The aircraft on display was the company’s first 737 MAX 8 with the new cabin, featuring new amenities such as in-seat televisions and larger overhead bins.
Ever since I saw United’s new cabin, I can’t wait to try it out. So I booked a ticket on the longest flight I could manage, flying six hours from Newark to Seattle, to get the full experience – here’s what it looked like.
I arrived in Newark at 5:30 a.m. for my 7:00 a.m. departure, and even in the early hours of Monday the airport was already teeming with travelers.
Security only took about five minutes with TSA PreCheck, avoiding hectic lines during this busy summer travel season.
Inside the terminal, I headed for gate C71. There was plenty of space to sit and wait for boarding, as well as plenty of power outlets, which I appreciated.
Boarding started 40 minutes before departure and I was in group 3 so I was one of the first people on the plane.
I sat in 23A, which was the third row of the regular economy section and located just above the wing. I pre-booked the spot for $22 when booking.
The seat was marketed as a “preferred area assignment” closer to the front of the aircraft.
While I waited for the rest of the passengers to board, I started exploring the updated seat. The first thing I noticed was the space.
Economy seats offer a 30-inch pitch, which is on par with some competing airlines, and even low-cost airline Breeze Airways, which offers the same legroom on its A220 planes.
I had a medium sized bag, but kept it stowed under the seat in front of me to allow room for larger carry-on bags, especially since it was a completely full flight.
It limited the amount of leg room I had to stretch my legs completely straight, but I still felt I had plenty of room in the window seat. Granted, I’m only 5-foot-3 and pretty short, so I easily fit into most airplane seats, even in Spirit’s wretchedly cramped cabin.
Without my bag under the seat, I could easily stretch my legs.
Meanwhile, the seat width was also similar to competitors at 17.2 inches, leaving just enough hip room to be comfortable.
However, taller or taller passengers may feel comfortable regardless and might consider booking an “Economy Plus” or First Class seat instead, which offer 34 and 37 inches of pitch, respectively.
Digging around the new seat, I also found several other conveniences, like USB ports…
…110v AC outlets…
…large seatback pockets big enough for my laptop…
…a medium sized tray table…
…adjustable head restraints…
…and seat screens, which offer more than 2,800 selections of movies, TV shows, music and games. I decided to watch Tom Holland’s new movie, Uncharted, which was actually pretty good.
I also like that the screen flips up when the front seat reclines.
The new in-flight system also allows passengers to connect Bluetooth headphones to the seat.
I have wired earbuds so I’m sticking with those, but I still appreciate the unique functionality and am glad to know it’s available if and when I invest in AirPods.
United chose to bring back in-flight entertainment screens to better compete with Delta, which has installed televisions on many of its narrow-body planes.
The upgrade will leave American Airlines as the only “big 3” carrier without seatback screens on most of its single-aisle jets. The carrier instead opted for free in-flight streaming, which is seen on other carriers like Southwest Airlines.
For those who prefer to stream entertainment on their personal device, United still offers the option for free through its in-flight portal.
The portal also offers free texting and Wi-Fi for purchase, which cost me $8 as a Mileage Plus member. The service is $10 for non-members. The WiFi was fast and I was able to work easily during the flight.