Sydney to Los Angeles
THE LOYALTY SCHEME
Economy Plus, seat 23D in a 3-3-3 layout.
13 hours, 40 minutes.
Daily from Sydney direct to both Los Angeles and San Francisco.
There is more than 12 centimetres extra legroom in economy plus compared to economy. The width is the same (45.7 centimetres), but the pitch is 86.4 centimetres (it's 78.7 centimetres in economy) and the recline is 12.7 centimetres (it's 10 centimetres in economy).
Passengers are allowed to check one bag, weighing up to 23 kilograms. Any second bag is charged $143. You're entitled to one carry-on bag and one personal item.
I scored two empty seats next to me so, along with the extra legroom, I was one happy flyer.
United now has personal seatback entertainment systems. After years of flying with them and cursing the blank seatback in front of me, I celebrated on my maiden flight under the new regime by binge-watching the entire first season of Broad City as soon as we left the ground. Then I got going on Louie and Girls. There was a lot of catching up to do. The catalogue includes around 150 movies, 185 TV shows and 20 video games.
The flight attendants weren't overly warm, but they were certainly efficient. They ran out of complimentary copies of The Sydney Morning Herald by the time they got through business class and arrived at economy plus. I had to settle for a copy of The Australian. I know, I know – First World problem.
Dinner was a choice of kung pao chicken or penne pasta, a bread roll and a small cube of something that I think was meant to be apple pie. The mid-flight snack of a bread roll with ham and cheese, accompanied by a Tim Tam, was appreciated. A couple of hours before touchdown we were served breakfast, a choice of frittata or fruit with yoghurt.
ONE MORE THING
I was not staying in LA, but catching a connecting flight to New York. Previously, United flights from Sydney would arrive in New York as late as midnight. With a change to their take-off time in Sydney, you now touch down at 4.30pm, so you can be in your hotel in plenty of time to have a shower, then head out and start taking in the city that night.
I'd previously flown United mainly because of the cheaper fares, not because of the quality of the flights. This was definitely the best experience I've had with the airline. As far as choosing economy plus over economy, the reality is that it's only a matter of space and legroom. As the service is the same, it comes down to your height. If you're more than 1.8 metres tall, seriously consider it.
Reviewed by Barry Divola, who flew courtesy of the airline.