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United GlobalFirst Review: Los Angeles – Sydney – Melbourne

by on February 17, 2014 · 36 comments

in Australia, Trip Reports, United

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Award tickets to Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific can be among the hardest to find. There aren’t a ton of airlines flying nonstop between North America and down under, and during peak travel times, these flights are usually packed and business and first class seats cost a small fortune and are rarely released as award seats.

All buckled up in United GlobalFirst LAX-SYD. They make you buckle a shoulder hardness for takeoff/landing

All buckled up in United GlobalFirst LAX-SYD. They make you buckle a shoulder harness for takeoff/landing

However, this January I noticed that United was releasing a good number of business and first class award seats on their San Francisco and Los Angeles to Sydney/Melbourne routes, so I used 140,000 US Airways miles and booked a roundtrip first class award. My outbound would have me departing from Los Angeles to Sydney on a United 747-400 in GlobalFirst and continuing on the tag flight to Melbourne aboard the same plane after a quick layover.

The Miles

On March 31 US Airways will leave Star Alliance and join Oneworld – one of the key steps towards integrating Dividend Miles into American AAdvantage. With the merger there will be positives and negatives – on the plus side I look forward  to being able to use Dividend Miles for one-way awards and more flexible change rules (right now you cannot change an award after you take the first segment, which can greatly inhibit the flexibility of awards).

On the negative side, Oneworld has fewer airline partners and for certain regions of travel awards will become much harder to redeem – for example Australia. Right now, you can redeem awards to the South Pacific on multiple partners via Asia or United and Air New Zealand non-stop. With Oneworld you can only redeem on Qantas and Hawaiian and AA does not allow Australia awards to route via Asia at the same mileage rates as non-stop or direct flights on Qantas and Hawaiian. The bad thing here is that Qantas awards are very scarce and routing via Hawaii often entails overnight layovers.

So, I wanted to take advantage of US Airways current  Star Alliance membership to head down under – especially since its only 80,000 miles for coach/110,000 business/ 140,000 first class roundtrip and they often sell miles at 1.1 cents a pop, like this past December’s share bonus where I was able to rack up 100,000 miles for $1,100. If you don’t buy miles, you can transfer Starwood points to US Airways at the rate of 20,000 SPG -> 25,000 US Airways (you can find out more about SPG’s transfer partners here, and the SPG Amex is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 25,000 points for spending $5,000 in the first 6 months if you need to boost your account).

Using United miles, you’d need 40,000 miles each way for economy/ 60,000 business and 80,000 first. United is a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards if you have one of Chase’s premium cards – the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Plus or Ink Bold and points transfer to your MileagePlus account instantly. United is also a Starwood transfer partner, but at a dismal ratio of 20,000 Starpoints = 10,000 United miles.

Aeroplan, the mileage program of Air Canada, charges 80,000 miles roundtrip for economy, 160,000 for business and a whopping 220,000 miles roundtrip for first class, so it’s not the cheapest option. However, Aeroplan is a transfer partner of both American Express Membership Rewards (the points program of cards like the Premier Rewards Gold and the Platinum Card) and Starwood Preferred Guest (at the 20,000 SPG to 25,000 Aeroplan ratio).

Not My First United First Class Rodeo
I’ve flown United first (to Rio de Janeiro) and business internationally (to Dublin) and transcontinental from LAX-JFK and my experience has always been comfortable, but nothing amazing. However, this time I’d be flying on the 747, which is my favorite aircraft of all time, simply for its sheer size (kinda like me) and upper deck. However, the first class cabin sits in the nose of the plane on the lower level, but I was able to snag seat 1K, which is where the nose of the plane actually curves.

The United 747-400 has the following seating layout:

747-400_may2012

The GlobalFirst cabin has 12 seats total. The first two rows have two seats each along the fuselage, and then rows 3 and 4 have four seats each in a 1 x 2 x 1 combination. The middle seats are angled slightly towards each other (good for traveling couples), and while there is a degree of privacy, I’d rather not sit in them unless traveling with someone I know.

The two seats in row 1 of first class.

The two seats in row 1 of first class.

The seats have a standard pitch of about 6’6″ each when reclined to their fully horizontal position, but I found them to be a little bit longer than that because I was able to stretch out fully and I am 6’7″. They are only 22″ wide (compare that to 36″ in Cathay Pacific First Class on their 747!), and upright they are like armchairs with a thick armrest on the aisle, little cubbies to store things along the wall and under the footwell, a power outlet, and a personal TV screen with on-demand entertainment. There’s nothing really screening these from the aisle and I think overall they’re essentially a modern day business class lie-flat seat. However, they’re still much roomier than business class on the same aircraft, which is crammed in a 2 x 4 x 2 layout and only 20″ wide).

An overview of the GlobalFirst cabin.

An overview of the GlobalFirst cabin.

Not the most up-to-date first class seat, but comfortable nonetheless.

Non-First Class Ground Experience

I arrived at LAX about 90 minutes before departure and I was checking a bag so I went to an agent, who somewhat rebuffed me and just told me to use the kiosk. Normally I use kiosks, but since I was checking a bag and wanted to change my frequent flyer number (I always change it on award tickets – you never know when they may actually award miles), I wanted a human to assist.

Since I was flying GlobalFirst and there was no line, I thought that wasn’t a big ask. The agent got somewhat huffy but hopped behind the counter, took my passport and started clicking madly on the kiosk – at which point I told her I’d just do it because I wanted to confirm my seats, change my frequent flyer program, etc. However, she got errors and had to manually check me in anyway because the visa wasn’t attached to my reservation.

To go to  Australia you need to apply for an E-visa in advance and pay about $20 before leaving the country, which I did and it is supposed to automatically be attached to your passport/reservation. However, there was an issue with mine and they had to call Australia to get it all figured out. Luckily it was fine and after about 10 minutes I had my boarding pass and I headed to the TSA Pre-check, which was thankfully empty.

The United First Class lounge entrance.

The secret United First Class lounge entrance.

The United Lounge at LAX

Once through the lounge I headed to the GlobalFirst lounge, which is past the regular United lounge, somewhat hidden on the second level above the McDonald’s.

The first class lounge at LAX.

The first class lounge at LAX.

The check-in agent did not advise me to go to the first lounge and I wonder how much long they’ll keep the lounge open now that United no longer offers 3 cabin first class on transcontinental flights.

Just some basic food and beverage offerings.

Just some basic food and beverage offerings.

The lounge is basic with sandwiches, wine and self serve bar. I had a couple beers to help tire me out for the 10:20 pm departure to SYD and before long I was headed to the gate to board.

Snacks in the first class lounge.

Unappealing snacks in the first class lounge.

On the 747 there are two boarding points – business and first via door 1 and economy through a second jetbridge, which makes for a much less crowded boarding.

On Board

Upon getting settled in 1K the purser introduced himself and ran through the basic flight details while delivering the menu. Sparkling wine was offered – though I saw that they have special champagnes including Henriot, Nicolas Feuillatte and Philipponnat, but none were apparently being poured on my flight – and also a commemorative tin LAX amenity kit, in addition to the regular kit, which is quite substantial.

I got settled into my seat, 1K.

I got settled into my seat, 1K.

As a 747 nut I prefer the upper deck of the 747, but the cone ain’t so bad! Some may find the curved nose to be claustrophobic, but I like 1A and K and they’d even be decent for a traveling couple. To me, it felt more private than the rest of the cabin and they’re the furthest away from the galley. One of the things I really like about these seats is that there is a ton of storage, including a very deep well in the left armrest that basically goes to the floor and can easily hold your laptop/a small purse and Bose headphones (I recommend bringing them since United’s headphones are poor quality).

The commemorative amenity kit and the normal one.

The commemorative amenity kit and the normal one.

I had eaten dinner in Los Angeles, so I opted to pass on dinner right away and after about 90 minutes and a couple drinks in, I changed into shorts and a t-shirt (United does not offer PJs) I reclined the bed and put the mattress pad and slipped into a deep sleep. The comforter is really soft and the lie-flat bed was nearly 6’8” so I could stretch out very comfortably.

The bed was actually really comfortable.

The bed was actually really comfortable.

It was pitch black when I woke up and when I flipped on the TV it said that only 4:15 was left in the flight- sweet! I had slept for almost 8 hours non-stop.

The salad and starters.

The salad and starters.

I was hungry at that point so I asked for my entrée, which they had kept aside for me. I went with the chicken, which was edible, but not memorable. After which I went back to bed for 2 more hours and then woke up for breakfast.

I ordered the chicken for my entree - it was decent but not great.

I ordered the chicken for my entree – it was decent but not great.

The menu also featured a starter of a cheese and piquillo pepper spring roll, red rock seafood bisque and a green salad. The main course options were:
-Beef tenderloin in asiago broth with brown butter gnocchi and green asparagus
-Spice-rubbed breast of chicken with mustard-barbecue sauce, steamed rice, mixed vegetables and pickled cabbage
- Amazon cod filet with mixed vegetable ratatouille
- Tri-color ravioli with cherry tomato sauce and herbed butternut squash with parmesan

For dessert there was a cheese selection and ice cream sundaes while throughout the middle of the flight there were light snacks available including assorted sandwiches. The menu was very similar to what you’d expect on a BusinessFirst transcontinental flight.

The wine list wasn’t terribly impressive, but included both US and Old World selections like Wente Vineyards and Benziger Family Vineyards chardonnays, Domaine Faiveley Clos Rochette Mercurey from Burgundy, Dry Creek Vineyard Cabernet and Chateau Greysac Medoc.

I generally do not like airline breakfasts, but this one was pretty good – with a cheddar omelette, ham, yogurt, spinach frittata and fruit. The other choices included a chilled deli selection and just plain cold cereal with a banana.

Breakfast was substantial and pretty good.

Breakfast was substantial and pretty good.

Get Your Disco On

During the night I woke up and noticed that there was a unique 80’s-style lamp, which the purser informed me he brings on all of his long-haul flights to provide ambient lighting for his first class passengers. It didn’t bother me and I thought it was kind of funny, but I may have had a different opinion if I was seated next to it or paid $20,000 for my ticket. However, it was somewhat useful to have light in the cabin without it being intrusive. My Instagram post seems to indicate that most people thought it was incredibly tacky, but feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

Robby's special lighting fixture.

Robby’s special lighting fixture.

Service was very attentive with the flight crew genuinely interested in getting anything I needed – during the first 90 minutes of flight my champagne glass was never empty, which is rare when flying US carriers.

What was also interesting is that my 747 was one that had been retrofitted with WiFi, so I was able to check in from over the Pacific and catch up on things from the work day while still on my flight. It was expensive at $16.99, but worth it for peace of mind and worked once we were about 30 minutes out after takeoff and pretty much up until we landed in Sydney.

My flight had international WiFi.

My flight had international WiFi.

While the experience isn’t as fancy as foreign carriers that provide caviar and nice champagne in first class, it was comfortable and allowed me to land in Sydney fully rested and ready to seize the day. To me, sleeping 11 out of 14.5 hours on a flight is more valuable than having a couple scoops of caviar (though it’s always nice when you can have your caviar & rest and eat it too!).

I checked into the Singapore lounge in Sydney, which was pretty nice-looking.

I checked into the Singapore lounge in Sydney, which was pretty nice-looking.

Transit in Sydney a Breeze, Thanks to the Singapore Airlines First Class Lounge

When flying LAX-SYD-MEL you stay airside and do your immigration in Melbourne. You need to get off the plane for security reasons, so you go through airport security at the transit terminal and then first class passengers can use the Singapore Airlines Kris Lounge or the Air New Zealand business class lounge. I was the only person in the Singapore lounge and had my own attendant making me Veuve Clicquot mimosas.

Why not have a Veuve mimosa?

Why not have a Veuve mimosa?

For the hour-and-ten-minute SYD-MEL I had seat 2K, which I personally did not like as much as 1K, because it seems more exposed.

I had seat 2K on the short hop between Sydney and Melbourne.

I had seat 2K on the short hop between Sydney and Melbourne.

But it was fine and I had some Cava and enjoyed looking out the window at the beautiful sky.

Melbourne at first glance- wait- where's the city?!

Melbourne at first glance- wait- where’s the city?!

Arrival in Melbourne a piece of cake even though I couldn’t use Smartgate, because I was using my old passport with no-chip, but I got through in no time at all and was on my way into the city ready for my time in Australia to begin.

To Sum it Up: A Perfectly Enjoyable Experience
Overall, my experience flying United GlobalFirst down under was comfortable and a good option since United opens up more award space on tight routes to the South Pacific than other carriers. You shouldn’t be expected to be wowed by cuisine or a fancy suite, but if you’re focused on good departure/arrival times and can score award availability, you really cannot beat flying roundtrip in first class to Australia for less than $2,000! I wouldn’t pay United’s exorbitant price to fly in business/first (I’d certainly go for Qantas or Virgin Australia), but from a mileage redemption perspective United is pretty hard to beat!

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • terry

    Seat looks great, the food just looks cheap.

  • CM

    TPG, first let me say that I love your site, and I’ve learned so much from you. I’m a newbie, starting to chase points for future award travel.

    I’ll be flying on my first award ticket in a couple months. It’s an AA award, and I’ll be flying on US and HG. Can you tell me more about changing your frequent flyer number on the award ticket reservation in the hopes that they may award miles? When would I change it? Would I change it from my AA FF # to my US FF #?

    Thanks very much!

  • Santastico

    United should be fined for using the words “first class” in their flights. The quality of what they call first class is disgusting. They should be ashamed. I wonder what they serve on coach.

  • Yati

    Yeah, i’d also love to hear a little more about changing FF#s on award tickets and possibly picking up miles from it. Please tell more.

  • Robbie

    What if premier 1K is called that, because that is the best seat on a 747. Also, is seems that united is investing in a new hard product, because they know that they can’t win with service? Thir report has also warmed me up to flying united, which I previously swore off, due to bad reviews by people like you. It’s nice to hear a good thing about your local airline (I live near SFO) once and a while. Thanks

  • pssteve

    TPG: You note “Right now, you can redeem awards to the South Pacific on multiple
    partners via Asia or United and Air New Zealand non-stop.” When did Air NZ start making F or J awards available?

    Read more: http://thepointsguy.com/2014/02/united-globalfirst-class-review-los-angeles-sydney-melbourne/#ixzz2tb31G7gk

    Follow us: @thepointsguy on Twitter | thepointsguy on Facebook

  • Tony

    Thank you for the report, have a ORD-FRA Global First ticket booked on a 747-400 nice to see what the cabin looks like.

  • Sherman

    comfortable, but not luxury. This sounds more like biz class than first class. Underwhelming for first class.

  • Jason Arroyo

    One aspect of this travel game that I have never understood is the incredible desire that so many have for using their points to travel in first class. I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts.

    For example, this post mentions that an Economy redemption one-way is 40k miles, whereas a First class redemption is 2x the cost at 80k miles. My arguments for always booking the Economy class are:

    1. The most logical is cost. If you book Economy, you can travel to 2x the destinations, or bring along a friend or family member and share the experience.
    2. The biggest added benefit of First class appears to be more room on the flight, and getting more comfortable sleep. Other than this, it seems like many of the other perks are really not worth much more than a few bucks here or there. For example, how much would you pay for the meal that ThePointsGuy had on his First class flight? Based on his report, if you had paid $20 for that meal at a sidewalk cafe somewhere, you probably would be disappointed. Another example is the United lounge he visited before the flight. Again, you might pay $15 for that spread at the airport and be equally satisfied.

    So to me, the question is, it is worth twice the cost to be able to sleep better for one long flight? Granted I do not have an endless supply of points (like many of the bloggers appear to), but I personally would rather bring along a friend, and/or travel to see more destinations than ride in more comfort for 10 hours or so. The math just doesn’t add up for me.

  • Santastico

    I agree with the math but you cannot be serious to say that flying 15+ hours in first or business versus economy has no benefit. Yes, you spend twice the miles but you get to your destination in a way better shape to start enjoying your travel rather than being for couple days recovering from the back pain and lack of sleep for flying in coach. I would never spend my miles on such a terrible first class like this one. If i had a choice I would spend it flying a real first class on either Asian, ME or European airlines or worst case scenario if United was my first option I would use miles to fly business class. Many people (including me) hate Delta but at least they assumed they cannot compete with foreign airlines in terms of first class so they just do not offer that. United should be ashamed of offering such a cheap product. I would not pay for that meal in any shack in the US and serving sparkling wine on first class is just a huge joke.

  • BartNY

    i’m scheduled to fly united globalfirst SFO-TYO (with JFK-SFO in business) on the same plane configuration in seat 2K… i saw a business class seat open with ANA direct from JFK-TYO.. after your post I am much more inclined to switch from united global first to ANA business (something a poster one also suggested on here previously)

  • Adelphos33

    “it is worth twice the cost to be able to sleep better for one long flight?”

    - Yes

    The real value is getting a lie flat seat where you can sleep comfortably and be ready for the next day. I’ve flown both coach and business from NYC to Asia (Hong Kong, Singapore). Flying in business or first, you can get a full nights sleep and be ready to tackle the day immediately when you arrive. In coach, you may get four hours of bad sleep and need a full day to recover when you get to your destination. This is important for long flights such as the one described here.

    Plus, traveling in premium cabins and getting access to premium international lounges is just cool. I sometimes fly on paid business class for work. It’s a good feeling taking a black car to the airport, hanging out in an international lounge while reading the newspaper or doing work, hopping on a plane while being treated well, getting rest, doing work, eating good food and relaxing en route to your destination, and arriving refreshed.

  • Jack Barbur

    Go ANA all the way. It is a no brainer!!! Unless you need to tell your friends you flew first class. If you do and they are travel savvy, just don’t say it was on United. :)

  • Jason Arroyo

    I absolutely do not believe that flying business/first has “no benefit.” As my post noted, I agree with you that there is a big benefit to flying in a lie-flat seat, rather than in an Economy seat.

    However, I do not think that traveling in coach is as miserable as described… after all, about 75% of seats on these 747s are Economy seats. That’s a LOT of people who are “recovering from back pain and lack of sleep .. for a couple days.”

    Unless you are very tall, very wide, or have medical issues, I wonder if this is just another case of affluenza?

  • Jason Arroyo

    I agree that the comfortable sleeping arrangement seems to be the biggest perk. No argument there. I’m not clear why 1 night of good sleep is worth (at a minimum valuation of 1.5 cents/United mile) an extra $600. That cash could buy 2 nights at the Waldorf Astoria. Or dinner for 2 at a 3-star Michelin restaurant. Or many many other experiences that may be more memorable than 1 night of good sleep.

    As I had ask questioned, what is the value of some of these perks that you mention? If you had to pay out of pocket for a black car to the airport ($50 on Uber Black), lounge access (e.g., buying Delta lounge access passes on eBay for $30), eating good food (see my post questioning the real value of what this food is if you were to have bought it elsewhere)… well, the math still doesn’t make me feel like it is worth 2x the reward cost.

    Again, if you had an unlimited supply of points, this all sounds great. If you have an unlimited list of places you want to travel to, this sounds extravagant… kind of like paying $400 to be able to eat Jiro’s sushi when you could eat sushi that is nearly as good for $14.

  • Jack Myers

    Dude, you are so short minded. Go fly coach to Asia and have fun. You probably don’t even fly but just rides on Greyhound.

  • Texas281

    the shoulder seat belt is really funny to me, i’ve put it on and it just doesn’t feel right.

    the flight is an overalll decent experience but it feels like most of the first class cabins are from the 90′s, which is very unfortunate. Wifi sounds golden.

  • Jim

    My wife and I had 1A and 1K last week SYD-SFO. Seats were comfy and we slept well. Ancient flight attendants who gave a “I’ve been doing this for 50 years, so please don’t disturb my routine with your requests” vibe. Dinner was shameful……steak with a ladle-full of “hollandaise sauce” poured over it. Not tragic, since for me 90% of the F experience is about the seat. Despite UA’s subpar F service, this was an effective use of 80K UA miles per person AKL-SFO-JFK.

  • Jim

    Correction to prior post……AKL-SYD-SFO-JFK was our itinerary. Also, for those with strong stomachs, I have a picture of the “dinner”on our flight.

  • Jason Arroyo

    You do understand that the overwhelming majority of flyers to Asia fly coach, right? That’s just how airline cabins are constructed. Not sure if you noticed.

    Thanks for your insightful feedback Jack.

  • Jack Myers

    Of course if you cannot afford to fly first or business class you have to fly coach. By your research it looks like 75% of Asian flyers cannot afford first or business. Thus, they fly coach. However, if you can afford to fly first or business it is way better than flying coach. That is what you don’t understand. It is not because you cannot afford flying first or business that you can say it is not worth spending twice as much miles to fly in the premium cabins if you can fly coach. It makes a huge difference. I agree that flying JFK-LHR in business or first is a waste of miles unless you are a travel blogger that has more miles than you can spend in your entire life. By the time you eat and get ready to sleep it is almost breakfast time. Also, less than 6 hours will not kill you on coach. However, when my company pays for me to fly business on flights over 8 hours I don’t complain.

  • Jason Arroyo

    Jack Jack Jack.

    Go back and read the original question. It’s not about whether you can “afford to fly first or business class.” It’s whether it makes sense.

    You are probably wealthy enough to “afford” dining at a $250/plate restaurant. In other words, you wouldn’t go broke if you spent that money. However, I doubt that you do this because the extra cost is not worth the added benefits of dining at such a restaurant.

    Thus, even though many frequent flyers are “wealthy enough” to afford a first class ticket to Asia, they choose to fly in Economy class because they may not feel that the added benefits of flying first class are worth the cost.

    But hey… let’s keep going off on a tangent and missing the original point. It keeps me entertained.

  • Nelson

    I agree, I wouldn’t waste money on a revenue ticket or points on a sub-par Business or First class service.
    Not all biz/F class were created equal, so I can understand that Jason is saying this “experience” felt underwhelming in terms of the ground, lounge, food & beverage, etc… so he asked why you would spend all that money/points for just a bed in the sky.

    But on a airline like Etihad/Emirates/Qatar or Singapore, I would say spending 2x the points is totally worth it!
    Having only tried the middle eastern airlines, I get complimentary chauffeurs to meet pick me at each point, the lounge has decent food offerings/buffet or they have restaurants where you can sit down for a 3 course meal, complimentary massage/spa treatment, full service bar with bartenders serving anything you want.

    Also when I transited through the Dubai/Abu Dhabi, they gave me a complimentary stay at a 5/6-star hotel.

    As soon as you get on board they serve Veuve Clicquot, Bollinger, GH Mumm, and those sorts of sparkling things.
    The food is sometimes really good, the wine selection is often excellent. And for F class, there is a chef on board.
    On Emirates, there is a full service bar, you can sip cocktails, eating finger foods, mingle with other pax, 14 hours goes away really quickly.
    and when you arrive, there is a chauffeur to pick you up and drop you off.
    But would I spend my points on United? No.

  • John

    I too agree with his question. You must have tons or points to blow I order to feel like a couple hours of sleep equates to a whole other trip ticket in coach. I would really like to hear the pointsguy respond to his question.

  • disqust101

    With miles so easy to accumulate at such low cost, why wouldn’t you go F or J? If you don’t know how to get tons of low cost miles, then you need to spend more time learning and less time pontificating about what you know not…

  • Hung

    For me, i can afford a 1000-1500 ticket easily but would never pay 13k for first on CX to asia. Therefore, i would redeem for first if i have th points and buy myself an economy ticket if i wanted to fly economy. I see it in terms of value while some sees it as 2-3 economy trips. You only live once.

  • Hung

    TO each their own. Fly whatever class makes you happy. For everyone like you, who would prefer to spend 50k miles for an economy ticket, theres someone who would rather spend 100k for business.
    Consider yourself lucky since you have no desire to fly premium class, thus, could travel more places in economy. I just prefer to redeem premium and buy economy tickets. Something about the aura of exclusiveness thats alluring to me.

  • Steve

    I think you’re missing the point the original message is trying to make disqust101. Miles are relatively easy to accumulate, but when you’re talking about 160k United miles for a round trip somewhere in business, it starts being a challenge – then it becomes the question of is it worth it at this high level.

    Take 2 people on the same trip? 320k miles. That means 10.5 churns of the Chase United Mileage card. Or several years of VR at the maximum 5k/month. Not really that feasible for most people. If you can help me understand how one can quickly accrue 320k miles in one program (not to mention the need to churn other cards, or generate spend for hotels etc.) so that 2 people can travel in first class, then you are definitely far more advanced of a mileage guru than I.

  • disqust101

    Seat is mediocre for F – it’s a glorified Biz seat – narrow. There’s room to put in bigger seats and I don’t know why they didn’t.

    The food is cheap – and only modestly better than the swill they serve in J.

  • italdesign

    I flew economy all my life, but on the recent 20+ hours of flight each way to Malaysia, it was miserable and definitely took a toll on the overall enjoyment of the trip. I have a few long hauls coming up in premium cabin. Excited to try it for the first time and will decide from there if it’s worth double miles.

  • RobertW

    Jason,

    Interesting article. I too am almost 6’8″ tall. I’ve been flying back and forth to AU since ’06. I just made my 11th trip and have been lucky as I’ve been able to upgrade into Business class for each and every trip through miles. Thank goodness since I physically don’t fit into an Economy seat. I’m not fat, it’s just that my knees hit the seat in front of me before my butt hits the seat below when I’m in Economy. And that’s without the seat in front of me reclining! Economy Plus really is a cruel joke. For me, it’s a requirement to sit in Business or above .

    On the way back to LAX a couple of weeks ago, I got bumped into First for the first time. I sat in 4K. It was OK, as you stated, but for the extra cost in miles and cash, Business will do fine from now on.

    I’m concerned though that since April 1st, the 747′s have been replaced with 777′s with a lot less premium seats. I just did a search for available upgrades with none found out to 4 months from now. I hope my years of upgrade bonanza haven’t just ended.

  • duboce

    its amazing for me to read all these whiny postings. I fly regularly San francisco to Osaka on United and have no complaints. I like the 777 a lot better than the 400. I had seat 1A last time and it was claustrophobic but really not that bad. Its worth it to me. You can always go by freighter if you don’t like air travel.

  • duboce

    After reading all these postings down to the bottom, I am convinced the gripers are a result of ‘downstairs’ being allowed ‘upstairs’. You can take the flyer out of the neighborhood but not the neighborhood out of the flyer no matter what class they are seated in.

  • eurofederal

    Nice flight. I flew United GF once between Chicago and Frankfurt last year and it was nice but not as great as Lufthansa! My flight between Seattle and Frankfurt was a dream come true from checking in to the Erste Klasse welcome lounge in Frankfurt! Food was awesome . The Airbus 330 is very quiet and I wsih the 10 hour flight has lasted longer. I knew I could make use of those miles… now I fly economy!

  • eurofederal

    well, considering the cost of an economys eat and First class seat, trading miles for economy seats is useless. I have always used my United miles for business or First class trips….

  • Chilangoflyer

    The fact you must not forget in your maths is the price of a revenue ticket. I agree that flying First Class is expensive regardless of payment method (cash or miles). I can without any priblem afford cash payments in economy, but not in First Class.

    Concerning the “value” of a better seat, I really avoid the cramped economy seat for a 10+ hours flight from Europe to America or Asia, whenever possible. Therefore I try flying Biz if possible. The costs for the better seats are affordable and the difference in available space I have for the flights is worth it

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