A Long Haul with United; San Francisco to Sydney [UA863]


I meant to create a trip report of my experience on the 747 in November, but didn’t get the chance and decided I’d just make one of this flight, so I hope you enjoy it!

To renew my family’s Star Alliance Gold status with United, we needed to find a flight somewhere that would meet the spending requirements. Luckily, after lots of searching, I was able to find one to a destination I’d never been to before, Sydney, Australia! We booked our flights in early November, and the day of departure finally came just over a month later!

The flight was 14 hours, and we had a delayed departure as well, but United rarely disappoints me in terms of service, so I was quite happy with what we got! We flew Economy Plus and flew with one of United’s 777-322(ER), registered N2747U, only 1 year and 10 months old at the time. Our journey began on December 20, at San Francisco’s (amazing) International Terminal!

Ground Experience – 9/10

As usual, the ground experience was almost perfect in San Francisco. United has a hub here, so they have self-check-in kiosks and the bag drop line always moves quite fast with all of their open counters. It took about 10 minutes to get from the doors of the airport to airside and was quite nice.

Boarding was a bit chaotic, as there were 2 flights to Oceania departing from gates right next to each other, with the other flight having been canceled and then brought back with an aircraft swap (more on that later). The flight was completely full, with not a single seat available, which was also a reason for the delay.

The delay was mainly because of the Auckland-bound flight, UA917. Due to an aircraft swap from the 787-10 to 772, not all the passengers could fit on the aircraft. They instead attempted to board as many passengers onto our flight, and then had to remove the baggage from their flight and put it onto ours, which caused a delay in gate departure of 1 hour.

The aircraft that flew me to Sydney, N2747U, parked at the gate!

The Cabin & Seat – 10/10

The seats were in great shape and quite comfortable too, which was expected as the aircraft was not even 2 years old at the time. I happily sat in seat 35A, in the economy plus cabin, which I was able to secure just 24 hours before the flight (as there were none before that).

The economy cabins on this aircraft are in a 3-4-3 configuration and the seats weren’t as tightly packed as I assumed they would have been. The T.V. was large enough, but the cabin crew didn’t provide earbuds which they usually do on other United flights, so I thought this was odd. Each cabin wasn’t too big, so it was pretty quiet throughout the flight.

United’s Economy Plus cabin onboard their 77Ws; Credits

Food & Beverage Service – 10/10

The food was amazing on board the flight! Definitely some of the best economy class meals I have had. The service began about 20 minutes after departure, with some drinks coming around. United has begun giving the entire can of select beverages from what I have seen on long hauls, so that was a nice thing to have. The food was definitely better than it looked, and they served dinner, a light snack, and a hot breakfast likely because it was such a long flight.

The dinner option was chicken with rice or vegetarian pasta, so I decided to go with the chicken. It was really good, and the dessert was vanilla ice cream. It came with a bread roll and salad, both of which I finished as I was pretty hungry. About 7 hours into the flight, they came around with a pesto and chicken sandwich, which was pretty good as it was only a light snack and it was around 7 a.m. Pacific time. For breakfast, they served a hot meal, which 2 options: french toast with chicken sausage or a cheese omelette. I went with the french toast and really liked it!

The dinner onboard the flight!

Final Thoughts

United is, and will probably always be my favorite airline. Their amazing cabin crew and service has never disappointed me, so I’d definitely give this flight a solid 29/30. The only thing that made the experience slightly worse was the boarding experience, but I guess you can’t really blame United only for that.

The sunrise over the Pacific Ocean!

Entering a holding pattern near Sydney due to weather and traffic

Descending into Sydney after 14 hours

Parked at the gate in Sydney, next to an Air India 788 headed to Delhi!

Thanks for reading this! I’ll be flying some cool airlines this trip, including Virgin Australia, Qantas, and Air New Zealand, so I’ll try and make a trip report of those flights too! I’ll also be flying back home on United’s 787, in business class, so you can expect a trip report of that flight too!


Wow… those cloud formations though…


Wow that’s so cool and good to see they’re providing a decent salad onboard. Looking forward to your trip reports on QFA, VOZ and ANZ!

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I’ll likely only review Air New Zealand and Qantas since my flight is only 1 hour with Virgin Australia, but thanks for the kind words!

Virgin Atlantic in Australia? Pretty sure they stopped operating to Sydney with the A340 back in 2014 ;)

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Nice review! Looking forward to your other Oceania reviews!


That’s sounds like a great experience! Thanks for this very detailed and nice review, looking forward to the next ones!

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It certainly was! Thanks for the kind words!

Thank you!


Some really detailed explanations and pictures…

Have a great day!

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Thanks! Hope you liked it!

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Strange that you didn’t get earbuds. On my flight our First Officer came around her self with earbuds!

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Yup, I thought it was weird as well, but I had my own headphones and I noticed that quite a few passengers did too so it wasn’t a problem.

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What a great review! This is actually quite helpful because I will be going to Asia next summer and United is one of the airlines which is cheapest (although it changes all the time). Also one question: is Economy Plus basically extra legroom economy? It’s not premium economy right? Thanks!

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Yup, it’s just normal economy with about 3-4 inches of extra legroom! They do serve a wider variety of alcoholic beverages than in normal economy though, which is a plus I guess (but I can’t drink). Their premium economy product is known as Premium Plus, and is currently only available on select 767s, all 77Ws, and select 772s. Due to my family’s status with United, it is free but you will have to pay if you don’t have Gold or higher status with the airline. Thanks for reading!

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Stunning report 🤙
Hope you enjoy your time in Sydney and throughout Australia!

Stay safe with the fires burning across NSW at the moment as well, terrible fire conditions across aus currently!

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Thank you! I’m leaving Sydney today (sadly), and flying to Melbourne, but it’s a great city!

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