On a recent trip to the Gulf Coast of the United States, I had the opportunity to sample the latest United domestic first class breakfast offerings on my flight from Newark to Houston. I was particularly interested in taking this flight because I had not sampled a non-p.s. domestic first class breakfast in quite some time. Luckily, I had secured my seat in first class long before the flight departed because (as is to be expected with hub to hub routes) the upgrade list was over sixty-three people long and the flight was oversold by nine people.
The plane used for this particular flight was a new, dark 737-900 (meaning that there are no entertainment systems or television screens on the aircraft). United, like other airlines, has gone the route of not installing onboard entertainment systems on their newer aircraft. Instead, they use their onboard WiFi systems to stream entertainment throughout the flight directly to passengers’ WiFi-enabled devices. In theory, this means that passengers should be able to use their own electronic devices to stream free, on-demand entertainment provided by the airline throughout the flight. It also means the airline saves money on fuel because the aircraft without onboard entertainment systems installed weigh less than other, similar aircraft in their fleet.
However, I still have mixed feelings about these planes for several reasons:
- First, I do enjoy watching live television on United planes that are equipped with DirecTV. Sometimes there is a major sporting, cultural, or news-worthy event occurring while I am on a flight and the ability to watch these things live is of great value to me. DirecTV is not available for passengers on dark 737-900 planes, even with WiFi enabled.
- Second, I also enjoying having an AVOD system loaded with current movies and entertainment media installed right in the seatback in front of me on United planes. These systems are particularly useful on international flights where one can easily watch two or three movies with ease between takeoff, meals, work, sleep and landing. The less clutter required in order to work, eat and relax, the better.
- Third, while I understand that most passengers these days have a laptop, tablet, or smart phone and know how to access the Internet, the WiFi on United planes is not perfect and not all devices are supported or compatible with United’s streaming equipment (my Samsung Galaxy S7 Active being one example).
- Fourth, did I mention that the WiFi on United (and other airlines) is not always dependable and sometimes requires multiple reboots by flight attendants to get fully functional? Although this technology has been available commercially for years now, it is still far from perfect.
My personal feelings about the new United WiFi-enabled and streaming entertainment-based aircraft aside, I did enjoy the crew and service on this particular flight. The flight attendants were professional, quick, and friendly. Drink and breakfast orders were taken soon after the takeoff and hot towels were distributed immediately after.
The two breakfast entree choices were a French toast souffle and a red pepper quiche with sausage and vegetables. I had already sampled the French toast on previous flights (it is quite delicious) so I decided to be adventurous and order the quiche that morning. For whatever reason, I was offered a biscuit both before and after my entree was delivered (clearly I did not object). My drink of choice was cranberry-apple juice as alcohol at 5:00 a.m. on an empty stomach would have been lethal at 34,000 feet in the air. In fact, even with five rows of first class seating on this particular 737-900, I do not recall anyone ordering any alcoholic beverage.
Perhaps there is hope for humanity after all.
While I normally do not eat too many quiches, breakfast quiches have always fascinated me. This specific breakfast quiche was filled with roasted red peppers, which surprisingly paired quite nicely with the egg filling.
- The eggs contained within the quiche were firm but not too hard. The crust of the quiche was soft and the roasted red peppers were hearty but not overabundant or overpowering in the dish.
- The sausages were a bit tough to chew, but still better than the “hockey puck” sausage patties that United used to serve on their breakfast flights.
- The potatoes had a good texture and consistency; however, both they and the vegetables were slightly bland.
- The asparagus was cooked perfectly and had great flavor and really added to the meal.
- As mentioned previously, I also had two biscuits, which came out warm and fluffy each time.
Overall, I felt as though the meal was satisfying. All of my complaints were minor, and the food did hit the spot (especially on such an early flight). United continues to move in the right direction with its onboard product offerings and service, regardless of whether WiFi or in-seat entertainment is available on all planes. It is nice to know that, even at 5:00 a.m., there can be some sanctuary at 34,000 feet in the air.
Hopefully, this trend will continue, as these are definitely changes that I know I love.