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Review: United B737-MAX8 First (DFW-IAH)

Updated: May 16, 2023

After a whirlwind wedding weekend, we spent Sunday relaxing and recovering at home before embarking on our 32 hour journey halfway around the world. First order of business was to get to Houston to catch our Qatar flight to Doha and then onward to Male.


Booking

Since Qatar never released 2 business class seats to American AAdvantage, I had to get us positioned to depart from Houston. Around Valentine’s Day, United ran a buy one, get one free promotion on some of their routes and I was able to grab 2 first class seats on their DFW-IAH flight for around $250 on the new 737-MAX8. The flight also allowed us a 4.5 hour layover in IAH, which would give us rebooking options to still make our QR flight should we have a delay due to a mechanical issue.


Check-In

We took an uber from our house out to DFW Airport and were dropped off curbside at Terminal E. Aside from a few international carriers at Terminal D, all non American Airlines flights operate from Terminal E at DFW. As we arrived at the terminal, there was a large DFW Airport Police presence at the terminal though nothing seemed out of the ordinary. There was no line at the United Premier Access desk and our bags were tagged down to Houston. From there, we headed off to security where CLEAR had us through in no time. We also discovered the reason for the police presence; a fellow passenger with a strange white substance in a baggie that he “forgot” was in his bag.


Pre-Flight

Since we were on a domestic First ticket with UA, we didn’t have access to the United Club and instead hopped on the Skylink over to the DFW Centurion Lounge for a snack and a glass of bubbles.

We left the lounge 10 minutes before boarding and made our way back to Terminal E. While on the Skylink we passed a Qatar 777-200 headed to Doha which was one of 2 daily DFW-DOH flights I tried to get seats on but couldn’t.

Dallas/Ft. Worth DFW Airport Tarmac View
Qatar Airways 777-200 Teasing me at DFW

Boarding

The Skylink dropped us off next to our departure gate and I saw that United was kind enough to send the ‘United Together’ special livery for the first leg of our honeymoon. We arrived at the gate a few minutes after boarding was scheduled to begin and the whole aircraft had already boarded. Apparently the 2:00p Monday flight has a light load.

United Airlines Boeing 787 MAX-8 United Together Livery
United Airlines 737 MAX8 'United Together' Livery is our ride to Houston today

United Airlines

UA 1402

DFW-IAH (Dallas/Fort Worth International – Houston George Bush Intercontinental)

Seat: 2A (First)

B737-MAX8 (N27261) *United Together Livery*

Scheduled: 2:18p-3:32p

Actual: 2:11p-3:16p


While we were among the last to board, we waited an additional 15 minutes for the final 2 F passengers before the door was closed 7 minutes early. Despite the light load, First class went out completely full.

United Airlines Boeing 737 MAX8 United Together
I thought it was dedicated to Mrs. ATX Jetsetter and I

Seat

I assigned us seats 2A&B as Mrs. ATX Jetsetter likes being able to keep her bag under the seat and it would still allow us to be one of the first off the plane. This aircraft, as with all of the United 737 MAXs, had the upgraded interior which featured dark blue leather recliner seats and had a high definition screen in the seatback. There was also a small plastic wrapped blanket at each seat.

The tray tables folded out from the armrest and could be folded over in half. There was an additional, small tray in between the seats which could hold a couple of beverages. There was a remote for the IFE that was located just below the armrest which made it susceptible to being hit inadvertently. The IFE screen was responsive to touch so I ended up not using the remote at all during the flight.


Departure

Prior to pushback, our Newark based flight crew came through the cabin to offer open bar pre-departure beverages. I ordered a vodka soda while Mrs. ATX Jetsetter had a glass of prosecco. Both were served in plastic cups.

United Airlines Boeing 737-MAX8 First Class Pre-Departure Beverages
United pre-departure beverage (DFW-IAH)

Once the boarding door closed we pushed back next to a JetBlue A220 and taxied out to runway 17R where we took off to the south.


In-Flight

Once we were above the clouds, the FA working First came around with some snacks and a bottle of water for each passenger. After that, beverages were served, this time in real glassware.

With a flight time of 1h05m gate to gate, we were only in the air for a short time and soon we began our descent over the northern suburbs of Houston.


Arrival

After landing, we taxied over to gate C33 and blocked in 16 minutes early. I was able to breathe a sigh of relief knowing that, even if our bags didn’t make it, we would be making our onward flight to Doha.

Houston IAH Airport Gate C33
First Leg Complete and now I can Relax a Little

We followed the signs, and the handy in-app map, to baggage claim where we were reunited with our bags. Thanks to the Priority tags they were some of the first bags on the belt. From there it was off to the strange landside subway, which was more like a souped up state fair wagon train, to head for Terminal D and our Qatar Airways flight.


Summary

Though it was a short flight, the United 737 MAX is one of the better domestic First Class experiences from a hard product standpoint. Fresh, modern interiors and crystal clear IFE displays make this a winner and the seat was comfortable as well. My only gripe is where the controls are located. Also, given our short flight, the crew did a great job with the service on this leg. I look forward to trying this out on a longer flight in the future.


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