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How Good Is United Airlines First Class?

Last updated: July 08,2022
Originally Published: July 11,2022
by Jestan Mendame

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Whether it’s a short trip or a long-haul trip, flying on United Airlines First class is never a bad idea, because who doesn’t like first class? Having perks like priority check-in, complimentary meals and drinks, and priority boarding is definitely makes your travel experience a more comfortable one.

There’s no denying that United First class is a good product but take note that your first class experience may vary depending on the type of aircraft you’re flying on. For example, a domestic first class flight on a 787 offers lay flat seats as compared to a 737 that only offers recliner seats, and that’s a big difference.

We’ll be discussing more of these things in this article so that you will have a bird’s eye view of what United first class offers and decide for yourself if it’s worth your money.


Read More: United First And Business Class Review (Orlando to Mexico)


Get complimentary premium meals and beverages when you fly on United Airlines First Class.
Get complimentary premium meals and beverages when you fly on United Airlines First Class (Image courtesy of Canva Pro).

What Is United Airlines First Class?

First, let’s define what United Airlines first class is because people usually confuse it with some of United’s other products such as the United Business and United Polaris.

United First Class is available on shorter U.S. domestic flights and flights between the U.S. and Canada (including Alaska and Hawaii). Business Class is offered on longer U.S. domestic flights (aka transcontinental flights), and flights between the U.S. and Latin America/Caribbean.

However, United First class and United Business class on domestic routes are virtually the same and the terms are sometimes used interchangeably when sold on United.com.

Meanwhile, United Polaris is the name used for United’s business class cabin on long-haul international flights, and it’s the highest cabin level since first class isn’t offered on these routes.

United First Class Benefits

You’ll get your first class benefits starting from the check-in counter right until you board the aircraft, and here’s what to expect:

  • United Airlines Premier Access – First class passengers will have United Premier Access benefits that gives them priority service at check-in counters and security lanes. You’ll also be one of the first people to board off the plane when it lands so you can grab your right away and get to where you want to be a lsot faster.

  • Priority Baggage Handling – You’ll get two regular bags for free on first class, and when the plane lands, your bags will be one of the first ones to be placed on the baggage carousel. It’s a great perk considering that you’d have to pay $30 for checked bags in Economy (Tip: Economy passengers can get a free checked bag with an the United Explorer Card).

  • United Priority Boarding – First class passengers belong to boarding Group 1. You’ll be the second group to board the plane after the preboarding group which includes military personnel, persons with disabilities, and United Global Services members.

  • United First Class Seats – Bigger seats, more legroom, and free in-flight entertainment. United also offers high-speed wifi but it’s only free when you use messaging apps. You can pay extra if you want to have more internet access.

  • Complimentary Food and Drinks – You’ll get complimentary food and drinks in first class. However, the service you’ll get will depend on the duration of your flight. Shorter flights will probably offer light meals or snacks but long-haul flights will offer full-course meals.


Read More: What Is The United Polaris Lounge Network?


How To Book United First Class

There are three popular ways you can book a first class seat:

  • Pay With Cash – One of the most basic ways to book a United flight but definitely not the cheapest. One-way domestic flights are around $300 while one-way short-haul international flights (to Canada and Latin America) are around $1000.

  • Booking With Points And Miles – You earn miles whenever you fly on United-operated flights, then you can use these miles to book award flights. Alternatively, you can also use travel credit cards that allow you to transfer points to United. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Chase Sapphire Preferred let’s you tranfer your points to your MileagePlus account at a 1:1 ratio (Or you can also book United flights through the Chase portal).

United doesn’t charge change fees for first class fares and other premium flares, however, you won’t get a refund if you’re new flight is cheaper than your original flight. Similarly, you also have to pay additional costs if your new flight is more expensive than your original flight.

United First Class Booking Tips For Domestic Routes

We know you’re pretty excited to book your first class flight now but before you do that, here are a few additional tips so you’d get the best bang for your buck.

On domestic routes, there are typically two types of aircraft that you’ll encounter. First is the traditional aircraft which has a first class seat that offers more legroom and recline compared to United Premium Economy and Economy. This type of seat is often found on the 737, A319, and A320 aircraft which plies short-haul domestic routes.

The second is the wide-body aircraft such as the 777, 767, and 787. These aircraft have internationally configured first class seats but they serve domestic routes. This is what you should look out for because they have lay-flat seats and surprisingly, the price difference is very minimal (sometimes the same) as compared to traditional first-class aircraft.

Prices for a United domestic first-class seat on a wide-body aircraft (777) are the same as a first-class seat on a regular aircraft (737). Take note that widebody aircraft have lay flat seats (Image courtesy of Untied.com).

As you can see in this domestic flight from DEN to IAH, you’d notice that the prices for first-class seats are the same but one is served on a 777-200 and the other on a 737-900.

How To Find United Domestic Widebody Flights

Finding a widebody aircraft isn’t that easy because, on most routes, 90% of the flights are served by a regular aircraft. What you can do is visit UnitedCargo.com to find schedules and routes where domestic widebody aircraft fly. On the website, just enter your flight destination and schedule, then click search.

To make your search easier, here’s a list of route codes and the type of aircraft that serves each route:

  • ORD – HNL (777-200)
  • ORD – OGG (777-200)
  • ORD – SFO (777-200)
  • DEN – HNL (777-200)
  • DEN – OGG (777-200)
  • DEN – IAD (787-8)
  • DEN – IAH (777-200)
  • DEN – LAX (777-200)
  • DEN – SFO (777-200)
  • DEN – SFO (787-8)
  • IAH – DEN (777-200)
  • IAH – EWR (767-400)
  • IAH – HNL (777-200)
  • IAH – IAD (767-400)
  • IAH – LAX (787-9)
  • IAH – ORD (777-200)
  • IAH – SFO (777-200)
  • LAX – DEN (777-200)
  • LAX – EWR (787-10)
  • LAX – EWR (777-200)
  • LAX – HNL (777-200)
  • LAX – IAH (777-200)
  • LAX – IAH (787-9)
  • EWR – HNL (767-300)
  • EWR – IAH (767-400)
  • EWR – IAH (767-200)
  • EWR – LAX (787-10)
  • EWR – LAX (777-200)
  • EWR – SFO (787-10)
  • EWR – SFO (777-200)
  • EWR – SJU (767-400)
  • SFO – DEN (787-8)
  • SFO – DEN (777-200)
  • SFO – EWR (777-200)
  • SFO – EWR (787-10)
  • SFO – HNL (777-200)
  • SFO – IAD (777-200)
  • SFO – IAD (787-8 or 787-10)
  • SFO – IAH (787-200)
  • SFO – ORD (777-200)
  • IAD – DEN (787-8)
  • IAD – HNL (767-400)
  • IAD – IAH (767-400)
  • IAD – SFO (787-8 or 787-10)
  • IAD – SFO (777-200)

United First Class FAQS

Does United First Class offer lay-flat seats?

Lay flat seats in first class are available on flights served by wide-bodied aircraft like the Boeing 777, 767, and 787. These are mostly transcontinental routes such as flights from IAH to LAX or IAD to DEN.

Is the food free on United First Class?

Yes, however, the type of food depends on the duration of your flight. Shorter flights that are between 1-2 hours will probably offer light meals but longer flights above 2 hours will offer full-course meals. In some cases, flights under one hour will not have snacks.

What is the difference between United First Class and United Business Class?

United First Class is available on shorter U.S. domestic flights and flights between the U.S. and Canada (including Alaska and Hawaii). Business Class is offered on longer U.S. domestic flights (aka transcontinental flights), and flights between the U.S. and Latin America/Caribbean.

What benefits does United Airlines First Class have?

United First Class passengers get priority boarding, priority check-in, priority baggage handling, two free checked bags, and Premier Access. On the air, passengers get premium seats, free in-flight entertainment, premium food, and complimentary beverages.

Do First Class passengers have access to the United lounge?

United Club Lounges are exclusive to United Polaris business class (long-haul international flights) and United business class flights (short-haul international flights and premium domestic flights).

This means that if you’re flying domestic on short routes, you won’t have lounge access unless you have a United Premier Gold Elite or Star Alliance Gold elite membership.

Bottomline

If you’re a business traveler or someone who just prefers luxury travel, then flying on United First Class, United Business, or United Polaris is never a bad idea.

However, if you just want to get to your destination in the cheapest way possible, just go for Economy or Premium Economy if you want an upgraded experience.

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