Recently I had a business first class flight in a refurbished United 767-300 from London Heathrow (LHR) to Newark (EWR). 57,500 United miles secured the ticket, which included an additional segment onward to San Diego. Full details are below.
- Flight: United Airlines 923
- Aircraft: Boeing 767-300
- Duration: 7 hours, 55 minutes
- Origin: London Heathrow LHR, Terminal 2, Gate 31B
- Destination: Newark EWR, Terminal B, Gate B64
- Seat: Fully flat, fabric bed (9J)
- Seat Configuration: 2-2-2 (some rows face backwards)
- Entertainment: WiFi ($19.99), 200+ movies and TV shows
- Lounge: United Club
- Miles Used: 57,500 United
- Grade: B-
The United Club at LHR is a great lounge, with everything you would need prior to a flight. Located across from gate 46B in Heathrow, it takes less than five minutes walking to 31B (or the other gates this flight will leave from). There are showers, a full bar, food to order and a buffet. WiFi is strong and USB, UK and USA outlets are everywhere.
If your origin is from London, I also recommend a surprisingly cost-effective Uber ride to the airport. Using UberX from the Kensington neighborhood, it only cost $32 and took 37 minutes. This was during a strike, so the Tube wasn’t an option. But considering two metro tickets cost $7 the difference wasn’t insane (like the $300 horror stories from Tokyo Narita).
The refurbished seats were fabric and lie-flat, but didn’t offer the privacy of premium airlines. At 6’3’’ I found the sleeping arrangement to be tight and a tad uncomfortable. The amenity kits were as you would expect and included everything you would need for a long haul flight. The ability to hang the kit is also useful for some travelers.
Food was better than most U.S. airline experiences I have had - by a long shot. The seasonal greens salad was an excellent starter, while the main course four-cheese ravioli failed to impress. I should note that my first choice, the salmon, had sold out by the time I ordered. Dessert included a full ice cream cart with multiple toppings and there was even a salmon "snack" right before landing.
What really hurt the experience in my eyes was entertainment. The screens are a promising size and United allows use of personal devices, but the movie and TV selection was terrible – I barely recognized most of the movies. WiFi also didn’t work for me, even after I paid the $19.99 (!!) for the last six hours of the flight. It was also spotty for Andrea.
One last nag: an old-school remote controls the screen and there’s a delay in terms of responsiveness, making it frustrating to work with. I started two movies by mistake while browsing through, leading to my WiFi purchase.
The Final Word
Frankly, this is an older plane and the refurbish feels like United is putting lipstick on the pig, so to speak. Among the things needing repair (that I saw) was the WiFi issue, my window shade unable to raise, no lights in the bathroom and duck tape – yes, duck tape – covering various parts of the cabin.
But…there are lie flat seats, the food was pretty good and there was still WiFi available on a transatlantic flight. The staff was mostly courteous, I was constantly supplied with water bottles and we landed ahead of time. So it wasn’t all bad.
Overall I wouldn’t recommend paying money or miles for this flight, especially given the morning flight time – you aren’t likely to take advantage of the fully flat seats, the biggest benefit. If this is the second leg of your itinerary though and you want to wake up in Newark feeling refreshed, I would reconsider.
Keep in mind the Chase United Explorer Business card is still offering a 50,000 mile sign-up offer when you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months of account opening. That will get you this close to the above flight - pretty incredible given the distance from London to San Diego, our final destination on the ticket.