Eating the Big Apple: United Airlines BusinessFirst Class JFK-SFO

a hallway with a window and a view of the ocean
***This is part 5 of my “Eating the Big Apple” trip report detailing my recent visit to New York City last month***

1. Looking for Food Heaven? Its At Smorgasburg
2. Dinner at Per Se
3. JW Marriott Essex House
4. Eating Our Way Through NYC
5. United Airlines: BusinessFirst Class JFK-SFO

As I wrote about last week in my mid-year report as a new Alaska Airlines MVP Gold, the elite benefit that I’m the biggest fan of is fee waivers, even on revenue tickets. This has completely changed the way that I’ve been making flight reservations, which has now become more akin to hotel bookings where I can make non-committal reservations to put a ceiling on the price I’ll have to pay, while continuing to monitor for better deals.

That’s how things played out for my return from from New York to San Francisco. I had a reservation for a flight on American Airlines booked through Alaska Airlines, but was keeping an eye out both for better priced deals, as well as premium cabin award tickets. Flying westbound from JFK-SFO comes in around 6 hours which is one of the longest domestic flights out there, and many carriers offer a form of premium service for that route. So while I’m not normally looking to spend miles on premium cabin domestic tickets, this is one route where it can make sense to do so. American and United both have a premium service offering, and there are even options available like JFK-YVR on Cathay Pacific.

I’d been monitoring award availability starting a month out, and with limited flexibility I was crossing my fingers that something would open up on the date I was looking for. As luck would have it, a couple days before I was scheduled to return I was able to grab a BusinessFirst ticket on United. It was a perfect use for my remaining 23,000 United miles, and while the total cost was 25,000 miles, it was easy enough to instantly transfer the extra 2,000 miles needed from Chase Ultimate Rewards. The only downside was the fact that I had to pay a close-in ticketing fee as a general member.

My flight was scheduled for a 10:25am departure, so I jumped in an UberX from the JW Marriott Essex House around 8am. Traffic wasn’t too bad until closer to the airport, and in total the ride took just under an hour. I zipped through security and headed over to the JFK United Club and for once, I was able to find a United Club that wasn’t crowded at all. That allowed me to commandeer an entire section to relax and have some breakfast.

a hallway with a window and a view of the ocean
Entrance at the United Club at JFK
a room with chairs and a television
an airplane parked at an airport
View of the tarmac from United Club at JFK
a tv on a counter
United Club food selection
a bowl of food and a mug of coffee on a table
Breakfast of champions

Around T-40 I headed toward the gate – it’s always a good start to your journey when the plane is already sitting at the gate, and boarding even commenced a couple minutes early. While I never had the chance to fly the 3-cabin Premium Service flight on United, I was pretty impressed walking into the BusinessFirst cabin on this 2-cabin flight. The cabin feels pretty new and the hard product is pretty much the same as United’s international Business Class seats.

  a seat with a pillow and a tv on the side
BusinessFirst on United’s Premium Cabin service from JFK to SFO
a screen on a plane
Seatback IFE screen
a pair of shoes on a plane
Plenty of legroom
a phone in a device
IFE control

After getting settled in, the flight attendants came by with the lunch menu, as well as a basket of additional amenities from which I grabbed a paid of eyeshades and ear plugs.

a package of earbuds on a table
Menu, earplugs, eye shades
a menu of a restaurant

We took off on-time, and it was announced that we’d have an early arrival. At this point, I was in a bit of shock since I couldn’t remember the last time I had a United flight that was going so smoothly. Meal service started a few minutes later, and I was excited to see the pork chop on the menu which I’d had last year while flying First Class San Francisco to Sydney. Meal service started with drink service and nuts, along with a cold appetizer and salad which were fine, but nothing special.

I sat there in anticipation of getting my entree, but unfortunately it was severely overcooked this time around and tasted more like shoe leather than a pork chop. The savory bread pudding was delicious though, and I gladly would have traded in the pork chop for a couple more servings of that. After the main course, meal service wrapped up with the ice cream sundae cart, which was great as usual. You can’t really screw that one up, can you?

a glass of liquid and a bowl of nuts
Drink service and nuts
a plate of food on a tray
Lunch service – salad and appetizer
a plate of food on a table
Chilled appetizer of beef, tomato, and mozzarella
a plate of food with broccoli and meat
Grilled pork chop, asparagus, and savory bread pudding
a bowl of ice cream with a spoon
Ice cream sundae

After the meal service I kicked back and relaxed, dozed in and out and sleep, and watched a couple movies including The Grand Budapest Hotel which I can’t recommend highly enough. The flight attendants were very attentive, and came by every few minutes to offer refills of water.

Overall, a great flight with United and a really pleasant experience with their transcon Premium Service offering. Despite all of my prior bad experiences, had no complaints this time with the on-time departure, early arrival, great service, and comfortable seat. Like many of you, I like to hoard miles to spend on international premium cabin redemptions, but given the length of this flight and the quality of the product, I woudln’t hesitate to book it again using miles.

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