United brings back bigger jet for Chicago flight (+video)

For the first time in a decade, United Airlines on Wednesday resumed operating bigger jets on its Wichita to Chicago route.

Passengers boarded a United Boeing 737-900 for a 7:43 a.m. flight Wednesday at Wichita Eisenhower National Airport, although the aircraft’s departure was delayed about an hour because of an issue with potable water, airport officials said.

A United official told passengers before boarding the 179-seat that it was the first time in 10 years that the Chicago-based airline had operated a larger, or “mainline,” jet on the route previously served by a regional jet.

“This is an enhancement to the regional jets they used to serve on this one flight,” said Valerie Wise, the airport’s director of air service and business development. “Out of the four daily flights (to Chicago), one of those is going to be on mainline aircraft.”

She said United will use either the 737 or a combination of Airbus 319s or 320s on one of its four Chicago flights.

The airport marked the occasion — Wednesday was also United’s 90th anniversary — by offering free cake and coffee to passengers at the gate.