Despite everything else you may have heard, I am of the opinion that United 737-800 first class is something that you just gotta try. Not for the reasons you might expect though.
It’s the wrinkliest, yellowest, and brownest domestic US first class product in existence. Not only that, the seat coverings sag in a way which will remind you of the last time you saw your grandfather shirtless. It’s a bit of a trip.
Basically, it’s an extremely old and outdated (though comforting) product. Just like Grandpa.
Chicago, IL (ORD) – San Diego, CA (SAN)
Monday, October 23, 2023
Duration: 3 hours 49 minutes
Seat: 3F (first class)
My full review of United 737-800 first class from Chicago (ORD) to San Diego
If there’s one thing to learn from this entire review, it’s that the Boeing 737-800 is the aircraft which will provide you with the most ‘retro’ first class experience on United. It features the oldest seats in the fleet, and they pale in comparison to what you can see in my United 737 MAX 9 first class review,
Arrival at Chicago O’Hare
Arriving from Flint on a United Express CRJ-200 didn’t have me in the best of moods (nor did the prospect of sitting in a wrinkly brown seat all the way to San Diego). That said, I like being in airports. O’Hare has always been one of my favorites, and I was very much looking forward to a nice flight home.
The boarding process for flight number 584 to San Diego
Some of the gates in the C concourse at ORD can be a bit tight. This causes problems during the boarding process, resulting in everyone (hilariously) not knowing exactly where to line up. Not only will you hear “is this the line?” over and over again, you’ll probably end up asking it yourself. I sure did.
Bad news: the first class seats on the UA Boeing 737-800 are even older (and worse) than what you saw in my United 737-700 class review. I’m not exactly sure why the 737-800 (one of the most common aircraft in the United fleet) has been neglected so badly, but at the very least, it’ll give me fodder for some colorful commentary.
In order to avoid ending this section on a low note, you’ll be happy to know that first class on the United A321neo is darn near excellent (and pretty much the opposite of what you just saw here). They are making an effort to get better!
The departure out of ORD
Personally, I couldn’t have cared less about how old and outdated this first class seat was as we were pushing off the gate. This was the final leg a very busy (but fun) trip, and I was just happy to be going home.
Despite how small (and old) the video screens looked in the pics above, I guess we have to appreciate the fact that they even exist at all. You won’t even see video screens in United A319 first class, so…quit ‘yer bitchin’.
It’s also worth noting that the 737-800s are Wi-Fi equipped. With that comes the ability to stream an impressive catalog of movies and TV shows to your personal device. Cool.
The dinner service
The food in United domestic first class is hit or miss IMHO. There were a variety of options offered on this particular flight, and I chose the vegetarian pasta dish. Dare I say that it was probably one of the best domestic US first class meals I’ve had in a long time. The fact that it was served with a smile was the icing on the cake (I mean…the cream sauce on the pasta).
These seats may be ugly, but at least they’re still comfortable. Mostly. The main benefit is that they feature more padding than newer style first class seats on other aircraft. Combine that with a decent bit of recline, and you’ll feel just as comfortable as Grandpa is when he kicks back in his favorite chair to watch Wheel of Fortune on network TV every evening.
The arrival in San Diego
Being able to catch a sweet sunset during the descent and landing when you weren’t expecting it is…well…pretty sweet. We arrived in San Diego just in time to witness one of the best Southern California sunsets I’ve seen in a while. A full three minutes ahead of schedule to boot!
Pros and cons of United Airlines 737-800 first class
So yeah. This is one of those domestic US first class products that can be classified as “aspirational” (just as long as you’re in the mood for it). Seek it out for the nostalgia – not for its substance. You might actually enjoy it.
The padding on the seats is quite good actually. It’s better than many other domestic US first class seats these days.
You’re very likely going to appreciate the ability to stream content to your mobile device (as opposed to trying to watch something on those tiny / washed out little screens).
It’ll remind you of Grandpa.
The video screens are perhaps the worst on any US airline at the moment. Watching content is nearly impossible in direct sunlight.
Being forced to use the remote control integrated into the armrest to scroll through the video content is awkward and annoying.
It’ll remind you of Grandpa walking around shirtless.