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First Class  B747-400
San Francisco / Frankfurt  January 2016

As with other United flights reviewed during the past year, this flight started with an aircraft mechanical delay. Today’s departure was delayed an hour for an engine malfunction, resulting in my nearly missing a connection in Frankfurt, a situation that created a fair amount of stress. United’s B747-400 are getting a bit long-in-the-tooth, with schedule reliability particularly poor on these aircraft which fly several of the carrier’s high-profile routes.

The aircraft’s cabin interiors, however, are in decent shape yet the overall first class service product is very ‘average’. Not terrible but certainly not competitive with the products offered by most European, Asian and Middle East carriers.

United’s international first class product serves primarily as an ‘upgrade class’ for corporate travellers that have purchased a business class fare, so the carrier’s investment in the product is quite evident. Other than a larger seat and the addition of a soup course at mealtime, there’s really not much difference between United’s business and first class products in flight. The first class seats on United’s internationally-configured aircraft are of the old generation; they lie-flat but without all of the features of the more private suites found on other carriers.

United’s seats are, however, comfortable and the carrier’s entertainment system is quite good. And, there’s still no better place to sit on an aircraft than in the nose of a 747. The dining experience was not particularly good. Poor quality food and presentation combined with boring wines were offset by a reasonably friendly crew on this ten-hour flight.


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