United Airlines 747 First Class Chicago (ORD) to Frankfurt (FRA)
Lufthansa Senator Lounge Frankfurt (FRA)
Thai Airways A380 First Class Frankfurt (FRA) to Bangkok (BKK)
Thai Airways 737 Business Class Bangkok to Koh Samui (USM)
Conrad Koh Samui
Mae Koh National Park Boat trip and Chaweng Beach
Bangkok Airways Economy Class Koh Samui (USM) to Phuket (HKT)
Naka Island a Luxury Collection Resort and Spa
James Bond Island and Little Island Boat trip
Phi Phi Island Boat trip
Patong Beach and Bangla Road
Air Asia Economy Class Phuket (HKT) to Chiang Mai (CNX)
Four Seasons Chiang Mai
ELE (Elephant Life Experience) Elephant Camp
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple
Bangkok Airways Economy Class Chiang Mai (CNX) to Bangkok (BKK)
St. Regis Bangkok
Dinner at Vertigo at Banyan Tree Rooftop
Chatuchak Weekend Market and Wat Pho Temple
Cathay Pacific Business Class Bangkok (BKK) to Hong Kong (HKG)
American Airlines First Class Hong Kong (HKG) to Dallas (DFW)
United Airlines 747 First Class Chicago (ORD) to Frankfurt (FRA)
As usual when flying out of O’Hare we hopped on the Coachusa bus on Monday from downtown Milwaukee. We left work at 1pm to catch the 1:45pm bus. About one hour and 45 minutes later we were dropped off at O’Hare with plenty of time to catch our scheduled 6:25pm flight.
We fought through a busy United terminal to check out the United Club lounge. There was some bad weather in various parts of the US on this day and it was wreaking havoc on many domestic United flights. Our scheduled flight was showing on time on the board so that was a relief. However due the IRROPS (irregular operations) the lines at the United Club lounge were insane! It was very busy and most every seat was spoken for. We stayed for a snack and a drink (I had a beer and my wife had a wine).
We decided to go to our gate and check out the scene. It was somewhat crowded and the boarding area was sort of small. There were a few people lined up in their boarding queue’s, so we decided to to just wait around for boarding. Well our boarding time came and went with no updates. Eventually they updated the board saying our flight was delayed due to “severe weather”! That was laughable since the weather in Chicago was perfectly fine and you could see planes taking off left and right outside. Eventually one of the female gate agents admitted the delay was due to waiting for a cleaning crew to arrive as the plane is currently “filthy”! My wife replied to me, “really makes you want to get on the plane, huh?” They also encouraged business and first class customers to go back to the lounge and they would call us to board however the lounge wasn’t much more appealing and then of course we would have to go back and wait in line just to get in. We stayed at the gate.
Eventually they got the plane cleaned and made an announcement that everyone needed to proceed through the “doc check” line prior to boarding. That should have been announced earlier as many people didn’t know they were required to go through that line. Also all the Global services and other First Class pax were escorted up to the front of the line in the boarding area. I have no idea if they were rounded up in the lounge or what however we were not part of that group.
We boarded through door 1L and proceeded to turn left toward the first class cabin. There was no flight attendant at the door when we arrived???! There was a gentleman standing in the way and after a few seconds realized he was in our way as we were the last two first class passengers to board. My wife’s reaction to seeing the first class cabin was quite funny and she has definitely become to expect a lot when flying first class after our flight on Cathay Pacific last year. After seeing the cabin she says, “this is it? Is this it?” LOL I confirmed yes this is it and to plop a squat in 2A as I was in 1A.
Another gentleman in first class who was apparently the only person traveling alone was switching seats with others to accommodate others so they could sit together. He was now in 1K and after seeing how close 1A and 1K are I asked him if he would mind switching with my wife so we could be next to each other as opposed to behind each other. He said “no problem” and was nice enough to switch yet to another seat. Now my wife and I were next to each other and could look over and see each other but at the same time have a window seat that we both prefer. We were not close enough to engage in a loud, running conversation though, however we were able to communicate just fine.
I thought the cabin was fine. Aesthetically it could be better as its kind of “blah”. Not very stylish and I am a fan of gray’s but this first class cabin was a bit “plasticy”. The seat was fairly spacious and comfortable. All the buttons and compartments were in good working order and the in-flight entertainment was decent. The seat is not very private however as there is no barrier and thus making it easy for the person in 1K and 2K very easy to see what your doing or what your watching in your seat. I would say this seat is similar to Cathay Pacific’s business class that we flew on last year. Perhaps Cathay’s business class is better due to the additional privacy? There are twelve seats in the nose of the United 747 that we flew so that is a little crowded in my opinion and the cabin was 12/12 on this flight. In the very front middle of the cabin is a closet that was used by the flight attendants to hang their jacket part of their uniform or the sport coats of any first class flyers.
We were eventually greeted by the two flight attendants working the first class cabin. One middle aged man and a slightly older woman. They were nice and came around to offer pre-departure drinks. My wife and I chose the champagne. We were given amenity kits which were actually pretty good in that they had everything you could need really, they did not skimp in quantity however it was not the highest quality products in the kit, but hey what do you expect from United (they are trying to cut costs big time).
So about 1.5 hours after our original departure time we were finally ready to take off! It is a very unique experience sitting in A1 or AK of a 747! You are sitting at the very front of the plane. You are seated in front of and below the pilots actually! The front window curve due to the curvature of the nose of the aircraft and you can see slightly forward out the window. When they powered up the engines and started powering down the runway it was a very strange sensation looking out the windows. Half way down the run way I had to look away as I felt like I was getting some motion sickness. When the plane was wheels up I took a look out the window and I was fine.
I had a look at the menu to see what was on offer as the flight attendants would be coming around soon to ask for our selections. I was surprised as I enjoyed the food quite a bit on this flight. Maybe I came in with low expectations? I am not a picky eater so that always helps! They don’t serve any Dom or Krug champagne but they had a decent selection and it didn’t give me a headache (like cheap champagne can sometimes). My wife and I choose the exact same selections for our meals on this flight
After an enjoyable meal service we kicked back and relaxed for our 8.5 hour flight. I stopped at the restroom and snapped a pic or two. The bathroom is SMALL. Not any bigger than any normal economy class bathroom, meaning room to barely turn around at my size (6’1″ 215 pounds). I turned down my own bed (although they did offer earlier in the flight) and put on a movie (I forgot which one(s)) and slept on and off for just a few hours.
United Airlines First Class bed
Prior to landing they served a quick meal consisting of fruit and yogurt but we decided to pass and just eat in the lounge in Frankfurt since we had a longer layover.
I will admit I had a chance to change our flights to Lufthansa first class. Two weeks prior to our flight I saw two first class seats open up for the same date just a later departure. I could change flights without a miles repricing but would need to pay an additional $100 per ticket as a close in ticketing/change fee. What scared me about that is that my connection time would be one hour since that flight left later at night. I decided it wasn’t worth an additional $200 and the risk of missing our connecting flight to Thailand and the fury of my wife if that indeed did happen. I haven’t gone back and checked if that Lufthansa arrived on time but it was just cutting it too close. Next time I guess….
Upon landing I had an issue with the male flight attendant. He provided very poor service in my opinion. My carryon bag was slightly to big to fit in the overhead compartment in first class before the flight however the female flight attendant advised the business class compartments are bigger and suggested to try those. They did indeed fit my carryon. However when deplaning, United did not stop the business class passengers from getting off ahead of the first class cabins. That should be common practice in my opinion. Give the customers that paid the most or in the highest cabin the option to get off first and beat the crowd to customs or baggage claim. What happened is that I could not get into the business class cabin behind me since a steady flow of business and economy class passengers were all streaming out. I told the male flight attendant I need to get my bag in the first compartment in business class. He replied “oh, well maybe snake around to the other side and see if you can slide in that way.” REALLY??? I went over to the other isle and the lady flight attendant asked what I was doing and I replied I needed to get my bag out of the business class overhead. She then remembered I put my bag in there and did the right thing by stopping the flow of passengers to allow me to grab my bag. Why couldn’t the male flight attendant simply do that??
All in all I thought United business class was solid. Good but not great. Certainly miles better than being crammed in back in economy. I would fly them again if need be however if I can get on Lufthansa or British Airways (without the taxes) I would prefer to try them but this was a perfectly comfortable way to cross the pond!
We used a grand total of 140,000 United miles for TWO tickets and $77.20 total in fees. We booked these out of my wife’s account. The miles were accumulated through various ways/channels. About half were Ultimate Reward points transferred to my wife’s United Mileage Plus account. Ultimate Rewards points can be obtained with various cards such as:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred (40,000 point signup bonus)
- Chase INK plus and Chase INK bold (50,000 point signup bonus)
- Chase Freedom (10,000 point signup bonus)
The cards have great earning potential and its very easy to rack up a lot of points.
She also received the:
- Chase United Mileage Plus Explorer card (50,000 bonus miles when she applied)
Finally she received over 3,000 bonus miles through United’s dining program.
In lieu of using points United’s website gave me purchase options at the time to purchase economy seats for $7987.10 or first class for $22,225.10!!!! Yikes! This is for the entire itinerary all the way to Koh Samui.