Winston Aldworth flies aboard United Airlines flight UA5988 from San Francisco to Salt Lake City.

The plane:

An Embraer Regional Jet — ERJ175. These sleek little Brazilian-made jet hoppers service United's domestic network under the banner of United Express. It's kind of a mini-A320. Quick to load people on and quick to load them off.

Seat: 24D. In the very back of the cabin — where, yep, the seat doesn't recline and, yep, there's a constant queue of people for the dunnies at the back. Normally, I'm an aisle guy, but on the short hop from San Francisco to Utah, it was nice to take in the cracking views of Nevada's plains and craggy mountains. And it sure beats the aisle seat where strangers stand with their groin in your line of vision as they wait to pee.


Class: Very much Economy.

How full Chocka. There are 12 passengers in First Class, 16 in Economy Plus and 48 of us in Economy.

Time: It's a 2hr flight. We were 40 minutes late getting away.

Fellow passengers: "I think this must be the Sundance Express," a tall, movie-industry type says to a shorter, sleekly attired movie-industry type as we board. "Seems like everyone on here is heading to the festival!"

The festival, of course, being Robert Redford's cinema showpiece which plays out in Utah every January. I was on my way there, too, as it happens. But I'm definitely not the movie-industry type.

Service: It's an unpopular view, but I generally find the cabin crews on US domestic flights to be good value — on any of the major carriers. Yep, they might have a careworn demeanour and a cynical rolled eye at the ready, but the briskness works for me: I'm just here to drink a can of soda and land somewhere else.

Entertainment: See below: Nevada's plains and craggy mountains are stunning. The mountains get even craggier once you're above Utah, approaching Salt Lake City from the west, the plane comes in over the famous Bonneville Salt Flats where — brace yourselves, movie-industry types: New Zealand film reference coming up! — Burt Munro did his stuff.

Food and drink: A small packet of pretzels as salty as the salt flats below helps to pass about 45 seconds of the flight.

Airport experience: I spent about 30 minutes wondering whether I should play coffee roulette at a cafe in San Francisco Airport. In the end, discretion got the better of valour.

Watching customers and trying to judge (by their appearance and reaction to the coffee as they drink it) whether or not the coffee would be any good is surely one of the greatest sports ever devised for travellers.

In Salt Lake City, we exit the airport then drive past the site of an entirely new airport being built from scratch. It'll be a fascinating project, as most airport rebuilds are hamstrung by the need to keep operating as a business — with planes landing and all that — while their rebuild goes on.

Final word: That's a cut!

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