Review: UA862 Hong Kong to San Francisco, Economy Class

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At the Airport

I got to the airport around two and a half hours before the flight and the United checkin desks were not too busy. The ground agents were helpful and friendly.

 Equipment

This was operated by a Boeing 777-300ER (registration number N2747U).

The interior colour scheme though drab is inoffensive and does not make the plane feel cramped as some décor schemes do.

The seating, however, was in a 3-4-3 configuration and did feel cramped in terms of width.

The seatback television was okay and there was a low to middling range of entertainment, mostly western. Oddly there was no music selection that I could find. There was a blanket and pillow at the seat on boarding – American planes often have low cabin temperatures by Asian standards and this flight was like that. Staff distributed earbuds.

Flight

The flight left from gate 41, close to the United Club. Boarding was fairly quick for an American flight and the gate security was not time consuming. We pushed back on time and had a smooth flight to San Francisco, arriving on a gorgeous morning fifteen minutes ahead of schedule. The landing was exceptionally smooth – if I had my eyes closed I could not have told that we had landed.

The economy cabin was probably only two thirds full. I had expected it to be packed to the gunnels, so was pleasantly surprised to have an empty seat beside me.

Service

The crew was mostly middle aged and was a mixture of Americans, locals and Asian Americans, which seems to be the norm on United flights from Hong Kong. Between them they spoke and made announcements in English, Cantonese and Mandarin. There seemed to be a lot of Mandarin speakers on the flight.

The crew was friendly and hard working. The problem is that they are given so little to work with to serve passengers.

Service started soon after takeoff with the distribution of small water bottles and a drinks run accompanied by the so-called Asian snack mix. Then in very short order the cabin crew moved to the meal service. The tray clearance came soon afterwards. After that there was a snack service halfway through the flight, followed by breakfast about an hour and a half before landing. They occasionally came through the cabin with water.

There is no printed menu or order of service, which makes the flight more confusing than it needs to be.

Food and Drink

The food on United is a disgrace for a long-haul, full-service flight like this one.

The first meal was a choice of Thai green curry or pasta. I had the pasta and it was visually unappealing, and lacking in flavour. Vanilla ice cream tubs were distributed for dessert.

The mid-flight snack was a small turkey roll and tiny Mars bar, in an unattractive cellophane bag.

Breakfast was quiche or noodles. I had the quiche, which was basic.

The wine is very average but United does carry some decent beers, including Stella Artois and an American IPA on this flight.

 Conclusion

United’s measly quantities of low quality food really worsen the experience of a flight this long. However, the flying was good and the cabin crew helpful, so it was not as bad as some United flights. Still, I would rank them below Delta (no longer serving Hong Kong directly – they stopped their Seattle route last month) and American, and far below most Asian carriers.

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