Most news regarding United lately has been almost uniformly negative both on this website and in other news reports. From computer system failures, maintenance delays, and customer service snafus, it has been tough on United passengers, as well as employees. I have experienced plenty of issues first hand, but I’m pleased to discuss a recent pleasant experience on United. The new United 767-300 Business Class is solid.
I was in the Bay Area for work, and flying home on a Friday morning. This trip was booked several weeks ago, and I took the flight I often try for on this route, a mid-morning flight from San Francisco to O’Hare which was scheduled for an internationally configured 767. I traded the later departure eating up much of the day for the comfort and variety of a plane typically used for international flights. About a week or so before the flight, I noticed there was an aircraft change to a domestic 767 (aka the Ghetto-bird). I had waitlisted for an upgrade with a regional upgrade, but once I saw this change, I decided to no longer use the upgrade instrument on what I considered inferior equipment, and a relatively easy upgrade without instrument.
The United 767-300 Business Class experience, maybe
About 24 hours before departure, I noticed that the seat map online changed to the new 2-class 767-300 configuration. This configuration is replacing the sUA 767-300ER which is used for domestic service. These ‘new’ birds are intended for use on international flights, replacing the retiring 767-200 and increasing fleet flexibility. Daniel discussed some United fleet plans in a post from about a year ago. There are currently 3 of these reconfigured planes in service, and 3 in HKG being worked on. The remaining 8 767s in the domestic configuration will eventually get reconfigured. Thanks to the excellent United Fleet Site for this information.
View from Economy on the United 767-300ER
On board, the product is greatly improved, with a larger monitor in each seat with AVOD. There is also a USB port on the monitor, and AC plugs between seats. There are 30 BusinessFirst seats (the legacy Continental lie-flat product), 49 Economy-plus seats, and 135 Economy seats. The overhead bins are larger, although the bins above the middle section are still pretty tight.
Babysitting the Upgrade List
I checked in right at the 24 hour mark, hoping to maximize my upgrade chances, but as departure approached, my odds didn’t look great, since the cabin showed full, and I was 1, then 2 on the upgrade list. Thankfully, that changed around boarding time:
I was #2 on the list, and the upgrade looked possible. I took my assigned seat in economy.
While heading to my seat in economy plus, I noticed the huge leg room in rows 16, 17 and 18, due to the alignment of the windows. More leg room than in the exit row. Definitely a good option when flying in economy on this plane. Due to the aircraft change(s), seat assignments were a bit of a mess, so there were no other seats open. I took 20A, which was in Economy plus. Legroom was nice, and the video screen was large, with a wide selection of entertainment options available on demand.
Fortunately, I was not in the seat for long. After most of boarding had completed, a gate agent boarded to give me a new boarding pass, for seat 2D. Nice!
United 767-300 Business Class seat
There are 30 BusinessFirst seats in a 2-1-2 configuration, and since I was traveling alone, the ‘D’ seat was great. It was a great option for the sub-4 hour flight to Chicago. It would also be nice for the longer flights it is intended for. This was my first flight in the most current version of what was Continental’s premium seat, and it was very nice, with more storage space and a little more privacy than the current sUA business class seats. The privacy and easy aisle access of the single middle seat are great a solo traveler, but it did seem a bit confined space wise.
The power port and headphone jack behind the right shoulder took some getting used to. There was also minimal room for storage compared with the other seats in the cabin. The foot well was very small, and in flat-bed mode, I didn’t quite have enough room to lay down without hitting both the top and bottom of the seat. I’m 6’3″, so taller than the average traveler. I did notice more foot space in the seat pairs near the windows, and I guess on future flights I’ll try for one of those seats hoping for a little more foot space, and hopefully more length when in flat-bed mode.
United 767-300 Business In Flight entertainment
In BusinessFirst, the video screen is controlled by a touchscreen, and there is also a remote in the armrest. The interface was easy to use, and was different from on other United cabins I’ve experienced. There were 50+ movies available, and many short programs and music options. As a flying nerd, I always enjoy listening to Channel 9, so I was pleased to notice that it was available on this flight. Channel 9 comes on when viewing the map. Please also see Tom’s review of the reconfigured BusinessFirst on the 767-400, which is similar to what I experienced on the 767-300, just with a slightly larger cabin.
United can do the little things right
Another nice feature of the flight, was a very long humorous welcome by the pilot, Gary Rogaliner, a Chicago based 757/767 captain. Among other things, he announced our planned altitude in inches for comedic effect. He seems to have attended the same comedy school as Captain Denny Flanagan.
I was very pleasantly surprised that the captain of my flight shared something else with Captain Denny; during our descent, the lead flight attendant distributed his business cards to (most?) passengers in first class that had a personalized note. My note thanked me for among other things, my “trust and confidence in UA”. I have read reports of several captains doing this, but it was the first time I experienced it with someone other than Captain Denny. Unfortunately, Captain Rogaliner did not make a point to individually greet customers before and after the flight, so I did not get to thank him personally, but I plan to do so via email.
Service on board was fine. The Chicago and San Francisco based flight attendants were friendly and efficient. We were served lunch on board, a choice between a chicken wrap or a salad with chicken. There sure isn’t much variety with United’s meals lately, as I’ve had both of these options multiple times.
This new United 767-300 business configuration is a great improvement on its previous version. I was pleased with the last minute upgrade. Most of all, I’m happy to finally have an experience with United that was notable for something positive for a change. It makes me reel a little better about me sticking with them through these trying times. It’s the little things that matter, and United seems to really struggle with this. The simple gesture of a personalized note from the captain is a perfect example of something minor that really left a positive impression.