Review – United 737-800 BusinessFirst – RSW-IAH

My trip started off with a 6 AM flight out of Fort Myers (RSW) on a United 737-800. RSW is a pretty small airport and as such, there was no line to check-in or for security. I was actually somewhat excited to fly United as it has been 10 or so years since I last flew with them and I was interested to see what changes Oscar Munoz and co. have brought in. I quickly found out the answer was “not many.”

To get myself to Dusseldorf, I opted to burn some United miles. While I usually try to save my United miles for a roundtrip so I can utilize the stopover and/or open jaw, with United’s changes to the rules, I just decided to burn the miles for a one-way redemption. Had I flown entirely on United metal, it would have set me back 57.5k miles + ~$90 for my business class ticket. As I was redeeming for flights operated by United’s partner, Austrian Airlines, my cost was 70k miles + ~$111 in taxes, fees and close-in booking fee. I used this clever trick to avoid the close-in booking fee since I booked 3 days before departure, which brought the taxes and fees down to ~$36.

Introduction – Europe On A Whim
Review – United 737-800 BusinessFirst – RSW-IAH
Review – KLM Crown Lounge – IAH
Review – United 767-300 BusinessFirst – IAH-EWR
Review – Lufthansa Senator Lounge – EWR
Review – Austrian Airlines 767-300 Business Class – EWR-VIE
Review – Sky Lounge (Non-Schengen) – VIE
Review – Sky Lounge (Schengen) – VIE
Review – Austrian Airlines Lounge – VIE
Review – Austrian Airlines A320 Business Class – VIE-DUS
Review – Holiday Inn Express Dusseldorf
Review – Element Amsterdam
Review – KLM Royal Crown Lounge – AMS
Review – Air France A318 Premier Class – AMS-CDG
Review – Air France Salon Lounge – CDG
Review – Air France A320 Premier Class – CDG-LIS
Review – Intercontinental Lisbon
Review – ANA Lounge – LIS
Review – Iberia A320 Business Class – LIS-MAD
Review – Iberia Sala VIP Velazquez Lounge – MAD
Review – British Airways 767-300 Business Class – MAD-LHR
Review – British Airways Galleries Lounge – Terminal 3 LHR
Review – No. 1 Lounge – Terminal 3 LHR
Review – Swissport Lounge – Terminal 3 LHR
Review – American Airlines Admirals Club – Terminal 3 LHR
Review – American Airlines 777-300ER (77W) Business Class – LHR-DFW

To get myself to Dusseldorf, I opted to burn some United miles. While I usually try to save my United miles for a roundtrip so I can utilize the stopover and/or open jaw, with United’s changes to the rules, I just decided to burn the miles for a one-way redemption. Had I flown entirely on United metal, it would have set me back 57.5k miles + ~$90 for my business class ticket. As I was redeeming for flights operated by United’s partner, Austrian Airlines, my cost was 70k miles + ~$111 in taxes, fees and close-in booking fee. I used this clever trick to avoid the close-in booking fee since I booked 3 days before departure, which brought the taxes and fees down to ~$36.

United Airlines 527
Fort Myers (RSW) to Houston (IAH)
Depart:  6:10 AM
Arrive:  7:36 AM
Duration:  2 hours, 26 minutes
Aircraft:  Boeing 737-800
Seat: 3F/3A

Prior to clearing security, I happened to get sight the Boeing 737 that would be taking me to Houston (IAH) on my first leg.

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Security was a breeze as I have TSA Pre-Check, so I made it to the gate less than 5 minutes after arriving at the airport. RSW does not offer any lounges, so after a quick 15 minute wait at the gate, the gate agents made the announcement that boarding would begin shortly.

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Boarding commenced shortly after the announcement and I made my way down the jet bridge towards door 1L where I was greeted by the cabin crew. I quickly made my way towards my seat – 3F – which was a window seat. The cabin featured 4 rows of standard domestic first class business seats arranged in a 2-2 fashion.

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The seats were a bit worse for wear, though these 737s are really the work horses of the domestic fleets for a lot of airlines and see a lot of butt-in-seat miles.

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Waiting at the seat was a set of cheap, United branded, walkman-era headphones that were perfectly suitable for the short flight.

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I am 6’5″ and the legroom for the seat was ample and maybe slightly more than American offers on their 737s.

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In the center console between the seats were the controls for the in-flight entertainment (IFE) system. The placement was a bit awkward given the remote did not come out any, but, again, it was a short flight and I spent most of it reading anyways.

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The IFE screen was small and of lower resolution quality than American offers on their 737s, but it offered live DirecTV and a decent selection of TV shows, movies and games. I do like that United offers DirecTV onboard as it is nice to be able to watch live news or sports, but that also means you have to watch commercials, which I hate.

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After settling in, I noticed my seatmate asked a younger girl if she would be alright sitting in the row across from what I presume was her mother. Personally, when I’m flying solo I never mind switching seats so others can sit together if they want to. I offered this up to the lady and she seemed genuinely surprised someone would voluntarily offer to switch seats. I can understand this as I have been on more than a few flights where people are adamant about keeping their seat. So for the rest of the flight I had seat 3A which was a window seat on the opposite side of the aircraft.

After settling in to my new seat, the flight attendant came around to offer pre-departure beverages. I ordered a Bailey’s and coffee which is my usual go-to for early morning flights. The Bailey’s was served in a separate bottle for me to mix myself, while the coffee was Illy dark roast which was quite good.

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I noticed that there were blankets in a duffle bag in one of the overhead bins, though blankets were not proactively offered to passengers in the cabin unless they asked for one. I found this a bit odd since at least half a dozen people asked for a blanket in a 5 minute stretch, which required the flight attendants to go into the duffle bag to retrieve one.

In any case, we pushed back about 5 minutes behind schedule, at which point a video was played. It was essentially a 3 minute informational video talking about how amazing United was with helping Olympians get to Rio. Overall, it was pretty cheesy. The safety video (also Olympic themed and quite cheesy) played after that as we taxied. One thing I do love about flying into and out of RSW is that there is never a line to takeoff or land so the taxi is always quick!

After a quick taxi, we were airborne. The views as we passed over the Tampa Bay area at sunrise were spectacular. I absolutely love sunrise and sunset from an airplane window, so I spent the next half hour glued to the window.

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About 15 minutes after takeoff, the snack service began with a piping hot towel. I find towel temperatures are always hit or miss in the business and first class cabins, though I appreciated that this one was piping hot as the cabin was quite cold. The difference in temperatures really woke me up!

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After the towels were collected, the flight attendant came by to take drink orders. I opted for another Bailey’s and coffee, which was served with a glass of still water.

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The snack that was served consisted of fresh fruit and a mixed berry muffin.

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I love muffins and this one did not disappoint as it was warm with crispy edges around the top. I really wish American would start offering a snack service like this on their morning flights instead of the carb basket as it was the perfect amount for a morning flight.

After the snack I tried to jump on the wifi just to see how it was. Unfortunately, it was so slow that it was borderline unusable. I grabbed my book and read for the remainder of the flight instead and before I knew it we were starting our descent into Houston. The descent and landing were somewhat bumpy as there were storms in the area. We touched down on time and had a long taxi to our gate. When we arrived at our gate, there was another plane occupying it so we sat on the tarmac for about 10 minutes waiting for that aircraft to clear. After we parked, I grabbed my bag and headed off for the KLM Crown Lounge.

Final Thoughts

As a whole, my first United experience in 10+ years actually started out surprisingly well. I liked the snack style breakfast that was offered on this early flight and really wish American would start offering something similar. The food was good and the service was surprisingly good as well. Unfortunately, that good fortune would not continue once I reached Houston.

What are your thoughts on United’s 737 business class?

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