Review of United flight San Francisco Tokyo in Economy

Airline United
Flight UA837
Class Economy
Seat 52L
Aircraft Boeing 787-9
Flight time 11:05
Take-off 18 Feb 21, 11:05
Arrival at 18 Feb 21, 15:10
UA   #45 out of 69 Airlines A minimum of 10 flight-reports within the past two years is required to appear in the rankings. 364 reviews
By BRONZE 1488
Published on 5th September 2021


This will be the second leg of my return journey from Boise, Idaho back to Singapore. After a minor departure delay in BOI, I've now arrived in SFO and will be making the long trip across the Pacific. At this point in time, I'm feeling pretty gloomy that my oversea trip is coming to an end but I'm glad I managed to travel internationally during this period when the whole world was virtually locked-down.

United Airlines
San Francisco International Airport (SFO) - Narita International Airport (NRT) B787-9
Economy Class
Gate G4

ETD: 11:05AM
ATD: 10:56AM (9 minutes early)
ETA: 03:10PM
ATA: 02:45PM (25 minutes early)

Boarding pass was issued in BOI during check-in.

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I made my way through SFO's domestic terminal which still had a reasonable amount of traffic.

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Connecting to my next leg through this portal, I mean door.

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Last few hours on US soil.

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There isn't much to picture in the international terminal as most shops were closed so I headed to my gate. And here she is, N29984, the same bird I took on my flight from NRT. She was now going to make another trip back to Japan.

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A combined FIDS displaying both domestic and international departures.

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Cargo trolleys begin to surround the 787 while her belly is opened to load them on.

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I will be departing from Gate G4 today.

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A view of the plane from the waiting area.

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The waiting area is quiet with no more than 30 passengers on this flight I believe.

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Before long, boarding commences. There's no rush to board since there's plenty of room on this flight.

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Down the hallway…

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… and into the plane we go!

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Passing by Polaris.

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And Premium Economy.

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I was originally seated in 35L but another couple seemed to be seated in the same row by the system so I offered to move to the rear since I arrived after them. Picked a quiet area and chose row 52 for this flight.

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United's seatback IFE. WiFi was available for purchase and power ports were also available.

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Rear cargo door is still open.

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Let's have a look at the flight map and some details for this flight.

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Having a browse through the movie selection.

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A look at the back of the plane.

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And now the front. The 787's cabin just seems so spacious.

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As we pushed back, the flight attendants handed out disinfecting wipes while the safety video played.

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A short presentation by United on the measures taken on their plane to combat the spread of COVID-19 during air travel.

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Slowly taxiing to the runway

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An interesting view from the flight map!

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Passing by N786UA in frankly terrible shape.

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Flight map has also started to update.

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After a fairly long taxi, we've finally taken off.

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Seeing the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time in my life!

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The cabin is silent except for the hum of the engines. The cabin lighting was softened to make it more comfortable for the passengers.

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No Polaris/Premium Economy? No worries!

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Once the plane levelled off, the crew went about handing these little bottle of mineral water.

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Fight information in English and Japanese.

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The sparse seatback content include just the safety card and an airsickness bag.

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A pre-meal drink is served. I picked a beer this time.

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Dinner is served. A portion of cream pasta, some salad, rice crackers and a roll. Standard United fare, no where near close to what an Asian or Middle-Eastern airline would offer. After the tray were collected, the crew served an ice cream sorbet.

Post-meal lavatory visit. It's pretty clean and more sanitizing wipes are available here

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The cabin lights are dimmed and the windows automatically tinted by the crew for the long pacific crossing.

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It doesn't look like we travelled very far 

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Getting really dark now. Even my camera is struggling to get a steady shot.

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More flight information.

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The crew came around distributing alcohol. I took a red wine before my nap.

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When I woke up, we were already on the other side of the Pacific. What a miracle potion that wine was. I went to ask the cabin crew if they had any candy I could suck on as I was having a little pressure in my ears but sadly, they had none to offer. 

Just over an hour before landing, the cabin crew slowly lit up the cabin in preparation for the second service. I was quite surprised as usually the second service would be done 2 hours prior to landing? I guess the low load factor could have allowed the cabin crew to do it at the very last minute.

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Our blue planet. 

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The second service consisted of a egg and bacon pastry. It was dense and heavy, very filling. The crew went about handing out seconds to anyone who wanted it. I took one as I had some time between my connection and having transited in NRT earlier, I knew there would be nothing much I could buy to eat.

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Making our final approach into NRT.

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Just a few minutes more.

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Less than 10mi to go.

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Touchdown in NRT!

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Taxiing to our gate.

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Cabin is now well-lit and window tints are gone.

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Disembarkation in NRT is strictly by destination with connecting passengers taking priority over those who were at their final destination.

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I moved out of the plane when the cabin crew announced that passengers with onward connections to other Asian destinations were now allowed to disembark.

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Once out of the plane, we were ushered by ground staff to a transfer desk to complete some paperwork.

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Cabin crew7.0

San Francisco - SFO


Tokyo - NRT



As expected, UA can't compete with the Asian or Middle-Eastern giants in terms of product. However, I'm glad they were very thorough with the cleaning and hygiene policy including mask wearing. Meals were basic, especially so for the second service. Also, I'm not sure but I think having small snacks or candies would definitely make the passenger experience better.

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

The contributors of Flight-Report published 4 reviews of 2 airlines on the route San Francisco (SFO) → Tokyo (NRT).


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

The average flight time is 10 hours and 50 minutes.

  More information


If you liked this review or if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to post a comment below !
  • Comment 580753 by
    KévinDC TEAM GOLD 5851 Comments

    Hi FiamaArin, beautiful pics and well-written report as always!

    Though travelling internationally in times of Covid can be complex, the positive side is planes are often empty on routes like this one where travel is restricted. And in cases where the flight in mostly empty, it's nice to have a whole row to stretch out. Arguably better than the premium economy experience where the armrests are fixed so you can't lay across multiple seats.

    The catering is unsurprisingly blah...US carriers have always done a mediocre job with Economy class catering, but in this case the second "meal" is particularly sad, especially for an 11h flight! I would expect to see this more on a 6-7 hour TATL, not a TPAC.

    That new UA livery is sexy though! And the newish UA cabins look nice in ever cabin.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Comment 580991 by
      FiamaArin BRONZE AUTHOR 69 Comments

      Hello Kevin,

      Thank you for always taking a look at my reports and I really appreciate it. The new cabin is a step up over the last time I flew on a 772 on the SIN-HKG route. My expectations for catering wasn't high but the breakfast was slightly disappointing and probably just another cost-cutting measure in this era of low passenger numbers.

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