United Airlines

Review: United Airlines Domestic First Class IAH – LAX 737-MAX9

Review of United's First Class flight features a dinner set with chicken, side salad, cake for dessert, and a glass of red wine.

My wife and I recently traveled from Houston IAH to Los Angeles LAX in the First Class cabin of United Airlines on a Boeing 737 MAX9 aircraft. We thoroughly enjoyed our flight and thought the food and service were both good, despite some minor inconsistencies which we always expect when flying UA. In this review, I will share with you our entire experience from pre-flight to touchdown, including the dinner menu, pre-ordering process, as well as plenty of pictures of the food. I will also share my observations on what was working well, and which areas could use some improvements.

Table of Contents

Pre-Ordering Meals

A menu with 6 dinner options has both pictures and descriptions of each main course.

For domestic flights over 900 miles, United Airlines offer a full hot meal service in its First Class cabin. (It used to be 800 miles, but UA raised the threshold to 900 miles effective January 1, 2024.)

Exactly five days prior to our departure, we received an email with a link to pre-order our meals. For departures from late morning through the evening, both the lunch and dinner menus and their services are identical. As I have mentioned in my previous reviews, United has really upped their game in the variety of choices available for pre-ordering. Typically, there are six options which include one to two meat dishes that are usually chicken or beef, a pasta, a cheese plate or some kind of light snacks, a salad, and at least one vegetarian alternative.

Posted above is the menu that we received, and it appears to be one of the latest rotations with two new entrées – chicken bordelaise and Peruvian chicken. My wife and I decided to try the new items and hence these were our pre-orders.


First Class passengers without elite frequent flyer status with United or its Star Alliance partners enjoy many benefits before they even step inside the plane, including dedicated Premier Access check-in counters at the airport, two free checked bags (50 lbs. each), as well as expedited luggage handling. It is nice to know that your bags will be among the first to arrive at the carousel at your destination.

What will save you the most amount of time and stress – especially during peak travel seasons – is the exclusive security screening lanes. You will breeze through the TSA check point while others in the economy cabin wait in a line that looks similar to one of those popular rides in Disneyland.

NOTE: If you have TSA Pre-Check, use the Pre-Check lanes as they are usually even faster, and you do not have to remove your shoes, laptops, and liquids.

Since my wife and I both have Platinum status with United, we enjoy all of the above perks even when flying economy. But for those without status, these are some of the good reasons to splurge a little to sit upfront.


United’s First Class passengers board in Group One, alongside the airlines’ Platinum and Gold elite members but behind a slew of other travelers – people with disabilities, active military, Global Services and 1K (UA’s top two tiers of frequent flyers), and families with children under the age of two.

This is significantly different from the practice of many other airlines where premium cabin passengers board a lot sooner. For example, Delta’s First Class customers board immediately after persons with disability and active military personnel.


Two blue plastic cups are placed side by side on an airline seat table, one contains water and the other contains sparkling wine.

Shortly after we were seated, a flight attendant circulated the cabin with a tray of water and prosecco in blue plastic cups. This was great. Based on my recent experience, I think UA is getting a little bit more consistent in their pre-departure beverage service.

My wife didn’t want anything at the moment, so she just had some water. I had a glass of prosecco, and it was not bad. I certainly did not expect fine champagne in a domestic route, but the sparkling wine was reasonably good, and I enjoyed it. I hope UA will continue to be more consistent in their PDB service, as many of us really do appreciate it.

The Seat

A first-class window seat with spacious legroom and an extra wide armrest.

United’s Boeing 737-MAX9 First Class seats feature a spacious width of 20” (17.5” in economy and economy plus), pitch of 37” (31”/35” in E/E+) and a recline of 5” (2”/3” in E/E+). One of the most distinct features of the MAX9 seat upfront is an extra wide armrest with a large cocktail countertop that has more than sufficient space for two drinks. You can see a picture from the Pre-Departure section above.

A console has a built-in three-prong AC socket and an USB port.

Note that directly under that oversize cocktail countertop is a console where the AC power socket is located. This is a tricky spot and I often see passengers having a hard time finding the charging outlets.

A thin slot-like storage space is located to the left of the window seat, right next to the seat cushion.

The seat also comes with a small side storage space under the armrest (left for window, right for aisle) which is wide enough for a thin purse, document folders, tablet, or laptop. I find this the perfect slot during meal service where I can conveniently place my laptop and free up my workspace for the meal tray. Do note that stowage is not allowed during taxi, takeoff, and landing.


A wall-mounted TV screen shows the seat number 1B and an episode of a United story.

All the newly delivered MAX9s have the latest touchscreen seatback in-flight entertainment (IFE) screens installed while the older generation of the MAX9s are being retrofitted to include the new system. Hence, your IFE experience will depend largely on the aircraft that you are flying on.

A remote control with many colorful buttons is placed on a wide armrest.

If you happen to be on one of those with the new system, you’ll enjoy a large 13” screen (10” in economy) with touchscreen capability as well as a remote control. The remote control is simple to use and is really good to have – don’t you just hate those buttons on the armrest that are hard to use and your seatmate’s elbow keep changing the channels for you? The remote control is particularly nice to have on the bulkhead, as it is a long reach to get to the touchscreen.

Personal device entertainment (PDE) is also available, as with the rest of the fleet on all domestic routes. Just make sure you download the latest United App before boarding. Various Wi-Fi packages are available for purchase on a per-flight or day pass basis. You will receive an email with entertainment and Wi-Fi options prior to your trip. Note that the purchase of Wi-Fi is NOT necessary for PDE.

IFE includes movies from contemporary blockbusters to old-time classics and everything in between. A wide variety of popular TV shows and sitcoms are also included in the program. After all these years, I am still able to occasionally catch a “Friends” episode that I’ve missed.

Beverage Service

A glass of white wine is served in a glass with a "United" logo and is accompanied by a ramekin filled with mixed nuts.

Once we’ve reached the appropriate altitude an FA approached each passenger to take their drink and dinner orders. After we have ordered our wines, she confirmed with us that I had pre-ordered the chicken bordelaise and for my wife, the Peruvian chicken. This was done in a professional but also very friendly fashion. For the few passengers who did not pre-order their meals, I overheard that the two choices available were either chicken or pasta.

Two FAs were working efficiently – one prepared the drinks in the galley while the other brought them to the customers – hence we received our wines in a very timely manner. I have to note that the nuts were served with the drinks like they were supposed to (not on the dinner tray) and they were sufficiently warmed in the oven. Kudos to this team of excellent flight attendants.

However – I don’t know whether it was a matter of inconsistency or that these services have been eliminated – but there was no hot towel service and no tablecloth for the tray table.


An airline dinner tray contains a chicken dish with rice and green gravy, a side salad, roll, and a piece of cake.

My wife really enjoyed her Peruvian chicken. She let me have a taste and I liked it a lot too. The chicken was topped with the classic Peruvian green sauce, or aji verde, which was moderately spicy with a touch of jalapeño and distinct South American flavor.

A roll with butter and a green salad with balsamic vinaigrette accompanied the entrée.

A dinner dish contains a piece of meat covered in a green sauce served over a blend of rice and mixed vegetables.

The rice pilaf was moist and soft and was paired with peas and carrots that blended perfectly well with the dish.

A dinner dish contains a grilled chicken filet served with brown gravy, mashed potatoes, broccolini, and orange bell peppers.

My chicken bordelaise, as the name suggested, was served with a rich and tasty French red wine sauce. The meat was tender, albeit a bit dry, but this was airline food reheated in an oven so I would say it was reasonably good. The mini orange bell peppers that accompanied the entrée was surprisingly sweet and tasty, although it still had the typical bitterness of bell peppers. The dish also included a side of mashed potatoes and broccolini.

A square cut up of a cake is topped with brown crumbs and a yellow frosting.

The current rotation of desserts in United’s domestic First Class cabins include a variety of cheesecakes and crumb cakes. The version that we had on our trip was a cinnamon crumb cake with lemon frosting. It was good and we liked it.


Overall, our journey from Houston IAH to Los Angeles LAX on this United domestic First Class flight was pleasant and enjoyable. The two FAs serving us upfront were efficient and attentive. I was asked twice whether there was anything else that I would like during meal service. Both of them also circulated the cabin often and were easily available if we needed anything. My wife and I enjoyed our dinners, and I was particularly impressed by the choices available for pre-ordering as well as the frequent rotations of their menus.

It is my observation that at least in the recent two years or so, courteous and friendly service as well as reasonably good food have become a more consistent experience on my United flights. I eagerly hope that this trend will continue.

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