Hello and welcome to another series of flight reports! This series will cover a trip I took this summer to Banff and Jasper National Parks in Alberta.
Washington, DC to Seattle, WA (IAD - SEA) | Alaska | 737-900ER [REPORT HERE] Seattle, WA to Calgary, AB (SEA - YYC) | Horizon | E175 Seattle, WA to Edmonton, AB (SEA - YEG) | Horizon | Q400 [REPORT HERE] Calgary, AB to Denver, CO (YYC - DEN) | United | A320 [REPORT HERE] Denver, CO to Washington, DC (DEN - IAD) | United | 737-900ER [THIS REPORT]
My flight from Calgary arrived at gate B17, near the eastern end of Denver's concourse B. I had just over two hours until my flight back to Washington was scheduled to depart. Before finding some lunch, I went and sat near my departure gate, B28, and watched two Washington, DC-bound flights depart, a 737-900ER for Dulles, and an -800 for National.
Continental logo still visible on a cargo container.
I got an early lunch at a sports bar right next to gate B28. I had a view of N77431 arriving at gate B28 to turn as UA712.
United's hectic boarding process began about 35 minutes prior to scheduled departure time. Since I had already gate checked my larger carry-on bag in Calgary that morning, I remained seated until nearly the end of the boarding process.
Unfortunately for me, I was seated in a window seat in the second to last row of the 737-900ER. I could tell from the aisle as soon as I reached row 38 that the legroom was tighter than any row further up the cabin. For me, that meant my knees were pressed into the seat back from the get go, and there was nothing I could do about it.
Also of note was the much reduced shoulder space compared to the A320 on which I had flown into Denver. I'm not sure where the 737 cabin starts to taper towards the tail, but if I had to guess, it would be right around row 38. Either way, I could tell this was going to be a pretty miserable flight for me comfort wise. At least there would be some streaming entertainment similar to my first flight that day, right?
This ex-Continental 737 still had the original cabin, including in-seat screens. But, the only content available on them was live TV via Direct TV, which cost $8 dollars to access. That's a terrible seat-back offering in 2017 – especially when there's loads of complementary streaming content available.
Our neighbor this morning was a 787-8, in from Houston, prepping for the long-haul flight to Tokyo.
Taxi / Takeoff
Starting our taxi over to runway 34L for takeoff. One of United's domestic 777s had pulled into gate B36 just prior to our push back.
An impressive lineup of United narrow bodies.
Pulling onto runway 34L for what I suspected would be a very, very long takeoff roll for our fully-loaded 737.
Starting our roll with Denver's iconic main terminal building in the background – one thing that stuck out to me was how loud the cabin of this 737 was during takeoff.
Airborne! From what I can tell via Google maps, I'd put the takeoff roll just shy of 10,000 feet – good thing runway 34L is the longest in North America.
Fairly shallow initial climb out followed by a climbing turn to the east.
Sitting on the right-side of the cabin I had a good view of the airport from above.
Climbing out of the Denver area.
Once reaching 10,000 feet, I connected to the WiFI network to try out the streaming entertainment.
…wait a second, where's the "Entertainment" section?
Ah. Well, that's not good. And of course, I had forgotten to download anything to watch locally from my phone before this flight. Great.
At least the view out the window was decent.
Despite the horribly uncomfortable seat, I managed to sleep for about a half hour – traveling while exhausted does have a few benefits.
I woke up to a slightly different view out the window, in color at least.
Passing over Springfield, Missouri.
I then broke out the United Magazine. On the page raving about how great United's onboard internet is, I saw this lovely footnote.
So, going by that footnote, on United's massive fleet of 737s, streaming entertainment is unavailable to Android users, unless they have a device running 2.5-year-old software. Wow.
United's website confirms the same thing. Streaming entertainment on the 737 fleet on Android only works with KitKat and Lollipop devices (at the time of this flight, my phone was on Android 7.1.1 Nougat). That's awful support. Also, it notes that support for newer versions of Android is planned for "Early 2017." I'm pretty sure that July is later than that – maybe United's calendar is different than mine.
There's also some other head scratchers in there. How are the only browsers with support on Windows/MacOS Internet Explorer/Safari and Firefox? And even then, not even the latest versions of Firefox? How is that even seen as adequate?
All in all, United's streaming entertainment is an inconsistent hodge podge of support that really is quite awful in 2017.
A little while after I had figured out why the streaming entertainment didn't work for me, the semi-robotic flight attendants (who appeared to also not be enjoying this flight) finally reached the rear of the cabin. Unfortunately, it was drinks only – no snacks were offered (either they had run out farther up the cabin or they hadn't been loaded, I can't recall) – really a nice cherry on top of this terrible flight.
So let's recap my in-flight experience on this flight: a narrow, uncomfortable seat unburdened by legroom, zero entertainment options (unless I paid $8), and no snack. I've never been more ready for a flight to end.
After spending the rest of the flight simply listening to music, we finally started our descent towards Dulles.
The airport visible here among the sprawling suburbs.
Turning base for runway 19C right over Leesburg Executive (KJYO).
Final approach for 19C.
Passing over some of the Silver Line extension work, including one of the future Ashburn stations.
We then had quite a hard landing on runway 19C.
Taxiing to gate D15.
Deplaning took quite a long time, as expected, from the very rear of the cabin. A final look at N77431 – it was headed west next, 5+ hours to San Diego. I feel for the people stuck in row 38, hopefully they were shorter than me and have iPhones.
Gate D15 is directly next to the mobile-lounge station for the D concourse, and I happened to squeeze onto one just before it left. One final view of N77431 from the mobile lounge.
Denver - DEN
Washington - IAD
This was the worst flight experience I've ever had. That's really it in a nutshell.
United's regular economy offering on this 737 was terrible: a narrow, uncomfortable seat unburdened by legroom, zero entertainment options for Android users (unless you pay $8), and no snack. It really was a perfect storm of unpleasantness for me.
I'll be avoiding United whenever I can in the future, and absolutely avoiding their 737 fleet.
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