We recently flew from Seoul to San Francisco, and after much debate we decided to fly with United. They have had a lot of bad press in the last year or two, but after seeing the specs for their new Premium Economy seating called Premium Plus we were very eager to give a try. We usually end up sitting in economy on most of our long haul flights, though we like to upgrade to premium economy when possible, however we have found the quality varies a lot. Generally if flying to the UK I enjoy BA ahead of Asiana, which I didn’t really feel was any different to regular economy.
Since the new United Premium Plus only launched in April we had some trouble finding info about what exactly was included other than how the seats looked. So that is why I wanted to write this article. Despite the the Premium Plus class being running for over six weeks now, there was a real lack of consistency between the outward flight and the return journey. Which for a giant company is surprising, surely they would send out emails to notify staff of the new ranges? However I want to be honest about our experience.
Online we were told we could check in with the business class passengers, but when we arrived at Incheon we found the economy queue to be shorter so checked in at those counters. On the return journey we did check in with the business class passengers and had no wait at all which was great, so thumbs up for that little perk. The second perk is that we got two pieces of 32kg luggage each as our check in allowance which was a big plus for us, we also got priority luggage tags attached meaning our bags came out first at the other end. After checking in we just headed through security, sadly premium plus does not come with lounge access but it was so far so good.
When it came to boarding the plane we were placed in boarding group two, after the business class passengers, boarding was reasonably fast and we got on to take our seats. We chose ours early and went for seats 20K and 20L which were a pair at the front giving us extra leg room. The premium plus configuration was 2-4-2 versus economy which was 3-4-3. The seats were very wide and comfortable for reasonably normal/chubby people like ourselves. I’m short and had plenty of room, as did my longer legged hubby. Since we were alone we weren’t disturbed. The seat had three reclining functions, moving the seat back, a leg rest, and a foot rest. It was a long flight but the reclining feature made it more comfortable and I was able to sleep in the chair quite comfortably without waking up with just a little help from a sleeping pill and some vodka.
Once our luggage was away (no problems with bins being full that I could see) we settled down to check out the entertainment. As we were front row we had to wait until the plane was up in the sky before being able to get to our screens (which was a little tricky). There was a lot of choice on the movies and the TV shows, far more than some of the carriers I have flown with recently where I have struggled to find something to watch. Noise cancelling head phones are also provided, although I can’t say they were all that impressive if you have your own version at home and my hubby used his personal ones rather than the supplied ones.
The amenities kit we received on the outward journey was in fact the business class kit, although I didn’t realise this until until we returned when we received the real Premium Plus branded kit. In the business kit we had toiletries from Cow Shed, a face mask, ear plugs (though I always pack my own), pen, tooth brush, slippers and socks. I really appreciated these socks and slippers as I like to remove my shoes and be comfortable. We received a very soft Saks fifth avenue pillow and blanket. The premium plus kit seemed to have most of the same things, we were just missing a pen and some tissues, the toiletries were also a different brand. Thankfully we still had the comfy blanket, pillow and slippers.
Not long after take off our food was presented. Our first meal included a mixed green salad; braised brisket, steamed rice, and braised cabbage; bread and butter; Cledor ice cream; and two Ferrero Rocher chocolates. All in all I liked the main meal, it was very tasty. I generally like most of the main meals on the plane, my hubby had the spicy Korean chicken which he also really enjoyed.
Our drinks were served at the same time as the meal, which personally irks me as I like a drink first. We were given a card on our seat which listed the full drinks menu available to us, however when I tried to order a Bloody Mary I was told I would be charged $10 for the vodka and that only beer and wine were free. In all my years of long haul travel I have never been charged for spirits. However after some discussion with the flight attendant and showing him the menu we were given complimentary drinks. I believe this was just due to an error on the new service, but United really should keep their staff informed. I had a very nice can of Bloody Mary mix with my vodka, which I loved, they also had a nice ginger ale. We tried the wine and the beer too. There was no sparkling but I was more than happy with the selection, and the drinks kept flowing throughout the flight. on the return flight we had no mix up regarding alcohol.
Halfway through the flight they woke us all up to give us a sandwich and a snack, honestly I was so dead to the world can barely remember it, and sadly didn’t get a picture of it. It was not the greatest, as far as I recall but it will be enough to tide you over if you feel peckish, I think it came with some MnM’s and crackers too.
An hour before landing we were woken up and served our second meal, which was breakfast. There were two options available but we both went for the mushroom frittata. We both adored this, it was crazy tasty, I was shocked as the breakfast is generally the worst meal served on a plane. We had just woken up so were glad for the coffee which was alright for airline coffee. It was just what we needed to give us a little energy before landing.
We landed early and arrived just a few minutes after immigration had opened meaning it was a quick trip through immigration. All in all I was really impressed with the Premium Plus, especially during the outbound flight, a rude flight attendant and lack of organisation soured the experience slightly on the way home but I account this to be a one off. The seat was well worth the extra money, there was a decent amenities kit, wide variety of movies to choose from, and the food and drinks were good. Other than offering a sparkling wine upon boarding, and training their staff better I would be hard pushed to find any other ways they could improve.