You’ve already seen my posts on how the flight attendant training went in Houston, but I didn’t talk about how I actually got there. As you know from my last trip report, I was in Austin giving a speech. They had me busy on Wednesday and Friday, but I had nothing but time on Thursday. That, coincidentally, was the day United wanted to bring me to Houston. Since it’s only a short 30 minute flight away, this was an easy (but long) day trip to slot in. And the flights turned out to be surprisingly good.
United flies a mix of airplanes on this route, and I was hoping to try the new Embraer 175s. But with my timing, it turned out that I’d be flying on an Airbus both ways. I guess I shouldn’t complain about a mainline airplane on a 30 minute flight.
I got to the airport for my flight out at 545a and found crazy long regular security lines in the airport. It took me a bit to find the Pre Check line, but once I did, I was through quickly. I’m not sure why, but people lined up very early to board. Soon the gate agent announced it was a full flight and they wanted to check 10 to 15 bags. That got even more people standing in line. With only a laptop on me, I didn’t care and waited in a seat.
July 16, 2015
United 463 Lv Austin 654a Arr Houston/Intercontinental 756a
Austin (AUS): Gate 22, Runway 17L, Depart 2m Late
Houston/Intercontinental (IAH): Gate E2, Runway 26L, Arrive 7m Late
N454UA, Airbus A320-232, Continental Globe colors, ~90% Full
Seat 37A, Coach
Flight Time 33m
I haven’t flown United in a long time (been a year and a half), but the last time I flew a United Airbus it has just been outfitted with the slimline seats (which had gray seat covers then), and I didn’t like it. On this trip, United had originally put me in Economy Plus when booking me, but I moved myself back to a window in the next to last row so I could try the seat again. I had been told that these seats got a lot more comfortable when they were well-used, and they didn’t see as bad this time. Then again, a metal bench probably wouldn’t seem bad on a 30 minute flight.
While the seat cushion itself didn’t bother me, the design of the high seatback pocket really makes me feel like I’m in a smaller space. It’s hard to describe it, but it has an impact.
Everyone was onboard and ready to go, but we pushed back a couple minutes late. Then we taxied out to the runway and parked. At that early hour, there was already flow control going on despite the great weather, and we had to sit for 13 minutes until it was our time to go.
We took off and headed toward Houston while I just read Hemispheres. I was really surprised that the crew came through and tried to do a full beverage service. With a flight time of 35 minutes, that seemed crazy. And sure enough, we were already below 10,000 feet on descent by the time they got to us. I didn’t need a drink, but the woman next to me ordered a ginger ale. They gave her the whole can and then came through and took it back from her just a couple minutes later. I’ll give them an A for effort on that one.
Once on the ground, it took awhile to taxi all the way around to our gate, and we ended up being a few minutes late. It was hot and humid in Houston (as always, I assume), and while sitting at the gate, I could see those air conditioning units working overtime (see the mist above). I hopped off and someone was there waiting to whisk me off to the training center, just a couple minutes away by car.
At the end of the day, we headed back to the terminal. Unfortunately with our timing, it was just late enough that I couldn’t make the 535p flight. So I had some time to kill until the 720p departure. I was surprised at how small the ticketing area for United seems to be in Houston. Then again, I guess much of the traffic is connecting anyway. I was even more surprised that at 5p on a Thursday, the Pre Check line was closed. Instead they had one of those goofy workarounds where you show your boarding pass and they let you keep your shoes on. You still have to remove your laptop though. And showing the electronic boarding pass to the agent before throwing it into the x-ray machine was a little chaotic.
I made it through and worked my way to the gate where I plugged in and caught up on email. Boarding was strange on this one in that they announced groups 1 and 2 but then nothing else. People just started piling on, so I did as well.
July 16, 2015
United 335 Lv Houston/Intercontinental 720p Arr Austin 816p
Houston/Intercontinental (IAH): Gate C23, Runway 15R, Depart 2m Early
Austin (AUS): Gate 18, Runway 17R, Arrive 4m Early
N818UA, Airbus A319-131, Continental Globe colors, ~99% Full
Seat 21F, Coach
Flight Time 28m
On this airplane, I kept my Economy Plus seat, which was the exit row on the window. Legroom here was great, though the little half-armrest thing is always awkward.
This flight appeared to be the employee shuttle with a bunch of pilots and flight attendants onboard, including one in the middle next to me. As I sat down, I realized that I didn’t have anything to keep me entertained. I had read Hemispheres and didn’t have anything else to read. And that’s when I found it.
United, like many airlines, has streaming movies and TV shows stored on a server onboard. And United, like others, provides much of it for free. But what I didn’t realize is that on United, you can start streaming when you’re sitting at the gate. I think it turns on once the door closes. So as soon as that happened, I flipped on an episode of Veep on my phone (I’ve never seen that show outside of an airplane). It was fast and it was a great picture. I was almost done with it by the time we finished taxiing around the airport and got in the air. Having that service on the ground was awesome.
This time, the crew didn’t do a full beverage service and instead just walked through with a tray of water. That’s what I would have expected on a flight this short.
It was another quick up and down kind of flight. We landed, and I hopped off to head back to my hotel. United did a good job on both of these flights.