I’m starting to finish up my trip report to Rio de Janeiro, whereby I booked a very cheap United Airlines Global First fare that earned me just a bit under ~50k miles – and for a fare that cheap, it was a total deal that I couldn’t pass. Flying First Class on U.S. airlines is a totally different experience than flying First Class on non-U.S. airlines. I’m specifically talking about International First Class.

Before that trip, I hadn’t yet flown International First Class on a U.S. carrier and was kind of excited and concerned about how the experience would be after reading tons of reports online that it just absolutely sucks. My experience with United Global First was very pleasant and the crew was super friendly, the food was edible, and the seat was comfortable. Here are my two flight reviews:

Flying First Class on U.S. airlines is a different experience in a few of the following ways:

  • Generally there isn’t a difference in food between First Class and Business Class
  • Usually there is no “partition” or curtain between the two cabins (even though it might be physically there – it isn’t used)
  • Sometimes flight attendants and crew aren’t kind or friendly
  • The lack of amenities is noticeable (like United doesn’t have pyjamas)
  • The ground services suck
  • You aren’t generally treated any better


United Global First

United Global First

The key points to note is that generally there isn’t much of a difference between First and Business Class on U.S. carriers – except the seat, as the service and food is more or less equal. This includes ground services since First/Business board at the same time, and with the exception of access to “International First Class Lounges” (cough… cough…), there are no differences on the ground.

Don’t get me wrong, it still is a premium way to fly and much better than Economy Class and I would take First Class over Economy any day, it is just that U.S. airlines lack a lot of the service and professionalism that other airlines have.

This is how I would I sum up my International First Class experience on U.S. airlines: