United & ANA Economy Review EWR – SEA – NRT – HKG

I recently came back to HK on a trip from the U.S. and since it was the height of summer, ended up buying the cheapest ticket I could find, which was on United Airlines. I had flown Continental ten years ago EWR – HKG which wasn’t that good, and once from NRT – LAX on UA, but I couldn’t remember how it was since I was so hungover I was passed out the whole flight. Therefore, I figure I’d try giving the ‘new’ United Airlines a shot and see how it was.

As insane as my routing was, EWR – SEA- NRT – HKG, I purposely picked this routing to get the SEA-NRT UA codeshare flight on ANA equipment. UA also flies the same route, but you’d be crazy to choose UA over ANA when the price is the same. The only drawback was that you don’t accrue as many elite qualifying miles on ANA operated flights.

Point of the story, don’t give new UA a shot unless you enjoy uncomfortable seats, basic  service, and hunger while you fly.

With Priority Pass from outside of theU.S., you can access to United Club lounges in the U.S.

EWR – SEA (UA 1526)

Went to United Club lounge to wait for my flight. Fairly empty and quiet on a Sunday morning. Basic breakfast offerings of cereal, muffin, and bagels. Large spacious lounge that doesn’toffer too many amenities, but they do have a nice selection of newspapers to choose from.

This flight was on a brand new Boeing 737-900, only 5 weeks old. It had some cool lighting features, but other than that barebones. No in seat LCDs, no overhead LCDs, in fact NO technology whatsoever on the airplane except a light switch which you had to control from the ceiling, not your seat. The flight attendants even had to do thesafety demonstration manually in the aisle because of this. I really don’t understand the logic, spend $XXX million on an airplane and leave out the TV screens? No pillows, no blanket; I’m surprised they give you oxygen to breathe.

New 737 Modern lighting and roof design

Aside from the newness of the airplane,the seats only reclined about 2 inches and bathroom was tiny. The best feature was the lavatory in the front of coach so you had access in the front or back of the cabin to pee. I’ve never seen a mid-cabin lavatory on a 737 before.

The service was pleasant and a nice surprise from all of the reviews about surly UA flight attendants. Unfortunately,they only had a drink service once on a 6 hour flight, and no food domesticallyof course. Basically the attendants serve drinks after takeoff and disappear until landing time.

SEA – NRT (NH 1077)

Arrived B terminal, and immediately took the shuttle straight to the S terminal. I didn’t realize there’s no United Club lounge in S until I got there so just skipped the lounge in Seattle and ate at the food court instead. The airport offers free Wifi which is nice, kudos to SEA.

ANA has a new route from SEA – NRT which just started July 25, 2012. They were supposed to start this route on thenew 787 equipment, but unfortunately due to delays this has been pushed back and they’re running the route on larger 777s. Be prepared, I havenothing but praise for ANA.

View prior to boarding at SEA

Plane wasn’t full so I had a seat empty next to me, gave me plenty of room to stretch out. Seat features were great, about a 7″ LCD, on demand movies, foot rest (cool), USB charging port, cup holders, fixed shell design. Personally I prefer the fixed shells since the person in front can’t encroach in my space, and the person in back doesn’t keep shaking my seat, but I know others don’t care for the sliding recline. I was really impressed with the large screen, and footrest, and ample leg room space.

Best economy seat I sat in a long time! Even has footrest.

Food was delicious and filling, I had a chicken teriyaki on rice with soba noodles and other Japanese sides. They give you real Haagen Daaz for dessert, tasty. Alcohol is free but I stuck w/ the delicious apple juice and green tea from Japan. Service is friendly as always on Japanese carriers and I have no complaints, except maybe the flight attendants couldn’t been younger and hotter. (Damn employment laws, just kidding.) The attendants came regularly throughout the flight to provide water as well.

The only gripe with the flight was the overhead binds are weird sizes, some small some large, so if you have carry-on luggage it may be tough to find space to fit a normal sized carry-on, I had to place my luggage a few rows away, but other than that I was extremely pleasantly surprised. Or maybe it just seemed amazing due to the contrast with my previous UA flight.

NRT – HKG (UA 79)

Transit is super easy at NRT, just showyour onwards passport and boarding pass, pass through security and offyou go. United Club lounge is near gate 31, terminal 1. This is by far the best United Club lounge I’m sure. Service is friendly and helpful aswith most things in Japan. The showers are large and clean. They provide towels, and toiletries. Food offerings were either breads, basic sushi, and soup. Beer, liquor, and soft drinks available as well. Very crowded in the lounge during afternoons when most of the UA flights take off. Free but slow wifi.

Equipment was an ancient 737-800, seats a lot older and worn compared w/ the new equipment, as expected. But at least there were overhead LCD screens (showing Three Stoges and Big Bang Theory), and audio / light controls from the seat arm. I was lucky enough to score an economy plus exit row window seat so I had ample leg room to stretch out. I thought the seat might recline a bit more on this international flight, but it was the same crappy recline so I was sleeping basically upright. Pillow and blanket provided. The pillow was so flattened out it couldn’t have been thicker than an inch. The blanket came wrapped in plastic,which I would think would indicated it was a cleaned and sanitized, but there were still hairs on it from the previous passengers, how lovely.

Nice sunset view, plane ancient and food sucked

Food and drink service, but the food was terrible. Pork on rice, consisted of one tiny, super thin, (0.25 cm) slice of a pork chop on top of rice. Thank god I had some sushi at the lounge, otherwise I would’ve starved to death.

The attendants on this flight were a mixture of various ethnicities and didn’t seem as friendly as the US based ones. Can’t praise or complain about them.

As bad of the UA flights were, they arrived earlier than scheduled despite delayed departures from the gate (which tells you how much they pad their times.) I got to my destinations safely and the luggage arrived without a hitch, so got what I paid for. Next time I’ll just prepare to pay a little more to fly another carrier, (unless UA is significantly cheaper.)


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  • Great write up. Will definitely consider SEA-NRT-HKG route when I visit HK instead of SEA-SFO-HKG. Also looking forward to EVA Air integrating into Star Alliance.

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