Review of United flight Washington Frankfurt in Economy

Airline United
Flight UA989
Class Economy
Seat 35L
Aircraft Boeing 777-200ER
Flight time 07:45
Take-off 13 Mar 20, 18:25
Arrival at 14 Mar 20, 07:10
UA   #120 out of 141 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 318 reviews
ISTFlyer
By GOLD 1281
Published on 31st March 2020

Report No: 2020-301E


Ladies and Gentleman,


Welcome to this very interesting and thrilling Flight-Report series as the COVID-19 situation in the world affected my travel plans, however, not this time as I was able to return back to Europe as planned with some minor changes. This series would contain 2 parts, with 5 flights all on Economy Class, covering 3 different airlines, 6 different airports, 5 different lounges and 5 different aircraft types.


As I was heading to Graz, Austria for a day event, I have decided to use an open-jaw United ticket, which I was unable to use in the last few months which led me to fly IAD-FRA on United and FRA-GRZ on Lufthansa CityLine. As I paid change and service fees around $250 + fare difference to reactivate this Economy Discount ticket, I stuck with traveling on Economy Class for this occasion. ( Changes were made early January ).


The first flight would be a United flight from Washington Dulles Airport to Frankfurt Airport onboard the 777-200ER of United. During my time at Washington Dulles Airport, I have also visited the Turkish Airlines Lounge over there and would also cover it at this report.


The first part of the routing would be revealed at the moment, but unfortunately, you would need to stay tuned with Flight-Report for the second part.



Pax for this flight:

Polaris: %70
PremiumPlus: %33
Economy: %60-65 


Actual Loads from the United app


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The day before the flight, I have received an e-mail from United stating my inflight entertainment options.


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ONLINE CHECK-IN


The same day, during the evening, I have attempted to check-in online.


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First, I have changed my seat to 35L which is actually considered as a "Preferred Seat" during booking. At this time, I haven't considered purchasing an upgrade, despite the upgrade fees were lower than usual.


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As you might know, United does not have an online visa verification system so my Schengen visa must be checked at the counter so, I was unable to issue boarding passes at this time.


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The day before the flight, the upgrade offers for Polaris was even lower. However, still a no for the upgrade. 


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Washington Dulles AIRPORT - IAD


I have arrived at IAD, around 2 hours 15 minutes before our scheduled departure time.


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From the drop-off area, it was visible that test drives for the metro extension to the airport is still ongoing, however, it's still unclear to tell when the metro would open to service. 


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As I hold *G status, I simply headed to the Premier Access desks which are behind the regular Economy desks.


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As I am unable to check-in through the kiosks, I waited a bit for an agent to become available. After a friendly and efficient check-in process which took longer than usual, because of the agent serving me was in training, I was all set and my paper boarding passes were handed.


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Boarding passes


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However, I decided to use this mobile boarding pass as it's more efficient


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Shortly later, I have headed to the East Security Checkpoint and learned that the Priority lane was closed. However, there was no wait for the document check control and a 5-10 minute wait for security which was fair enough. FIDS when I just passed security.


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Later on, I decided to take the walkway to Terminal B, in order to use the Turkish Airlines Lounge over there which has better offerings than all of the United Clubs in Terminal C/D.


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This Saudia 787-9 greeted me when I arrived at the A/B concourse.


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As the COVID-19 situation had become more serious, the terminal was emptier than usual.


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Turkish Airlines LOUNGE - Washington Dulles AIRPORT


As I mentioned earlier, today, I have decided to use the Turkish Airlines Lounge before my flight in order to have a small refreshing meal before the flight. I have accessed the lounge via my Star Alliance Gold card.


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The lounge was a bit crowded as PriorityPass access was allowed at that time. During peak hours, the lounge does not accept PriorityPass access.


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The lounge has a small business and TV corner near the entrance.


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And a bar at the rear side


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The food buffet is located near the entrance, alongside with 4 different main courses and 2 soups


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Mediterranean mezzes were also available


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The main dishes that were beef, chicken, rice and a vegetarian option


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The dessert bar


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Snacks


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Coffee/tea options


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Enter text here…


The lounge has a nice view of the apron as well


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While enjoying my tea,


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This Lufthansa 747-8i had arrived from Frankfurt. This was the last Lufthansa arrival at IAD until the travel restrictions from Europe end.


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About 1h10min before scheduled departure time, I have left the lounge and walked to the moon buggy station at A gates, to go to D gates where my flight would depart.


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A view of the moon buggy ( mobile lounge )


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During our short moon buggy trip, I had the opportunity to spot different aircraft


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Concourses A/B


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G-VKSS would head to London that evening


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SE-RKB would operate the last SAS flight to Copenhagen that day, until the restrictions end


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This BA super-jumbo was parked at gate B42/B44.


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And our aircraft, N229UA which would take me to Frankfurt


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Southwest 737-800


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United aircraft parked at Concourse D


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Concourse C/D has a pretty unmodern view and looks like a typical US airport with low ceilings. By the way, it's noticeable that the United terminal is not crowded today.


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GATE AREA & BOARDING


Regardless of the flight being not fully booked, there was not enough seating around the gate so I was standing-up until boarding started.


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N229UA from both sides


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The podium


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Boarding started right on time with priorities being respected, I have boarded the aircraft with Group 1.


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UA 989 Washington Dulles AIRPORT TO FRANKFURT AIRPORT


After being welcomed by the crew at the aircraft door ( which is too rare for US carriers ), I have headed to my seat in the UnitedEconomy cabin. On the way, the rear Polaris Cabin


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The PremiumPlus cabin


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And, the front UnitedEconomy cabin


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And my seats today; as seats 35J and 35K was empty I had all the row for myself. All seats in the Economy cabin had a blanket and a pillow.


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The seats were comfortable


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And the legroom was pretty decent, especially when most of the overhead bins are empty and when you don't need to put something under the seat.


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Each seat is equipped with power outlets, and USB ports.


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Also, in addition to United PrivateScreening, all seats have personal screens which offers an entertainment system in multiple languages.


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The main menu of the IFE system


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While boarding was ongoing, this AirFrance 777-300ER had just arrived from Paris.


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IFE - UA 989 Washington Dulles AIRPORT TO FRANKFURT AIRPORT


As a usual United flight, the seat pocket contained the Hemispheres magazine, the safety card and the UnitedExplorer credit card flyer.


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United Transatlantic and several other routes


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UA European destinations


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Many different entertainment options were available throughout the flight


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Including movies and TV shows on the IFE screen


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Wi-Fi and United Private Screening


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An overview of the United Personal Entertainment main menu


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Route map


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The options of Wi-Fi for today's flight. The 1h option seems much better than the 2h one…


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Route information on the IFE screen


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United fleet and information about our aircraft from the Hemispheres magazine


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And an interesting article, I highly doubt that United is not being serious…


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Shortly before push-back the Star Wars themed safety video was played from the personal screens.


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The video had English and German subtitles as well.


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As we started to push back, the cabin crew asked to open our window blinds for take off.


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A United regional jet in the new livery


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Last shot of the A/B concourse


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We're taxiing to the runway


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And due to a technical error in the flight routing system ( as far as I remember ), the captain announced that we would wait until the issue was solved.


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I assume that this was a general United issue as other UA aircraft started to park next to us.


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At that time, the cabin crew distributed earbuds for those who will.


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And after a wait of 10 minute wait, the captain announced that the issue was solved, and possibly due to many of the passengers having onward connections, we were the first one to take-off.


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We're finally in the air


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Last shots of IAD


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We're gaining altitude


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Northern suburbs


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The Potomac river


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Another shot of IAD


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Joint Base Andrews


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Downtown Washington DC


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And we're heading towards the Atlantic


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And I've settled to my bed position for the flight


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DINNER - UA 989 Washington Dulles AIrpORT TO FRANKFURT AIRPORT


Shortly after the seatbelt signs have turned off, pretzels and a drink of choice was served by the cabin crew.


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Shortly later, the meal trays were distributed. The options were chicken, pasta and vegetarian. I opted for the pasta option. The tray contained bread, butter and a salad as well.


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Drink refills were also offered when the trays were distributed.


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Both the salad and the main course was delicious, however, I found it cheap for a legacy airline to cater frozen food and ship them to their hubs. As you might notice on the main course on top, the meal was prepared at Illinois, rather than a catering facility near IAD.


Spinach & Mushroom Manicotti with Veggie Bolognese Cream Sauce


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Later on, the dessert service begun and a bottle of water was given to each passenger. Today's dessert would be a vanilla bean ice-cream.


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Before sleeping, I visited the lavatory which was clean at that time. It's pretty rare to find a clean lavatory on USA based carriers.


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And the route map at that time


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BREAKFAST - UA 989 Washington Dulles AIRPORT TO FRANKFURT AIRPORT


And before our arrival, breakfast was served. The tray contained a strawberry yoghurt, a croissant, butter and jam. This offering is much more better than the offering of BA which only offers a packed croissant on eastbound breakfast.


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We were over the UK at that time


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After breakfast trays were collected and we were asked to open our window blinds.


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And, we're approaching to the newer runway at FRA


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And we've successfully landed at FRA


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Passing over the Autobahn


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A Lufthansa 747-400 parked at a remote stand


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Austrian and Lufthansa narrow body jets


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Some more


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And we would park at gate Z20 next to another United 777-200ER


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FRANKFURT AIRPORT - FRA


And after checking that I gathered my belongings and saying goodbye to the crew, I have left the aircraft. When I arrived at the terminal, I've noticed that my gate for my onward flight has changed. 


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It was now time to clear passport control and head to the Senator Lounge to have a shower.


The series would continue with the next report. This report has come to an end. Thanks for reading.

See more

Verdict

United

7.9/10
Cabin8.0
Cabin crew7.5
Entertainment/wifi8.0
Meal/catering8.0

Turkish Airlines Lounge

8.4/10
Comfort8.0
Meal/catering8.5
Entertainment/wifi8.5
Services8.5

Washington - IAD

7.9/10
Efficiency8.0
Access7.5
Services8.0
Cleanliness8.0

Frankfurt - FRA

8.5/10
Efficiency9.0
Access8.5
Services8.5
Cleanliness8.0

Conclusion

Although United was not my top choice, they were the only feasible option for my trip to Graz which fit into my schedule; however, they were much better than I expected. Also, I would like to add that luckily my flights were not canceled in the COVID-19 chaos. The experience in IAD was not the best, with a long check-in process due to an agent in training in addition to a manual visa verification, however, the agents were friendly. Security in IAD was not worse but the priority lane was closed like usual, assuming that there are people who pay for PremierAccess for a smoother process, this seems unfair to them. That day I was between using the TK or the LH Lounge, however, I decided to use the TK Lounge which had decent food and amenities, however, it was crowded and it was difficult to find a seat. The boarding process was made with respect to priorities and when I stepped in the UA 77E, I was greeted by one of the crew members, which I was not used to on United flights. Just to add that the FRA and IAD based crew onboard was much better than an average UA crew. The IFE options are pretty good with lots of selections and the Wi-Fi a decent price. The seats were also comfortable and had adequate legroom for an average height person. Toilets were also kept clean throughout the flight, however, the disadvantage of UA is that they serve pre-packed frozen food onboard their transatlantic flights. I know DL and AA doing the same thing, but compared to European airlines that cater their food from a catering facility near the airport, this is a huge minus; however, the food was delicious and the amount of the food served was pretty fair. Also, a bottle of water was served before switching off the lights, which most EU carriers don't, and drink runs were made throughout the flight. So, depending on the price, I might reconsider flying UA again on a transatlantic journey but definitely not when a better airline has similar prices with them; however, with their good ex-IST PremiumPlus fares, I might try their Premium Economy product later this year.

IAD
(+) Friendly check-in agents
(+) Priorities respected throughout the boarding process
(-) The priority security lane was closed
Turkish Airlines Lounge IAD
(+) Meal and beverage options
(+) Business and TV areas
(-) Difficulty to find a seat
UA 989
(+) Comfortable seats and decent legroom
(+) Entertainment options and decent Wi-Fi prices
(+) Tasty meals ( both dinner and breakfast )
(+) Friendly crew
(+) Toilets were clean during my visit
(-) Meals were frozen and pre-packed rather than fresh
FRA
Nothing special to mention

Information on the route Washington (IAD) Frankfurt (FRA)

The contributors of Flight-Report published 12 reviews of 2 airlines on the route Washington (IAD) → Frankfurt (FRA).


Useful

The airline with the best average rating is Lufthansa with 7.4/10.

The average flight time is 7 hours and 50 minutes.

  More information

9 Comments

  • Comment 548930 by
    NewYorker SILVER 79 Comments

    Thanks for this nice report, ISTFlyer! I really like United's new cabins. They are stylish, and seem to be quite comfortable as well. The catering also looked tasty, and I'm impressed by the breakfast offering. Much better than LH/OS! Thanks for sharing, and I look forward to the next reports.

    • Comment 548931 by
      ISTFlyer GOLD AUTHOR 216 Comments

      Hi NewYorker and welcome to this Flight-Report

      I really like United's new cabins. They are stylish, and seem to be quite comfortable as well.

      - Definitely the new UA cabins are better than I expected and comfortable, however, leather seats are not my top choice on long haul flights.
      The catering also looked tasty, and I'm impressed by the breakfast offering. Much better than LH/OS!

      - Yes, indeed it was tasty and the breakfast was better than the musli-bar and fruit offering of Lufthansa with no bread & butter. Also, I'm glad that UA decided to change its yogurt brand from Chobani to another brand, as this yogurt tasted much better than Chobani.
      Thanks for sharing, and I look forward to the next reports.

      - Hope to see you there, thanks for stopping by :)

  • Comment 549049 by
    KL651 TEAM 4471 Comments

    Thanks for this FR.
    Wow $489 for Polaris vs $399 for Premium, for anyone willing to upgrade, that's a no brainer!
    Same complaint as ever on UA's catering, tasty but badly presented.
    The new cabins look really good though!

    • Comment 549053 by
      ISTFlyer GOLD AUTHOR 216 Comments

      Hi KL651 and thanks for stopping by

      Wow $489 for Polaris vs $399 for Premium, for anyone willing to upgrade, that's a no brainer!

      - When the loads are pretty low, yes, but I simply preferred to get a 3 seat block in Y, which I knew I would get one. However, if Y was full, I may have taken the Polaris offer.
      Same complaint as ever on UA's catering, tasty but badly presented.

      - I am pretty sure that UA's catering would not improve further, I wouldn't be surprised if they start bringing frozen food from a Latin American country and serve than on ex-US flights. However, the main course in the dinner was really tasty.
      The new cabins look really good though!

      - Yes, they are and they are super comfortable as a bed when you have three of them. Also, the legroom for regular Economy was surprisingly decent.

      Thank you for your comment and hope to see you on another report.

  • Comment 549124 by
    JW19 120 Comments

    Not too bad from UA but will still avoid 10 across 777s like a plague. Width is tremendously uncomfortable especially when you have someone portly beside.

    • Comment 549125 by
      ISTFlyer GOLD AUTHOR 216 Comments

      Hi JW19 and thanks for your comment,

      Not too bad from UA but will still avoid 10 across 777s like a plague. Width is tremendously uncomfortable especially when you have someone portly beside.

      - I haven't experienced that so I couldn't comment on that. But I'll definitely prefer a LH 747-8i or a BA 744 compared to a UA 77E.

      Once again, thanks for stopping by.

  • Comment 549196 by
    Manbou 34 Comments

    Hi,
    thanks for the nice report from UA's Economy. Looks like you had a nice flight, especially with your "Economy Suite." AFAIK, Economy entrées are usually sourced from specialized manufacturers and then shipped to wherever needed, so the Illinois meal wouldn't have surprised me that much ;)
    Still, I don't think that 10-abreast 777s (or 9-abreast 787s) are not acceptable for long-haul flights. It's probably okay if you have adequate legroom and a free seat, but there's no guarantee for either of that.

    • Comment 549201 by
      ISTFlyer GOLD AUTHOR 216 Comments

      Hi Manbou and welcome to this Flight-Report,

      Looks like you had a nice flight, especially with your "Economy Suite."

      - Yes, the Economy Suite was comfortable enough so I wasn't mad to myself after the flight as the upgrade prices were super low.
      AFAIK, Economy entrées are usually sourced from specialized manufacturers and then shipped to wherever needed, so the Illinois meal wouldn't have surprised me that much ;)

      - Yes, I realized that. AFAIK, only US carriers and LC carriers do that. I haven't seen this in any European company onboard their transatlantic flights.
      Still, I don't think that 10-abreast 777s (or 9-abreast 787s) are not acceptable for long-haul flights. It's probably okay if you have adequate legroom and a free seat, but there's no guarantee for either of that.

      - With cheaper prices, I would find it acceptable, but I would not pay $1500 r/t for this seat on the same route during high-season. Luckily, I'm not super tall so the legroom was adequate and for future flights on the UA 77E, I probably wouldn't feel the need of purchasing an EconomyPlus seat for 4 inches more legroom.

      Once again, thanks for your comment and hope to see you on another report.

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