Stephanie Holmes flies United Airlines UA1097 San Jose, Costa Rica to Houston.

The plane:

Boeing 737

Class: United First.


My seat: 4A, a window seat in the last row of the First Class cabin, which has a 2-2 configuration and 16 seats in total. The leather seat was spacious and comfortable with a console in between the two seats giving a feeling of personal space between me and my neighbour.

Price: Auckland to San Jose return Economy Class is from $2719.40.

On time: We pushed back 10 minutes late but made up the time in the air.

Flight time: 3h48m.

How full: Not a spare seat on board.

Fellow passengers: Americans, Central Americans and an Australian couple, who were starting the very long slog home — even longer than mine. As well as travelling from San Jose to Houston, and then on to Auckland (after a nine-hour layover), they were then faced with a final flight from Auckland to Sydney. They seemed exhausted before they even started.

Entertainment: In United First, movies and live TV are available to watch on seat-back screens. All passengers can use United's app and complimentary Wi-Fi to watch movies and TV shows on personal devices. I was exhausted after getting up at 2am for a 3am pick-up to be at the airport for check in at 3.30am, so my entertainment was three hours' sleep.

Service: Two cabin crew were friendly and helpful, although they probably didn't have too much to do as most people slept throughout the flight.


Food and drink: First Class passengers got a choice between a ham omelette or pineapple pancakes. I had already eaten breakfast in the Copa Club lounge, available to United First passengers, so declined.

Toilets: Basic and clean.

Airport experience: I'd heard it can take a while to get through customs and security at SJO, which is why I arrived so early, but it was a breeze. I was through so quickly I was too early for the Copa Club lounge and the food court — all opened at 4.30am.

Would I fly again? Yes, it's a comfortable service in United First, and the comfort is very welcome for such an early start.