Flight test: United Airlines economy class

Aircraft United Airlines 747-400.

Route Melbourne to Los Angeles.

Class Economy, seat 46K.

Seat pitch and width pitch 31 inches between rows of seats; 17 inches between armrests.

Seat configuration Three-four-three.

Luggage allowance Two checked-in bags allowed for economy flyers, with a maximum of 23 kilograms a person. One bag (no bigger than 23cm x 35cm x 56cm) and one personal item, such as a purse, briefcase or laptop computer, is allowed for carry on.

Scheduled flight time 12 hours, 30 minutes.

On-time performance One hour late leaving because of storms.

Lounge access Melbourne Airport has a Red Carpet Club, the United lounge, offering food, drink, phone and internet facilities. Economy passengers can purchase a one-time pass for $US50 ($58) or join the Red Carpet Club for $US525 a year.


Aircraft condition In good shape. Twenty-four of United's 747-400 fleet have undergone refurbishment; in the economy cabin this has delivered new seat upholstery, carpet, lighting, bathroom fittings and ceiling LCD television screens.

Console/entertainment There are no seat-back television screens or on-demand movies. Screens pop down from the ceiling. In a recent partnership with XM Satellite Radio, United Airlines provides 19 channels of inflight radio.

Comfort Average. The extra legroom in this exit-row seat is welcome, though it is compromised slightly by the bulky door. Trays, which fold out from fixed armrests for the exit-row seats, are slightly smaller than seat-back trays. Plane is full, so there is almost always a wait for toilets and regular traffic through the aisles. Pillows and blankets available.

Service Pleasant and reasonably efficient but getting attention can sometimes take a while.

Food and beverages Good quality, average-sized servings. Three meals served. There is a choice of mains at most meals, such as chicken braised with chilli black bean, rice and Asian greens and tortellini with arrabbiata sauce for dinner; fruit or scrambled eggs with chicken sausage, mushrooms and spinach for breakfast.

Flight frequency Daily from Melbourne (via Sydney); daily from Sydney.

Web unitedairlines.com.au.

Tested by Ben Doherty, who flew courtesy of United Airlines.