Trip Report: You Dropped a Zero (To Japan with United)- United Global First Chicago to Tokyo

United Club Boston
United First Class Boston to Chicago
United Global First Lounge Chicago
United Airlines Global First Chicago to Tokyo
Intercontinental Tokyo
St. Regis Osaka
ANA Business Class Lounge Tokyo
Asiana First Class Lounge Seoul
United Global First Seoul to San Francisco

After we left the lounge and headed to our gate, I spotted our aircraft, a Boeing 747-400. We used and the special line for Global First passengers and were aboard quickly.

United Flight 881
Chicago to Tokyo
Seat 2A
Boeing 747-400

As we boarded, the captain announced our flight time of 12 hours 45 minutes.

The seat was not exactly private. There was a small locker by your head on the aisle side, but that was about it, as compared to, say, British Airways, where your pod has a little bit of a wall at head height. I had seat 2A, which was one of the more private seats in the cabin, in my opinion, as you have no middle seats beside you, such as in 3 and 4 A and K, and not so close to the other window seats, as with 1 A and K. My sister had seat 1A, my dad had 1K, and my mom had 2K.


Across from the seat, there was an ottoman and a large (15″) TV screen. I liked that it was wall-mounted, not swing-out, so you can watch TV during takeoff and landing.

When we pushed back from our gate, we taxied past some very diverse traffic, including Etihad and JAL.



We sat in line for a short time. Well, a short time by ORD standards. We were fourth in line, behind no less than 3 777’s: Korean Air, Qatar, and JAL.


When we did make it to the front of the line, we had a decently long takeoff role, for a 747 at least. We were soon climbing out, with some rather gloomy views.



Because of our 1:20 departure, lunch was served when we leveled out. On of the cool things about UA’s flights to Japan is that they offer a Japanese meal choice. This means sushi as an appetizer, and a Japanese main course. While my last attempt at eating sushi on a plane hadn’t gone well, I was willing to give it a try again. So I decided to order the Japanese meal option. The other option was beef, but I was in for something more exotic. The meal service began with nuts and water, which was followed by bread.



When the sushi was served, I found it to be alright. It was far better than the one I had on Lufthansa, but the rice was still a little hard. Oh well. You can’t have it all.


I was also offered the normal appetizer, which… well, I don’t know what it was. But it was good!


This was followed by a soup, which was actually quite good, or maybe I’m just an onion fanatic.


Not long after, the main course arrived. Of course, I had only been exposed to Americanized Japanese food in the past, so I am not qualified to speak on the more traditional meal option. Let’s just say that it might be slightly too exotic for those of us to have been eating the American version of Japanese food.






I finished the meal with an ice cream sundae. I made it simple: vanilla ice cream, fudge, and a cherry on top. The one thing that redeems U.S. carriers in any way when being compared to European, Asian, or Middle Eastern ones is that you can get an ice cream sundae.

After lunch, I watched some movies on my laptop and then tried to sleep as much as I could before our very inconveniently timed arrival in Tokyo.

Sometime after lunch, we overflew Mount McKinley, now Mount Denali.


When I woke up, I was offered a pre-arrival meal. Since I knew exactly what I was getting, I went with the Japanese option again, the chicken katsu. This time, it was closer to what I had experienced in the US, so it was more inside my comfort zone.


As we descended into Tokyo, I got some very dreary looking views of the city. It looked vaguely post-apocalyptic.


Even the golf courses look subdued.


When we landed, we spotted the same JAL 777 that had been ahead of us at ORD. What luck. There were also a number of UA planes, including the 737 which operate along the Micronesia route.


When we landed, I, as well as everyone else, was tired as heck, so we deplaned quickly and hopped the bus to our hotel.

In the end, it can be said that the seat was decent. The service was warm and friendly, contrary to what I had heard of UA flight attendants. The food, except for the sundae and chicken katsu, was either merely OK or outside my comfort zone. But I think that, over all, it was a great way of kicking off our trip to Japan.

About the Author

I'm Alex, and I am an enthusiast in all things travel: miles and points, airplanes, airline products, and more. On this blog, you can read my take on recent travel/ commercial aviation news, trip reports, ramblings, rants, and opinions, and I'll even share some of my aviation photography from time to time. Hope you enjoy reading, and happy travels!