Trip Report: United Economy SAN-SFO-FRA and the "new" United Club in SFO's International Terminal
My trip back to Spain started with a pretty uneventful flight from San Diego to San Francisco on United.
Uneventful partly due to lack of service: I was surprised that there was just a beverage service on this flight! Is it really true that Southwest, with two packets of peanuts or a pack of pretzels, actually outdoes United on the same route? I remember "back in the day" when Southwest was ridiculed as the "no-frills peanuts" airline, while United served a meal between San Diego and San Francisco. Now peanuts are considered a frill that United doesn't serve!
On approach and landing at SFO, however, I was treated to watching a Boeing 737, twin to our aircraft, landing in parallel. What a sight to see!
Since my flight disembarked in the newish wing of SFO's Terminal 3, a bit of a walk from the International Terminal, I first stopped by the United Club near gate 70.
Here I had some Italian wedding soup and a black bean and corn salad, plus pepper jack cheese and crackers. Pepper jack cheese is one of those things that I can't get in Spain, so I kind of indulge when I can!
Then I headed to the "new" United Club in SFO's International Terminal. I was curious to check it out, because it actually isn't really new. It used to be the old International First Class Lounge, but now with the opening of the swanky big, new Polaris Lounge for First and Business Class passengers, this smaller space has been converted to a United Club for those United Club members and Star Alliance Gold members traveling in Economy Class.
The design reminded me of the older United Club in the rotunda of SFO's Terminal 3, meaning it was a touch more classical than the newer United Club designs. I wondered if it would be quite crowded due to the smaller space, but there were plenty of seats and tables available at around 6pm on a Sunday. Not sure how busy it would get before the morning/early afternoon westbound transpacific flights though...
At this location, they had a very nice "Chicken Fiesta" soup: it was seriously spicy! I helped myself to several bowls of this.
The United Club is down a flight of stairs from the security level, but you're still pretty high up with good tarmac views. Here's the Boeing 787 that would take me to Frankfurt, as seen from the lounge.
Once on board, they did the standard service of beverages with pretzels to start. This has long been downgraded from the cheese and crackers they originally served when the "new, improved, multi-course" Economy Class meal service debuted a few years ago.
Then they came around with a choice of butter chicken or butternut squash tortellini. Since I always get the Indian butter chicken (it's reliably good), I decided to try the tortellini just to change it up.
It was okay, with touches like pumpkin seeds and cranberries on top, but I still prefer the chicken. Perhaps I didn't enjoy it as much because it was so creamy. In fact, the ingredients listed "half and half" as the first ingredient, just like the chicken orzo on my EWR-LAX flight!
Interestingly, the appetizer was an iceberg lettuce salad with dressing, not the usual grain salad. Perhaps this is the latest downgrade?
After collecting the trays, they came around with lemon sorbet. It was good, with surprisingly few ingredients. But I didn't finish it, since usually am not fond of sorbets - maybe they're just a bit too icy and sweet for me?
On this flight, I set a new sleep record for myself: 5 hours and 45 minutes straight! I don't think I've ever slept so much, even in lie-flat business class. So I was pleased that the midflight snack was left on my tray table, a bag containing a turkey and cheese sandwich and fun-size M&Ms. The west coast transatlantic flights get this midflight snack.
Another feature of these longer transatlantic flights is the second hot meal service, rather than the croissant service. For breakfast, there was a choice of french toast (with some kind of fruit compote) or pepper jack omelette. I chose the omelette since I wasn't in the mood to try another dish I don't usually go for (I always choose savory over sweet). And anyway, why wouldn't I go for another taste of pepper jack cheese before landing in Europe?
Said omelette came filled with cheese, with sides of with potatoes and leeks, and chicken sausage.
The fruit was excellent: fresh pineapple and crisp grapes. And they upgraded the yogurt from Upstate Farms to Chobani! Now I can finally eat the yogurt on United. The "Greek Yogurt Cake" was good too. All in all, this was a tasty and filling meal.
I'm not the biggest fan of United's Boeing 787s and new 777-300ERs, as the seats in Economy are narrower than on other widebody aircraft, and I feel like the new seat design reclines less than every before. When I fly on these newer planes, I always do a double take when I recline, thinking that my seat is somehow broken and check to see if the seats around me are reclined more!
But still, perhaps due to being very tired and certainly helped by an empty seat next to me, I found that I was able to sleep soundly, and friendly flight attendants helped make for a pleasant overall experience. I know that United sometimes doesn't have the best reputation for service, but I really haven't been able to find any fault the last few years on the flights I've taken!