I love travelling and writing, meeting people and experiencing foodie places.
Published January 25th 2019
International economy class plane travel at reasonable price
Long distance plane travel from Australia to major centres of the world in Europe and North America require stamina to endure long hours spent in economy class. Recently my family of four flew United Airlines 787-9 Dreamliner on the Sydney to Houston leg, connecting with their Express Jet for our final destination in Savannah, Georgia, on America's east coast. United Airlines has Polaris Business class and Economy Plus but this review is centred on flying the international route in Economy class with United Airlines to the USA.
All images used with permission of United Airlines
The Sydney to Houston journey is one of the longest in the world, 13,834 kms. The non-stop service is just under 16 hours to Houston but a whopping 17 hours and 30 minutes on the return (we also factored in an extra 2 hours and 30 minutes flight to Savannah and any additional waiting times for our connection). This indeed would be a journey of endurance. Our two main criteria were the cost and the comfort for a long distance journey. We flew during the school holidays, just after Christmas. In other words, one of the most expensive peak seasons of the year. We searched a number of carrier options including Qantas, Virgin, Delta. United Airlines was chosen mainly because it was $1,000 cheaper for our family to fly from Sydney International Airport and to arrive at our final destination in the late afternoon, instead of at midnight if we took another carrier.
Seating - It is a 3-3-3 seat configuration. We were in row 34, just behind the wing, so we had a nice view down below. In saying this, I choose aisle seats for long distance travel to have the freedom to get up frequently and not crawl over fellow passengers. This row was a quieter distance from the galley and toilets. The seat pitch (the distance between the passenger's seat and the seat in front, which allows leg room) compared favourably to other carriers, 81cm pitch and a seat width of just less than 44cm. The main drawback was the recline function of 7cm. The seat back did not feel tilted enough but this is a problem for many economy classes. There was plenty of overhead space to store carry-on luggage. There are power outlets and USB ports. A small pillow and blanket are supplied to each passenger.
Food - United Airlines is not a high-end carrier, so don't expect a celebrity chef meal. In saying that, we ate every morsel with our plastic cutlery and did not feel deprived. Dinner consisted of a chicken or pasta option with vegetables, a bread roll and a tub of ice cream. Breakfast was either omelette or pancakes with a tub of yoghurt, a small cake and a container of fruit. Snacks were turkey sandwiches. Tea, coffee, water, soda, wine and beer were served. Spirits were an extra cost.
Entertainment - Seat back options with a large variety of the latest movies, TV series and audio enjoyment. United has complimentary ear pieces if you forget to bring your own.
Service -There were no warm towels at the beginning of the flight. There were no chic uniforms which distinguish from the upscale carriers. The service on United, though, was great. Friendly staff mostly, though one was abrupt. I spoke with one steward about layover time after the plane completes the journey. She said once the plane touches down, they sightsee the city, then fly out the next day.
Conclusion - It's important to walk around the plane on ultra-long flights. My son spent most of his time glued to the entertainment on the back of the seat and suffered from a sore back the next day. My onboard comfort was paramount. I brought on a neck pillow and my own travel blanket to wrap myself in. Also included in my comfort repertoire was a small baby pillow which I placed on the floor to prop up my feet. All these were easily squashed into my onboard luggage, along with a book and an eye mask. I had purchased noise cancelling headphones from Aldi for less than $40, which were useful with loud conversations or unsettled children nearby.
It is a time-consuming flight but overall, we had a positive experience on United Airlines. Just remember to drink plenty of water which can reduce the effects of jet lag.
What are readers' experiences of long-haul economy flights?