Mikeonbehind the curtain

Continental BusinessFirst from Newark to Paris

Since Aeroplan had their recent unannounced "award sale" I transferred some American Express miles to book an Aeroplan award to visit friends in Paris and Cairo. For the first leg I booked a BusinessFirst seat on Continental's United's 757-200 service from Newark (EWR) to Paris (CDG). After visiting the poorly appointed and spartan United Club near gate C71, I boarded my flight and settled into my seat. The flight was lightly loaded, surprisingly not a nonrev in sight, so I had the seat next to me empty as well.

The seats are spacious and comfortable although aisle access for the window passenger requires some flexibility to lurch over a sleeping aisle passenger. The headphone and power jack are behind you and the headphones require the double adapter if you only have a single jack on your personal headphones. The business class amenity kit was well designed and provided most essentials.

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The foot cutout for bulkhead passengers is slightly wider, although not quite as deep. It certainly looked more spacious than row 2 where I was. The foot cut out for these seats is narrow and tapered, my feet keep touching the sides. However, the bulkhead seat does suffer from some light from the galley.

After being offered a pre departure beverage the flight attendants passed through the aisle with a large selection of newspapers. Once the papers had been handed out the rest of the newspapers were offloaded to the gate agent. 

Once we departed, in the new United tradition, hot nuts were served in a ramekin along with drink of your choice. Menus were handed out and read:

Hot Appetizer Cart

A demitasse of creamy corn and poblano soup accompanied by coconut shrimp and vegetable spring roll with mango chutney

Salad and Warm Breads

Romaine and mesclun salad mix with hot house tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and crispy terra sticks

Freshly baked garlic bread and assorted rolls with butter

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business-first-salad  

The coconut prawn was fine, I'm not sure if there was any shrimp in there, it was mostly breading. The soup, although having been heated, was not hot and had a congealed layer on top. The only saving grace of this course was the spring roll which was hot and flavorsome. Overall this course gets a 2 out of 5.

The salad was actually very good - the tomatoes ripe and tasty. The mozzarella added a saltiness that was balanced by the tomato. Overall a pleasant, if unexciting, dish.

Main Courses

The Chef's Selection

Braised beef short rib with red wine sauce, spicy aji amarillo mashed potatoes, fine green beans, baby carrots and cherry tomato

Southwest Breast of Chicken

Tamale filled breast of chicken served with creamy corn sauce, roasted red and yello tomatoes and grilled yucca sticks

Seafood Medley

Grilled rock fish and lump crab meat with cream sauce, collard greens and grape tomato served over barley with vegetables

Pasta Bowl

Squash and asparagus filled tricolor ravioli served with creamy pomodoro sauce, green and white asparagus, roasted red pepper and grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese

I generally steer away from pasta as more often than not it comes out as a soft glutinous mess for my al dente palate. And after an unfortunate fish incident on IcelandAir a decade ago, you won't find me eating much seafood seven miles in the air. So I opted for the braised beef which generally slow cooks for hours, as such I had no expectation of medium rare meat, but the braising produced a tender and flavorsome main course. Although the mashed potato (that's what it was??) left something to be desired. It had a consistency and look closer to baby food than a international first class meal. Score: 3.5 out of 5

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After dinner the cheese cart came by and although Matthew raved about Continental's errr United's ice cream sundaes - I'm a sucker for all kinds of cheese.  The goats cheese was delicious and the other cheeses very good. I asked for another bread roll instead of the crackers to accompany the cheese.

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As a night cap and to let the sandman know I was ready for some shut eye I ordered a Amaretto to finish off the meal. 

Throughout the service the crew were attentive and accommodating. The small cabin and light load certainly helped make for a quick and stress free service. I think most passengers were happy to keep the service short and get as much shut eye as possible.

After finishing the movie, I put the seat into it's fully flat position and nodded off for about three hours. I'm average height (5' 10") and had plenty of room in the seat including width wise. the armrest retracts downward providing adequate space for most travelers. There was several inches of headroom above me for someone who is taller.

I awoke about an hour before landing to take some snaps of the sunrise. Since I had overindulged just a few hours before, I skipped breakfast although the options were:

Pre-arrival Refreshment

A selection of juices, fresh seasonal fruit and yogurt, Swiss cheese, pepper coated salami and ham cold plate, assorted breads, warm croissants, freshly brewed coffee and tea

Arriving into Paris CDG was extremely simple. I was off the plane, through immigration (and having only carry on luggage) curbside in under 20 minutes. I then took the Roissybus for 10 Euro to downtown Paris and headed to my hotel. The Phenix Hotel is one block from the Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Élysées, it doesn't get more convenient than this. Although only a one star property and no loyalty program at 70 Euros per night it is a bargain to be so close to the action.

All-in-all an enjoyable short flight. The service is fairly standard for a U.S. carrier and falls short of most European carriers. However the hard product of the seat itself and IFE were very comfortable.

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Passing the SkyMall before landing in Paris ;)

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Comments

#1
Matthew December 26, 2011 at 03:21 pm

Nice report. The meal looks quite underwhelming, but the seat looks good for sleeping.

I get the cheese AND the sundae! ;)

#2
A. S. December 26, 2011 at 04:17 pm

There's something awfully claustrophobic about travelling transatlantic on a 757. Still, I suppose they did a good job with that BusinessFirst cabin on such a tight plane.

#3
Darren December 26, 2011 at 11:02 pm

Thanks for the report. I'm flying CO's 757 in BF to Ireland next year and was happy to read your review. My roommate is going with me, his first time ever in a forward cabin and he'll likely be impressed.

#4
Mike December 27, 2011 at 09:44 am

@Matthew lol, I can't eat that much!

@A.S. & @Darren The BusinessFirst cabin in the 757's is actually fairly spacious and doesn't give the cramped feeling of most narrowbodys. With the angled seats I didn't really even notice the other passengers around me and Darren I think your roommate will definitely enjoy the flight.

#5
Sara December 27, 2011 at 02:17 pm

Geez! They couldn't stop at the sky mall for you?? ;)

#6
Mike January 7, 2012 at 01:09 pm

Nice trip report. I took the same route in August and surprisingly they had the same exact menu. I guess you stick with what works. I agree that the mash was the worst of the meal. One good thing I had that I didnt see in your report was a lamb kebob. BTW on the leg back look out for fresh baked cookies midway through the flight.

#7
Ken March 4, 2012 at 06:36 pm

BF looks nice but international coach in a 757 would be brutal.

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