Review of United flight Hong Kong San Francisco in Business

Airline United
Flight UA862
Class Business
Seat 13K
Aircraft Boeing 747-400
Flight time 11:55
Take-off 24 Dec 16, 12:20
Arrival at 25 Dec 16, 08:15
UA   #68 out of 94 Airlines A minimum of 10 flight-reports within the past two years is required to appear in the rankings. 450 reviews
linard76
By 3433
Published on 1st February 2017
Greetings,

I'm pleased to share this trip report on a very special journey with United on their iconic Boeing 747-400s. I knew going in that this was most likely one of my last chance to fly a United "Queen of the Skies" before they were retired. With that in mind, I elected to upgrade from my normal choice of 60B in economy (the best window seat in economy in my opinion) and try United's just launched Polaris soft product using miles.

This choice would be a good one as it was announced shortly after my flight that the SFO to HKG route would see an equipment change to the 77Ws in the first quarter and then the sad news that the retirement of the 747s would be pushed forward to the end of 2017.

In any case, let's move onto the trip report.

Lounge

As HKG is a pretty important hub for United, they have their own United Club Lounge and offers a fairly comfortable place to relax before a flight. My only real complaint is that the breakfast spread was lacking for an international business class lounge.

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Other than the meagre breakfast selection, the lounge itself attractively designed and offers a number of different seating options.

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I especially like that as the lounge is situated at the major intersection of the main terminal, it offers both a great view of the apron as well as the terminal itself.

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I left for the gate once I saw the plane pulling in the distance.

Boarding

Today's flight would be served by N107UA, an 18 year veteran with United and powered by four Pratt and Whitney PW4056s.

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A few minutes before boarding was scheduled to start, I lined up so that I'd be able to board the plane before everyone else to snap some photos.

In a bit of luck, I randomly checked the United app and noticed that 13K was available which is an upper deck window seat. I originally selected 9A as it offers a great view of the iconic wing and had an empty seat next to it but mainly because no upper deck seats were available. When I checked with the gate agent, she suggested I move upstairs because the flight was completely full and there would be no empty seats. I rejoined the line and boarding started promptly on-time.

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I boarded through L1 and was greeted by a friendly flight attendant. I then peeked into the economy plus cabin and took this shot.

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And then peered out the R2 door to glance at the iconic wing.

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I then headed upstairs into the "hump." The idea of stairs on a plane still amazes me.

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While United legacy business configuration has been derided as being tight, it's more acceptable upstairs with a fairly industry standard 2 by 2 arrangement. By no means state of the art, it's still a very comfortable and intimate cabin.

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With the launch of Polaris, United has upgraded their bedding which highlighted the value of the extra window storage bins on the upper deck because otherwise, there's no place to store all the sleeping gear. The pile later grew with the addition of United pyjamas.

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The flight deck was fully staffed today.

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While the seats themselves are comfortable and legroom was great, they are a generation behind the newest all-aisle access business products. But truly the best part was this would be my first time flying in a rear-facing airplane seat.

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My seat was very supportive and I like that the IFE screens are mounted on a large bulkhead which increases the sense of privacy.

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The seat controls were on the armrest and were easy to use. However, since they are bunched together in a pod, it's pretty easy to accidentally activate your neighbor's seat controls.

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The crew then handed out the new Polaris branded amenity kits which are a substantial upgrade from the previous kits. My neighbour kindly held up the kit so I could photograph it.

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The crew came through the cabin with warm towels and offered drinks and chocolates as boarding continued downstairs.

Once the door was closed, the captain welcomed the passengers and announced that we'd arrive over an hour early into SFO due to the strong jet stream. I was slightly disappointed that my time with the queen would be cut short to just 10.5 hours.

As we taxied out to the runway, we passed by the sad Orient Thai B744 that was seized by Hong Kong authorities over unpaid airport bills.

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Take off was relaxed with a full load of fuel, passengers and cargo but the sound of the Pratts is as lovely as ever.

Once we reached cruising altitude, I started my walkabout.

Stairs! On a plane!

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United Polaris First is comfortable with direct aisle access for all seats but not really up the standard of other international first class products.

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The 747's main deck Polaris business cabin is pretty dense with a 2 by 4 by 2 arrangement.

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Economy was totally full today.

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I love seeing these old Airfone relics from the 90s. I can't remember the last time I ever saw anyone use them.

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And I'm not sure I'd drink water from the storage tank of an 18-year old aircraft.

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The view out of L2 and R2 was awesome as we were passing by some volcanic islands off the coast of southern Japan.

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I returned to my seat just as the attendants were preparing the lunch service. United has revamped their catering which seems to have improved quite a bit. While I didn't take photos of my main, it was a lovely miso salmon fillet with rice.

Dessert remains the truly awesome build-you-own ice cream sundae with optional bite-sized pastries and treats.

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I took a measurement of the sound level on the upper deck which is pretty competitive with what I've recorded on the upper deck of the A380.

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Last glimpse of the outside world before I grabbed some shuteye.

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I managed to sleep a few hours before the urge to eat and wander around the queen woke me back up.

The flight attendants set up a these little snack stations in first and both decks of business which was nice.

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The United app offers free entertaining streaming and basic flight status.

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I was still a bit peckish so I ordered a grilled cheese with tomato soup. The other option which looked (and smelled) tasty was the chicken katsu with curry.

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Back to bed with just about 5 hours left to go.

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About 75 minutes before landing the flight attendants served breakfast. I chose the cheese and mushroom omelette over the other option which I don't remember at the moment.

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By the time breakfast was completed, we were over Marin County and the flight attendants were preparing the cabin for landing.

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Passing by Oakland before crossing the bay.

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Landing was textbook smooth and we ended up being more than an hour early. SFO is United and United 747 land.

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Upon landing, I was invited to see the flight deck which I happily obliged :)

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And this concludes my trip report.

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See more

Verdict

United

8.4/10
Cabin7.5
Cabin crew8.5
Entertainment/wifi9.0
Meal/catering8.5

United Airlines Red Carpet Club

8.0/10
Comfort8.5
Meal/catering7.0
Entertainment/wifi8.5
Services8.0

Hong Kong - HKG

8.9/10
Efficiency9.0
Access9.0
Services9.0
Cleanliness8.5

San Francisco - SFO

8.6/10
Efficiency9.0
Access8.5
Services8.5
Cleanliness8.5

Conclusion

I completely enjoyed this flight and was disappointed it ended earlier than expected.

While the aircraft and business class seats are past their prime, United's 747s are still a remarkably comfortable way to travel (in first and business). A flat bed is still a flat bed.

The cabin crew was efficient and I sense there's a newfound sense of enthusiasm at United.

Best of all, I got to fly a 747 before going home for Christmas.

Information on the route Hong Kong (HKG) San Francisco (SFO)

3 Comments

If you liked this review or if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to post a comment below !
  • Comment 384197 by
    Nick 171 Comments
    Too bad you ended up on the 747 instead of the 77W you were expecting. I'm sure United had no motivation to renovate the 747s with their impending retirement. At least you were on the upper deck instead of the crowded 2-4-2 lower cabin. Thanks for the great report!
  • Comment 384203 by
    indianocean SILVER 7574 Comments
    The first few details of the new Polaris product like the amenity kit and Saks bedding look good to me. I'm eager to discover it in the new B777-300ER.

    It's very sad to know that soon, all the Queens of the Skies will be retired.

    Thank you for sharing
  • Comment 386424 by
    DiegoSS02 78 Comments
    Excellent report on a plane that will soon be history!!! Your screenshot of flight information shows that because of the strong jet stream, you were flying at 1204 kph (748 mph), flying at the almost exact speed of sound (1234 kph/767 mph)!!!

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