United’s Old 737s Are… Kinda Weird

Flight Details
Date: February 3rd, 2024
Departure Airport: Chicago/O’Hare International Airport (ORD/KORD)
Arrival Airport: Minneapolis/Saint Paul International Airport (MSP/KMSP)
Airline: United
Aircraft: Boeing 737-900ER (N37413)
Flight Number: UA 2315
Flight Time: 0h, 58m
Departure Time: 8:13 PM (13 minutes late)
Arrival Time: 9:32 PM (2 minutes early)
Cruising Altitude: FL260
Server: Expert ig


Context: I took an awesome day trip down to Nashville with my Dad on February 3rd. While Nashville is a very fun city, potentially even more fun is flying. My camera roll has more pictures from one flight than the entire day we spent there. Enjoy the trip report.


It’s been a long time since I’ve flown on United’s Mainline service, and I was excited to try it out on this short, hour long hop between Chicago and Minneapolis, the Midwest’s first and second most populated cities, respectively. This is a route operated dozens of times a day by Delta, United, Southwest, American, and Sun Country, serving both business and leisure travelers. Minneapolis is home to many important companies (Cargill, General Mills, Medtronic, 3M, Target, and so many more), as is Chicago (Kraft Heinz, Boeing, United, Walgreens, etc) so there is a massive business market between the two cities.

We had about an hour and a half at O’hare between my arrival from Nashville and departure from Chicago. It’s a decent and absolutely MASSIVE airport. We got to go through that cool tunnel with all the lights, and the famous arched hallway with the flags, but the overall design wasn’t actually super cohesive. There were some super modern elements to the airport, and some that were completely out of the 1980s.

Another shocker was how many things were closed. There were only a few shops and restaurants open at 7:00 PM in both Terminal 1 and 2. Shocking for such a busy airport, and there were definitely plenty of passengers arriving and departing. Because of this, I ended up having a crappy and definitely overpriced ham sandwich. I’m not sure what made them think they could charge $14 for it.


Pretty soon it was time to board. I was in the waaay back of the plane (36A) with my dad. We were parked next to this E175 also heading to Minnesota, more specifically Duluth. As we got onto the plane, the FAs were handing out little United branded sanitizing wipes, which I definitely put to good use.

The exterior of our plane was nice and fresh looking, painted in United’s great looking Evo Blue livery (@United403 summon), but the interior could use some major work.

For starters, the plane absolutely stunk. The old faux leather seats held in the stink of almost the 200 hot, sweaty tourists who had just been on this plane on a 4 hour flight in from Providenciales, in the Turks and Caicos. It was clear the cleaners hadn’t paid a visit, as there was trash tucked in the folded up tray table, along with some mysterious, sticky splashes.


We did have TV screens, albeit the old ones. Oddly, they didn’t seem to have a headphone jack. There was also no in seat power that I could locate. Does anyone know why there was a credit card slot? Could you at one time make purchases from your seat?


Before we push back, we need to address the dumbest part of this whole plane (and I suppose my Dad’s sweater). They had the controls for the seatback TV on the armrest… So if you put your arm down it screws with the controls… And the purpose of an armrest is to be a rest for your arms. I’m not sure what the fine folks at United’s interior design department were thinking when they did this, but they clearly didn’t consider the entire purpose of an armrest. They could have put the controls on the seatback next to the screen… Or had a remote… Or anything but this.

My Dad astutely pointed out that many people sleep on planes, and what happens if they fall asleep resting on your TV screen controls? Then you’re screwed. Luckily, this design is being phased out as touchscreens are being installed on their new aircraft and re retrofitted 737NGs.


At the very last minute, the guy sitting next to my dad boarded and sat down. He was not looking too hot. He ended up getting sick about 5 minutes after takeoff and was ill the entire flight. Not the best seatmate. I suspect he had been traveling for many, many hours, as he came in clutching his passport which had a boarding pass for AnadoluJet (a Turkish LCC), indicating that he was that part of the world not too long ago.

We pushed back and as the engines started some weird, cold liquid started dripping periodically from the ceiling panel right above me. My best guess is it has to do with the air conditioning/circulation system. The captain made an announcement that there was “a little technical glitch” they had to sort out before we could get under way. That wasn’t too reassuring to most of the passengers in the wake of January’s MAX 9 door plug incident. It only took a few minutes to sort out their little “glitch” and we started our taxi out to runway 9R. It was too dark for any good photography, but I got some nice planespotting in, including a Cargolux 747 heading out to Luxembourg.


A little engine buzz later, we were roaring out of Chicago, heading northwest. This flight was smooth as glass, barely any bumps at all. For whatever reason, the seatbelt sign was on the entire flight. The guy in the aisle was getting extremely sick, but the FAs wouldn’t let him go to the bathroom. Not sure why, as the pilot told us they didn’t expect any turbulence in his pre departure announcement.


We leveled off pretty quickly at FL360, and got some nice views of Wisconsin. Pictured is Madison, Wisconsin’s capital. To our right was Milwaukee. There wasn’t much in terms of service on this flight, which makes sense. They did a quick water/Coke service, and that was it. Plenty for an hour long flight.


Before I knew it, we were beginning our descent into Minneapolis, joining the nighttime arrival rush. We came in and got some awesome views of Downtown Saint Paul before looping around north and making a 180 to fly past Minneapolis and touching down on 12R. My sister went outside and actually saw my plane fly over our house, which was cool.

You can see Minneapolis’s Skyline on the left side of the photo. We made a Flaps 40 landing, and came in pretty fast and dropped off a lot of speed right before touchdown. A little bit of a weird approach, but a nice smooth touchdown.

All in all, a mediocre experience, solely because of the cabin. I would love to experience United’s new cabins for comparison. We docked at T1, and joined the throngs of people arriving on all the evening services into Minneapolis. A quick walk to the Uber zone, and we were off to home.


The Breakdown

Seat: 3/10
Crew: 9/10
Food/Beverage: 4/10 (what I expected for this short of a flight)
In Flight Entertainment/Wi-Fi: 2/10
Landing: 7/10
Total: 25/50 (50%)

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My summon is amazing 🤩

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There used to be a time when Apple Pay and online payments mid-flight weren’t a thing.

Yes.

This was Continental’s design.

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I understand that, but how would that work? Let’s say I wanted to buy a bag of chips for $2. Would the FA somehow charge $2 onto that credit card reader and then you’d insert it then? It also wasn’t that long ago this cabin was installed - the plane was delivered in late 2007. Point of sales terminals have been around since the 1970s, including the handheld ones that FAs use today.

Then let’s blame them for this.

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I will say as a JetBlue geek and have been flying on their old aircraft, they have the same exact TV and remote on there older aircraft from the early 2000’s it’s not that bad when your in the middle or isle seat but in window having the remote control on the arm rest is difficult, I will say that any flight from the Caribbean are gonna smell. Not to be rude but people down there don’t really believe in showers 😅
Anyways this is why I will certainly not be flying United any time soon.
Great report as always mort!

That’s actually an awesome report for “25/50” flight! Attention to detail and writing: 10/10.

And:
Mysterious sticky substance - my wife had such an annoying encounter last week on a Qantas (Link?) flight to Canberra. She reported it to the FA as it clung to her clothes and purse (out of concern for the next passenger), which was annoyingly downplayed/dismissed (afterwards the laundry fuss…hence it registers!)

Madison - gotta go there later this year for first US trip since covid (also why it registers)

Minneapolis - only place I’ve ever had a missed approach as a passenger in a commercial aircraft, pitch black in the middle of winter, after a connecting 13hour flight from overseas, overcast aborting a low visibility ILS approach (registers)

Nashville - always wanted to go there (grasping for…but it registers - downunder makes the grass greener:)

I enjoyed the description, giving life to the night photos.

Motorola, no longer headquartered in Chicago(?)

As for United, worst service I used to think out of Australia, until they upgraded the 747’s to 787’s. It turned night to day.

“Old 737s.” I never knew how much difference a new aircraft could make to the sense of good service.

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Usually on these planes they’re on the front of the armrest.

It wasn’t specifically for inflight purchases, think more so buying movies back in the day.

This isn’t/wasn’t just a UA/CO thing. Many airlines did this. Every JetBlue plane had controls on the armrest (source: I flew A LOT of JetBlue in the early/mid 2000s) until they began their retrofit a few years ago. Their 190s (since they’re being retired) still have the arm rest controls. Back in the day of no touch screens, there really wasn’t a better spot to put them.

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Thank you!

It’s always gross when something like that happens. I understand that the cleaners might not always have time to deep clean the aircraft, especially on the tight turns that Qantas Link and similar regional carriers have, but it does kinda ruin the travel experience when you’re dealing with a mysterious substance all over you/your stuff.

I haven’t been for a while. I remember it being a pretty neat place though.

Sounds like Minneapolis. Especially during winter weather ops, you’ll get a good number of go arounds/missed approaches.

I’d say it’s worth a visit. Good food, fun museums, and great music scene.

I can only imagine. There’s only so much interior designers can do with an old aircraft.

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Sorry, I wasn’t clear.

The seatback reader was for a one-time DIRECTV purchase. There were separate handheld card readers for FAs.

I thought that was for CDs

Now I know why my mum tells me to choose clothes for travelling only

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When United flew to Manchester I took their flight once way back when I was little. I vaguely remember that flight but it wasn’t good. It was a B757 which we took over the Atlantic. I was small then so legroom wasn’t a big issue but I couldn’t imagine me now going on that flight. The TV screens were tiny and barely worked

The good thing is United has really been turning it around. The new interiors are great, and service is way better than what it use to be. Just gonna take a while for the new interiors to get on all planes.

Yeah I’ve seen pictures of their newer cabins. Keep in mind I only flew in them once like around 9-10 years ago and they had the B757 which was very old. It was before they got the B767s onto that route.

nice review!

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