For the final leg of my summer travels, I needed to make to home from Europe to Chicago, so I decided to ride with United. While unfortunately, I did not qualify for their young adult discount as my flight originated in Brussels, I had a pleasant trip on UA 973, a 777-200.
A day before I was scheduled to take off, I received a text signifying an aircraft change to an older 777-200 model. I would guess this may have to do with shuffling around their fleet for new locations. I appreciated the text alert, although I was initially annoyed as I was not allowed to reselect a seat. However, this worked out well for me as I was given an economy plus upgrade.
As I was transferring through Brussels, I had to make my way through an extremely long border control line, security check, and packed terminal. This reduced my layover from three hours to one. The moral of the story: get to BRU early if you’re ever flying from here.
Once at the gate, the agents were extremely helpful. They helped me reassign my seat and made sure my preference for having a window was met. They also assigned me an economy plus upgrade, which definitely helped make my flight more enjoyable. After the seat was assigned, they directed me to the US Immigration Security desk. After being asked about my trip and given a stamp of approval, I was cleared for boarding.
While working at a nearby Starbucks, I received another text indicating that boarding was beginning. This was a great reminder and made sure I did not run late. The boarding process was extremely prompt, kicking off at 10:20 for our 11am flight. However, when economy was called, the process became chaotic as nearly 150+ people lined up all at once, creating a line that spanned over two gates.
The boarding process definitely has some room for improvement but was painless and easy for the most part. I made it to my seat, 22K, about 15 minutes before the scheduled take-off, and got comfortable for the eight-hour-long flight.
United’s long-haul product
My economy plus seat was clean, comfortable and presentable. There was also plenty of overhead space, making it easy to store my suitcase. The material of the seat was soft and not scratchy, and had ample padding.
I also had a good amount of legroom, allowing my long legs to not be too cramped. However, with this being said, I could not discern a huge difference between United’s economy and economy plus products, despite an advertised difference.
The one major issue I had with this flight was the on-board electronics or lack thereof. To start, the IFE was from the 1800s; not only was the screen antiquated, but the options themselves were extremely limited. Oddly enough, there was also no brightness option for the screen. It was evident this 777-200 was not the newest craft in the fleet.
My saving grace was the new United in flight WiFi, which allowed me to stream movies and shows to my device. The WiFi enabled me to access a fair variety of movies and TV shows, helping to occupy me throughout my transatlantic flight.
The mid-Atlantic views
As we pushed back and headed towards the runway, I sat back and enjoyed my window views.
The onboard crew was great; they made the boarding process fun and engaging. I was able to have a good conversation with a few of them, and we joked around quite a bit. I loved that they revealed their personality as opposed to being too formal. Although, at times the onboard announcements came across as passive-aggressive. One example of this is “once again we cannot leave until everyone is in their seats.”
A small bag of pesto flavored crackers and water were first distributed. About an hour later, we were served lunch promptly after leveling off, and complimentary alcoholic beverages were included in this service. The lunch was a standard vegetarian or chicken option. It tasted fine, but was nothing to rave about. However, the crew passed out icecream following the meal, which was a great addition.
After lunch, there was a brief sales pitch for the United credit card, then the cabin lights were dimmed until the mid-afternoon snack. This snack was a tasty, but very oily sandwich. We were definitely well fed on this flight.
Altogether, I had a very pleasant flight with United. The onboard atmosphere was superb, and the meals and service exceeded expectations. The largest area for improvement on this flight is easily the product itself. The plane was outdated, causing several inconveniences throughout the journey. I would say United was a solid airline though, they just need to work on making their product consistent fleet-wide.