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United Domestic 777 First Class Review: A Throwback Experience with Modern Luxury?

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Lucky enough to be booking a flight on United Airlines’ domestic first class? You’ll be even more fortunate if that flight is on one of its aircraft equipped with luxurious, lie-flat seats. On select routes around America, spacious, transforming bed seats replace the boring, non-fancy first-class recliners. Here’s my full United Domestic 777-200 first class review and thoughts on whether it’s worth the price.

But some front-of-the-plane travelers are dismayed when selecting their seat – some of United’s 777s have a curious-looking layout. Instead of the typical 1-2-1 Polaris class layout found on most of United’s widebody fleet, you may see a much denser 2-4-2 configuration… with seats facing each other in a forward and rear-facing setup.

These are frequently called the “old United First,” “dorm-room first class,” and even “coffin seats.” They are on the United 777-200 aircraft with domestic routes, including to and from Hawaii. When deciding to pay a premium for these seats, many travelers wonder: are these seats worth it?

I was recently faced with that decision, and besides wanting to be more comfortable, the avgeek in me knew I had to try this classic, rare product. I upgraded, and to summarize the conclusion, I would do it again in a heartbeat, and I’ll highlight why. I wasn’t pleased with the reviews available, so I made one myself – read on to see my experience.

Booking and/or Upgrading

The seat map of a United Airlines 777 - 200 with the old first class

My flights from Las Vegas to Honolulu were already booked in economy, and I had been watching United’s upgrade price for a few weeks. When it dropped from around $1,300 to $399 per person, I knew that was as good as it gets, and I grabbed an upgrade for both my wife and me. This was on the LAX to HNL leg of the trip, operated by the United B777 with the old first class seats.

If you’re wondering how to identify this plane, it’s not hard. This type of domestic first class is on the 777-200, and you can easily look for the 2-4-2 seating arrangements. You can see the rear-facing rows more closely, like in the screenshot above.

Only the middle seats were left when I upgraded, but I took them anyway. Important pro tip: check the seat map again two or three days before departure. As you can see above, seats 1A and 1B don’t appear at first because they are blocked as crew rest seats – but on most domestic flights, that isn’t necessary, so they release them. 

I managed to switch to those! That was a great find because, as you can imagine, the middle would be a bit more annoying in such a configuration – especially for a couple.

First Impressions: United Domestic First Class 777-200 Review

Boarding & Pre-Departure

Unfortunately, if you’re on a domestic flight, you don’t get access to the United Club or Polaris Lounge at the airport. You will, however, get to board with group one. You also get to use the priority baggage lines, and your bags will be tagged as priority.

The overhead bins up front were also noticeably fuller than on a typical United Polaris business class flight because more people are packed into a smaller space. We had to put our bag above a seat that wasn’t ours. That’s something to consider if you are in and out of your luggage.

Privacy in the Seats

View of seats 1a and 1b on United Airlines' 777 with old first class seats
Woodrow Matthews / ViaTravelers

Upon arriving at seats 1A and 1B, we were already happy, as the space is much roomier in person than it looks online or in photos. We were also relieved about the privacy and awkwardness of rear-facing seats with forward-facing neighbors.

The partition separating us from row two was very large, meaning the passengers on the other side were not staring at you while seated! On the other hand, the forward facers in the middle row did have a direct view into our space, as did we into theirs.

However, honestly, I don’t think anyone wants to look at other passengers or be looked at themselves, and we didn’t feel like they were watching us. It wasn’t uncomfortable at all.

While exploring the cabin, I noticed that row four had the best level of privacy. There’s no middle row, so it’s window and aisle only. The pairs are tucked into their little corners, with no one able to look in, and a seemingly quiet, private atmosphere similar to what you’d experience flying business class internationally. Go for row four if it’s available!

Seat Comfort & Amenities

Legroom on United 777 with domestic first class
Woodrow Matthews / ViaTravelers

There is plenty of legroom when the seat is upright, and you can put your feet on the little ottoman under the screen. The seat is extremely comfortable, and despite being a bit narrower than new-generation Polaris seats, this is exponentially better than any experience in economy!

Special Hawaii flight amenity kit on United Airlines first class to Hawaiian islands
Woodrow Matthews / ViaTravelers

The in-flight entertainment screen is large and bright; you control it with the little remote attached to the seat. United provides high-quality headphones. You’ll also find an amenity kit in your seat with little things like a toothbrush, socks, and a sleeping mask, and the Hawaii flights have special ones.

Seatback entertainment with remote control on United Airlines 777 first class
Woodrow Matthews / ViaTravelers

A good quality blanket and pillow by Saks Fifth Avenue waited on every seat, as they would be in the more modern Polaris planes. However, I found that in these seats, there wasn’t anywhere to put them while you weren’t using them. The ottoman isn’t a great option because that’s where people’s feet go, so you’ll hold onto those items until later.

United Airlines domesic first class pre-departure champagne
Woodrow Matthews / ViaTravelers

Like flying business class, the cabin crew came around with pre-departure champagne and water while the rest of the plane boarded. Overall, we were quite happy thus far, and this was starting to feel like a very good upgrade.

Read Also: KLM Business Class Review

In-Flight Experience: The “Special” UA First Class

Flying in Rear-Facing Seats

The view from the window of a rear-facing airline seat during takeoff
Woodrow Matthews / ViaTravelers

Flying in a backward-facing seat may sound unpleasant – unless you’re an aviation fanatic like me, in which case, it’s on your bucket list. In the window seat, we only noticed anything different about it during takeoff and landing, as I expected.

It was fun to see the California coast fade away from this angle, just as it was fun to watch the wheels touch down later. Even if you’re a nervous flyer, don’t worry about this.

My wife is, and she agreed that the “different” feeling of takeoff and landing wasn’t a big deal. I would not advise anyone to avoid rear-facing seats even if you are in the window seat.

Service and Dining

Nuts and water served on United Airlines domestic business class
Woodrow Matthews / ViaTravelers

After takeoff, flight attendants came around with warm towels, which was nice. But they were unscented, and I think a touch of some fragrance would improve the experience.

Next was a small cup of warm, mixed nuts and another beverage for each passenger. I went with a glass of water to avoid failing to write my review, but wine and mixed drinks were available.

The meals weren’t far behind, and I appreciate that United respected our main course selections that were made a few days in advance. Don’t forget to pre-select your meal so you aren’t stuck with whatever food they have left – although I’ve heard that sometimes, they run out of your choice anyway.

Beef tenderloin airline meal served on United Airlines domestic first class
Woodrow Matthews / ViaTravelers

I had a very tasty beef tenderloin with vegetables, and Brittney had the famous United cheeseburger with fries. Bread and salad were also served, as was a nice little cheesecake for dessert. Everything was served simultaneously, which is probably best on a relatively short flight.

See Related: Best and Worst Airlines in the US

Enjoying the Ride

United Airlines 777 first class seats half reclined position
Woodrow Matthews / ViaTravelers

After dinner, it was time to relax, and I played with the recline on my seat. I enjoyed the almost flat configuration when watching a movie under my blanket. The pillow was very nice and comfortable.

I managed to sleep for a short bit after the movie. As I said earlier, the seats are not as wide as the newer Polaris seats, but they are by no means uncomfortable. As a relatively tall guy, I did not run out of length, either.

First class seat in lie flat mode on United Airlines 777
Woodrow Matthews / ViaTravelers

Of course, there’s no escaping that some people will need to pass by their neighbor to get up and use the lavatory. I could easily step over my wife’s lie-flat seat, but if it were a stranger, it probably would have been better to at least ask.

Thanks to free text messaging wifi and an inexpensive full connection, I could work, keep in touch, and be productive until a smooth landing in Honolulu. Once again, the landing was interesting when facing the “wrong” direction, but fun!

Is United Airlines’ Domestic First Class Worth It?

Seats, blankets, and pillows of United AIrlines 777 first class
Woodrow Matthews / ViaTravelers

Now that I’ve done it, I know I wouldn’t hesitate to travel on United’s 777 “old” first class product again – especially at the price I paid. If you’re on the fence about dropping a few hundred dollars on the non-typical Polaris experience, my general advice is to go for it.

My experience may have been different if I was a solo traveler in a middle-of-the-middle seat. I was lucky to be with my wife in a two-seater. However, if you want to rest and comfort, it still would beat economy class.

Of course, if you choose between this type of 777-200 and a 787 or 777-300ER (which have the new Polaris seats), the latter two would be the better option. But if you don’t have such a choice or the price difference is significant, this was a great travel experience in far more luxury than the usual domestic flight with first class recliners.

Plus, these planes are aging; you never know how long you’ll have to sample this product. Overall, it was a fantastic United flight that I’d definitely do again!

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