As a frequent flyer in economy and business class, I expect the main differentiators to be in the little details. In the past United (formerly Continental) was focused on these details. But on this most recent flight from AMS to IAH, there were many little things that added up to a very disappointing experience.
Firstly, the positives:
The business class welcome pack is nice. I also appreciate the extra blanket and memory foam pillow. Nice small touches.
Although getting old, the flat bed seats and space is still very good.
Here are some of the disappointments:
Firstly, I don’t know if one can fault United on the experience at the lounge, but if they do care about their passenger’s pre-boarding experience (like Singapore Air does) they should consider what they can do to improve their lounge, especially for long haul international destinations. For example, the United (but shared with others) airport lounge in AMS was really too busy. There was a long waiting line to get into the lounge, lines to use the bathroom, lines to get beverages, no places to sit. Bottom line it was just simply far too crowded - It was not a very restful experience. As a business-class paying passenger expecting to get away from the hustle and bustle of the terminal to find a quiet place to settle, this is was an utmost disappointment. I was better off just finding a spot somewhere in the terminal or a restaurant to sit.
Secondly, courteous service on board was lacking. I got the impression the my purser was just annoyed with passengers. I heard and saw one of the attendants sternly telling a elderly gentleman (also in business class) to sit back down because the fasten seat belt light was still on. This, after almost 30 min after take off and he wanted to go the bathroom. Instead of politely and sympathetically dealing with it she came across as very annoyed and very not very respectful. Then 5 minutes later when she dropped off his drink he asked how long he’d have to wait to go to he bathroom, she said it was now ok to go. But the seat-belt sign was still on! So not consistent messages.
Thirdly, entertainment selection onboard was really lacking. In the not so distant past, United was known to have really recent and up to date movie offerings. Sometime movies still playing in theatres could be watched onboard. But the options on this flight were not great. Movies that have been out for almost a year were still listed as “new releases”.
Lastly, the 777-200 aircraft is also really showing its age from the seats to the bathrooms.
I have been flying Business Class on United for over 15 years. I also fly with other Star Alliance partners as well as Flying Blue (ie KLM) depending on where I am flying. The Asian airlines have always been superior all-round so that is typically my preference when flying especially to Asia. But when flying from AMS to IAH I’d usually prefer flying United due their better onboard entertainment and service compared to say other direct flight carriers like KLM. But based on this latest flight I am not sure I will be choosing United anymore.