Dec 102014

Got an early start, grabbed some Starbucks at Frankfurt Hauptbanhof, and then headed in to the airport on the S-Bahn for my final flight of the South Pacific part of this trip. I already had my mobile boarding pass, so headed straight to security and the Lufthansa Senator Lounge. I still think it’s shameful that United can only get you an invite to the same lounge its business class passengers use at the hub of its closest partner. Oh well, a delicious german beer and pretzel for a late breakfast and all was nearly forgiven:


The usual pre-boarding security theatre for flights to the States, consisting of some mall security asking you a bunch of silly scripted questions that anyone with 1/100 of a brain isn’t going to get wrong. One of these days we’ll start taking genuinely meaningful security measures that actually have a chance of keeping flights safer…

United flight 988
Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) to Washington/Dulles, Virginia, USA (IAD)
Depart 11:25, Arrive 14:35, Flight Time 9:10
Boeing 777-200, Registration N227UA, Manufactured 2001, Seat 1K

After Asiana and ANA, I knew United was going to disappoint me, even in Global First. I’ve flown the product dozens of times before so I knew what to expect: a comfortable seat, TGI Fridays quality food, and wines I could generally buy for $10 a bottle. The thinking is that nobody actually pays for United first, it’s mostly either upgrades from business, award tickets, or employees, so there’s little incentive to invest in the product. It’s really a question of chicken and egg, however. If they don’t invest, people won’t buy it, and if people don’t buy it it’s hard to justify investing.

Ok, enough of the soapbox. I was offered a glass of “champagne” pre-departure, and today’s choice was a lovely non-vintage Veuve Smisek:


So, what’s to eat?




A wine list so steeped in tradition, from the finest terroirs of the old and new world. The actual wines are so outstanding, they have to be kept secret so the competition doesn’t steal United’s palate-delighting ideas:


…but never fear, you get an amenity kit, not one but <strong>two</strong> pillows, <strong>AND</strong> noise-cancelling headphones. You know, because serious airlines don’t offer any of these things in business class much less first class!


Up in the air, I decided to switch away from the champagne since I’d been sufficiently tempted by the wine list. Today’s secret wine was a lovely Château le Jeff 2014 which had subtle undertones of burnt leaves and oak with a refreshing rotting pumpkin that lingered on the palate:


…but hey, garlic bread. That makes up for a lot of shortcomings in my book. Mmmm….


Then this happened. Really. That’s an appetizer. Two little skewered pieces of chicken breast with a little couscous. Wow. I literally can’t even.


The zucchini and parmesan soup, however, was surprisingly tasty:


…as was the salad. Surprisingly good. They really could invest in higher-quality croutons, however, and please…get rid of those strange dressings United is oh so fond of serving. I think today’s was Creamy Guava Delight, or something similarly corny. Maybe it was Tantalizing Passionfruit…I’ve forgotten. Either way it was mildly creamy, had citrus fruit undertones, and was just plain strange.


The beef. Not good. Not good at all. Somewhere between well done and shoe leather. The sauce made it salvageable, and the few pieces of defrosted microwave broccoli and carrots really made the dish!


The cheese. Mmmm. I asked for seconds. I was told no. I saw the crew eating cheese and crackers later in the flight. #FAIL. Really too bad, because the cheese was actually quite good, and likely the best part of the meal.


…and to finish things off…the sundae. I sometimes get caramel, sometimes hot fudge, always with “cherries.” Today I decided to go wild and have both, still with cherries. It’s always fun watching United crews interpret “cherries.” It’s been as little as one, and as many as 15 or so. Today, it was three:


Finished off dinner with a glass of the Late Harvest Changes You’ll Like Cellars Icewine, which was divine. Or maybe it was amaretto on the rocks. I get the two confused sometimes….

After dinner I napped a couple hours, watched some tv on the iPad, and soon enough we were about 90 minutes out and it was time for the pre-arrival snack. Now, don’t get your hopes up here.

It’s fruit. The same fruit the serve in business class. A box of two chocolates…the same two chocolates they serve in business class. And a sandwich…which is decent. Not amazing, but at least it’s decent.


So, overall summary: the crew was friendly and efficient, even if they did lie about having extra cheese. The seat is nice, reasonably private, and comfortable sleeping. The food and beverage? Well, they’re something ANA and Asiana would be embarrassed to serve in business class not to mention first. But again, it’s understandable why United does what it does.

With that said, quick trip through immigration and security, and it was off to the condo to spend a whole 72 hours in DC (after five weeks away) before packing up again and heading to Israel and Palestine for Thanksgiving!

  One Response to “Frankfurt to Washington, Dulles in United First”

  1. Great reporting on a grata trip. Thanks.

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