This would be the first time I’d been in Hong Kong since the handover of the former British Crowne Colony to the Chinese in 1997, and I was eager to see what had changed. From a business traveler’s perspective, the first thing that’s changed is how you get there. Thanks to ultralong-range craft such as the 777-200ER you can make the trip in one fell swoop from the East Coast. That’s what I did.
Because I’d cleared TSA for my domestic connections, I didn’t have to do so again at EWR’s Terminal C. I headed straight to the United Club ‘twixt C2 and C3 and relaxed a bit. United has two clubs in the C complex, and they’re used a lot. On Friday afternoons and other high travel periods they could use a third enclave in C, their busiest Newark terminal. BOARDING On to Gate C121, and the awaiting Flight 117. After I showed my passport again, wait time to board was minimal.
Upon boarding what was instantly apparent was United’s masterful use of space on this airplane. The BusinessFirst seats arrayed along the starboard and port (right and left) cabin walls are angled a tad towards the windows, giving the impression of more space and affording window-seat aficionados such as this writer great, non-neck-straining views of the show outside. The layout is a pretty standard 2-2-2.
After putting my roller bag in the overhead, handing the flight attendant Leslie Espanol my jacket, I settled into 9K, found the nicely-fitted amenity kit and substituted oversocks for shoes. About that time Ms. Espanol offered me water or orange juice, the better to hydrate with.
9K was blessedly situated near the mid-aircraft lavatory, the one on the starboard side. It’s perhaps the largest aircraft lav I’ve encountered, and comes replete with a fulllength mirror.
The seat boasts five automatically-programmed settings and a lovely adjustable lumbar bolster. I tend to judge a seat by how well it gets along with my spine. In this instance, it was love at first recline.
The workspace is adequate and logically laid out. The three-pronged computercharging plug is located over the right shoulder and there are ample nooks and crannies for storing things.
If there’s one thing I’d change, it’s the 2-2-2 configuration of BusinessFirst in UA’s 777-200ERs. Instant aisle access would have been nice for window seat fliers, rather than having to climb over your seatmate’s legs.
Rising above the clouds with the lights of Manhattan receding, I punched up a Gershwin on the AVOD and settled in, as the captain headed north, up and over the Arctic en route to Hong Kong.
I’d purposely skipped lunch earlier in the day, the better to appreciate dinner, a meal served up by Bryan Caswell, owner of a trio of Houston restaurants and a member of United’s Chefs ’Congress. Those chefs do ride-alongs from time to time to better appreciate how to prepare sky-high cuisine. Having been tipped off by Caswell before departure that fish, because of its fat and collagen content, fares best aloft I chose the seared hake and grilled shrimp in tomato sauce with mixed veggies. To complement dinner, I opted for a 2011 Wente Vineyards Morning Fog Chardonnay. All was suddenly right with the world.
International service manager Kathy Totall-Burch was in charge of the cabin choreography. During this flight she and her 11 flight attendants would serve some 260-plus travelers. The effort was savvy and attentive.
After the chocolate sundae it was time to kick back in the cuddly, comfortable, fully-lie flat seats. That’s good, because according to the flight-tracking audio/video on-demand (AVOD) screen, we were in for an 8,430-mile, 15-hour 40-minute trip. I consumed a number of musical selections and movies on the flight. The earphones were particularly good; fidelity was fine and the padding perfect. ARRIVAL Touchdown at Hong Kong was at 8:14 PM local time. After a fiveminute taxi to the gate we disembarked and headed to a train for the trip to customs and immigration. The wait queue time was comparatively quick. HKG works. BT