Review of United flight Chicago Beijing in Domestic First

Airline United
Flight UA851
Seat 1A
Aircraft Boeing 747-400
Flight time 13:30
Take-off 13 Jan 15, 12:00
Arrival at 13 Jan 15, 15:30
UA   #63 out of 81 Airlines A minimum of 10 flight-reports within the past two years is required to appear in the rankings. 389 reviews
By 4076
Published on 7th November 2016
Hello everyone! This is my first attempt at a trip report, so take that for what it is worth.

This report covers a whirlwind RTW trip I took in January 2015 to visit friends around the world, along with some new places. This particular report covers the second leg of the trip, ORD-PEK. ***Full disclosure, the flights between TYS and HAN were an award redemption on UA on F/J Saver Award.*** At this point in time, I was a fairly loyal UA flyer (for several years) above the others. I held status on the major US3, but I have since consolidated all of my flying, when possible, onto AA to maximize benefits.

Original booked Itinerary:
UA TYS-IAD ERJ145 Y - no report, rerouted
UA IAD-PEK 772 F - It changed, but you are here
TG PEK-BKK 744 J - you'll find out below
TG BKK-HAN 333 J - you'll find out below

I had departed TYS without much fanfare, and the plane arrived into ORD ahead of schedule. A few days before the flight, my itinerary was changed rerouting me from TYS-ORD-PEK instead of the originally booked TYS-IAD-PEK. I made my way to the Global First Lounge to eat, err…drink, before the flight. I had promised myself I would NOT consume much alcohol so that when I eventually landed in Hanoi, Vietnam I would be ready to head to the tailor for a tuxedo fitting. Also, I was going to be getting on an overnight train to Sa Pa region to hike for several days, so I would have no time for recovery. (Back to the story at hand) I was the only person in the lounge. I also found it hard to refrain from the Vueve in the champagne chiller. I had a light lunch and a view of my ride to Beijing out the window.
photo 20150113_171717855_ios
Gratuitous photo
photo ticket

My favorite part about the lounge was being escorted directly to the plane. As I boarded the plane, I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by the Purser and the Captain, who escorted me to my seat. I settled into the cabin and was offered Champagne.

When the routing changed from IAD to ORD, I switch to a 747. I would consider it an upgrade, as the 772 and 747 have the same seat, but the front of F cabin isn't near the galley like in the 772. More privacy and less foot traffic.
photo capture
My three windows.
photo 20150113_174254715_ios
Making the space my home. The space, although open, is rather comfortable and plenty long enough for my 5'11" 150 lb frame.
photo 20150113_174301386_ios
The second themed amenities kit.
photo 20150113_182934193_ios
Pictures of the Global First cabin. Eventually 3 non-revs boarded in the back of the cabin. The cabin is starting to look drab and dated.
photo 20150113_213624525_ios
The beginning of the LONG wait…
photo 20150113_213630697_ios

So, it took a while for boarding. I mean a LONG while. And then…the announcement. Something like this "Attention passengers, due to a technical issue, we will be deplaning until further notice." I started to wonder whether I was going to have enough time to make it onto my connecting flight from PEK-BKK upon arrival to China. I stood up to collect my things, and someone said, "Excuse me, sir." I turned around to see the Captain standing there. He came to tell me that it looked like we would get into Beijing just in time for my Thai International flight to BKK, and he also told me that a row of seats in Economy had broken (I didn't ask what that meant), which is why we were going to have to wait for it to be fixed.

Y'all, I knew then that my tightly planned schedule was NOT going to happen the way I expected, but I knew that it was going to be interesting, nonetheless. Fast forward, 5 hours and LOTS of Champagne later, we boarded the plane, again. The Captain came back to inform me that it looked like we would still be able to make it just in time for my connection (Spoiler Alert: We didn't.) I settled back in for push back and departure, which took forever. Takeoff was exciting sitting in 1A, as you are forward of the cockpit. After getting airborne, I played around with reclining the seat as drinks were served, along with with menu for dinner.

Great legroom. The "suite" is very open, but seat 1A offers a bit of privacy.
photo 20150113_221338272_ios
The bedding was honestly better than I expected. You do have to ask for the mattress pad, as it isn't offered freely. (The Grand Hotel Budapest…one of my favorites)
photo 20150113_231219129_ios
More drinks.
photo 20150113_234520797_ios
The LONG haul ahead.
photo 20150114_000328375_ios
The menu.
photo 20150114_001009947_iosphoto 20150114_001019865_iosphoto 20150114_001029096_ios

I had the tomato soup and the pork dish. I had requested a vegan meal, but it wasn't loaded onto the plane, so I threw caution to the wind.

Sauvignon Blanc, Grand Marnier, Port, and Water (I think)
photo 20150114_010458314_ios

I want to point out that the cabin crew was exceptional. I travel frequently, and when I fly internationally, I tend to choose international carriers to get a better experience. Obviously, the Global First cabin, especially on the 747 on UA, is very long-in-the-tooth in terms of hard product, but the service was some of the best I have EVER experienced on an international flight. Was it First class international standards? No. It was phenomenal Business class service, which is what UA International F really is, but it very professional and non-invasive. Per my particular tastes, I prefer to not be coddled; I will let you know when I need something. Be proactive, but don't hover…that's what I got. (Back to the story at hand) I was sufficiently drunk at this point, so I asked for the mattress pad and bed to be made while I changed into my PJs. The lav is nothing special, but it has everything you would expect…like a toilet, sink, and paper towels. Oh, it also has toilet paper, if you were wondering. When I returned, the bed was made. It wasn't until I sobered up…woke up about 7 hours later that I realized the mattress pad wasn't on the seat. At that point, it didn't really matter.

My bed.
photo 20150114_032147807_ios
Selfie in bed.
photo 20150114_032218850_ios

Breakfast was then served, at what is a weird hour in the time zone you're going to.

I wasn't that hungry, but I ate. Since I realized that there was no way I would make the connecting flight, I figured I should eat anyway. I was going to miss my chance to ride upstairs in the Thai 747. We circled and circled and circled as we approached Beijing. The pollution was so thick that day we couldn't land until it cleared over the airport.

This obviously isn't the 3:30pm I was supposed to have landed. ;)
photo 20150114_115503243_ios
So I travel a LOT, but I hardly ever check a bag. This trip I checked 3 with 100kg of luggage, as I was delivering a massive amount of stuff to my friends who live in Hanoi. I was not expecting to have to deal with it until I landed in HAN…not so much my luck. Additionally, I had to wait at the luggage carousel for 2 hours because my luggage was LOST! I finally walked out of customs at 11:30pm Beijing time!!
photo 20150114_142342637_ios
Welcome to China
photo 20150114_143538000_ios
I am exhausted
photo 20150114_143936606_ios
photo 20150114_145318049_ios
After a pleading Facetime call to my Mom, she got on the phone with UA (my phone wouldn't work for some reason…China). I had been automatically rebooked for the flight the following evening, which would not work. So I got put in a suite at the Crowne Plaza near the airport and on a 6:00am Thai International A330-300 in J to BKK (trip report to follow). The following photo is me experiencing jet lag like a Fellini film walking back into the airport I had left only 4 hours prior.
photo 20150114_205201667_ios
See more



Cabin crew10.0

United First International Lounge


Chicago - ORD


Beijing - PEK



Overall thoughts about this particular flight are a mixed bag. The crew was extraordinary. The MASSIVE delay was a hassle, but, ultimately, I ended up where I was going. The food was good...if it were Business class. The seat was very comfortable (lacking in privacy), as was the bed, if it were Business class. I was flying on an award ticket that I had redeemed 70,000 miles (only 10,000 more miles than a J redemption) and spent $6.00 (I think), so holding that as the standard, I was pleased. HOWEVER, if I had paid the $10,500 (I looked it up) that this flight would have cost, I would not have been as pleased with the hard product offered. If I were paying for this flight, I would not have chosen this flight for any class of service.

I would NEVER pay for UA International F. It is a great upgrade seat (especially considering the packed UA International IPTE business class - 8 abreast product on the 747) or award seat, but not if you're paying, not in the current competitive climate. I realize I probably lucked out with the crew that day, too. The delays are just part of traveling, and as I always remind myself when I see other passengers MELTING DOWN over situations that they have absolutely no control over, "This is faster than walking."

Ultimately: Traveling on a UA 747 in F is more comfortable and faster than walking to China, especially considering the price!

- Nathan
Twitter and Instagram @jnathanhigdon

Information on the route Chicago (ORD) Beijing (PEK)

The contributors of Flight-Report published 4 reviews of 2 airlines on the route Chicago (ORD) → Beijing (PEK).


The airline with the best average rating is Hainan Airlines with 8.0/10.

The average flight time is 13 hours and 2 minutes.

  More information


If you liked this review or if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to post a comment below !
  • Comment 373226 by
    757Fan 618 Comments

    Great first report! Thanks for sharing.

    Wow, definitely looking at UA F's offering on this flight, I'd agree with you that it looks like a great Business Class product, but if this is Global First, it's not a cabin I'd pay for either. Sorry to hear about the long delay - how frustrating!

    Looking forward to your next report.

    • Comment 373227 by
      nate1879 AUTHOR 3 Comments

      Thanks! I lurked for a long time before I had the nerve to write one up about my own travels. I figured that I should contribute to a forum that I find so helpful to my own travels.

      Now that I've gotten the first out of the way, I will definitely do more. I'm just hit or miss on remembering to take photos. It often depends upon whether I am traveling for work (preoccupied) or pleasure (making notes/documenting something this isn't well documented already).

  • Comment 373248 by
    sbams 2 Comments

    Nice report - thanks for that!

    Not getting your pre-ordered special meal is unforgiveable in any class, but definitely a big no-no in First.

    You were cool about the delays (champagne always helps). I'll try to remember that when it's my turn to have things go wrong.

    BTW: Thai is TG, not TH

  • Comment 373673 by
    RandomBaritone 5 Comments

    Great TR. I'm always crushed when I see the same tired, dreadful entrees served on every single UA international flight, whether the passenger is in business or first. And not to bother loading a first class passenger's pre-ordered meal is unbelvable. Polaris can't come soon enough!

Login to post a comment.