Good Advice Tried and Tested

United Express CRJ700 economy class

04/10/2012

BACKGROUND According to United’s website, United Express flights “are operated by various regional carriers offering over 2,000 flights per day to more then 150 destinations across the US and Canada”. Partners include Atlantic Southeast Airlines, Colgan Air, Go Jet Airlines and Skywest Airlines, which my flight was operated in conjunction with (the metal was branded United Express).

CHECK-IN Flight 6444 from Seattle to Los Angeles was set to depart at 0910 from Terminal 8. I arrived at Sea-Tac airport at 0720, after a 25-minute drive from the downtown area. I had not been able to check-in online so headed straight for one of the self-service monitors in front of the staffed desks.

It was a quick and easy process but one that involved me paying US$25 by credit card for a piece of checked luggage and having to accepting the aisle seat I had been assigned as I was unable to switch to a window seat. The machine printed my boarding pass and a member of staff took my case to weigh and tag. 

I joined the long, snaking queue for immigration just around the corner, and after 20 minutes my passport and boarding pass were checked. (There was a fast-track lane for premium passengers and gold Star Alliance members.) Security took another ten minutes to get through, with shoes and jackets taken off, laptops out and liquids out, as usual.

Once airside, I took two escalators down to where a shuttle service departed to N gates. This only took a few minutes so I was soon able to head up to the departures area where there were several cafés and shops, and grab a coffee.

BOARDING Boarding started on time at 0845 from Gate N12, with premium customers, million milers and military personnel given priority. My group (four) was called last, but there weren’t many passengers so it didn’t take long until I was heading across the tarmac to board the aircraft from a set of steps at the front. Those whose hand-luggage was deemed too big at the gate, or had more than one case, were asked to allow staff to put it in the hold. (Overhead bins are quite small on the CRJ700.)

THE SEAT I took my seat (13D) at 0900 and was pleasantly surprised to find that no one was sitting in the window seat next to me so once everyone was on board I was able to move to 13F. United’s six first class seats occupy rows one and two, while Economy Plus is across rows three to nine, and standard economy is ten to 17. Seats are upholstered in smart Navy blue leather and feature sturdy seat-back tray tables. The interior was clean and the crew friendly and welcoming.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? All seats are either by a window or an aisle. Economy Plus seats (rows three to nine) offer more legroom, as do economy class exit row seats in row 12. Sitting in the back rows may be a bit bumpier and you are likely to be last off the plane.

THE FLIGHT The aircraft pushed back at 0907, while the safety demonstration was in progress. Take-off was a short while later but there was an annoyingly incessant beeping while we waited on the ground.

Free tea, coffee and soft drinks were brought around from 0950. I read my book for the duration of the two-hour ten-minute flight, and at 1110 the plane began its descent into sprawling LA.

ARRIVAL The CRJ700 touched down at 1120 and after a few minutes of taxiing, came to a standstill at 1130. Passengers were deplaned via an airbridge quickly and efficiently. As it was a domestic flight there was no immigration process to go through, so all I had to do is make the seven-minute walk to baggage reclaim. However, I had to wait another half an hour for my case to appear.

As I had landed at Terminal 1 and had to continue my journey to London with Air New Zealand later in the afternoon, I had to catch a free shuttle bus to Terminal 2 from where my onward flight was to depart. I waited 15 minutes for bus A to arrive and the journey took about five minutes.

VERDICT A comfortable, punctual short-haul flight with friendly cabin crew. The only let down was having to wait 30 minutes for my case at baggage reclaim.

FACT FILE

CONFIGURATION 2-2 (A-C, D-F) in economy and Economy Plus, and 1-2 (A, D-F) in first.

SEAT PITCH 31in-34in (79cm-86cm)

SEAT WIDTH 17in (43cm)

PRICE Internet rates for a midweek flight in November from Seattle to Los Angeles started from US$234.

CONTACT united.com

By Jenny Southan