Domestic First class isn’t what it used to be, even just a few years ago, but it still is far better than sitting in economy. I decided it would be fun to compare first class on United 757 against first class on United’s website. A few years ago, Northwest Airlines said that only 14% of people in the domestic first class pays first class fares. United may have a slightly higher percentage (fewer seats than NW), but I would be shocked if the number is over 20%. Since about 80% of first class passengers didn’t pay to sit there, airlines are degrading the first class experience to save money. It’s noticeable and I won’t pay to fly first domestically, but upgrades still create some excitement.
|United Airlines First Class Seat 757|
Extra-wide leather seats with expanded legroom. The seat is the star of the show. More width, more padding, more recline, and more leg room. The seat is very comfortable and something you can count on every flight. There is a wide area between the seats for drinks and to create a bit of privacy.
Complimentary blankets available onboard for use during your flight. Not always. Blankets are only found on overnight flights. The blanket quality took a drop with the Continental merger too; they are now see through and scratchy. Don’t look for a pillow day or night, those are gone.
|United Airlines First Class Seat 757 Reclined|
Meals and Beverages - (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner Post)
Pre-departure beverage service. It’s available only if the flight attendants want to serve drinks. Continental crews will 95% of the time, but United ones are closer to 75% of the time. Some crews offer water or OJ, other take drink orders. You can always ask for what you want, wine aside (flight crews don’t like opening bottles on the ground), you should be able to get it.
Complimentary beer, wine, spirits, soft drinks and freshly brewed coffee. All true. Same drinks as in coach, but the wine comes in full size bottles. The new United coffee isn’t very good though and Bailey’s isn’t always onboard to fix the flavor issues. Drinking contests with seatmates make the flight go much faster.
Hot towel service. Towels are provided after takeoff. I like to wipe down my seating area before the meal service. Towels used to become very dirty after this process, but now they don’t find as much dirt. This is my unscientific way to see that United is keeping their planes much cleaner than in years past.
|United Airlines First Class Seat 757 Legroom|
Meal service on flights longer than two hours. I’ve always liked airline food, even the slop served in coach when I was a kid, so digest this review with that in mind. United flights offer two items, omelet or fruit plate for breakfast and usually pasta/salad or a sandwich/wrap for lunch and dinner. Some meals also come with soup, usually excellent (bad lunch review, good lunch review). A roll or salad is also sometimes offered. The menu changes about every month. Desert is a baked on board cookie. They usually serve a great chocolate chip cookie, but every once and a while mix it up with oatmeal raisin or white chocolate cranberry. On flights less than 2 hours, a snack basket is passed around with nuts, chips, Clif Bars, and bananas. Not very inspiring, Lufthansa does a meal service on short flights, United can just as easily.
Audio entertainment with complimentary headsets provided on aircraft equipped with in-flight entertainment. Better headsets than in coach, but your own might still be better.
Complimentary DIRECTV® on equipped aircraft (most 90%+ of the 737 fleet). Free live tv is standard on JetBlue, while United charges $4 or $6 in coach. First Class gets it for free and has the same ear buds as in coach.
|United Airlines 757 at EWR Sunrise|
Complimentary movies on all flights three hours or longer. This is a standard offering in all cabins. They did show The Artist on a recent flight, so not every inflight movie is garbage.
A complimentary copy of Hemispheres magazine. Every seat has a copy, not very special. Hemispheres is a better read than most inflight magazines though.
Airport arrival and departure
Premier AccessSM check-in, baggage handling, boarding and security lines (where available). 2 free checked bags, short line for check in, security, and boarding. All nice perks for flying first.