Hello everyone, and welcome to part 3 of my current series, covering my long-awaited return to the United States of America after being stuck in Europe for 18 months. While crossing the pond on an LH A350 was fun, I was most excited about the flights I'd experience after arriving in the US. Why, you ask? Well, those of you who have read my older reports (or have paid attention to my profile picture) know that my absolute favorite airline in the world is United Airlines. I flew my very first flight when I was 9 weeks old on a United 767-200 from New York to Los Angeles, and until I moved to Europe, I was on a United flight virtually once a month (at least). Naturally, after moving to the old continent, my exposure to United decreased, and so did the amounts of United flights I took. However, I could have never predicted that I'd have 20 consecutive months without stepping foot in a United aircraft. My last United flight pre-pandemic was UA2065 from SFO to EWR. The next 3 reports will be covering United flights. They were the flights that I enjoyed the most during this trip. I managed to fall in love with my favorite airline all over again.
This trip consisted of 6 flights on 3 different airlines. All flights were flown on different aircraft types. Additionally, I'd be passing through 7 airports on that trip, all of which I had previously been to.
I'm announcing the routing as it progresses. Here's where we stand in this report:
This flight was booked under one itinerary along with my connecting flight in Newark as a standard Economy Class revenue ticket. Both of us were upgraded to Economy Plus® for free on both flights thanks to my dad's Premier Platinum status.
Due to the early morning departure, it made sense to spend the night close to the airport. Being loyal to Marriott, we chose the Aloft, due to its good rate and complimentary airport shuttle.
At 4:25 we headed outside to wait in the wonderful early morning weather, and a few moments later the shuttle showed up.
The Aloft's shuttle runs every half hour until noon, then it's operated upon request. After we left the Aloft at 4:30 AM, we made a quick stop by the adjacent Hampton Inn to pick up some more passengers, then we were on our way to SeaTac Airport.
The ride to the airport took around 15 minutes, and at 4:50 AM we entered the terminal.
It felt great to be using a United check-in counter again! And it was nice that my first United check-in "post"-pandemic (it's not quite behind us yet, I know….) took place at the same station as my last United check-in pre-pandemic.
Check-in was a total breeze, and we headed to security.
Back when SeaTac was my home airport, I was always impressed at the efficiency of the TSA, and this time was no exception. I'd say that SeaTac is home to the best TSA checkpoint(s) in the nation. I was through in less than 5 minutes.
Unfortunately, the United Club at SeaTac still hasn't reopened since its Covid Closure. The Centurion Lounge didn't open until 7 AM, so we headed to the end of the A Gates to check out a new lounge for both of us - The Club at SEA (A Gates), which was accessed by Priority Pass.
A friendly lounge dragon welcomed us into the lounge. The lounge opened at 5 AM, so there were only a few other people scattered around the lounge, which allowed me to take some photos.
As you can see for yourself, it's a typical American airport lounge. It's quite nice, and definitely beats waiting by the gate. There weren't many food options when I was there, though it looked like they would be offering more later in the morning. Unfortunately, the two views from the lounge aren't great.
After chilling for around an hour, we headed to the gate at 5:55 AM, 15 minutes before boarding. United flights from Seattle typically depart from the southern end of the A Gates, right where the lounge was located, but our flight - along with UA2499 to SFO - would be departing from the S Gates. I'm guessing that had something to do with the fact that both flights were operated by 757s, but I don't know why, as I've personally boarded many United 757s from the A gates.
The S Gates are located in the South Satellite Terminal, which is accessed by the Satellite Transit System.
The station is located deep below the main terminal.
The trains run every 2-3 minutes.
The trains have always been in pristine condition.
The journey to the S Gates took approximately 5 minutes. Two long escalators brought me up to the departure gates.
As soon as I got to the departure level, I saw the gorgeous aircraft that would be flying me and over 160 other passengers across the country to the Garden State. Doing the honors was N17126, a 23.5-year-old Boeing 757-224(WL). Delivered to Continental in February 1998, she was transferred to United in October 2010. This particular aircraft is one of United's less dense 757-200s, with a capacity of 169.
I was thrilled to be able to fly on a 757 for this flight, which is my favorite narrowbody aircraft of all time. During the pandemic, the fate of United's 757s was uncertain, and I was worried that I'd never have the chance to fly on one again. While all the pmUA 757s have been retired, United still has 40 pmCO 757-200s and 21 pmCO 757-300s left in its fleet. All of their 757s will be retired by 2024, so hopefully I'll have the pleasure of flying them a few more times before they're all gone.
My dad and I were on the upgrade list, but there was only one seat left at boarding, which went to a Global Services member. I didn't mind, though, as I'd be able to experience Economy Plus® on a pmCO 757-200 for the first time. I already reviewed UA's 757-200 Business Class here.
Pre-boarding was painstakingly slow, and there was only 1 gate agent working the flight. Eventually, though, Group 1 was called, and it was time for me to be reunited with United!
Two chipper Newark-based flight attendants greeted passengers at door 2L, and I bid farewell to my dad who was seated in row 7 as I made my way to seat 9F, the window seat on the second row (third row of the port side) of the Economy Plus® cabin.
I knew that the legroom in Economy Plus® is great, but it was even better than I had imagined, at 37". That's as good as the pitch in First on United's A319s!
I'm 5'8 (175cm), but even if you are over 6', the legroom would be fantastic.
Sanitizing wipes were handed out at the boarding door.
In the seatback pocket, the safety card…
…the MileagePlus pamphlet.
…and something that I had forgotten even existed - an inflight magazine! I've always loved the Hemispheres magazine, and I was thankful that United kept on printing them throughout the pandemic (and even shipped them to the homes of UAMP elites 😎!).
Underneath the seat, a universal power outlet.
The PTV. I'm so glad that United will be added seatback entertainment to all mainline aircraft by 2025.
The entertainment system had the same interface as the one I had on my UA 757 J flight from Newark to San Francisco in December 2019, but the selection seemed much better on this flight. Combined with United Private Screening, you certainly wouldn't be bored on this flight!
I kept the map on until after departure.
As boarding continued, I struck a conversation with my seatmate, who was also a big time mileage geek. He had started earning miles with TWA and had since moved to the United camp. We talked about our love of travel, flying, and United, and I gave him the name of this website. If you are reading this, sir, it was great to meet you and I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation!
With all passengers on board, the captain came on the PA to announce a flight time of 4 hours and 48 minutes. He also reported that the weather in Newark included light winds, 10 miles of visibility, broken cloud cover at 24,000 feet, and a temperature of 70°F.
Shortly after that, we pushed back, and the safety video was screened.
United is currently playing the following safety video, which includes segments from a few of their previous safety videos:
Classic Boeing PSU.
Taxiing to Runway 16L.
After the safety video, a video about United's new supersonic order screened. While I would love to see it happen, I fear that United is overhyping their supersonic ambitions, which would be embarrassing if those plans fall apart.
Passing the North Satellite Terminal. During my first stint of living in Seattle, United had a relatively sizeable presence at SeaTac and used a majority of the N Gates. Back in the day, the terminal was a dump, and the old United Red Carpet Club was located in a small space underground. The terminal has come a long way since then.
Chasing our shadow once airborne.
The Puget Sound looking pretty as ever in the morning light.
Maury and Vashon Islands, with Blake Island in the distance at the right. Had it not been such a hazy morning, we would have also been able to see the Olympic Peninsula.
Catching a final glimpse of Western Washington by looking towards Tacoma. I hope to be back in the Evergreen State again soon!
Cabin after takeoff.
The hazy morning also meant I couldn't get a picture of Mt. Rainier, which was barely visible in the distance.
Soon enough, we were reaching our cruising altitude, and the city of Wenatchee was visible under the wing.
Close up of our RB211 engine.
Once we reached our cruising altitude, the flight attendant began with the service. To drink, I got a cup of coffee. It's sad to think that not even coffee is free on any Lufthansa Group airline anymore. The middle seat remained empty, so my seatmate and I used its tray table for our drinks.
To eat, in addition to the free Stroopwafel, I bought a Takeoff Snackbox for $10. All purchases on United flights are currently contactless, so I had to enter my credit card number in the United app, which I did after we took off.
I put my stroopwafel over the coffee, just as United recomends.
The snackbox included salami, apricots, gouda cheese spread, white cheddar cheese spread, multigrain crackers, cream crackers, smoked almonds, and a Toblerone. Not bad for $10. At the time of my flight, there were no hot items available for purchase, though as of September 15th that will be changing.
Smokey views of Idaho down below.
The snackbox was a big success, and I finished all of its contents.
During the flight, I watched The Big Short, one of my favorite movies.
I was able to make myself comfortable thanks to the adjustable headrest…
…and the good amount of recline.
Making a left turn over Montana.
As we were over North Dakota, I stretched my legs and headed to the restroom at the rear of the cabin. The restroom was basic and very clean, but one thing that I appreciated was the hand sanitizer in the cabin. There was also one next to the entry door 2L and in the forward galley.
The view from door 3R.
The cabin looking forward. If I remember correctly, apart from the free middle seat next to me, there was only one other empty seat in the cabin. Good for United for being able to achieve such a healthy load.
A look at the cabin from my seat.
Our fuselage's reflection on the engine.
Overflying Lake Michigan just north of Milwaukee.
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As we were over the lake, the crew came through the cabin for a second drink service. This time I stuck with water.
Reaching Michigan north of Muskegon.
After over flying Michigan for a bit, we reached Lake Erie.
Over Lake Erie, I saw us overfly what looked like an Emirates 777. We flew right over it with what looked like a 1,000ft vertical separation, and our flight paths crossed at what seemed like an 80-degree angle. It was pretty cool to see, but unfortunately I couldn't get my camera in time.
Crossing land again over the northeasternmost tip of Ohio.
Shortly before we commenced our descent over Pennsylvania, the captain came back over the PA and provided us with some updated arrival information. The temperature had risen to 81°F, the clouds were overcast at 25,000 feet, and like a true pilot announced that our landing altimeter would be 30.12 🤓 I was excited to hear that we'd be landing on Runway 29 via the Stadium Visual approach. That's the approach that offers the best view of Manhattan, but unfortunately I was seated on the wrong side of the aircraft. Instead, I'd be treated to some scenic views of Bergen County, NJ!
As we descended, I noticed that perhaps the only sign of wear and tare in the entire aircraft was that the bottom of the seat in front of me wasn't properly stitched. Since it took me so long to notice, it really wasn't a big deal.
Commencing our final approach.
The best shot I got of NYC, with Manhattan being faintly visible in the distance.
Making a right turn just south of Teterboro Airport.
Downtown Newark in the distance. I got a nice view of Lower Manhattan from across the aisle, but there was no way I could take a picture ://
Turning right to the runway over the Hackensack River and Newark Bay.
Over some parking lots, with Midtown peeking out from behind.
Very low pass over the New Jersey Turnpike.
Touchdown at 2:56 PM, 19 minutes early, after being in the air for 4 hours and 42 minutes.
Vacating the runway.
Landing video, including ATC. You can hear our approach clearance at 00:56, followed by our landing clearance at 01:42.
Pulling into our gate.
One last look at my cozy home of the past 5 hours.
Passing through the "Polaris" cabin.
After departing Seattle, we flew past Spokane almost directly towards Minneapolis and Milwaukee. We made two shallow left turns over Wisconsin and Michigan towards Newark, where we landed via the Stadium Visual Approach to Runway 29. We cruised at 37,000 and 39,000 feet.
Once out of the jetbridge, I said goodbye to my seatmate, met up with dad, and we headed to the United Club to wait for our next flight. It was great to be back in Newark and to see Manhattan from the airport, but I'd have to wait a week before heading to New York. First, we were off to another great American city. Stay tuned!
What can I say? I've always loved flying United, and this flight was a perfect reunion with my favorite airline. In addition to a wonderful crew, it was lovely to be able to fly a 757 again.
+ Great crew
+ Comfy seats
+ Free snack/drinks, snackbox with a lot of food for purchase
+ Fantastic entertainment choices
- Closed United Club at SEA
- No hot food available for purchase
I'll provide a more in-depth conclusion to my United experiences after my 3rd and final United flight of this trip, but I will say that if United keeps evolving the way it has been, they are definitely on track to become the star of American aviation, and they should be proud to carry the American flag all around the globe.