As part of my larger epic around the world trip spanning 6 countries and over 42,000 miles ,I had the opportunity to fly United in domestic first class from Boston to San Francisco and American Los Angeles to Boston. Since both carriers for the moment offer similar airplanes on the routes narrow body Boeings and Airbuses, I thought I’d do a comparison of the two airlines.
Now to be fair United will be utilizing their PS Transcon 757’s for a few months later this year on the BOS-LAX route which will definitely be a leg up on AA or anyone else for that matter, but for now they offer the same product, here’s a good write up on what UA will be doing if you’re interested (thanks to Rocky on Doublewides fly for the review).
AMERICAN– I flew a 737-800 offering 16 recliner seats in First Class in a four row 2-2 configuration with 40” seat pitch (measured from the back side of the seat in front of you to the back of your seat cushion) and 21” seat width. The seat itself is fine, sure more legroom and space is always a plus, but this will do just fine. The tray table is in the arm rest, and you have a separate small drink tray that stowzs in the front of the shared armrest plus a shared one on top of the armrest. Having this extra space is great, when you have a meal/computer/drink. Plenty of room to spread out. The seats are old school, but comfy enough for six hours I suppose.
UNITED– I was lucky if you can call it that to fly and EX-Con(tinental) 757-300. This is not my favorite plane it feels old and janky. These former Continental planes have 24 recliner or as I like to call them the really really really old barca lounger seats up front. There are 6 rows of 2-2 seating and apparentyl are 21″ wide and have a 38″ seat pitch. The one bonus, they are wider then the newer seats and pretty cushy seat. Legroom, was not the best but it was servicable. My seatmate was flipping crazy, he said he’d rather fly this transcon then a new fangled lie flat seat like an Air Canada 787 Dreamliner. Now I’ve never flown one of those but really. No really.
WINNER: TIE (they both were good in their own special way)
AMERICAN– I flew a dinner service flight, so prior to our meal we had a drink and warm nuts to start, choice of 2 entrees, a side salad, a starter and a warm roll. Overall it’s plane food, but they have done a good job, in my opinion, improving the meal offerings. Plus adding the starter is a nice touch. I’ve had hummus and pita or a salmon and toast thingy or even a kale and couscous salad as the starter. Unfortunately this flight didn’t have a sundae but did have a fruit and cheese tray (which I passed on) I was full. Lastly they had the snack basket that offers Kettle Chips, fruit, nuts, awesome fig bars and other snicky snack items.
UNITED– This was a breakfast flight and I had three options to choose from, I was impressed by that. I can’t recall all the options but one was cereal, fruit, yogurt and warm bread. The second was a chorizo omelet with potatoes and sausage, plus the fruit and bread (this was my choice). The third one I don’t remember. Overall I liked what I got. I’n the past year and a half I’ve only flown four UA flights up front that had meals and all of them have been vastly improved. Sorry no picture, I’m a loser.
WINNER: AMERICAN, ok I know I said United was much improved, but I still like AA’s consistency and frankly I like their food.
AMERICAN– The usual overhead projector featuring NBC junk and also a movie in this case Big Hero 6. But we also got Galaxy Tablets loaded with about 50 movies and tons of TV shows. The offering was similar to what I’ve had on my AA Transcon’s LAX/SFO to JFK on the new Airbu 321’s (three class planes) in Business where they offer individual TV screens. In this case though, I’ve had these same tabs before in First and Business on AA on some international and domestic flights on he widebodies. The movie selection was great, I was able to watch the end of Horrible Bosses 2 (this was so bad it was funny) and also Birdman (an excellent movie), plus about an hour of Foxcatcher. So all in all a good option.
Beyond that they have individual power ports for each seat and also Wi-Fi. Sure it costs money, but man can I be productive. I thought I’d hate Wi-Fi on a plane, but I can get so much done and keep up with work it’s just great. Plus I can text and email my family silly pictures and just check in. So cool.
UNITED- This was a travesty of epic proportions. Yes I’m being dramatic here, but it sucked. They had the crappy overhead projectors that were fuzzy 60% of the time and were just terrible. Plus crap to watch on those screens if you can call them that. This plane was Wi-Fi equipped and for the whole flight would not work. They reset it at least 5 times during our flight. I just can’t understand how on the longest distance flight in the lower 48 that can run 6 hours they can’t have working Wi-Fi. This was an issue on all three UA flights I took in the last 2 1/2 weeks all on Wi-Fi equipped planes. What annoyed me even more about this, is that over the past week I have seen over 20 new United TV commercials touting their in-flight Wi-Fi, streaming and connectivity with the tiny disclaimer that not all planes are equipped. Are there any with working Wi-Fi?
WINNER: American by a mile
American– has an Admirals club in the B concourse. This time I was unable to use it, but I have in the past and it’s a pretty good sized space. Again a good space to wait out a flight and enjoy a few well drinks or crappy beer. But hey free is free. Plus it has showers, you know how much of a fan I am of showers before, during and after a flight. Disclaimer: I have not used the club in a year or so, so if it’s improved or gotten worse I have no idea.
UNITED- With the move to the newly renovated terminal B and a new lounge, I was mighty impressed. The lounge was large, modern and had a really great astethic, just like the terminal. In fact the terminal is night and day different then the terminal AA occupies. This was by far the nicest UA lounge I have been too in a long while. Since I dropped UA like Taylor Swift drops boyfriends back in 2012, I’ve not spent much time in their lounges, but back in the day I’d spent loads of time at all the hub ones. I know UA is spending money to improve this product, so if this is what they are going for I’m impressed.
WINNER: United Nice new diggs make a big difference
AND THE OVERALL WINNER 2 1/2 to 1 1/2 is American. Closer then I thought for sure. Let’s see if anything changes when UA brings on the PS Transcon 757’s on the route with lie-flat seats, improved meals, Wi-Fi, and AVOD entertainment.