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Review: United B737-700 Economy (STT-IAH)

Note: This Flight Occurred in May of 2021


After spending a few days relaxing on St. Thomas it was time for our mini-vacation to come to an end. Unfortunately, there would be nothing relaxing about our departure out of St. Thomas. The weather, and airport, had other plans for us.


Booking

Our routing home was much more straightforward than our outbound. Thanks to Google Flights I managed to find a decent price on a United flight in Economy on their 737 with a perfectly timed layover in Houston that I booked directly with the airline. Mrs. ATX Jetsetter's family was heading home on American through Miami.


Check-In

The first sign of trouble for our day came when we pulled up to the airport as the rain started to fall. There were lines everywhere that wrapped around the open air check-in area that ultimately led to more lines. With the lines out of control, my father in law dropped us all off at check-in with the bags before returning the rental car.

Thankfully, United does have a Premier Access lane at STT, though it was rather hidden and took some time to find. The Premier line was relatively short and within 10 minutes we had our boarding passes and our bags were tagged through to Dallas/Ft. Worth.

St. Thomas Cyril E. King Airport United Airlines Priority Check in
United Priority Check-In St. Thomas
St. Thomas Cyril E. King Airport United Airlines Standard check-in lane
United Airlines Standard Check-in Line

With our boarding passes in hand, we headed off to the back of the security line that was snaking around the open air, pre-security portion of the terminal. Though there was an indoor area prior to security, the line was so long that it took us over 20 minutes to make it inside the air conditioning. Just as we were walking inside the building, Mrs. ATX Jetsetter’s family was just making it to the front of the American Airlines Priority lane.


Pre-Flight

It took a little over an hour to clear Customs and security before we were deposited airside. Thankfully, we were warned on our inbound flight to arrive 3 hours before departure and this was an airport where that was actually necessary. The departures area in St. Thomas is one large holding room with a couple small kiosks selling snacks and one restaurant which also has a bar.

St. Thomas Cyril E. King Airport Departures Area
St. Thomas Cyril E. King Airport Departures Area

In addition to the main waiting area, there is a smaller, more spartan, waiting area that is used by the ultra low-cost carriers.


With nothing to do until our flight arrived I spent some time plane spotting and people watching which was thoroughly entertaining. I saw everything from 757-300’s to float planes through the large glass windows overlooking the ramp.

The highlight by far was when I wandered down to the ULCC gates to find a passenger and a Spirit gate agent engaged in a screaming match. Apparently tensions run high when you call the gate agent a “Stupid F****** B****”. The airport staff didn’t seem inclined to intervene, and were standing on the sidelines while this happened, so I quickly retreated to the safety of the main gate areas and the bar.

Spirit Airlines and Sun Country Airlines gate at St. Thomas Cyril E. King Airport
The gentleman in the red hat was loudly voicing his displeasure with the Spirit gate agent

Boarding

After an hour airside, our inbound aircraft arrived from Washington-Dulles. There was still another United plane at the gate that had a slight mechanical issue which caused a slight delay for our plane. United ended up using a second stand to bring in the inbound Dulles flight and deplane passengers which helped minimize the delay.

United Airlines boarding gate at St. Thomas Cyril E. King Airport
United Airlines Boarding Gate St. Thomas

Eventually the delayed Chicago O-Hare flight boarded and pushed back and we were ready to board. Boarding started with Group 1 and we headed out onto the tarmac towards our waiting 737-700.


United Airlines

UA 22208

STT-IAH (St. Thomas Cyril E. King International - Houston-Intercontinental)

Seat: 7F (Economy)

B737-700 (N15712)

Scheduled: 3:10p-7:00p

Actual: 3:14p-6:53p


As the first group was headed out across the tarmac, we were told by the ground crew that the aircraft wasn’t yet ready and to head back into the terminal. Since the gate agents had already scanned our boarding passes they didn’t want to let us back into the terminal and instead shut the door leaving us out on the tarmac.

Thankfully, the aircraft was ready in the next few minutes and they allowed us on board. Since Group 1 was already on the tarmac, I got a great view of the 737 that was taking us to Houston.

United Airlines Boeing 737-700 at St. Thomas Cyril E. King Airport
Our ride to Houston this afternoon

Thanks to my United status I was able to assign us Economy Plus seats at booking and took seats 7E and 7F, the bulkhead row on the right side of the plane. There was a good amount of legroom and 7D ended up going out empty.

United Airlines Boeing 737-700 Economy Plus Bulkhead legroom
Lots of room to stretch out here

Boarding was completed a few minutes behind schedule and we pushed back to head for the runway just as the weather started to clear.


Departure

With no line for takeoff we turned off the taxiway and immediately went full throttle, rocketing off of St. Thomas’ short runway.

United Airlines Boeing 737-700 departing St. Thomas Cyril E. King Airport
Departing St. Thomas

We climbed out through some spotty clouds and made a sweeping right turn over the port area to head towards Houston.


In Flight

Once we hit cruising altitude somewhere over Puerto Rico, the FA’s began their in-flight service. Mrs. ATX Jetsetter wanted to nap so I switched to 7D.

United Airlines Boeing 737-700 Wing
Cruising above Puerto Rico

We were handed a snack bag which had a small bottle of water as well as pretzels, Biscoff cookies, a stroopwaffel, and sanitizing wipe. Additional beverages were also served and I had a coffee while Mrs. ATX Jetsetter had tomato juice.

With Mrs. ATX Jetsetter sleeping and nobody in the middle seat, I turned the front row into my own personal media center. I had the moving map, PGA Championship and NASCAR race at the Circuit of the Americas all streaming simultaneously. It’s things like this that really make me confused as to why some airlines insist passengers don’t want IFE.

We briefly passed over the southern tip of Florida right as Phil Mickelson and Brooks Koepka reached the final hole of the PGA Championship. The final hole provided endless entertainment and soon we were beginning our descent into Houston


Arrival

Down below we had traded the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean for the muddy brown water surrounding Houston. We circled around and landed from the west into an overcast IAH.

Even with our delayed inbound and slightly delayed departure, we pulled into Houston’s Terminal C 7 minutes ahead of schedule. From there, we deplaned and headed off to catch our connecting flight to Dallas.

United Airlines Boeing 737-700 arrival gate in Houston
Arrival gate in Houston

Summary

As far as narrowbody economy flights go, this is about as good as it gets. The seat was comfortable for 3+ hours, the flight crew was attentive, the live TV worked from gate to gate, and we had an early arrival at our destination. The ground experience in St. Thomas is atrocious, but once in the air, United shined.

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