United GlobalFirst Review – Worth the extra cash?

United Global First is United Airlines international First class product, offered on their Boing 747 and some of their 777 airplanes on select routes. Is it worth the extra money (or points) over UA BusinessFirst and how does it compare to the First class product of other airlines?

According to John Rainey, United Airlines’ CFO, in an interview with Bloomberg (see video here)  it might not be worth to upgrade from Business First: “It’s effectively the same service: you’ve got a very similar product, very similar seat, even the food service is very similar.” While you might not expect a top executive of an airline to diss his own product, he is actually not totally wrong. The in-flight entertainment is the same as in BusinessFirst, the service is the same and the food is very similar (save for a hot soup or appetizer) and the drinks are not noticeable better either. That leaves you with the seat as the main differentiator. And in fact, it is slightly wider and longer, making for a more comfortable sleep. You also have more storage around you and the cabin is layed out in a 1-2-1 configuration, giving you direct aisle access, instead of the 2-4-2 configuration in BusinessFirst (ex-UA planes). You also share the lavatory with fewer passengers, get a nicer amenity kit and have access to the GlobalFirst lounges on the ground, which are significantly nicer than the crowded BusinessFirst lounges!

If your company has a coporate agreement with United and allows you to fly First class, you probably don’t care about the small difference to Business and will fly it anyway. If you are paying for your seat, with money or points, it’s hard to recommend it over BusinessFirst, especially if you are flying on a Boing 747 with my favorite business class cabin upstairs! All of my flights in United GlobalFirst were upgrades from paid Business class tickets or award tickets. While I enjoyed the flights, I would only choose it with free upgrades or when using an award ticket that’s combined with business class flights on partner airlines, giving you UA First at no extra cost. The choice is even easier to make when you compare United GlobalFirst to the First class offering of other airlines – UA First just can’t compete with Singapore Airlines, Thai or Lufthansa international First class, at any level. So, unless your company “makes you” fly United or you are desperately trying to earn points for the United MillionMiler program, there are really not many good reasons to choose United GlobalFirst over other airlines. And with most new planes going into service in a two-class configuration, it’s likely that GlobalFirst will go the way of the dodo bird sooner or later…

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