Saturday, August 9, 2008

Trip Report - United Sydney-SFO Business Class

I got really lucky this trip and was able to upgrade using Miles on my return trip from Sydney to San Francisco.

Its off-season for this route, but the flight was full in coach so I was really happy to score the upgrade. United only has the new business class seats on some Atlantic routes, so this 747-400 had the plain (and fairly old) United Business seats.

Unlike my past trips in C class, I was also able to score 15G in the upper desk -- which is an exit row and provides the longest legroom possible on the plane.

United closed its very cramped and depressing Red Carpet Club room in Sydney earlier this year. So now RCC members and United Star Gold fliers use the Air New Zealand club, that is above the gate area and has great views of planes on the runways and ramp areas. Having United fliers in the ANZ club makes it VERY busy from 11am - 2pm. Unlike the last time I was there later in the afternoon.

In any case, the ANZ club is a HUGE upgrade from the old RCC -- offering real food and too many drink options. Plus plenty of power outlets and bathrooms.

I was very excited to get 15G since it is regarded often as the best seat in Business Class. But I soon realized that too much legroom sometimes isnt a good thing.

First, I often use the seat back pockets for storage of the earphones, dvd player, book, etc on long trips like this. Basically there is no seat back in from of you in this seat -- only the Flight Attendant jump seat.

Second, there is no carryon storage ahead of you. The flight attendant was adamant that even in 15AB (also exitrow) there was to be no bags under the seats ahead. View from Seat 15G below:

So basically anytime I needed anything from my bag, I needed to get up out of my seat and retrieve it from behind the FA jumpseat -- very annoying. The window seat (15H) is better of course for storage since there are side bins throughout the upper deck.

Service on the flight was typical for United these days:
- Flight Attendants rushed through -every- service as fast as possible
- Never addressing a passenger by name
- Seemed annoyed when asked for more drinks -- or forgot them all together
- Actual dinner choice was only one of three menu items listed
- Movies often had bad tracking or annoying sound issues

The breakfast service was good - but again a bit rushed and impersonal. The large egg dish was plentiful and an overall decent meal.

I always leave flights like this feeling "gees - if they were only more professional and/or nicer it would be a great flight". The seat was "ok", the inflight options were "ok", even the pilots did a good job of keeping the Fasten Seat Belts sign OFF during 99% of the flight -- but the inflight service was down right depressing.

My work often takes me to Sydney, so I will continue to fly United (Upgrades on Qantas are basically impossible for a US-based flyer) -- I just wish United would get their inflight staff to be happier!

btw- I think seats 16AB are the best in the upper deck for non-bulkhead, non-emergency exit row seating. They have LOTS of legroom -- plus you can store things under the seat in front of you.

Price Assurance Math (180x150)