Skiing Colorado for just a long weekend meant trying to minimize travel time. Normally, we fly American Airlines but to Denver that meant connecting in Dallas and in addition to a 2-hour shuttle ride to Keystone Resort. There are two direct flights to Denver from San Diego International Airport: one on Frontier Airlines and the other on United Airlines. At the time of ticket purchase, pricing on both airlines was nearly the same so I chose United because they’re a member of the Star Alliance and who knows where I’ll use those miles eventually.

Also cool was that the plane was full of people going to the Broncos-Charger playoff game so spirits were high.

United Airlines Is In SAN Terminal 2

The good news is that United Airlines departs from Terminal 2 west at San Diego International Airport where outlets for several of San Diego’s best shopping, breweries and coffee shops are now located in addition to a busy Starbucks kiosk. It’s not a terrible place to kill time.

The SAN American Airlines Admirals Club is located in Terminal 2, however, it’s in the east wing so unless you have a solid hour or two of leisure time between flights, it’s not worth the 10 minute or so walk.

Also located in Terminal 2 west is the nation’s first pet restroom. Yep, there’s a fake fire hydrant and artificial grass behind closed doors for dogs to use.

A Note About Early Morning Flights From SAN

On important thing to note is that airlines typically board early morning flights 10-20 minutes earlier than normal so plan pre-flight coffee and snacks accordingly. As flights aren’t allowed to take-off from SAN until 6:30am, there’s a rush to be the first plane in line. This means you’ll sit on the plane longer (it can feel like an eternity) than normal and perhaps wait in line on the tarmac prior to take-off.

On Board The Flight

We took the 6:15am flight which was on an old 757. And, I’m not joking when I say old (they usually are on American, too). The interior was faded and there definitely wasn’t any WiFi or much inflight entertainment. The old-school TVs in the center aisle remained off for most of the flight though they eventually showed a TV show about animals about an hour in. The entire flight time was 2 hours and 20 minutes or so.

We were offered a beverage service and another flight attendant had a cart with snacks for sale. I didn’t see one person buy a snack. Like us, most hit Starbucks, Pannikin or other food outlets prior. (See my article about which airlines have the healthiest food.)

During online check-in, I was offered the chance to upgrade for $259 per person since we don’t have status on United. I thought about it, but we have a household rule that if a flight is only an hour or two, we can manage in economy. Boy, was I glad I kept that cash in my pocket after seeing the plane.

The economy seats were pretty standard. The guy in front of me reclined his seat so my knees were crushed. I don’t know the exact pitch but it’s definitely not posh. You can pay $44 per person on this flight for 2 extra inches but I forgot to do that.

We sat on the tarmac in Denver for 45 minutes. A lot of people missed their connecting flights and we missed our shuttle to Keystone. I was not a happy camper. I am not sure if that was United’s bad or due to the fact that the airport was under construction but I thought that passenger expectations weren’t managed well.

Denver Turbulence Is Normal

And, it’s fairly major in the winter due to wind and snow storms. Have an extra glass of wine or a bloody Mary and don’t panic, though I admit ours was so major, this was easier said than done.

The Return Flight From Denver To San Diego

We took the 7:40pm flight back to San Diego International Airport. United Airlines departs from Terminal B. This time, we used the Denver American Airlines Admirals Club located in Terminal A right above the tram. It takes just a few minutes to switch terminals so it was an easy, added benefit.

The plane was a 737 and far less dated than the 757. In fact, it looked a lot like American Airlines’ 737s. DirectTV was an option for a fee (I think it was around $5) though I opted for Downton Abbey on my iPad. Each seat obviously had its own small TV. Again, the person in front of my reclined his seat fully so I felt like I was in a sardine can.

Still, there was no WiFi. Why, United, why no WiFi?

Flying time was 1 hour and 45 minutes. We were on time with fairly major turbulence leaving Denver. Our bags took a while to get to baggage claim, but I think that’s fairly normal at SAN.

Overall Experience

It was fine. The lack of WiFi really bothered me. I’ve had WiFi on almost all of my American Airlines flights lately as well as Virgin America.

The bottom line is that United’s flight scheduling does allow you to rocket out to the Colorado mountains for much needed skiing. You could be on the slopes Friday by 2:00-3:00pm, if everything goes right, ski all day Saturday and ski Sunday morning before having to return home.

Photo courtesy of San Diego International Airport

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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