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A Review of the New United Airlines Business Class Seats

Updated on September 14, 2010

Photos, Thoughts, and an Overview of Features

As a graduation present, Steve, my wonderful father, treated me to a Business Class flight to Germany on United Airlines.  We were lucky enough to get the new seats that have been installed in 767s and 747s.  Indeed, I spent 10 or so hours in the seat, as United puts it, "that becomes a bed, that becomes a dream."

As of now, United "is the only airline with 180 degree flat bed seats in international first and business class."  So of course I was rather excited to give these a spin.  Below is my review of this newfangled travel experience.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Look at that SEAT!Lots of spaceThe cabin
Look at that SEAT!
Look at that SEAT!
Lots of space
Lots of space
The cabin
The cabin

The Seats

We were on the second floor of our aircraft, in a small, cozy cabin that had sleeping pods groups of two, some facing the front of the plane and some facing the back.  The upper floor sat a total of… oh, I’m guessing 12 people, so it was wonderfully quiet and peaceful, and even more private than the first class seats downstairs.

The seats were AMAZING.  They had special control panels that controlled the seats’ alignment- you could set it in one of three modes (landing/ takeoff, reclined, and fully flat for sleeping), plus there were individual controls for the seatback and footrest. 

Between Steve's seat and mine was a console, which harbored the seat controls, we well as contractible remotes for the televisions on the dividers in front of us, and two fold out tables.  At the top of the console was a tray for drinks and two additional fold out cup holders. 

The Entertainment

Facing each seat was a large screen, and in the center console between the seats could be found a pull-out remote with a litany of buttons to play with.  We were also given nice headphones- over-the-head style, but with those big, cushy, noise-canceling ear pads (I don't know the technical term and don't much care).  I used them instead of my own fancy pair just because I wanted to test them out, and they were quite nice, and really did block out external noise, even when no music / movie audio was playing.

I immediately took a look at the entertainment options once we sat down.  We had movies, televisions, music, games, books on tape, and personal IPod playing and watching options. 

The movie selection included both old and new movies, ranging from Sherlock Holmes to Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  I settled on The Young Victoria, which I loved, and Steve watched Sherlock Holmes.  We were able to pause the movies, as well as fast forward, rewind, or switch whenever we wanted to.  It was brilliant. 

As a side note, I should mention that there was a selection of magazines stowed between our seatbacks.  I'd write about them, but I was too busy with all the other exciting stuff to pay them much heed.

The Service

The service, of course, was amazing.  Steve got a lovely assortment of wines, and I was given nice water, in real glasses.  We were also served warm nuts in small Japanese sake cups. 

Meals were an entertaining affair- our fold-out tables were adorned with crisp, white table cloths, and we had real plates, utensils, and glasses.

Dinner was delicious.  We were given menus, which turned out to be somewhat superfluous for me given that I had requested special vegetarian meals, but I did notice that at least one part of each course was vegetarian friendly.

We were given salads (Steve had some greens with prosciutto and I had salad (dressing on the side) with fruit, cheese, and a multi-grain role .  For dinner, Steve had braised mashed potatoes with steak and creamed spinach, and I had a lovely Indian-style meal with chickpeas, some sort of eggplant dish, and aromatic couscous.  For dessert, we both had tiramisu (I am not one for such sweet deserts, but I felt that such occasions call for an acceptation to normal behavior- it was sickly sweet (I prefer bitter desserts, for some reason) but I enjoyed the indulgence of eating tiramisu in Business class knowing that I really ought to be with the humans-turned-cattle in economy.

About that- this whole flight experience got me thinking about how inhumane travel is.  Steve and I spoke for a bit about the lost romance of travel- how it used to be a glamorous thing on trains and on ocean liners, and now it is a stressful process in which humans are robbed of their dignity and space.

I wonder how we might improve travel for the everyman in the future .  I suppose something so accommodating as Business Class is impossible for the airline industry, but could we perhaps someday have sedation flying- a la 5th Element?  I wonder…

At any rate, we were extremely happy to be in a pleasant plane environment for once, and really enjoyed the help and company of our stewardess (or whatever the PC word for airline professionals is these days).

The Sleeping Experience

For our comfort, we were each given a zip-up-pouch containing things like lotion, socks, and an eye mask.  We were also given nice blankets and pillows.  Of course, the real luxury with these seats was the 180 degree reclining option. 

Boy, was it nice to be able to lie on my SIDE on an airplane!  I got a real rush from converting my seat into a cozy little bed, snuggling below my blanket, pulling on my sleeping mask, and actually feeling comfortable.  That said, I was so excited I could barely sleep.  Go figure.  What I can say, though, is that these seats are all United says they are.  They really are that good. 

In Sum

United's new Business Class seats are, hands down, the coolest airplane seats I've ever encountered.  In the past, I have had some really horrid flight experiences- 16 hour flights to China in the VERY center of the VERY back for example- which definitely made this privilege even more enjoyable.

That said, are these seats worth the price?  Steve got them as a free upgrade due to his crazy miles, so we didn't exactly shove out the money one would usually shove out for this treat... is it worth it?

Personally, I'd take the cheapest seats and use my excess money on kitchen appliances.  But if you've got a lot of $100 bills lying around and you're tired of using them to paper your walls, this might be a nice way to get them off your hands.

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