It was a long trek from the SilverKris lounge to the departing gate and there was a queue out at the gate for security check which occurs by the gates in Singapore’s Changi Airport. Fortunately one lane was reserved for Premium passengers and I was through the security check in no time and managed to capture a nice shot of the 777-200ER servicing today’s flight.
There was a short wait before boarding commenced, starting with Global First and Business passengers.
UA896 Singapore Changi Terminal 3 SIN – Hong Kong HKG
Boeing 777-200 N799UA
Gate B10 Seat 1A
I was the third passenger to board the plane and took my seat on 1A today. The crew on this flight certainly did not do much to welcome me onboard. No help with my luggage or welcome by name aboard the flight, which is how things start to unravel.
As I got seated, amenities were distributed from a basket with toothbrush, eyeshade, and earplugs along with the immigration card. On the legrest, there were already slippers packed in a plastic cover.
Onto the seat itself, it was certainly comfortable with a generous legroom. However the cabin was not exceptionally private and the dull grey plastic interior does not add any value whatsoever. I would describe it with one word: dreary. Headphones were also on the seat along with a large pillow and a smaller soft pillow. The headphones were wrapped in plastic and is not by Bose.
While waiting for boarding, the steward came over and asked me for my meal order. The choice was between Spanish omelette or chicken noodle for the breakfast and no menu was provided which is a real low in a First Class cabin. Some airlines even gives out menus in Economy class!
Boarding took a while and there was a case of one passenger seeking free upgrades with the chief steward having to be stern to say that there will be a full flight in first and business class today. One does certainly meet all kinds of passengers in the lesser carriers.
What I did like about the seat was the positioning of the power ports and USB ports for charging my devices. They were easily accessible and located ergonomically. In addition, there was lots of storage space around the seat. There is a space to store eyeglasses, watch, and tablet on the armrest and a larger shelving cabinet on the right of my seat.
The last passengers arrived and an older Chinese gentleman was seated with a personal assistant in the center seats of the first row. It seems the personal assistant was there to help in translating for the flight. And then I noticed a swarm of announcements in English, Chinese and Cantonese which certainly makes it frustrating to start watching the inflight entertainment system. Being the first flight out of Singapore does have its perks since there is virtually no wait for take-off and we were up in the air as soon as possible. I took the time to relax by browsing the inflight entertainment magazine, of which there was ‘Rhapsody’ for premium class passengers and ‘Hemispheres’, which is United’s inflight magazine. For drinks, I had a cup of coffee and a glass of water, and there really was nothing good about the coffee. American based airlines certainly have the worst coffee onboard.
As the 2 passengers in the middle seats of Row 1 skipped breakfast in order to continue sleeping, there was a couple others that just chose to sleep. And I can see why after deciding to stay awake for the breakfast service. Sure, the table setup for breakfast was First Class with linens, butter, small bottles of jam, salt and pepper shakers in ceramic containers.
Then they served the fruit plate for starters. Good choice of fruits and it was satisfying but the croissant was not flaky at all, and it felt more like bread. Passengers were also asked if they wanted yoghurt and cereals. Since the croissant was bad, I had the yoghurt as a replacement.
For the main, I had picked the Chicken noodle, thinking that catering out of Singapore for a noodle dish should not be too bad. For some reason, it was the worst First Class meal I ever had. The noodle was a bit dry and the chicken was glazed with gravy that seems to be just full of MSG. Maybe I was full from the breakfast at the lounge but this was for sure a forgettable experience.
There was some turbulence in the air during the meal which meant that drinks were not refilled. Anyway the service was very hands-off, and the crew did not even ask if I would like more drinks since all I had was coffee and water. Granted it was an early morning flight, but some mimosas would not hurt to compensate for the lacklustre meal. At least the view out of the window seat was amazing with the sunrise in its full glory after the completion of breakfast.
At this time I reclined my seat into a bed and there was no offer by the crew to make up my bed. That meant I just had to do it myself. There was certainly a good enough space and I would probably rate it slightly better than the average Business Class seat. At this time the cabin crew came around and handed some chocolate truffles for passengers though I have to say they were just average.
In the bed mode, I had a short nap after watching the movie. I was probably asleep for about an hour or so before waking up feeling quite thirsty. Expecting some bottled water by the bedside like I usually get in other airlines’ First Class, there was nothing. In the end, I asked for bottled water and a surprised crew member tried to give me a 1.5l PET bottled water. From this attitude it just seems the crew wanted me to self-serve. I had to ask for the water to be poured onto a glass. I find it totally ridiculous for First Class service to be this low.
Just before our descent, I checked out the lavatory. It was kept clean enough and at least United bothered to add some distinctive toiletries by a company called ‘Cowshed’. Though United does not have any hip image in my mind.
The nice view continued throughout the flight and the rest of the journey was devoid of any further service. The captain requested for the crew to prep the cabin for descent and we landed in Hong Kong in time even if we did depart slightly late.
With this flight, I just wonder why United still continues with this product at all. It is not a true International First Class at all, with service even lower than Business Class on Asian carriers and seats barely better than Business Class. Business class on the 777-200ER was on a 2-4-2 lie-flat arrangement and has got to be one of the worst products out there.
Then it brings out the point that I would never ever pay for such a flight, but for me to get to sit with Lufthansa First Class, it is a pretty nice way to fly regionally within Asia for a bit more than 3 hours. Anything more and I rather pick a different carrier as I would get hungry and frustrated with the food offered by United.