Sometimes in Asia we forget how good the hard product on our regional flights can be. I had the opportunity to try United’s Business First class on a short hop between San Francisco and Seattle one Friday night in July this year so lets see how it measured up…
As I hold KrisFlyer Gold and knew I would have checked luggage I chose to fly United on the 90-120 minute SFO-SEA route.
While booking in Economy the United website engine offered me an upgrade to Business First for USD$99 which, while not a great deal for such a short flight I decided to take anyway. I have flown United Economy before and I figured if nothing else it would give me something to write about here!
Anyway, the booking process died when I tried to take the upgrade. I repeated this a couple more times before giving up and confirming in Economy. I went back to the website to check my booking a few weeks later and found the same upgrade was being offered for $500, so concluded the original offer was just a mistake.
More time passed and I received my credit card bill showing 4 transactions with United – the original ticket and three upgrades! A call to United’s Singapore ticketing hotline achieved nothing except advice to fill in refund claims online and call website support. Happily I just called website support (staffed out of the Philippines) and they were able to refund 2 of the charges and grant me my original upgrade. Business was back on!
SFO has a ‘Gold Track’ which was almost, but not entirely, useless. It allows Star Golds to skip the first ID control queue but then you join the general population for security. If you travel a lot out of US airports TSA Precheck would be a better investment.
United does not grant lounge access to its own Gold members in Economy, but under the terms of Star Alliance it has to let partner Star Golds flying Economy in, so I did. Review to follow.
Unfortunately the flight had a late gate change and ended up being delayed almost two hours.
Boarding is a bit of scrum even up front because luggage charges encourage everyone to max out their carry on allowance and a narrow-body jet like our 737 just does not have enough compartment space.
Business seating is in a 2-2 layout so the seats are pretty wide and you get plenty of legroom. The seats do not go anywhere near flat and just have a simple single recline button but they are quite comfortable. It’s pretty much the same as Malaysian Airlines 737 Business Class. My apologies for not getting a good picture of the seat, but boarding was a scrum.
My grandparents used to tell me how they made their own entertainment before they got a television. I had a chance to relive their experience and made my own fun with cheap whiskey served by the cabin attendants.
One we finally got airborne the flight was only 90 minutes so there was no meal service. I did get a bag of pretzels and some cheap scotch so that was nice.
Arriving into Seattle
Luggage came out after about 15 minutes and as it was a domestic flight we were straight out onto the street. Having spent most of my life living on small islands almost all my flights have been international, so it actually felt pretty weird not having to maintain an honest and trustworthy expression while wheeling bags out through customs.
The flight was so delayed that the the LINE tram service into the city had stopped so I took an Uber which was very easy. They have a pretty good system at SEA with a section of short-term parking reserved for private hire pickups and within a few minutes I was away to the city.
So would I pay extra for United Business First on a short haul flight again? Probably not to be honest. Star Gold already gets you free luggage, priority checkin and lounge access, so the only benefit for me was the seat, which is probably not worth a dollar a minute. It was fun, but time to move on and try something else.