United Airlines 787-9 Economy Plus – LAX to NRT

Overview:

To start off my 10 day trip around the world, I took United Airlines’ Boeing 787 from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Narita International Airport (NRT) just outside Tokyo, Japan.

My original ticket was for economy but for a small upgrade fee, I decided to sit in economy plus and see if it was better than standard economy.

Check out the full review to see if it was worth it!

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Flight Details:

  • Flight Number: UA32
  • Port of Origin: Los Angeles International Airport, USA
  • Destination: Narita, Japan
  • Flight Time: 11:12
  • Aircraft: Boeing 787-9
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Booking:

This flight was the first two flights of seven that took me all the way around the world over ten days. I was able to book all 7 flights for $1,600!! Check out the full walkthrough and details of how I booked this journey here!

Lounge/Airport:

To start the day, I took a quick 45-minute flight from San Diego to Los Angeles International to get my flight to Tokyo. This was a cheaper alternative to the flight directly from LAX without a connecting flight (go figure). 

The United Lounge in San Diego is decently sized but did get packed in the morning. 

San Diego UA Lounge

Espresso machine had 5-10 people waiting at times and the food selection was slim with just cold items and small bakery/pastry items.

Morning Food at the UA Lounge

After spending an hour there before my flight, I connected to LAX on a CanadianAir Regional jet. The short flight let me get a little nap in.

San Diego Departure

Arriving in LAX, I walked from my arrival gate, 86, to the United Lounge which is at the beginning of Terminal 7, United’s terminal at LAX. After checking in, I took the escalators up to the lounge which was very large. There are multiple seating areas including high top tables with plenty of power outlets to lounge chairs and round tables with chairs. 

LAX United Lounge Seating
LAX United Lounge Seating

There was also a large bar and terrace to get some fresh air which I found to be a great touch. There was plenty of space to move around and I never felt crammed.

LAX United Lounge Bar
LAX United Lounge Terrace

The food selection included multiple cold dish items and the warm items were eggs and sausage. I was there for breakfast, so I can’t comment on what it’s like during lunch or dinner time. After hanging out in the lounge for 45 minutes, I headed over to my gate, 76B, which was at the end of Terminal 7.

Boarding:

Gate 76A

Now that I have the United Mileage Club credit card from Chase, I have premier access and am in boarding group 2 even though I was an economy passenger. This is a great perk to have and makes the boarding process easy and relaxing. We boarded about 10 minutes past the scheduled time and I made my way down the jetway to the plane.

United 787-9

The Seat:

I took United’s one year old 787-9 to Narita. Unfortunately, United does not offer a premium economy product and still has a 2-class cabin. They plan to start offering a premium economy product starting December 3, 2018. 

I like to think United has a 2.5-class cabin since it offers Economy Plus seats. Economy Plus seats are basically the same as a standard economy seat other than you have preferred seating areas (towards the front of the plane or emergency exits) and some more leg room.

Economy Plus seat 16A

Every seat comes with a blanket and pillow. Blanket was sufficient and the pillow was pretty unremarkable. I used it as a lumbar support pillow for the duration of the flight since the headrest is adequate. 

The seat has some cushion but isn’t cloud 9. I got fidgety a few times but in all, it’s decent enough to get you from point A to point B.

Economy Blanket
Economy Pillow

I upgraded last second to Economy Plus and the seat really isn’t that comfortable. It has standard seat width with no extra padding on the back rest. There is no leg rest or foot rest. Being against the bulkhead I had increased leg room which was nice.

Bulkhead Storage Pocket

The tray table comes out of the arm rest and is manual to take out. It flips open and offers a decent workspace or eating area. There is limited sliding ability of the table.

Tray Table

Your entertainment remote is physically built into the arm rest and is not removable. There you will find the entertainment system controls, light control, and flight attendant buttons.

Entertainment Remote

Power outlet is located below the seat and usually in-between the seats or against the edge of the seat.

Power Outlet

Since I was against the bulkhead, my entertainment screen is tucked away between the seat and releases with the press of a button. It articulates up to an ergonomically nice position. The screen also has a USB charging port and 3.5mm headphone jack port.

Entertainment Screen Button Release
Entertainment Screen Inputs

The economy restroom on-board is small as expected. Things are tight but the restroom was kept clean and has your barebones amenities (hand soap).

Economy Restroom

Entertainment System:

The entertainment screen is extremely responsive. There is barely any lag time when navigating through the screens. Screen size was small but expected for an economy class seat.

Entertainment Screen
Flight Tracking

There are a large number of movies including plenty of new releases.

TV shows were also well represented with a limited number of episodes per show. I don’t believe there were any full seasons on the system. Then again, I’m not a huge TV nerd so don’t fully quote me on this.

You could also find some games, audio tracks, podcasts, and light reading.

Internet was also available for sale. I tried it out, and the speed was suitable for emails and texts. Per usual, internet browsing was slow and painful.

Internet Purchase Options

If you want to check out a full video, watch our full video below!

Meal Service:

Starting the flight, we were given an Asian snack mix and drink. Snack mix was a decent snack to start things off.

Asian Style Snack Mix and Drink

About an hour and a half into the flight, our first meal was served. Options were a shrimp tempura dish, Chinese chicken dish, or teriyaki noodle dish. I went with the teriyaki noodle dish which is their vegan option. 

In economy, you get everything all at once on a small tray.

Economy Lunch Meal

The teriyaki noodles were a bit mushy but overall, not bad. Was on the saltier side of things but that’s what you get with teriyaki.

Teriyaki Noodles

Salad was fresh and crisp. Balsamic vinaigrette was good as well. Cucumber and tomato were fresh and had good texture.  The bread roll was also soft and fluffy. Far from stale.

In all, not a bad meal for economy. I was certainly full afterwards and had the meal complimented with a nice white wine and some water.

Dessert was a small cup of salted caramel gelato and a water bottle which hit the spot but again, is very salty so be sure to watch your hydration to counteract it.

Dessert

Breakfast (weird because we land at 3pm) was an option of an egg and sausage plate or French toast. I opted for the egg dish.

I received a small carton of fruit with the white film wrapped egg dish…the suspense.

Breakfast Egg Dish

Upon opening, it did not look appetizing to say the least. Smell was overall good, but I was suspect.

To my pleasant surprise, it was actually not bad. Good flavor, eggs not too runny, potatoes were in decent shape, and the sausage was tasty. The fruit was also fresh with no bruised grapes or pieces of pineapple that had too much of the core.

Economy Eggs

In all, the food wasn’t entirely horrible in economy. While the presentation might not have been the most appetizing, the food actually didn’t taste half bad and could keep you satiated on the flight.

Service:

Being in standard economy, you can’t ask too much in terms of service. You see the flight attendants only a handful of times during the flight and the encounters are very short. They are there to give you food or drink or take trash away.

 

For how brief my interaction was with the FA’s, it was a good one. They were very prompt with removal of trash from the seat and efficient in distributing drinks and food. They were friendly with a smile and I did not witness any issues on board.

Wing Views

Overall:

I was pleasantly surprised with the economy plus product that United offers in their 787. The seats are probably my biggest negative and I’ll be intrigued to see how things go with the release of a true premium economy not economy with legroom. While you aren’t sitting on a piece of wood and cardboard, there’s not a lot of cushion and support. I ended up using my pillow as lumbar support for the entirety of the flight.

The entertainment system offers plenty to keep you occupied on the 11-hour flight.

The food while nothing amazing, was alright and as expected for economy class. I think it’s more than good for the class you pay for. I would suggest bringing something to snack on because there was about 8 hours in between meal services.

Would I fly it again? Sure. The price for my flight was a great deal and I feel it is appropriately priced. Would I pay more than $600-$700? Probably not. In that range you could be close to finding a true premium economy seat that offers better meals and service.

 

Have you flown economy plus on United? Was your experience similar to mine?

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