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Three Days in Rio de Janeiro – Introduction


United Airlines 309
San Francisco (SFO) – Washington-Dulles (IAD)
Airbus A320
18 February 2016

United Airlines introduced a few months ago a new Domestic First Class seat, which is being gradually installed on their Airbus A319s and A320s. A select few number of Airbus aircraft in the United fleet feature the new First Class seat and therefore I was extremely lucky to be able to experience it on a hub-to-hub flight from San Francisco to Washington D.C.

The United Fleet Website provides information on which aircraft feature the new First Class. To check, simply check the United flight status page and find your aircraft (ship) number, then go to the feet website to check what amenities are available on that particular aircraft.

After visiting the United Global First Lounge and the AMEX Centurion Lounge (where I was able to enjoy a nice breakfast), I headed over to gate 63 for on-time boarding for my flight to Dulles. I also noticed United’s new (clean) gate display being featured, their other flight information display system features a ton of additional information and while it is detailed, I think I prefer the “clean” version of the FIDS.

Gate Display

Gate Display

United Airbus A320

United Airbus A320

Boarding began right as scheduled and within minutes, I was able to enjoy the new, comfortable United Airlines Domestic First Class seat on the Airbus A320. The new seat is very similar to some United Express First Class seats, but the “mainline” version is much, much more comfortable.

I spent about five hours in this new seat on this flight and therefore I believe I can say that I’ve experienced it on a long enough route to say that it is truly comfortable and by far their best domestic recliner First Class seat. The new seat is similar to the seats featured in Economy and I believe it is made from similar material. Obviously the First Class seat is wider and features additional amenities such as:

  • New, 6-way adjustable headrest
  • Universal AC power
  • Real granite cocktail tables
  • Articulating seat base
  • Tablet stand integrated into tray table
  • Wider seats
  • In-arm storage
  • Signature leather seat design

The main feature I love is the articulating seat base – I didn’t think this would be a “killer” feature, but it is actually awesome and makes the seat much more comfortable. I also like the 6-way adjustable headrest and the fact that there is more storage around the seat.

New United Airlines First Class A320

New United Airlines First Class A320

New United Airlines First Class A320

New United Airlines First Class A320

New United Airlines First Class A320

New United Airlines First Class A320

Legroom is about the same to the previous A320 First Class seat, which was/is very spacious. The granite cocktail table is wide enough to hold two drinks per person. There is also a “sub” level to the cocktail table that slides out… ideal for holding warm nuts and drinks! The armrests feature storage space for tablets or laptops. There is also space for water bottles and additional catalogues.

The tray table features a tablet stand, which I think is a cool feature. But perhaps the biggest improvement besides the new seat, is that finally there are power outlets. So on the upgraded A319/A320s, there will also be power in addition to the WiFi. United Private Screening is available via the United apps.

New United First A320 Legroom

New United First A320 Legroom

New United First A320 Granite Cocktail Table

New United First A320 Granite Cocktail Table

Obviously because the seats are so new, everything so far is super clean and well maintained (I assume this will change as more people use the seat). The new First Class seat looks and is much better than the previous seats (or even significantly better than the Continental First Class seats).

We pushed back right as scheduled, but had to wait about fifteen minutes by the runway as it was midday and traffic was present. It was an overall gorgeous and beautiful day in San Francisco.

San Francisco Airport

San Francisco Airport

The pre-departure beverage service was offered during boarding, I find that this service is highly inconsistent since sometimes it is offered right as a First Class passenger takes their seat, sometimes after everyone has boarded, or sometimes not at all.

Pre-Departure Beverage

Pre-Departure Beverage

San Francisco Airport

San Francisco Airport

We departed a few minutes behind schedule, but still landed ahead of schedule in Washington. The flight attendants on this flight weren’t the best and actually a bit rude to the passengers… something that is quite normal for U.S. airline standards.

San Francisco Airport

San Francisco Airport

San Francisco Airport

San Francisco Airport

San Francisco

San Francisco

San Francisco

San Francisco

View

View

The lunch service began about thirty minutes after we had reached our cruising altitude. Warm nuts and a drink of our choice was presented first. The new tray tables are actually very nice and mostly solid in that they don’t move around too much and they’re sturdy. To begin, my drink consisted of tea with lemon and sugar.

Tea with Lemon and Sugar and Warm Nuts

Tea with Lemon and Sugar and Warm Nuts

Lunch consisted of either pasta, chicken, or some type of seafood which I can’t remember. Naturally, I selected the pasta since that’s the meal that most airlines consistently prepare correctly… unlike most other things. The first part to the lunch was a delicious salad which contained some delicious fruit. Pineapple vinaigrette and warm bread were both provided alongside of the salad.

United First Lunch - Salad

United First Lunch – Salad

The second part of the lunch consisted of the main course. My pasta was delicious and actually very well prepared, it also included some asparagus. Pasta is something that is actually very, very hard to prepare badly and therefore if you’re ever unsure about the other choices, always choose pasta.

United First Lunch - Pasta

United First Lunch – Pasta

The first part of the dessert consisted of a delicious sorbet with a mint leaf. The sorbet was rock-hard, so I had to let it sit for about twenty minutes before it was edible.

United First Lunch - Sorbet

United First Lunch – Sorbet

A few hours after the sorbet, freshly baked cookies were served. These cookies are absolutely mouthwatering and perhaps while not the healthiest, still delicious.

United First Lunch - Cookie

United First Lunch – Cookie

As we approached the east coast, the sun began to set and that provided some gorgeous views outside into the world. Not surprisingly, some of the east coast was covered in snow.

View

View

Sunset

Sunset

We landed about ten minutes ahead of schedule in Dulles. The food on the flight was perfectly edible and all of it was delicious. United’s salads are usually very well executed and therefore it’s nice to have at least something consistent from flight to flight. The new First Class seat is more comfortable and spacious than I expected and therefore I was pleasantly surprised. The power outlets and the seat’s articulating base are the biggest enhancements to this new United First. More aircraft are being retrofitted with the new seats and therefore there will be more chances to experience this new product.

I didn’t interact much with the flight attendants as they weren’t the nicest. I’ve had some amazing and horrible FAs with United, and these were sort of in the middle whereby they sort of tried to be nice, but really weren’t. All I care is that the food was great, the seat was awesome, and that we safely made it to Washington D.C. where I had about a three hour layover and decided to visit a few new lounges before my Global First flight.


Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.