TESTED BY Freddy Sherman
PLANE TYPE 787-9
SEAT CONFIGURATION 2-2-2
SEAT PITCH 78 in/198 cm
SEAT WIDTH 20.6 in/52.3 cm
SEAT LENGTH 78 in/198 cm
SEAT RECLINE 180 degrees
PRICE Internet fare for a flexible, round-trip ticket for travel in June or July is $4,415.
VERDICT For flights direct from the US to Singapore, this new daily United service is your only option. In-flight service and restaurant-inspired cuisine were both good, and as the route is flown aboard Boeing 787 Dreamliners, passengers benefit from the aircraft’s fatigue-reducing features.
CHECK-IN Arriving at SFO about two hours before my flight, I found only one person in line for United’s premium check-in. BusinessFirst passengers on UA1 (the new SFO-SIN flight’s permanent designation) have access to the United Club at SFO’s international terminal. The large lounge is well-designed and comfortable with a limited but tasty food selection.
Boarding was interrupted by a lot of dancing and speeches as I was flying on United’s inaugural flight on the new route. Passengers received certificates marking their participation and small “United SFO-SIN” first-flight lapel pins upon arrival in Singapore. Boarding began at 10 PM for a flight that arrived in Singapore at 6:15 AM (two days later).
THE SEAT I was in 3K, on the aisle, and found the seat worked well for both sitting and sleeping. The current BusinessFirst seat on the 787-9 is quite comfortable, with 48 flat-bed seats in two cabin areas in a standard 2-2-2 configuration. Though all face forward, the seat pairs are slightly angled to offer more privacy.
There’s a lot of legroom, but if you’re in a window seat and the person next to you has their seat fully flat, you have to climb over to access the aisle. The same day I was in the air on the inaugural Singapore flight, United announced their new Polaris business class experience, with an exclusive-to-United, suite-like, pod-style seat design. The new seats, which will be rolled out in December, will offer every seat direct aisle access.
The seats had standard controls, handy storage space and a deep cupholder. The area also had the headphone jack, USB and 110 V charging outlets and the A/V connector for a laptop, phone or tablet.
THE FLIGHT The fifteen and half-hour flying time was long, but the multiple meal services, IFE selection and quiet time for sleep made it almost enjoyable. Night departure and morning arrival times work well for both productivity and jet lag.
Service was friendly. Food was very good, but not quite up to the promoted restaurant-level. Dinner started about an hour into the flight, offering a full five-course dining experience. My smoked salmon appetizer was fresh and delicious but the short rib of beef main course was more disappointing. Dinner concluded with cheese and fruit, and for dessert an ice cream sundae, a favorite with United’s premium passengers.
The Asian-style soup served as a mid-flight snack was really wonderful, and at breakfast time, there were three options – a very Italian omelet, Chinese congee or cereal. A bowl with snacks and another of fruit were kept topped up on the cabin’s center section for self-service during the entire flight.
The dual-screen IFE (the main 15-inch monitor in the seat back and a small screen on the controller) had a good, but not great, selection of movies and television shows. The fixed-screen monitor made watching from the flat bed position difficult. United WiFi was $15.99 for the entire flight and worked very well, with very few down times.
ARRIVAL Our arrival into Singapore’s Changi Airport was quite eventful, starting with a water cannon salute from the airport fire brigade. The gate area was also filled with local media, dignitaries and dancers and it was another party, as the plane would soon turn around to make the inaugural flight from Singapore to San Francisco.