Review: United Business Class 777-200 Frankfurt To Houston

Filed Under: United

Since we were spending the night at the Sheraton Frankfurt Airport, we decided to cut it (relatively) close, and arrive at the airport about 90 minutes before departure. It’s nice to be to walk straight from your hotel room into Terminal 1.

Frankfurt Airport departures hall

Check-in was quick, though unfortunately we both got “SSSS” on our boarding passes, so would be subjected to an additional security check. Grrrr. Security was slow, and Ford also had to wait at passport control for about 10 minutes. So we got to our departure gate about an hour before departure.

United 777 taking us to Houston

There we had to go through the most disorganized secondary screening process I’ve experienced. Since the gate wasn’t partitioned off from the rest of the terminal, they’d page everyone subjected to additional screening, have them come to the counter, then someone would escort them to another gate where the security checks happened, and then we could go back to the gate.

By the time our secondary screening was done it was 12:45PM, and a minute later boarding started at gate Z19.

Frankfurt Airport gate security check

United 47
Frankfurt (FRA) – Houston (IAH)
Monday, July 17
Depart: 1:35PM
Arrive: 5:35PM
Duration: 11hr
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200
Seat: 11K (Business Class)

I boarded through door L2, where I was welcomed aboard by two friendly flight attendants and pointed right towards my seat. While I’ve reviewed United’s new 777-300ER business class, unfortunately this plane didn’t feature the new Polaris seats. Instead it was an ex-Continental 777-200, featuring B/E Aerospace Diamond seats. These are the same seats you’ll find on plenty of other airlines, including AeroflotAeromexicoAir ChinaKLM, KuwaitRoyal JordanianSaudia, etc.

United 777-200 business class cabin

There are a total of 50 business class seats on this plane, all in a 2-2-2 configuration. There are 26 seats in the forward cabin, and then 24 seats in rear cabin.

United 777-200 business class cabin

We were seated in 11K & 11L, the aisle and window seat combination in the last row of business class on the right side.

United business class seats 777

The benefit of these seats is that they have a bit more privacy than most fully flat forward facing seats, as they’re slightly staggered. There’s even a small privacy partition that is nice when reclined, though not so big that you won’t be able to talk to your seatmate.

United business class seat privacy shield 777

The biggest problem with this product is that the foot cubby for your feet is fairly small, so it’s not the most spacious seat if you’re trying to get some rest. Furthermore, the lack of storage offered in this seat is frustrating.

United business class seats 777

United business class seat legroom 777

In the back corner of the seat was an exposed storage compartment, which is also where the headphone jack and power outlets were located (both 110v and USB).

United business class seat storage & power outlets

The seat controls were located along the center armrest, while the entertainment controls were located underneath the center armrest.

United business class seat controls

United business class entertainment controls

The tray table could also be extended out of the center armrest, and could be folded in half to get out easier.

United business class seat tray table

Overall these are decent seats, though there are so many better business class products out there. I do have to mention that the cabin looked remarkably worn, which I guess shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. There also aren’t individual air nozzles on the plane, which is an amenity I value immensely.

While the Polaris “experience” was only introduced last December, United has already cut back on the number of pillows you get. You used to get two, while now you get one.

So at my seat was a pillow, a light day blanket, and a thick duvet. Even with their cutbacks, the bedding is great. Beyond that, the extra pillow was almost impractical, given the lack of storage that the seat offers.

United Polaris amenities

Also at my seat were a pair of okay noise canceling headphones.

United Polaris headphones

Within a minute of settling in, Pam came by our seats to introduce herself, explain she’d be taking care of us, and offer us pre-departure beverages. Pam was gone-with-the-wind fabulous. She wasn’t overly formal or over the top, but rather provided genuine, friendly service from the heart. I love that.

I appreciate that United offers pre-departure beverages of choice in Polaris, and I’m happy they got rid of the ridiculous cups that they had when they first introduced the product (though I do wish they used glassware). I ordered some champagne, while Ford had water. We were also offered a box with two chocolates each with our pre-departure beverage, which is a cute touch.

United business class pre-departure drinks & chocolates

A few moments later Pam returned with the Polaris menu, drink list, and amenity kit.

United Polaris menu & wine list

The amenities came in a cool pouch that could be zippered up.

United Polaris amenity kit

The amenities inside the kit were pretty good too, and included eyeshades, a toothbrush and toothpaste, socks, facial tissues, a pen, anti-bacterial hand wipes, and several types of Cowshed toiletries.

United Polaris amenity kit

About 10 minutes later Pam came by to take meal orders, and asked for both our first and second choice.

United offers a few Polaris amenities on demand that are in limited quantities, so I recommend asking for them as early as possible, before they run out. This includes mattress pads, cooling gel pillows, slippers, and pajamas (though they’re only offered on flights that are 12+ hours).

So I immediately asked for a cooling gel pillow, both so I’d have a second pillow, and also because I find them to be surprisingly good.

United Polaris gel pillow

Boarding was inefficient and somewhat chaotic. The flight was full, and on top of that there was confusion about who had received additional security screening. Apparently two people had managed to board without going through the extra screening, so they had to be taken off and screened, before getting back on the plane.

At 1:35PM the chipper captain made a PA welcoming everyone onboard and informing us of our flight time of 10hr10min, which he said should put us into Houston a bit ahead of schedule.

View prior to pushback at Frankfurt Airport

At 1:40PM the door closed, and at 1:45PM we began our pushback, at which point the safety video played.

Taxiing Frankfurt Airport

I’m always amused by the “German speaking” flight attendants on US carriers. The flight attendant making the announcements in German on this flight was terrible.

We were departing from runway 7C, which is a ways from Terminal 1, though despite that we managed to take off by 2:05PM.

Taking off Frankfurt Airport

Our climb out was smooth, but as usual on US airlines, the seatbelt sign stayed on for about 30 minutes.

View after takeoff from Frankfurt

View after takeoff from Frankfurt

United 777 business class cabin

As we climbed out I checked out the airshow for our flight. United has a pretty low quality interface on this version of the 777.

Airshow enroute to Houston

Airshow enroute to Houston

Airshow enroute to Houston

I also checked out the entertainment selection, which was extensive. United has an impressive selection of both movies and TV shows, both in terms of the variety and in terms of the number of episodes they have of each show (for example, they had 10 episodes of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”).

United entertainment selection

United entertainment selection

United entertainment selection

United entertainment selection

However, I was flying on a Monday, and United also has wifi, so I immediately connected to that so I could get some work done. United charges $27 for a Wi-Fi pass lasting the whole flight, which is reasonable, though more than they used to charge. Still, overall United has a good Wi-Fi offering on international flights.

United Wi-Fi pricing

About 45 minutes after takeoff the meal service began. The lunch menu read as follows:

The drink menu read as follows (you’ll notice it doesn’t list wines, since that selection varies):

The rest of the menu read as follows:

Service began with warm towels.

United business class warm towel

Next Pam rolled a cart down the aisle with drinks. United offers a wine tasting in Polaris, which I partook in. I tried the three whites, and was also offered a glass of San Pellegrino sparkling water, as well as warm mixed nuts. While I think the wine tasting is a nice gimmick, ultimately that’s all it is to me.

We all have our wine preferences, so it’s not like I really need to try the three wines to know whether I prefer a sauvignon blanc, a chardonnay, or a riesling. Now if you let me try three different sauvignon blancs, that would be a different story. Yet somehow I still partook in this gimmick. 😉

United business class wine flight & mixed nuts

60 minutes after takeoff the appetizer and salad were served. The appetizer consisted of smoked chicken, farro salad, with dried cranberry and pumpkin seeds, brined carrot, and whole-grain mustard. I thought it was healthy and tasty.

The salad consisted of mixed greens, celery root, grape, and hardboiled egg. It was good as far as airplane salads go, and I appreciated that fresh cracked pepper was offered to go along with it.

United business class lunch — salad and appetizer

One thing I don’t get about United’s new Polaris service is that they no longer offer bread of your choice. Instead everyone is automatically served the same two types of bread.

United business class lunch — bread selection

As each person finished their starter and salad those plates were cleared, and then the mains were brought out.

Ford had the seared chicken breast with polenta, carrot, squash, and zucchini.

United business class main course — seared chicken breast

I had the poached cod with with lobster sauce, potatoes, onions, and carrots.

United business class main course — poached cod

Both dishes were pretty good, but unmemorable. Once those were cleared, the crew came around with a cheese course and port (though I passed on the latter).

United business class lunch — cheese plate

And lastly came the dessert trolly, which had the choice of some different sweet treats as well as ice cream sundaes. United had issues with their old ice cream sundae bowls cracking, so instead they’re now serving them out of plastic cups. Not the classiest presentation, but the ice cream still tasted good.

United business class lunch — ice cream sundae

Once the meal service was done bottles of water were distributed to all passengers.

United business class bottled water

Overall I thought the food was fine. It’s a nice improvement over what United used to offer, and I appreciated that for the most part it was pretty healthy meal. However, there are many areas for improvement — they could introduce dine on demand, they could get rid of the trays, they could offer a choice of appetizers and/or bread, etc.

The highlight of the meal was service. Pam (and the rest of the crew, based on observing them) were just lovely. They all seemed to enjoy their jobs and took their time with each passenger, which I appreciate.

After the meal I checked out the lavatory between the two business class cabins. The lavatory was large and had Cowshed amenities.

United 777 business class lavatory 

United 777 business class lavatory amenities

I also took a quick peek at the forward business class cabin.

United 777 business class cabin

I then decided to try and nap. After getting the mattress pad I went ahead and made the bed. United’s bedding is exceptional — it’s the best of any airline in business class, in my opinion. It’s just too bad that the seat itself isn’t great.

United business class bed

At this point we were about two hours into the flight, and I napped for about four hours.

Airshow enroute to Houston

By the time I woke up we were just under four hours from Houston.

Airshow enroute to Houston

Airshow enroute to Houston

I checked out the snack selection in the galley. Since this isn’t an ultra longhaul flight there aren’t any hot snacks (when there are, the grilled cheese and tomato soup are tasty), though there were packaged snacks, whole fruit, slippers, bottled water, etc.

United business class snack cart

United Polaris slippers

I worked for a couple of hours, until about 90 minutes before landing, when the pre-arrival snack was served. The pre-landing menu read as follows:

We both had the grilled chicken with tomato-basil sauce, vegetable couscous, and green beans as our main. It wasn’t very good at all. The chicken was low quality, and tasted like rubber. The meal was served with a side salad and a piece of bread, though I was surprised there was no dessert of any kind.

United business class pre-landing snack

After the meal I had a cup of coffee.

United business class coffee

Before I knew it we were descending into Houston. At this point Pam came around to each passenger in her section and thanked them for flying with United.

Airshow approaching Houston

There were some thick clouds in the area, and we did quite a bit of vectoring on approach.

View approaching Houston

We flew past the airport, and then eventually made two 90 degree turns to line up with our arrival runway.

View approaching Houston

View on final approach to Houston

We touched down in Houston at 5:25PM, and from there had a roughly five minute taxi to our arrival gate.

Taxiing Houston Airport

Taxiing Houston Airport

United 777 Houston Airport

By 5:30PM we were deplaning, and thanks to Global Entry we were landside a few minutes after that.

United 777 business class bottom line

Having flown United’s new Polaris seat between San Francisco and Hong Kong earlier in the year, it was interesting to experience the new soft product with the old hard product.

United’s 777-200s are badly in need of a refresh, and sadly this is even the nicer of the two business class products on these planes (United’s other 777-200s have eight seats per row in business class). The seats themselves are fine, though don’t compare to reverse herringbone seats, Apex Suites, etc.

As far as the Polaris soft product goes, there’s no denying that United is putting more effort into their product than they used to. The bedding is fantastic (even if scaled back somewhat). But otherwise I don’t think the changes are substantial or make United industry leading in any way. The main meal on this flight was pretty good, while the pre-arrival snack wasn’t.

My main takeaway, though, was home awesome Pam was. This crew was phenomenal — they were friendly, attentive, and personable. Now if only all US airline crews could be like this. Instead the only thing that’s consistent about service on US airlines is that it’s inconsistent.

  1. I’ve just flown United LHR – LAX and return, the meal on the outbound looked identical to what you had.

    The return flight we had a really friendly crew but they were so innefficient, I gave up on my meal after the main course as we were already three hours into the flight!! Then they were still rushing round trying to get everything showed as we were about 2 mins from landing!!

    The foot area is much bigger if you get a bulkhead row.

  2. They do have Dine On Demand (noted in your menu pictures). It’s called Express Dine. It may not be the full presentation course by course you receive normally, but you’ll get your meal when you want. This is even offered on PS flights.

  3. Thanks Chris;

    I was going to ask about the bulkhead! Would this be true of other airlines flying those seats (Aeroflot in particular)?

    Lucky, or Chris, do the aisle seats and window seats have the same size cubby?

  4. I took the 787 MUC -SFO with the same menu but different service. Drinks and nuts immediately after seatbelt sign turned off, appetizers 90 seconds later. The , every two minutes or so I had to tell them not to take my plate, that I was still eating. Cheese was on dessert trolley. And that final chicken/couscous meal was hands down the worst I’ve ever had on a plane.

    All that just makes me laugh since I was lucky to have a bulkhead with a wide foot area so I could lounge and binge-watch Luther.

  5. I can’t help thinking it wouldn’t be possible to find outstanding flair for service that is customer focused such as Pam’s without the set of circumstances the airline culture provides. Allowing for inconsistencies provides room to grow into the FA role at a natural pace vs a forced script.

  6. @beachfan

    I’ve only sat in the middle two seats to avoid having to climb over people but the footwell is a good size on both sides so assume the aisle and window foot wells are the same.

  7. Lucky, I’m curious which you prefer, between this United product (with the B/E Diamond seat) and Lufthansa’s business class? Obviously neither is a world-leading business class product. But United’s soft product has caught up some with Lufthansa (particularly on catering), although LH’s crew is more consistent. IFE goes to United. This seat is pretty much a wash, at least if you’re talking about UA’s ex-Continental product (Diamond). But something about United’s blue-gray color scheme still turns me off, the Lufthansa interiors seem generally better maintained with more sophisticated cabin ambience. (Maybe I just tell myself that because it’s European, but I do feel it.)

  8. So I guess there were no memorable changes in the Sheraton Frankfurt Airport since your last trip?

    Here is a tip for anyone who is flagged with SSSS…don;t wait for them to escort you and/or page you, just go straight to the counter, ask them where they are conducting that security inspection, and go straight there and get it over with. That’s what I did last month while transiting through Frankfurt.

  9. “My main takeaway, though, was home awesome Pam was.” I think you meant to say how awesome Pam was. The poor German of the crew is also the same on some of the Air Canada flights I have taken between YYZ and FRA or MUC. I find their pronunciation of words typically bad and they sometimes seem to use the wrong words or grammar as they make their announcements, which can sometimes be kind of amusing. The first meal does look appetizing but the portion looks rather small in my opinion.

  10. So that Uzbekistan 787 meal actually looks better than this UA one…Polaris food isn’t that much better than the previous mediocrity. And I’ve had that cod more than a year ago I’m pretty sure…they continue to recycle the same old meals.

    At least they have the great new seats everywhere! Oh wait…

  11. I’ve never understood why US carriers are reluctant to offer a choice of appetizers in business class. Is it really that much extra work for the FAs?

    Then again, UA doesn’t even give you a choice of bread any more lol!

    Plus, I love how the (only) appetizer was chicken, as were two of the entrees, and one of the the pre-landing meals…not the most diverse choice of food on this flight. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ford avoided chicken for a week after this flight.

  12. Hi – You are such a great writer and thanks for the review. We just flew United polaris business from Edinburgh to San Francisco with a stop in Chicago. The first plane was a 757 to Chicago, second was a 777 to San Francisco and the experience was not good. From EDI to ORD – Same seats although a two + two configuration because of the aircraft and same menu but very different presentation – dry and overcooked. The bedding wasn’t available, just light blankets and the bathroom was dirty at the start of the flight – out of service at the end. Crew not great. New Polaris lounge in Chicago looked amazing but was over crowded as we arrived so we spent 10 minutes only. From Chicago to San Francisco flight didn’t have pillows or blankets in business but good seats. We flew over to Europe in American business and it was A++ experience. Your flight gives me hope but we will not be rushing back to United.

  13. Going through “security” at FRA has been a nightmare (when not using the First Class Terminal) for the last couple of years. Irrespective of carrier, class or airline. Repetitive, unnecessary checks, authoritarian, cold staff.
    Were held up by security (yes, they took our passports and refused to explain what was happening) for almost an hour on the Singapore Airlines Suites flight between SIN and JFK that stops in FRA for refueling and crew change, ostensibly because some young airport policeman “just felt like it.”
    The gate supervisor for Singapore Airlines had to intervene so we could be released to board our plane. We never argued, and tried to be as gracious and polite as we could manage through the whole episode.

  14. I just flew from Rome to Chicago on United. I was in first class, but our food looked much the same as what you pictured! While I did enjoy the new United bedding, I still go with Air New Zealand for the best Business bedding. They have think foam pads that can make you believe you are in a real if narrow bed. Checkin out!

  15. UA uses ancient 777-200s on their IAH-HNL nonstop (when the plane doesn’t break down) as it did for us in Feb 2017. Had to stop and change planes in SFO – another relic of a 777-200. Replace the 2 jet engines with 4 props, and they might be oversized B-29s used in World War II. “First Class” on this route isn’t worth the extra $$$$ they charge Vs economy or the extra miles if reward travel

  16. I had to chuckle at the seared beef short rib – it’s the exact same dish I had flying SFO-EWR in p.s. Business back in March. It was pretty good, FWIW, though also a bit disappointing to see it’s still on the rotation five months later!

  17. Happy to see a good review of United; while they are not perfect and have their fair share of bad apples, as an American, I am personally tired of seeing one of my flag carriers excessively bashed, especially this year. Have a flown MANY leading international carriers in premium cabins, and while many excel, many also lag behind US carriers, yet somehow are nonetheless reveared – I won’t get into details, but have flown business on EK, SQ, OZ, and TG in the past year and been completely disappointed with various aspects of the service, yet have been thrilled with my experience on UA, EY, TK, and NZ. Yet, despite their dreadful 777-300 business class cabins with unpolished crews, Emirates gets all the praise, while all the “Pam’s” at US and European carriers get slammed, when more often than not, their service is more gracious.

    Lastly, I think the comment about the “terrible” German is a bit tacky. I would hesitate to judge someone making and announcement on a PA system in front of 300 people. I’m sure he or she tried their best, and German isn’t an easy language to learn (I tried in college). Kudos for the effort. Many international airlines only speak the language of the home country as well as English, whereas language of destination is only offered as a pre-recorded announcement, so kudos to United for trying to staff the flight with crew with some knowledge of the language, and a bit tacky for the writer to judge them on their lack of perfect German.

  18. @docntx

    I don’t know, my experience has been the opposite. I find transiting through FRA to usually be smooth and efficient. Is it is the nicest airport in the world? Probably not, but I’ve never had any major delays or problems with transiting and/or with security. Yeah, some staff there are cold, but I’ve also come across some nice and friendly staff as well.

  19. Ben it’s interesting your comments about removing the trays because before Polaris rolled out in December 2016, all sCO operated aircraft service in BusinessFirst did not have tray service (different story if you flew on the sUA operated aircraft because they did have tray service). The no tray service was much more elegant and originated in the CO days, so I immediately noticed this tray service concept when Polaris launched and classified it as a service reduction.

  20. @MeanMeosh – if entrees are ONLY on the menu for five months in a row, that will qualify as an improvement…the terrible effing pork chop has been on the menu for literally 5+ years now.

  21. Thanks for the update. I have recently flown the 767-400 service from IAD-GVA and then BCN-IAD. Hard product was ok, and I may have seen Pam on the IAD-GVA flight, because she was fabulous. A few weeks ago, also took the 777-200 (old school 8 across in C class) from IAD-MUC, and we had the 4 seats in the middle. It was an awful hard product (video equipment didn’t work at all on one seat), and the crew was pretty awful, tom inlcude walking through the cabin 90 minutes before landing, and loudly announcing “BREAKFAST!!!!” to a sleeping cabin. We are in Rome and will unfortunately have the 777-200 from FCO-IAD on the way back. I have already been speaking with United about the experience on the way out. Would really like to see them improve.

    I have also been spoiled a bit by “normal” service while bouncing around the EU on LX, LH and BA. Just don’t know why the US Airlines get away with doing what they do.

    Thanks, as always!

  22. The music section in the entertainment section is missing in the review. I hope it is not intentional.

  23. Looks only marginally better than Uzbekistan Airlines. The soft product looks good, the hard product, just okay. JetBlue is much better an airline with a both solid hard and soft product, they should be the flag US carrier, not dinosaurs like the US3.

  24. I have flown a number of US airlines over the past decades including United, American, Delta, Continental, TWA, Western, Hughes Airwest, Southwest among others and was disappointed in all of their products except for Western, which of course, is no long with us. Today I never fly any US airline. I prefer, Air New Zealand, Air Canada, Westjet, Lufthansa and other European or Australian airlines because of their superior product. Also the recent bad press the US airlines have had based on their mistreatment of passengers is enough to turn anyone off of flying any US airline.

  25. I am about to fly United business class again next month and am disheartened to see the same appetizer and salad offered as when I flew them business class in May. I hope they switch things up a little soon. Supposedly the new Polaris was going to make repeat meals less likely (according to their website). The roll out of the new seats is frustrating to me. I think they started advertising the new Polaris way too early (mid-year last year) and got everyone excited but it will likely be years before any of the routes I fly will have a plane with the new seats. Even the relatively new Dreamliners are not going to have them for ages. And all this over the next five years while Delta will have their all-suite configuration done by then as well. So United is, again, going to be one step behind. And yet I keep flying them, so more fool me.

  26. Lucky…, a question for you: I am a regular reader of your blog and have noted the frequency with which you report that specialty coffee machines in premium cabins are often broken. In fact, it reads as though more often than not, regardless of airline, you can never seem to get a cappuccino or expresso. Is this more a result of crews likely unaware of how to operate them properly thus rendering them unusable? Just seems to be a consistent theme. Curious on your thoughts.

  27. Marilyn Bradford, I agree that Frankfurt is terrible. It is the worst first-world airport I have been to. I go through once or twice a year on my way from Australia to Czech. Each time, immigration had only a few booths open with long lines – so easy to fix, but they don’t. Staff are rude, the layout is weird, and there’s generally nothing to recommend.

    Avoid it if at all possible.

  28. @Lucky I know this is an older post but I hope I can get your advice on a possible booking with United. In March 2018 I am flying from ORD to Beijing. I found business class seats on United at $2600 round-trip. This would be on a 777-200 much like the one found in this report. Would you think that out of pocket $2600 would be a good price for that or not? Thanks

  29. @ALEX. I’m glad to see a good review of United too. They are far from perfect, or the best, but seem to be unfairly singled out. Pam is a great example of an experienced U.S. cabin crew member. I’ve flown on many international carriers as well, including Emirates. The more I’ve learned about EK’s corporate culture, safety, work rules and fatigue regulations for flight deck crew members the more I appreciate the overall professionalism of the U.S. and European airlines. I’ll take a healthy safety culture over five star service any day.

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