Background Part 1 Hey there fellow #avgeeks. So finally, after so many years of reading trip reports, I have finally decided to make one. As this is my first one, while I hope their are very few inconsistencies, if there are any, it would be very helpful if you could report them in the comment section below.
Background Part 2 Our journey actually starts in April, after hearing the joyous news of my cousin getting married, my family and I started to search for tickets from the DC area (IAD, BWI, DCA) to Los Angeles. Originally, the plan was to fly from BWI-CLT and then from CLT-LAX on American Airlines. Thanks to my father's Citi Bank card, they would reward him 30% of the miles he flew, back. But after a bit more searching, we decided that getting up to catch a 5 AM flight from BWI, plus a 2 hour layover in CLT was not really the way to go. Finally, out of nowhere, we found a United deal that would allow us to fly direct from IAD to LAX. Seeing as it was the cheapest and most flexible option, we went ahead and booked it. Plus, we were all Premier Silver members so the prospect of an upgrade was pretty tantalizing.
I decided to do a report for this trip because, after looking around on the web, there are actually not a lot of reports for this type of route. If, I did my research right, this would be one of the first United 737-900 transcon, eco-plus coast reports…so why not!
Check In Due to United's 24 hour check-in rule, of course, I was sitting by the computer waiting till 10:15:01 in order to snag the best seats. The United website was actually really easy to choose seats and print the boarding passes.
When I was choosing the seats, I had booked my family in row 28, seats DEF, and then one person in row 27, seat D. I was pretty happy to sit in economy because it was right behind the wing. But…SURPRISE, turns out United would actually let me upgrade to Economy Plus for free! After looking at seat guru, I went ahead and chose seat 7F. Although it was next to the bathrooms, the legroom would be enormous (more on that below).
After the quick online check-in process, I was able to have a copy of it on my phone:
Finally, after waiting for two months the day arrived! We live about 45 minutes for Dulles so my father decided to leave at around 7:15, unfortunately, this didn't leave much time for spotting. However, it was going to be pretty dark by time I actually got to the gate, so I wasn't that miffed.
Thanks to very little traffic, we were able to bullet down I-495 right on to the Dulles access road. After following the signs for the economy parking lot, we pulled in at around 8:00. Fortunately, as we were pulling our bags out the trunk a shuttle was coming down the road. I apologize for the quality of my pictures, I had to take them with the Samsung S5 due to my lack of a nice DSLR camera. ALSO, as you may see down below, some of the pictures have been rotated. I was not able to fix this, so, if anyone has any tips, they would be much appreciated.
Dulles Airport Our Premier Silver status allowed us to drop our bags off at the "Premier Check-In" area. This turned out to be very helpful because, although it was at the far end of the main Dulles Terminal, we happened to be the only ones using it. A very kind gate agent helped us use the kiosk and attach the tags around our luggage. The gate agent also let us use the TSA Pre line. I'm not sure if it was because we counted as "premier passengers," or my father's TSA Pre status grandfathered the rest of us into it as well. Although, I'm pretty sure it was the latter, either way, it was an appreciated gesture by United. Security lines at Dulles are notorious for being long and slow, so being able to beat the crowd was pretty neat.
A quick shot of the iconic mobile "Star Wars" lounges.
After the very easy security check we headed down to the Dulles Aerotrain station.
Going to the C Gates:
Colorful tunnel linking the C/D terminal to the Aerotrain station:
I was very excited to get my first taste of the United Terminal. However, after traveling up the numerous escalators, I was shocked! You see, most of my flights from Dulles have been out of the A/B terminal, so I was expecting some spacious and wide areas with loads of natural light. What we got instead was drab, boring, and really showing it's age. Turns out, the United Terminal was really only meant to be a temporary terminal. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) had created a plan to redo the concourse, I guess they just forgot about it.
The United C/D Terminal (Picture from Wikipedia).
Picture of the FIDS:
We arrived at gate C23 around one hour before boarding. The gate area was pretty empty, a few people and one gate agent. Since it was getting a bit late and I had not eaten dinner, I decided to head on over to &Pizza and wolf down one of their specialty "Maverick" pizzas. Spoiler alert… it was a hella good.
Getting dinner also gave me a chance to do a little bit of spotting. Due to the darkness outside and the awful windows of the terminal, I was not able to get the registrations, but it was still pretty fun.
Air France 777-200 and Etihad 787-9
United 737 (Technically, not a photo of the plane, but it still looked really good).
UA 299, IAD-LAX Today we will be traveling on N64809, a Boeing 737-900er that was delivered to United in November 2013.
Here it is at gate C23:
To be honest with you, I was very scared for the boarding process, from my usual experiences, they are often crowded and very chaotic. But, this was a different story. United actually does a very good job with it. The gate agent announces boarding, people line up in their respective groups, and off they go into the airplane…very simple, they way it should be! However, I guess there weren't that many people to work with though.
Seat 7F in United Economy plus is actually an awesome seat.
What really surprised me though, was the leg room. It was enormous! Seriously, I think I might have had more legroom than the passengers sitting in First Class.
A few of the seatpocket items:
Looking outside the window…Why doesn't the 737 use the ULD's like other shorthaul planes?
Taxi and Take-off
After a short amount of waiting, we were actually able to leave the gate about 5 minutes early. The taxi to Runway 30 was interesting, seeing a lot of international carriers and even raced a private jet (not sure which one) to the runway.
Etihad 787-9 operating as EY 130 to Abu Dhabi:
British Airways 777-200 operating as BA 292 to Heathrow:
United, just like all American carriers, really need to brush up their food and drinks service. For a five hour flight, we only got a small packet of pretzels. This was even after United was making a big deal for giving "free snacks to all passengers." Really? This is how United wants us to come back? When you say free snacks, most passengers would probably want something substantial, not a tiny packet of "Zesty Ranch Snack Mix." Come on guys, be like British Airways and at least give us a sandwich.
During the flight, I was very comfortable with my legroom, the only thing that was bothering me was the extremely bright blue light emanating from the bathroom. So, I decided to check it out.
The restrooms were not all that clean. There were a few bits of toilet paper in the bowl as well as a lot of water on the floor. They were also very tiny too, all my pictures had to be in portrait mode because there was no space to take a landscape picture.
Generic "Hand soap"
Loving that new Sky Interior light!
Descent into LAX
The descent was actually very smooth. However, just before landing, the pilot did warn us that it was very foggy over the LA area. Although it did lead to a few delays on the ground, our arrival time wouldn't be affected.
A foggy approach
We had a smooth touchdown on Runway 25L at LAX. Due to the heavy traffic though, we had to wait a bit on the ramp…more chances for spotting :)
Luckily, the fog did clear up a bit. For all those people with wingtip fetishes, I managed to get a shot of the split scimitar winglets. I don't know, most people find them to be really cool, I just find them plain ugly. Although they do help decrease fuel costs, from a simple viewing perspective, I much prefer the standard winglet.
We were able to pull into gate 75 only 9 minutes ahead of schedule. When we arrived, the jetways would not connect, so we had to wait a bit for maintenance to come and fix it.
So…that's it. Thank you very much for reading my report. If you have any comments, please write them down below.
Washington - IAD
Los Angeles - LAX
Overall, United's Eco-Plus product was decent. Granted, I would hate to spend 5 hours with their economy product. But, for someone who has been travelling mainly of European carriers, I had some pretty high expectations. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised. Apart from the lack of food and entertainment, the quality of the new Sky Interior cabin was impressive. Dulles Airport, while easy enough to navigate through, was a real pain. It takes almost 45 minutes just to get from Check-In to the Gate- and that includes an empty check-in area and an empty TSA Pre. Actually, I much prefer travelling through DCA, few lines and everything is in one building. LAX Terminal 7 on the other hand, is a complete mess. Don't get me wrong, the signs and directions were there, but it's such an ugly building. The bathrooms were disgusting, almost reminding me of my days in elementary school and most of the restaurants were closed. Hopefully, United can get their renovations done soon.
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