Flight Date: 10MAY2013—I had checked United Airlines’ website the night before, so I knew today’s flight was going to be United’s ancient and decrepit first class product. I was still hoping for a last minute equipment change though as I walked along the open-air walkway towards the Diamond Head Terminal where the United Club lounge is located. Honolulu International Airport has seen better days and the United Club lounge is no exception.
Although the lounge’s front lobby is pleasant enough, upon entering the main lounge area I happened to look up and noticed this…
The lounge is actually quite spacious; however it is in need of an extreme makeover. There is a bar, but no bartender could be found. The scant food and beverage area looked similar to what you’d find at a second-rate roadside gas station. Really the only saving grace was the free Wi-Fi.
As I boarded the plane my hopes were dashed; as I saw clearly this indeed was the dreaded first class cabin from back when Y2K was a hot topic. United Airlines launched, with big fanfare, their new first and business class product over four years ago! How can it possibly take four years to retrofit their fleet? At least I had some advance notice; many times with United you think you’re getting the new seats and they pull a fast one on you at the last minute…
I was connecting in Narita for an onward flight to Bangkok. Until last month, with the introduction of Korean Air’s daily Honolulu-Narita service, United was the only airline with a first class cabin on this route. I guess they figure since there is no competition they can still fly these crappy old planes and get away with it—used toothpicks from a previous passenger and all!
The flight attendant in charge was friendly though and maybe sensing my anger gave me a look like ‘don’t blame me’ and offered me a glass of sparkling wine.
The flight took off on time and right before push-back I got a nice shot of an ANA B767 with Diamond Head crater in the background.
For lunch I chose the Newburg-style Seafood and a glass of the Pouilly-Fumé. The in-flight service started with some cashews and water.
The appetizers followed: Sushi and Mushroom Pastry (note the intriguing…’Amazon Sauce’ ?)
Next came the soup (it was cold…and not on purpose) and salad.
There were four main courses and I chose the Newburg-style seafood.
There were two choices for dessert: assorted cheese selection and ice cream sundaes.
This wasn’t the worst in-flight meal I’ve ever had, but certainly not what you would expect on an international first class flight. If you read my recent Qantas or British Airways trip reports, you will note how I wasn’t overly impressed with their in-flight meals either—that said, compared to United’s offerings, those two would have to be considered haute cuisine. Simply stated, United’s in-flight meal service sucks. United obviously isn’t investing the resources to bring up their international service to world standards. I would recommend you bring your own meal and supplement that with the odd drink or dish off the United in-flight menu instead.
Not all was bad: United’s first class amenity kit is actually one of the best I’ve come across lately: nice design and chock full of useful items. The Tokyo and Honolulu-based in-flight crews were also worth mentioning. They were friendly and constantly coming through the aisles with drink refills and snacks.
The in-flight entertainment system on this ancient B777-200 was laughable. The monitor on your smart phone is probably bigger. The cabin product is so old they still have video tape cassettes for movies, no games and a very limited selection of TV programs. No sockets available to re-charge your pc or phone either.
The United first class seat is old and falling apart. I had to prop up the tiny monitor with my knee in order to view the movie and years’ old dirt and grime was noticeable in every nook and cranny. The seat is extremely narrow at the toe and anyone over 175cm in height will find it difficult to get comfortable in the bed position. Duvet and pillows were nice and fluffy though—about the only thing about the seat I can compliment.
This was a tough trip report to write. So many things wrong with United’s service. I almost decided note to publish it, lest everyone think I was a curmudgeon. But then I thought ‘No!’ If they are going to take my money for such a lousy product they need to feel the heat. I could understand it if they provided discounted airfares on these old planes, but they charge you the full amount whether you get the new product or not. As I mentioned there were a few flowers blooming through the dung: great amenity kit, nice in-flight crews and fluffy pillows. In closing, I recommend that anyone considering a flight with United make sure before you purchase that you’re getting the new product. You will regret it otherwise. Traveler beware!
More about United’s First Class Service
United Airlines B777-200 First Class Photo Gallery