United Airlines Boeing 787 Business Class Introduction
When I started the planning process for this Aeroplan mini-round-the-world trip, my jumping off point was searching for the transatlantic segment first. Generally speaking, I find this the toughest part of the itinerary to coordinate, since transpacific flights are somewhat abundant from the west coast, whereas flights from Europe usually involve a connection and much of the availability is on airlines with high fuel surcharges (Lufthansa and Air Canada). It didn’t take much effort to find a United Airlines Boeing 787 Business Class flight from Paris to Washington, at which point I was able to easily add connecting flights back home to Vancouver. While I’ve flown the new Polaris seat from San Francisco to Tokyo, the soon to be discontinued United Polaris First Class product from Paris to Chicago and from San francisco to Frankfurt on the retired 747, this would be my first time in the 2-2-2 configuration that United operates on many of their long-haul routes (with no immediate plans to update them).
I took a taxi from the Prince de Galles Hotel in Paris and arrived at Terminal 1 at Charles de Gaulle airport about 45 minutes later and 50 euro poorer. Check-in was really quick, with one of the friendliest check-in agents I’ve had in a long time. Security starts at the check-in counter, with a contracted employee taking my passport and asking a few questions. Unlike my last transit through CDG on my 11-day trip around this world, this interview was brief, with the agent asking the following questions:
Where are you going?
Did you pack your bags?
After that they place a small sticker on your passport and luggage, and you’re on your way. Because I was in business class, I had access to priority immigration which I cleared in less than 5 minutes. Star Alliance has a decent business class lounge at CDG which I used prior to departure, though it was so crowded I wasn’t able to get pictures. Unfortunately on this trip every lounge I experienced was overcrowded and a little bit disappointing. There was, however, a good selection of food and beverages at the Paris Star Alliance Lounge, and unlike the Turkish Airlines lounge at Istanbul Airport, I was able to find a seat without much effort. Boarding was scheduled to start at 10:50am, one hour prior to departure, so at 10:40 I left the lounge and made my way to gate 46. The main security screening happens after the lounge and before the gate, so keep that in mind when planning your time in the lounge. Although I’ve never really had a tough time getting through security, it’s always on the back of my mind when enjoying a lounge and I generally leave too early. This time security took about 2 minutes, and boarding was just getting started as I got to the gate. Similar to the check-in counter, there was another brief interview consisting of the same questions, at which point I was permitted to line up.
United Airlines Boeing 787 Business Class Flight
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United Airlines 914
Paris Chales de Gaulle (CDG) – Washington Dulles (IAD)
Tuesday, January 30, 2018
Arrive: 2:34pm (same day)
Aircraft: Boeing 787-800
Seat: 1A (Business Class)
I was greeted at the door by a couple of the cabin crew and directed left towards my favourite seat – 1A. The United Airlines Boeing 787 business class seating is in a 2-2-2 configuration across 6 rows (split into two cabins) for a total of 36 seats.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to board first, and as a result it was tough to get good pictures. I found the cabin fairly nice, though I don’t know if I love the monochromatic colours, and the seats were definitely starting to look tired. The seats are slightly staggered, and offer a bit more privacy than the forward facing seats I had on Turkish Airlines.
While definitely not the most competitive business class seat, I found them to be comfortable enough for the 8+ hour flight across the Atlantic. Each fully-flat seat offers 78 inches of pitch at 22 inches wide, which should be enough for most people to find a comfortable sleep position.
Seat controls are located on the centre armrest between the seats and very easy to use. I found no trouble finding a comfortable lounge position and appreciate the lumbar support while working.
I was fortunate enough to have seat 1B empty, so not having direct aisle access was a non-issue on this flight. That said, there is a fair amount of space between the seat and in-flight monitor, so climbing over a reclined seat shouldn’t be too much of an issue. There is also a small privacy divider between the seats should you be seated next to a stranger.
Bulkhead seats on this aircraft offer a significant advantage to other seats as the ‘cubby’ for your feet is considerably larger than other rows, which adds a lot of comfort and space when the seat is fully reclined.
Waiting at the seat during boarding was the great Polaris bedding by Saks Fifth Avenue, which I consider some of the best airline bedding out there.
Also waiting at the seat were some headphones for the in-flight entertainment, which were better quality than I thought when first seeing them.
During boarding the cabin crew came around and introduced themselves, and distributed amenity kits, menus, and a choice of pre-departure beverages. Well, to be honest, no introductions were needed, as my friend Nino was on this flight, and taking care of my section of the cabin. He was also kind enough to give me a tour of Paris on my short layover (he’s a great tour guide too), and is one of the most passionate airline employees I’ve ever met! Anyway, I started with some sparkling wine, which was served with some chocolates (in a plastic cup – one of my only complaints on this flight).
Amenity kits were different from my last United Airlines business class flight, and consisted of a blue tin honouring the recently retired Boeing 747 (cute collector item for any avgeek) and had the standard contents including eyeshade, socks, and a few toiletries by Cowshed.
Seat storage was fairly good, with a space under the footwell for a backpack, a small cutout under the monitor for literature, and a cubby with cupholder between the seat and the window.
The door closed and we pushed back a few minutes ahead of schedule. the taxi was short with just a couple of planes ahead of us for takeoff. I love how large the windows are on the 787! Unfortunately there wasn’t much in the way of plane spotting on our way to the runway.
The climb out of Paris was smooth yet the seatbelt sign remained on for about 20 minutes. Once off, I decided to check out the lavatory. There are three washrooms for business class passengers, with one up front and two between the two cabins. The lavatories are fairly basic, and feature some Cowshed amenities. The cabin crew did a great job at keeping them clean throughout the flight, which is always nice!
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Meal service consisted of lunch after takeoff, with another light snack offered prior to landing, which seemed like a lot of food for an 8 hour flight. I chose the chicken for my main meal, though apparently everyone was raving about the beef!
The tray table is located below the seat controls, and was previously damaged.
The appetizer consisted of buffalo mozzarella, tomato, kalamata olive with basil and balsamic glaze, with a side salad and bread selection. While everything was good, it was a very similar starter to what I had on my Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul to Paris, which I found a bit better in comparison.
For my main I chose the grilled chicken breast with asparagus and brown rice. I thought everything tasted great, and found the serving size perfect for lunch! As an aside, I sure hate the salt and pepper shakers United offers in business class…
Dessert followed lunch, with a variety of treats, including the legendary United sundae (which I didn’t get this time).
Everything for lunch was good, though nothing was especially memorable. I don’t love airline food, and sometimes I actually prefer something simple like this instead of overly complicated dishes that often times don’t translate well off the menu. The highlight of this meal was the service though, and not just because I had a friend taking care of me. Nino had mentioned that this was ‘the best crew in the industry’, and I sincerely believe that. I was carefully listening to their interactions with other passengers and everyone was phenomenal. They all took the time to answer questions, explain dishes and beverages, and seemed genuinely interested in passenger comfort. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this level of engagement by an entire flight crew and I hope United recognizes their solid work ethic. The cabin crew from my flight to Frankfurt could take a few notes from these guys….
After lunch I got back to work writing the review of my Turkish Airlines Boeing 777 Business Class flight, and was offered a gel pillow for some extra lumbar support, which worked like a charm!
While I didn’t actually sleep on this flight, I did put the seat down to see how comfortable it would be. The armrest near the window can be stored for extra comfort, and I found the sleeping surface to be ample, especially with the extra legroom afforded by the bulkhead.
I tried my best to stay awake for the flight, wanting to arrive exhausted in Vancouver to minimize jet lag, so instead I tried to work and ultimately checked out the in-flight entertainment. United has a great selection of movies and television, and it didn’t take long to find something worth watching. I chose the sequel to ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, which was good, though I couldn’t get over how old Al Gore is looking these days….
The cabin crew did a good job at keeping drinks replenished throughout the flight, and proactively offered refills and snacks. I’ve never actually experienced this on a North American carrier, where you rarely see crew after the meal service.
Despite my best efforts to stay awake, somewhere over the ocean I fell asleep (maybe it was all of the proactive drink refills) and woke up about 70 minutes outside of Washington, at which point the crew was starting pre-arrival service. I selected the fruit, vegetable and cheese plate, which hit the spot after a boozy nap.
The views approaching Washington were… cold looking.
We touched down at 2:30 and made a very short 4-minute taxi to the gate, with cabin crew thanking everyone for choosing United and wishing them a good afternoon.
United Airlines Boeing 787 Business Class Bottom Line
When I booked this trip around the world I wasn’t expecting the United Airlines Boeing 787 Business Class product to be the highlight. My EVA Air flight from Vancouver featured a better seat for sure, but the service was just ok (and I slept most of the flight), and my Turkish Airlines flight was just downright disappointing.
Unfortunately the seats are not incredibly competitive anymore, though I did find them acceptable for a transatlantic flight made even better by having the seat next to me remain empty. Had this been a full flight with a different crew, I probably wouldn’t have such a glowing review. However, given that United Airlines releases a fair amount of award availability and doesn’t impose fuel surcharges on any Aeroplan redemptions, I think they’re a decent choice when looking at award flights, and am happy to see the service culture improving on each flight I take with them!
I had set the bar fairly high for this flight, since my friend was part of the crew and he had mentioned the entire team was fantastic. Well, he was right, and the service I received (and witnessed other people receiving) was above and beyond and easily one of the best crews I’ve ever experienced. Similar to hotels, I think that service really differentiates the competition, and that’s what made this flight better than the others on this trip. Special thanks to Nino and the rest of the crew for providing such personalized and proactive service!
Have you tried the United Airlines Boeing 787 Business Class product? Tell us about your experience in the comment section below!