United Airlines 737-900/ER first class San Diego to Los Angeles

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01. Introduction: To Taipei with Star Alliance and SkyTeam business class awards
02. United Airlines 737-900/ER first class San Diego to Los Angeles
03. Asiana A380-800 business class Los Angeles to Seoul
04. Incheon Transit Hotel
05. Eva Air A321 regional business class Seoul to Taipei
06. Grand Hyatt Taipei
07. The quiet serenity of Taipei during Chinese New Year
08. China Airlines Dynasty Lounge, TPE, Terminal 1
09. China Airlines 777-300/ER business class Taipei to Seoul
10. KAL Prestige Class Lounge, ICN
11. Korean Air A380-800 Prestige Class (business class) Seoul to Los Angeles
12. Delta Connection CRJ-700 first class Los Angeles to San Diego

Yeah, I couldn’t believe it either. A 737-900/ER on the short 25-minute hop from SAN to LAX? I know that there used to be 747’s and DC-10’s flying this route (as tag-on’s) in the 70’s and 80’s – but I haven’t seen an aircraft this size operate this segment in quite a long time. I flew SAN-LAX on a United A320 back in May of 1998, but that was the biggest I’ve personally experienced and ever since then it’s been an assortment of prop aircraft and regional jets. I quite like this up-sizing, and I really hope it sticks.

So yeah. Here we go! Kicking off another adventure from SAN, this time something a bit more interesting than the yawn-worthy domestic trips I’ve been doing over the past few months. This was something I was definitely looking forward to, and I was getting pretty excited about it all as the Uber driver dropped me off in front of terminal 2 well before the sun was scheduled to peek over the horizon. Tired and weak from having to roll out of bed at 3:30am, but still thinking positive and looking forward to what was sure to be a great day of flying.

UA417
San Diego, CA (SAN) – Los Angeles, CA (LAX)
Friday, January 27, 2017
Aircraft: 737-924/ER
Registration: N66814
Duration: 56 minutes (gate-to-gate time)
Seat: 5A (first class)

united airlines 737-900/er side view

United Airlines 737-900/ER (N66814) side view illustration by norebbo.com

united airlines 737-900 seat map

Seat map of this United Airlines 737-900 (courtesy of seatguru.com) showing my seat for this flight.

SAN to LAX route map

Our route from SAN to LAX this morning: PEBLE6 SLI

check in kiosk san diego airport

My printer at home is not working properly, and for some reason the UA app wouldn’t allow me to add my boarding passes to Apple Wallet, so I had to use the kiosk here at the airport to check in. Grrr.

san diego airport terminal 2 west check in

Even if I had bags to check it wouldn’t have been a big deal. It’s early, and there’s nobody here yet!

I’ve finally reached an age where I need food first thing in the morning or I’ll feel like I’m gonna pass out at any moment, so the first order of business after clearing security was finding a toasted bagel and a banana to recharge my batteries. Long gone are the days when I could skip meals if necessary and still have the energy to run a marathon! I felt much better after stuffing breakfast into my face, so then I set off to do a little wandering to find a quiet spot to sit and relax until boarding began.

virgin america san diego airport

It won’t be long now until views like this will be all but a memory. It’s only a matter of time before Virgin America moves over to terminal 1 to be buddy-buddy with Alaska Airlines.

apple watch san diego airport

Oh my god it’s early…

sanspotter airport selfie

I’m not sure exactly what it was I was thinking here, but it’s probably safe to assume that it had something to do with wishing that I was still sleeping…

Boarding was right on time, and even though I felt like I was jumping ahead of everyone else with my priority boarding pass, I ended up being the last first class passenger onboard this morning. Also, I was so excited about the trip in general that I didn’t really give much thought (until now) about the fact that this was my first time trying out the first class cabin on the United 737-900/ER.

united airlines 737-900 SAN

Sorry for the horrible pic with all the reflections, but this was the best I could do to get a shot of my aircraft (N66814) this morning. On a side note, this was the first time that I’ve ever seen a United aircraft parked here at gate 34.

passport boarding pass san diego airport

I’m so ready for this. Taipei here I come!

san diego terminal 2 west gate

Excuse me…pardon me…priority passenger coming through…

san diego airport jet bridge

Heading down the jet bridge and getting pumped about kicking this trip off.

united 737-900 boarding door

A little congestion here at the boarding door…

United Airlines 737-900/ER first class cabin

United Airlines 737-900/ER first class cabin.

United Airlines 737-900 first class seats

United Airlines 737-900/ER first class seats.

United Airlines 737-900 first class leg room

United Airlines 737-900/ER first class leg room.

ua 737-900 seat 5a no window

I hate it when my window seat isn’t actually a window seat!

United Airlines 737-900 first class cabin

United Airlines 737-900/ER first class cabin – looking forward from the last row.

Long story short, I guess I was expecting more from first class on the 737-900/ER. These first class seats seemed really old to me – large and thick, kind of drab looking, and pretty much on par with what Delta has in their old domestic 767-300 first class cabins (and that is not a compliment). These are fairly new aircraft, so I was definitely a bit disappointed right off the bat. UA has a long way to go to catch up to the Delta and American first class products on the 737-900 IMHO.

Service started really well though. The flight attendants were friendly and chipper despite the ungodly early hour, and they happily worked the cabin serving drinks during the entire boarding process.

united 737-900 cabin mood lighting

They turned on the mood lighting once the boarding door was closed, which bathed the entire cabin in a soft blue glow.

United Airlines 737-900 first class cabin

This is normally where I would gush about LED mood lighting, but you’ve probably heard enough from me on that subject in some of my other trip reports…

The night sky was turning brighter as we pushed off the gate, and despite a quick taxi out to the runway (part of which required us crossing the runway and taxiing along the north side of the airfield) we still had about 10 minutes to go until the 6:30am airport curfew was lifted.

san diego airport 737-900 united

Taxiing out for departure along the northern side of the airport (after crossing runway 27).

SAN departure curfew

The departure curfew here at SAN isn’t lifted until 6:30am, so there is still a few more minutes to go before we can get out of here.

united 737-900 departure SAN

Spooling up and starting to roll!

SAN terminal 1 overhead

Nice overhead shot of terminal 1 on our way out.

SAN terminal 2 east and west

And that’s terminal 2 east and west.

SAN united 737-900 departure takeoff

Crossing over the Midway district…

SAN departure point loma

…and then over Point Loma and out over the Pacific Ocean.

united 737-900 flying over pacific ocean

It was a beautiful morning for flying!

Despite the crystal clear skies this morning, the air was choppy and too rough for the flight attendants to be up and about the cabin at any time during the flight. The captain ordered all FA’s to remain seated for the entire duration, which was perfectly acceptable for such a short segment such as this. These SAN-LAX flights are always a bit funny though. Not 2 minutes after departure, the captain comes over the PA and tells the flight attendants to prepare the cabin for landing.

SANspotter selfie

Still climbing, but the descent into LAX is about to begin…

united 737-900 first class cabin

Apparently all of these guys were coworkers – there was a lot of talk about construction projects during this trip!

The short flying time on this route also means a very low cruising altitude, so if the skies are clear like they were this morning, it’s really fun to put your nose to the window and watch as San Diego morphs into Los Angeles in a matter of minutes.

united 737-900 wing and winglet

Cruising low and slow just offshore.

sunrise over the pacific ocean

The sky was simply stunning this morning!

Long Beach Harbor

Making landfall over Long Beach Harbor.

LAX approach

Starting to make the turn inland now to join the pattern for 25L.

united 737-900 first class cabin

Finally! The sun pops over the horizon and illuminates the first class cabin.

LAX 25L approach

Getting lined up for our 25L approach.

LAX 25L approach

Getting closer now…

LAX 25L approach

LAX in sight!

LAX 25L arrival

Welcome to Los Angeles, where the local time is…much too early to even think about.

We landed on 25L at LAX just as the sun was rising, and from there it was a beautiful and scenic taxi over to terminal 7. I love everything about LAX – especially getting an up close look at all the interesting aircraft and airlines as we roll around the airport.

LAX sunrise

I love being at LAX at this time of day. It takes me back to my aviation photography days, and all those early morning drives from San Diego in my quest for the perfect pic.

United 777-200 LAX sunrise

Nice close-up view of a United 777-200 as we roll into our gate.

united 737-900/ER first class cabin

One final overview shot of the first class cabin on my way off the aircraft.

united 737-900 LAX

I also managed to sneak a quick pic from the jet bridge. These 737-900’s look really long from this vantage point!

LAX jet bridge united airlines

Up the jet bridge and one segment closer to Taipei!

united airlines terminal LAX

There are some renovations going on here in terminal 7 – it’s going to be really nice when they are finally done with it.

With a three and a half hour layover in front of me, I wasted no time in heading over to the Tom Bradley International terminal to begin my business class adventure to Taipei…

How the heck am I able to fly in business class all the time?

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    1. Michael March 29, 2017
      • SANspotter April 3, 2017

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