I had reason to fly to/from New York yesterday using United’s ps service. This used to be a three class premium service operating to/from LAX and San Francisco and New York, JFK. The flight was favoured by elite members as there were relatively a large number of Business Class seats, and you could occasionally get an upgrade to the First Class cabin. It was one of the last domestic three class services. The coach section was all Economy Plus.
Some months ago United announced that it was going to change the seating to 2 class – Business and Coach and reconfigure the plane. The press release is here.
The twist is that should you get an old 3-class plane, elites can select the old First Class seats:
The first three rows of formerly United First® angled lie-flat seats will be reserved for complimentary assignment to United BusinessFirst® customers who are Premier® members.
o Global ServicesSM, Premier 1K®, Premier Platinum and Premier Gold members can select these seats at any time.
o Premier Silver members may select these seats when they check in.
I wrote yesterday about an unpleasant flight from Denver to San Francisco with a United crew so I was not really looking forward to todays flights.
At the gate there was something of a problem when a VIP (or someone we all know from TV) could not understand why, having no elite status, she had to sit in the Business Class cabin when ‘I always book First Class’. No amount of explanation pacified her, and once on-board she was complaining loudly that United wanted another $1000 to get the better seats. A nice gentleman agreed to move so she could sit with her travelling companion. The noise reducing headsets came in handy. You can guess her identity by solving this anagram – Jar Rove Sin
However, having secured seats in the old First Class, the flights became two of the most pleasant in the past year.
The seating (picture above) is 2-2 with slanted seating. On boarding there were two pillows and a blanket – almost unheard of on United’s domestic flights who phased out pillows months ago. The flight almost operated as an old three class service. The crew asked passengers to stick to the toilet in their own cabin, there were proper menus with larger plates and a crew that loved their jobs and their passengers. The legroom was great (sorry for the knees):
On UA808, (SFO-JFK) The service was superb – they were through the cabin all the time with top-ups, they remembered our names, nothing was too much trouble and they let us keep the personal players until they really had to lock them away for landing. They pandered to the VIP as much as was required without making the rest of us feel unimportant.
The food was the usual UA breakfast – scrambled eggs, potato and sausage with fresh fruit and yoghurt.
I especially enjoyed having a seat vacant next to me (when did that happen last?) and watching as we overflew Manhattan on the way to JFK.
On the way back, the crew were just as nice. I had a seat companion who was Global Services. The meal offerings were steak, chicken or pasta with everyone (except the Global Service member) being asked for first and second choices. The GS member was pretty pleasant but as she travels twice a week, on last minute fares, it was clear why UA had her as a GS in San Francisco. I slept a little and then woke an hour before landing. Arrived 25 minutes early, with a gate available.
So United, you surprised me and I shall be writing to express my delight!