There was free wifi and, at this time, a good breakfast spread. I watched the news for 30 minutes and went early to the gate (49) since I knew it was a good walk (listed as ten minutes, it takes five if you get a move on).
BOARDING The flight was boarding by 1145 and I used the business and first queue. Once on board, my jacket was quickly taken and I was offered a choice of drinks, including tomato juice. I was impressed that they poured drinks to order rather than offering the normal juice, water or champagne from a tray. We pushed back at 1230 because of congestion, and took off at 1300.
THE SEAT The first class cabin on this three-class B767-300ER has only six seats in two rows of three – 1A, 1C and 1K, and 2A, 2C and 2K. All were occupied, though 2K was used as a pilot rest area. The seats are angled slightly sideways, so my seat (1K) faced the aisle, though this wasn’t really a problem since there was limited footfall through the cabin. There was plenty of storage space, with a deep locker accessible on one side, a shallower one on the other, and a further one for books. The seat adjusted from a sit-up position for dining to fully-flat by extending to meet a footrest beneath the good-sized (15.4-inch) in-flight entertainment screen. The tray table sloped downwards and vibrated as I worked on my laptop. If it were a little wider you could rest it on the opposite armrest, but falling just short means it becomes weak at the hinges with use, as this one was. The in-seat power (US socket) was in arm’s reach, and there was plenty of room to spread out papers.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? With only two rows, there isn’t much difference between them. If you are travelling as a couple, choose A and C because in K you have the wall and aisle between you and the C seats.
THE FLIGHT Orders were taken before take-off so there was no delay with the meal service. The starter was vegetable spring roll and ginger prawn skewer, and fresh seasonal greens. The main course choices were tenderloin of beef in port wine sauce, breast of chicken with creamy morel mushroom sauce, Thai-style fillet of Tilapia with shrimp and chilli coconut sauce, or porcini mushroom-filled tortellini with truffle sauce. I had the fish, which was lovely. To finish, there was a variety of cheeses and ice cream. Wines included Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Champagne 2006, Bouchard Père et Fils Beaune du Château Premier Cru Blanc 2008, and Château Fourcas Dupré Listrac-Médoc Cru Bourgeois 2009.
I was impressed that the crew offered to serve me lunch when I was ready, and gave me the choice of getting some work done first. Such flexibility is a pain for them, so it was great to see they were prepared to volunteer for it. Since this was a day flight, it wasn’t possible to test the seat fully for sleeping – still, having reclined it fully and pulled over the duvet, I thought it was very comfortable and I dozed for an hour.
ARRIVAL We arrived on time and were quickly off the plane. Immigration was running with only a ten-minute delay, which was a pleasant surprise. I had no bags to pick up so was swiftly on my way.
VERDICT Both business and first seats on United are fully-flat, so the main difference comes down to the amount of room and the differences in food and wine. If you are working, the extra space is welcome, but you can see why first class is being squeezed when business is as good as it is on these B767-300ERs.
- PLANE TYPE B767-300ER
- FLIGHT TIME 8 hours 30 minutes
- CONFIGURATION 1-1-1
- SEAT WIDTH 31in/78.7cm
- SEAT LENGTH 78in/198.1cm
- PRICE Internet rates for a return Global First flight from London to Chicago in December ranged between £7,249 and £11,512 depending on flexibility
- CONTACT united.com