You get two United Airlines reviews for the price of one here: both a retrofitted “United Next” A320 with a brand new interior and an older one, both on the same route and on the same day in the same economy class of service (yes, I ran into the mechanical issue). Let’s jump into the review.
United Airlines A320 Economy Class Review
I booked a last-minute segment run to Los Cabos to hit Premier 1K status which included a LAX-SJD flight for $149. Not bad considering I booked it less than 24 hours before travel…In fact, a basic economy ticket on the same flight was only $111. That’s what happens when Alaska, American, Delta, JetBlue, and United all fly the same route at the same time…
When I booked this flight, the premium cabin was sold out and all EconomyPlus seats (extra legroom seats) were taken…but there were a lot of empty rows in “deep coach” beyond row 21. I assigned myself row 22. It’s odd to have an elite-heavy flight to a leisure destination, but it seems (and also based upon boarding) that there were more elites that non-elites on this flight.
Even though I was not booked into business class, I was able to access the United Club prior to my flight because 1.) of my Star Gold status with United MileagePlus and 2.) because I was flying to an international destination.
Boarding commenced about 30 minutes before scheduled departure.
My upgrade did not clear (I ended up at #3 on the upgrade list), but I had a whole row to myself in economy class, which was more than bearable for the 2.5 hour flight to SJD.
Los Angeles (LAX) – Los Cabos (SJD)
Depart: 8:15 AM [10:52 AM actual]
Arrive: 11:52 AM [1:55 PM actual]
Duration: 2hr, 37min
Aircraft: Airbus A320
Distance: 911 miles
Seats: 22D (Economy Class)
Onboard, I was warmly greeted by the purser named Douglas, who I’ve flown with several times before, most recently from Denver to Los Angeles.
United Airlines A320 Economy Class – Retrofit “United Next” Interior
The retrofitted A320 includes mood lighting, screens behind each seat, power ports throughout the aircraft (instead of just in first class and EconomyPlus), and new overhead bins capable of accommodating a large carry-on bag for every passenger onboard. Eventually, United plans to retrofit all of its existing narrowbody aircraft to add these features.
My row did remain open and the rear of the aircraft had many opens seats. Sitting down, I found the 30 inches of legroom sufficient considering I could stretch into the open middle seat. The seat reclined three inches and was 17 inches wide.
I appreciated how the screen listed key flight details and the IFE library was comprehensives (same as for a longhaul flight) with movies, games, TV shows, and music.
Long story short, the exit lights would not work and the aircraft was removed from service due to this mechanical issue and the estimated amount of time it would take to repair it.
Around 8:15 am everyone was ushered off the aircraft and back into the gate area. Snacks were provided and we were told another A320 would be located to take us to Mexico.
That aircraft was finally located and at about 10:20 am we boarded our new aircraft. This time, it was an A320 that had not yet been retrofitted.
United Airlines A320 Economy Class – Old Interior
I was among the last to board and my pictures are more limited, but the difference was rather stark compared to the first aircraft. The overhead bins were smaller, regular economy seats did not have power ports (only Economy Plus seats and business class seats), and there were no screens of any kind behind each seat (streaming entertainment on your own device was available).
We took off and thankfully Wi-Fi internet worked well. We were warned that it would stop working once we flew over the ocean, but it worked without issue the entire flight.
The seats are largely the same as the new aircraft, minus the screens, though one difference is that instead of a bi-fold tray table the tray table folds out in one piece.
Meals were served in first class, but only snacks were offered for purchase in economy class. Everyone was offered a choice of dark chocolate + sea salt chocolate quinoa crisps by Undercover Snacks or a savory snack mix by Summer Harvest along with a choice of non-alcoholic beverage. I love the quinoa crisps.
Snack boxes, other snacks, and alcoholic beverages were available for purchase. As a 1K, I was entitled to one snack and one alcoholic drink, but I skipped the drink and only had a bag of low-calorie gummies from Snack Owl (very good alternative to sugary gummy bears…).
The lavatory still had the classic pre-merger United wallpaper, which always brings back happy memories…
Arrivals forms were distributed prior to landing.
As we landed, we flew over what looked to be a prison in the middle of nowhere…and the mountain range was quite picturesque. It was my first time visiting the southern tip of Baja California.
We landed and I deplaned as quickly as possible…the immigration lines are very lengthy and took about 30 minutes to clear. I was then on my way to my hotel via Uber, which now seems to work at the airport (my understanding is that this is a recent change).
It was a long day just to fly two hours to Los Cabos, but at least I did not have to wait to check into my hotel room…
The difference between the “old” and “new” United A320 is quite substantial. While it is impossible to gauge which one you will get until a day or two before travel, the new aircraft provides a materially better onboard experience…as long as the emergency exit sign lights up…