I flew United’s 787-8 for the first time from Houston to Los Angeles just weeks after it was introduced in 2012, but almost two years passed before I had the chance to fly it again, this time from Houston to Lagos.
My day started in Chicago but I gave myself a five hour buffer in case of delays because I needed to be on that Lagos flight. I cased out the gate area when I arrived and it was deserted.
When I returned from the lounge a few hours later a long line had formed waiting to board. Oddly, boarding was via electronic gate and visas were never checked. I did not need one since I was transiting, but it was curious that no ever examined my passport (other than the ID page) since Americans cannot obtain visas on arrival in Lagos.
Nigeria is a developing country in Western Africa and with vast deposits of oil, is a lucrative investment opportunity for foreign oil companies. I sat next to a senior Exxon-Mobil official and it seems there were many in the oil industry in business class, judging by the collegiality displayed by many.
United Airlines 142
Houston (IAH) – Lagos (LOS)
Sunday, October 05, 2014
Depart: 9:15 PM
Arrive: 3:10 PM
Duration: 11hr, 55min
Seat: 3E (Business Class)
The Lagos flight departed at 9:15p and was a perfect flight for sleeping – a long flight at 12 hours, and it arrives the following afternoon, making the time adjustment easy. Business Class was not fully booked and there were a handful of seats open in economy class.
I was one of the last to board and settled into row three in the front business class cabin. United’s 787s offer two classes of service (three if you distinguish Economy Plus from economy class) and the BusinessFirst seat is configured in a 2-2-2 layout. As with 100% of the United longhaul flight, the seats are fully flat. United now calls business class Polaris and has a new soft product, but the seat on the 787 has not and will not change.
I did not take any pictures of the cabin because it was mostly full by the time I boarded. Nevertheless, here are some pictures of the 787-9 business class cabin I took recently. The seats are identical in a 2-2-2 layout. The only difference is that the front cabin on the 787-8 has three rows, not five.
Seats extend to a fully-flat position and although some complain about constrained feet in the footwell, I do not find it problematic (6’1″). Lack of personal storage is the bigger issue: the only spot for storage is under your footrest and that is not even intended for storage. I stored my shoes there.
The Houston-based crew was good natured: not overly friendly, but very satisfactory and down-to-earth. Pre-departure beverages were offered and menus were distributed. Headsets and amenity kits were already at the seat.
Push-back was a delayed a bit so that all bags could be loaded. Judging by the excessive number of carry-ons brought on by many Nigerians returning home, I bet the cargo hold was packed with goods that are more difficult to obtain in Africa.
United Airlines Business Class Food
Before push back, dinner orders were taken. I usually am weary of this, finding it to be a sign of a bad crew who will rush the service so they can gab in the galley, but due to the late hour, I appreciated the expedited service.
Menus do not change much at United (identical menu as my Kuwait trip in March 2013), so I went with what I know is good…cod. And it was fine as usual, served with sautéed vegetables and a squeeze of lemon juice. United Polaris, introduced on December 02, 2016, has meant brand new menu options.
But first came hot nuts, followed by a salmon and cucumber appetizer and green salad with mozzarella balls, black olives, croutons, and tomatoes. Bread was offered frequently and I went with my usual combo of garlic bread followed by a pretzel roll.
BusinessFirst service on United was, as the name implied, a hybrid of business and first class service and what distinguished it from business class on three-cabin airplanes is that trays are not used for the main meals and the salad, cheese, and ice cream sundae courses are supposed to be served via cart. The table is also laid like Global First, with the butter dish, salt and pepper shaker, bread dish, and silverware placed out on the tray table.
Perhaps because of the late hour, the crews did not use carts, serving the salad and later the cheese from the galley, though the cart did make an appearance for the ice cream sundaes.
I skipped the cheese but did have a sundae with the works.
United 787-8 IFE
The movie selection on the 787 is quite good, with 100+ movies to choose from as well as television programming and games. United still does not offer music, having been embroiled in a lawsuit over the usage of such music for more than two years.
Meal service only took 90 minutes, which is fast for international flights, leaving a lot of time for sleeping. I had no inclination to work and after finishing the 1940 classic Philadelphia Story with Audrey Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart, and Cary Grant, I reclined my seat and went to sleep.
The flight was smooth and I slept well for the next nine hours, awakening just in time for breakfast. I sleep well on planes and for all the complaints about United’s business class seats being uncompetitive when reverse herringbone seats offering direct aisle access at ever seat is the new norm, I always sleep well on it and note that having six seats across instead of four means that I am much more likely to receive an upgrade.
United had not changed breakfast in years and I am perfectly fine with that (new options now with Polaris). Give me my cheese omelet, cooked tomato, potato casserole, sausage, fruit, and cinnamon roll and I am happy. United has exchanged sugary strawberry yogurt for less-sugary Greek yogurt which is a plus, though serving it in its plastic container is a minus from an aesthetics perspective.
Though everyone seemed to be eating, the crew was able to accommodate my request for a second breakfast…talk about a calorie bomb.
We landed precisely on time in Lagos…it had been a good flight. Not a spectacular flight, for there was limited interaction with the crew, but there was nothing to complain about…decent food and a good rest prepared me for the long day ahead in Lagos and eventually onward to Johannesburg.
This post is part of my Africa trip report.
> Read More: Introduction: A Month in Africa