As soon as it began, the trip to Raleigh was already over, and I found myself at the airport early in the morning waiting for a flight back home. I visited Duke University, one of the most prestigious universities in the United States, during this trip, and I must say how beautiful it is. The campus is basically like walking into a garden. Unfortunately, besides Duke, there aren't that many things to do in the Raleigh area, hence the short stay.
Before The Flight
We dropped our rental car off around 5:00 AM, and subsequently took the shuttle bus from the rental car center to Terminal 2, where all non-Southwest flights depart and arrive. Terminal 2 is actually a very interesting terminal in that it's extremely simple to navigate, as it's just one long concourse lined with shops and gates. That being said, it can be a VERY long walk to the United gates, which are all clustered on the south end of the concourse.
RDU's Terminal 2 Check-In Area
Since we were only traveling with cabin baggage, we used a kiosk to obtain our boarding passes, and we were able to proceed directly towards security. Although we did not have TSA Pre-Check this time, the normal security line looked like it was quite short (given the early time), so it wasn't such a big deal. Interestingly though, there was a bomb-sniffer dog at the entrance of the security line, and everybody who entered the queue had to walk along a line in order to allow the dog to sniff for explosives. I'm really not a fan of dogs, so I was quite scared during that moment.
Security was painless and only took 6-7 minutes in total. Afterwards, we proceeded directly to the end of the concourse, where we found ourselves assigned to a blind gate, meaning that the aircraft could not be seen. Boarding wasn't scheduled to begin for about 20 minutes, and we were able to find some empty seating.
Gate seating for United's flights
There was a United A319 right next to us loading up for San Francisco (a ridiculously long flight on such an uncomfortable aircraft), and just as Group 3 (1st group of normal economy passengers) began boarding, it was announced that they would have to start gate-checking bags. My god, I really don't want to know what happened on that flight...
April 29, 2018
United Airlines Flight # 1849
RDU (Raleigh/Durham International) - EWR (Newark-Liberty International)
Boeing 737-724 (N17730)
Economy, seat 25A
Flight Time 00:58
Boarding for the flight began on time, and as usual, I boarded with Group 3. I proceeded down the aisle of the short and chubby 737-700, which actually is fitted with United's latest First Class product (looks like an improvement over the black leather 737 seats, but nonetheless it's still a recliner), and the same B/E Aerospace Pinnacle seat in Economy with DirecTV that has ridiculously limited legroom if you're not seated in Economy Plus. For this flight, I would be seated in 25A, a window seat just aft of the wing.
The 737-700s, like other DirecTV equipped aircraft, don't have a lot of legroom.
View of the Economy class cabin while boarding.
As usual, DirecTV was available for free use while on the ground, but once the safety video plays it will be switched to a pay-only scheme. I spent the rest of boarding browsing the channels for something interesting, but could not find anything that satisfied my appetite at this early morning hour.
United's 737 DirecTV system.
We pushed back more or less on time amid a beautiful sunrise in North Carolina. The safety video was subsequently played, and we began taxiing to runway 05L. Unfortunately, due to an excess of traffic in the New York area, we had to hold short of the runway for about 7 minutes before we were able to get underway.
Wing view at the gate. Note that the 737-700 has a shorter wing compared to the -800/-900/-900ER variants.
Taxiing past N3771K, a 2002 vintage 737-800 for Delta (which was resting before a flight back to Atlanta)
Holding just short of Runway 05L before we were cleared to depart
Takeoff occurred about four minutes late, and due to the small size of the 737-700, we experienced quite a short and powerful takeoff roll. This is in direct contrast to the 737-900 I flew just prior; that aircraft is extremely bulky (requires a lot of runway just to take off) and has terrible handling. The 737-700, I was told, handles extremely well in flight.
Beginning our takeoff roll.
Our 737-700 lifted up effortlessly, in contrast to the bulky 737-900ER two nights ago.
A great view of suburban North Carolina on this sunny morning.
We immediately climbed to our cruising altitude amid clear blue skies. It was honestly a perfect day for flying! About 15 minutes after we took off, the beverage/refreshment service began. As it was quite early, I requested a stroopwafel (which are temporarily removed from United flights and replaced with an inferior maple cookie, though I was told it will return in a couple of years), as well as a cup of orange juice.
North Carolina really is beautiful when seen from the air
Conditions could not have been more perfect!
As it was such a short flight, I did not feel like paying for DirecTV; thus, I passed the time by reading the in-flight magazine. It should also be noted, however, that at the time when I took this flight, all DirecTV equipped 737s and 757-300s supposedly had streaming entertainment also on offer, though I tried it, and it did not work at all. Even more disappointingly, the selection was the same abysmal selection I had on my previous flight.
I would've been really happy if our flight was on a 787 this morning...
You could watch either what the DirecTV was playing on a loop, or you could watch...nothing.
Flying just east of Philadelphia, PA.
We began our descent into the New York area about 20 minutes after we reached our cruising altitude. As we approached New York, the cloud cover began gradually increasing. After dipping through the cloud cover, we flew north of Newark, then made a sweeping 180-degree turn south to line up with Newark's north-south runways. I was especially excited, as this approach meant that we would be flying directly above of MetLife Stadium, with views of all of Manhattan on final descent. The Manhattan skyline looks especially pretty when viewed from the air, if you ask me.
A thick cloud layer had formed by the time we reached New Jersey.
Chasing our shadow...
What a great view of Manhattan! This extraordinary view is best seen from the left side of the aircraft on approach.
We landed on Newark Liberty International Airport's runway 22L about 20 minutes before scheduled, despite the slight delay in Raleigh. However, a really weird thing that happened was that we held on the tarmac for another 15 minutes after landing, due to the fact that our gate space was occupied by a late departing aircraft. It seems like Newark Airport is reaching its designed operational capacity, and needs to be expanded immediately if a more comfortable experience is to be provided to travelers.
Slowing down on Runway 22L.
Waiting on the tarmac for a late departing aircraft to vacate our gate...
Pulling into gate C103.
After the 15 minutes passed, we pulled into gate C103, located in concourse C2. This marked the end to a fairly average flight with United, though it was very short to say the least. United is a perfectly acceptable way of getting between New York and the Research Triangle area, as you can avoid flying on a regional jet with 2-3 mainline flights between the two cities every day, despite the short flight time of only 1 hour.
Note the extra legroom in Economy Plus, as well as the small seat pocket.
United's latest generation of First Class seats.
Concourse C2 is the least appetizing of the three concourses of Terminal C due to its lack of restaurants, but it's not a terrible place to spend a layover as there's definitely adequate seating equipped with charging ports and iPads. Again, since we were traveling with only cabin baggage, there was no need to wait 1+ hours for checked bags to come onto the belts, and we headed immediately to the parking lot to pick up our car.
Terminal C, Concourse C2.
One last look at our aircraft.
Two ex-Continental 777s preparing to depart to Israel and China.
United's 737 product is fairly average I would say, despite the limited legroom. It's also a product that has been reviewed extensively on this website (check out my other United 737 reviews to find out more). That being said, I highly dislike the fact that DirecTV is not free, though this is not something that United has control over because the company that installed the TVs for Continental, United's predecessor, did it for free, though it expected United/Continental to charge everyone who watched it. They are in the midst of introducing streaming entertainment, which I also hate because (1) not everyone has a personal electronic device, (2) it's not very reliable, and (3) watching on your own device is not quite as premium as watching it on a dedicated screen in front of you, and makes the airline seem quite cheap. I hope United can definitely get these things sorted out in the future, and potentially add personal video screens to every seat like Delta on domestic aircraft, which would be a very welcome change, indeed.