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United Airlines (Global First) Hong Kong to Chicago

Following is a testimonial and a first-hand experience of Adam Rodriguez, Executive Director of Premier Traveler Magazine.
   
VIP ARRIVAL
 
Setting off from the hotel according to the staff’s recommended departure time, the car service from the Ritz Carlton delivered me to the airport more than two hours before my flight. On my way to the check-in counter, a United Airlines employee asked to see my ticket; upon presenting it, I was swiftly met by two other representatives, one who checked my passport and another who took my bags.

Soon I was being ushered to United’s Global First Lounge, with my luggage checked and boarding pass in hand. It was quite a long and winding haul from the check-in counter to the lounge, so with my sense of direction I was happy to have the escort.
Before I was left to enjoy the lounge, I was asked if I’d like an escort to the gate when it was time to board. I figured I might as well get the most out of this first-class ticket and took them up on the offer.

The lounge itself was quite nice, with an assortment of canapés and a self-service bar—which had, unfortunately, run out of vodka by the time I arrived. The chairs in the lounge were presumably new or newly stuffed, because they were as hard as a park bench. When the time came, I was rounded up with a few other passengers and we were accompanied to the gate, where we received priority boarding.

THE CABIN
 
The first-class cabin was in the lower front deck of this B747, so the configuration varied between 1-1 and 1-2-1 due to the tapered shape of the space. Once in my seat, I ordered a vodka with cranberry juice, but after a few minutes, the flight attendant returned to let me know that there was no cranberry juice on the plane. Before I could decide on a different drink, another flight attendant interjected to let me know that she had searched the plane to find the juice. I think it was at this point that they had won me over for the entirety of the flight.

THE SEAT

Once the rest of the passengers in my cabin had settled in, I could no longer see anyone except the person beside me, giving the illusion of the type of solitude normally reserved for private jet travel. When the plane hit the runway, I realized that I had not yet begun to explore my roomy seat or all the storage spaces it provided. I don’t know what the flight attendant must have thought when I didn’t even bother to use any of the numerous compartments at my disposal—I just sprawled out after takeoff, my personal belongings strewn everywhere, but with plenty of room to spare.

I was looking forward to enjoying hours of mindless TV on my 15.4-inch personal monitor. While I scanned the entertainment menu, hot towels were distributed and dinner orders were taken. I had selected the pesto prawn in saffron and the roasted red pepper and eggplant soup to start, followed by a main course of herb- and onion-crusted filet mignon. Unfortunately, after two bites of my steak I was just too full to finish. As my food was cleared and I was headed to the restroom, my flight attendant asked if she could make my bed for me. How could I say no?

Returning to my seat, I was amazed to find that it had been transformed into a fully flat 6’6” bed topped with a soft duvet and two pillows. After a few bites of the ice cream I’d been convinced to order, I fell into a deep sleep. Since everything had been cleared away when I woke up shortly thereafter, I reclined my seat all the way and slept soundly for a few more hours. I can remember waking a few more times after this, turning to the right or left side, rolling onto my stomach or back; no matter what position I tried, I was as comfortable as if I were in a true bed. Shortly before landing, more food was offered, but I just wasn’t interested in waking up, so I slept until the end. Despite the fact that Chicago had suffered delays due to a snowstorm, our flight touched down on time.

VERDICT

From the Club Room to the airplane cabin, it felt like my first-class ticket had granted me membership to an exclusive members-only club—I was delighted to be a part of it. Better still, whatever it was that had made me so much more tired than usual, I landed incredibly well rested.

Adam Rodriguez
Premier Traveler Magazine

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