The Ultimate Tips for Flying United Airlines

Updated February 18, 2021.

Love them or hate them, United is a major player in the airline industry, and most flyers will be flying with them at some point or another! Over the years my husband and I have flown over 1.5 million miles with United, and we’ve learned a few things along the way. Here are our favorite tips for flying with United, whether it’s a puddle-jumper, cross-country flight, or international adventure!

Sunrises and Sunsets are best from the air!

Change Domestic Flights Without a Fee*

*This is a new policy as of August 31, 2020! United is now offering changes to your flight itinerary with no added fees. The previous policy was that you could change your flight itinerary within 24 hours without a fee, but beyond that, you’d have to pay a $200 USD fee for it. Not anymore! At least not for now. This is an indefinite change, but keep in mind that policies can change. I hope this is a change that stays forever, but don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t!

Note: This does not apply to Basic Economy tickets. (But you can find out about Flying United’s Basic Economy here!)
Note: This does not apply to international itineraries.
The most exciting way to “walk down the aisle.”
Read next: Tips for Your First Flight Since the Pandemic Started

Preview the In-flight Entertainment

Got a long flight coming? You’ll most likely have seat-back entertainment on International flights, but likely not on domestic flights. Check out the United Private Screening webpage to preview what will be playing on your flight. You’ll just need your flight number and the date of your flight! This way you can see if you like what’s showing, or if perhaps you should download some of your favorite movies and TV shows before you board.

Window Seat > TV Screens

Pro Tip: Make sure your United app is up to date so you can watch movies and TV shows on the app if you want to do that!

Helpful info: What to Do on a Flight with No In-flight Entertainment

Know Where the Food Options Are

Airplane food’s not that great. We all know that. But when you’re hungry with four hours to go at 35,000 feet, you’ll feel better if you eat. The food options can be found in the Hemispheres magazine in the seat back pocket. On flights of three or more hours, there are hot meal options; on flights of fewer than three hours, there are snack boxes.

The lists of food options can be found in the Hemispheres magazine!
Breakfast Scramble
Vegetarian Option: Falafel, Hummus, Pita, and Grain and Veggie Salad
The Everything Bun Burger
Need to bring your own? The Best Snacks to Pack for the Flight

Check Out the Route Maps

Sometimes it’s fun to see where an airline flies! There are domestic and international flight maps in every seat back inside the United magazine. They even include new and upcoming routes for future reference.

All the cities where United flies within the United States.
All the International flight routes where United and their partners in the Star Alliance will fly you!
Keep reading: How to Plan a Trip

Study the Airport Maps for Tight Connections

Did you notice how handy that Hemispheres magazine is? There are maps of every United hub airport (IAD, ORD, EWR, DEN, GUM, NRT, LAX, and SFO) inside the magazine. The maps are perfect for you if you have a tight connection at an unfamiliar airport.

Just a few of the airport maps available in the Hemispheres Magazine!
Keep reading: The Best (and WORST) Airports for Long Layovers

Know Your Arrival and Departure Gates

Speaking of tight connections, it’ll definitely help to know which gate you’ll be arriving into and flying out from. This information will be on your boarding passes, though likely not until close to your flight’s departure time, or even while it’s in the air. Always double check your connection’s departure gate when you land!

That’s the Hawaiian island of Molokai in the destance!
Also helpful: How to Handle a Layover

Track Your Luggage on the App

That’s right! You can track your luggage with the app. No more hoping your luggage makes it onto the plane. In the 21st century, we scan barcodes and track things electronically! If you have checked a bag at check-in or at the drop-off station before security, the “Track my bags” button will appear on your reservation in the app. Just tap it and see where your luggage is currently located!

Make sure your bags made it onto your connecting flight!
More here: Pros and Cons of Traveling Carry-on Only

Know Where Your Aircraft is Coming From

This comes in handy more often than you might think. If you’re worried about a delay, you can tap on “Where is this aircraft coming from?” and see exactly that—where your incoming aircraft is coming from. You can keep tapping through to see your aircraft’s previous routes, which is helpful if there are compounding delays. If you catch the delays early enough, you could have time to get on another flight before anyone else.

Just tap on “View Flight Status” on your reservation in the app! Note: This option is not available until you have checked in for your flight.
Tap on “Where is this aircraft is coming from.”
You can see if your incoming aircraft is on schedule, delayed, or cancelled. You can even see an estimate of how long the delay might be.
Don’t forget to earn miles and points! Check out this article from on the Best Credit Cards for Travel!

Do you often fly United? Check out more travel tips and airline information on my Air Travel Page!

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8 responses to “The Ultimate Tips for Flying United Airlines”

  1. Would like to know your tips for flying Delta and American!

    1. quickwhittravel Avatar

      We almost only fly United, so I don’t have tips for the others! We will be flying Delta this summer, but only domestic. For other airline tips I’ll point you to The Points Guy blog!

  2. My favorite snack on a United flight is the Tapas Box. Sometimes I get one to take to the hotel with me.

    1. quickwhittravel Avatar

      My husband loves that one! I don’t like crunchy, which is most of the stuff in all the boxes. They had a sweet potato and chicken sausage breakfast bowl a few years ago, which remains my favorite!

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