United Boeing 787-9 Economy Review: Chicago to Los Angeles

On a recent flight from Chicago to Los Angeles, I had the chance to test drive United’s flagship Boeing 787-9. Although usually found on long-haul flights, this busy route between two major cities supports high-density aircraft on morning departures. Here is an overview of the economy cabin and what you can expect from this service!

Quick and easy

When it comes to managing your reservations through the app, United excels at making the experience easy. I was able to check in for my flight, I received my boarding pass the day before, along with an offer to change flights to a less busy flight or to accept voluntary bumping. I declined the first and made an offer for a potential 787 replacement. Notably, an upgrade to Polaris was available for $300 on this flight.

SIMPLEFLYING VIDEO OF THE DAY

I was flying UA2242, leaving ORD at 8:55 a.m. and landing at LAX at 11:06 a.m. I arrived at the airport about 90 minutes before departure and with no baggage to check in, I went straight to the TSA for my screening. Although a bit busy, the lines moved quickly at O’Hare, and I spent 10 minutes, spending another five minutes wishing I had TSA PreCheck while putting on my shoes and belt.


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O’Hare is a major hub for United and the airline’s headquarters, explaining the investment in the terminal. Photo: Pranjal Pandé | single flight

My flight departed from C gates and I was impressed with the modernity of the renovated boarding area. A far cry from the usual terminal designs, C18 offers tons of seats, electronic information panels and charging stations for waiting passengers. It’s also right across from the United Polaris Lounge, allowing business class seated guests to board as late as they want. Gate agents also reminded economy class passengers to register their cards on the United app to purchase contactless onboard snacks.


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It was definitely one of the nicest boarding areas I’ve spent time in before a domestic flight in the US. Photo: Pranjal Pandé | single flight

Boarding began an hour before departure, with two parallel jetbridges for the Dreamliner. Boarding parties 1, 2 and some others used the first gate, while 3-5 used the middle gate for boarding. I was in the famous group 4 but I was on board in no time thanks to the efficiency of the gate agents.

Not too

United’s 787-9 economy class is laid out in a standard 3-3-3 configuration, with 188 seats in total. However, not all seats are built the same, with the 39 seats up front being sold as Economy Plus with 34” pitch. The standard Economy cabin has 149 seats with a tighter pitch of 31 ” and a width of 17.3″ no complaints on a 4.5 hour flight to the west coast, I would be wary of choosing this seat on a long haul flight or even transcontinental service.


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Legroom is tight in the 787’s Main Economy cabin and paying for Economy Plus is a smart choice on long flights. Photo: Pranjal Pandé | single flight

However, the best part of United’s Dreamliner are the new IFE screens. These bright screens offer a huge range of movies, TV shows and music, plus USB charging and live in-flight data. The Quick Response Display is a big upgrade, and passengers won’t be left behind on even the longest flights with United. Between the seats, you can find power outlets to charge your devices while using WiFi, which is free for messaging if you’re a MileagePlus member (free membership).


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Leg room is limited for anyone who meets or exceeds my 6’2″ height, especially if you add items to the storage pack. Photo: Pranjal Pande | Simple Flying

Food?

As expected, United is not offering a free economy class meal for any length of time. Instead, the crew offered everyone cold drinks, tea or coffee, along with the typical choice of Biscoff or stroopwafel. Although I’m a big stroopwafel fan, I was hoping to pre-order a more substantial snack for this flight. To my surprise, United does not offer the usual pre-order breakfast muffin on the 4.5-hour ORD-LAX route, offering only packaged snacks.


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Don’t expect cocktails or fancy meals on this flight. Photo: Pranjal Pandé | single flight

I settled in with my apple juice and snacks before dozing off in the dark cabin of the Dreamliner. The service ended with another drink service about an hour before landing (no snacks this time) with no crew to see for the duration of the flight. All in all, this was typical United service on any other route.

Conclusion

United’s 787 is a staple on any long haul due to its larger cabin and higher possibility of free middle seats than a narrowbody jet. Don’t expect to see any improved service beyond the new IFE screens though, with the flight looking like any other for the rest of the duration. Hopefully hot snacks will also make a comeback in the near future, especially for long flights like this.


What do you think of United’s 787 economy class on domestic sectors? Let us know in the comments!


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