a hand holding two golf balls

The Best First Class Ever: United Global First!

I was able to grab a pair of Global First Class seats on Sydney to San Francisco at the last minute using Aeroplan (no taxes!). I have to say, United’s Global First Class is the single most awesome thing in the sky. Emirates shower? Meh! Lufthansa’s caviar? Too salty! United has captured the essence of what First Class ought to be, and has ruined me for the future.

(Want to fly First Class, on United and other products? Contact Awarding Canada for your award booking needs)


United boards their Global First Class flyers after Global Services elite flyers. This makes total sense. Global Services flyers are jaded and not so lovely, having flown so much. The radiation has done something to them that makes them less pleasant to be around. So, kudos on United for allowing Global Services elites to board before your First Class customers, as it allows us to stay clear.

Once boarded, I was pointed to the First Class cabin. That introduction was very useful. The entire plane was boarding from the front door, so being instructed which way to go was very useful. Nobody called me by name, to protect my celebrity status (of course).

We were offered pre-departure beverages of our choosing. I asked for a Bloody Mary. The flight attendant was extremely courteous in her demeanour, remembering that grunting and eye-rolling is an intricate, yet subtle part of US customer service culture. My drink was served in a plastic cup instead of glass. I assume this was to prevent the leaching of those nasty glass tastes into my drink.

It SCREAMS class!
It SCREAMS class!

The Seat

The seat was very large and comfortable. It had plenty of storage, and although a little worn, did feel “first class.” When I asked for turn down service, I was given a mattress pad, with no filling, which definitely made me feel like I was sinking into a pile of kittens.

United Global First Class seat
United Global First Class seat

The Amenity Kit

It was really different. I was handed a plastic bag with a golf ball bag or something. I don’t play golf, so I wouldn’t really know. Inside, it had all your standard creams, golf socks, etc. Most interestingly, it had a bag of golf tees, and two United branded golf balls.

I must say I was perplexed by the golf balls. Since I was forbidden to press the flight attendant call button (being a US carrier, it’s only to be used in case of emergency), was I to toss them at the flight attendant for attention? Or, were they meant to be used as baoding balls? I never really learned their true intention, however, I hope it was something nefarious and creative.

The amenity kit
The amenity kit
Contents of the amenity kit
Contents of the amenity kit

The Food

I’m not really a fan of food. After spending two weeks in Australia, I’m trying to lose some weight. To my delight, United offers a “diet option,” where you’re given rubber food to look at, but not to eat. Being my silly self, I tried to eat it, but the “food” being for decorative purposes only. My mouth only met the cold, chewy tenderness of rubber. Thank you United for reminding me to keep my slim figure!

Great for a show room
Great for a show room

United did do something bad at the end of my foodie art show though. They gave me an ice-cream sundae, which was unfortunately not made of rubber… I gobbled it down and gained an extra pound.


The Service

I’m a Darwinist. You know, survival of the fittest and what not. Asian carriers in First Class take care of you too much, and European carriers give you a false sense of importance. United, however, fits my philosophy. They believe in “if you can’t do it yourself, you don’t get it.” Darwin would be proud of United. If I didn’t have the fitness to fetch myself water, I would die out, leaving evolution to do its fine work. Thank you United for contributing to the evolution of the human race.


United’s Global First Class product is truly excellent. It’s a self-service, no-mess experience that leaves one wanting more and more. To all the naysayers who’d rather fly Singapore or Lufthansa First Class, give United a try, and you’ll see the friendly skies.


    1. It seems these people have never flown first before, as united, delta, and american are some of the worst first class products in the sky. Unless of course you fly with aeroflot, or IranAir!

  1. This review sounds very similar to my one and (fortunately) only experiences with United Global First. I have several benefits to add to the above review:

    Are you a vegetarian who ordered a special meal? If so, United understands how insulting flavor or variety can be. To that end, they serve you the exact same course twice in a row! The bland salad is so much better during the second course. The diet plan is in full force, as vegetarians are not allowed to order the delectable ice cream sundaes either — the carrob brownie reigns supreme.

    The flight attendant offered a special seat buckling service. Rather than make you wait for the “prepare for landing” announcement, the flight attendant will preemptively reach over you to buckle the shoulder belt.

    With JetLag Plus, United helps prevent jetlag on daytime flights by disabling the recline function of the seat.

    Additionally, to encourage healthy stretching while in flight, all of the storage areas of the seat and overhead bin are sealed with duct tape.

    (Suffice to say, I avoid United Global First. One of the worst flights I’ve ever taken on any airline in any cabin.)

  2. Having just booked this same flight, I am sooooo excited to be flying the best first class ever. For 10000 points over 2-4-2 Business Class, it seemed to be worth it. Now, I’m thinking coach may be the way to go.


  3. Also, don’t forget about the wonderful beverage selection. United wants to make sure that you don’t over-indulge in Global First, so they offer essentially the same liquor and wine selection as your local Applebee’s, just with slower service.

  4. United and AA should be forbidden to advertise first class on their international flights. They should be ashamed but they will never be so force them to stop selling what they call first class seats should be the way to go. The problem is there are people willing to pay over $15k for that type of experience.

    1. Is it safe to assume that Business Class is worse, and that it’s worth the extra 10k points for this?

      1. They have business class in 2-4-2 configuration, WITH SOME SEATS FACING BACKWARDS! It’s truly an innovative, revolutionary product.

        1. enough with the sarcasm — backward facing business seats are a lot more comfortable,and easier to sleep due to the angle of the plane, and also safer in the event of a crash landing. BA has them too. Ideally all biz seats would face backwards. (I don’t like the alternating thing too)
          Globalfirst is a very comfortable product overall, better than any business product you’ll find anywhere (even if not as good as first class of some airlines) and is easily available for not that many miles – more availability than business for sure.

          1. The big problem with UA’s version of backward facing seats is that it means everyone sitting in an aisle seat has someone else staring at them from across that aisle for the whole flight…no privacy at all! 2-4-2 is bad enough, but toss in the lack of privacy (not to mention the closeness of one’s “neighbour” in the next seat) and you’ve pretty much got the worst business class cabins in the sky!

          2. Well, NO, “Globalfirst is a very comfortable product overall, better than any business product you’ll find anywhere” is NOT TRUE

            Have you ever fly EVA airline?
            I took its flight from Taipei to New York in biz, which is marketed as Premium Laurel.
            Eva does not offer first class anymore
            It is the best biz class I have ever taken. It is better than united in every way.

  5. Serving Bloody Mary in a plastic cup,with a blue stirrer to boost; “It SCREAMS class!”. At first I looked at the picture of the Bloody Mary and thought you were being serious, then read the whole post…haha,hilarious post.

  6. haha i got this was a satire half way into the 1st paragraph. if i were on this flight documenting it this way will make it more tolerable. very nice piece.

  7. This is hysterically sad but true! Having done this flight many a time over the past 5 years, it is why this multi-year 1K’r and 2MM miler has given up on the friendly skies (sic).

  8. Just thinking about it, UA F is a great intro to flying First. It should be a pre-req before flying the big guys like LH F, CX F, etc. 😉

  9. Funny post and similar to my experience in Global First on an IAH to GRU flight last year. I asked for the turn down service and the FA said the mattress pads were stored in the crew rest area, which was occupied, so I was out of luck – no mattress pads!

  10. hmmm…….. you lost me(or United did) when you mentioned the drink came in plastic~ really?, in 1st class on any airline? Now, my expectations of United are always despairingly low, to avoid disappointment, but that truly is the pits! And what is that spaghetti swirl/turd alongside the prawns (shrimp to you I think) all about?? Some leftovers from somewhere maybe? Horrible, horrible, horrible!!

  11. I don’t like drinking alone. When I know I’m consuming the same brand of alcohol in first class that passengers in economy class are drinking it gives me a warm feeling of camaraderie.

  12. Maybe you were supposed to play golf onboard. Did you forget to bring your clubs as carryon?

  13. We just got back from São Paulo on business first and it was actually a great flight. Not as good as the Asian carriers, but great none the less. We got the exact same amenity kit in business first. I believe these kits are being given to business pax til, the end of May or June. United is hit or miss with their service, however that is shameful for first class.

  14. Plastic cups? WTF! Best ever,? Hardly, probably good by the lowly American standards I guess, silly Yanks, thinking plastic cups is “best ever” LOL

  15. Clearly this guy has never travelled anywhere on anything but a bus.

    United Global First is one of the worst products in the sky.

    The fact this guy says he doesn’t like food, was a clear indicator that anything would seem like it was great.

    So, why waste the airline miles on something you won’t appreciate ?

    1. Exactly, all they did was complain, and sounds like they just heard it from someone who’s in economy being jealouse and kept looking at the first class area, plastic for safety reason,

  16. So many LOLs. “It’s a self-service, no-mess experience that leaves one wanting more and more.” Great line.

    That being said, I’ve enjoyed all of my GlobalFirst experiences. No, it’s certainly not comparable to flying F on a Middle Eastern or Asian carrier (well, except for Air China), so if you go in expecting that you’ll be disappointed. I usually tell people it’s one of the nicer business class products I’ve flown.

    Some specific thoughts:

    SEAT: Comfortable for both lounging and sleeping, but certainly getting a bit worn.

    IFE: Better than most with a nice screen and good selection (as long as you speak English).

    FOOD: Typical US cuisine – large portions of edible but relatively crappy food. I don’t understand the fascination with ice cream sundaes for dessert. To me they come across as cheap, but all the American bloggers seem to love them. I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing or bloggers just have bad taste.

    AMENITY KIT: While the kit itself isn’t anything to write home about, there’s more stuff in it than any other kit I’ve received – mouthwash, pen, tissues, etc.

  17. @Joey: Couldn’t agree more!
    “Just thinking about it, UA F is a great intro to flying First. It should be a pre-req before flying the big guys like LH F, CX F, etc”

    I flew this same UA Syd-SFO last year, and it wasn’t all as bad as this write-up says… AT least the seat laid down and I could sleep through most of the 14+ hours!

    BUT, it is a far, far, far cry from (business class, even!!) Austrian, Swiss, Cathay, etc which create a level of expectation that UA cannot hope to meet. (actually, NONE of the US-based airlines even come close).

  18. Having some surplus Aeroplan left over from our mortgage years ago, we decided to fly first class YYZ to Manchester last year. By booking through United, we were able to get a flight from Philly with the only downside being there were no planes with proper first class from YYZ to Philly.

    The seating and service was fantastic. I don’t remember the food that much other than it being served on a proper tracy with steel utensils. The only downside being the 1-2-1 “pods” don’t actually allow you to sit beside your partner in any meaningful way as there is a divider in between you. We were able to overcome that on the return flight by arranging seating across the aisle from each other, which at least allowed us to see and talk.

  19. If you consider UA GlobalFirst a “Business Class +” product, it’s kinda competitive: Business Class on partners like TG or SQ is about the same number of points on trans-pacific routes and a comparable product… minus the eye rolls, plastic cups, bad drinks, rubber food,.. BUT you get GOLF BALLS! Take that, SQ!
    Anyway, it is worth the extra 10,000 points over UA BusinessFirst to me for the more comfortable seat and better GF lounges…

  20. No surprising. Most everything in americant is utterly poor, yet they give the illusion of “quality.” Lots of marketing/proclamations/PR puffery for what…us swill.

  21. Ice cream sundae….it is a us cultural thing, the U.S. folks appear to enjoy low class/pedestrian “food,” and an elementary school social hour sundae appeals to the lowest common us denominator. Americants. Who in their respective get mnd would pay 5 figures for this swill?

    1. Because nothing says sophistication and high class food like French fries covered in grave. Talk about low class!

  22. the plastic cup was for pre-departure. The second you’re in the air, they switch it to glass.

    So many clueless people on this board.

  23. To me, it is all about the space and the storage. United Global First has a lot of both. The seat is functional. That is all I care about. I eat before I get on the plane and don’t rely on the flight attendants for anything but a glass of water from time to time, something that even the most surly United crews will give you. I don’t drink alcohol when I am flying so I don’t care about the brands being served and whether it is the same or different from Business Class. As for the difference between it and United Business, the latter has no storage, a small footwell which makes sleeping difficult and you sleep next to some stranger. No thank you. I think Global First is an excellent product if you understand what you are getting and why. Its not about the service, its about the space. All I want to do is sleep so I don’t really care that I am not being pampered all of the time like the ME3 or the Asian carriers.

  24. Sounds like it was written by a whinny Canadian…wait it was! Canada, the country that complains about everything yet does nothing. With all the real problems in the world, leave it to a Canadian to complain about a first class seat most people will never afford. So noble of you!

  25. @Thomas Mason – you must have low expectations of an international first or business class product then. Why not just start with an economy seat, make it wider and longer? Wait, that is UA Business and global first …

    @DCTA – thanks for the funny writeup.

  26. US carriers employ Americans. Americans do not from a culture of servitude. You are never going to be treated as you would in an Asian culture. As for the price it comparable to buisness fare on a European carrier. I agree I do not understand the ice cream.

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