I was traveling to meet up with friends in Aspen for a weekend. It is my first trip to Colorado and my first trip through the Denver United hub. Upgrades actually cleared for the longer flights!
I don't think I have ever gotten on a flight that boarded at 5:20am. Waking up at 3:30am to get ready before meeting with two friends and taking an Uber to the airport might just be the earliest I've ever gotten up for a flight.
The Austin Airport is, as usual, really busy on a weekday morning. Even the PreCheck line was a mess. I'm glad that United just partnered with CLEAR to give 1Ks free membership, allowing me to skip the line.
Here's our ride: N66848, a 4-years old 737-900. Sorry for the quality of the picture, this was the best I could do with the angle and windows.
Preboarding began on time at 5:19am. There was nothing eventful except that someone in F early during the boarding must have been playing a flight simulator without headphones. There's nothing more jarring than hearing "whoop whoop, terrain, terrain, pull up" being repeated for a few seconds on a plane, even if you are on the ground. Whoever it was muted it quickly or put on headphones.
Here is the first class cabin:
I was seated in 3A. The seats are decently comfortable with plenty of legroom. You'll notice that there are no IFEs. The middle armrest is also of the older variant. The power outlets can be found inbetween the two seats below the armrest.
It was quite chilly as I boarded, so the rather thin blanket came in handy.
Because it was so early in the morning, I asked for a cup of coffee - sometimes I do cave and drink coffee. I do appreciate that United serves Illy coffee.
As usual with U.S. airlines though, boarding took a while and doors weren't closed until 5:53am. The captain then got on with his welcome, informing us of a 1:45 flight time. We pushed back 4 minutes later and took off at 6:09am.
The sky is very much still dark outside.
Service began approximately 20 minutes into the flight. I asked for hot tea. The meal was very disappointing - just a muffin. At least it was warmed up. I would end up asking for a second one as I was starving.
The bathroom on the 737-900 are okay - about what one expects for a narrowbody. There was blue mood lighting inside. It was kept reasonably clean throughout the flight.
Trashed was collected at 7:12am Central Time and we began our descent about 35 minutes afterwards. This is where things got interesting.
Originally, we were supposed to arrive on time (we had a relatively tight connection). However, there was a very thick fog spread at Denver. As we descended into the fog, I heard the engine surge and we started climbing once more. I have not been in a go around for as long as I can remember. This was a very calm one given we weren't very close to the ground and there wasn't exactly bad weather. The first officer came on a few minutes later to explain that due to poor visibility we were too close to the aircraft ahead. We ended up touching down at 7:22 Mountain Time and arrived at our gate 12 minutes later. Boarding should have started already for our next flight, but it was luckily delayed slightly. Moreover, it was literally the next gate over.
Here you can see the fog spread as we circled back the other direction.
Seat & Cabin: For whatever reason I was under the impression that all of United's 737-900s still had seatback IFEs. I was wrong.
Service: Service was okay, nothing special, but the flight attendant did grab a second muffin for me (not exactly impressive, but should be noted).
Meal & Catering: This was a very disappointing meal for a nearly 2-hour flight. Theoretically, snack boxes should be available for purchase on domestic flights over 1.5 hours long - this wasn't even as filling as one of the snack box options.
Bottom Line: United offers the most convenient flights to/from Colorado for me and usually decent prices and schedules. Also, I seem to have much better luck scoring upgrades out of Denver than any East Coast hubs.