Review of United flight Newark Beijing in Economy

Airline United
Flight UA89
Class Economy
Seat 24L
Aircraft Boeing 777-200ER
Flight time 13:50
Take-off 10 Apr 15, 11:50
Arrival at 10 Apr 15, 13:40
UA   #114 out of 134 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 262 reviews
Daniel00
By 10389
Published on 21st April 2015
Here we go! This is the first of four reports of my trip to China! Here's the routing

4/10/15: UA89 EWR-PEK (THIS REPORT)
4/14/15: Beijing to Xi'an on a train (this isn't train report haha)
4/16/15: MU5021 XIY-TAO (http://flight-report.com/en/report-10032.html)
4/19/15: MU5514 TAO-SHA (http://flight-report.com/en/report-10057.html)
4/20/15: UA87 PVG-EWR (http://flight-report.com/en/report-10192.html)

I'm going to try and get this set of reports out as fast as I can, but between school and jet lag, it might take a while.

A bit of preface regarding my trip. My high school in Connecticut has a sister school in Qingdao, China. Every few years we send some students there, and they send some here. A total of 26 of us went on this trip, so it was interesting to see how groups work on airlines.

We started out at 6:30 on a coach bus for the ride to Newark, seems early for an 11:50 flight right?
We arrived at the Terminal C around 8:15, and it was relatively empty, as most of the morning flights had already checked in/departed.
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A lady redirected us upstairs to the group chat, and since nobody really knew what we were doing, we went up.
When we made it upstairs, the only group listed was the Charleston Tennis Group. This of course resulted in a lot of hubbub, but they eventually figured out who we were and we check in, slowly, 1 by 1.
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We made our way through relatively quick, and moved on into the terminal area.
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There seemed to be a good amount of shops and restaurants, but I didn't check any of them out, and headed for the gate.
I was actually surprised we had a gate at that hour, considering our flight wasn't scheduled to leave for another 2.5 hours.
Today we were at gate C123, not too far a walk from security.
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Wait, where are all the seats?? Ah, there they are.
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Spotting at Newark is hard between the security and the odd shape of the terminal, but there was plenty of time for it.
The flight to Shanghai was parked next to us, and the plane coming in behind is was ours.

We were on N78008, 16 years old, ex-Continental, configured in the old 2 (3) class configuration, with what I believe to be the most ridiculous economy plus ever. Extra money for 4 extra inches of legroom just doesn't seem worth it.
The seats in the boarding area were fine at best, and there were many of these power plug things scattered around the terminal. I managed to get 15 minutes free off gogo, but that's all EWR has to offer, unless you want to pay. Regardless, it was fast, and I could actually stream netflix without a problem
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I was originally assigned to seat 36D, but managed to swap for 24L, as I love the window seats.
Boarding commenced around 11:00. United has the separate lines for boarding groups, which seemed to be semi effective, but it was still quite chaotic.
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We headed down the jetway, and were met with this logo at the end. Yay wifi!
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I made my way through the aircraft, passing business class on the way to my seat. Looked fine, but nothing amazing…
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Aaaaaand here we are! The view from 24L

We pushed back at 11:56, only 6 minutes behind schedule.
The safety video was interesting, travel themed, but of course, incomparable to Virgin America's…
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I've got a few pictures from our taxi out to Runway 22R, a short taxi from Terminal C

We were number 4 in line for takeoff, getting off the ground at 12:19, 29 minutes late. Not terrible.
Up to 30,000 feet we went, where the first meal was served, about 1 hour after takeoff.
No menu here, but there was an option of chicken with rice or pasta with tomato sauce. Everyone in my row opted for the chicken, so I have no pictures of the pasta unfortunately.
Food wise, it was normal. The chicken was a weird rubbery consistency, and came with green beans and carrots along with possibly the weirdest sauce I've ever tasted. Additionally, we got a typical tasteless salad, a brownie, and a roll. Overall probably a 7/10 meal.
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I watched 2 movies as we went up to 36,000 feet.
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United's selection of Movies, Music, TV, etc. I have to say was phenomenal. There were probably over 70 movies total. However, the actual screen required about 5 taps to get it to work. I didn't mind this though, because once you got where you were going, it was worth it (on Lufthansa's A380s, it take 4x as long to get where you're going, and when you do, the selection is god awful).
I went to sleep and woke up in time for the second meal, more like a snack. Ham and cheese on a roll, a chocolate chip cookie, and potato chips. Only complaint is the crinkly bag it came in…made tons of noise while people were trying to sleep. We received this meal about 5 hours into the flight. One of my classmates tried to order in chinese with one of the Asian crew members, only to get the response Your chinese is probably better than mine is… nice to see a bit of humor with the FA's
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United made us keep the window shades closed for the entire flight. Not a terrible idea actually. You can see the glow of all the screens over the north pole, and I snuck a few pictures out the window.

I slept some more, and woke up for meal number 3, around 2 hours before landing. This time we had a choice between an omelet or noodles. I soon learned that noodles are typical breakfast food in China, so I went with those. It was pretty good. My first reaction was those are noodles?? Turns out it was noodles with some kind of breaded meat that tasted like chicken nuggets, accompanied by a similar sauce from meal one and some of the worst tasting vegetables I've ever eaten. We got a sugar cookie and another roll as well.
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Even though there was a wifi symbol and a hump on the plane, it didn't work at all for the entire flight. The network was there (United_Wi_Fi), but it could never connect to the server so you could pay to use it.
We began our descent from 39,000 feet at 00:38 NYC time, aka 12:38 in China.
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And touchdown! We hit the ground at 13:23 local time, 17 minutes ahead of schedule, on runway 18L
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Spotting out of a dirty window isn't great, but I had to take advantage of what I had. Soooo many new airlines for me.

We got to the gate at 13:33, terminal 3, still 7 minutes ahead of schedule. Go united!
Last view of our plane
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However, Beijing airport is SLOOOOOOWWWWWW, while modern and spotless though.
Immigration took forever in an extremely disorganized line from what seemed like 50 different flights. Then we had to take a train to get our bags in a completely separate building, luckily everything had come out because everything else took so long.

Overall, this flight wasn't nearly as painful as I had expected, but United still has a long way to go!

Hopefully you enjoyed this report, and will continue to read about the rest of my trip! Comments are welcomed :)
See more

Verdict

United

7.4/10
Cabin7.0
Cabin crew8.0
Entertainment/wifi7.0
Meal/catering7.5

Newark - EWR

5.2/10
Efficiency4.0
Access5.0
Services6.0
Cleanliness6.0

Beijing - PEK

7.8/10
Efficiency4.0
Access9.0
Services9.0
Cleanliness9.0

Conclusion

Newark Terminal C- Slow (like the rest of EWR), but much MUCH nicer than terminal A

Seats- Legroom was standard, seat was moderately comfortable

Food- Pretty good, definitely could be better, but it was for the most part edible and enjoyable

Crew- Cracked a few jokes, overall quite friendly

IFE- Great selection, but slow TVs

Beijing Terminal 3- SLOW but spotless!

Related

16 Comments

  • Comment 134559 by
    whitelight44 346 Comments

    Awesome FR. Very interesting route, thanks so much for sharing with great pix :)

  • Comment 134563 by
    NGO85 1622 Comments

    Welcome back and thank you for this very comprehensive report! Looks like the start of a great series.

    I'm a little disappointed you didn't fly CA out of JFK on their B747-800 :( [CA has had rocky reviews on here, but I'm their #2 fan behind Numero_2]

    I was actually surprised we had a gate at that hour
    - There are probably only 3 or 4 flights a day that use that gate.

    Extra money for 4 extra inches of legroom just doesn't seem worth it.
    - On a 14 hour flight, it certainly is worth it! I've done it every time flying Y on UA, but it might depend on your height. It sounds like you slept well, so it might not be worth it for you, but for those of us that are airplane insomniacs then you need all the space you can get on a long TPAC.

    Nice spotting of the UA B737 with scimitar winglets. I've been gone too long to know UA has started retrofitting.

    The chicken was a weird rubbery consistency
    - Haha, sounds like typical UA catering :) I would have gone with the chicken too, pasta would have been much riskier. Two meals and snack is good catering for this route. Yes, UA catering is not very good and you unfortunately went with the Chinese option both times so that probably also didn't help. I prefer congee to noodles, personally.

    There wasn't a remote for the IFE? I always find touchscreens to be slow, it's always quicker just to use the remote.

    Excellent spotting at PEK, China is a great place to discover new carriers, there are so many small regional airlines outside of the Big 3 (CA, CZ, MU). The Air Koryo picture is a keeper, it's the closest you'll ever get to North Korea.

    In my experiences, PEK is hit or miss with immigration, it all depends on when you arrive. I've seen it empty and I've seen it with a 3 hour line to get through.

    Looks like a good flight on UA (which unfortunately means an average flight compared to other carriers), you were lucky to have a cheerful crew to make it a more tolerable experience.

    Thanks for sharing and I'm looking forward to the next report!

  • Comment 134571 by
    beijinner 167 Comments

    Thank's for the report! I've just discovered that reports are also available in English so now I have a lot more to read :)

  • Comment 134572 by
    beijinner 167 Comments

    Thanks for the report! I've just found out that the reports are also available in English so now I have a lot more to read.

    Indeed, Beijing immigration is really slow when arriving. In December I arrived from a Lufthansa flight @ 9.30 am and we left the around 12 pm. After more than one hour at immigration and a train ride to the baggage claim, our baggage where still not out.

    But I have to say that the other way around -> when leaving China, the process is a lot quicker.

    Hope you enjoy your trip in China!

  • Comment 134582 by
    Rl 777 810 Comments

    Very nice report! Thank you for sharing it.

    Always been curious about the service on USA-Asia non-stop flights on American carriers, can't wait for the next parts, especially PVG-EWR.

    I always go with the chicken option if it's available (I love chicken).

    The UA service looks decent, expected a bit less from UA after reading many mixed reviews (mostly negative) about them.

    It's nice that they had a decent selection of movies, recently flew with LH (A333 and A346) and the selection was really bad, not a lot of content.

    Hope you had a nice stay in China, really want to visit China, especially Shanghai!

    See you in part 2.

  • Comment 134591 by
    Wingslover 676 Comments

    Thanks for sharing this great report with us :)

    Looks like United's LH product is very good (I also had a good experience on a BRU-IAD flight). Much better than their SH/MH product :)

    Hope you had a great time in China

  • Comment 134598 by
    KévinDC TEAM GOLD 4992 Comments

    Very good report! Lots of good detail on your experience. It's nice to see a positive review of UA for once :-)
    The food doesn't look particularly appetizing, but as long as it's edible, I think that's as much as you can ask in Economy these days. Although with UA having recently announced upgrades to it's LH Economy catering, I'm curious to see what that will look like.

  • Comment 134629 by
    pwecar 53 Comments

    Welcome to China! Hope you have enjoyed your stay here.

    As you mentioned above you'd rather fly with CA on this route. Though CA might offer a bit more comfort on seats, you only get minimum service(even in Chinese) on a dull face that would ruin all the pros. So I would just go for the cheapest one.

  • Comment 135105 by
    Chibcha 430 Comments

    Thanks for the very well written FR!

    Its good to see that at least someone can see something positive on UA. Catering didn't look top notch, but like KévinDC said, as long as it's edible...

    Saludos!

  • Comment 396931 by
    hmssf 1 Comments

    Very interesting to see how groups work on airlines!

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