On the Ground: I arrived at Cointrin International Airport, delivered by Geneva’s unfailingly punctual bus system, in plenty of time for my noon flight. Cointrin is petite, and lines are typically quite short, even on weekends. From check-in, I proceeded through security to the Swiss business lounge, which United shares as a Star Alliance member. I checked my email on the computer terminals (gratis), snacked on cheese and croissants from the hot and cold buffet, and read the paper in the calm of that sanctuary. But I nearly missed it entirely — the lounge isn’t well marked, and it’s easy to pass through customs before you realize your mistake. (29/30)
Pre-flight: I was booked in business class for the roughly nine-hour direct flight, and I was looking forward to the ride. In addition to launching the daily, non-stop service between Geneva and Dulles, United had given the Boeing 767 aircraft flying the route a multimillion-dollar makeover. The best part: true flat beds in all 26 business-class seats and six first-class seats (ahhhh …). And though United cannot guarantee this, you may well find yourself, as I did, seated next to an employee of the Geneva-based Nestlé Corporation with 20 kilograms of milk chocolate in his carry-on luggage. Needless to say, we made fast friends. (30/30)
In-flight: The superb service that began on the ground — my jacket removed, my Champagne in hand, all within seconds of boarding — continued into the sky. When it was discovered, for example, that my seat would recline a mere 150 degrees rather than the 180 advertised, an exceedingly friendly flight attendant named Paul insisted that I move to the only first-class seat still available. And, purely in the name of research, I did. With the press of a button, full flatness was mine, along with the unrivaled comfort of the United First Suite, a kind of living-room-in-the-sky: Backcycler Motion system for lumbar support, power outlets, WiFi and high walls for privacy. Fruits and cheese were offered up with a long list of wines and steaming Starbucks coffee, and the five-course meal — I opted for the tenderloin, which was moist and cooked to perfection — was served on china with silverware and cloth napkins. (39/40)
The Experience: From the food to the service to the entertainment system, United seems to have turned a corner. Arriving in Washington, I wished I could stay aboard. Nine hours flew by, probably because I did more work and slept as well as I ever have in the air. You can’t ask for much more than that in a trans-Atlantic flight.
Total Score: 98/100
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