What is traveling across the country on a 737-900 like in United’s domestic first class on one of its longest transcontinental fights?
My TAP Air Portugal ticket only got me as far as Boston. From Boston, I booked a one-way ticket from Boston to Los Angeles for about $150. As the flight nearly seven hours, I thought about applying PlusPoints just to be safe, but three days out the flight was less than half full in first class. So I gambled…and the gamble paid off, with my upgrade clearing 24 hours before departure.
Check-In + Pre-Boarding
I love the United staff in Boston: charming to a fault, with that thick accent. And they care about customers too. As it turned out, the flight was so lightly filled in economy class (and this was before the coronavirus scare) the captain instructed the gate agent to move passengers out of EconomyPlus and to the back of the plane for weight and balance reasons. I overheard the conversation in the gate area.
You can imagine the difficult position this put the gate agent in. EconomyPlus was full of Premier Silver and Gold members plus anyone who paid extra for this extra legroom. Rather than just comply, he explained his concerns to the captain and asked if it would be possible if the passengers moved back to EconomyPlus after takeoff.
So one by one he called up everyone seated in rows 7 through 21 (the emergency exit row…and there is no row 13,14, or 16-19 on the 737-900). He tried to get as many their own rows or empty middle seats as possible…it was a very customer-friendly gesture.
Perhaps 121pilot can explain why passengers could not have spread out after takeoff.
The seat shuffle delayed boarding a bit, but we finally began boarding about 25 minutes before scheduled departure, which was easily enough time to board and depart on time, considering how empty the flight was.
United Airlines 717
Boston (BOS) – Los Angeles (LAX)
Monday, January 13
Depart: 06:02 PM
Arrive: 09:54 PM
Duration: 6hr, 52min
Aircraft: Boeing 737-900
Seat: 5D (“Polaris” Business Class)
An all-male crew was onboard, with one offering greetings at the door.
United Airlines 737-900 First Class Seating
United’s 737-900 has 20 first class seats; five rows in a 2-2 configuration. These are standard “domestic first” recliners with 38″ inches of legroom and a recline.
Here’s a tip: avoid the last row on this aircraft in first class. I prefer the last row because I like to have a view of the entire cabin. I paid he price for that, however, because my seat did not recline. On a six-hour flight departing in the evening, that was less than ideal. I still ended up sleeping for most of the flight.
As boarding neared completion, the flight crew turned on the mood lighting, which gave the cabin a new blue effect.
United offers no pillows and only a thin blanket on this flight…it’s really unacceptable for a flight of this length on a business route.
Power ports are available in the console between seats.
United Airlines 737-900 IFE + Wi-Fi
United offers seatback monitors on some 737-900s and this was one of them. DirecTV and a selection five looping videos was offered. I watch The Goldfinch…an excellent movie. Do bring your own earphones as the complimentary earphones United uses are simply not great in terms of sound quality.
United also offers streaming IFE on your mobile device or tablet. Be sure to download the latest version of the United app prior to takeoff. If you do not have the latest version of the app downloaded, my experience is the IFE doesn’t work.
Internet was also available onboard and cost $14.99 for one hour or $25.99 for a flight pass with no data cap. Since it was late and I was tired, I did not connect.
United Airlines 737-900 First Class Meal Service
Dinner was served promptly after takeoff, something I greatly appreciated after the aggravatingly prolonged meal service on my last Newark to Los Angeles flight, a flight of similar length.
Tonight’s choices were cheese paneer or chicken with grits. I’ve ordered the cheese paneer before and loved it, but I ordered the chicken simply because I am trying to review every United dish in the rotation and haven’t tasted this one yet).
Before dinner, hot towels were offered along with a choice of drink and warmed mixed nuts.
The entire meal was served on one plate. On the one hand, that’s pretty sad for a six hour transcontinental flight. On the other hand, I just hate dragged out meal services, especially when I am hungry (and I was hungry). I guess I’d prefer the salad and bread be served first, followed by the main course (and no tray), but it was just fine.
The chicken had those fake grill marks that I just roll my eyes at…it was “banquet” chicken and the paneer was the far better choice. However, I did like the spiced marinara sauce, fairly al dente green beans, and creamy grits.
Vanilla gelato with chocolate sauce and whipped cream was offered for dessert.
About two hours before landing, a hot chocolate chip cookies was offered…and enjoyed with a glass of milk.
United Airlines 737-900 First Class Service
The gents working first class were nice and even attentive after the meal service. I actually slept for most of the flight, but we hit some rough air in certain places that woke me up and I noticed one of the flight attendants was refilling beverages. He also noticed when I woke up from the nap and offered me a cookie, which he had kept warm in the oven.
Passengers were not addressed by name…a small pet peeve that is so easy to do and just shows an extra layer of care.
I did appreciate that they offered each passenger a choice of beverage (not just water or orange juice) prior to takeoff.
We landed in Los Angeles about 20 minutes late and I arrived feeling fairly well-rested despite the lack of a lie-flat seat. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated the complimentary premier upgrade and the dinner was fine, but I just cannot see spending big money on this sort of seat on a flight this long. United does run (usually, but not always) one flight a day between Los Angeles and Boston with lie-flat beds. The service is the same (unlike San Francisco, which is a premium transcontinental service route), but at least you can stretch out a bit more. United could make a huge difference by simply adding pillows and nicer blankets.