Review: United Airlines 787 Business Class NRT-DEN

  1. Introduction: Tokyo and Two 787s
  2. The Club Lounge at SJC
  3. ANA 787 Business Class SJC-NRT
  4. Hotel Review: Hyatt Regency Tokyo
  5. Hotel Review: Park Hyatt Tokyo
  6. Activities in Tokyo
  7. United 787 Business Class NRT-DEN


A quick apology: my pictures of this flight are pretty bad for various reasons. Hopefully my descriptions will help paint you a picture of my experience more than the pictures will.

I mentioned the details of how I booked this flight in my review of ANA’s 787 Business class so check that post if you’re interested in the booking details.

I was constantly monitoring the seat availability in Business Class on this flight because although I wanted a window seat, I also wanted to have direct aisle access. United’s 787 is in a 2-2-2 configuration, so if the seat next to me filled up then I was planning to switch to the middle section. All the way through check-in, which was about 2 hours before the flight, the seat next to my window seat was empty. Score!

Except there was a guy sitting in that seat when I got to the plane. UGH. And all the other seats in Business Class filled up somehow also.

Shortly after sitting down I was offered an amenity kit and menu, and a few minutes later some newspapers. The seat is interesting, and not in a good way in my opinion. I’ll explain in details after some pics. Oh, and all the “OnePass members” were welcomed aboard (can’t believe they still get it wrong).


UA 787 Business Class Seat

UA 787 Business Class Seats.

UA 787 Business Class Power Outlet

UA 787 Business Class Power Outlet and  storage.

UA 787 Business Class TV.

UA 787 Business Class TV and foot area.

UA 787 Business Class IFE Remote

UA 787 Business Class IFE Remote

UA 787 Business Class Seat Controls

UA 787 Business Class Seat Controls.


First the good: The TV was pretty good – it had a much clearer and sharper image than ANA’s TV did. The seat width was pretty good as well and I didn’t feel cramped at all. The seat is also completely lie-flat, making it much easier to sleep, and the seat provides decent privacy when fully flat. The seat also had a power and USB outlet. The pillow and blanket provided were comfortable as well.

Now the bad: Do you see the size of that foot-rest area? SUPER small, and I actually found it hard to sleep since my feet were so cramped. Also notice the location of the storage area and power outlet – it’s behind and to the left of the seat, at the same level as the head rest. This was beyond annoying as I found it extremely awkward to reach back there to plug in my computer or even the headphones. Slightly less annoying was the location of IFE remote that was tucked inside and a little back making it tough to pull out or put away, but this is also common on other airlines.

Dinner was served shortly after takeoff. The best way to describe the menu is “short.” There were three entree options but not much variety other than that. Here are some pics of the menu (again, sorry for them being blurry).


Appetizer menu.

Appetizer menu.

Main courses.

Main courses.



Prior to landing.

Prior to landing.


The meal started with warm nuts and a selection of cold bread. For the appetizer I had both a salad and sushi, and for the main course I had the tenderloin of beef. I had ice cream for dessert. I’ll post all the pictures first and then give my review after.


Warm nuts.

Warm nuts.

Warm bread.

Warm bread.





Tenderloin of Beef

Tenderloin of Beef.

Ice cream!

Ice cream!


The nuts tasted as they should, and the bread was pretty good and tasted like it looks like it would. There were a couple of different sushi options but I went with the California Roll with crab on top (I doubt it was real crab though). It came with ginger and a mini bottle of soy sauce. It was absolutely disgusting – skip it if it’s offered! It was my mistake for thinking sushi on a plane (and an American carrier, no less) would be good.

The salad helped clear my palate a little bit and was particularly enjoyable after the sad excuse for sushi I just ate. My main course was brought out a little while after my salad plate was cleared, and the meal was surprisingly good. The steak was juicy and flavorful, the asparagus was well-cooked, and the twice baked potato wasn’t too bad either. As you can see in the picture, it’s actually a pretty big portion size compared to what some other airlines offer. Well done on this one, United.

It’s hard to beat ice cream for dessert. We had a choice of toppings and I went with the chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and almond slivers. It’s pretty hard to screw this dessert up, so my meal ended perfectly. Aside from the gross sushi, this meal was actually very good.

A little while after dinner I decided to get some sleep. The pillow and blanket that were provided were comfy enough, but I wasn’t a fan of the foot area or the bed itself. As you can see in the first picture of the seats above, there’s a fixed headrest on the seat. I suppose that means the pillow goes on top of it, but that made it uncomfortable. The cabin was pretty warm as well, so between all these things I only managed 2-3 hours of sleep.

I will note that there are many people who actually like these seats. I’ve read plenty of blogger reviews that say how comfortable these seats are how great it is for sleeping, but I’m simply not a fan. The seat itself is fine, but I’m sitting in Business Class because I want to sleep, and the bed wasn’t comfy. Yes I know…first world problems.

I turned on the in-flight entertainment (IFE) system and was glad to see there were quite a few options. I don’t normally watch that much on the IFE systems on planes – I either spend my time eating, sleeping, or on my computer. But since I was up I decided to re-watch an episode of Game of Thrones. I was surprised to see that it was 100% uncensored. If you’re unfamiliar with Game of Thrones, it’s an HBO show that has an unnecessary amount of nudity in it. It actually felt kind of awkward to watch it knowing the guy sitting next to could see my screen.

This brought back a memory of a flight I had many years ago on Saudia, which is basically at the opposite end of censorship (or at least was at the time – I haven’t flown them in a long time). I was watching the movie “Poseidon” which is about a sinking cruise ship. In that movie, one of the main characters is a girl that was wearing a relatively low-cut top with very short sleeves. Not only was the entire neckline blurred, but the upper arms were blurred as well. And I actually had seen the movie before and realized that there were several sections cut out of the movie that weren’t inappropriate at all in my mind and were actually kind of important to the story. Anyway, just thought I’d mention it.

Something interesting about this flight was that whenever the seat belt sign was turned on, there was an automated message that played asking everyone to return to their seats and fasten their seat belts. I’m not sure if the message was triggered automatically when the sign is turned on or if one of the flight attendants pushes a button, but it became kind of annoying after the third time.

With about 2 hours left in the flight I started to wonder if/when we would be served breakfast. Finally the service began with just about 1.5 hours left in the flight. I was offered coffee or tea and a choice of breads – I chose the croissant. I was then asked whether I wanted the the omelette or the Japanese option. I actually wanted the cereal option that was listed on the menu, so I asked for that. The flight attendant said she needed to check because a few others ordered and “they only gave us so many.” Thankfully they had it.

Like many airplane breakfasts, everything was brought out on one tray, which I think is a good idea (especially for cereal). There really isn’t much to review for cereal except to say that it tasted like I expected it to. It came with fruits that seemed pretty fresh and some yogurt. This was perfect after the big dinner I had earlier in the flight.



Cereal, fruit, yogurt, and a croissant (cut off on the left).


The breakfast service ended after the plane began its descent into Denver, and the seat belt signs were already turned on. That meant I technically wasn’t allowed to get out of my seat to change back into my normal clothes (I always change into something comfy when I get onto long flights), meaning the breakfast service started far too late for my liking. Besides, people always need to use the lavatory after a meal and before landing!

Speaking of the lavatory, it was just like an economy class lavatory. There was nothing special at all in this one, but it did have the same motion-sensored flush mechanism that the ANA 787 had.

We had an uneventful landing, and the flight was over!



I had the opportunity to fly the ANA 787 on the way home as well, but I picked this United flight instead. The only reasons I took this flight were because of curiosity, so I could review it on the blog, and so I can help people pick their flights when I’m asked. Now that I’ve flown it, I can definitely say that I’d much rather fly ANA a second time if I had the choice.

There wasn’t anything majorly wrong, but the seat was less comfortable, the service wasn’t nearly as good, there was less seat privacy, and the food was comparable. ANA is simply better.

The major gripe I have is with the seats. The foot area is extremely small and the fixed headrest makes sleeping annoying. Note that I’m a pretty picky/light sleeper, so take my review with a grain of salt. As I noted, there are plenty of people that like this seat.

I obviously wouldn’t mind flying this again if no other Asian carrier was available or if I really wanted/needed a nonstop flight, but I’m personally going to try to avoid it going forward. There are so many other, more preferable options from Asia (Japan Airlines, Singapore Airlines, and ANA from Japan alone).



This flight was a little unusual. Shortly after boarding the plane it became apparent that the guy sitting next to me was actually the husband of the flight attendant servicing my area. That actually made the experience less enjoyable for me because they had some interactions that were definitely not appropriate. I could tell that she was trying to ignore him at some points and trying not to look his way, but that also meant I was ignored at some points. It wasn’t particularly bothersome, but it was also not appropriate in my mind.

Also, I’m slightly bitter because he took that aisle seat that should have been empty :P. But at least he was a nice guy!

Have you flown United’s 787? What are your thoughts?


  1. I was on that flight a couple of weeks ago and what I noticed:

    There’s a privacy screen on the TV and you can’t really see anything unless you start leaning over to the next seat

    The equipment on my flight was beat up. Bathroom lock wasn’t locking and the IFE remote wasn’t functioning very well.

    You have less overhead space in seats 3LK compared to 3BA. Row 3 Seats B&A have large bins whereas L and K have about half that size.

    The 2-2-2 configuration on United I think is great if you’re flying with a companion, you could easily talk to the person next to you.

    • I didn’t notice much of a privacy screen though I’m sure it’s harder to view at an angle in any case.

      Interesting notes about the equipment and overhead space. I totally agree about the seats being good if you have a travel buddy! And if you don’t have one, you should definitely pick a seat in the middle section.

  2. for 2014 we dont have much of a choice since UA devalue and going after the cheaper option would be this. the real option is really to pay more or less for quality.

    • Agreed – but the concern then becomes how much space will be available on UA metal. It’s already pretty tough to get certain award seats…and it will be that much tougher when everyone is looking for flights on just UA.

  3. With so much hype about the new 787,,, united totally screwed this plane up and chose to make nothing special whatsoever even in first class,, same old narrow uncomfortable seats ,, first class Lavatories just like coach ,, even left out the arch that was supposed to be at the entry door and put in galley metal bins!!!

  4. Your entire trip report has been an informative read. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the two different Dreamliner services and the Hyatt hotels in Tokyo. I live in Bangkok and fly home to the San Francisco Bay Area about once a year so have a decent idea about the various business-class options that are available.

    I have taken just about all the available Asian and US airlines at least once, and a few of my favorites multiple times for this run. A couple of my favorites are EVA out of Taiwan and until they discontinued the service, UA’s flight from BKK to SFO via NRT (all on their own metal). As you probably know, the UA NRT-BKK service was discontinued after a 30-year run earlier this year and now ANA code-shares this route with UA. The service, food, and amenities on UA were not bad, as it is their international product and the planes mostly had their newish fully lie-flat pod-beds and if you booked the upstairs on the 747s it was like being on your own small business jet. The timing of the UA flights was also great for getting into SFO mid-morning so as to have a full working day when one arrived.

    Well, that’s all over now and will be making my annual trek in a month or so and have been interested in ANA’s Dreamliner service to San Jose International Airport ever since I found out about the service while doing research for the trip. You TR has been most helpful in making my decision to probably go with ANA for my next trip. I am anxious to try the 787 and ANA’s business class product sounds really nice. Not only is there 2-2-2 seating configuration on this flight but, and I didn’t see you mention this, there is also alternating rows of 2-1-2 seating as well. That center seat must be the ultimate in privacy this side of an Emirates or Singapore First Class Suite.

    Anyway, thanks for you impressions; they have helped me make my choice for ANA for my next trip Stateside.

    • Thanks for the comment! The ANA 787 is actually even better than 2-2-2 seating…it’s 1-2-1 and some rows are 1-1-1 with the “throne” seats in the middle section. Those single middle seats definitely provide a lot of privacy, but the window seats are also excellent!

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