Review of United’s New Business Class

Filed Under: United

I’m sort of embarrassed to be writing a review of United’s new business class over a year after it was introduced, but unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) all of my international travel is on other airlines. Overall the reviews I’ve seen of the new business class are favorable, although I don’t think they do the product justice. In my opinion, the seat and entertainment are some of the best out there, even in comparison to some top-notch foreign carriers. Short of Singapore Airlines’ new business class, I’d say United’s new business is about as good as they get. Of course that’s not taking into account the hit-or-miss service or the mediocre food/drinks, but still, the product really blew me away. Maybe I was just so impressed because it’s United we’re talking about here!

The cabin of the 767 looked fresh, as if United just took delivery of the aircraft.

First class dentist chairs, er, suites

Business class cabin

Business class seats

Business class seats

Business class screens

Business class consoles


First and business class have new overhead bin covers, while coach still has the old overhead bins. Talk about ghetto!

Overhead bins

Business class foot rest

Anyway, there are plenty of reviews of the new product, so I’ll just mention a few things that stuck out to me. First, the seat was extremely comfortable. The padding was great, so even sitting straight up was comfortable.

The entertainment was also great. There are plenty of movies, TV shows, and even XM’s BPM! The best part is that you can use the entertainment system on the ground, which makes boarding and taxiing much less boring.

I’ll make another post about my mileage run as such, but because I was sick I utilized the flatbed feature, and slept for three hours solid. Once you lower the armrest on both sides, the bed is sufficiently wide, and you really can’t see the person seated next to you, which gives a great sense of privacy.

I’ll let the pictures do the talking, but great job on the new hard product, United. It truly takes them to the front of the pack in that aspect.

  1. As a side note for those interested, I managed to find a screen that showed all grey (skykit!) and as a result, the FA rebooted my specific IFE system — turns out it’s Linux based… probably not very surprising to most, but figured it might be an interesting fact to some.

  2. The First class “pod” looks a little better than AC, how would you compare the two, I like in UA’s that you can see out the windows a little easier.

  3. I didn’t get sick! That’s how wide the seats were, your germs didn’t transfer over to your neighbor.

  4. Good question, Monty. I’m a huge fan of the Air Canada pod (and for that matter Air New Zealand’s BusinessPremier product), but let me say that the first class on United is *much* better. While the seat may look similar, it’s the personal space that sets it apart. It’s so much more private than sitting next to someone.

    That being said, I’d say United’s new business and Air Canada’s new executive class are about equal. I’d say the entertainment is great on both, so I guess it comes down to whether I’m traveling alone or not. If I’m traveling alone I’d prefer Air Canada because it’s more “private,” while I’d definitely choose United if I were traveling with someone. My biggest complaint about the AC/NZ/VS business seats is that they absolutely suck when traveling with someone else.

  5. Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures of the seats flat, although I kind of regret it now, considering that I sat next to Tina and we could have coordinated a seat recline and both taken pictures. 😀

    Tina, I’m happy you didn’t get sick. I was a bit worried. Fortunately I’m feeling a bit better today, as I was miserable by the time my last flight rolled around. My head felt like it was exploding during every descent.

    By the way, Tina, any chance you could either post a link to your flickr album here or email me a link? Would love to see it!

  6. I have only traveled on the UD of the upgraded 747 so far, and to me the new seats, while certainly a MAJOR improvement, looked a little bit out of place in the otherwise early 1990’s style cabin. For instance, the side storage bins (which I love) weren’t “upgraded” and look a bit weird now with all that new stuff around it. It’s a bit like having an old worn-out office building and putting new cubicles in it.

    The entertainment system was nice and obviously a major improvement, too. But the movie selection wasn’t that great. I hope they improve that over time. But I certainly don’t pick an airline based on that criteria.

  7. I was really excited to sit in the new C seat about a year ago. Then halfway to FRA from IAD, I started to realize the seat width was tight for sleeping. The IFE is a huge improvement, but lack of contents.

    I think the new UA F suite is quite a good product. Definitely comparable to other international carriers. If only the new C seat can be a couple of inches wider, then it would be perfect.

  8. What about the business class seats on United that do NOT lay flat but recline 12″? Does anyone have experience with them?

  9. Rosemich: The only business class seats are comfortable for lounging, but not too great for sleeping. Picture a La-z-boy recliner, and that’s what the old business class seat is like.

  10. However nice all the new gadgets are, the new business seats are bad news for tall people. The effective lenght in lay flat position is much less than the old seat.
    The old seat could stick up/out the headrest effectively increasing the ‘bed’ length in reclined position. Although the headrest of the new seat is movable (because of the hard shell of the seat) it has to come back in when the seat is moved to flat position.
    On the other side there is also no room to stick out because of the ‘entertainment wall’ . (whereas with the old seat your feet could stick out over the max lenght of the legrest). Sharing the leg space with the person on the opposite side of the wall also forces you to always angle your feet.
    And since the headrest is ‘on’ the seat (forming a rather hard cussion in flat position) the effecitive length is from shoulder touching the headreast and feet agains the wall.
    I could not find any confortable position to sleep in the flat position. In an attempt to get at least some sleep I moved back to a half reclined position to gain some length. In that mode the seat is close to equal to the old seat (but less comfortable).
    I am afraid that after refurbishing all planes I will have to look for another airline.

    I agree that doing only partial renovations the planes still have an old look & feel. A missed opportunity to bring the airline up to new international standards.

  11. Yea. There are lots of pros and cons to the new United First and Business Class. Looking at the layout of the new business class is corky, goofy, and suboptimal but quite interesting. This configuration with 1/2 forward and 1/2 backwards seats reduced seats from 32-26, while 1st class has gone from 10-6 seats. The advantages to riding backwards is you get a better view where you don’t have to turn your head back, and easier to have a face to face conversation with your neighbor. The best way to configure the seats would to zig zag them like shown. This would make the seats longer, wider, softer, bigger screens, more amenities, forward facing and you would not loose the capacity. Swiss Air has the memory foam seats that are inflatable cushions which add space and cut aircraft total weight. You may squeeze from 32 like old business class to 36 with a zig zag(brick like) configuration. On the B767-300 which is my favorite aircraft, be nice if the bins were the same in economy class as in the premium cabins on both American and United Airlines. American Airlines also has new bins in the new business class on their B767-300 as well and old ones in the back of the bus. American Airlines on their old B763’s have upgraded to the new swivel bins which double the storage space in business class, but the only thing that is old is the overhead PSU’s on American Airlines. United uses the shelf types which does not add much space in first and business class, so upgrading overhead bins would be useless. They should of used the swivel type bins throughout the whole aircraft. Oh well American and United Airlines are a bit corky with their bins. Ghetto look for American and United airlines.That makes the interior look ugly and scary. Ghetto look for American and United airline. Ghetto look for American and United airlines. Still much more intimate in the premium cabins than in coach. Now the privacy screens narrow make the sleeping space narrow for sleeping, but still excellent knowing that you don’t have to worry about bothering your neighbor. The old business class seats were wider, more cushier, and better armrests as these new ones are hard, lumpy, and narrow with an oddly designed armrest with space to spare. The seat controls are so hard to use that you have to press hard, but electric seats are way better than manual ones. Now I’m between 6’1″-6’2″ and these seats are too short and narrow for some one 5’10” or taller that wants to sleep. During sleeping the feet are crammed a bit in the bulkhead, but I still love the foot stools that let you put your feet better. Legroom is 76 inches comparing to the first class at 78 inches. Now getting in and out is quick and easy thanks to drop down armrests even though drop down armrests are uncomfortable. So far this is the most legroom I had in a premium cabin and best IFE system as well. Looks like more legroom than British Airways Business class and 2 inches shorter than 1st class on British Airways. The old business class headrest was a lot better than the new one. The new headrest is useful but very uncomfortable. I personally like the fixed screen more than the retractable which means its smack ahead of you. The IFE is really good which blew my mind away. Many hours of great movies, music, and games on a nice big screen. The games for me are a bit boring. AVOD(pause, play, rewind, and fast forward) you will never get bored with that. I’d say close to Singapore and Emirates. One thing missing is the color screen on the phone, USB and ethernet port that are functional. Hey at least there is a 115V power port to charge your phone and laptop. That is so helpful. Too bad you need to buy an iPod adapter to listen to your iPod/iPhone in your seat and cant use your own cable. I also wished the phones and keyboard worked as well.Be good to have WiFi, live TV and live radio as well. LED in seat reading light is so movable and bright that its almost like a Police flashlight, but useless when seat is upright. The in seat light has 2 lighting intensities which is also good. Also a shame that there is no in seat storage like the old business class had big pockets. The tray tables are hard to pull out, but the size is much better even though it can be designed better. Even though the product is not up to standards, and is a bad move by United, I still would rather fly business class than coach. But oh well. I guess all these corks and inconveniences in the new business class make it well worth every trip.

  12. I travel over to Europe 5 times a year and never use United, my miles are there!! 🙁 Polaris is just overpriced. I’ve never seen a Polaris class go for less than USD8,000 EWR to BRU… Sorry but that is just too much, don’t you think?

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