Review of United flight San Diego Houston in Economy

Airline United
Flight UA2062
Class Economy
Seat 34A
Aircraft Boeing 737-900ER
Flight time 02:29
Take-off 28 Feb 22, 12:30
Arrival at 28 Feb 22, 16:59
UA   #59 out of 79 Airlines A minimum of 10 flight-reports within the past two years is required to appear in the rankings. 384 reviews
Manbou
By BRONZE 522
Published on 8th March 2022

Welcome back to my first actual travel series on here. As the rest of the year is somewhat difficult for me in terms of finding time for a vacation, and that my last stay in the USA was cut short abruptly for reasons everybody is sick and tired of hearing from by now, the decision where to go was made very quickly. That the only other attractive goal for my trip - Japan - is still closed off to the world as I'm writing these lines, and the US lifted their immigration ban for Schengen area inhabitants last fall made the decision even more easy to make.
I had specific reasons for choosing the first three stops of my little tour of the United States but Houston was more or less chosen because it was expedient. Speaking of expediency, this was also part of the reason why I chose the airlines I chose for this trip. Trip times were good and the prices too. For American Airlines, I was even able to use some travel credit leftover from 2020. Plus, I had wanted to try Delta's long-haul product for some time now and the opportunity was there. The routing for my vacation this year is as follows:



This report is about the fourth leg of this journey, from San Diego to Houston on United. United were the cheapest (and only?) option on this exact route except for Spirit, who I definitely refuse to fly on if there's any chance I can avoid them. There are more options if you can fly to HOU (Houston Hobby Airport), but I had reasons why I needed to go to IAH (Houston Bush Intercontinental).
The aircraft type regularly used on this route, the Boeing 737-900ER, was new to me, but other than that it seemed just like a normal flight like thousands of others every day. Well, that wouldn't exactly turn out to be true - so without further ado, let's jump straight into it.


San Diego City & Airport


After a few delightful days in San Diego and the surrounding cities, it was time to move on to my next top. But first, enjoy some shots of downtown (Gaslamp District) at night, Balboa Park, and of course the Air & Space Museum with a mixture of remarkable original historic planes and replicas, like the Horten Ho 229 flying wing of the WWII era. Also, Balboa Park is a great place to see some planes approaching SAN airport :) Old Town is also a spot I can recommend for its historic charm.



After dropping off my rental car at the - you guessed it - rental car center, I had to find my way to the shuttle bus service. Shuttle buses run every 15 minutes and take about equally long to take you to the terminal.


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The shuttle bus I happened to find myself in wasn't overly full, and there was an adequate amount of luggage racks available. The best thing about this particular service, though, was the driver. She really gave it all to provide us with a little entertainment, with little sing-along songs, clapping activies, tongue twisters, and unfunny jokes :D A simple but sweet thing to make our days.


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I had forgotten to check in before, but that didn't matter as I had already reserved a seat (and was sure that I would finally get it). Waiting times for check-in and bag drop were short. There was a wait for the security but it they still worked pretty quickly.
After security, one is discharged directly into the terminal area with lots of eateries and also some shops. You don't have to go through a shop to reach the general terminal area, so that's something. My flight would depart from gate 40 today, which is located at the very end of a terminal satellite.



Some shops carried several aviation fan articles and toys. I know this is hardly anything special but in one of the shops I spotted several of these airport play sets, which made me feel very nostalgic - a very similar set of a JAL 747-400 used to be one of my favorite toys when I was still little :)


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Enjoy some random but not really remarkable planes I've spotted on the way to the gate, including a United A320, a Delta 767, and a Delta A321. Photobombing the Delta A321 was another A321, but from American Airlines - see the review of one of their non-flagship transcontinental services here. Unfortunately, I don't know anymore where they went that day. The tarmac on the other side of the terminal building was rather empty.



This was the best shot of my plane I was able to get in San Diego.


Today's ship: N38458, a Boeing 737-900ER delivered new to United Airlines in September 2012 (9.5 years old). Though it has been retrofitted with winglet extensions, it is definitely not a 737MAX.
Information courtesy of Planespotters.com.


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Boarding & The Cabin Product


The flight was full, so was the gate area shortly before boarding commenced. An interesting thing in my opinion: Public standby lists in the gate area, a bit like Delta does them. Didn't notice them with American Airlines.
Although the flight was full, boarding commenced and ended punctually. Still, waiting times in the jetbrige and the cabin itself were not to be avoided. However, I was lucky enough to snatch a photo of a pair of empty first class seats. While they do look comfy, they also seem to be in need of a refresh in the foreseeable future. The cabin itself was a curious mash-up of new and old. See for example the modern ceiling with subtle LED ambient lighting…



vs… the rather outdated-looking infotainment system. It's Directv-based and thus should be able to provide a wide range of entertainment options, but it's hampered by its execution. First, you cannot freely select programs but you have to dial in into predetermined screenings of movies and TV shows. Bad luck if you're too late to catch the beginning of a movie you'd like to watch. Second, controls aren't executed over touchscreen but you control the IFE system over these little buttons on the armrest - faulty operations almost preprogrammed (though my seat neighbor was considerate with the controls and it was okay). On top of that, the system crashed during the screening of the safety video and took ages to reboot. At least there were plug sockets under every seat, even if in a slightly unusual position, so that people could use the wifi entertainment options (more on that later). And cleanliness was generally okay, but a bit lacking in the details, cf. the photo with the plug socket.



Now to the seat itself. The upholstery and the (faux?) leather were in pretty good shape. You might think the horizontal lines in the upholstery of the seats are uncomfortable, but I didn't notice them at all when sitting down. That the headrests are adjustable (up and down and foldable wings) was a plus, too. While the legroom wasn't spectacular, it was adequate for this flight of less than two hours (consider my rather short legs).  All in all, I found the hard product to be pretty good for just an Economy product.
The seat pocket was surprisingly full. It didn't only contain the safety card and a sick bag, but also a Hemispheres magazine (I really enjoyed flipping through the destinations and fleet pages once again after such a long time without printed on-board magazines) and a credit card leaflet. The crew handed out little sanitizing towels during boarding.



View from seat 34A. The window could have been a bit cleaner for my taste.


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Seat 34A has access to two windows. The one further in front is a bit too far in the front for the seat, the one in the back a bit too much so. I ended up preferring the one in the back for taking photos later during the flight, as it was much cleaner and I had less of a feeling of blocking everyone's view.


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Granted, for much of the flight most people prefered to keep their blinds closed.

To conclude this section, more impressions of the cabin (modern ambient lighting and overhead panels) and of the very creative United safety video. Unfortunately, I can't tell you anything about the restrooms as I didn't have to visit one during this flight, but I can tell you that the mid-cabin restroom around row 7 looked tiny.



Pushback occurred at about 12.15 for a scheduled 12.12 departure, so I think it's fair to say we were bang on time.


Departing San Diego & Inflight Experience


According to Wikipedia, San Diego Airport is the busiest single-runway airport in the world. Consequently, there are just two ways to depart from this airport: to the East (6) or to the West (27). The terminal buildings are all located in the West, which meant quite a bit of taxiing to get to the runway. Of course, we weren't the only ones wanting to take off by far, but the distance between the terminal and the beginning of the runway at leas meant that the waiting line was stretched out and we pretty much didn't have to stop before taking off.



A might thrust of our two CFM56 engines later we were off to the skies, flying Westwards above some more San Diego suburbs towards the Pacific Ocean.



Making an approx. 180° portside turn placed us on an Eastward course and provided us passengers with great views of San Diego Downtown and Coronado.



Soon, we were climbing above the mountainous hinterland of San Diego. I don't know about you, but I find it fun sometimes to try and trace other planes next to where my own plane is flying and attempt to take (heavily zoomed-in) photos of them. Like these:



I mean these photos are not in any way useable or even beautiful but it's kind of enjoyable trying to take them :)

Once we were in the air, people settled down and did the usual things people do during flights (i.e. sleeping, listening to music, reading, using the IFE…) However, this flight was not entirely usual, as the crew announced we had four trainee flight attendants on our flight today and they would be conducting the service.

Now to the inflight wi-fi. Connecting to it was straightforward, and you get easy access via your browser. I have to say that I didn't watch any movies or anything during this flight, but the selection seemed to be pretty large and varied if you ask me. Keep in mind, though, that it seems like you have to download and install the United app before your flight if you want to access these entertainment options on your Android/iOS device.


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Without paying anything, you still have access to the entertainment programs and information about the flight and the weather.


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The flight information bit was actually executed in a pretty nice way. Granted, there was no moving map, but there was a picture of the plane and its type and registration, and several virtual "instruments" that displayed several data like altitude, outside temperature, winds, ground and air speed, as well as climb/sink rate.


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Inflight service for this flight consisted just of a beverage service. I had an Illy-branded coffee, which was basically as nice as airplane coffee gets in the US (actual Illycaffè is pretty nice, this was one rather weak). Service was slow and took a while to get to my row, but that's okay as obviously I wasn't in any particular hurry, and the FAs were still learning, right?


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The rest of the flight was rather unspectacular in a positive sense. If I might offer two observations: a) American Airlines aren't the only ones who like playing credit card ads over the PA system (even though AA did that more often and persistently). b) When making the temperature announcements, the crew consistently gave the Celsius number first and only then Fahrenheit.
On seat 34C sat a gentleman who had a connection after the flight, and shortly before landing a cabin attendant came around to give him info about his connection and the departing gate. He seemed anxious about being able to reach his connecting flight, so I'm sure it was pretty reassuring for him to get that information and to see that he's going to make it on time.


Approaching Houston Intercontinental


Opening the blinds, I found myself over the plains of Texas.



To be frank, the landscape was quite unspectacular as we've closed in on "Houstonland."



Flaps fully extended as we crossed some massive parking spaces, making our final approach into Houston George Bush Intercontinental.



Thrust reversers activated after a rather smooth touchdown on Texan soil. We ended up arriving about 15 minutes ahead of schedule.



The taxi to gate C8 was short and not particularly exciting. Most of the planes present were United ones, but it was strangely refreshing to see some gulf airlines again, too (Qatar and Emirates, photo 1). Certainly more exciting was the announcement that the four trainees had now finished their training and would become fully-fledged flight attendants now. While the service was still kind of slow, the airline and the senior crew certainly know better than I when it comes to whether someone is worthy of being a flight attendant (and I know the job consists of so much more than just the inflight service), so congratulations!



Thank you screen displayed on the IFE.


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Getting to the baggage claim area required a surprisingly long walk, although I have to say that design and cleanliness of the airport are pleasant enough. Note the United MileagePlus info board in photo 2. I certainly didn't know that programs like this were already around forty years ago!



The baggage claim area itself is big and at the same time very crowded with people and their flights. Before the info screens shown in the photo below, there actually were staff members helping out confused passengers.


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Found my belt!


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My luggage came out in no time and soon I was off to find my way through the maze of signage, corridors, and stairs to the shuttle bus to the rental car station. Unfortunately, the bus itself wasn't clearly marked as the rental car shuttle…


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In the end, however, I managed to find the correct bus that took me to the rental car center.


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With that I'm going to leave you for now. But hold on, there are still two more flight reports coming up in this series. I'm looking forward to seeing you there as well!

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Verdict

United

5.6/10
Cabin6.0
Cabin crew7.0
Entertainment/wifi6.5
Meal/catering3.0

San Diego - SAN

6.2/10
Efficiency5.5
Access5.0
Services8.0
Cleanliness6.5

Houston - IAH

4.5/10
Efficiency4.5
Access2.0
Services5.5
Cleanliness6.0

Conclusion

UA: All in all, a good but unspectacular flight on United. The cabin was well-maintained and the seats fairly comfortable given the small pitch (I think I prefer them over AA's offering). That the built-in IFE system wasn't really up to date didn't really matter a lot as there was also a BYOD option that worked just fine. Catering was a little bit on the basic side, even for a short-ish flight like this.

SAN: A fairly efficient airport with mediocre access to the city. Airside, however, you find various shops and food places, and sufficiently clean and numerous waiting areas and rest rooms.

IAH: This airport is very large but still some areas look like they haven't been designed to handle that many people (e.g. the baggage claim area). However, the baggage arrived quickly once I had gotten to my belt. Cleanliness and the selection of available shops and services appeared fair to me. Access to the city (quite far away from the airport), however, is atrocious if you don't have your own car or rent one out.

Information on the route San Diego (SAN) Houston (IAH)

The contributors of Flight-Report published 3 reviews of 1 airlines on the route San Diego (SAN) → Houston (IAH).


Useful

The airline with the best average rating is United with 6.7/10.

The average flight time is 2 hours and 59 minutes.

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