Last week, without any fanfare, United Airlines updated its app. No big deal, right? Well this new update includes a flight simulator game! We played it. And while it’s no Microsoft Flight Simulator, for an app-within-an-app it’s pretty great.

Flying the friendly (virtual) skies

Once you get your app updated, you hit the “More” button on the bottom tab, go to the Game Center at the bottom of the “For your flight” section … and voila there it is, sitting next to Sudoku.

The game puts you in a Boeing 787 Dreamliner in the skies above San Francisco — the only plane and setting the game offers (for now). But the terrain graphics are solid and the aircraft model itself looks great. The game starts with a set of tutorials, which get you used to the controls. You pitch and roll by tilting and angling your phone. As the tutorials progress you can take control of the throttle, flaps, and landing gear as well.

All of the simulations are landings, but the variety of approaches, times of day, and weather conditions including wind and fog provide some variety. The default view is from inside the cockpit through a HUD, though you can also station yourself outside the plane.

As a simulator it’s basic, which also makes it beginner friendly. Some of the expert-level simulations of entire approaches and landings were glitchy, in that I kept getting DQ’ed for going off course even when it seemed I was following ATC’s instructions perfectly. Because of the limited scope (Bay Area, landings only) you may get bored after a couple runs through it, especially if you play more advanced flight simulators (or if you’re a real-world pilot). One practical benefit: since it’s on the United app, we assume you can play it in flight even if you don’t pay for Wi-Fi.

Note to self: a little more flare next time around

As for why United decided to put this onto the app … we have no idea. Maybe there’s an eventual tie-in with the United Aviate Academy, the airline’s brand-new flight school. Or maybe this was just a pet project from some AvGeeky employees. Either way we’re not complaining.

Try the game out and let us know in the comments section below what you think.

SENIOR CORRESPONDENT - NEW YORK, NY. Manu is an avid air traveler, private pilot, and a dedicated AvGeek. He enjoys writing about aviation from a millennial's perspective, and co-manages AirlineReporter's social media and video projects. His day job is as a doctor in NYC.
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