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Pay Attention Before Booking Your Transcon Flight on United

I’m heading out to Los Angeles in a few weeks, and I wanted to pass along this quick caveat:

I’m flying United because I’m tied to their frequent flyer program, not because they offer the best product. They do not. United has long considered Newark to be a different market than JFK. That’s fine. The JFK-LAX market is highly competitive, with solid offerings from AA, Delta, JetBlue, United PS service, and (to an extent, though their premium cabin is now 1 generation behind), Virgin America. AA offers 3 cabin service, JetBlue has the new Mint service, United’s PS is perfectly fine. They all have wi-fi and (save for Virgin America) flat beds up front.

But out of Newark, where United is the only carrier it’s a mishmosh of service options. My advice: when you’re flying United out of Newark to LA, make sure you pay attention to the aircraft they’re flying on your particular flight. In July they’re offering a 7:59am departure on an A319, with overhead video and no in-seat power. Seriously. And that’s the same price as the handful of internationally-outfitted 757-200s they fly on the route (which ARE upgrade eligible, though good luck with that). They also offer a mix of 737-800s and -‘900s, which have live TV, though no wi-fi (on most of those). Your enjoyment of the flight will vary considerably by aircraft.

I almost ended up on that A319 (blech) until I realized what was happening and simultaneously remembered that United is flying a daily 787 from Houston to LA (I haven’t flown a 787 yet). So I’m flying from LaGuardia and connecting to the 787. You didn’t need to know that, but I figured if I can’t share that here, where can I share it? (Answer: nowhere).

All of those JFK flights offer pretty solid options for domestic flights, but just be careful you don’t end up staring at a 13″ monitor hanging from the ceiling on your next flight out of Newark.

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