In order to fly Lufthansa First Class back across the Atlantic I had to connect. When I looked though Lufthansa’s First Class availability on the United website I found a few flights that connected in New York and a few flights that connected in Washington DC. All of the DC options required a change in airports so I opted for New York. Most of the New York connections also required an airport change, but one simply featured a LONG layover in Newark. I opted for the long layover.
Arriving At Newark Liberty International
My Lufthansa flight landed in Newark’s Terminal B and my flight back to Chicago departed from Terminal C. To connect I had to exit the airport, jump on the terminal train, and clear security in the C Terminal. I had plenty of time to connect so I slowly walked and took in the sights and sounds of Newark along my route. Before I knew it I found my way to the United ticketing counters in Terminal C. I already had a printed boarding card, but I wanted to standby on an earlier flight.
The United kiosk instructed me to pay $75 to standby. Standby is of course complimentary for United elite members, but I don’t have any status with United or any other Star Alliance airlines at the moment. I knew it was going to be a tough sell, but I figured if I offered to give up my original first class seat I’d be able to standby in economy. Sadly neither United customer service would waive the $75 fee. I have a thing against airline fees so I decided just to accept and enjoy my 5+ hour layover at Newark.
Clearing security was a breeze thanks to TSA PreCheck and before I knew it I was at my departing gate. Power outlets are limited around Newark and food options in Terminal C are hilariously expensive.
United Club Newark Terminal C
Since I was connecting from Lufthansa First Class onto another Star Alliance carrier I figured I’d have United lounge access. I was mistaken. I’ve since gone back and reviewed the lounge access rules and realize this isn’t the case. First class passengers on departing flights do have access, but not arriving or connecting passengers.
United Downgraded Me To Economy…
For as much as I’ve flown over the past few years I’ve never actually flown United first class domestically. This was finally my chance to review the airlines domestic first class product. Then, minutes before boarding, United gate agents started calling names. The flight was the last one of the night and United needed to bump a few passengers. After nearly 20 minutes of people getting individually bumped, the gate agent called my name. I approached the podium expecting the worst, but instead the agent informed me that I’d simply been downgraded to economy. In exchange for my troubles the United representative handed me a $200 travel voucher.
United Economy Class On A Boeing 737
Right as I received my new seat assignment the boarding process began. My boarding group changed from group 1 to group 8 since I was now in economy. Luckily the United rep who handed me the voucher allowed me to board early. As I boarded the aircraft I noticed an interesting sticker next to the door.
Our aircraft featured live Direct TV! I know other airlines offer free live TV, but as more airlines ditch seat-back entertainment this is fairly rare these days. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been able to easily watch live TV on a flight.
Our aircraft featured United’s uncomfortable slimline seats. The seats aren’t terrible for flights under two hours, but I was happy my flight wasn’t longer.
My flight featured free direct TV in the seat-back. The screen is one of the smallest seat-back screens I’ve ever seen. Also I’m not sure what genius designed the controls, but the controls are on top of the armrest.
I must have hit the change channel button 15-20 times during my flight. Additionally, although Direct TV sounds nice, sitting through the commercials of regular TV on a flight wasn’t ideal. Also, there really isn’t much on regular TV at 10PM on a Sunday night. I would have much preferred on-demand in-flight entertainment.
I’m of course bummed that I didn’t get to finally review United’s domestic first class, but the $200 travel voucher ended up covering my out-of-pocket expenses for the weekend. It’s always nice to have a travel voucher in your back pocket when you need to book future travel. I typically don’t fly United so I’ll probably use the voucher to help a friend out down the road.
I realize this wasn’t exactly a thorough review when compared to my Lufthansa or Singapore Airlines reviews, but this flight wasn’t all that exciting.