Review: United First Class 777 London To Los Angeles

Filed Under: United

United 935
London (LHR) – Los Angeles (LAX)
Monday, September 27
Depart: 12:20PM
Arrive: 3:45PM
Duration: 11hr25min
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200
Seat: 2A (First Class)

I boarded through door L1 at around 11:30AM, where I was greeted by the purser, Schy, and directed towards my seat. The thing about flying with US legacy carriers is that they’re consistently inconsistent, and the crews can either make or break the flight.

In this case I could tell immediately that the crew was great, as Schy welcomed me aboard with a big smile and a genuine “welcome aboard!”

United’s 777 first class cabin consists of a total of eight seats, spread across two rows in a 1-2-1 configuration. The configuration is comfortable, though not especially private.

United’s 777 first class cabin

In terms of space and comfort I’d say this product is somewhere between a reverse herringbone business class seat and a first class suite.

United’s 777 first class cabin

United 777 first class cabin view from seat 2A

I had selected seat 2A, as I prefer to be in the last row of a premium cabin, so I can observe everyone.

United 777 first class, seat 2A

The seat had a huge console along the left side of the seat, plus an ottoman and a personal television in front.

United 777 first class, seat 2A

The ottoman was a good size, and there was plenty of room under the ottoman to store a bag.

United 777 first class seat ottoman

Most of the seat’s functions were along the left side of the seat. There was a headphone jack, USB outlet, seat controls, and entertainment controls.

United 777 first class seat and entertainment controls

The seat controls were easy to use as there were only a few functions, though that was plenty to control the seat in any way you wanted.

United first class seat controls

Then at the very front left of the seat was a power outlet.

United first class power outlet

One great thing about this seat is the amount of storage it has. There’s a big storage compartment at the front left of the seat.

United first class storage compartment

Then by the aisle on the right side is an even bigger storage compartment, where the mattress pad and duvet were stored.

United first class storage compartment

Then on the right side above that was a pouch that was big enough to store magazines or even a laptop. There was also a reading light next to it.

United first class storage compartment

Moments after settling in, Silvia, one of the other first class flight attendants, came by to introduce herself and welcome me aboard. She offered me a pre-departure beverage, and I ordered a glass of champagne (it was served in a plastic cup, though that seems to be the norm for too many US carriers). I was also offered the menu for the flight.

United first class menu and champagne

After that, Silvia offered me a Global First amenity kit. As she handed me the kit she said “may I unwrap this for you?” That’s a very nice touch, and one I typically only otherwise find on Singapore Airlines (it’s not often you can draw a service comparison between Singapore and United). 😉

Unlike American, United doesn’t offer pajamas to first class passengers on this route, though I liked the kit itself.

United Global First amenity kit

I was impressed by the number of amenities in there, including eyeshades, socks, earplugs, a comb, a pen, mints, anti-bacterial wipes, etc.

United Global First amenity kit contents

United Global First amenity kit contents

Also waiting at my seat on boarding were headphones, which weren’t especially high quality.

United Global First headphones

While economy on this flight was pretty empty (less than half full — the seatmap is below), first and business class quickly filled up.


As each first class passenger arrived I witnessed Schy and Silvia greet them with big smiles, address them by name, etc. These ladies were fantastic.

At 11:55AM the forward door closed since premium boarding was done, and then 15 minutes later door L2 closed, at 12:10PM. United’s first class seats have shoulder straps that have to be secured for takeoff and landing, so the crew came around to make sure that all eight passengers had them on.

Around this time Captain Rick came on the PA to add his welcome aboard, informing us of our flight time of 10hr18min. He anticipated that the flight would be mostly smooth, and that we’d arrive in LA on schedule.

Once his announcement was done, Schy made her announcements, which were some of the best I’ve ever heard. She was clearly an old school United flight attendant, so said “welcome to our friendly skies service to Los Angeles.” To give another example, after landing she announced “we thank you for giving us the privilege of being the carrier that helps you unite your world.” Somehow she managed to say that without it sounding cheesy, which is a damn near miracle.

At around 12:15PM the safety video played. Since the Olympics had been over for a while, it seems like it might be time for a new video.

At 12:20PM we began our pushback.

Pushing back at Heathrow Airport

We were departing from runway 27R, which is just a very short taxi from Terminal 2. So we only had to taxi a few hundred meters to the runway, though obviously that took a little while as there were several planes ahead of us for takeoff.

I enjoyed watching an Air Canada 777, British Airways 787, British Airways A319, and another United 777 take off ahead of us.

Air Canada 777 taking off Heathrow Airport

British Airways 787 taking off Heathrow Airport

United 777 ahead of us for takeoff Heathrow Airport

Finally at around 12:35PM we were cleared for takeoff, immediately ahead of a Malaysia Airlines A380.

Malaysia A380 Heathrow Airport

Taking off Heathrow Airport

Our takeoff roll was quick, and we had some lovely views of Terminal 5 on the climb out, as is the norm when taking off on runway 27L or 27R.

Terminal 5 view after takeoff

Terminal 5 view after takeoff

I tried to tune into Channel 9 to listen to ATC, though unfortunately the captain hadn’t activated it on this flight.

View after takeoff from London

View after takeoff from London

Our climb out was smooth, and once we passed through 10,000 feet I tried to connect to United’s wifi. United charges $19.99 for a wifi plan that lasts the entire flight without data caps, which is as good as it gets. The wifi speed was excellent (second only to the speeds I had on JetBlue), so I was even able to work for much of the flight. One of the awesome things about my job is that I can work from anywhere. A first class seat across the Atlantic isn’t an especially bad office. 😉


About 20 minutes after takeoff the flight attendants began their service. Schy came around the cabin to once again welcome each first class passenger and to take their meal orders. She was just so lovely, as she took a couple of minutes to talk to each passenger, ask how their trip was, etc.

The lunch menu read as follows:



And the drink menu read as follows (oddly United doesn’t publish a wine list, as the options are constantly changing):



There was also a page dedicated to the overall first class services, which read as follows:


Service began with hot towels being distributed.

United first class lunch — hot towel

After that a tablecloth was brought out, and then drinks were served. I ordered a gin & tonic, and also had a still water. That was served with mixed nuts. Silvia came around several times with nut refills, and I don’t think my water glass was ever less than half full.

United first class lunch — drinks and mixed nuts

About 45 minutes into the flight the tables were fully set.

United first class lunch — appetizer

The appetizer consisted of a chicken skewer with tabbouleh salad. While perhaps not the most “first class” starter, it tasted good.

United first class appetizer — chicken skewer

I was also offered a selection from the breadbasket. Options included garlic bread and pretzel bread, which are my favorites.

United first class lunch — garlic bread and pretzel bread

After that I was offered a creamy shiitake mushroom soup. The soup was flavorful, though the bowl was quite small.

United first class soup — creamy shiitake mushroom

After that a salad cart was rolled through the aisle. While the salad came pre-plated, Silvia placed croutons and dressing on the salad on the trolley, and also offered pepper from a pepper mill.

United first class salad — fresh seasonal greens

For the main course I ordered the cioppino. After I ordered I thought to myself “hmmm, do I really want to be ordering this in first class on a US airline?” Well, much to my surprise, it was exceptional. It was one of the best fish dishes I’ve had on a plane in a really long time.

United first class main course — San Francisco-style cioppino

After lunch a cheese trolley was rolled through the aisle, and I asked for a little bit of everything.

United first class cheese course

Lastly I was offered an ice cream sundae — I had it with strawberries, whipped cream, and nuts.

United first class ice cream sundae

After the meal I was offered a bottle of water.

United first class bottled water

The pace of the meal service was excellent, as the entire meal was done less than two hours into the flight. I know many will say that this isn’t the most gourmet first class meal out there, though everything tasted great, in particular the main course.

However, it’s the service that impressed me. Schy and Silvia were gems. They memorized the names of all eight first class passengers, and passed through the aisle every couple of minutes throughout the entire meal service. Most importantly, they did everything with a smile.

I worked for a bit after lunch, and before I knew it we were eight hours from landing in Los Angeles.

Airshow enroute to Los Angeles

While I wasn’t planning on watching anything (since I wanted to work on my laptop and then sleep), I browsed the entertainment selection. It was unmemorable — I wasn’t impressed, but probably could have found something to watch as well.

United entertainment selection

United entertainment selection

United entertainment selection

After lunch I checked out the lavatory. There’s only one lavatory at the front of the 777, which is shared between first class passengers and the cockpit. It’s a fairly small lavatory since it’s in the center part of the cabin, and wasn’t in especially good condition.

United 777 first class lavatory

However, it did have Cowshed toiletries.

United 777 first class lavatory Cowshed amenities

I worked for a little bit, and then around seven hours before landing decided to sleep for a bit. I took out the mattress pad and was going to place it on the seat myself (after all, this isn’t some intricate turndown service), but Silvia caught me doing it, and quickly ran out and said “please let me do that for you.”

Turndown service includes two plush pillows, a comfortable but light blanket, and a thin mattress pad. Truth be told the seat probably doesn’t need a mattress pad, since the padding is excellent.

United first class turndown service

I managed to sleep for about three hours, and woke up about four hours from landing in Los Angeles. While United’s first class seat isn’t especially private, the padding is excellent, and I slept well (admittedly I was very tired).

I got back on my computer, and within minutes another flight attendant, Diana, came to my seat and asked if I wanted something to drink. I ordered some coffee, which was served with a chocolate Biscoff. While United does have Illy coffee, unlike American’s 777-300ER aircraft, they don’t have espresso or cappuccino drinks.

United first class coffee & biscoffs

Diana kept my coffee cup full, and about 30 minutes later returned with freshly baked cookies. She was delightful as well. When she noticed I had coffee in my cup for more than 20 minutes without emptying it she’d insist on “freshening up” my cup.

United first class freshly baked cookie

I got lots of work done over the next two hours. Finally about 90 minutes before landing the crew began their pre-arrival snack service.

Airshow enroute to Los Angeles

The menu read as follows:


The choice was between grilled chicken and a cheese and charcuterie plate. I ordered the former. It tasted fine, though certainly wasn’t what you’d expect to be served in international first class. It was served with a selection of bread as well as a fruit plate.

United first class meal — grilled chicken

United first class meal — grilled chicken

United first class meal — fresh fruit

The tray was cleared quickly, and then I kept working for a bit. I briefly spoke with Schy and thanked her for the great service the crew was providing. She said “I love being based in LA, it’s a smaller base all the crew are so nice, we’re like family.” She then asked if I heard about United Polaris, because clearly she was excited about how the airline is reinventing their product. Then she started talking about how much she loves Oscar Munoz, saying “he’s not like the other guys, and really cares about us and the product.”

Regardless of how you feel about the situation at United, it’s great to see the pride that some employees are now taking in their product.

As we began our descent Schy, Silvia, and Diana each came around to all first class passengers and thanked them for flying United.

View approaching Los Angeles

View approaching Los Angeles

View approaching Los Angeles

As we passed through 10,000 feet and the double chime was heard throughout the cabin, Schy announced “that double chime is music to our ears, that we are on final approach to Los Angeles International Airport.”

View approaching Los Angeles

View approaching Los Angeles

We touched down on runway 25L at 2:45PM.

View approaching LAX

From there we had a 10 minute taxi to the gate, which only took so long because we had to wait a while before we could cross 25R.

Taxiing LAX

Taxiing LAX

Taxiing LAX

Terminal 7 LAX

We pulled into our gate at 2:55PM, well ahead of our scheduled arrival time.

Arrival gate LAX

United first class bottom line

This flight was a great reminder of how the quality of a crew can greatly impact the perception of a flight. United’s first class hard product is decent, the catering was tasty though not especially “first class” (which doesn’t bother me so much, but will bother others), and I loved how well the wifi worked.

However, what really stood out to me about the flight was the exceptional crew. If only US carriers could make it so that all crews were as good as Schy, Silvia, and Diana. I’ve run into the same thing at American, where I’ve had flights with incredible crews, and also flights with terrible crews. Kudos to these ladies for “making” the flight.

Lastly, keep in mind that United will soon be phasing out international first class and instead have business class (which they’re calling Polaris) as their premier product, so I’m curious to see what that will be like. If it ends up being as good as they’re promoting, I suspect the business class soft product will be even better than what I got in first class. I can’t wait to try it.

  1. I completely agree about US flight attendants. I’ve had flights ruined by crews with attitude. I stick with foreign carriers when I can. Continued thanks for your great work!

  2. I fly United a lot and it’s been ages since I’ve been on a flight for which the pilots turned on Channel 9….Too bad, because it is always fun. Maybe with the new management the pilots will be more of a mind to turn it back on–it always struck me that many pilots were trying to make kind of a sullen statement by refusing to play it (though I have also heard speculation that some regard it, dubiously in my view, as a security hazard.)

  3. United NEEDS to be phasing out “First Class.” Their product’s a sad joke compared to EY’s “Apartment Class”!

  4. You have an error in the flight info box, the flights lands same day and not +1

    Regarding plastic ‘glassware’ I asked an F/A about this once and she said it is an FAA regulation, although I was not able to find any documentation backing that up

    Also regarding your comment on the differences on Polaris to F, I find it interesting that service is different on CO metal and UA metal (with CO having no first class) whereon UA in business class your meal is served on a tray whereas on CO it is a set table, I expect Polaris to be better than CO business and similar to the service you received in F.

  5. I flew GlobalFirst to and from Tokyo (NRT and HND) and was pleasantly surprised by the service. Maybe my expectations were just so low. The sushi cart was a nice touch as well.

  6. After they switch to Polaris, there will almost surely be a big step up in the soft product (as a United Global Services flier, I can tell you that is clearing a currently rather low bar), but the hard product will likely be a somewhat mixed result.

    It will plainly be a major improvement from their current BusinessFirst (with eight across seating on some 777s) but likely will be a marginal loss compared to the spacious seat you experienced in GlobalFirst.

    On balance, I welcome the change since United’s premium product had become steadily less competitive in recent years.

  7. @Brad B — since Delta serves pre-departure drinks on international flights in glassware, I suspect it’s not an FAA rule 🙂 … the tendency of some FAs to claim any and everything is an FAA rule is quite something.

    And I’m not sure about the argument that UA doesn’t publish a wine list because “it’s changing all the time”?! Did one of the FAs say that? Surely UA can get their caterers to provide a specific wine on a consistent basis. It seems like they care so little (and probably spend so little) on their wine, they don’t even think it’s worth writing down.

  8. I’m in LAX lounge now after flying from Chicago/frequent flier weekend and was saying to myself – wow not 1 smile of this trip and when I said have a nice day – both didn’t say anything back

  9. Your mention of the shoulder belt reminded me of something I’ve been curious about. I’ve noticed that many premium have a small airbag on one of the seat belt straps. Yes that’s what that padding is — took me a long time to appreciate that. Other seats have a shoulder strap. In fact IIRC the backward facing seats in the remodeled AA777-200 and the 787-200 look like they have a shoulder belt while the forward ones don’t. (could be the other way around but the important point is the two sets of seats differ).

    Can someone explain the different types of seat belts and when each might be used?


  10. The menu and food looks better than AA Intl J class. The recent AA celebrity chef menus and food have been terrible IMO. I’ve been lucky with flight crews in premium cabins with no real complaints. The cranky ones seem always to be in economy in my experience.

  11. @Neil,
    I’m not an expert, but my understanding is that all the the seats have to be crash tested with crash test dummies. Some seats fail the test unless they have the airbag or the shoulder belt and this is why they are provided. It also explains why there are variations within an aircraft type with both rear facing and forward facing.

  12. @Lucky:
    I’ve just finished binge reading this series of reports (very interesting trip), and something struck me as I was digesting your reports on service on Air Astana. I was struck by how upscale the food service looked — an interesting set of choices on the menu, and the dinnerware was rather sophisticated looking rather than the hum-drum china you usually see. And the fact they served a full meal on a short domestic flight blew my mind.

    I can understand how the ME3 and big Asian airlines put the US carriers to shame, but to see this happen with some degree of regularity with the smaller regional airlines halfway around the world amazes me. The US airlines ought to be totally embarrassed.


  13. Hi @Neil,
    The air bag or shoulder belt are to insure the pass of the HIC (Head Impact Criteria) ”HIC measures the likelihood of head injury resulting from an impact. Compliance with the HIC limit is demonstrated during a dynamic sled test that includes a 50 percent male-size test dummy, the seat, and any airplane structure that could be impacted by the occupant’s head.”

    In the past the airbag was perceived by airlines to be a preferred choice by premium customers as the shoulder belt requires additional effort to put on, and reduces the p’premium’ feel of the experience as it is more similar to car.

    However due to increasingly more strict regulations and an effort to reduce the risks in the certification of the seat, the shoulder belt is becoming the standard for next generation business class seats. It also (in my opinion) is more comfortable and gives a greater sense of security, not to mention added benefits of the seat being able to be certified when in reclined positions, so the crew don’t have to bug you to put your seat all the way up.

  14. It’s quite special, that United is serving the cheapest water you can get in French supermarkets. There was my LX Economy Water much better (Rhäzünser from Switzerland)

  15. Took this exact flight in 2012 with a terrible F crew. The hard product is slightly better now, but still has a ways to go.

  16. I loathe United on any length of flight and actively avoid them. While I think I find Lucky’s reviews of F products to be wildly inconsistent (good crews certainly can’t make up for terrible hard/soft product, can they?), what strikes me as tacky are super small things, like the Coca-Cola co-branding on the cocktail napkin. I’m not in F to be advertised at. And the plastic pre-departure beverageware. It’s cheap and classless and not on par with basically EVERY other F product outside the US. And the utensils being wrapped in a napkin and clipped together. That’s not much of a step above what one receives in Y.

    These are all small, nit-picky details that American carriers consistently get wrong and will always separate them from truly good (and always foreign) carriers. And whil I love Lucky’s reviews, you can’t praise SQ or CX for “setting a proper table” then turn around and *not* comment on how US carriers can’t be bothered but say a crew “really made the flight.” Sorry, Lucky…don’t mean to bash ya.

  17. I think that the IFE system was last generation (whenever they introduced the latest GF seat) because it looked different than what I had on a flight on a retrofitted (2-1-2 biz) 767 which you presumably also get on 787s and retrofitted 757s

  18. Thanks, Lucky for posting an updated report on GlobalFIrst. While not my first choice to fly F, I’ve been wanting use my MP miles before they do away with GlobalFirst. The cabin is open, airy (like Qatar’s F and AA’s old F) with relatively few number of seats. So, it’s the space, openness that I appreciate most. Of course, you had a good crew and the food wasn’t too bad. Hey, what’s not to like. After being out of the states for a while I enjoy flying aboard one of the US carriers back home, and some of the ‘senior’ or ‘seasoned’ cabin staff are pretty darn good, they at least know their stuff and are dependable in emergency situations.

  19. From a hard product seating perspective it looks very similar to the CX Business product. I’m not sure I’d be happy if I was paying a full F fare.

  20. I have never had the “listen to cockpit” function turned on except once when the captain’s father (who happened to be sitting next to me) was on the flight. Otherwise it is always off. 🙁

    That cioppino seems to be a standard Global First offering. I first had it 3 1/2 years ago on an SFO – ICN flight, and it IS excellent. I think it’s the broth that keeps everything moist and fresh.

    But I’m a soft product over hard product sort of flyer, which means I generally avoid all US carrier First cabins. If I’m paying or using points I want the works: glorious wines & spirits, caviar, pajamas….WiFi doesn’t interest me a bit. I’m so looking forward to Polaris too. Can’t wait for the first reviews to start coming online.

    But thanks for your review here. UA does still have a lot great FA’S, so I’m glad you got some of the “good ones.”

  21. What is up with the terrible alcohol selection on US based carriers? J on an Asian carrier gets Johnny Walker Gold, or a nice quality single malt…but US airlines it’s Dewars and Jim Beam Devil’s Cut? Might as well just roll a keg of Coors Light around the cabin.

  22. I flew United GlobalFirst a few times between US and Japan the last few years and I have been impressed with attention to details flight crews provided each time. It was not pretentious. It was efficient rather. Food and drinks were not extravagant, no Krug/Dom/Caviar, but it was sufficient for an award seat. Overall I have been impressed and happy with F United, I may not be if I had to actually purchase the ticket.

  23. How did you get your ban from flying United lifted, did you pay them the amount you defrauded them?

    Or was the Rolling Stone article wrong?

    “He was banned from flying [United], he recalls the letter saying, unless he paid the company $4,755 — the amount it claimed as losses through Schlappig’s techniques.”

  24. Sounds like another “worlds best business class”. Also seems to serve “one of the best fish dishes in the air” like several of the other airlines you have reviewed recently.

    I think it might be time for you to find a slightly more objective way of rating the food and service.

  25. Thanks for the report – interesting read!
    May I point out a small error – the (+1 day) in the summary at the top is erroneous

  26. Polaris? Why would anyone name a (business class) service product after a ballistic missile??? That’s not only a poor, but a disgusting move of UA management …

  27. @ Andy: Polaris, designated Alpha Ursae Minoris, commonly the North Star or Pole Star.
    The business class service wasn’t named after the ballistic missile, but rather the missile was named after the northern pole star.

  28. The way classes are going, all that seems to have happened is a shuffle around of names at the vast expense of running 4 classes on some aircraft.
    Premium Economy > like Business of 15 years ago
    Business > Like First of 15 years ago
    First .. absent or has to have showers to be accepted as such, and is hard to justify unless using miles or a corporate account has bought blocks of seats.

    Curious to see how class structure evolves over the next 15 years. Beds in premium?

  29. So it’s basically competing with BA for “Best Business Class masquerading as First Class”.

    I mean, I’m glad you enjoyed the food, but what you had was a business class meal. I mean, the plating was ok at best. And a lack of options among the appetizers? Just one appetizer, soup, and salad? Isn’t that what Delta serves in it’s business class? Kind of makes you wonder what United serves in business class…

  30. Just had the pleasure to fly Global First CDG –> EWR and had an FA duo that sounds much like Schy and Silvia. They were outstanding, making me ponder my longstanding commitment to AA crossing the Pond. 🙂

    One drawback was the lack of a curtain between F and the galley, so combined with chatter from the J FAs congregating in the forward galley, 1A and 1C were noisy. (2A was pilot rest.)

  31. Maybe it’s just me… I find myself usually skipping your pictures of other planes and things like the skies, or the gate… those seem less interesting and relevant. TPG’s posts tend to be more succinct and he keeps only the most relevant images. Sometimes a post being too long prevent people from reading it.

    This F product does look like business with a slightly wider seat.

  32. The 405 Freeway is fairly clear-a bomb must have gone off, or an earthquake happened shortly before the picture.

  33. To begin with I haven’t seen the wine menu, The selection of Spirits is very cheap for a Global First Class, I think DAL and AA got something better to offer, however the seat is OK.

  34. @LB: I get your point. The F/A 18 Hornet was also named after the animal called hornet. But why would you name a (premium) product after an arms system??? Any sensible marketing strategy would avoid names with negative connotations. And Polaris certainly has strong negative connotations.

  35. You know, that bottled water is French. Not really first class water, it’s spring water, not mineral, one of the cheapest, if not the cheapest, that you can find in a supermarket in France. Perfectly drinkable, nevertheless.

  36. Delta serves pre-departure beverages in domestic business class in glassware. No excuse for United on this one.

    It’s going to take awhile to get rid of all of Smisek’s cost-cutting & deterioration of the passenger experience.

    Overall, if I had a choice of a crappy plane vs. crappy attitude from the staff, I’ll take the crappy plane.

  37. I am glad that you enjoyed your trip with UAL. Their employees have had a difficult time of it and have only just started to recover from the “Jeff Smisek years.” What makes your experience with this particular crew even more remarkable is that they were on the last leg of a week long trip. I know this because I have many friends in the LA area who fly for United. The LAX based FAs fly LAX-LHR-IAD-LHR-LAX. They were probably rather tired, but it’s nice to know that they offered such great service. It is good to see things slowly changing for the better at UA.

  38. I avoid GF when I can — it’s my money, not business travel! — especially the 777, unless they offer significantly lower fares.

    I like the seat, and if I fly UA, I book on the 747.

    Infamously, the crew are hit and miss, sadly, often the latter.

    The food is not horrendous, but certainly not what anyone should expect on a “real” First flight on an international airline with a significant footprint.

    I was very disappointed when UA announced they would cut out GF altogether. Conversely, in my mind, I was hoping they would try to build a better product. But now, I have resigned myself to this decision … and recognize it was the best way for them to move. UA is not a first-rate airline …. maybe they can make a decent go of Polaris.

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