Road Warrior Tested: United Airlines International Business Class
Meals: Unitedrecently upgraded the mealsoffered to premium cabin passengers on international flights and this was my first time being offered the new selections.
A chilled salmon-wrapped seafood appetizer and salad began the multi-course service, followed by a choice of four main course selections — a grilled pork chop (my choice, as pictured left), osso bucco-style breast of chicken, San Francisco-style Cioppino or spinach cannelloni.
My pork chop was huge and delicious accompanied by shiitake mushroom bread pudding, white asparagus and broccolini. An international cheese selection, followed by a made-to-order ice cream sundae completed the dinner service.
Mid-flight snacks of assorted sandwiches, fruit and nuts were available at any time following the main meal. About two hours prior to arrival, three breakfast choices were offered — herbed scrambled eggs with potato gratin and turkey sausage (my choice), a chilled deli selection with cheese, ham, salami and turkey, or a cereal dish with yoghurt and a banana. The egg dish was nothing special, similar to the domestic first class United offering, but satisfying nonetheless.
Service: Flight attendants at United bid for routes based on their seniority with the airline, and the ones flying to Sydney are typically the most senior. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but the service I've received in the past from Sydney-bound crews has typically been marginal at best. That wasn't the case two weeks ago, however, as the flight attendants serving the upper deck were the best international crew I've come across at United in years.
They were friendly (yet professional), always smiling and weren't "hiding" away from passengers during the middle of the flight as I've experienced in the past. When I requested a coffee mid-flight from one of them in the galley, she offered to bring it back to my seat in lieu of me standing and waiting for it.
Passenger names were acknowledged when meal orders were taken, a la, "Mr. Booth, what is your preference for dinner this evening," and they all seemed genuine and pleased to be serving the cabin. As they were the best I've experienced in years, I sent an email to United after landing complimenting the crew.
Summary: While United doesn't make the cut of top-rated airlines in the world, this flight was the best I've experienced with them internationally in years. Flying business class (or first class, of course) makes this ultra long-haul journey almost pleasant.