United A319 first class: slightly better than economy (but not by much)

United A319 first class: slightly better than economy (but not by much)

What’s the first thing that pops into your head when you think of United A319 first class? Is it ugly brown seats that look (and smell) at least 20 years old? Or, perhaps maybe it’s tiny video screens that flicker on and off completely at random for the entire duration of the flight?

Shockingly enough, you’d be wrong. Although you totally nailed the part about the seats, there aren’t any video screens in first class on the United Airlines A319. Not yet anyway – United promises that they are coming, but it’s going to be a few years until we see them. At least. 

Anyway, this is a first class product that is getting on in years, and it’s not exactly something I’d recommend trying. That didn’t stop me from going out of my way to try it though. I’m a glutton for punishment I guess.

UA353
San Francisco, CA – San Diego, CA (SAN)
Friday, January 21, 2022
Aircraft: A319-131
Registration: N821UA
Duration: 1 hour 31 minutes
Seat: 3A (United First)

United Airlines A319 side view
United Airlines A319 side view illustration by Norebbo.com
ua353 flight track
Our route from SFO to SAN this afternoon as UA353.

My full review of United A319 first class from San Francisco to San Diego

Talk about going from one extreme to the other. After arriving into San Francisco in American Airlines Flagship Business Class, my connection flight home to San Diego was in United A319 first class.

Only because I’ve never tried it before, and I thought that it might be neat to do a review of it. It’s not like I booked the flight because I knew it would be luxurious or anything. I was just curious, that’s all.

What terminal does United Airlines use at SFO?

United airlines occupies Terminal 3 at the San Francisco International Airport. Within that terminal, there are three individual concourses (E, F, and G). The nice thing about flying United out of SFO is that you’ll have full access to the international gates in Concourse G. Which, if I’m being honest, it’s a much nicer place to hang out between flights than concourses E or F.

Empty San Francisco airport
Okay, what kind of award do I receive for taking the emptiest pic of the San Francisco airport that you’ve ever seen?
Empty San Francisco airport concourse F
It’s empty in the F concourse as well. Seriously, WTF.
SANspotter selfie San Francisco airport concourse F
Mental note: I don’t think I’d want to be the last surviving human on Earth. This is creepy.

The boarding process for flight number 353 to San Diego

Flights between San Francisco and San Diego are always full, and hovering around the gate area about 20 minutes before departure, it was obvious that this flight was going to be no different.

It was standing room only, which kind of made me feel a little better knowing that I’d have a big seat up in first class (with some extra room to stretch out). For the record, United officially refers to their domestic first class product as “United First.”

United airlines mobile boarding pass first class
Thankfully I was starting to see some signs of life as I raised my arm to get the usual (but useless) boarding pass pic for the review.
United A319 San Francisco airport
This is my ride down to San Diego this afternoon. Frankly, as quiet as it is here inside the airport, I’m not even shocked that I don’t see any people in this pic. I may be slightly concerned, but I’m definitely not shocked.
Gate F14 SFO
It’s gate F14 today. Energy level: “DMV.”
Boarding group 1 United Airlines
“Group 1, you’re welcome to board.”
United credit card advertisements SFO jet bridge
No United, I don’t want one of your stupid credit cards!
United a319 parked at gate F14 SFO
How long do you suppose it will be until they plaster credit card advertisements all over the side of the airplanes?
United A319 boarding door
Another day, another boarding door. #upintheairlife

My first impressions of United A319 first class

The nice thing about walking onto an airplane with extremely low expectations is that you’re unlikely to be completely disappointed.

United Airlines domestic first class has never excited me, so before even stepping foot through the boarding door, I already knew that this was going to be a lackluster experience (at best). And I could already sense the brown fake leather seats and the lack of video screens. Expecting something as plush as United 787-8 business class would be irresponsible!

United A319 First Class Cabin
This is it. This is the entirety of United A319 first class. For what it’s worth, this looks exactly like United A320 first class – right down to the hangars on the bulkhead wall!
United a319 first class seats 3A and 3B
United A319 first class seats 3A and 3B. 3A is mine today, with a hanger above my head that will likely either 1). rattle incessantly for the entire duration of the flight, or 2). fall on my head. I can’t decide which option I prefer…
United a319 first class center arm rest
Yup, the center armrest is about as old and crusty as I was expecting.
United a319 first class leg room
Leg room seems to be pretty good though! Am I correct in assuming that the new carpet is new?
United a319 first class seat back no video screens
To be honest I’d rather have no video screen at all rather than a tiny LCD looping credits card ads inches from my face over and over again.
United a319 first class electrical outlets
Quick! Take a pic of the shared electrical outlets before someone sits down next to me and thinks that I’m a total weirdo! On second thought, there probably isn’t much I can do to prevent that…
SANspotter United a319 first class
No, it’s not exactly as comfy as Polaris Business Class on the 777-300/ER, but…this is kinda nice!
United a319 first class view from row 3
Seriously though, I’m having fun. And I do have to say that this first class cabin looks pretty good actually!
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The departure process out of SFO

Having started the day at 3 AM in New York City, I was feeling more than a little relieved when we pushed back from the gate right on time. Nothing is worse than a delayed flight on the last leg home, and I’m happy to report that United was on top of their game here in SFO this afternoon.

Not only that, the weather here in San Francisco was perfect, which isn’t something you’re not always going to get flying in and out of this city. The fog can be a real mofo sometimes.

United a319 taxiing at SFO
Pushback and taxi out to runway 1R. This isn’t the most exciting aircraft that I’ve ever done it in, but it was a pretty good feeling knowing I’d be home on time.
United a319 takeoff from SFO
Well, in order to make it home on time, we need to avoid crashing into the ocean first. My fingers are crossed things go well…
View of SFO from the air after takeoff
What a view!

What is in-flight entertainment like in first class on the United Airlines A319?

The good news is that United Airlines does offer video entertainment in first class on the A319. The bad news is that you’re going to have to use your own device to view it. Which, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t all that bad. United streaming entertainment product is really decent, and I’m thankful that they even offer it in the first place.

United airlines streaming in-flight entertainment app
If you just gotta have in-flight entertainment (and the view out the window isn’t going to do it for you), there’s an app for that.
United airlines streaming in-flight entertainment app screenshots
This streaming content is free to access, because, well…credit card ads.

It should be noted that United Airlines has recently unveiled an all new interior for their entire fleet of aircraft. These interiors feature video screens at every seat, and I presume that these A319 first class seats will get video screens at some point. I’ll be sure to review this again once that happens.

What kind of food do they serve in United first class on shorter flights?

If you’re flying United first class from San Francisco to San Diego (or another flight of similar length), don’t expect any real food. All we got on this flight was a bag or two of snacks, along with unlimited drinks. Which, if I’m being completely honest, was perfectly fine. I certainly don’t need to be served lobster Thermidor on a one hour flight from the Bay Area to San Diego.

United airlines all in one snack bag
The first thing they handed out were these “all in one” snack bags. I sincerely hoped it wasn’t the only thing they’d be handing out on this flight.
United airlines all in one snack bag contents
In addition to a small bottle of water, there were Biscoff cookies and a bag of pretzels. Sorry Stroopwafel fans…this is as good as it’s going to get.
United airlines first class drinks
And yes! They served real drinks as well. I realize that there are many of you who would not consider Diet Coke to be a real drink, but come on. It feels a lot more like first class with a drink in my hand.
United airlines first class drink service
Maybe if I leave just a little bit in the glass it’ll look like I’m sipping on fine whiskey. That way, everyone who finds this pic on Google Images years into the future will naturally assume I’m one sophisticated dude.
SANspotter selfie United a319 first class review
I know, I’ve got a weird imagination.

Are United A319 first class seats comfortable?

Ha! It’s all relative I guess. Yes, these old United A319 first class seats are significantly more comfortable than the economy seats in the back. However, compared to other domestic first class seats (such as Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 first class), these fall far short. They’re just too upright in my opinion.

United a319 first class seats row 3
Judge for yourself how comfortable this looks, but personally, I thought that these seats were perfectly fine for a short flight such as this.
United a319 first class seat recline
What happens when the person in front of you reclines their seat? Not much actually. There’s enough room between the seats to hardly even notice.

And as you might expect, there’s no chance of me adding this to my list of the best domestic first class. Sorry United. Although not terrible, your A319’s still suck.

The arrival into San Diego

At the time of this writing, my flight log tells me that I’ve flown from San Francisco to San Diego exactly 23 times so far. This is a route that I’m very familiar with. I’m not a pilot, but I’m pretty sure that I could steer an airplane between SFO and SAN with my eyes closed. 

The sun was just starting to set as we made the final approach in San Diego, which made it all that much better. Arriving into America’s finest city just as the sun goes down is always an amazing thing to see.

Flying over Los Angeles and San Diego in United a319
Looking down on LA (top pic) minutes before overflying San Diego for the approach into SAN (bottom pic).
San Diego sunset
It’s true. San Diego sunsets are the best kind of sunsets. Bet you can’t prove me wrong!
Landing in San Diego on a United a319
This probably looked a lot more spectacular in real life than it did through the camera app on my phone. Oh well.
Landing at SAN on a United a319
Welcome to San Diego!
Terminal 2 west SAN at night
Pulling up to good ‘ol Terminal 2 west here at SAN. It’s good to be home.
Terminal 2 west SAN United gates
WTF? There’s nobody here either!
United a319 overhead bin size
If you’ve ever wondered how large of a carryon bag you can fit in the overhead bins on a United A319…there you go.
SANspotter carryon bag
Me? I prefer to travel light. The contents of my carryon bag are limited to the basics, because there ain’t no way I’m lugging a large suitcase around if I don’t have to.
San Diego airport jet bridge United gates
Congratulations! You just read a full review of United Airlines A319 first class from beginning to end. Whether or not you can be proud of that is entirely up to you.

Pros and cons of United Airlines A319 first class

Whether or not first class on the United A319 is worth it is completely subjective. If the price is right, it’s certainly a more relaxing and comfortable way to fly compared to economy class. However, in my opinion, it’s totally not worth it if the price makes you flinch – even a little. To help you decide whether or not it’s right for you, here’s a quick list of the pros and cons:

Pros

  • The first class cabin on the A319 is very intimate. There are only 3 rows of seats in a 2-2 configuration, which means that it’s a fairly quiet environment.
  • Fewer passengers also means better (more attentive) service from the cabin crew.
  • No, the seats themselves aren’t the most comfortable domestic first class seats that I’ve ever sat in, but they are leaps and bounds better than the economy seats. Even if only for the extra little bit of recline.
  • The seats are slightly better than the first class seats of some other United aircraft. For example, anyone familiar with United 737-900/ER first class will immediately recognize how much better the A319 first class seats are.

Cons

  • Make no mistake about it, the seats have some years on them, and they are scuffed and scratched up just as much as the front seats of the last 20 year old car you were in.
  • The lack of video screens at every seat is notable. Yes, streaming video entertainment is available, but you’re going to have to use your own device for that.
  • The seats aren’t all that much more comfortable than economy seats if I’m being honest. Therefore, it might be wise to save your money and fly economy instead. Better yet, United 737 MAX 9 Economy Plus (premium economy) features almost the same amount of leg room for a much lower price).
  • The fact that the seats are so old means that there’s a much higher probability that the electrical outlets won’t work. I didn’t even try the ones in my row, but they looked a little crusty.

Comments (5)

  1. Bob

    March 9, 2022
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      March 10, 2022
  2. Dave

    July 8, 2022
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      July 8, 2022
      • Dave

        July 8, 2022

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