Trip report: United Airlines first class Washington Dulles to LAX

I recently flew United Airlines first class from Washington Dulles International Airport to Los Angeles, having spent $119 to upgrade my flight at booking. I was pleasantly surprised by the experience, and I thought you might enjoy a report. 

I fly United domestic first class a few times each year, and I had stopped looking forward to it. Between 2012 and 2014, I found the found the food almost inedible and the service lacking. 

I went into this flight with low expectations. But earlier this year, United revamped its first class meals and upgraded service standards. To my surprise, this flight was fantastic. The food was decent by any standard and extraordinary by U.S. airline standards. The flight attendants were friendly. I'd even say the experience was a good value.

Here's my account.  

It's a minor thing, but the hot towel was actually hot. And it was plopped down with some care, which is appreciated. 

This was a United 757 delivered to the airline in 1991. There was no internet or in-seat entertainment. But that's OK, because all of these 757s are scheduled to be retired within one year. They're heading to Fedex, which will use them to deliver packages. 

Finally! Some decent beer on United Airlines. In the past, United's top-of-the-line beer was Heineken. Now we have traded up to what United calls craft beer. Goose Island is, of course, a Budweiser product, so United isn't introducing us to an unknown beer, but it's an improvement. Also, the nuts were warm. I know that's important to some travelers. 

Here's where it really got good. The salad is such a improvement over the old one. The greens were actually fresh and was even some quinoa mixed in. 

The main dish was a chicken - relatively moist - with a buffalo macaroni and cheese. I'm sure the mac-and-cheese had tons of calories in it, but it was tasty. 

I include the photo below to remind you how you were supposed to charge your laptop in an airplane, circa 2001. I'm glad we have progressed beyond this. 

Below, we have gelato with whipped cream. Yes, gelato. And it wasn't bad. This is a major upgrade over whatever ice cream they have been serving. 

About an hour after gelato - in which I assume was an attempt to cause a heart attack - the flight attendants came by with warm cookies. The plate was plastic, rather than china.

There's nothing special about this seat, but it was comfortable enough for the five-hour ride. I'll be sad to see this version of United's 757 leave the fleet.

And a final shot of the aircraft from beautiful LAX.