Flight number: UA100
Route: Sydney to Houston
Aircraft: 787-8 Dreamliner
Class: Economy Plus
Duration: 15 hours and 40 minutes
This flight will be the longest non-stop flight I’ve undertaken, at least until I make the 16-hour and 50-minute return flight home. The considerable time difference between Sydney and Houston, a popular hub that connects travellers to America’s Southeast, Midwest, East Coast and Latin America, will see us landing in Houston just 50 minutes post take off, and the potential for major jet lag is not lost on me. But such thoughts last only until I realise I’ve won the inflight lottery and have scored an empty seat next to my comfortable Economy Plus seat. Not to be mistaken with Premium Economy, Economy Plus is a standard economy seat housed in a separate cabin in a 3-3-3 layout, and differs only in extra legroom and a little more pitch. But let me tell you, those extra centimetres of legroom can go a very long way on an ultra-long haul flight.
The 787-9 Dreamliner’s lighting is excellent and bigger windows, larger overhead bins and enhanced ventilation all do their bit in making the long flight extremely comfortable.
With more than 15 hours to kill, I’m concerned about keeping myself busy but this is made easy by the onboard Wi-Fi (available at a fee per use), in-seat power and United Private Screening, a back-of-seat entertainment system that allows you to check out and pre-select your viewing options from a comprehensive selection of latest release and classic movies and TV shows before you fly. I’ve packed my own headphones, but complimentary earbuds are available for all passengers.
The other obvious advantage of Economy Plus is that its location at the front of the plane means we’re first up for inflight service, and the beverage service commences just 20 minutes after take-off. Deciding to keep myself hydrated for the long flight, I nix the alcoholic offerings for tea, though cave in and enjoy an excellent glass of red during the first of three meal services.
Speaking of service, United’s Sydney to Houston flight crew are lovely and offered this first timer to Texas a glimpse of its famous southern charm before we even land.
The verdict: Extra legroom and professional service make the long flight breeze by.