United Is Phasing Out International First Class As Of June 20, 2018

Filed Under: United

We’ve known this day was coming, though we now officially know when United will stop offering international first class service.

United is in the process of (very slowly) revamping their longhaul travel experience. As of December 2016, all longhaul international United flights feature Polaris service, which is United’s new premium cabin soft product, including better food, bedding, and amenities. However, what’s disappointing many is the slow pace at which United is introducing their new Polaris seats, combined with the pace at which they’re cutting amenities.

As of now, only United’s newly delivered 777-300ER aircraft featuring Polaris seats, as well a few Boeing 767-300 aircraft.

United’s new Polaris seat

United hasn’t yet reconfigured a single 777-200, 787-8, or 787-9, and chances are that it will be many years before United’s entire longhaul fleet is reconfigured. As part of these aircraft reconfigurations, United is planning on phasing out international first class. They historically only had international first class on select Boeing 767-300s, select Boeing 777-200s, and all 747-400s. In the meantime United has retired all of their 747s, they’re starting to reconfigure 767-300s that have first class, and presumably eventually they’ll reconfigure 777-200s.

As United works towards eliminating international first class, they’re also going to stop selling those seats. Last July it was revealed that United would stop selling international first class for flights as of May 1, 2018. However, since then that date has slipped, and United has continued to sell first class.

It looks like there’s now an updated timeline for when three cabin first class will be discontinued. Per an internal memo, United has already stopped selling first class on 767-300s, and United will stop selling first class on 777-200s for flights as of June 20, 2018.

Obviously these 777-200s will still be around for a while, so some lucky business class passengers may be seated in first class, with the standard business class service. United hasn’t yet revealed what system they’ll use for assigning those seats, though perhaps they’ll allow Global Services, 1K, and full fare passengers to select those seats (or something). As of now, first class seats after June 20 just show as blocked on the seatmap.

Just to show this policy change in action, here’s the June 19 flight from Chicago to Hong Kong, where first class is for sale:

Then here’s the June 20 flight, where first class is blocked off on the seatmap, and no longer for sale:

United is doing this because of the increased risk of aircraft swaps in the future, and presumably they’re not able to get all that much of a revenue premium for their first class anyway.

United’s old international first class seat

Those lucky business class passengers who get first class seats on 777-200s are in for a very nice upgrade, given that United has eight seats per row in business class on these planes.

Anyone want to take an over/under on how long it will be until the last 777-200 with first class is actually reconfigured? I give it two years…

  1. Since the UA F service isn’t too much different from J, phasing out F and then being able to fly in the seat at J prices – at least for 2 or so years – is a good deal. Sorta like the old US Air’s small F cabin which they ditched but could be reserved for elites. During the recent swap of LH three cabin 747-8s to select US cities from FRA but selling only J seats with F cabin being available – I took advantage of that. Great deal.

  2. United’s D- management alone killed the demand for First. They even ripped out the curtains between First and Business class years ago… something that clearly showed their cavalier attitude as no other airline would dream of doing this. Then, these geniuses rebranded the products as Global First and Business First–textbook example of poor marketing.

  3. Seriously Ben…lucky pax?…it is actually a shame that UA is so slow with their Polaris seats…DL and AA are already having great seat options for years now.. UA is taking their time??…I could not even imagine that UA is capable of producing a decent international first seats and services…we already saw it with TAAG , MU and CZ how it goes when you are not fully committed to the product…

    The question is,.. could a US airline be capable again to offer a great F cabin with all the service and amenities which we love in SQ or AF or EK or JL etc…In the near future..I highly doubt it!!…and before anyone here raised his hands to say…AA has a First Class product??..yes, but really!! I would not pay hard cash for it…as a redemption ticket probably…I would prefer the more enclosed seats in C cabin as I found out…the food in both cabins are almost identical !!…shocking right??..No, actually pretty cheap!!

  4. Ah well, such is life. Got to fly it once a few years ago CDG-IAD- had a business award reservation using Singapore miles and decided to spend the extra 15K when first opened up a week before the flight. Checked the business seatmap and wasn’t going to have an open seat next to me. That was enough motivation to take the First award.

    Flight was nice and service was excellent. But based on quick stereotyping of the clientele (myself included!), I think it was mostly awards and non-revs. Can see why they decided to cut it. Most of the routes they fly it on have competition with a higher quality product who can charge a premium which United couldn’t justify.

  5. @DCJoe:

    I had the opposite experience NRT-LAX. Was in the older F “pod” that had AVOD but in the form of cassettes that needed to be inserted/ejected into a player on the fold-out TV. This was in mid-to-late 2011, too. Not that long ago. Hard product aside from seat was “meh” and about on-par with J.

    What really set the tone was when, during boarding, the purser came by my seat with the manifest to welcome me aboard, then saw that I was full fare F (work paid for it) and commented along the lines of “Full fare?! Wow, someone must have money.” I wish I were joking. I sheepishly replied that work had paid for it and I wasn’t going to argue my way back to business if they were willing to pay. But seriously, how gauche is that? And that’s essentially the same level of “service” I received; overly jockular to the point of inappropriately familiar or casual. Makes it difficult to request items or services respectfully when the FAs think they’re your new buddy.

    For me, that’s when I pinpoint the beginning of the end. And this was when they still had to phase in a “new” F product.

  6. @Adam R. Hah, that is funny re: mentioning paid F. You’re spot on re: the familiarity problem. Used miles last year for UA F on the 747 SFO-ICN. Only time I flew them F international. It was mostly for nostalgia before 747 phase out. Seat was 1A with a semi-broken bottom. Food, IFE was OK, had all the Polaris amenties, but nothing to rave about and I didn’t expect anything special. When the FA came by for the pre-land meal she asked if I wanted to have a meal. I said ‘yes’. She said ‘OK, let’s get your table down.’ Then she left! No joke. You cannot make up this kind of stuff by U.S. flight attendants. I just laugh. What can you do. Where’s the millionaire UA CEO Oskar Munoz (sounds like a baseball player) the railroad expert. Oh, he’s in his Gulfstream 550 sans dirty pax.

  7. @AdamR:

    Wow, that is really beyond the pale for a customer service rep to say to you. Even moreso for the purser, who in theory is more experienced and should have better judgment.

    But what an excellent example of why they couldn’t charge a premium: United’s NRT-LAX flight has 2 ANA and 1 JAL flight within an hour of it. Plus Singapore 2 hours later. No way that they could compete with those airlines in first class product/service, so they have given up.

  8. @Leeza1:

    Haha! Totally. But you forgot “(full fare with cash!)”, or something equally ridiculous.

  9. Oh, shock! did a US carrier have a first class??? Never, impossible. I always thought it was glorified PE. Please … don’t ever suggest a US airline has first.

  10. I actually had a wonderful F experience on UA EWR-FRA in January of last year. The cabin was just 3 out of 8 and the service was impeccable. I was very lucky! My PDB was refilled twice (and I was given a new chocolate each time), top-ups during the meal were frequent, wine tasting was encouraged, and the FA proactively offered to make my bed in the empty seat across the aisle. In fact I had the whole of row 2 to myself! Not only that, but the FA said that the aircraft had some leftover PJs from a previous run (usually PJs are only on flights of 12 hours or longer) and gave me 2 pairs! The Champagne was Ayala 2007, I found it delicious!

  11. I love United MileagePlus because I can use those miles to fly business class on Austrian, SAS and Aer Lingus. United deserves awards for its Polaris product and rollout such as Worst Rollout Ever; Bait-and-Switch Screw You Award; ASPCA air carrier of the year; Beat Me Black and Blue Award; Bloody My Nose Award; Let me count the ways United sucks. No. That would be impossible to do.

  12. Good riddance. Their F product wasn’t even competitive with other airlines’ J products.

  13. When United announced its “new” Polaris product in 2016 it said a “majority” of its long-haul fleet wouldn’t have the Polaris seats until 2021 by which point they will no longer be “new.” It took Delta about 4 years to put lie-flat seats in about 100% of its long-haul fleets. Delta already is renovating 777s to install its “new” Delta One suites.

  14. Its truly Continental in 2018 with no Int First and an airline
    with an awful business culture
    There is nothing aspirational about United at all.
    Not the food the lounges the planes or the customer service.Its so terribly sad to watch management destroyed an airline without a clue
    It is a badly damaged brand
    Their quality partners like Singapore will never offer them premium cabin first class award seats with United inferior sub par business cabins
    United is truly at best a premium flying bus.
    It blows my mind why people would fly them at all except that they don’t know about International carriers or stuck in a monopolized market
    Was a great carrier years ago and my favorite Domestic carrier of all times as well as flying Int First.So glad I got to experience the glory days with United
    So very sad

  15. United had an international first class? LOL!!!!! Well, that is what they called that joke. What a ridiculous and obnoxious airline.

  16. So.. if you win the gamble you end up in 1-2-1 F class having only paid for C (on 777-200s). But if you lose the gamble. you’ll end up in 2-4-2 C class. No way I’m spending 12+ hours in a 2-4-2 config in paid C. I’m in IAD and I avoid that config on UA even if it’s a direct flight that’s faster.

  17. I actually just flew SFO>LHR yesterday 4/5 on UA 777-200 and had the chance to upgrade from biz to 1st @ $1100 per person. Passed as not worth that kinda price considering I was sitting row 6 already (directly behind 1st)
    For the 777-200’s at least one bright spot to this — an extra bathroom to use!
    (yes — I follow the rules and use the bathroom in my ticket cabin … )

  18. Just as well, United couldn’t offer a competitive first class product that travelers would actually be willing to PAY for. It’s good that they step aside and allow the international carriers take over who can do a much much better job at it.

  19. Wow..speaking of a “UA party” going on here!..are we already talking about UA’s eulogy??…for some of you…UA is already considered dead!…and only kept alive because of your Mileage Plus accounts!..So UA is the filthy son who is not wanted in the Star Alliance family..anymore..

  20. I moved to the New York area a couple of years back. I travel about 4-5 times a year and my closest airport is EWR (25 mins vs 1hr to JFK or LGA). We’ve flown United a couple of times to domestic destinations but otherwise try to avoid it and definitely choose not to fly UA on long-haul flights. To Asia, we’ve flown Asian or Middle East carriers. To Canada it’s been AC or Delta. To LatAm, we flew Avianca. To Europe, European carriers… United isn’t any cheaper than international airlines so why pay the same price for an inferior product and for a company that has had notable PR disasters which have genuinely disgusted me.

  21. Its ironic old Global First used to be rather nice and not much of a mileage bump from BusinessFirst. For ORD to HKG it was great value as was IAD to DXB until Emirates killed that route in junction with JetBlue. I remember talking to ex-“true” United FA’s who used to enjoy the 767-300 FC routes: IAD to DME was a standout route as was IAD to GRU. Now all United FA’s seem to dislike the new 300 ER’s which are rather like Polaris sardine cans. So I will miss Global First and feel United is sliding into obscurity abet its canine and passenger ejection fiasco’s..

  22. I will miss United F as it was the best way to hangs to Lufthansa F round trip with no fuel charges and $90/100 CAd change fee with Aeroplan To europe.

    Now I will have to pay fuel charges to do that one way with Aeroplan miles

  23. It is really a shame that UA is only seen as a mileage bank…flying with them..NO!..you have the star alliance like LH or NH or SQ with which you fly First or TK and OS for Biz…the overall impression regarding service, F&B and in some cases the seat itself are bad to worse..especially in domestic routes..somebody here said change…for the better!!..how?..the management, the employees have enough of it!…how to do or sacrifice a change, if nobody is willing to do so!..those millions of Mileage Plus members are the ones who keeps this sham or pretence of an airline still alive…but for what cause?…it is like their B747..you should know if is time to go…or reinvent yorself but only with an outstanding product and employees who are willing to give their outmost best for the sake of all!.. So UA you are at the abyss??..live or die ??

  24. So long as lazy US flight crews continue to fatuously claim they’re only on board for passenger “safety”, just as well UA is cutting F – it’s been a complete joke for years.

  25. Easy..get rid of these pretensious wannabe flight attendants..they can play “safety” on the ground as TSA workers!..
    you are a FA..learn what service means onboard! and apply it properly to your paying guests!..you wann be paid decently for your job and efforts?…try winning pax on your side..therefore it means revenue for your company and in the end an income and probably some bonuses for you..
    Most of all..if you do not like serving other people and jetlag always kills you..go find another job which suits you..instead of buming around and making everybodys lives miserable..

  26. Pretty sure they’ll just leave the First cabin empty and have their crew sleep in there during long-hauls.

  27. There’s not been anything classy about UA in ages. Them removing F just confirms that management is finally acknowledging this sad reality.

    As many have said, United is best used as a mileage bank to get to other carriers who do give a rat’s rectum about their customers. Or possibly a free flight. Certainly not worth spending any real money.

  28. @Myles AA has genuine F class? Do you know on which routes they offer that premium service? I have only seen F offered on JFK-LAX/SFO, JFK-LHR (one a day), MIA-EZE (one a day), and DFW-HKG. Otherwise, the premium cabin is always J. AA seems mostly to offer two cabin service: J and Y, although Premium Economy is slowly being added to some aircraft. It’s rare to find a route with three cabin service: F, J, and Y. To make matters more confusing, AA calls their domestic short-haul premium cabin (on two cabin aircraft) First Class, but it’s booked in J. That same equipment will offer Business Class service in that cabin if it travels internationally (also booked in J). Why not call all J bookings Business?

  29. @Globetrotter

    Thanks for the info..I know AA has internat. F product, but I do not want to sound snobbish..I do not agree that they deserved to be called First Class..nowadays everyone use these words loosely!..For some here Ryan Air is First Class!
    I agree in one..AA’s premium product is more business class.
    No wonder that most US FF elites lovely fly First with LH, LX and of course AF..they still feell and experience the word to be served properly..

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