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United Airlines review: Sydney to Los Angeles – Boeing 787, Economy Plus


United Airlines Airplane

A free upgrade almost made up for the change in itinerary.

To take advantage of the three public holidays in April, we booked flights on United from Sydney to California (into Los Angeles, out of San Francisco) during the Black Friday sales in November.

Our flight to Los Angeles ended up being cancelled a few months before departure and we instead had to fly to San Francisco first and then onto LA. It meant that our travel time would be about four hours longer and involve two flights. I asked for an upgrade and United obliged, offering us seats in Economy Plus. More on that later.

United Airlines details

  • Route: Sydney to Los Angeles, via San Francisco
  • Duration: 12 hours and 45 minutes (scheduled 13 hours and 35 minutes)
  • Flight number: UA870
  • Aircraft type: Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner
  • Date travelled: 19 April 2019
  • Class: Economy Plus
  • Frequent Flyer Program: MileagePlus
  • Points earned: 1,220

Jason's United Airlines review ★★★★☆

  • Legroom in Economy Plus
  • Good vegan meals
  • Decent choice of entertainment
  • United updated us to Economy Plus when we complained about flight changes
  • No vegan dessert option
  • Change of itinerary meant a longer journey time

What did I like?

United Airlines
United Airlines
  • Economy Plus makes a long-haul flight much more comfortable. I'm 6'4" and was able to stretch my legs out without feeling completely cramped. The cabin in the Economy Plus section of the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner has a three-three-three configuration. The seats are the same width as those in economy, at 17.3 inches (43.94cm), though the leg room is the difference between the two. At 35 inches (88.9cm) compared to 32 inches (81.28cm), the Economy Plus seats are much more comfortable and I didn't feel anywhere near as cramped on this flight.

United Airlines Food
United Airlines Food
  • The vegan meals were pretty good overall. The first one consisted of a "block" of polenta with cooked zucchini, mushrooms, capsicum and tomato, with bread, a bean salad and an orange juice on the side. Breakfast was served a few hours before landing and was baked beans, potatoes and mushrooms, with bread, fruit salad and another orange juice to wash it down. The meals were served with a canola spread for the bread, which suggests there was an actual thought process involved in providing the vegan meals, which isn't always the case.

United Airlines Seat

  • Decent choice of movies and TV shows. This with an easy-to-use and responsive entertainment system.
  • At $879 return and departing on Good Friday, the price was pretty hard to beat. A few weeks earlier I had been close to booking flights on the same dates with another airline for around $1,200, so it was a big saving.

What didn't I like?

United Airline Snacks

  • No vegan option for dessert. This seemed a bit of an oversight seeing as the rest of the vegan meal was quite good. Ice cream was offered to everyone after the meal service. I certainly got my fair share of desserts during the trip after we landed, but I did have a small sense of FOMO as the ice cream came down the aisle.
  • The change in itinerary after we booked our flights was inconvenient. It also meant we had a longer, indirect journey there. Originally we were due to fly direct to Los Angeles, but as that flight got cancelled, instead we had to fly via San Francisco to LA. Part of the appeal with our original flights was the direct nature. I contacted United and complained. To its credit, United offered us an upgrade to Economy Plus for the first leg (Sydney-San Francisco), so the extra leg room made that part of the journey much more comfortable. We still had to wait for our connecting flight, though, and ended up in LA in the middle of the day rather than early morning. That extra travel and transit time makes a big difference, and although the first flight was much more comfortable than our return economy flight a few weeks later, the benefit of that was probably negated by the extra travel time.
  • Check-in. This wasn't as easy as it could have been and our names were spelled differently from what we entered when we booked. However, this was rectified without much fuss.

Would I fly with United again?

Yes, I probably would, though I would be wary of schedule changes. In recent years I've flown regularly to New York and had to change at LAX, so if this flight had been onward to New York, it wouldn't have made much of a difference anyway to fly from either LA or San Francisco. However, flying to LA via SFO from Sydney is another story and an unnecessarily long way to get there.

That said, getting the opportunity to try Economy Plus was nice and I would consider upgrading to it in the future, if the price is right. There was an option to do that at check-in, for a fee, which I assume is based on the availability of the flight. The seats were comfortable, the service was pretty good and the entertainment system kept me entertained.

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