Published on December 1st, 2013 | by Mark Chesnut
AIRLINE REVIEW: United Airlines Boeing 737-900, Newark to Panama City
In spite of my ongoing research this month about the best business and first-class travel experiences in Latin America for Latin Trade Magazine’s annual “Best of Travel” issue, I nevertheless found myself in the back of the cabin during my recent flight from Newark to Panama City, Panama. So here’s my summary of what to expect on board economy class, based on my own personal experience.
For additional ideas about economy-class travel and cheap flights around Latin America, check out my airline reviews of The Best of Latin America’s Low-cost Airlines.
THE ROUTE: Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to Panama City Tocumen International Airport (PTY); economy class; 4 hours, 41 minutes; Boeing 737-900 economy class
THE AIRPORT: Newark Liberty International Airport is a major hub for United Airlines (a member of Star Alliance), and I made a swift and easy transit to the facility using New Jersey Transit and the AirTrain. Even though it was Thanksgiving day, Terminal C was thankfully uncrowded and there were no lines for the economy-class automated check-in machines. I did have to wait about 15 minutes for an agent to verify my documents (and after my passport wasn’t able to be scanned, a second agent had to take over), but after that the security line was fast and efficient. The newest concourse at Terminal C is spacious, airy and modern, with a variety of retail shopping and dining, including duty-free (where I stopped to moisturize before my flight) and Smash Burger (where I had lunch).
United used a rather efficient boarding process, with individual lines set up for different boarding groups, allowing passengers to line up when they wish without crowding out people who are already getting on the plane.
THE AIRCRAFT: The Boeing 737-900 aircraft featured Boeing’s Sky Interior, which allows for attractive mood lighting. Each of the super-slim seats have headrests with wings (always a plus) and individual video screens, plus power outlets between each pair of seats.
THE SERVICE: There was a charge of $7.99 for using the entertainment system, which featured TV and movie programming, but the headsets were free. I was pleasantly surprised to find that a small but hot meal was served for free in economy class: the choice was a cheeseburger or a chicken wrap, with a small side salad, bag of carrots and Love and Quiches brand butterscotch brownie.
THE ARRIVAL: We landed at Tocumen International Airport in Panama City, Panama slightly early, where I passed through customs and immigration relatively quickly with little waiting time for my checked bag (which was free to check, by the way, since it was an international flight to Central America). One interesting new development since my visit to Panama last year: This time around, they photographed me and also took my fingerprints.
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