#TBT: Review: United Business First Washington to Frankfurt – 2013

Throwback Thursday Series!

This is the first in a series of “Throwback Thursday” #TBT posts that I will release.  These will feature flights and other elements of trip reports from the past.  For now, these will all be flights, hotels or cities that I’ve taken, stayed at, or been to over the last few years.   For all of these trips, I took notes and/or wrote a review, took pictures, but never published the entry on my blog… until now.


I arrived at Dulles airport with my buddy about three hours before the flight.  He’d be flying in economy on this flight, while I was in Business class.  This was our flight over to Germany for Oktoberfest 2013.  We planned to fly into Frankfurt before heading to Munich for a few days for Oktoberfest, and then on to London and Edinburgh.

After clearing security, we first headed to Terminal B to the Lufthansa Senator Lounge.  As a Star Alliance Gold member, I am able to access the Lufthansa Senator Lounge prior to my flight on a Star Alliance carrier — even though it wasn’t Lufthansa!  This is great, because the Senator Lounge at Dulles easily bests the United Clubs at the airport, and is one of my favorite lounges in the United States.  We spent about an hour in the lounge where we relaxed, ate some dinner, and had several drinks.

Our United B777-200 being prepped for the flight to FRA

Our United B777-200 being prepped for the flight to FRA

As boarding time drew closer, we made the trek over to the C/D concourse at Dulles and to seek refuge in one of the United Clubs right by our gate.  After another drink, it was time to head to the gate for boarding.

United Airlines (UA) 932
Washington-Dulles (IAD) – Frankfurt (FRA)
Aircraft:  Boeing 777-200
Seat:  6K (Business First)
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
10:00PM – 11:50AM (+1 day)
Duration:  7:50

As we entered the United B777-200, I turned left and my buddy went right on his way back to his economy plus seat.  I continued up to the first row in Business First, in the mini-cabin of two rows of business class, just aft of Global First.

I settled into my seat, 6K — a window seat.  This was my first time flying the Business First product from a pre-merger United aircraft.  I’d flown the pre-merger Continental Business First seat before — from Denver to Seattle to Tokyo, and from Tokyo to Denver.

My seat, 6K (window)  on the United B777-200

My seat, 6K (window) on the United B777-200

BusinessFirst seat on United B777-200

BusinessFirst seat on United B777-200

First row of United Business First on the 3-class B777-200

First row of United Business First on the 3-class B777-200

These three-class B777-200s have one of the most cramped business class cabins in the skies.  These seats are arranged in a 2-4-2 format with every other row facing backwards.  My seat was front-facing, but it was noticeably not as wide as the ex-Continental variant (which is in a 2-2-2 configuration).  When the cabin is filled, folks are really packed in there — and it’s not the most premium of feelings sitting eight across in business class.

Eight across in United Business First -- oyyyy

Eight across in United Business First — oyyyy

Even with its shortcomings, this seat is still pretty comfortable, as it lies flat.  I was noticeably constricted around the shoulders, but I had plenty of legroom.

Still plenty of legroom in United Business First

Still plenty of legroom in United Business First

After acquainting myself with the seat, the flight attendant brought out a pre-departure beverage — champagne in this instance.  I downed that, and soon after we were pushing back.  It appeared to be a somewhat light load in the back, so boarding was relatively quick.

Because of the late, 10:00pm departure, there was very little traffic, and we took to the sky quickly, as I started a movie, “World War Z“.

Shortly after takeoff, dinner service promptly began since people were anxious to get to bed.  I chose my main entrée of the tenderloin of beef over the chicken, fish and pasta options.

Menu

Dinner Menu

Menu

Dinner Menu

After hot nuts and a drink, the meal started with the appetizer and salad brought out on one tray.  The jumbo shrimp cocktail was fantastic!  I really do enjoy this cold appetizer more than the hot appetizers that one gets in Global First Class.   The salad was fresh and tasty, and was topped with a very nice creamy garlic dressing that was also delicious — I especially enjoyed the mozzarella cheese.

IMG_4689

Jumbo shrimp with seafood cocktail sauce and the salad — fresh seasonal greens with tomatoes, Kalamata olives, bell pepper, baby mozzarella and croutons with a creamy garlic dressing.

Next, I received the beef tenderloin.  I’ve ordered this entrée a number of times on United, but this particular steak was pretty over-cooked, and the gnocchi was also tough.  The taste was overall pretty decent, but it was probably cooked / re-heated incorrectly.

Beef

Tenderloin of beef with asiago broth, brown butter gnocchi and green asparagus

I never go wrong with dessert on United, as the ice cream sundae cart is really hard to screw up.  As always, I enjoyed a fully-loaded ice cream sundae as I finished my movie.

Ice Cream Sundae

Ice Cream Sundae

Ice Cream Sundae and a movie

Ice Cream Sundae and a movie

Once the dinner service concluded, the flight attendant bought out bottles of water for everyone.  I changed into some shorts and t-shirt and reclined my seat into a bed and drifted off to sleep.

I slept a solid five hours — somewhat comfortably despite the lack of shoulder room.  I recall tossing a turning for a bit, but eventually I got comfortable and drifted off.  I aw

About an hour outside of Frankfurt, a continental breakfast consisting of fresh fruit, a croissant, cereal and yogurt was served.  I declined breakfast since I wasn’t hungry due to eating dinner just a few hours before.  Instead, I opted for a Diet Coke to get some caffeine in me.

Diet Coke -- the breakfast of champions

Diet Coke — the breakfast of champions

Descending into Frankfurt

Descending into Frankfurt

Not long after that, we descend into Frankfurt and made a short taxi to a remote stand.  Here, we boarded a bus that weaved amongst the gigantic widebody aircraft at Frankfurt, all the way to the terminal.

My ride from IAD-FRA parked on the apron in Frankfurt

My ride from IAD-FRA parked on the apron in Frankfurt

Big ole' B777 GE engines!

Big ole’ B777 GE engines!

The Verdict…

The whole point of sitting in business class on a Transatlantic flight for me is to get some sleep.  Despite the relatively tight configuration in business class, this seat still did the job, as I arrived in Frankfurt well-rested.  The catering in business class was perfectly fine.  It wasn’t gourmet by any means, but it offered edible, somewhat tasty food.  The appetizer and salad were downright good.   Service throughout the flight was pretty distant and removed, but I didn’t really lack for anything during the flight.  The fact that it was a late night departure likely had something to do with this.  Considering the price was right (and my Global Premier Upgrade cleared), this was a great way to kickoff two weeks in Europe!

How I booked it…

I booked this as part of a stopover / open-jaw round trip revenue ticket.  The routing I booked was IAD-FRA / MUC-LHR / EDI-EWR-DCA — all on one ticket. The final damage was about $1300, but I booked a V-fare economy ticket in hopes of my Global Premier Upgrades clearing to business class.  Luckily, on this segment, the upgrades did clear exactly eight days prior to the flight.

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