Review of United flight Tokyo San Francisco in Economy

Airline United
Flight UA838
Class Economy
Seat 50L
Aircraft Boeing 787-9
Flight time 08:36
Take-off 23 Jan 21, 16:46
Arrival at 24 Jan 21, 08:22
UA   #37 out of 67 Airlines A minimum of 10 flight-reports within the past two years is required to appear in the rankings. 338 reviews
By 1612
Published on 6th June 2021


I have a couple of hours to kill in NRT but honestly there's not much to do since 90% of the shops are closed and I also found out my phone charging cable isn't working so watching shows is out of the question. Time to spend time napping at the gate.

United Airlines
Narita International Airport (NRT) - San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
Economy Class
Gate 35

ETD: 05:05PM
ATD: 04:46PM (19 minutes early)
ETA: 09:10AM
ATA: 08:22AM (48 minutes early)


After passing through security, I'm back at the departure area. Everything is just sitting around due to the lack of passenger traffic. 

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My boarding pass for this sector of the journey.  I have a couple of hours to kill but like in Changi, barely anything was open. Just a convenience store and a duty-free shop.

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Made my way to Gate 35 after confirming my flight details at the transfer desk.

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Passed by a FIDS. Just a sea of cancellations here, nothing else to see.

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Passed by my previous plane! Guess she's been unloaded and will be rested for the day.

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Although I did see a few UA planes about, guess the one I'll be taking isn't here yet.

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The gate area is quiet and empty, just like the rest of the terminal. Some of the staff are just sitting down, waiting for the plane. It's a slow time for them as well.

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Finally making her entrance. N29984 in the new UA livery. It's definitely modern looking.

Being unloaded and restocked for the return flight.

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More people arrived at the gate during this time. Seems like most of them were US troops as they were offered priority boarding upon arrival. A nice gesture by UA.

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Time for me to board. Definitely a larger flight than the previous but still empty.

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UA's Polaris Business class. This arrangement looks so much better than the weird configuration they have on the 777s.

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Seated in 50L today but like all the international flights in this series, I'm free to seat anywhere as long as I maintain social distancing. On first glance, the new cabin looks good but I don't know if I'm a fan the PU leather seats. I guess they're easier to clean and maintain than the normal cloth seats?

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As expected, UA's seat is… underwhelming after coming from an Asian carrier. Luckily, this is pandemic travel, so the entire row of seats is mine to occupy.

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People continue to board and shuffle around the seats.

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Empty row feat. older gentlemen who's already sleeping.

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The IFE welcome screen is pretty nice. I like how UA laid out the sequence of events of the flight.

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Across the Pacific Ocean, let's go!

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Cabin crew preparing for takeoff and offering cleaning wipes to passengers.

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Taking off into the pitch black of night.

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A take-off snack service was offered by the staff. Received a azuki mochi, rice crackers and a bottle of water.

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The dinner service was carried out about 2 hours into the flight. On the tray tonight, roasted chicken with rice, a rice vermicelli salad and a bun. Tasted good for UA's standards and my memory of the previous time I flew UA.

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Obligatory post-meal lavatory visit. An empty plane means a clean toilet. Like ANA, prepackaged cleaning wipes were available for self-service in the lavatory. I cleaned any surface before touching (just to be safe).

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Long way to go. Time to catch some sleep.

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The sun was rising again as I woke up. Managed to catch some decent sleep on this flight.

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An hour more till arrival and the crew announces that breakfast will be served soon.

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The cabin lights are slowly lit in a soft shade of blue.

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It's really morning now.

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Breakfast is a stir-fried pork noodle. It's average.

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As the plane begins it's final descent, the windows are opened, letting sunlight spill into the cabin.

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It has been a long journey across the Pacific.

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A smooth landing later, we begin disembarkation. As with the previous sector, passengers with connections are give priority to disembark from the plane.

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The low passenger capacity meant that disembarkation was a breeze.

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My first time ever in SFO and my first time back in the US in two decades!

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Collecting my bags from carousel 5 to be checked-in again for the domestic leg now.

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Cabin crew7.0

Tokyo - NRT


San Francisco - SFO



A pleasant flight from UA overall when compared to my previous SIN-HK route on their older 777. As expected, the service isn't as good when compared to an Asian airline but I felt the overall COVID management measures were sufficient. This flight was definitely above my low expectations for UA.

Information on the route Tokyo (NRT) San Francisco (SFO)

The contributors of Flight-Report published 5 reviews of 2 airlines on the route Tokyo (NRT) → San Francisco (SFO).


The airline with the best average rating is ANA with 7.9/10.

The average flight time is 9 hours and 14 minutes.

  More information


If you liked this review or if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to post a comment below !
  • Comment 574483 by
    NewYorker GOLD 169 Comments

    Hi Fiamaarin, many thanks for sharing this report! It's really crazy to see Narita so empty... I hope that soon enough it'll be business as usual again! It's nice to see that you got one of UA's 789s with Polaris and the new cabins. I'm curious, when you booked did the seatmap indicate that your aircraft would have the retrofitted cabins?

    This arrangement looks so much better than the weird configuration they have on the 777s.

    I agree that the old PMUA Business Class cabin was pretty weird, though the seats themselves weren't too bad. The old Business Class seat is now only found on United's regional 777s, so luckily you won't see them on any longhaul flights anymore.
    I've never actually flown UA Economy across the pacific, and while I'm sure it's not up to the standards of ANA or JAL, it seems like a pretty comfortable ride nonetheless. The new cabins definitely help!
    Looking forward to the rest of the series. In the meantime, happy flying! All the best, NY

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