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  • Writer's pictureJake Jones

United Airlines - Premium Plus Review on the Boeing 767-300

Updated: Jun 11, 2022

FLIGHT DETAILS

Date: May 13th, 2022

Flight Number: UA 958

Flight Route: Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) to London-Heathrow (LHR)

Flight Time: 7h, 44m

Seat: 23D



BOOKING

While this seat can be booked normally with either cash or miles, I secured my seat in a slightly roundabout way. I had initially booked a standard one-way Economy ticket for this flight for $667. Poking around a few weeks before my departure date, I noticed an opportunity to request a waitlist upgrade into Premium Plus for 17,500 miles. There was also an opportunity to request a waitlist upgrade to the Polaris (business) cabin for 40,000 miles plus $400, but I didn’t think the extra $400 was worth it for a relatively short international flight. I decided to go the Premium Plus route, figuring I’d be plenty happy there for this eight hour flight to London.


Although the cabin was fully booked the morning of the flight, I got lucky when a few passengers in Premium Plus got upgraded into the Polaris cabin, opening up some seats for those on the Premium Plus upgrade waitlist.


The nice thing about upgrading the paid ticket with miles is that I was still able to earn award miles on the initial paid portion of my ticket. I earned just over 5,700 miles on this flight (the bonus miles were due to my Platinum status); take that amount away from the 17,500 I had to give away in miles for the upgrade, I effectively only spent 11,800 miles to get bumped up, which is a fantastic value in my book.


Screenshot courtesy of the United app

THE SEAT & THE CABIN

This flight was operated on a renovated 3-cabin Boeing 767-300, housing Polaris, Premium Plus, and Economy passengers. The Premium Plus cabin has a 2-2-2 layout with 18 seats total; 4 rows along the windows and 3 rows in the middle (this is due to the galley and Polaris-only lavatories occupying the space of the theoretical fourth middle row of seats). My seat on today’s flight was 23D, located in the last row of middle seats with direct aisle access to my left.


The Premium Plus cabin view upon entry; my seat (23D) is the back right seat in this photo.

Although not lie-flat like those in Polaris, the seat itself is a significant upgrade from the seats in Economy. Premium Plus seats are 19” wide (compared to 17” in Economy), 38” in pitch (compared to 31”), and offer 6” of seat back recline (compared to 3”). I am lean 6’1” frame, so I can definitely appreciate every extra inch in all three of these categories. The head rest was also much larger than those found in Economy, and I found it to be plush and comfortable.


The seat had both a foot rest and a leg rest, although I did not find the designs of these features to be particularly functional. The foot rest did not go down as far as I would have expected, and I had to tuck my knees up rather uncomfortably in order to rest my feet on it. As far as the leg rest went, it did not extend far enough for me to utilize while sitting upright; when sitting without any seat back recline, the leg rest did not even touch my calves. However, when I reclined the seat back to its maximum, the leg rest became functional and supported my legs. This came into play when I wanted to catch some sleep, so this feature was not a complete miss, although it surely could have been designed better. I did not end up using the footrest much at all during the flight; there was no physical way for me to be able to use both the foot rest and leg rest at the same time.


While the thought is there, the design of the footrest on this seat is not particularly functional.

The outside armrest housed the tray table, which was sturdy and wide enough to comfortably hold a laptop. I particularly enjoyed the small extension on the top right of the tray, which can be used to hold a drink or small snack when the rest of the tray is occupied with a larger item.


The tray table is large and sturdy, and the small extension at the top right is a nice extra touch.

The inside armrest had the seat back and leg rest recline buttons, the remote to the IFE screen, and a storage cubby. The cubby was aptly sized, and I was able to store my iPad, phone, passport, and a small book without any issues. The back of the cubby is where you will find the power outlet, with a standard two-pronged plug as well as one USB plug.


The right armrest includes the IFE remote, recline buttons, storage cubby, and outlet (hidden from view).

The IFE screen was large and had a great selection of shows and movies; it was a touch screen, although I did find the responsiveness to be gimmicky at the corners of the screen. I did have to pop out the remote control a couple of times to get around this.


The IFE screen is large and offers fairly high quality resolution,

As far as seat preferences go, there was no particular seat that stood out to me as significantly better than the others. The bulkhead window seats are on the exit row, and they definitely offered more legroom than the other seats in the cabin. However, the close proximity to the Polaris lavatories and galley could be a nuisance for some passengers, especially when trying to sleep. To me, the bulkheads would probably be a coin-flip based on personal preference.


Given that I got my seat on a last-minute upgrade, I didn’t have the opportunity to choose my seat. If I did, I’m not sure I would have picked a different seat. I didn’t find being close to the Economy cabin bothersome, and not having anyone directly behind me was a plus.


The cabin overall was spacious and pleasant, and there were individual air vents and reading lights above each seat. The main issue I had with the cabin was that the nearest lavatories (a mere 3 rows in front of me) were off limits to anyone not flying in Polaris. Those in Premium Plus had to walk all the way to the back of the Economy cabin to use the lavatory, which was a definitely nuisance. Given that there were two private lavatories in the front of the Polaris cabin, having the middle lavatories completely off-limits to those even in Premium Plus didn’t make a ton of sense to me. This was definitely one of the elements that took away from the ‘Premium’ feel of the seat.


My only gripe with the cabin was that the lavatories you can see in this picture were off limits to us in Premium Plus.

AMENITIES

Upon arriving to my seat I was warmly greeted by a Saks Fifth Ave. blanket and pillow, the same brand used up in the Polaris cabin. The blanket was thin but comfortable, and the pillow was the right amount of plush when the time came to get some sleep.


The Saks Fifth Avenue pillows and blankets add to the elevated feel of the seat and cabin as a whole.

The amenity kit included the essentials: toothbrush & toothpaste, an eye mask, and ear plugs. There was nothing particularly special about any of these items, but they were useful and got the job done. Also provided were United branded over-the-ear headphones that included a standard headphone jack for the IFE system.


The amenity kit included the essentials, but there was nothing particularly special about any of the items included.

FOOD & DRINK

Even in the Polaris cabin, United isn’t particularly renowned for their food service on board, so I kept my expectations on the lower end for what was going to be offered in Premium Plus.


The first beverage cart service began at about 20 minutes after take off; I elected for some Chardonnay and was also given a pack of almonds. Complementary alcoholic beverages are offered to Premium Plus passengers for the duration of the flight, one of the elements that reminded me I was in a Premium cabin. United offers a variety of beers, seltzers, wine, and hard liquor for those looking to indulge. The wine was tasty but the almonds were on the softer side and didn’t feel particularly fresh. A small bottle of Dasani water was offered at the hour mark and dinner service began at about 1:20 into the flight.


Alcoholic beverages are complementary throughout the duration of the flight for those in Premium Plus.

Dinner came with three options: Thai chicken, chicken and queso, and a veggie stir fry. Asian cuisine is my favorite, so I elected to go with the Thai chicken. Included with the chicken was a small side salad, a bread roll, and some lemon sherbet for dessert. Metal cutlery, a cloth napkin, and a glass cup for the wine were nice touches that I was expecting to see in a Premium seat. The presentation of the Thai chicken left a lot to be desired, but it did have good taste. The salad was bland and the packaged bread was a bit cold upon opening.


While the Thai chicken doesn’t appear particularly appetizing, I did end up enjoying the taste.

Breakfast came with an hour left in the flight, and for this meal I was given two options: turkey sausage with egg whites or oatmeal. I elected the turkey sausage, which came with a croissant, fruit up and Chobani yogurt. Again, the presentation wasn’t great, but the sausages had decent flavor. As with the bread, the croissant was packaged and cold, and the fruit wasn’t fresh.


Breakfast was served with about one hour left in the flight.

I was disappointed when the drink service for breakfast didn’t begin until I was about halfway done with my meal, and again when another small water or beverage wasn’t offered after the meal either. If anything, I would at least expect the water for those hoping to brush their teeth before landing; I’m not sure of anyone that is too keen on using the sink water in any plane’s lavatory for their dental hygiene.


SERVICE

As a Chicago-based flyer, United has been my airline of choice since the beginning of my flying days, and I have always been happy with their on board service, and it was more of the same on this flight over the Atlantic. I felt warmly welcomed on board when the friendly flight attendant complemented my PanAm shirt (AvGeeks unite!), and was pleased when I was offered some extra wine for dinner during the initial beverage service. I had to use the call button once to clear away some leftover trash, and the flight attendant punctually came to my seat in under a minute.


The flight wasn’t without it’s hiccups, however. As alluded to above, the timing of some of the meal and beverage service was questionable. My biggest peeve of the flight was that breakfast service commenced a bit too late in my opinion. By the time the meal was finished and the trays cleared away, the seatbelt sign had already been turned on for landing. This gave the passengers virtually zero time to use the lavatory, brush teeth, or settle down before landing. One of the attendants did seem to get impatient when a good chunk of passengers weren’t ready for landing after the announcements, but it was to no fault of their own; there was just not enough time to get ready once the trays had been cleared. The entire meal just felt very rushed and I think some of that could have been alleviated if the meal service had begun just 20 minutes earlier.



352 FINAL GRADE

6.9 / 10


While the seat does not quite compare to United’s more deluxe Polaris cabin (or many other premium cabins on other international airlines), the seat does hold it’s own for what it is supposed to be: and elevated experience from that in Economy. The extra space in all dimensions of the hard product definitely make a difference in the flight experience, but the extra “touches” that should stand out in a premium seat leave some desire for improvement. Overall, I wouldn‘t hesitate to spend a few thousand miles for the upgrade again here, but would probably cap myself at around 20,000 miles under the same circumstances . At the end of the day, I can certainly say that this was a very pleasant way to hop the pond!



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