Yeah, you read that right. I just flew in a lie-flat First Class seat on a 777 — a wide-body aircraft that is typically reserved for long-haul and international routes — on a 2.5-hour domestic flight. When we saw this flight was available, we went out of our way to get onto it — and it was totally worth it. Follow along as we share what this unique experience was like.
Just to clarify, this specific experience is not typical for United First Class. If you’re looking for a review of their standard product, we have a post covering First Class in United Airlines on the A320 and a post explaining the New United First Class on the 737.
Why was United flying a 777 from MCO to ORD?
We couldn’t stop asking ourselves that same question. United’s MCO-ORD routes are most frequently flown on a much smaller 757 or 737, which seats 132-185 fewer passengers than the 777. It seemed so bizarre that United would be flying this huge plane on this short, domestic route.
We initially thought it had to be some sort of repositioning flight, but no. This plane came from Chicago and was flying right back to Chicago, and it was doing it everyday (well, most days).
We dug deeper and discovered that United actually introduced a handful of wide-body aircraft on domestic routes begging in summer 2023. The 777 flights on this route look to be scheduled through March, 2024, though that could certainly change.
It seems as though the wide-body aircraft were introduced to accommodate an uptick in travelers, and we definitely believe that to be the case. Our Saturday midday flight on the 777 appeared to be almost entirely full.
Now, let’s not confuse “big” with “nice.” The 777s United is flying on this route (and a handful of other domestic routes) are older models. The specific 777 we flew was 29 years old, making it among the oldest planes in United’s active fleet.
If we’re being honest, it did feel dated, specifically in terms of storage and seat coverings. However, the First Class seats were lie-flat — on a domestic, 2-hour flight — which is pretty great no matter how old the plane is.
Booking Domestic First Class on the 777
This flight booking was kind of a mess. We were originally booked to fly from New York (LGA) to Chicago (ORD) for the Thanksgiving holiday. At the last minute, we decided to tack on a quick 2-night stay at Walt Disney World to take our toddler to their first Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
It was in the middle of changing this flight that we noticed the rogue 777 flight. As a reminder, you can always see the plane scheduled for the route when you’re booking your flight.
As you can see from this sample flight pricing (this example is for a one-way trip on a Thursday two weeks from now), there isn’t a significant up-charge for the 777 flight compared to the other planes. If anything, First Class on the 777 is actually cheaper than the 757. This was roughly the case with our exact booking as well.
We were changing flights, so the purchase was a bit wonky. Our original flight was round-trip from NYC to Chicago, but we switched it to flights from Orlando to Chicago and Chicago to NYC. (We booked a separate flight for NYC to Orlando.) The total cost for that flight, including First Class on the 777 to Chicago and on a 737 to NYC, was $2,120 for three people (or roughly $700 per person). We used our flight credit from our original booking to pay for the flight.
Boarding a 777 at MCO
The boarding experience was pretty awful. I’ve had some bad gate experiences at MCO, but this was maybe the worst. (Come to think of it, I also had an awful CLEAR experience at MCO this time, too!)
First and foremost, they were boarding a huge plane (with over 350 passengers) from an itty-bitty gate. There was nowhere near enough seating or standing space around the gate for all of those passengers. Everyone was standing and crowding the gate because there was literally nowhere else to go.
On top of that, you couldn’t hear any of the boarding announcements. Our gate’s speaker system was seemingly broken, because there was just an agent making boarding announcements verbally. No one could hear him over the crowd of people and the other nearby gate announcements over the loudspeaker.
Eventually, we heard through the grapevine that they were boarding First Class and jockeyed our way to the gate. I was pretty glad to be boarding First Class, because it looked like the rest of boarding was going to be a mess.
After we were seated, Main Cabin boarding seemed to go on forever. We quickly realized that this was primarily due to the limited overhead bin space. (More on that in the storage section below.)
First Class Seats on the 777 from MCO to ORD
The seats were in a 2-4-2 configuration and alternated between forward and rear facing. As a family of 3, the 2-4-2 works well for us. We were all seated together in the middle section, facing forward in the bulkhead row.
The seats were comfortable, though not overly plush. They had a fabric covering with a small padded headrest built in. There was a stationary footrest at each seat, which doubled as the foot of the lie-flat bed. Also to accommodate the bed, the seats had a generous pitch of 76 inches.
With a width of 19 inches, the seats did feel a bit narrow/tight for a First Class product. (Many of United’s other First Class seats have a width of 20-22 inches.) That tightness was exaggerated by the lack of a substantial center console. Instead, there was a small shared armrest and table between each seat. A second drink tray popped out from below the table in addition to a full-size tray table.
Most importantly, the seats reclined and laid completely flat. The positioning was controlled by a remote control pad in the center console, which also controlled the recline and adjustable leg rest. Understandably, full bedding was not provided on this short, midday flight. We did receive a light blanket and our toddler used the headrest as a pillow.
Despite being an old plane and outdated First Class product, it was still nice. The seats were comfortable and everything worked. Personally, we get a lot of value out of lie-flat seats. After a long morning at Magic Kingdom, our 3-year-old — who has never once fallen asleep in a standard airplane seat — got in a full nap, which they would not have otherwise gotten.
Storage on the older 777
The domestic First Class seats on the 777 were dated, but still perfectly comfortable and operational. I cannot say the same about the storage functionality on the older plane.
The overhead bin space on this plane was small. It is a twin-aisle aircraft, so there is overhead bins above the center seats and along the edge of the plane. The bins in the center were very small, and each bin could only fit one standard carry-on suitcase the long way. The outer bins could fit a few more suitcases in the more efficient wheels-in way.
In First Class, there was just enough room to accommodate everyone’s bags. However, in the main cabin, which had a denser 3-4-3 configuration and tighter rows, there was not enough room for all the bags. Much of the delay in boarding was because passengers were searching for bin space and were being forced to check their bags.
The in-seat storage in First Class was also not great, and not just because we were in the bulkhead. (In fact, bulkhead seats had the same storage configuration as non-bulkhead seats.) There was a small storage space below the footrest, but that was not large enough to store any of our personal items. The only other storage space was a small cubby beneath the armrest, which could hold a phone or tablet.
Lastly, there was a small media shelf between each seat. This is where the safety information and Hemispheres magazine was stored. Unfortunately, the small clip that held the documents in place didn’t work great, and the materials went flying from several seats when we landed.
Technology on the older 777
The First Class seats each had a large entertainment screen. (After a recent flight in American Airlines First Class, which didn’t have a screen at all, I was easily impressed by this.) The screen was controlled by a remote, which popped out of the center console and doubled as a game controller.
The entertainment selection was also pretty good. I watched the Dwayne Johnson/Zac Efron Baywatch, and it was surprisingly funny and a great plane movie.
Unfortunately, they were short on headphones. In our section of four seats, there was only one noise-reducing headset distributed. It happened to be placed on my husband’s seat, but he didn’t need it so I snagged them.
When the stranger sitting next to me asked the flight attendant for a pair, she said they were out, but she’d look around. Eventually, she came back offering basic disposable earbuds.
There was a handful of outlets available in the front of each console, including a USB port and AC plug for each passenger. There was also some circular port, but I wasn’t even sure what it was for.
Lastly, there was a small reading light beside each seat, in addition to the overhead lighting.
All of the technology onboard worked perfectly fine in our experience.
Food & Beverage Service
If there is one thing that makes a domestic first class experience stand out to me, it’s pre-departure drink service. Not a lot of airlines offer it these days, especially on shorter flights, but United usually does. After a stressful boarding, I was happy to be offered a glass of prosecco as soon as I sat down.
United offers meals in First Class on flights longer than 800 miles, and ours was just over 1,000. Since we booked last minute, we were not able to pre-order a vegetarian meal. Fortunately, two of the meal options could be made vegetarian.
There was no food or beverage menu provided, so the flight attendant explained the options as she took the orders. She took drink orders, which came right away, and food orders, which came shortly after.
I ordered the sweet chili cold noodle salad. It was good but not very filling. (It turns out this was because it was supposed to come with steak, which they left off to make it vegetarian.) My husband got the cheese lasagna, which was “fine.” Both came with a coffee cake dessert, which was tasty but very cold.
After all of the meals were distributed, the flight attendants came around with wine service. This is standard on long-haul flights, but I was surprised to see it on such a short flight. Of course, when someone offers me wine, I’m going to take it! I had a glass of the house white, in addition to the beer I previously ordered.
There was no additional beverage or snack service on this short flight.
Arrival at ORD
Our toddler, who fell asleep right after take-offer, woke up just before landing. (Talk about a dream scenario, am I right?) Despite a long boarding, we still managed to land at ORD pretty much right on time.
Unfortunately, we had a really long taxi, which we’ve come to expect at O’Hare. This particular time, we we drove around the airport for just over 20 minutes before we finally arrived at our gate.
Once we got to the gate though, we quickly deplaned and were on our way.
Closing thoughts on United Domestic First Class in the 777
This flight was a treat in so many ways. Flying on a large 777 for such a short route doesn’t happen that often, so we were glad that we jumped at the opportunity.
The 777 flight was later in the day than other options on smaller planes. However, since the First Class seat on the 777 had lie-flat seats (unlike the smaller planes), our toddler could actually take a much needed nap.
The plane was notably old, so it wasn’t an overly luxurious flight. That said, it was only the storage space — okay, and the cloth seat covering — that really felt dated. Everything else still worked and was quite comfortable.
United’s inflight service is usually on the better end of legacy carriers. I love that they consistently offer pre-departure beverage service. The food and beverage offerings onboard were good, but I do wish a menu was provided. A second drink or coffee service would have been nice, too.
Overall, though, I thought this flight was really fun and we’re glad we got to try it out.
Other Premium Cabins on the 777
While we were surprised to fly the 777 on this short domestic route, we actually have a bit of experience flying that plane on international routes. Be sure to check out our other reviews from premium cabins onboard other 777s.