United 777-200 domestic first class (we’ve seen this before)

United 777-200 domestic first class (we’ve seen this before)

Think back to 2010. Remember how bad United international business class used to be? Fast forward to present day, and that *exact* same product is arguably one of the best domestic first class experiences we have.

Long story short, United has an entire sub fleet of Boeing 777-200s dedicated for domestic use only. These aircraft feature that same horrible 2-4-2 lie flat business class product that we all hated with a passion (and avoided like the plague) back in the day.

Now, it’s called ‘domestic first class.’ And we like it. Funny how that works…

Washington DC (IAD) – San Diego, CA (SAN)
Tuesday, August 29, 2023
Aircraft: 777-222
Registration: N777UA
Duration: 4 hours 24 minutes
Seat: 3L (First Class)

United Airlines 777-200 (N777UA) side view
United Airlines 777-200 (N777UA) side view illustration by NorebboStock.com
ua1930 flight track
Our route from Washington Dulles to San Diego today as UA1930.

My full review of United domestic 777-200 first class from Washington DC (IAD) to San Diego

Yep. You are reading this right. United operates one daily Boeing 777-200 between IAD and SAN. Pretty wild, eh? Don’t get excited though – it only exists as retaliation for Alaska Airlines launching IAD-SAN service of their own. Once Alaska Airlines exits the market (or United realizes that resistance is futile), they will surely drop the 777 from the schedule.

Either way, this was a pretty fun way to get a ride on the domestically-configured United 777.

Arrival at IAD

The scheduled departure time for this flight to San Diego was a very ambitious 8:30 AM. I do consider myself to be a morning person and all, but flights that depart at the crack of dawn (or within range of it) are never easy. I did my best and managed to hobble through the main entrance at IAD by 7 AM. It was a respectable entrance given the circumstances.

Washington Dulles airport main terminal interior
Welcome to the Washington Dulles Airport main terminal! I know – kicking things off with what is easily the nicest pic of IAD that you’ll see in this entire review is an admittedly bold move.
Sanspotter walking through Washington Dulles airport main terminal
I mean, all I’ve got to show you from this point forward is Terminal D (which is ugly) and United 777-200 domestic first class (which is old), so it’s pretty much all downhill from here.
United airlines check-in area Washington Dulles airport
Here’s a picture of the United Airlines check-in area to keep you occupied while I figure out a plan for keeping this interesting…
Above ground people mover IAD airport
I got it! Posting pics of my ride on one of the above-ground mobile people movers (to move between terminals) might be a fantastic way of keeping people from clicking off an otherwise routine IAD-based airline review. I hope.
Washington Dulles airport terminal D interior
And you thought I was kidding about how ugly Terminal D is. In IAD’s defense, I’ve been told that this was designed to be a “poopy but temporary” terminal (which will eventually be replaced by something less poopy in the coming years).
Gate D3 Washington Dulles airport
Would you be interested to know that gate D3 is where my flight to San Diego will be departing from today? Whether you care or not, it’s essential information for a thorough airline review.
United 777-200 parked at gate D3 Washington Dulles airport
FYI, there are no windows at gate D3. Getting any glimpse at all of the 777-200 that would be taking me to San Diego today required scouring neighboring gates with Indiana Jones-like determination.

The boarding process for flight number 1930 to San Diego

One of two scenarios was playing out right before my eyes in the moments leading up to the boarding process. The first was the realization that United made a huge mistake by putting a high-density Boeing 777 on the schedule between Washington DC and San Diego. The second was the realization that I might very well be one lucky son-of-a-bitch.

Gate D3 IAD
The fact that boarding starts in 10 minutes and the gate area is this empty has me concerned.

Basically, the gate area was a literal ghost town. There were maybe 50 people total waiting to get on this airplane, and that’s being generous. Despite how weird this was, it’s always a great feeling to know (ahead of time) that there’s going to be plenty of room to stretch out once onboard!

Empty gate D3 Washington Dulles airport
Not only is a concerning that nobody seems to want to fly from IAD to SAN on a Boeing 777-200 (WTF??), there’s really no reason why they couldn’t swap in a CRJ-200 (and still end up with empty seats).
United Airlines mobile boarding pass Washington DC to San Diego
Of course I didn’t dare say the CRJ-200 part out loud as I was taking this pic of my boarding pass. I don’t want to give anyone any (really bad) ideas…
Washington Dulles airport gate D3 jet bridge
With no windows at the gate, who’s to say that they didn’t do the ‘ol switcheroo when nobody was looking? There better be a 777-200 at the end of this jet bridge!
United Airlines Boeing 777-200 forward boarding door
Whew! I don’t think that I’ve never been more happy to see a Boeing 777 in my entire life.

My first impressions of the United domestic 777-200 first class seats

Honestly, this was more of a reunion than a first impression. I know these seats well. One of the very first airline reviews I wrote here on sanspotter.com was for United 777-200 BusinessFirst from Hong Kong to Chicago (back in 2015).

The same extremely narrow – and very deep – lie flat seats you saw in that review are exactly what you’re going to see in this one. Nothing has changed (except for the food – and possibly the amount of hair remaining on my head).

United Airlines domestic 777-200 first class
There are only two classes of service on the domestic United 777-200 (first class and economy). 1990s vibes FTW!
United Airlines domestic 777-200 first class backwards facing seats
Want to know what else qualifies as FTW? These badass rear facing seats.
United 777–200 Domestic First Class row 3 window seats
I know. It’s not often that I’ll have the confidence to rip off two back-to-back FTW’s in an airline review, but how could I not when presented with first class seats arranged in a space saving back-to-back layout?
United Airlines domestic 777-200 first class rear facing seat
I do realize that this is one of the most controversial first / business class seating layouts in the entire history of the airline industry, but I stand by my multiple FTWs. At the very least, it’s unique.
United 777–200 Domestic First Class Seat 3L
It’s not like I’m trying to give you more reasons to think of me as a complete weirdo, but it’s worth noting that I chose this rear facing seat on purpose. If you ask me, it’s the people that hate these seats that are the weirdos.
United 777–200 Domestic First Class seat spacing
It’s not perfect though. My biggest complaint about first class on United’s domestic 777-200 is how dense of a configuration it is. All I’m going to say is that you better hope that you don’t get stuck next to a mouth breather (or someone with broad – and hairy – shoulders).
United 777–200 Domestic First Class seat controls
Then again, with full access to their seat controls, it shouldn’t be all that difficult to position him or her as far away from you as possible.
United 777–200 Domestic First Class entertainment system remote control
Study this picture of the entertainment system remote control well. Not even Shaquille O’Neal could reach the video screen from a seated position, so you’re gonna have to use this thing if you plan on watching any TV shows or movies during the flight.
United 777–200 Domestic First Class seat headphone audio jack
Directly above the remote is the audio port for the headphones…
United 777–200 Domestic First Class foot rest
…but it’s of little use when the noise canceling headphones are sitting way over yonder on the (basically unreachable) foot rest. I’ll show you what those things are like after getting up to use the lavatory or something.
United 777–200 Domestic First Class window seat access to aisle
Speaking of getting up, window seat passengers won’t have much of an issue getting out to the aisle without completely annoying the person sitting next to them. It’ll be a little annoying as you straddle over their legs, but it won’t be awkward if you can manage to avoid eye contact.

It’s worth noting that United sometimes uses aircraft with the internationally configured Polaris business class seats on domestic routes as well. You can read my United 777-200 Polaris business class review to see what that’s like – but just know that you’re most likely to get the seat you see in these pictures for domestic routes.

The departure out of a Washington Dulles

Would it surprise you to learn that we were delayed 25 minutes pushing off the gate? Considering the age of this aircraft, it shouldn’t.

Essentially what happened was that there was “a warning light issue” that wouldn’t be able to be resolved quickly. The best fix for whatever it was was to file a new flight plan which limited cruising altitude to 28,000 feet (and thus required taking on extra fuel). All of that takes 25 minutes apparently.

United 777–200 pushing off the gate Washington Dulles airport
Finally pushing off the gate after a 25 minute delay. I shudder to think how close the United Operations Center was to bringing in a CRJ-200 to swap with this 777. You know there was at least one person kicking around the idea!
United 777–200 taxi to runway Washington Dulles airport
Delayed or not, it’s hard to feel miffed when you’re flying from IAD to SAN on a Boeing 777. The significance of this situation is not lost on me.
United 777–200 taxi to runway IAD
Besides, there are advantages to being delayed (and thus being one of the last aircraft of the morning bank to depart). There’s basically no traffic to contend with on the way out to the runway.
United 777–200 takeoff from Washington Dulles airport
It’s too bad there was no one around to see how awesome this departure was. The 777-200 can get a little rowdy with a light load!
United 777–200 climbing above the clouds
Well that was fun. I know we just took off (and there’s still time to turn around), but it feels pretty good to know that I have successfully avoided another dreaded CRJ.

In-flight entertainment

Unlike some of my other recent United lie-flat (fancy pants) seat reviews, the in-flight entertainment product on these domestic 777-200s isn’t quite as good. Sure, it’s quite good by domestic first class standards – but it’s extremely dated when you compare it to their latest international business class offering. You can read my United 767-300ER Polaris business class review to make the comparison for yourself.

United 777–200 Domestic First Class entertainment system language selection screen
The first step in using the video entertainment system is to choose a language. FWIW, this is an impressive amount of choices for an aircraft that hardly ever leaves the US.
United 777–200 Domestic First Class entertainment system screens
Come on now…you can’t really expect it to be the exact same modern UI you saw in my United 777-300ER Polaris business class review. You can certainly want to see it, but you won’t.
United 777–200 Domestic First Class video entertainment content
Outdated (and hard to reach) or not, it still contains a highly impressive catalog of content.
United 777–200 Domestic First Class video entertainment content Family Guy
Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I have very discerning tastes when it comes to video entertainment. I was indeed impressed.
United 777–200 Domestic First Class noise canceling headphones
Lightweight and highly adjustable, these high-quality noise canceling headphones provide deep(ish) bass, mellow(ish) treble and crystal-clear(ish) vocals. Even the intricacies of Family Guy were not enough to push these bad boys to the limits.
SANspotter in United 777–200 Domestic First Class
Basically what I’m trying to say is that these headphones will elevate any Family Guy experience (as if it could be elevated any higher).
United 777–200 Domestic First Class remote control for a video screen
I told you this remote was going to come in handy! I sure as heck ain’t leanin’ forward to try and reach that screen again.

The food

Although this is easily the best domestic first class seat in the entire United Airlines fleet, the food is exactly what you would get on any other aircraft. Choosing the 777-200 in hopes of getting better food would be foolish. You’ll certainly be more comfortable while you’re eating, but it’ll still be the same slop they’re serving everywhere else.

United 777–200 Domestic First Class drink
Knowing what I know about United Airlines first class breakfast (and how dry / salty it usually is), I’ve come to learn that having a tall glass of water nearby is the only way I’m going to be able to wash it all down. Bring it!
United Airlines domestic first class breakfast frittata
The breakfast choices on today’s flight were this frittata or a Belgian waffle. What is it with United and waffles?
United Airlines domestic first class breakfast tray
I’m not cultured enough to know what a frittata is exactly, but I’ve experienced enough first class breakfasts in my time to be able to bet anyone $100 (with unwavering confidence) that this is going to taste exactly like their tried-and-true omelette.
United Airlines domestic first class breakfast frittata and sausage
Upon closer inspection, this looks more like ‘quiche’ than ‘omelette’. What the hell is the difference between ‘quiche’ and ‘frittata’ anyway? Please feel free to help a brother out in the comment section below. Thank you.
United Airlines domestic first class breakfast fruit bowl
I sure as heck know a bowl of fruit when I see it though. All this citric acid is going to be the helping hand that my stomach needs as it attempts to break down that super-dense quiche / omelette / frittata thingy.
United Airlines domestic first class breakfast croissant
Poor little croissant. He tried his best to stay fluffy (and flaky) for me, but the low humidity inside this 777 reduced it to a pile of sawdust within minutes.
SANspotter eating breakfast in united 777-200 domestic first class
Criticisms aside, it was a pretty good breakfast. Considering that I was eating it 6 miles up in the air flying at over 500mph (while facing backwards), you could even say it was spectacular.

Seat comfort

Is it even possible to say something bad about a fully lie flat seat (especially on a domestic route)? Lie flat or not, I like these seats because of how deep they are. It feels like sitting in a squishy La-Z-Boy recliner (much like how the old British Airways 747-400 Club World experience was like) – and it’s nothing short of glorious. What’s not to like about a seat that cradles your buttocks as delicately as a fluffy cloud would?

United 777–200 Domestic First Class forward and rear facing seats
As an international business class product, this sucks balls. Oddly enough, I find it to be an extremely good domestic first class product. The only thing better is the A321neo JetBlue Mint Suites.
SANspotter sleeping in United 777–200 Domestic First Class
It’s even more comfortable than Delta domestic 767-300 first class. Both feature old lie-flat international business class seats, but I give United the edge for having a squishier seat that you sit in (rather than on).
United 777–200 Domestic First Class blanket
I’m convinced that both airlines get their blankets from the same dilapidated paper factory though. This is more of a tissue than a blanket!

A few words about the lavatories

There are a total of 8 lavatories on the domestically-configured United 777-200 (4 in first class and 4 in economy). Pro tip: use the ones in economy class. They’re much larger, and thus so much less annoying.

United 777–200 economy class seats
Yikes. I couldn’t help but to take a picture of the of the very empty economy cabin on my way back to the lavatory. How come stuff like this never happens when I fly economy class??
United 777–200 Domestic First Class lavatory
The first class lavatory did not impress. And I’m not just saying that because the toilet paper was essentially 300 grit sandpaper.
United 777–200 Domestic economy class lavatory
How is it that the economy class lavatory is so much roomier? If seeing all those empty seats a few minutes ago wasn’t enough to make me jealous of not flying economy today, this spacious loo pretty much sealed the deal.

The descent and arrival into San Diego

It’s not very often that I get the opportunity to fly into the San Diego Airport on a large aircraft. Doing it in Japan Airlines 787-8 business class was fun. Edelweiss A340-300 economy was pretty wild as well (and not only because the seats were wildly uncomfortable).

United 777–200 Domestic First Class pre-landing snack
Wait! There are snacks to be consumed before beginning the descent (thank God it wasn’t a Stroopwaffel).
Flying over east county San Diego county on a United Boeing 777-200
Not that a Stroopwaffel could’ve ruined this view or anything, but it sure as heck would’ve lessened my enjoyment of it.

Our 25 minute delay out of IAD (combined with the fact that we never climbed above 28,000 feet) resulted in a 43 minute late arrival into SAN. And you know what? I was cool with that. I will gladly accept any consequences that are the result of flying on a United 777-200 into San Diego.

United 777–200 flying over Balboa Park San Diego
“Oh look, the retaliation for Alaska Airlines flight number 777 (SAN-IAD) is a little late today!” (What I assumed everyone down there was thinking when they looked up and saw us flying overhead).
United 777–200 flying over Little Italy San Diego
Residents of Little Italy were probably spewing expletives such as “God dammit!” instead. You’d be doing the same if a Boeing 777 buzzed your rooftop condo at over 300mph while you were on a conference call.
United 777–200 winding of the San Diego airport
“Ladies and gentlemen, we’d like to be the first welcome you to San Diego, where the the local time is 10:55 AM. Oh, and f**k Alaska Airlines (and their lame-*** 737s).”
United 777–200 taxi in to the gate at the San Diego airport
Sorry – there wasn’t much to see on the way to the gate due to how much runway we used up on the landing. Wouldn’t have better to land short (near the Alaska gates)? It’s not so easy to give them the middle finger from way over here!
United 777–200 pulling up to the gate at the San Diego airport
Speaking of good questions, where do you suppose they’re gonna park this sexy beast?
United 777–200 Domestic First Class end of flight deplaning San Diego airport
The answer (which I wasn’t expecting) is gate 51. I’m surprised the United doesn’t have any gates here at SAN that can handle an aircraft of this size!
Enclosed part of Gate 51 jet bridge San Diego airport
Waaiiiit for it…
Glass part of Gate 51 jet bridge San Diego airport
Boom! Welcome inside the most proper jet bridge at the San Diego Airport.
United 777–200 parked at gate 51 San Diego airport
…which is only fitting considering that this is the only proper aircraft here at the moment as well. What a ride!

Pros and cons of the domestic United 777-200 first class experience

15 years ago, I never would’ve imagined admitting to liking the super-dense seating configuration of the UA 777-200. I guess this means that things change, time heals all wounds, etc. Basically, however I want to justify it, it’s not hard for me to say (proudly) that I can’t wait to experience these seats again on a transcontinental flight across the US soon.


  • At the time of this writing, these are easily the softest and squishiest domestic US first class seats in existence.
  • Comfort in the fully lie flat position is excellent. I consider them to be more comfortable to sleep on than many modern international business class seats.
  • Window seat passengers won’t have much of an issue getting access to the aisle. It does require stepping over your seatmate’s legs if they are sleeping, but it’s a fairly low hurdle.


  • The 2-4-2 seating configuration is obnoxiously dense. There are premium economy cabins with less density than that these days for crying out loud.
  • The seats are a bit difficult to get in and out of (due how far down you sink into them).
  • Half of the seats face backwards. I personally have no problem with this, but there are a lot of people that find them to be disorientating.

Comments (12)

  1. Luca

    September 18, 2023
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      September 18, 2023
  2. JNSD

    September 18, 2023
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      September 18, 2023
  3. Peter

    September 23, 2023
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      September 23, 2023
  4. William

    September 23, 2023
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      September 24, 2023
  5. Beth

    October 6, 2023
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      October 6, 2023
      • Beth

        October 6, 2023
        • Scott (SANspotter)

          October 8, 2023

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