Home Reviews Travel Reviews Flight Review: United Airlines First Class Boeing 747-400 San Francisco to Tokyo
Flight Review: United Airlines First Class Boeing 747-400 San Francisco to Tokyo

Flight Review: United Airlines First Class Boeing 747-400 San Francisco to Tokyo


This is the first part of our honeymoon series. We took a nice flight from San Francisco to Tokyo, the first stop on our honeymoon.

Our honeymoon series:

Part 1: United First Class from SFO-NRT
Part 2: How to Get to Hotel from NRT Airport
Part 3: Andaz Hotel Tokyo
Part 4: Tokyo Itinerary
Part 5: How to get from Tokyo to Kyoto
Part 6: Hyatt Regency – Kyoto
Part 7: Kyoto Itinerary
Part 8: Shinkansen Kyoto to Tokyo
Part 9: Conrad – Tokyo Part 1
Part 10: Conrad – Tokyo Part 2
Part 11: Singapore Business Class Tokyo to Singapore
Part 12: Conrad – Singapore
Part 13: Silk Air Business Class Singapore to Danang
Part 14: Intercontinental Danang Part 1
Part 15: Intercontinental Danang Part 2
Part 16: Turkish Business Class Hanoi to Istanbul
Part 17: Turkish Business Class Istanbul to Rome
Part 18: United First Class Rome to Chicago

How much did this cost?

80,000 United miles x 2 tickets = 160,000 UR Points transferred to United

Using a Chase Ink Business card to accumulate UR points, this amounted to $999.51 plus $11.20 in taxes and fees for a total of $1010.71, or $505.35 per person

How much would this have cost had we paid cash? 

Had we paid cash it would have cost $11,283.00 x 2 = $22,566.00

We took the Sunday after the wedding off and left at 6:30a on Monday morning to drive to San Francisco. After dropping the rental car off and clearing security, we had about 30 minutes to enjoy the First Class Lounge. The lounge was downstairs from gate level. Designed with visible Chinese influence, it is not very large, but it was not busy when we were there around 10AM on a Monday.

Maybe because this was United Airlines and my expectations were extremely low, but the lounge turned out to be nice, despite the lack of any semblance of customer service. To get to the food and the restrooms, you walk through a reading area with lounge chairs. This opens up into the food area with some kitchen table seating on the left and more lounge chairs on the right.

SFO First Class Lounge Entry
Entering the lounge.


SFO First Class Lounge Seating
Main seating area.

SFO First Class Lounge Papers
Reading area


SFO First Class Lounge Tea
Tea selection


SFO First Class Lounge Bathroom

They changed from breakfast to lunch around 10:30am so we got to try a little food from both. Breakfast was much better than the lunch options. They hadn’t completed the lunch setup by the time that we left, but they had put out stir fried vegetables, pork potstickers, and congee.

SFO First Class Lounge Breakfast
Breakfast in the lounge

The liquor selection was pretty standard.  They had a nice selection of Asian beers but I was most impressed that the lounge served $80 bottles of sparkling rose.

SFO First Class Lounge Drinks
Beer, wine, and other beverages
SFO First Class Lounge Self Serve Bar
Nice bar selection

SFO First Class Lounge Champagne
Solid Champagne

After having a light bite to eat and throwing down a couple glasses of the rose, we headed to the gate. This was branded as a Polaris flight, but it was on an old 747, not on a new 787. The old double decker looked majestic, but it definitely showed its age.

United Airlines First Class Old School 747-400

The plane was old, from the seats to the entertainment system to the overhead bins. The bathrooms in first class were also the same bathrooms as you would find in a standard economy cabin. I didn’t even bother taking a photo.

We had seats 3c and 3h, and it was nice that we could lean over and talk to one another. It would have also worked if we had sat across the aisle from one another.

747 Seat Layout
United Airlines First Class Boeing 747-400 Seat Layout

Waiting for us on our seats were a blanket, a Saks Fifth Avenue comforter, two pillows, slippers, and an amenity kit. It’s unfortunate that for a long-haul flight in first class, we were not given pajamas. Apparently, they are only handed out for flights that are longer than 12 hours.

SFO NRT Bedding
United Airlines First Class, Polaris First Bedding


SFO NRT Amenity Kit
United Airlines First Class, Polaris First Amenity Kit

A flight attendant came around with a menu and asked us if we wanted anything to drink. I asked for a glass of champagne and in true United Airlines style, they didn’t have any for the first class cabin.  For some reason they said it wasn’t available until after take off.

SFO NRT Alcohol Menu
United Polaris First Spirits menu

SFO NRT Wine and Champagne
United Polaris First Wine and Champagne Menu


SFO NRT Food Menu
United Polaris First Food Menu

Once we were airborne, we were served warm nuts, a skewer of fruit and cheese, and I was finally able to get my glass of bubbly. I did not try the wine, sticking to the champagne, but the flight attendants had sets of small glasses for you to try flights of the reds and whites so you could choose your preferred wine for meal service. This is a recent Polaris change, and I thought it was pretty cool.  

SFO NRT Champagne
United Polaris First Champagne

United Polaris First Nuts, fruit and cheese

Shortly thereafter, we were served lunch. I chose the Japanese option, while the wife went with the Western meal. The Japanese lunch started with a set of appetizers and green tea. The food looked nice, but was pretty tasteless.

SFO NRT Lunch Appetizer
United Polaris First Nigiri, omelette, others

SFO NRT Lunch Fish
United Polaris First Squid, seaweed, others


SFO NRT Lunch Pickles and Tea
United Polaris First Pickles, green tea


SFO NRT Lunch Service
United Polaris First All lunch appetizer dishes

The appetizers were followed by the main dish, sea bass with rice and miso soup. The sea bass was cooked nicely, but the miso soup and the rice were not good at all.

SFO NRT Sea Bass Lunch Entree
United Polaris First Sea Bass Lunch Entree

This was followed by a dessert cart. I was looking forward to the ice cream sundae as it was on the menu, but again in typical United Airlines fashion, they didn’t have it. Instead, they had small containers of mango sorbet, which was good but still not a replacement for an ice cream sundae. They also had small “shooters” of tiramisu and raspberry desserts, and even miniature apple pies. By the time the flight attendants made their way to QL, the desserts were gone and had to be taken from business class.  I elected to not have any coffee since I wanted to get some sleep and attempt to hit the ground running once we got to Tokyo.

SFO NRT Desserts
United Polaris First Desserts, we had one of everything!

After a less than stellar meal, I opened the amenity kit. It has socks, earplugs, an eye mask, a pen, hand sanitizer, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and a Cowshed kit of lotion, lip balm, and a lavender mist to spray your pillow. I went to the bathroom (as I mentioned earlier, it is the same bathroom as you would find in economy) to brush my teeth, and asked the flight attendant to make my bed while I was gone. I came back and she had brought a mattress pad out and unpacked the pillow and comforter.

SFO NRT Amenity Kit Inside
United Airlines First Class, Polaris First Amenity Kit


SFO NRT Turned Down Bed
Turned down bed

I managed to get a few hours of sleep, but woke up halfway through the flight and decided to try the in flight snack, which was chicken and rice. It was very similar to Panda Express’s black pepper chicken, without any of the vegetables and a much milder black pepper taste. This time, the food tasted better than it looked, but how can you screw up chicken and rice right? After she finished the same chicken dish, QL asked for sweet snacks and once again, there were none available.  Mind you, she wasn’t requesting for seconds.  It was ridiculous that they ran out of desserts and snacks in First Class.

SFO NRT Chicken RIce
United Airlines First Class Mid-flight snack, chicken and rice

A little more than an hour before landing, the cabin lights came on and hot towels were distributed. We had both chosen the Japanese breakfast option, which was Chicken Katsu Curry served with broccolini, fruit, some seaweed and soybeans, yogurt, and an assortment of breads. The curry sauce wasn’t very good and the chicken wasn’t crispy at all. I avoided the sauce as I ate it.

SFO NRT Pre Landing Katsu
United Airlines First Class Pre-Landing Chicken Katsu Curry

We landed in Tokyo shortly thereafter. In total, it was a little more than a 10 hour flight. Although it was comfortable, the first class experience felt cheap, and the food was average at best. If we had to pay the $11,200 for a ticket, we definitely wouldn’t fly United.

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