United Airlines 737-900ER economy class San Diego to Chicago (ORD)

01. Introduction: “Have you ever been in a Turkish prison?”
02. United Airlines 737-900/ER economy class San Diego to Chicago (ORD)
03. Turkish Airlines 777-300/ER exit row economy class Chicago (ORD) to Istanbul
04. Turkish Airlines A321 exit row economy class Istanbul to Vienna
05. Moxy Hotel, Vienna Airport
06. Figuring out how to use the Vienna CAT train
07. Austrian Business Class Lounge, VIE
08. Austrian Airlines 777-200 business class Vienna to Los Angeles

For those of you who are curious about what goes on behind the scenes here at sanspotter.com, you might be interested to know that I typically start thinking about what I’m going to write in a post 2 to 3 days before actually sitting down and hammering it out. Whether I’m in the shower scrubbing my armpits or climbing Torrey Pines on my road bike, my brain is always at work and I’m constantly trying to think of how best to approach every review that I write.

Unfortunately, the only thoughts that I had about this particular post were anything but enthusiastic. For some reason or another I felt like I’ve done far too many San Diego to Chicago trip reports already (especially on United) and that dread bubbled up a not-so-insignificant amount of procrastination that I didn’t even know I had in me.

Case in point: Tuesday’s are my dedicated blog writing days, and at the time of this writing (1pm PST on a Tuesday afternoon), the only thing that I’ve accomplished so far was learning how to change the battery on an old iPhone 4s that has been buried in my junk drawer for years. Never mind the fact that I will likely never (ever) use that phone again, but watching ifixit videos while poking and prodding at that little bugger with tiny screwdrivers and plastic levers was a lot more compelling than trying to ooze out another dry UA SAN-ORD review.

Then, something really embarrassing happened: a deep and thorough scan of my flight log revealed that I have never once written a review about a flight from San Diego to Chicago on United. As a matter fact, the only other San Diego to Chicago review that I’ve ever written was for an American Airlines flight, and that was back in 2016. Unable to put my finger on exactly why I felt like San Diego to Chicago on United was such a familiar thing for me, I knew it was time to put that old iPhone down and get to work…

UA555
San Diego, CA (SAN) – Chicago, IL (ORD)
Tuesday, August 14, 2018
Aircraft: 737-924/ER
Registration: N66814
Duration: 3 hours 36 minutes
Seat: 31F (economy class)

United Airlines 737-900/ER side profile

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

United Airlines 737-900/ER seat map

Seat map of this United Airlines 737-900/ER (courtesy of seatguru.com) showing my seat (31F) for this flight to ORD.

SAN to ORD route map with weather

Our storm-dodging route from SAN to ORD this afternoon: MZB040046 NSHEE EED J236 TBC KD57W OBH FOD MYRRS FYTTE4

As I mentioned in the introduction to this trip, I purchased the San Diego to Vienna (via Chicago and Istanbul) flights on the Turkish Airlines website, and I was hoping for the best as I waddled into the airport that morning to check in and catch this flight to ORD. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to check in from home online or with the app, even though I could see the reservation with the confirmation number right there on the screen. Despite seeing all that data exactly as I had booked it, it’s still gave me an uneasy feeling knowing that I was getting an error every time I tried to check in and there was a chance that this trip wasn’t even going to happen at all…

San Diego airport upper-level departures terminal two

There’s no time to worry about reservation glitches when you’ve got to get pics for the trip report though. Here’s one you’ve all seen before!

Terminal two San Diego airport design

I’m pretty sure that most of you scroll through these pics really fast without giving them much thought, but I’m hoping there’s at least one of you out there who studies each one carefully enough to know that there were exactly 15 cars in the last one (and that 3 of them were Honda’s).

Once inside, I tried using one of the kiosks adjacent to the United Airlines check in and baggage drop area, but it was giving me the same “please see an agent because you’re basically screwed” message. Uh oh. I then raced over to the check-in counter (trying to beat the very large group of people I saw coming and heading for the same counter), and then punched in all my info once again at one of the kiosks there. I got the same error message as before, although help was nearby this time if I could only manage to wave down one of those busy roaming agents.

United airlines kiosk error

I used to design screens like this when I had a 9 to 5 job, and I always felt sorry for those who would be on the receiving end of it. What goes around comes around I guess.

It’s a helpless feeling standing there next to a kiosk with a giant yellow error icon emanating from it (I swear it was mocking me), but the good news was that one of the agents saw me standing there looking like a helpless dork and came to my assistance lickety-split. He punched in a few things on the screen and then turned to me and asked “can I see your visa?” Uh oh. I was unaware that US citizens are required to have a visa to enter Turkey – but even then, I wasn’t technically going to enter so I figured that I’d be exempt. Especially since I was able to transit through China on my way to Korea four years ago without a visa either.

Long story short (and a huge sigh of relief later), it was deemed that no visa was required since I was a transit passenger, so the friendly agent typed in a few more things and I had my boarding pass in hand within 30 seconds. Disaster averted.

United airlines baggage drop and check in San Diego airport

One last look at the United Airlines check in and baggage drop area here at terminal 2 west. Looks like there’s nothing so special about that Premier line this morning is there?

Despite having consumed an ungodly amount of Healthwhich’s from Camden Food Company over the years, I still felt a craving coming on as I exited security and walked out into the main terminal. I will admit that I was tempted to try something else from the menu as I was standing there waiting in line, but in the end I couldn’t do it and I had to go with the old standby. Old habits are hard to break I guess.

SANspotter selfie San Diego airport blue shirt

That post-Healthwhich glow.

Travel with Apple Watch

Whoever it was who invented airport seating with USB ports integrated into it deserves a prize (and/or a Healthwhich). I forgot to charge my Apple Watch before leaving the house this morning, and it was a scary feeling knowing that I was in danger of not being able to record my steps over the next 24 hours. No, I’m not addicted to technology or anything. Why do you ask?

United 737 flight to Chicago from San Diego

My ride to Chicago this morning, hiding behind the jet bridge similar to the way that my cat hides behind a door after dumping a load in her litter box. She’s bashful about such things.

San Diego airport terminal two interior design

Who else remembers when that used to be a solid wall with no windows or gates? #feelingold

Now that I’m getting to the part of the review where it’s time to board the plane, I’m starting to understand why I was feeling like this San Diego to Chicago route seemed so familiar to me. A big part of the reason, no doubt, was the fact that this was yet another 737-900 – an aircraft I’ve become quite familiar with over the past few years (especially on United). Combine that with the fact that O’Hare used to be my old aviation photography stomping grounds back when I lived in Michigan from 2001 to 2004, and well…nostalgia like a mofo.

I don’t transit through ORD very often anymore these days, but back in the early 2000’s it was my home away from home. So yeah – United 737’s and good ‘ol Chicago O’Hare are two very significant things from my past. Put them together, and it’s a review I feel like I’ve written a million times before (even if it’s never happened – not even once).

United airlines boarding zone one and two

This sign seems to imply that I have a choice, but savvy United flyers know that such is not the case. Choose the right line or else!

United airlines zone to boarding pass

I think that I’ve got a United Airlines branded credit card or two which gives me complementary zone 2 boarding privileges. I have no other explanation as to how I got zone 2 on such a cheapo ticket.

Those of you out there who are sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for something really exciting and fun to happen are going to be severely disappointed. Sorry about that. You see, the boarding process for these United 737 flights are all the same, no matter whether you’re going on a 20 minute hop up to LAX or halfway across the country to Chicago. United is a perfectly fine airline and I’ve got absolutely no issues with them, but they are one of the most sterile of the bunch and nothing ever exciting happens onboard. At least they’re consistent.

United airlines boarding pass and jet bridge

Still admiring my zone two boarding pass all the way down the jet bridge.

Clean 737 United Airlines

Looks like someone just had a bath. That’s a squeaky clean airplane!

United airlines 737–900ER boarding door

She’s got the look of being captivated by that soft blue glow of the Boeing Sky Interior for the very first time. And I totally understand that feeling, because it is a fine looking interior.

United airlines sky interior 737

Yeah, I’m sure holding my phone up to the ceiling and taking a picture wasn’t suspicious at all. One of these days I’m going to get thrown off an airplane (and put on a “list”). I just know it…

United Airlines 737 blue seats

Remember my last United Airlines 737 review when I was feeling nervous about sitting in a chair the exact same color as the ocean we would be flying over? I had no worries about that today, as we would be flying over land for 99% of the flight, and these bright blue seats just might come in handy if we plow into a corn field.

United airlines 737 blue economy class seats

We will be flying over water on the departure out of San Diego and possibly on the approach into O’Hare though, so I was still feeling a twinge of apprehension. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I still think blue airplane seats are never a good idea.

United airlines 737 passengers

She seems waaaay to happy to be boarding a United Airlines 737.

Fuel truck San Diego airport

Anyone got a match? 20,000 gallons of Jet A right outside my window gives my butt cheeks very good reason to clench with enough force to crack a walnut.

United Airlines 737–900ER safety card overview

As someone who does aircraft illustrations for a living, it bothers me greatly that they don’t use the correct aircraft type in the illustrations on the safety card. Details details details!

San Diego airport united airlines ground crew

See?! I’m not the only one who thinks that United 737s are boring.

Departing San Diego airport United Airlines 737

Our departure sequence out of San Diego this morning. Get ready Chicago – here we come!

Mission bay and mission beach San Diego

Mission Bay and Mission Beach looking as groovy as ever as we rocket out of town.

San Diego Tijuana border

Once we turned around and headed inland, those of us on the right-hand side of the aircraft had an awesome view of Baja California. The border between the United States and Mexico is clearly visible in this pic, with the city of Tijuana ending abruptly as it bumps up against the continental United States.

Flying over San Diego Tijuana Border

Sorry for the really terrible pic, but it was worthy of including in this trip report due to the fact that both the Tijuana airport (TIJ) and Brown Field (SDM) are clearly visible. Those of you with eagle eyes will also be able to spot the Cross Border Xpress. And those of you with alien eyes will be able to spot the infamous 747SP that has been parked at TIJ since the beginning of time.

United airlines 737 sky interior pic

I know that we just took off like 10 minutes ago, but…are we there yet?

It was very scenic and beautiful departure out of San Diego this morning (seriously, when are departures out of San Diego not beautiful?), and things became a total blur once we were at cruising altitude pointed directly towards Chicago. Not because I was pinned to the wall thanks to a really fat person sitting next to me, but simply because I was purposely trying to get some rest before the long overnight flight to Istanbul that was on deck. I don’t think that I managed to fall asleep completely during the flight, but sitting there for several hours with my eyes closed trying to meditate and be still was good enough.

I did open my eyes occasionally to take part in the snack service, as well as checking out the streaming data via the United app on my phone. All I was really looking for was an in-flight map so that I could track our progress across the USA this afternoon, but unfortunately that feature wasn’t working and I had to go back to the meditation.

United airlines economy class snack pretzels and water

A typical United Airlines economy class feast. At least it’s not a Stroopwafel.

SANspotter selfie United airlines snack time

Scurrying to nab the perfect United Airlines snack time selfie while my seatmate is in the lavatory.

Puffy clouds United airlines 737 wing

Puffy clouds outside…

Passenger shaming United airlines

…and stocking feet inside. At least she’s wearing socks!

Split skimitar winglet like shark fin

Queue the theme from Jaws…

About an hour prior to landing in Chicago, I was jolted conscious by the feeling of a load of cheesy orange crackers being dumped all over my feet. Apparently the little girl seated in front of me lost track of the open bag of snacks mother had given her a short while ago, and the entirety of its contents were now on the floor and all over my feet and being ground into the carpet every time I’ve moved them a millimeter in any direction. Sorry United!

Filthy airplane floor

I can totally imagine the cleaning crew saying something like “boy if I could give the ******* who sat here in seat 31F a piece of my mind…” IT WASN’T ME!

9 times out of 10 I usually stuff my backpack under the seat in front of me no matter if there’s space in the overhead bin or not, but the aviation gods were looking down upon me today and I was feeling thankful that it was only my shoes that took the brunt of those crackers. I can only imagine how irritating it would’ve been to have been digging out little pieces of orange cheesy niblets from my bag all the way to Vienna and back.

United airlines in flight app

Checking again to see if the map feature in the app is working. I need to learn how to lower my expectations.

The approach and landing into O’Hare brought back waves of memories from my time in Michigan in the early 2000‘s. I was heavily into aviation photography back then, and every sunny weekend I drove to O’Hare from southwest Michigan to sit and take pictures all day. If only I would’ve had the foresight to have started sanspotter.com back then instead of wasting entire days doing nothing – ahh, I wish I could go back in time and slap my younger self silly!

Approach into ORD over Lake Michigan

Heading eastbound over the shores of Lake Michigan on our downwind approach.

Flying over Lake Michigan during sunset United airlines 737

Making the turn over Lake Michigan back to the west towards O’Hare. The sooner we cross over the beach the better, because I’m starting to have blue seat anxiety again.

Landing at Chicago O’Hare united 737

How many times do you think this particular airplane has landed at O’Hare? Somebody at United knows for sure, and I’m buying a steaming hot Healthwhich for the first UA employee who can tell me. I really know how to motivate and inspire, don’t I?

Landing at Chicago O’Hare airport

Welcome to Chi Town! On second thought, knowing how much of the residents of San Francisco hate hearing people say “San Fran”, I hope I didn’t just blurt out an insult.

Memories from Chicago O’Hare

Concourse C looms in the distance, and waves of memories are coming over me as we roll past. I practically lived at this airport taking pics from 2002 until late 2003, and I gotta say that I miss this place!

Arrival at the gate Chicago international airport

Pulling up to the gate now, and all I wanna do is get off this airplane before someone notices all those crackers at my feet and thinks that I’m a total slob or something. IT WASN’T MEEE!!

Walking off United Airlines 737 at Chicago O’Hare

I didn’t look, but there was a pretty good chance that I was leaving a trail of bright orange crackers behind me.

United airlines B concourse Chicago airport interior

Such a beautiful airport terminal, but there’s no time for dilly dallying – I’ve got a Turkish Airlines 77W to find.

Hope you enjoyed this quick and easy jaunt to ORD! And now that I’ve reached the end of this post, I’m still having a hard time believing that this is the first time that I have ever written about a San Diego to Chicago flight on United Airlines. And no, the one time that I wrote about flying from Chicago to San Diego on UA doesn’t count because that was flying the other direction. Or does it? Dang it. This travel blogging thing is hard.

I need to keep working on that old iPhone anyway, so this post is officially over.

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

Subscribe to my mailing list and and I'll share with you a detailed list of the top 5 tools that I use which allows me to fly in international business class all the time at a greatly reduced cost!

Thank you for subscribing! Please check your email - a confirmation link has just been sent to you and your subscription will not be active (and the free report not available) until you click that link.

Something went wrong.

    1. Andrew September 13, 2018
      • SANspotter September 16, 2018
    2. Tim September 14, 2018
      • SANspotter September 16, 2018

    Add Your Comment

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.