A review of United Airlines economy on the Boeing 767 from Newark to London

6 October 2023

Quick take: An underwhelming experience on an older aircraft, but at least there was only one middle seat per row.

Pros

Innovative pillows to support the neck
The 2-3-2 configuration on the Boeing 767, great for economy passengers
The crew did the best with what they had to work with

Cons

The cabin interior and seats felt tired
Inoperative Wi-Fi and a dated entertainment system
Microwave-style dinners served with child-size cutlery

Some flights to Europe aren’t long enough for a full night’s sleep.

The high-frequency New York-to-London route sees dozens of departures every evening with scheduled flight times of seven to eight hours. With tailwinds, however, the actual flight time is usually well under seven hours and often less than six (with the record being under five hours).

With only a few hours between meal services to rest in a darkened cabin, is there a need for a lie-flat bed, or should you save your cash or miles for longer flights instead and grin and bear it in economy?

Following an impressive transatlantic experience on Delta, I compared it to United Airlines economy from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) on my return leg.

Here’s what the experience was like.

BEN SMITHSON/THE POINTS GUY

How much does economy class cost to book on United?

United operates five to seven daily flights from Newark to London on Boeing 767 aircraft that are around 20 years old and sells three economy fare types with the following inclusions.

Fare type
Change fees
Checked bag fees
Seat selection
Boarding

Basic economy
No changes allowed
$75 for the first bag up to 50 pounds, $100 for the second bag
Choose a seat for a fee
Group 5 of 5

Economy
No change fees (difference in ticket price may apply)
1 free checked bag up to 50 pounds, $100 for the second bag
Choose a standard seat at no charge
Groups 3 and 4 of 5

Economy (refundable)
No change fees (difference in ticket price may apply)
1 free checked bag, $100 for the second bag
Any available seat in the cabin (including Comfort+ and preferred seats)
Groups 3 and 4 of 5

All passengers can bring a personal item and a full-size carry-on bag on board.

Here’s a look at round-trip airfares and award prices on this route over the next several months at the time of publication.

Round-trip prices
Basic economy
Economy
Economy (refundable)
Premium economy
Business class 

Airfare (range)
$643-$1,677
$812-$1,781
$1,256-$2,123
$1,565-$3,761
$3,272-$5,449

United MileagePlus miles (range)
N/A
60,000-148,800 plus $198 taxes/fees
N/A
116,200-360,000 plus $327 taxes/fees
160,000-437,000 plus $327 taxes/fees

We paid $720 for a one-way economy ticket, a price regularly available on this route throughout the year, though on the high side. Here are some of the best credit cards to use when booking United flights.

United Club Infinite Card
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The Platinum Card® from American Express
Chase Sapphire Reserve
American Express® Green Card
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

The information for the Amex Green Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer. 

BEN SMITHSON/THE POINTS GUY

Checking into and boarding economy on United

I had heard good things about United’s app. Unfortunately, it would not allow me to check in online, so I had to visit the self-serve kiosks at Newark’s Terminal C. There were short lines and a calm atmosphere with plenty of friendly staff standing around to assist while I printed out my boarding pass.

Economy passengers cannot conveniently clear the security directly next to the economy check-in area, which is reserved for premium passengers. Instead, they need to walk several minutes down the terminal for TSA PreCheck and the dedicated economy line, which took me about 15 minutes to clear.

There were ample seating and charging points near the Terminal C gate for my flight to London, making for a relaxed waiting environment.

This changed when a delayed departure for a United flight to Barcelona at the adjoining gate meant two wide-body aircraft boarded simultaneously in a tight space, causing a jam.

Though the London flight was full, boarding commenced by groups on time at 7:10 p.m., and we departed on time at 8 p.m.

How comfortable was economy on United?

The aircraft for my seven-hour flight to London was a 23-year-old Boeing 767-300ER with the following seat count and layout in economy.

Number of seats
56 (Main Cabin), 43 (Economy Plus)

Cabin layout
2-3-2

Seat pitch
31 inches (Main Cabin), 34 inches (Economy Plus) 

Seat recline
4 inches

Seat width
18.5 inches

Screen size
9 inches

The 767s United flies to London have surprisingly large premium cabins with a single smaller economy cabin behind Polaris business and Premium Plus premium economy.

While the seats were reasonably well maintained, the aircraft and cabin felt dated and tired due to the lumpy seat padding and small, grainy inflight entertainment screens.

Though the seat pitch is just 31 inches, the legroom was adequate for my 6-foot frame.

BEN SMITHSON/THE POINTS GUY

The best feature of the 767 in economy is just one middle seat per row in the center section, with the window pairs ideal for two passengers traveling together.

Each seat had a universal plug located under the seat in front and a USB-A charger under each seatback screen.

BEN SMITHSON/THE POINTS GUY

You could use a button in the side armrest to recline your seat, but the 4 inches didn’t give you much room to relax. The sturdy adjustable headrest had folding wings, which aided in supporting the head for better rest.

I can usually sleep anywhere at any time, but as the lights were dimmed two hours after departure, I did not manage a wink of sleep on this flight despite my best efforts on the lumpy seats, and I noticed about half the economy cabin didn’t even try to sleep.

The tray table, which flipped down from the seatback in front of me, wasn’t large enough for my 15-inch MacBook, though working was not a priority on this short overnight flight.

Four bathrooms were shared between the 121 economy and premium economy passengers, which was a good ratio. There were some short lines to wait in on this busy flight, but the bathrooms were kept clean.

Amenities in United economy

Awaiting each economy passenger was a small, thin blanket and an innovative U-shaped neck pillow that provided more support than a normal economy pillow. The provided earbud headphones had poor sound quality, and the entertainment system had no Bluetooth capability to connect your wireless headphones. The seatback pocket held an inflight magazine, a relatively rare sight since the pandemic.

The entertainment touchscreen on the seatback was small, with low resolution and a sluggish, dated interface. Among the 52 new-release movies available were “Avatar: The Way of Water,” “80 for Brady” and “The Super Mario Bros. Movie.”

Although Wi-Fi was advertised, I could not connect on my phone or MacBook, even trying my usually reliable workaround of loading the landing page on Safari rather than Chrome. I couldn’t see the prices, though it should have cost around $19 for a full flight pass based on recent pricing other TPG staffers have found on this route on United.

Given the short flight time and sleeping priority, I opted not to call the crew to try and fix it.

BEN SMITHSON/THE POINTS GUY

How was the food in United economy?

Thirty minutes after departure, the crew served a round of drinks, informing passengers that beer, wine and soft drinks were complimentary, but hard liquor had to be paid for. They also offered each passenger a packet of rye bagel chips, miniature pretzel twists and delicious garlic bread bites.

BEN SMITHSON/THE POINTS GUY

Dinner that was only described as “chicken or pasta” was served 60 minutes after departure from a cart. Despite the minimal intel provided, I managed to spy from the description of the dishes on the cart that there was butter chicken with rice or penne pasta with pomodoro sauce and Parmesan. The nameless grain salad appetizer was tasty, the white bread roll was dense and my butter chicken entree was like a standard TV dinner you might find in the freezer section of your local supermarket for a few dollars.

A lemon cookie comprised the dessert of this rather forgettable meal.

The dining experience was made worse by the miniature plastic cutlery all passengers, both adults and children, were given, which made it difficult to cut the food.

BEN SMITHSON/THE POINTS GUY

Ninety minutes before landing, the cabin lights were turned on, and a choice of “ham or vegetarian sandwich” was offered, along with a choice of drinks. I chose the ham and was handed a plastic-wrapped, messy-looking hot sandwich with egg and gooey cheese. While it was filling, thanks to the amount of carbohydrates and fat it contained, it did not seem nutritious.

BEN SMITHSON/THE POINTS GUY

Throughout the flight, the crew remained upbeat and welcoming, serving the cabin quickly and with a smile, which is about as much as you can hope for on an overnight flight in economy.

The flight was full, yet they hustled to find space for everyone’s cabin bags for an on-time departure, which was impressive.

Would you recommend United economy?

The Boeing 767 has one of the most passenger-friendly economy class layouts, with just one middle seat per row. Getting a window-and-aisle seat pair to yourself or with a travel companion and having no other neighbors is also a welcome possibility you won’t encounter on most wide-body airplanes. That relative comfort was a counterbalance to the age of the 23-year-old aircraft, with its dated tech and lumpy seats.

Unfortunately, everything else on board felt tired and past its prime. It wasn’t a long flight, but I was relieved to disembark and sleep in a real bed.

Delta has shown how well-maintained seats, great tech and (surprisingly) delicious food can make even old aircraft feel fresh and comfortable. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about United’s 767 and would choose to fly another carrier to London in the future.

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