Review of United flight Osaka San Francisco in Business

Airline United
Flight UA 886
Class Business
Seat 13A
Aircraft Boeing 777-200ER
Flight time 09:57
Take-off 20 Jul 11, 17:10
Arrival at 21 Jul 11, 11:07
UA   #113 out of 132 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 289 reviews
jetsetpanda
By 6062
Published on 1st November 2013
During my short trip to Osaka, I decided to concentrate on Kyoto and took the train there the following morning. Kyoto is a fascinating place full of contrasts where the old meets the new and the modern with the traditional. As a former imperial capital it retains a regal air that makes it so different from other modern cities in Japan.




I have always admired the Japanese innate sense of beauty evident in their daily lives - the presentation of food, flowers, interiors, etc. The clean and simple style verge on minimalism, yet some of us equate this with elegance. Kyoto was the right place to find these manifestations and as an amateur photographer I welcomed the surprises that I encountered around every corner.

I am passionate about food and while in Kyoto I looked forward to visiting the Nishiki market (known as Kyoto's kitchen) where anything edible is found here and many restaurant owners get their food supplies early in the morning. The market is a covered arcade that is about 6 blocks long, making it an ideal destination for a rainy day (which was the case during my entire stay here). It runs east-west from Teramachi to Takakura street and one block north of Shijo street. Pickled vegetables are big in Japan and there is no shortage of stores selling these in the market. Stores range from chic and stylish produce boutiques to mom and pop tiny stalls, but all of them are quite engaging and fun to discover.


Produce store

photo IMG_0088 (800x533)


Pickled vegetables

photo DSCF2897 (800x600)


Fresh seafood

photo DSCF2899 (800x600)


Traiteur japonais

photo DSCF2898 (800x600)

Being in Kyoto, I also wanted to experience a kaiseki meal, even a condensed version if you will. Underneath the Kyoto station one can find Porta, the largest underground shopping mall in the city. The mega complex holds more than 200 stores, boutiques and restaurants. Because of its convenient location, I spent some time here and frequented a couple of good Japanese restaurants. A few establishments are quite popular with the locals and you can find a line out of the door during lunch time. Most of the cuisine is predominantly Japanese ranging from okonomiyaki (pancakes with a variety of toppings) to kaiseki style meals, although I also saw a Chinese and Italian place.

In addition, there is the Isetan department store food basement where one can find an astonishing array of pastries and food stuff. If you crave for bread Andersen bakery with its self service approach provides a good fix. Just pick up a tray and thong, select what you want and pay at the cashier. The Cube is a group of stores selling typical Japanese crafts and food. There is a location down here as well as on the first floor by the main entrance of the station. Inside Isetan there is a group of restaurants located on the 11th floor with another food hall below. During my short visit I saw blocks of fish roe, seafood and deli items sold.


Food basement

photo DSCF2672 (800x600)photo DSCF2680 (800x600)


Kaiseki meals are considered the height of Japanese cuisine composed of a variety of small dishes showcasing different cooking techniques. Food is carefully arranged in order to maximize the visual aesthetics and the meal should be as pleasing to the eyes as it is to the mouth. Fresh and local ingredients are used and the result should be a balance of taste, texture and appearance. It might include soup, sashimi, a simmered, grilled, steamed or fried course, a vinegar dish to cleanse the palate or pickles, in addition to other dishes that are up to the chef's discretion.


Kayseki meal




After one more trip to the Isetan's food hall followed by a satisfying meal at an underground restaurant, I took the train directly to Kansai airport to catch my flight back to San Francisco. Today's flight was slightly overbooked by about 18 people but there was some decent availability in J. I did not foresee any problem getting onboard. I checked at the kiosk and went through security quickly. Once at the gate I used the free computer provided to check some email. Soon more people arrived at the gate and at 1 hr. before departure a couple of names were called. It was now 15 min. before departure and I was not called yet. At this time I saw a couple of people milling around and a quick glimpse at their boarding management cards revealed that they were non-revenues too. The nail biting continued and finally people approached the gate agent for information. The agent had a fistful of boarding cards in her hands and started asking for names. When I gave her mine I was presented with a boarding pass for seat 11E in J. I was thankful and proceeded to board the plane. Once I settled in my middle seat I saw a couple over at 13AB get up and move to the front. The door closed and those seats remained empty. I asked a flight attendant if i could occupy those seats and she asked me to wait. About 30 seconds later she came back and gave me the ok. She told me to take the window seat because 13B had to remain vacant for the child seating directly behind it. By now I felt pretty lucky because I went from a middle seat to a window with an empty seat next to me in business. As a matter of fact I was the only person in the cabin in a 2 seat row with an unoccupied seat on the side. Who said 13 is an unlucky number?

Plane

photo UA 886 KIX-SFO (1) (800x533)


Business cabin

The first picture was taken from another flight but it is the same equipment so you can get the idea of what the seats look like.

photo UA 317 SFO-LAX (2) (2000x1471) (800x587)


UA KIX-SFO cabin




Bye Osaka

photo UA 886 KIX-SFO (2) (800x567)photo UA 886 KIX-SFO (3) (800x600)


Nice sunset

photo UA 886 KIX-SFO (21) (800x600)

FA's handed out menus and pre-dept. drinks before take off and once we reached cruising altitude service began with hot towels followed by drinks with warm nuts. The purser came to my seat and asked for my 1st and 2nd meal choices. I asked her to surprised me and she liked the answer. As a non-rev I was happy to be given anything and I am not a particularly picky eater, which is a blessing.



Here's the sample menu:

beginnings

SUSHI SAMPLER

A selection of vegetarian and seafood sushi rolls with pickled ginger, edamame and fresh salad greens, served with shiso vinaigrette

If you have chosen the Washoku Zen meal, the appetizer selection is served as the starter.


main course

PAN-SEARED FILET MIGNON WITH BALSAMIC ONION DEMI-GLACE
Baked stuffed potato with chives and asparagus

COUNTRY-STYLE CHICKEN WITH CHICKEN JUS LIE
Penne pasta with three cheese sauce and spring peas

WASHOKU ZEN SELECTION
Appetizers of snapper sushi, simmered shrimp, lightly salted flounder wrapped in seaweed, chicken in cod egg roll, baby bamboo with dried fish flakes, beef sirloin with Japanese dressing, maitake mushroom and cha soba noodles topped with tenkasu

A main course of sea bass wakasa yaki with gin-an, simmered enoki mushroom and mizuna and baby asparagus served with steamed rice and Japanese pickled vegetables
Served with green tea
Items in this meal may contain MSG.

to finish
ARTISAN CHEESE SELECTION
Served with red grapes and crackers

SPECIALTY DESSERT


prior to arrival
FRESH SEASONAL FRUIT PLATE
With creamy yogurt

For the heartier appetite, you may select the following entree:
VEGETABLE FRITTATA WITH OVEN-ROASTED TOMATO SAUCE
Pork link sausages

Today's menu features beef from Australia.




WINES

champagne
NICOLAS FEUILLATTE BRUT RESERVE PARTICULIERE NV, CHAMPAGNE

white wine
PAZO SAN MAURO ALBARINO 2007, RIAS BAIXAS, SPAIN

PELLEGRINI OLIVET LANE CHARDONNAY 2008, RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY, CALIFORNIA

or

GEYSER PEAK CHARDONNAY 2009, ALEXANDER VALLEY


red wine
EVODIA GARNACHA 2009, CALATAYUD, SPAIN

or

CHATEAU PESQUIE LES TERRASSES (GRENACHE BLEND) 2009, COTES DU VENTOUX

CHATEAU SIGOGNAC MEDOC CRU BOURGEOIS 2008


sake
GEKKEIKAN JUNMAI-SHU IS AVAILABLE ON FLIGHTS TO AND FROM JAPAN

Fonseca Guimaraens LBV Port will be offered during the main meal's dessert.



Drink with warm nuts.

photo UA 886 KIX-SFO (8) (800x600)


The appetizer with the combined salad seemed lacking. I am not in favor of lumping appetizers and salad together and to me this is a cost saving move.

photo UA 886 KIX-SFO (12) (800x560)


Notice the salt and pepper container.

photo UA 886 KIX-SFO (16) (800x600)


At least the butter is nicely piped into a ramekin.

photo UA 886 KIX-SFO (18) (800x614)


My surprise main meal turned out to be the chicken. Although it tasted fine, the presentation and quality were deficient and they were nothing gourmet befitting a front cabin. As a matter of fact this could have been frozen dinner from a supermarket plated on china.

photo UA 886 KIX-SFO (20) (800x541)


The passenger behind me asked to be served later but the flight attendant advised him that all meals were already placed in the oven and his request could not be honored. That was really premium service!

For dessert, a selection of two cheeses with grapes was plated from the cart and this was a more proper way to deliver it as opposed to being pre-plated. I opted for the ice cream and asked for a bottle of Kahlua to pour on top. I had to remind the flight attendant to give me the wafer because at first she just handed me the ice cream without extras.

photo UA 886 KIX-SFO (23) (800x600)photo UA 886 KIX-SFO (25) (800x598)


The whole dinner service was quick and at times seemed rushed. There was some turbulence during the first hour of the flight so that might have accounted for the speedy delivery. Afterwards water runs were made frequently but no snacks were available in the galley. I was hoping for some leftover cheese and grapes but there was none. About 1.5 hrs before arrival the second service started and the flight attendants offered orange, apple, tomato or cranberry juice from a tray. The cart was rolled and I was given the frittata along with a warm croissant.

Breakfast

photo UA 886 KIX-SFO (29) (800x540)photo UA 886 KIX-SFO (31) (800x546)


Landing was smooth and we passed by downtown San Francisco in our descent.

photo UA 886 KIX-SFO (37) (800x600)



See more

Verdict

United

5.9/10
Cabin6.5
Cabin crew6.0
Entertainment/wifi7.5
Meal/catering3.5

Osaka - KIX

9.4/10
Efficiency9.0
Access9.0
Services9.5
Cleanliness10.0

San Francisco - SFO

9.4/10
Efficiency9.0
Access9.5
Services9.5
Cleanliness9.5

Conclusion

I enjoyed my visit to this part of Japan and hope to explore Kyoto more in depth in a future trip. This is one culture that has an exquisite sense of visual aesthetics and this trait is evident in their daily lives.

I feel fortunate that I was able to get J class on the return and have an empty seat next to me. Catering and service need to improve significantly in order to be considered in the same league as the most prominent Asian carriers. Luckily the new J seats that UA has installed is a step in the right direction, but there is plenty of room for improvement.

Related

19 Comments

  • Comment 91469 by
    Grosnavion 582 Comments

    Thank you for having shared this flight with us!

  • Comment 91470 by
    nteflyjin 683 Comments

    Thanks for the report. I love the Kyoto and Japanese meals pictures. A few questions about the flight though: no PTV in J? Or they were in the armrests? What about the seats, are they old recliners? I feel like United did not do its best for this flight, whatsoever.

    • Comment 283431 by
      jetsetpanda AUTHOR 2296 Comments

      Yes, PTV's were in the armrests and these were old recliner seats. UA is the only carrier that operates this SFO-KIX route so I guess they can afford to be a bit behind. This configuration is more fitting for a regional route than a long haul intercontinental one. Thx.

    • Comment 286587 by
      RandomBaritone 5 Comments

      Do note that this report is from 2011. All of UA's transpacific flights have had 180-degree lie-flat seats in J for some time now, along with fantastic IFE. Economy on the old 747s, OTOH, is still terrible: UA's strategy seems to be to add wifi instead of IFE, but since it's satellite-based progress has been really slow.

  • Comment 91486 by
    lagentsecret SILVER 10503 Comments

    Thanks for sharing this FR

    Nice gastronomic exploration in Kyoto

    Oh UA was still using airplanes with old recliners for Japan routes in 2011 !

    Is that your usual half cranberry half orange with vodka drink ? ;)

    Catering doesn't look appealing at all

    It's really unacceptable not having snacks between meals during such a long flight

    Great aerial view of San Francisco

    Thankfully for you it was a non-rev flight

    • Comment 283432 by
      jetsetpanda AUTHOR 2296 Comments

      Actually you could find very affordable and good value eating places in Kyoto. Besides, the Osaka ergion is known for a certain hedonism when it comes to food. One thing I noticed is that there is a fondness for French goods. In Japan, one can find the best that the world has to offer, especially in big cities. It comes as little surprise that French brands and culinary goods are associated with quality and they are well represented there.

      I was very surprised that they did not put snacks in the galley. I'm sure they had some cheese and fruit leftovers.

      Yes, that was my usual drink. ;)

  • Comment 91499 by
    Leadership TEAM GOLD 4293 Comments

    Thanks for this trip back to the US,

    UA underwhelming offer strikes again, I can understand that this aircraft was not yet retrofited but the catering is closer to Y standard than J standard, I hope they improved not only the hard but also the soft with their new cabins.

    Thank you, nice bonus in Japan too ;)

  • Comment 91521 by
    jetsetpanda AUTHOR 2296 Comments

    How on earth an airline with such competitive route network offer such a lackluster J product is beyond me. Improving the hard part is relatively easy. Now the soft part is a bit more tricky.

    Some blame the seniority of the crew for the indifferent and st times rude behavior. Although it is true that U.S. carriers have a higher percentage of senior crews than other intl. carriers, I think the heart of the problem is not so much the seniority but the corporate culture. I have encountered senior crews who were some of the best but sadly this was in the minority. UA should offer better incentives for acknowledging a job well done and be more strict in fixing problematic attitudes and disservice.

    Glad you enjoyed the Japan bonus. Wait until I publish my old Paris reports - my visual love tribute to my muse ;) Thx.

    • Comment 286588 by
      RandomBaritone 5 Comments

      Fantastic report! But again, in case anyone runs across this report in 2014 or later, remember that this J seat hasn't been offered for a couple of years now. :) While the new lie-flat seats have their drawbacks -- the middle two seats in the eight-across configuration induce serious claustrophobia -- they're like night and day compared to the seats shown here.

    • Comment 286591 by
      jetsetpanda AUTHOR 2296 Comments

      You are right. The new seats are lie flat but I find the configuration of 2-4-2 on the 747's and 777's way too close for comfort.

      Thanks for your comments.

  • Comment 91562 by
    Durian 1184 Comments

    Thanks for this report! You're off to a great start During my short trip to Osaka, I decided to concentrate on Kyoto lol
    My first reaction when seeing your FR was nice, I didn't know UA has 77W, the cabin is probably recent and top notch... NOT
    You said they can afford to be behind but this is more than behind, the seat and IFE are prehistoric!
    Fully agree on your comment about corporate culture ! Also, maybe it has to do with being disillusioned, knowing that at some point in time their employer would likely go bust and/or being involved in a merger...

  • Comment 91565 by
    jetsetpanda AUTHOR 2296 Comments

    If I am not mistaken, I think this type of seat was introduced in the 90's when UA got their 777's. So yeah, really prehistoric. Thx.

  • Comment 91573 by
    Leadership TEAM GOLD 4293 Comments

    I didn't pay attention but this is a 200ER and not a 300ER (UA doesn't have any).

  • Comment 91641 by
    flyingjapans 1371 Comments

    Thank you for this FR,

    Really cool touristic bonus of Kyoto, it makes me hungry now.

    Cool to be upgraded as this is an evening flight, however I'm surprised to see that UA/CO was still operating aircrafts with these old recliners in 2011 which is pretty recent.

    The aluminium jar that we can see on the main course of the breakfast is simply unacceptable in a Business class!!

    Hope to see other FRs from you very soon- Looking forward to reading your flights to Paris.

    • Comment 283651 by
      jetsetpanda AUTHOR 2296 Comments

      Don't expect much from UA and you will be happy. Of all the Star Alliance carriers, UA is one of the weakest in terms of overall quality.

      The butchering of their product continues. I am sure that some of you have heard that UA decided that starting Feb. 2014, if you want to redeem your Mileage Plus miles for free award tickets and fly on their partners instead of UA, then you have to use more miles. For example, a ticket in business went from 60,000 miles in J class to 75,000 for the same cabin with a partner.

      Thx.

  • Comment 91713 by
    KévinDC TEAM GOLD 4858 Comments

    Nice that you got into J for the return flight at least! Oversold by 18? I'm be nervous as heck! LOL. Glad you got on, and with an empty seat next to you! It doesn't get better than that! I'm also surprised that in 2011 there were still 772s with the old cabins. Of course, as NRSA, any seat in J is great :-)

  • Comment 91910 by
    jetsetpanda AUTHOR 2296 Comments

    Beggars can't be choosy. What hurt me was the last minute equipment change to a newer seat configuration on the outbound. The configuration with the old recliner seats had a larger cabin in J than the one with the new seats.

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