Domestic First-Class on United: Taking the Sunday red-eye from San Francisco to New York

Easter in California was pretty incredible – zipcar-ing up the coast, seeing the Sacramento Kings play the Los Angeles Lakers, hanging with family, perfect weather; a beautiful way to start off spring. The only problem was that I was taking the red eye back from California on a Sunday night and wasn’t sure how much sleep I would get on the flight – I needed to be alert at work on Monday.

Therefore, when United had a pleasant surprise for me – an email upgrade offer from economy to first class for 20,000 miles and $75 – I said yes . I had just received 20,000 miles from United for when they had screwed up my return flight from Istanbul and since a NYC-SFO roundtrip is close to 6,000 miles, I didn’t have a problem paying the extra mileage. Additionally, $75 didn’t seem like a lot of money to experience domestic first class, especially since I hadn’t done it before. I had only been in first class once before on my trip to Thailand one year prior and I was ready to do it again!

Back in my favorite seat – 1A!

Due to the lateness of the flight – an 11:16 pm departure – the elite security line was closed and the domestic line was overflowing. The check-in attendant recommended using the international security checkpoint and it helped immensely – I probably saved 35-45 minutes of standing around and thinking about how effective the TSA is!

I took a Tylenol PM as a sleep aid and was one of the last people to board. I had a window seat in the first row, which meant additional foot space due to the bulkhead. My seat was not a life-flat “p.s.” seat that United has for some LA-NY and SF-NY flights, but it was noticeably wider and cushier and reclined much more dramatically than an economy seat would.

Comfortable and roomy seat

I must have fallen asleep in five minutes and didn’t receive any kind of wake up for breakfast – which was fine, although for the purposes of this “halfway” trip report, it doesn’t help. Deplaning took only a minute and I was on the Airtrain and subway headed to work pretty quickly! I got 5+ hours of sleep, which was what I wanted, so no complaints about the flight at all. I was pretty excited to fly in first, but clearly Tylenol didn’t care about my feelings – that stuff works something fierce as a sleep aid!

Someday I will be awake for a transcontinental trip and will experience domestic first-class gloriously, rather than passed out sleeping. Hopefully, it won’t take another year!

As always, find me on twitter @WindowSuite or email me at Thanks for reading!

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