UA893 First Class SFO – ICN

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Getting home was always going to be an interesting experience as it is pretty much impossible to find availability on any direct transpacific routes in business or first, unless you’re willing to book upon release of award seats (pretty much a year out), or travel solo closer to the date.

I considered us quite fortunate to find routing from SFO to ICN and then SYD, on what was originally meant to be a 5 hour layover however this turned into a 29 hour layover around 6 weeks out from our departure date due to an Asiana schedule change. You can read about our layover in Seoul and Leslie’s Korean BBQ experience here

A brief aside, we flew into San Francisco from Houston (via Phoenix) the night prior to our flight. Both domestic first class flights were fine. On the first (a 3pm flight) the FA liquored me up with Titos and apple cranberry mix and a meal service, while the second (a 5pm service) there was only snacks. In SFO we enjoyed a meal at nopa with one of Leslie’s friends and crashed the night at his place before making our way to the airport for our 10am departure.

Our United GlobalFirst (First Class) flight, UA893 departed at around 11 in the morning, arriving into Seoul at 3 in the afternoon. A painless check in and security procedure saw us through in little time.

Since signs indicated an eva air, krisflyer lounge right after security we went to have a sticky beak but unfortunately both were closed. For anyone doing some research, here are the opening times of the SQ lounge, which, unsurprisingly coincide with their departures.

Although i knew we had access to the United GlobalFirst lounge, we also stuck our head into the standard United lounge as it was also just past the security screening. I believe some domestic flights also depart from the SFO international, or at least you can connect to the domestic terminal hence this might be the reason for the poor lounge. (pure speculation!) Either way, here are some pics.
in some of my research I had seen a trip report where the GlobalFirst lounge was pouring my favourite champagne (Ruinart,) so we scooted on down there, where this time, after checking in, we headed downstairs to the lounge. It had the feel of an exclusive club, and did indeed have Ruinart, however that was where the premium experience ended.

I had high hopes for the lounge, with SFO being one of United’s main hubs, but perhaps was a little ambitious expecting it to be similar to the QF Sydney First Lounge, or the Thai Royal Orchid Club. The food offerings spanned the range of… packaged cheese, vegetable dipping sticks, and what appeared to be an airline meal (metal tray and all), with a pot of stock to pour over it to ‘cook’/ warm up.

After sharing a bottle of Ruinart the effects of drinking on an empty stomach kicked in, and with reports that the food on board wouldn’t be fantastic i jumped outside the lounge where directly opposite a japanese place and a deli style place were serving. A breakfast sandwich, potatoes, and 3 sushi boxes (and a nice little hole in the wallet, thank you airport pricing) and we were sorted! I would recommend the Japanese place as the sushi was quite good and easily beat out any of the food in the lounge.

We boarded late after chewing up the wifi right up until the end, and entered into a full cabin of 12 (check) in the nose of the 747 (sorry, no photos but it was very similar to my Qantas flight to HKG ). Some due diligence prior had us sitting in the nose at 1A and 1K and I would highly recommend these seats for a couple for the great privacy they provided.

The amenity kit, whilst not name branded, was extremely practical, and will definitely get a rotation on the next trips with it’s good sizing and storage space.

Our FA’s had served 42 and 48 years respectively, and the chief stewardess would’ve been around the same. Based on some reading this seems quite common for American based carriers as the older employees get first pick on their routings. The plane unfortunately was also showing its age and with a little glitch in the software we were, for a short while, travelling on the longest flight in the world!
Once airborne with a crown royal (whisky) & coke in hand, we were served a tasty little h’or d’oeuvre of smoky corn and a beef empanada.

A tasty tomato basil soup, and salad (with ranch) whet the appetite for my first steak in the sky.

It certainly didn’t disappoint.
Leslie’s seafood noodle dish on the other hand, was quite simply appalling for a first class meal.
A tasty couple of pieces of cheese, including a goat’s cheese ensured we wouldn’t be able to move later on
Finally to finish off, the main event, and what United is well known for… ice cream sundae! This was by far the best airplane dessert we had all trip and brought back great memories being a kid and scooping on every topping imaginable.
I went for a couple of laps around the plane and had the FA’s place the ‘mattress/ turndown service’ on top of the seat (which wasn’t collected prior to landing). It was great that the seat became fully horizontal for a snooze and Leslie really enjoyed the seat. I on the other hand found it a little narrow for my shoulders and tossed around a little trying to find a comfortable position in which to sleep.
After a couple of hours snooze, it was time to eat again! In retrospect, for reasons unknown given Leslie’s earlier poor experience, i chose the noodle soup dish for breakfast and was again, thoroughly disappointed. Leslie made the more sensible move and got an extra hour’s sleep!
Verdict – we developed a good rapport with the FA’s early on in the flight and I think this helped in ensuring we had a decent flight. They chatted incessantly in the galley which could be heard from 1A so i hate to imagine the poor folks in row 4. United is well known for providing a quality of service at a different level to those of the top tier airlines and i certainly wouldn’t be encouraging people to purchase tickets at retail value. In the future, I would jump at a business class redemption directly on an Australia-USA route in preference of getting a United first class routing via Asia.
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