Review: United Global First Class Chicago to Munich

I started out my around the world trip with a Transatlantic flight from Chicago to Munich in United Global First Class.  After a longer than usual flight from Washington-DCA to Chicago, I arrived at O’ Hare and met up with my good friend, who would be joining me for the entire trip to Europe and Asia.  IMG_8624We spent an hour or so at the United Global First Class Lounge in O’Hare, primarily finishing up some last-minute bill paying and calling loved ones before we departed.  Finally, it was time for boarding, so we ventured to the gate where boarding had just commenced.


An Around the World Trip — Oktoberfest and Asia


United Airlines (UA) 952
Chicago – O’Hare (ORD) – Munich (MUC)
Aircraft:  Boeing 777-200
Seat:  1A (Global First Class)
Wednesday, October 1
6:05PM – 9:50AM (+1 day)
Duration:  8:45

I don’t want to turn this review into another scathing review on the quality of the catering (or lack thereof) in United Global First, so I’ll instead focus on the highlights… at least to begin.

The seat.

Seat 1A on the United B777-200

Seat 1A on the United B777-200

Lots of room in United Global First Class

Lots of room in United Global First Class

Yes, United Global First has its shortcomings, but if quality of sleep matters to you, this seat delivers. I’m 6’4” and frequently am somewhat constrained in legroom while sleeping in many business class and some first class seats. But this is not a problem in United Global First. There is ample legroom and shoulder space to sleep extremely comfortably. The physical difference between the Global First seat and the Business First seat on this aircraft is so large that I’d always recommend scoring the Global First seat if it’s a choice – despite the lack of difference in service and catering offerings. Though I stayed up longer than I wanted to watching “Million Dollar Arm,” I fell directly to sleep when it was time to do so. I was in such a deep sleep that when the flight attendant woke me for breakfast, I didn’t know where I was. I didn’t know who this strange woman was waking me up. My initial thought was, “Oh, we’re in Dallas already?” only to realize shortly thereafter that trip was three days ago – I’m headed to Europe this time.

The legacy United B777-200, with a three-class configuration features eight Global First seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. This flight was completely full. I settled into seat 1A and was immediately offered a beverage. Keeping with tradition, I requested a glass of champagne. Several rounds of bubbly were delivered before boarding was finally completed about thirty minutes later.

Enjoying a pre-departure class of champagne

Enjoying a pre-departure class of champagne

We then pushed back a bit late and sat on the tarmac for the better part of an hour. The residual delays from the Chicago Control Center sabotage the previous Friday continued to be felt four days later, as the rush hour traffic jam out of O’Hare was fierce. We finally started taxiing to the runway about an hour and fifteen minutes behind schedule.

Once airborne, the meal service commenced after about 45 minutes with warm nuts and a few rounds of drinks.

Warm nuts and drinks

Warm nuts and drinks

The warm appetizer of a coconut chicken skewer with eggplant-mango chutney and tabbouleh salad was delivered. It was passable, but nothing memorable.

The next course was a surprisingly tasty cup of French onion soup that I enjoyed along with a piece of garlic bread and a pretzel roll.

The salad course was brought out next, and it was quite nice – very fresh with a creamy dressing that I enjoyed.

Nice Salad Course

Nice Salad Course

I chose the tenderloin of beef for my entrée over a chicken breast, a fillet of Amazon Cod, and a tri-color ravioli. This steak was described as coming with an asiago broth with brown butter gnocchi and green asparagus. This menu offering was not dissimilar from what I’ve received before in Business First, but this time it was not executed nearly as well.

I skipped the cheese course and took my fully loaded ice cream sundae for dessert.

While not inedible like my last two flights in United Global First (LAX-SYD; SYD-SFO), the dinner catering on this flight was still not even in the ballpark of being competitive as an International First Class product. The meals in United’s Global First are identical to those in Business First, except a warm appetizer replaces a chilled appetizer, and a soup course is added. Many times, I prefer the chilled appetizer such as a shrimp cocktail over the typical warm appetizer of coconut encrusted something or another.  I’m not trying to be stuck up – -this is clearly much better than anything you’d find in economy.  But compared to other airlines’ first class catering offerings, United’s just doesn’t measure up too favorably.

Service during dinner was adequate. The flight attendants were kind and attentive enough, though not at all spectacular.   I did find my flight attendant, Sandy to be very sweet and she really did take care of anything and everything I asked for, so I can’t ask for more than that.

After dinner, I settled in with a scotch to watch a movie. I went to change into a t-shirt and shorts, and I came back to my seat turned down, and the bed made with a duvet and covers – so this was a nice touch.

The horrific catering on United is again apparent in the liquor selections. When you’re serving Dewar’s White Label as the scotch in international first class, there’s a problem. This may sound a bit stuck up, but seriously – United needs to step up its game here.

I watched “300: Rise of an Empire” and immediately proceeded to start “Million Dollar Arm” with the plan of drifting asleep.

Mistake.

I ended up pretty much loving this movie and stayed up for the entire thing – about two hours later than I’d intended. Once it concluded, I drifted off into the deepest of airborne sleeps.

Once awoken for breakfast, it took me a few minutes to figure life out, and by that time, the breakfast tray was on my table. It consisted of some granola, fresh fruit, a croissant, and some blueberry yogurt. It was definitely a continental-style breakfast, as there was not a hot egg dish. This didn’t bother me, as the egg dishes on United are typically pretty rough.

After breakfast, I got some work done (wrote this write-up) before we descended into Munich!

Overall, it was a nice flight. The seat is the absolute highlight, and that alone should be reason for cashing in that GPU from business class – especially if you’re interested in a great night’s sleep. I really enjoy flying from Chicago to Europe, because the two extra hours allow for a much more relaxed flight with more time to get some rest after a leisurely dinner service. Flights from the east coast to Europe are typically way too short for my liking.

Arriving into Munich

Arriving into Munich

Foggy morning in Munich!

Foggy morning in Munich!

How I booked it…

This was part of a 120,000-mile US Airways First Class Award from North America to North Asia with a stopover in Europe.

14 Thoughts on “Review: United Global First Class Chicago to Munich

  1. Jenelle Madera on November 10, 2014 at 7:40 pm said:

    Thanks for the trip report! What Champagne did they serve on board? What about the other wines?

    • Janelle… I did not take note of the wine list on this particular flight. United’s wine and champagne offering in Global First Class is decidedly underwhelming, and frankly not competitive with other airlines. They’re typically in the $15-20 / bottle range. We were offered a “a champagne, a red and a white” from the Flight Attendant. For a list of United’s current wine offerings, check their website here: http://www.united.com/CMS/en-US/travel/Pages/BusinessWineMenu.aspx

  2. Does UA First give pajamas?

  3. Basically sounds like a disappointing experience maybe book Singapore next time?

    • Well, that would be nice. This was a miles redemption using US Airways miles. As such, Singapore First Class was not an option, though it’s certainly a viable option with SQ points from JFK-FRA.

  4. If United and American’s food quality if F has gone so far downhill, of the US carriers, is Delta the only one still left with good food in the premium cabin?

    • Though Delta doesn’t have an int’l F cabin, I think their catering in Business Elite is superior to United’s in Global First. At the same time, I’ve had my best United catering experience in Business Class (DEN-NRT) — it was far better than anything I’ve had in UA F. None of the US legacies can compete with the Asian carriers as far as catering is concerned. At the end of the day, UA Global First catering is just lacking.

  5. We were originally booked CLT-ORD-FRA the same day, but managed to change to a CLT- IAD-FRA flight to avoid the ATC issue. Our Global First experience was pretty much the same as yours, down to the same food & wine selections. Service was adequate, the bed was OK (my wife actually got 4 hours of sleep), but I thought our return FRA-CLT on US in Business was equally nice (possibly better).

  6. bigbirdwithsilverwings on November 11, 2014 at 12:36 am said:

    My wife and I flew F SFO-HKG recently. The SFO lounge was great. Seats 1k and 2k were excellent and are the equal of better carriers. The soft product stinks. Crummy food. Dewar’s White label scotch, Chateau Graysac ($14/bottle), a very medicore red, etc.
    Yet decent video. Good screen. Decent selection.
    Nice crew. Friendly too.
    While I would never pay for UAL F, all in all, I thought it was a pretty great way to fly 14+ hours.

    • I completely agree about the seat — it’s a very comfortable way to fly. Great seat and IFE. It’s a shame that the catering just doesn’t measure up. The crew can really be hit and miss, but I can’t say I’ve ever had a bad crew in Global First or Business First.

  7. matt on May 4, 2015 at 8:03 pm said:

    Hi first time reading your review very helpful for my upcoming trip to Dubai global first on united thanks!

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