On my way to Blizzcon this year I had the chance to experience United’s Premium Service (p.s.) BusinessFirst product once again. After a month of not traveling by plane, I was eager to sample anything that United might have updated or changed on the international-style transcontinental route.
I have to admit that I was upset when United announced earlier in the year that it would not be bringing the Polaris experience (United’s new international business class product) to Premium Service flights. I would have loved to take advantage of such a dramatic soft and hard product upgrade (and have direct aisle access on long transcontinental domestic flights). Alas, such dreams were not meant to be realized and we will all just have to settle for the current BusinessFirst product on United’s 757-200 fleet when we fly up front between New York and Los Angeles/San Francisco.
First world problems, right?
Aside from the new amenity kits, nothing seemed to have changed on my particular flight. I was surprised that among the breakfast options there were no traditional options (the choices were waffles with ham, a rustic quiche or cereal and milk). However, the quiches that United offers in most of its premium cabins on flights with breakfast service are normally quite delicious so I could see how they made their way onto Premium Service flights as well.
On this particular morning, I decided to try the waffles and ham since I had yet to sample this entree option before. The waffles were warm and fluffy and the ham had a good texture. It was also pleasantly surprising to note that the ham did not taste too salty (a big concern with airline food). Before the waffles were served, we were given fruit plates with yogurt and a selection of breads (cinnamon buns and biscuits) to choose from as the flight attendants made their way around the cabin.
One of the best features of BusinessFirst (and one that truly makes it stand out from a standard domestic first class experience) is the seat. BusinessFirst seats are configured so that they can convert to beds at the touch of a button. They can also turn into recliners with leg support and foot rests if you wish to watch a movie while you eat or do work. A large pillow and blanket are given out to passengers in the BusinessFirst cabin as they are boarding their flight (along with the aforementioned amenity kits) making it even easier to sleep for the entire flight if you so desire. There have been plenty of long trips back home or to project sites for work where this has been invaluable to me, and that alone makes the higher ticket price justifiable for many business travelers.
I did not have a chance to test the in-flight WiFi (provided by GoGo on Premium Service flights). However, I did watch Ben-Hur and part of the new Ghostbusters movie before landing in Los Angeles. For those who wish to get work done on the flight, there is ample room on the tray table on which to rest a laptop, tablet or paperwork and there are power outlets located at the back of the seat as well. As this was a personal trip, I decided not to take out my computer and simply relaxed for most of the flight.
For those looking to experience BusinessFirst on a Premium Service flight, United does (as of November 2016) sell tickets for $600 each way if you book far enough in advance. This is because United has to compete with JetBlue and their Mint service (JFK to SFO/LAX), which is similar to United’s Premium Service BusinessFirst product and is often priced at $600 each way between New York and San Francisco/Los Angeles. $1,200 for a round trip transcontinental ticket is not excessively expensive, especially considering that the meal service, seat, and amenities rival that of international business class flights which can cost $5,000 or more.
In the end, I was pleased with my experience. The cabin crew and flight attendants were friendly and attentive. The food was good. The entertainment options contained new movies. The seat allowed me to catch a nap here and there.
Not too bad of a way to pass the time while traveling across the country and not a bad way to start off a vacation.