United First Class Dessert

Is Flying First Class on United Worth it?

If you’re flying a domestic flight across the United States, chances are that the first class experience is going to be great, but not necessarily phenomenal. Don’t get me wrong, I’d much rather have the first class experience than not. I’ve just started getting more free upgrades with United, and am happy as a clam when that happens. However, now that I’ve gotten the experience, I can’t help but wonder if the, for some, elusive experience, really all that worth it.

This post simply describes the domestic U.S. first class experience; the international 6+ hour flights is a different ball game with those lay flat seats…

After a few first class flights, what quickly happens from the experience is the transition of pleasantly surprised –> luxury –> indulgence –> unhealthy consumption. The unhealthy consumption part is particularly true for the amount of free food and booze they try to feed you / you have access to on the flight. Alright, fine, there’s nothing wrong with free food and booze, but it’s still unhealthy if consumed in abundance and we’re still going to be looking at value since what the airlines feed you is not exactly the best of foods.

What first class domestic flight provides you—

Before the flight:

Priority Boarding: You get a special line that allows you to board 5 minutes ahead of everyone else. This also guarantees you overhead luggage space. Getting an airline credit card or having status puts you in at least priority line 2, which is essentially almost the same thing.

Free Check-in Luggage: This is a big one for those traveling on vacation with family as luggage costs have gone up  to $25 per check-in luggage. However, getting status or an airline credit card will also easily resolve this issue as you get at least 1 free checked bag. Also, learning to travel lighter without a checked bag and just a carry-on is a pretty liberating habit to have.

During the flight:

Pre-flight Drink: Since you get to sit down first and have some time before the rest of the plebeians get on, the flight attendants will come around asking you if you want a pre-flight drink. This can be anything they have such as water, orange juice, whiskey, wine, or cocktail.

Larger Seats: So this is pretty important for those that are larger in width. Otherwise, economy plus seating isn’t that bad and is comparable in the leg-room. I’m personally not tall enough to require all of that extra leg-room anyway. Definitely a perk to not have to fight for arm space with the guy next to you though.

Hot Towel:  Shortly after take-off, the flight attendant will come by with hot towels for you to wipe your face with. I actually love this, and this is a luxury that I look forward to every time to feel refreshed for the flight.

Beverage and a Bowl of Nuts: Next on the check-list is another order of your choice-beverage and a small bowl of heated salted nuts (cashews, peanuts, almonds, etc). I want to make a note that all the liquor you’ll be getting are nips of bottom shelf liquor and beer, as well as some standard wine.

United Alcoholic Beverages List (2015)

  • Tito’s Handmade Vodka®
  • Bacardi® Superior Rum
  • Canadian Club® Whisky
  • Dewar’s® “White Label®” Blended Scotch Whisky
  • Jack Daniel’s® Tennessee Whiskey
  • Jim Beam® Devil’s Cut® Bourbon Whiskey
  • Reliz Creek Pinot Noir 2011, Arroyo Seco, Monterey, California
  • Hess Select Chardonnay 2013, Monterey, California

If you wanted alcoholic beverages in economy seating, it’s $8 for spirit nips, and $16 for the half bottle of wine. If you don’t want an alcoholic beverage, it’s free for both first and economy class; the only difference is that in first class, you get your drinks immediately but have to wait a minute or two in economy.

The other work-around to the first class beverage perk is to simply buy liquor and snacks from the terminal before the flight and then be able to enjoy them whenever you want in your economy seat without paying the first-class ticket premium. Although, for some reason, if you do it this way, you might look like a degenerate to the passenger next to you.

Lunch/Dinner: One of the better perk of First Class is that it comes with lunch/dinner depending on when your flight is. The meal comes with actual dishes and silverware, which makes it feel like you’re dining somewhere as opposed to getting a quick fast-food sandwich in the slum-class seats.

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Doing Dim Sum Right — The Food

dimsum dimsum3 tea

Dim Sum is a cuisine from Southern China’s Canton region that characterizes Chinese food. Dim Sum dishes are small plates of distinct creations made to be shared like tapas. The food is served with Chinese tea and shared with companion. However, what makes “doing Dim Sum” really standout is appreciating the comprehensive experience of tea, food, and ambiance that comes along with it.

After being seated at your table and ordering tea [Doing Dim Sum Right — Tea], there will be a dizzying array of food options around you. Depending on what type of Dim Sum restaurant you are at you may or may not have the time to observe and understand your options as servers are trying to unload their cargo on your table.

Your food preferences are your own, but while there is a huge quantity of Dim Sum dishes, I have compiled below what I believe are the common Dim Sum dishes that are worth trying and/or are must-haves at every Dim Sum outing (number of hungry people allowing). Feel free to comment on any disagreements.

The Dim Sum experience is about sampling a large variety of food:  dumplings, steamed and baked pastries, rolled noodles, rice cakes, deep-fried pastry puffs, and various miscellaneous specialty items! Let’s begin!


Dumplings are often referenced to illustrate Chinese appetizers. It is therefore no surprise that some of the Dim Sum must-haves in every visit are the dumpling types described below.



虾饺, XiaJiao, Har-gow, Shrimp Dumplings This steamed dish of juicy, plump shrimp wrapped in translucent rice wrapper is often iconic of dim sum cuisine. Small shreds of minced bamboo shoots or water chestnuts are often tethered with the succulent lumps of shrimp.




烧卖, ShaoMai, SiuMai, Shumai. A combination of pork, mushroom, and shrimp wrapped in a wonton wheat wrapper and steamed to perfection, Shumai is always part of the dim sum table.


潮州粉果, ChiaoZhouFenGuo, ChiuChaoFanGuo, Chu Chow Dumplings. Steamed dumpling with pork, shrimp, peanuts, and cilantro. The savory and crisp filling gives an enjoyable contrast to the soft, tender rice wrapper around it.




韭菜饺, JiuCaiJiao, GawTsoyGow, Chive Dumplings. Often mixed with shrimp paste, steamed chive dumplings contain an explosion of refreshing aromatic flavors.

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Doing Dim Sum Right — Tea

dimsum dimsum3 tea

Dim Sum is a cuisine from Southern China’s Canton region that characterizes Chinese food. Dim Sum dishes are small plates of distinct creations made to be shared like tapas. The food is served with Chinese tea and shared with companion. However, what makes “doing Dim Sum” really standout is appreciating the comprehensive experience of tea, food, and ambiance that comes along with it.  

When it comes to doing Dim Sum right, the first thing we must talk about is tea. After all, in Cantonese, the term for “doing dim sum” is “Yum Cha”, which translates directly to “drinking tea”. Dim Sum centralizes as much around the tea as the dishes you consume. A unique part of the dim sum experience involves the type of tea you choose and the interactions around drinking tea. (However, if you would like to skip to food, see [Doing Dim Sum Right — The Food])

Upon being seated at a dim sum restaurant, the waiter will ask for the type of tea you would like. If you ask him what type of tea they have, the typical waiter will likely recite a confusing list of tea names in Chinese, or struggle to recite a confused list of tea names in English/Chinese. At this point some may arbitrarily pick one (or he may arbitrarily pick one for you). Instead of this exchange, however, it would really add to the experience by knowing what they have to offer.

Common Tea Selections

A dim sum restaurant typically stocks a variety of tea. Below is a list of typical tea offerings with their Chinese characters, Mandarin pronunciation, Cantonese pronunciation, and English name.
For the highest rate of success in a dim sum restaurant, you should order with the Cantonese pronunciation.

juhua菊花, JuHua, GookFa, Chrysanthemum. This light, refreshing herbal tea is made from brewed chrysanthemum flowers and contains no caffeine. It has a cooling effect that prevents inflammation and helps clear cholesterol from the body; this makes it great with oily dim sum food.

puer tea普洱, PuEr, BoLay, Pu-erh. Pu-erh tea is a fermented dark tea with a strong, full, rustic, earthy taste. Made from tea leaves in Yunnan Province, Pu-erh tea is processed and aged for a distinct taste (though restaurants will generally give you the cheap stuff). The medicinal effect of this tea includes the suppression of fatty acid synthesis, cholesterol, and triacylglycerol, as well as weight-loss. Pu-erh tea can help you digest better and increase blood circulation – a perfect pairing with oily Dim Sum dishes. If you are as curious about the significant difference in pronunciation as I was, click here.

菊普, JuPu, GookBo, Chrysanthemum/BoLay Blend. This popular blend softens the distinct rustic flavor of the Pu-erh tea with the refreshing, fragrant taste of chrysanthemum. It’s delicious.

shoumei寿眉, ShouMei, SauMei, Shoumei. Loosely translated to “longevity eyebrow”, Shoumei is a white tea from the upper leaf and tips grown mainly in the Fujian Province or Guanxi Province. The tea has a sweet but slightly bitter aroma of fresh tea leaves. When paired with fried or deep fried dishes, Shoumei white tea can help with releasing the unhealthy ‘heating’ effects of those dishes.

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