Business Class on United just as good as First Class

Yesterday I got home to Amsterdam after spending the last two weeks at my sister’s place in San Antonio, Texas. I was looking forward to the trip for a number of reasons, one of them being that I was going First Class for which I paid about 150 Euros round trip. Well, 150 Euros plus 120K miles. I spent a good amount of time planning the trip, making sure that it was in fact First all the way. Most of the routes included a standard seat from DC or Chicago to San Antonio. But the majority of the trip was in a lie-flat suite. I wanted to know if it was worth it for those 8 hours to be able to lie flat versus just leaning back.

One of the benefits of being in First is the ability to board first, but I get that anyway for being 1K on United. Perhaps a more important benefit is having 2 overhead compartments dedicated to you. That’s because the seat is just that much larger. I would guess that 1 First Class seat takes the same space as 4 Business Class seats and maybe 12 Economy seats but the bins above are the same. On the way to the US I had some Christmas presents so the extra space was nice, especially not having to fight for it or having to worry if that other guy is really getting something out of his bag up there, or stealing your laptop (I have heard from a colleague who had this happen to him).

Once I sat down I was able to load up my dedicated cubby hole next to my seat with all the stuff I might need during the flight: laptop, in-air charger, magazines, ebook reader, etc. The alternative further back in the plane is a pocket in the seat in front. Later on, the first meal was served. While this is significantly better than what you get in Economy, its not much better than Business. I think the only difference is the inclusion of soup and a sundae at the end.

After a few hours, I had the opportunity to try out the expected highlight: the lie-flat seat. Well, in a nutshell: disappointing. I knew it wasn’t going to be like a real bed, but I hoped for more. Yeah, it was nice to be able to curl up on my side, but it would have been nicer if I were a few inches shorter. I don’t think it allowed me to sleep any better than in my Business seats.

So overall I am not sure if First is enough of an improvement over Business…for now. I know things are changing on United and they are gradually improving their upper class seats. I had a flight from DC to LA or some other US cross-country flight a few months ago in their new Business class lie-flat seats. That was a phenomenal experience. It was a much flatter bed, though a wee bit thinner. The entertainment system was amazing with a huge screen. There were all sorts of options I didn’t even get to try. When they roll those out to the Amsterdam-DC flights, I will try it out and hopefully get another chance for a First Class flight.

Am I sorry I spent the miles on First when it wasn’t that much better? No, it was only a difference of 40,000 miles. If you travel a decent amount each year, that’s easy to come by. Plus it gave me a chance to experience the difference. On future travel I probably will only upgrade to BizClass and be quite happy I didn’t pay out the additional miles.

Good Morning 2009

The sun is shining here in San Antonio, Texas. And its a brand new year. Looking back on the year that was, I see that there were some good times and some bad. Mostly good though. I did a lot of travel, though its never as much as I would like. I had a chance to visit new countries, like Argentina, Uruguay, and South Africa. I had a chance to visit some of my favorite spots too, like Sydney and Singapore. I had a chance to spend time with my best friends from high school at my 20 year high school reunion (Coral Gables Senior High, 1988). I met new friends by getting out and doing more with MeetIn Amsterdam. And of course the biggest achievement was moving into the first apartment I had ever purchased, and completing its renovation. On the down side, a couple of friends from my days at Microsoft died, Gary Falis and Robert Satterwhite. Then many colleagues were let go after the acquisition of Captaris by OpenText was completed. I had been told by others who had gone through the same process at other companies that the way OpenText did it was amazingly good, but it was still a tough process, even though I was among the still-employed at the end.

Looking forward on the year to come I am pretty excited about the opportunities open to me. I have come up with my list of resolutions, many of which I will not be sharing here. I am open and all, but some things I want to keep closed. But I here are some of my thoughts:

  • I am now part of a new company with new ways of doing things. I want to discover how I can best help this one by leveraging my own unique skills.
  • Photography has always been my primary hobby, but I don’t practice it enough anymore. I gave many of my photographs as presents to my family for Christmas this year and they were a big hit, but most of them were from years ago. I have a new goal of taking at least one photograph every day, then publishing one on my Flickr account at least every few days.
  • I moved into my new home back in January, but most of my stuff is still in boxes. Seriously, my biggest items of furniture are stacks of boxes: my nightstands, my closet, etc…they are just boxes. I will be addressing that issue this year, building some storage, shelves, and more myself.
  • I really enjoy my job. One of the best parts about it is the travel. I just can’t get enough of it. I am hoping this will be a year of new places just like every year before. I am hoping to be able to visit India, China, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Greece, and maybe even a return visit to Nepal.

I have more goals, but I am going to keep those close to me and not share them. I am trying to figure out what is the right way to keep them accessible so I review them regularly. Right now they are in Evernote, but I am sure I can come up with a better solution.

Now I know that some people will say that those goals suck. They aren’t even real. They aren’t SMART, or SAFE, or they don’t abide by some other ridiculous set of rules. These goals are for me…just me. They are not so that you can judge me at the end of the year…they are just for me.

2009 could be a very good year for me and it all starts right now!