After enduring a long and sleepless ride over the Atlantic in economy class, I was prepared to stay in Frankfurt until I was able to secure a seat in United business class going back to Washington. Flying standby meant that I would be low on the totem pole, but the loads looked promising for my midday return flight and the evening flight would serve as a suitable back-up plan.
In the end, I did clear into business class on the flight and there were even several open middle seats that went out empty.
While I had a Frankfurt-based crew on the way over, the crew was a mix of Paris and Washington-based on the inbound. The crew was good—they all managed smiles and made me and those around me comfortable during the flight.
The seating on UA's 777-200 in business class is 2-4-2, which sounds horribly tight for those in the center, but I've never had a problem with these seats. Seat storage is limited, but shared overhead space never seems to be a problem in premium cabins.
Prior to takeoff, pre-departure beverages were offered. Champagne, orange juice, and water were already poured and distributed in plastic cups, but the full bar was open. Amenity kits (see Frequently Flying's Review) were offered and I did not open mine, but they are a definite improvement to the legacy United flimsy mesh amenity kits.
I had not slept much the last few nights, so I was really looking forward to eating than going to sleep. Meal service began promptly after takeoff and as is proper, the purser made her way through the business class cabin taking orders from front to back, greeting passengers by last name, and asking for first and second choice.
(I know the wine list is hard to read - click through to enlarge)
Four choices on the menu and I chose lamb. I know red meat is typically overcooked (which it was, despite a plea from me to pull it out of the oven early) but because I am the only one in my house that likes lamb, I rarely get it at home and tend to order it when available.
Hot mixed nuts to start with Seagram's seltzer water (I wish UA would have San Pelligrino, Perrier, or Canada Dry Club Soda, or at least La Croix again…). That was followed by a cold salmon appetizer and a salad with balsamic vinegar (not vinaigrette or olive oil mixed—just the vinegar which was strange but did not bother me). The bread basket came around too and included a mix of pretzel rolls (which the guy next to me greedily took three of, leaving none for me!), garlic bread, sourdough, white, and wheat bread.
The main course was tasty. The meat was very well-done, which just cannot seem to be avoided on a United flight, but the meat still had a good flavor and the potato and vegetable sides were tasty and very warm. Two types of red wine were offered—the standard United Shiraz that now I avoid and a Château Martinot Boardeaux that was actually very nice.
Crackers and cheese with Port came next, though I declined—I saw no reason to add two rather large blocks of cheese (what appeared to be brie and mozzarella) to my system and did not want to waste any food. On legacy United flights, you were offered ice cream or cheese, but now both are offered. The ice cream sundaes carts soon rolled by and I enjoyed a rather simple sundae. Usually I ask for the "works" but today just requested chocolate sauce and sliced almonds. My neighbor had ordered a vegetarian meal and was presented with a fruit bowl instead of ice cream. He requested ice cream instead and I subsequently requested and was given his fruit, which he had handed back to the FA.
All throughout the meal service, I was listening to an audiobook entitled Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power by Rachel Maddow. I did not finish it, but found the first several chapters to be both reasonable and thought-provoking. But those chapters were more of a recitation of the facts rather than a forceful advancement of her contention that the U.S. is oddly at peace with perpetual war. Anyway, I'll have to continue the book on my next United flight. Listening to a book is no different than reading it in this sense: you can only take so much in one sitting and after a few chapters of verbosity, I needed a break.
I reclined my seat to lie-flat position to go to sleep, but simply was not tired yet—I lay there for about 15 minutes before going up to a semi-reclined mode and watching a couple movies. One was Arbitrage, starring Richard Gere, and was a very dark movie with an almost anti-climatic ending. But I enjoyed it—and I think it presents a more accurate look at the legal justice system in America than many movies do. Next came some comic relief in the form of The Campaign starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis. It had me in stiches, though the satiric element was not missed. Having spent years working in a political environment, the juxtaposition of money and politics was not overstated.
Three hours later my nap time had almost been cut in half, but now I was tired and quickly fell asleep. I did sleep without interruption for the next four hours, awaking about an hour before landing and ready for my cheeseburger!
The pre-arrival meal service had already been served and collected, but I waited about 10 minutes, hoping to flag down a FA. No one appeared, so I finally rang the FA call button and one showed up, informing me there were no cheeseburgers but there was a chicken sandwich available. I accepted the chicken sandwich—which looked more like a slice of pizza. But it was good as was the mixed pepper/carrot/cucumber salad and bowl of fruit.
Now with only 30 minutes before landing, I put my shoes back on and prepared for landing. I have this ritual whenever I fly on an AVOD-equipped aircraft with games. I go for the memory game and like to beat it fast—less than one minute for easy mode, two minutes for medium mode, and three minute for hard mode. I make it a point to complete all three within my time limits, so that's how I spent the last 30 minutes of the flight.
Landing was late (de-icing took some time in Frankfurt), but I was quite relaxed after the flight. Eastbound flights are bit too short for my liking, but 9-hour westbound flights are long enough to eat, sleep, and watch a few movies without feeling rushed. All in all, a good flight.