United Airlines 895 - HKG-SIN - 9 July, 2007 - Boeing 747-400 - Seat 40A.
I arrived at HKG (a very pleasant airport with great shopping) early. I got in line at the UA counter, where I waited about 2 minutes. The agent managing the line directed me to the premier check in desk, where the agent was idle. He spoke very nice english and was very polite and pleasant. He asked if I wanted a window seat (i had already chosen 53A when I bought the ticket) so I said 'yes, please.' He gave me a free upgrade to economy plus without me even asking, and put me in seat 40A. That was definitely a nice surprise.
I made my way to the gate, which provided a nice opportunity for some sight-seeing in the airport. I finally found the aircraft, gate 61. I was a bit early and sat and read in the gate area. The UA flight to Saigon was in the gate next to us. Both were Boeing 747-400s in the old dark blue and gray livery. About an hour before departure boarding opened up, in an efficient and well managed fashion, as United has a pretty good system for. I boarded and shoved my bag into the overhead bin, which on a 747-400 is noticeably smaller than on a 777. It just went to further reinforce my belief that the signature interior really is the greatest thing to ever happen for widebody cabins. I took my seat. Y turned out to be about 85%-90% full. The seat next to me was empty.
The seats in Y on the 747-400 are decent, though their colors scream early 1990s in a big way. They are noticeably more narrow than those on 777, but are still roomy enough and comfortable. Economy plus on 747-400 seemed to offer a bit more legroom than on 777, but that might have just been my perception. The seat has an adjustable headrest which isn't quite as nice as the one on 777, but does stay where you put it (not like the seats on Swiss). The seats are soft and supportive. The appearance of the interior was still clean and in acceptably good shape, but the design and appearance was nowhere as attractive, modern, tasteful, and pleasant as that on the 777s (though it didn't have sand dunes like on emirates... which i'm thankful for).
There are no PTVs in Y on UA's 747s, which is kind of unfortunate. I like the map function. The movie on the screens was Eragon, which was terrible... it was like a lord of the rings for people with ADD and no brain. In any event, that's just the reason PTV is a great feature, in case you really hate the movie the airline has picked, you can just look at the map, or watch something else, in the event you are too tired to read, or just feel like something less mentally active.
There were 2 full drink services on the 3 hour flight. Dinner was also served. I had a chicken and rice dish, which was actually very good. Somewhere off the coast of Saigon we did encounter some turbulence, but the big 747 handled it comfortably enough. The 747 wings flex way way way more than those on 777 i noticed though. I am inclined to believe that we were carrying a good deal of cargo due to the fact we had very long takeoff and landing rolls, as well.
service was very good, thanks to the singapore based flight crew, who had impressive language skills and were very attentive, pleasant, and professional. the flight arrived in singapore 20 minutes early, i cleared immigrations very quickly, and my bag was already waiting for me when i arrived at the carousel (kudos to whoever does UA's singapore groundhandling)
It was a very pleasant experience, however I think UA's 747's could stand to get new Y interiors for sure. UA's service on their asian network is absolutely fantastic and makes me wish that their domestic US flight could be so pleasant.
given that this flight was the next cheapest option to flying Tiger Airlines, with their 29" pitch, it was a great flight, and I'd happily fly it again.