United’s strategy to go beyond the traditional Chinese gateways of Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai, mirrors efforts by Chinese carriers to serve secondary cities. However the term‘secondary’is a bit misleading; in fact, China’s top five cities are over 10 million each. Those numbers give new meaning to what cities can sustain in terms of air service and United already serves five of the top 10 Chinese markets.
In May United introduced seasonal nonstop service between San Francisco and Xi’an, an important cultural, economic and educational center with facilities for China’s space exploration program, and perhaps best known as the site of the Terracotta Warriors. The nonstop service, the first ever between the Golden Gate and the entrance to the Silk Road, runs from early May to late October.
United is said to be lagging its US legacy peers in premium services but you could not tell that by its thriceweekly Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner service to Xi’an. It was, in fact, elegant.
The experience was a departure from my previous premium flights where I dragged through the flight in red-eyed bleariness. Not so United’s BusinessFirst