For the international leg of the first part of our trip from JFK – SFO – HKG, I used US Airways miles to book business class (known as BusinessFirst) on United 747 flight # 869, which leaves at 1:25pm and arrives in HKG at 6:40pm, a 12 hour flight. There was a tight connection, even with our first flight arriving on time – good thing we weren’t late (or didn’t check bags!). We probably could’ve stopped in the lounge for pictures, but what would be the point of a lounge review if we didn’t actually “lounge” there?


We took our time through the terminal, and when we got through the passport control at the gate, they’d already started boarding, but fortunately there was no line for business class boarding, so we whisked down the gangway. I had picked our seats on the second deck; this flight has 52 business class seats, divided into 32 on the first deck and 20 on the upper deck. I’ve never before been on a double decker plane, so this was pretty cool.


The upper deck had a 2-2 configuration, which I’m not a huge fan of; if you’ve got a window seat and need to get up, you need to pounce over your seatmate. On the seatmap, some of the seats are facing each other, but you actually cannot see over the divider in the middle (unless you’re like 7 feet tall!).

united seatmap


The seats were completely lie-flat in sleeping position, and 20 inches wide. There were large monitors, and a separate area between the window seat and the window for storage, such as laptops or headphones. The seat controls were easy and intuitive, and the movie selection was quite good, although I spent most of my media time listening to music and reading Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, which I can’t recommend enough – I could not put it down!





Immediately after we sat, the flight attendant offered us a libation; I went with champagne (not sure what kind – unfortunately I’m not very sophisticated). We received a cheapish-looking amenities kit, along with socks – not the cheap-o emergency-room-booty kind fortunately.


The amenity kit had the usual stuff – eyemask, toothbrush, earplugs, comb, lotion, handwipes, etc. Not quite as nice as the EVA amenity kit…(later).


Meal service came fairly promptly after reaching cruising altitude, and it was actually quite good! Starters were a good salad, hot bread w/ butter, and a fruit plate. For the main entree, I opted for beef, which was decent, and my wife got shrimp, which was also very good. Over the course of our 12 hour flight, the food was actually quite good, contrary to what I’ve read before. We only had two meals because of some (more) melatonin to get into Hong Kong timezone. I have to say – the combination of flying West and taking melatonin got me into that timezone right away, and my wife only had a day of jet lag.



During the middle of the flight, a call went out overhead asking for a doctor – so of course I had to respond! With all the flying I’ve done, this is actually the first time I’ve heard a call for a doctor. I went back to the rather large flight attendant area to speak to the patient. I won’t say what was wrong with him, but he was better after about 20 minutes, and the crew was incredibly grateful. In fact, as I was exiting the plane, the lead flight attendant gave us 3 bottles of wine to take with us! Perfect, as we were meeting with friends that night at a BYOB! Overall, I’d say the flight was an A-. It wasn’t up to par with the top tier of Asian or Middle Eastern carriers, but it was a very lovely experience, and one I would definitely do again!


Posted by glenn | 6 Comments

6 responses to “Review: United Business Class 747 San Francisco to Hong Kong”

  1. Dave says:

    How were you able to use US Air miles on United? US Air exited Star Alliance in March of this year. Did you book your trip before the end of March?

  2. Papa Smurf says:

    Kudos for helping out.

  3. Scott says:

    Nice. I’ve had a couple of united business flights and I’ve have nothing but good experiences, contrary to what I’ve read. I actually preferred both of my United flights to a Lufthansa and EVA business class flight. Both were in older seats though. The united seat is really pretty good. I guess I need to go try Cathay Pacific next.

  4. augias says:

    @Scott: I agree, I’ve flown United business a lot, and prefer it to Delta and most of the European carriers I’ve flown like Lufthansa/KLM/AF (all three of which have quite a bad business class), better than Air China as well. I prefer it to BA as well. It’s not mind-blowing, but it’s solid, the movie selection is good, the food is decent and occasionally even excellent, the seat is comfortable enough.

    My favorite biz experience is Alitalia – huge seat and amazing food! If you like Italian food 🙂

  5. Andy says:

    @dave – I booked at the end of Feb when they were still Star Alliance.

  6. Andy says:

    @scott & augius – it was my first time in UA biz, and I was duly impressed, although that us tempered by initially having low expectations because of other blogs. I have heard good things about Alitalia.

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