Winston Aldworth flies aboard United’s UA1835 from Nashville to San Francisco.

The plane:

A hard-working Airbus A319.

Class: Economy Plus. These come with a little more legroom than the standard Economy seats.

Seat: I'm in 11D, an aisle seat. But I fancy stretching out so I can do some work. A little further back, 20D has an empty spot next to it (it's not actually nine rows back, it's only two rows back - the plane has no rows 13-19. Meaning the last row is always row 35, so that in a smoke-filled emergency staff know when they've reached the last seat on the plane, whatever the plane). I plonked myself in there, not realising that as the seat behind it is by an emergency exit door, row 20 doesn't recline - got to watch out for that (should have checked in with seatguru.com). No matter, I had work to be getting on with, so took the non-reclining situation as a sign the fates wanted me to knuckle down.

Advertisement

Flight time: An awful five hours, seven minutes. Four to eight hours is the most annoying of all flight durations. Too short to sleep, too long to muscle through.

How full: Business is chocka, but the rest of the cabin is only about half full.

Time: We skidded around a little turbulence but still reached SFO 14 minutes early.

Fellow passengers: The woman in 11E - pleasant enough when I sat next to her - was positively stoked when I departed for 20D just after take-off.

Airport experience: Arriving at the airport super early, my belt buckle sparks off the metal detector. "Sir, could you step this way?" A friendly bloke from the TSA donned rubber gloves and gave me a pat down which came with the immortal line: "Could you widen your stance, please sir? Don't wanna be touching anything I don't have to." This guy is winning the War on Terror, one crotch-grope joke at a time.

Being super early, I spent a pleasant couple of hours at a Mexican bar near the boarding gate with the Waikato Times' editor and general good bugger Jonathan Mackenzie, who had been part of our group travelling through America's magical south.

Entertainment: United has a clever thing - passengers access the in-flight Wi-Fi and use it to watch movies on their own devices for free. Using Wi-Fi for anything other than watching movies costs money.

I skip the entertainment and get a heap of work done instead, taking advantage of the fact there are two power points for each block of three seats.

Service: There are two crew handling the Economy cabin. Janace is crisp and courteous, and her young colleague says her first trip to New Zealand a month back was lovely. "We went to Wa-heekee!"

Food and drink: All the free soda your body can handle. There's also a little bag of pretzels. When I chat to the staff at the back of the plane they're preparing (well, reheating) a paid-for penne-and-meatballs dish ($15.80) that smells pretty good for food you buy on a plane.

Final word: United delivers a good product on one of America's dreaded short commuter hops.