Stephanie Holmes flies aboard United Express UA5644, from Redmond, Oregon to Los Angeles.

The plane:

Canadair CRJ-200 — a Skywest Airlines plane operating as United Airlines regional branch, United Express.

Class: Economy.


Airport experience: As Ronan Keating once almost said, life was a roller coaster at Central Oregon's Redmond Airport. I arrived far too early, with the plan that I could spend the afternoon catching up on work. After about three hours, with two to go until my flight, I was informed of a delay due to poor air quality. My original flight was due to go to Auckland, via San Francisco, but the delay meant I would miss my connection in San Fran.

As I was on the phone to United's customer service, about to book a night in San Francisco to catch the next day's flight, the operator told me an agent at the airport was already working on changing my flights. I tracked down a United staff member, Christopher, who told me that his colleague Max had booked me on a United flight to LA, which would mean I could make a connection to Auckland with American Airlines. I couldn't believe how easy this was all sorted out. Max and Christopher, you are absolute angels.

On time: The LA flight was, yes. If I'd stayed on the original San Francisco flight I would have been delayed by three and a half hours.

Flight time: 1h 45m.

My seat: 1D, a bulkhead seat in a 2-2 configuration. It was a very tight squeeze in this very small plane.

How full: Every seat taken. Max got me the last seat on the flight.

Entertainment: Great in flight magazine, Hemispheres.

Service: Earl was running the cabin all by herself. She gave out drinks and bags of pretzels, and was friendly and efficient throughout.


Fellow passengers: Families heading to Disneyland, LA businessmen. My seatmate was getting a bit close for comfort, leaning in to look out the windows as we approached LA.

He apologised for the personal-space invasion — he was just desperately worried about the Californian wildfires, which we could see blazing against the night sky. It was a terrifying view — Malibu was on fire and one of his colleagues had already lost his entire home.

Toilets: One way at the back. I didn't use it.

But wait, the roller coaster continues: On arrival in LA, I received a text message from United to say my suitcase had been sent to San Francisco on an earlier flight (I'm not sure why, as I wasn't on the plane with it? Isn't that a security issue?). This led to quite the debacle trying to get it sent to me in New Zealand, but United came through in the end and got it back to me safe and sound two days later.

Would I fly again? Yes, but maybe would just take carry-on luggage.