United's new business and first class: what you need to know

By John Walton, February 24 2012
United's new business and first class: what you need to know

United Airlines is renaming its business and first class offerings as it continues the merger process with Continental, with some minor changes to the actual product you'll receive on the plane too.

It all kicks off on March 3 -- and while the situation is relatively straightforward on flights from Australia, it gets more complicated once you start connecting in Los Angeles or San Francisco.

Departing Australia on United's 747s, you'll find United Global First in the nose, with United BusinessFirst behind the nose on the main deck and on the upper deck. (Check out our guide on how to pick the best seats in the new BusinessFirst.)

We went back and forth a few times with a United spokeswoman, who explained what you'll find on United's other flights.

United Global First

This is the international first class on "old United" -- what you'll see in the nose of the 747s serving Australia.

United BusinessFirst

Continental's BusinessFirst hybrid top offering and old United Business will become United BusinessFirst.

(We're not sure where the space has gone in "United BusinessFirst" -- perhaps it's been "enhanced" in a cost-cutting exercise?)

So don't be surprised when the ticket that you thought was United Business Class is issued as "United BusinessFirst" -- and be ready to explain to your travel department or accountants that you're not jetting away in first class. (You might find the official press release useful here.)

United First

Non-global First is the top option on all domestic United flights, whether they're on a domestic-outfitted plane, international-outfitted aircraft, or the "United p.s." business traveller special service with better seats up front and nothing but "Economy Plus" extra-legroom economy in the back.

United Business

If you're on a short international flight (the United spokeswoman gave US-Mexico and Tokyo Narita-Hong Kong on Boeing 737 planes as examples), this is the first class service.

United Business is also found on some US domestic flights -- the ones that have three classes as planes are shifted from one hub to another before an international flight.

And those "United p.s." flights aimed at the business traveller also have United Business on board.

Business class changes

The actual product in business class will change too, and will be modelled after the old Continental product, with the new United promising:

  • An additional entree option, for a total of four, designed by United’s Congress of Chefs. United is also changing the way it prepares business-class meals to improve the quality and taste.
  • Expanded wine selections chosen by Doug Frost, Sommelier and Master of Wine.
  • New ice cream sundae dessert option with a choice of six toppings.
  • Improved in-flight entertainment including noise-reduction headsets.
  • New amenity kits featuring Philosophy-brand skin-care products.
  • Duvet-style blankets and higher-quality pillows and hot towels.
John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

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