Review: United Airlines 737 MAX 9 First Class (ORD-BOS)

Review: United Airlines 737 MAX 9 First Class (ORD-BOS)

FROM: ORD
TO: BOS
CABIN: First
DATE: March 2022
REVIEW RATING:
BEN SAYS: United's 737 MAX 9 first class is reasonably good. The cabin was pretty comfortable, there was high-speed Wi-Fi, and the crew was friendly. Unfortunately the food left a bit to be desired.
49

After flying from Kona to Chicago in United’s Boeing 787-9 business class, it was time to connect from Chicago to Boston in United’s Boeing 737 MAX 9 first class. I was curious to experience this product, as I hadn’t yet flown a United 737 MAX.

Now, unfortunately only United’s 737 MAX 8 aircraft feature the carrier’s new “modernized” cabins that will eventually be retrofitted on most planes. However, even the 737 MAX 9 featured a pretty nice cabin, at least in comparison to American’s Boeing 737 MAXs.

How I booked our United Airlines first class tickets

As I explained in the previous installment, I booked the following for ~$1,200 one-way per person in first class:

03/12 UA67 Kona to Chicago departing 5:55PM arriving 6:00AM (+1 day)
03/13 UA2129 Chicago to Boston departing 7:15AM arriving 10:30AM

While not cheap, this was the most comfortable and direct way to travel between Kona and Boston, which is what we needed.

United Club Chicago O’Hare

We had a 75 minute layover at Chicago O’Hare, with our flight from Kona arriving in the C Concourse, and our flight to Boston departing from the B Concourse. We took the good old tunnel between the two concourses — I’m happy to see that “Rhapsody in Blue” is still playing here.

Chicago O’Hare terminal

Since we had about 30 minutes to spare, we headed to the United Club located by gate B6, near our departure gate. I have Star Alliance Gold status through a recent Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer promotion, which grants United Club access even on domestic itineraries.

United Club Chicago O’Hare exterior

While I won’t be doing a full review of the United Club, I was reasonably impressed — the lounge was pretty quiet and modern.

United Club Chicago O’Hare seating
United Club Chicago O’Hare seating
United Club Chicago O’Hare seating

The food selection was limited, but what was available was pretty decent (for example, I liked that they had yogurt, fruit, and granola).

United Club Chicago O’Hare food
United Club Chicago O’Hare food
United Club Chicago O’Hare food
United Club Chicago O’Hare coffee

Soon enough it was time to head to our departure gate…

United Airlines first class boarding Chicago O’Hare

Our flight was departing from gate B7, and was scheduled to board at 6:35AM, 40 minutes before departure. The gate agent was friendly and very detailed over the PA, and started boarding right on time. As far as premium passengers go, Global Services members were invited to board first, followed by Premier 1K members (there were six of them, per the PA, and sadly they were all in economy… ouch).

United Airlines boarding gate
United Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 Chicago O’Hare

United Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 first class cabin & seats

United’s Boeing 737 MAX 9s are simultaneously pretty bare banes, and also kind of elegant, at least compared to American’s 737 MAXs. United has 20 first class seats on the 737 MAX 9, spread out over five rows in a 2-2 configuration.

United Airlines Boeing 737 MAX first class cabin

Legroom was pretty solid, as seats allegedly have 38″ of pitch, which is slightly above average for domestic first class nowadays. I know I’m really grasping at straws here, but I do appreciate the cabin finishes, from the difference in color between the seats and the seatbacks, and even the trays having a different texture. They’re just a bit more exciting than American’s interiors.

United Airlines Boeing 737 MAX first class seat
United Airlines Boeing 737 MAX first class seat

United’s 737 MAX 9s don’t have personal televisions, but they do have two large seatback pockets in first class.

United Airlines Boeing 737 MAX first class seat

There was a Hemispheres magazine in the seatback pocket. Nowadays inflight magazines are pretty rare, so I suppose that’s some form of entertainment.

United Airlines Boeing 737 MAX first class seat pocket

To the side of the seat was a storage compartment, where you could place a laptop or book during the flight.

United Airlines Boeing 737 MAX first class seat storage

The tray table folded out from the center armrest, and it had a little device holder that folded up, so it could be used for personal entertainment.

United Airlines Boeing 737 MAX first class seat tray table

In the center section was a small exposed storage compartment, and this is also where the AC power outlets were located. Interestingly there were no USB outlets (which doesn’t bother me personally, but I know it’s something others care about).

United Airlines Boeing 737 MAX first class seat storage
United Airlines Boeing 737 MAX first class seat power outlet

Then there was a center tray where you could place drinks.

United Airlines Boeing 737 MAX first class seat tray

The overhead consoles were modern, as you’d expect, with big overhead bins, individual air nozzles, and reading lights.

United Airlines Boeing 737 MAX overhead console
United Airlines Boeing 737 MAX first class cabin

Since we were seated in the last row of first class, I also peeked into the economy cabin, which looked fine.

United Airlines Boeing 737 MAX Economy Plus cabin
United Airlines Boeing 737 MAX Economy Plus cabin

There was a lavatory at the front of first class, as well as one immediately behind first class. Since there was no bulkhead between economy and first class, you could easily hear and smell when the lavatory was being used, which isn’t ideal. Then again, it’s useful to also have a lavatory at the front of economy.

United Airlines 737 MAX first class lavatory

Unfortunately these lavatories were the standard space saving Boeing 737 MAX ones, with tiny sinks.

United Airlines 737 MAX first class lavatory

United Airlines departure from Chicago O’Hare

The flight from Chicago to Boston was packed, with all first class seats occupied, and only three open seats in economy. Despite the busy boarding process, the crew offered pre-departure drinks, with the choice of water or orange juice.

United Airlines first class pre-departure drinks

At around 7:10AM the captain made his welcome aboard announcement, informing us of our flight time of 1hr44min. I noticed that United’s pilot mask announcements aren’t quite as aggressive as American’s. At around 7:10AM we began our pushback, at which point the safety demonstration was performed.

Pushing back Chicago O’Hare

By 7:15AM we started our taxi to runway 28R.

Taxiing Chicago O’Hare

Not only did we have quite a long taxi, but when we approached the runway the captain announced that we were still waiting on our “numbers” from the load planners, regarding our takeoff weight. That took about an extra five minutes, and by 7:35AM we were cleared for takeoff.

Taking off Chicago O’Hare

We had beautiful views on departure on this gorgeous (but beyond freezing) morning.

View after takeoff from Chicago O’Hare
View after takeoff from Chicago O’Hare

Thanks to the direction we were flying, we even made some turns that afforded a great view of the airport, which really puts into perspective how big O’Hare is.

View after takeoff from Chicago O’Hare

United Airlines first class breakfast snack

This flight was marketed as offering a “snack” service for breakfast, which in United’s case means more than packaged snacks, but less than a full meal. Service began with drinks of choice, and I ordered a cup of coffee and some water. It’s nice to see glassware fully return to domestic flights.

United Airlines first class drinks

As far as the breakfast snack goes, the choices were either a cream cheese veggie sandwich, or a ham & cheese breakfast sandwich. I don’t eat pork, so it was the former for me.

United’s food might just be worse than American’s, and that’s saying a lot. Let’s take a look at this snack. This was described as an “everything baguette with veggie cream cheese,” and it was on everything ciabatta with swiss cheese, cream cheese, carrots, scallion, and red pepper.

United Airlines first class breakfast

I at least commend United for keeping the nutrition label on the meal, because this is always eye-opening. This snack had 25 grams of fat, 13 grams of saturated fat, and 1,360 milligrams of sodium.

United Airlines first class breakfast

Below is a look at the sandwich…

United Airlines first class breakfast

I had a bit of it, and I’m not going to lie, it was both disgusting and delicious. But seriously, this is just next-level unhealthy. United is serving a reheated piece of bread with multiple types of processed cheese, and calling that a snack.

I just don’t get it. I mean, I do get it — it’s cheap, and unfortunately this kind of food is considered acceptable in the United States. But how about something a little healthier as a snack, like a greek yogurt parfait, or some egg bites, or something?

United Airlines Boeing 737 MAX entertainment & Wi-Fi

While this United 737 MAX 9 didn’t feature personal televisions, it did feature high-speed Viasat Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi is an area where United historically lags both American and Delta in terms of speed, but that’s slowly improving. I think this was my first United flight with Viasat, and the speeds were great.

United Airlines Boeing 737 MAX Wi-Fi

A Wi-Fi pass for the entire flight cost $10, which was reasonable. Messaging was also available for free.

United Airlines Boeing 737 MAX Wi-Fi

United Airlines first class service

There were two flight attendants working first class, and they were both friendly and attentive. I can’t count the number of times I was asked if I wanted something else to drink. By the way, it’s interesting to me that United has two flight attendants working first class in a 20 seat cabin, while I believe American typically only has one.

The crew really only had the first hour to perform any service, because the cabin had to be prepared for landing early.

United Airlines arrival in Boston

We were traveling when there was a bomb cyclone in the Northeast, and there was quite a bit of weather on approach. Unfortunately I don’t have many pictures to share, as the cloud ceiling was low, so there were no views until a few seconds before touchdown.

We landed in Boston at 10:25AM, and were at the gate a few minutes after that.

United Airlines 737 MAX 9 upon arrival in Boston

Bottom line

On balance I’d say this was a solid United Airlines experience. The flight was on-time, the crew was friendly, and United’s cabins without personal televisions are nicer than American’s cabins without personal televisions (and unlike at American, United is actually improving its cabins beyond this). Furthermore, this flight had high-speed Viasat Wi-Fi, which I don’t think I’ve ever had before on United.

My only criticism of the experience is the food. But then again, which US airline (other than JetBlue) actually does a good job with that?

If you’ve flown United’s 737 MAX 9 first class, what was your experience like?

Conversations (49)
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  1. UA 1K Guest

    United’s catering is repulsive

  2. Santos Guest

    Everyone complaining about that disgusting and unhealthy sandwich should remember there's a giant airport full of food options available before the flight. I know Americans have an all-or-nothing mentality and won't turn their head at a free meal, but it's ok to decline things once in a while. You just might survive a 2-hour flight without food.

  3. N1120A Guest

    580 calories for the sandwich is actually OK and sodium doesn't matter for the vast majority of healthy people who actually exercise, but the macros are, well...eh. Would be nice to hit the magical 20 grams of protein and bring down the get a tad. The problem is that pile really won't keep you full and you may end up in a surplus.

    Hopefully, the slow end to COVID will get United to stop...

    580 calories for the sandwich is actually OK and sodium doesn't matter for the vast majority of healthy people who actually exercise, but the macros are, well...eh. Would be nice to hit the magical 20 grams of protein and bring down the get a tad. The problem is that pile really won't keep you full and you may end up in a surplus.

    Hopefully, the slow end to COVID will get United to stop boarding this crap - which was actually the "meal" not all that long ago. They may well be trying to sell out the stock they bought from their caterers.

  4. Mark Guest

    American offers a snack basket in F on this route, except for the pilots, who get meals.

  5. John S Guest

    That sandwich truly looks disgusting, like someone barfed on a piece of bread

  6. Michael Guest

    Yawn. Everything about the aircraft interior and product offerings was so unbelievably bland. I have to question the author’s credibility if he’s noting varying textures in this mundane cabin as a stand out feature.

  7. JCDC Guest

    I've seen some revolting plane food, but that slab of gunkified bread is just the worst! It's kind of ridiculous to call it a "covid" measure as a defense. Better off buying economy food instead :(

  8. Carrie Member

    It is an undeniable talent to make food look so incredibly awful but equally, on a short haul domestic flight, a sparkling water, a tea made with a decent tea bag or fresh coffee with a 'real' biscuit is all that is required.

    1. MarkL New Member

      I totally disagree. When you're paying $215 for a first class ticket instead of $75 for a (non-basic) economy ticket, that should include more than a biscuit. The flight is over 2 hours, enough to serve 20 people. If airlines don't want meals on the plane, at least give lounge access. I know grizzled business travelers regularly turn down perks, but if they aren't there I'll look elsewhere or go economy.

  9. BookLvr Member

    I wonder if booking a special meal gets you better quality food.

    We are planning to fly United this summer, as they are the only airline that has direct flights from our closest major city to our destination. Our daughter is vegan, so we will request a special meal for her...but maybe we should all request special meals.

  10. PJ Guest

    Ummm.... I'm sorry to be gross but that "snack" pic looks like a photo of your meal AFTER ingestion. Good thing you weren't connecting to one of AA's "turkey sandwich" flights?

  11. SGT PERI Guest

    Totally CRAP product!!

  12. Morgan Gold

    That sandwich looks like one of the most disgusting things I have ever seen, I would not have eaten that in a million years

  13. Dave Guest

    Doesn't UA plan to retrofit the MAX 9s with TVs/USB?

  14. Oliver Guest

    I also flew on a United 737 MAX 9 in First Class, but from LAX-OGG after riding on a B789 flight from ORD. Seats were comfy and reclined quite a bit. Was also disappointed at the lack of seat back TVs and a bit peeved that United chose to use a single-aisle jet on a 5+ hour flight. Food was bad; the chicken and orzo were a downgrade after my amazing berry compote waffles on...

    I also flew on a United 737 MAX 9 in First Class, but from LAX-OGG after riding on a B789 flight from ORD. Seats were comfy and reclined quite a bit. Was also disappointed at the lack of seat back TVs and a bit peeved that United chose to use a single-aisle jet on a 5+ hour flight. Food was bad; the chicken and orzo were a downgrade after my amazing berry compote waffles on the 789. The chicken was too juicy and I was questioning the cook on that thing. The orzo was so dry and clumpy that it stuck to my throat. Service was great; even played a “Halfway to Hawaii” game with the captain on our way there. They even served a complimentary hot chocolate cookie upon landing, which was super nice. I had roughly the same experience as you, except mine was a tad bit better as I had a longer flight.

  15. hartd8 New Member

    I will be trying the 737 max 9 next week/Disappointing there is NO TV!!!

  16. dander Guest

    Wow I would have to pass on the snack

  17. SD Ron New Member

    It's one of my favorites. Reminds me of NYC, but how did you see "Rhapsody in Blue" playing in the tunnel? Was it on a screen?

  18. Kath Guest

    I just flew United first class to Quito last week on this plane.. I was very surprised with the lack of an entertainment monitor and no info was given about the wifi. It was very clean and comfortable. I returned from Quito on Delta first class. The food was good- a real dinner I was able to select before the flight and entertainment. Seats very comfotable. When tray table had some problems steward took me...

    I just flew United first class to Quito last week on this plane.. I was very surprised with the lack of an entertainment monitor and no info was given about the wifi. It was very clean and comfortable. I returned from Quito on Delta first class. The food was good- a real dinner I was able to select before the flight and entertainment. Seats very comfotable. When tray table had some problems steward took me aside, profusely apologized and sent me a $50 credit on the spot. Given the choice, I definitely chose Delta.

  19. Gerald L. George Guest

    After Retired from GE Aircraft Jet Engine Inspections for 28.6 Years and numerous Overseas Assigned Assignments.
    Looking fwd shortly to flying on United to Massachusetts to visiting my Great Great Grand
    children…Oh when I use to Travel was often with United which always was Top’s as far as up to speed on Comfortable Consideration and Crew were TOP NOTICED.
    Regard’s. Gerald George
    Hesperia Ca.
    Vietnam Veteran
    USAF TSGT
    AIRCRAFT JET ENGINE AIRCRAFT MECHANIC

  20. ollie Guest

    Your suggestion of easier and possibly less deadly food should be given greater emphasis. I too have eaten the cheese thingamajig. It is scary awful. I would give anything for a bowl of cereal or yogurt. And instead of those awful sodium-laden lunches how about a sandwich of cheese or turkey or tuna fish. None of these are expensive and BTW have actual taste without slowly killing the passenger. And BTW I always try to bring on my own snacks just in case.

  21. Donna Diamond

    Instead of a nutrition label on that sandwich, just print a skull and cross bones next time.

    1. Vancouver - Char Gold

      We agree - that 'sandwich' is shockingly fatty

  22. John Guest

    To Ben why don't you fly the economy it would have been much cheaper on this trip what about us people that cannot afford to fly business or first class why don't you do an economy review especially for an overseas trip to Asia or even to Europe I promise it will not be the worst thing since sliced bread I know there are other readers who think like I do or who would agree with me thank you for your time

  23. david Guest

    Took another look at the wrapper. 580 calories and 59% of your daily sodium from a single 6 oz sandwich. I hope they have a defibrillator onboard.

  24. David Guest

    Jesus effing Christ that breakfast is disgusting, and so unhealthy. Who at UA looks at that and says yeah...let's serve that on our flights? Just looking at the description on the outer wrapping, I would have been hesitant to open it.

    1. Michael Guest

      Agree. They should be giving complimentary tetanus shots for dessert.

  25. Scott Guest

    It'd be nice to have a breakdown of what your star ratings mean, and maybe examples of each from your travels over the years (flights and hotels). Like this all sounds like a 3-star review, as in perfectly fine and inoffensive, but nothing special.

  26. Chris M Guest

    I just fly a Max 9 from PHL-SFO. 6 AM departure. First time on a United Max since most of my routes seem to be a 738 or a 772 domestically. I am a 1K and was #4 on the upgrade list and just missed the cutoff, which I was sort of happy about as I had exit row 20 to myself which I think I'd rather have than sitting next to someone in FC, and I get free food anyway, and I think the Asiago breakfast bagel sandwich looks better than that stuff.

  27. Clem Diamond

    That sandwich looks so, so gross. But that's probably a result of people obsessing over getting "hot food" back, and somehow seeing this sandwich as a victory no matter how much worse it is than almost any other cold item. Like others said, I'd take one of those snack boxes over this calorie/fat/sodium bomb.

  28. stogieguy7 Diamond

    That breakfast looks absolutely disgusting! Seriously gross. And I am disturbed, as I'm based near ORD and UA is my go-to airline. That United Club you visited is my usual starting point for a trip. So, I could very well end up with that atrocity that you got for a meal and I find this disturbing.

  29. Alex Guest

    Those sandwiches are gross (there is a "chicken and cheese" option as well that is somehow LESS appetizing) and for anyone offered them, please know you can just ask for a snack box or something else that they sell back in economy. A much better option!

  30. Nikojas Guest

    I think you're being a bit generous on the cabin. No TVs, nor usb sockets but you get "two seat back pockets in first class"? Are you being sarcastic? Hope so!

  31. Happy Flyer Member

    Hard to believe United has anything worse than American these days.

  32. Eskimo Guest

    Am I the only one who at first glance saw the fruits as the dreaded variety cheese cubes making a come back.

  33. sb Guest

    wifi $8 if you purchase logged in to your MileagePlus account!

  34. Endre Guest

    Bleh. Better offer BOB or nothing, before serving such a “snack.”

  35. Levi Member

    There's perhaps no better sign of how much we're in a Want F Buy F environment than no 1Ks getting upgraded (doubtful that there were 18 GSs onboard).

    I'm pretty sure I'd take the breakfast snack box Delta (e.g. banana bread, yogurt, berries, and trail mix) offered until recently over that sandwich.

  36. AA70 Member

    If you get the chance you definitely need to check out the United 7M8, besides the lavs they are such nice planes

    1. FLLFLYER Guest

      I don’t get UA 's "snack" on domestic flights. I had the chicken sandwich twice in one weak and it was worse than vile. I refused it on 2nd flight but funny enough the older couple across from asked if there were any extras. There were plenty because most people know how disgusting that sandwich is. They both ate two of them! Given their size it was not a surprise!

  37. Daniel Guest

    Alaska’s food is great. On a similar flight length (SEA-SJC) for breakfast I had a protein platter with hard boiled egg, cheese, overnight oats, fruit and turkey. Much healthier. Plus the snack basket.

    1. Levi Member

      People fixate on "it's a hot meal". To them that sandwich, which is barely at the level of what you get at a sad gas station (let alone a Sheetz or Wawa or Cumbys) saw the inside of an oven for a few seconds so must be superior to anything cold.

    2. Dr. Stan Guest

      Wow! The 70 grams of carbs in that sandwich will raise the sugar level of a non-obese diabetic man or woman about 350 mg/dL! As normal is between about 70 and 100 mg/dL...that's sorta like a suicide pill/sandwich. And there is no alternative but to bring your own food. As a diabetologist and in a country where well over 13-15% of the population have diabetes mellitus...this is criminal. Just saying.....

    3. Canadian Platinum Guest

      59% of the daily sodium intake in one sandwich. Appalling!

  38. PaF Guest

    Fair comment about the sandwich but there are no microwaves on planes, FYI. Those MAX ovens do a great job at *reheating* the food, which has been a huge improvement.

  39. eric Guest

    Was boarding a fight of the fittest? I always had domestic US boarding with people taking to much luggage and try to beat everyone so they can get space for it in the overhead bins. Come on people I pay good money for my ticket and want to store my (mostly only small back pack) above or very close to my seat. Often, I also see people put luggage in first and move on to sit in economy.

  40. EJ Guest

    What exactly do you feel makes United’s first cabin better than AA’s? I think they are different but more or less equal. The device holder on AA with the USB makes a difference for me.

    1. AA70 Member

      Everybody values amenities differently, and while I appreciate the device holder and USB on AA, I very much do like the cabin finishes on UA much better. It has some flavor vs AA just looks bland.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Donna Diamond

Instead of a nutrition label on that sandwich, just print a skull and cross bones next time.

5
Nikojas Guest

I think you're being a bit generous on the cabin. No TVs, nor usb sockets but you get "two seat back pockets in first class"? Are you being sarcastic? Hope so!

5
david Guest

Took another look at the wrapper. 580 calories and 59% of your daily sodium from a single 6 oz sandwich. I hope they have a defibrillator onboard.

4
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