Join me on the first leg of my mammoth summer trip around the world, this flight aboard United’s Boeing 737-900ER from Washington Dulles (IAD)-Los Angeles (LAX) in economy.
I arrived at Dulles a solid 2 hours before my scheduled departure, which was at 12:30 PM, largely because I wanted to grab a bite to eat before the transcontinental flight. Dulles has one main check-in terminal used for all airlines; United’s area is at the very end and there were tons of kiosks available to check-in. Midday being an off-peak time at Dulles, I was able to immediately find a kiosk, check-in to my flight for LAX, and head down to security, which I managed to breeze through in around 10 minutes!
Check-In Kiosks at IAD
After eating a great burger at American Tap Room, while looking out at EK232 headed for Dubai, it was time to head to gate C24 to board. My flight was operated by a United Boeing 737-900ER and I managed to get a couple of decent shots through Dulles’ tiny terminal windows. Boarding started around 10 minutes early, which was a welcome surprise, and unlike many airlines (including so called 5* Lufthansa), United’s boarding process is very efficient. They do pre-boarding the way it should be, allowing for real priority passengers to board first (1k/First Class), before allowing Star Alliance Gold to board. I was in boarding group 3, being on a standard economy ticket, and after a few minutes I could board.
The 737-900ER that would take me to LAX
Once aboard I took my seat in 25F, a window seat over the wing, and admired my limited legroom. Now this is where I have a problem with United transcontinental. They operate these narrow-body aircraft on dense trans-con routes, like IAD/LAX, and this can create an unpleasant flying experience, especially because the flight time is around 5 hours. United’s 737’s are arranged in a 3-3 configuration with 17.3 inches of width and 31 inches of pitch in economy; being 6’1’’, this meant it was going to be a very tight squeeze.
As you can see, very tight fit...
Something I found really weird was that after boarding ended, and everyone was on the plane, the flight attendant were advertising the remaining 2-3 empty economy plus seats, and were allowing people to purchase an upgrade WHEN BOARDING HAD ENDED AND THE DOORS WERE CLOSED!! I’m not sure if this is normal on UA, but I have never seen it before and I found it near amusing.
We took off 5 minutes early from runway 30 at IAD, and began our journey to LAX. United didn’t have seatback entertainment on this flight (which I was sad about because I was hoping for their IFE with life TV, so I could watch the U.S. play France in the Women’s World Cup) but they do offer a small selection of movies and TV shows for free via the United app. Hence, everyone who isn’t a frequent UA traveler was in a mad rush to download and update the app before takeoff, luckily for me I had just flown UA from ORD a month earlier. Although I didn’t indulge, Wi-Fi is also available for purchase onboard (1 hour: $10.99, 2 hours $14.99 and for the full flight it was $20.99).
About an hour or so into the flight the crew came around offering snacks for purchase as well as complimentary beverages and pretzels. The crew on this flight were pretty good, especially considering it is an American carrier. I typically find United crew’s to be way better on inter-American flights, as the crew tends to be younger and more engaged, but when travelling to Europe or Asia UA uses their more senior, and frankly lazy crew.
I sat back and watched my downloaded episodes of Designated Survivor while looking out of the window over beautiful rural America, until we landed at LAX a couple minutes ahead of schedule.
United is my most flown airline of all time, so when I need to fly transcon in the US, I will always pick United, not because it is good, but out of sheer loyalty; because in reality this product is really not that good at all, other than the fact that United gets you to your destination, usually, on time.
Narrow. Little to no pitch. Hard. No seat-back IFE.
I didn't use or even look at how many choices they offer on the app, so I won't grade this category.
Food was available for purchase, I didn't buy any. BUT, on a 5 hour flight, not serving any real food (only served a tiny bag pretzels), and having 2 beverage services is a joke.
Actually was pretty good on this flight.