In this article, I review the United Airline Premium Service (P.S.) or Business Class on the B757-200 New York Newark (EWR) to Los Angeles (LAX).
United’s terminal at Newark is functional but not luxurious by any means.
While there is a dedicated area for Business Class check-in, United prefers passengers to use automated kiosks, so there is no dedicated line to see a counter agent. Instead, if you want to speak to an agent, you walk up to a kiosk and flag the attention of a roaming agent, which leads to conflict and confusion.
There is a dedicated security checkpoint for premium passengers. However, since this is a major hub for United, there’s no shortage of passengers with access to the queue, and waits can vary widely. United is in the process of rebuilding its security clearance facilities and within a year or so should offer a better experience.
Once you get past security, you have a choice of two United Club lounges at Newark’s Terminal C. One, near the security checkpoint at gate C120, is the larger club, with shower facilities and a view of the runway, though since it’s near the major international departure gates, it’s often crowded and in disarray. P.S. flights tend to operate from gates nearer to a smaller club adjacent to gate C74. This club is spartan, with no showers, dated bathrooms, and a circular layout that can be difficult to navigate. But it does offer complimentary spirits, wine, and beer, along with soup and a mix of fresh and dried snacks.
United is planning to fully refresh both lounges in 2017, along with adding a full Polaris lounge for international business class passengers, which should help it better compete with American’s lounge offering at JFK.
Business Class on the United Airlines B757-200
P.S. flights are typically operated by United’s B757-200 aircraft, which come in two configurations. One offers 16 seats in business class. The other has two business class cabins that seat a total of 28 passengers. The seats on both are identical, reclining fully lie flat in a 2×2 layout and are based on the B/E Diamond platform, which is the same used by Delta on its transcontinental 757s and American’s transcontinental A321. The key difference is United hasn’t changed the finish of its seats since 2007, while Delta and American offer more modern and detail-oriented finishes.
Personal storage space is limited, with space for a purse or small briefcase underneath the footrest and a small shelf under the monitor.
Each seat has a duvet and pillow, along with unbranded noise reducing headsets and a basic amenity kit featuring toothpaste, an eyeshade, and earplugs. At the same time, lavatories on some flights are stocked with Cowshed products.
United expects to roll out some elements of its new Polaris service to P.S. flights in mid 2017.
The best business class seats on the 757-200
The best seats are located in the bulkheads of each cabin, with significantly more footwell space than other rows.
What are the worst business class seats on the 757-200
Row 4 on both 757 configurations is located near the restroom, which may bother some.
United P.S. Business Class Food
United’s P.S. service begins with an offer of warm mixed nuts and a beverage.
Orders for main courses are taken front to back, though prioritized based on MileagePlus Premier status, so if you’re not a Premier member, you might not get your first choice of mains.
After the nuts, a tray with a large salad and small starter is served, along with your choice of breads from the breadbasket.
United partners with the Trotter Project to bring chef-inspired selections onboard, which results in some attractive menu descriptions but isn’t backed up by refined presentation.
The starter of goat cheese, mango relish, and pumpernickel crostini sounds ambitious and is tasty, but the portion size is closer to a canapé than a proper starter. A salad of apple, fennel, and beets adds some flair compared to the basic mixed lettuce typically served by other carriers.
For mains, expect selections like flat iron steak with chimichurri sauce, seasoned mixed beans, and grilled broccolini. United’s protein portions are usually larger and heartier than you’ll find on other airlines, though the presentation isn’t particularly special. Other selections include spice-rubbed chicken, duck ravioli, and tamale chicken, but beware that you’ll find no purely vegetarian options on some menus, so you should order a special meal in advance if that’s a restriction for you.
There is no wine list on United’s P.S. flights – and you’re given a choice of one white and one red, with both generally serviceable but unremarkable.
Meals conclude with United’s comforting ice cream sundae, with fudge, strawberry, and other toppings prepared seat side from the cart.
Before landing, a freshly baked cookie will be handed out along with milk if you please.
Entertainment is on a large screen housed in the seat in front of you, with generally logical controls and a decent selection of movies and TV shows, though United’s selections are generally less extensive than those on comparable Delta or American flights.
Overall, United’s P.S. service provides the essentials of a premium transcontinental service. You’ll arrive rested thanks to the fully lie-flat seat, but the meal service is less elaborate than what you’ll find on flights with Delta, though comparable to the level American offers.
If you want a truly premium experience, Delta One and American’s 3 cabins First Class product are better choices, while American’s Business Class has a slight advantage for having better lounges at JFK. But it’s hard to beat United’s 25,000-mile one-way price for a P.S. award ticket and United’s schedule with the most flights to and from the West Coast of any carrier in New York.
Pictures courtesy of United Airlines.