A. BACKGROUND: My first trip report ever! I wanted to be a pilot when growing up, but I found out later I am scared of heights. Nonetheless, flying is a love of mine and every trip I take is always an exciting and pleasurable adventure. This specific trip would eventually take me to YQM, where I would start university.
B. PRE-FLIGHT:A cold morning in Aspen at 5 degrees. I find Aspen Airport absolutely beautiful, with large windows, plush waiting areas, and a general sense of class and refinement. A very, very loud airport check-in manager was directing incoming passengers toward their respective check-in counters. “Good Morning! Which airline!?” She yelled. Being Aspen, the primier check-in line was longer than economy. Even when not checking in economy passengers, the economy check-in agents did not offer to help with the premier line. The family in front of me had extremely large roller bags to check. They must have been 90 pounds each, with a brand pattern . Considering the regional jet and the extremely high altitude, I would think weight would be regulated. Maybe they paid a premium for their bags. After about seven minutes, I came to a clean premier check-in counter with a live Poinsettia as adornment. The agent had had trouble with the previous passenger. The passenger had arrived late and still had the audacity to be belligerent and demanding. The agent was frustrated, and by Aspen standards not really aesthetically pleasing. I tried actively to be nice, be appreciative, ect. The agent tagged my bags, not saying anything about weight or size. The agent was efficient, but not friendly. I walked over to the one-lane security check point, where about 17 people were waiting. The line was moving slowly and I was mildly preoccupied. I started fidgeting with my passport and boarding passes, when I realized I had been given ECONOMY passes! The only first class pass was for the ORD-YOW leg. I was mad because it would mean losing my place in the security line to go back to the check in counters. I left and got 1st class passes from another 1st check-in agent who was again efficient but not friendly. I finished thanking her and I was walking away she asked loudly (filling the check-in area with her question) “WHAT RACE ARE YOU? ITALIAN? GREEK?” I was sooooo shocked, I turned around and said “Hispanic” and smiled. I doubt there were any negative intentions behind her question, but I just thought : 1. It was generally inappropriate 2. If she had to ask, she could have asked me quietly at least! The ever- gorgeous boarding area was packed (no lounges in ASE), with a Frontier turboprop and three United CRJ’s leaving within a a two hour window. I passed security with only 3 minutes until priority boarding.
Departure Time: 8:15 (8:45 actual)
Load Factor: F: 83% Y: 90%
Duration: 1hr (20 min actual)
Once aboard, pre-departure drinks were offered. Water or oj. There was no service for economy on this short hop. After 5 minutes of de-icing, we took off from rnwy 33 and climbed to fl270. An extremely smooth ride considering this route provides some of the worst turbulence I have ever experienced. Of course, if on this route, always try to get a CRJ, the Dash-8’s are just awful and more susceptible to the horrendous turbulence. Airplane was maintained well, although some age is showing. A short 25 minutes later, we were in Denver.
Sched. Departure Time: 10:20
Load Factor: Approx. 50% F, Y: unknown
Equipment: B767 Domestic Config
Arriving at B-90 (!!!) it was a long walk to B38, where the 767 to ORD was waiting. I should mention the new RJ councourse is absolutely phenomenal. Having a jetway was a lot nicer than trying to battle the elements outside and usually an icy ramp. I rushed because there had been delays at Aspen because of de-icing, but when I got to B38, the de-planing process was still occurring. With no RCC nearby, I resorted to the public use restrooms, which I always found clean and modern in Denver. I was lucky and saw the beautiful Lufthansa A340 with service to FRA take-off. Probably the biggest jet serving Denver. I don’t really understand why people insist on queuing, but I boarded through the premier line and was on the plane as fast as I could hope. I always feel bad in this situation, for the economy folks that look at you breezing by with resentment. Again, pre-departure was a not-so-pleasurable combination of OJ, water, cloth seats, and the FA’s yelling over the PA system to customers attempting to force oversize baggage into the overhead bins. The FA’s even invoked the “holiday spirit” and “happy family” techniques to extract compliance, with only mild success. Some Y bags were eventually put in the 1st cabin. With a 15 minute delay, we pushed back and taxied to 36L or R? Taxi I always find quick in Denver, and having 2 jets ahead for takeoff was abnormal… A long roll down the longest public-use runway in the U.S., northward of course, and we only made a small adjustment NE. FA’s were chatty with e/o and…well…trashy. Makeup was piled on thick and masklike, voices were loud, some were unsure of their duties (they revisited their assignments on a piece of paper before departure) and one or two were frustrated. In between duties, they actually piled in to the front galley and played a game they had invented (no idea of the rules or objectives). With a flight time of less than 2h, Y got a drink service while 1st had two, along with a white linen snack service including grapes (yeah, they were as fresh as I like them), cheese, ham, and turkey slices. A rare treat in domestic…real glass glasses and a metal knife (albeit small) to compliment real silverware. Hot towel service. The snack was passable and the refuse was quickly cleared away. Smooth descent into ORD, and we arrived to a low-numbered C gate.
Shed. Dep: 4:40 PM
Load Factors: Approx. 70 and 60 percents (F,Y).
I walked to the RCC because of my 3 hr layover. I politely walk in and two “guardians” greet me. Asking: Am I a member? No. Am I mileage plus? Yes. On what grounds do I seek admission? F ticket. Then, to my surprise, they said “no”. I was in the regular RCC (not THE international first lounge) and they said only international first and RCC members could enter. Or I could pay with miles. I was just dumbfounded. I don’t remember what I was thinking, but I walked out of the lounge and walked a couple of steps, before I realized, hey!, my itinerary IS international! I went back and said, “My ticket is international”. He said “oh” and wished me a pleasant lounge experience. That’s called geo-ignorance. ORD RCC in the C concourse is huge! Dedicated customer service, bar, hundreds of chairs, biz center, the works. I went to the snack bar and could only really get crackers because everything else had lactose or was unappealing. I sat down and again played around with my passport and ticket when I realized---MY BAG TAGS LISTED CHICAGO AS MY FINAL DESTINATION. I was infuriated with the agent in ASE. I went to the dedicated cust serv (thank goodness. The regular cust serv desk outside had a solid 25 people waiting in line) and told them. The lady at the desk (Katherine, blonde) was an absolute gift from above. She called her colleague (and personal friend) in the bag area, had her remove the bags from the carousel, re-tag them, and re-check them to YOW. I could not thank either of them enough. I relaxed in the RCC until YOW boarding.
Another CR7! The Great Lakes were beautiful at night, in contrast to the city lights. FL39. By the time we reached cruising, we only flew for 10-15 min before beginning descent. Immigration was painless, customs was not. I had a 750 ml bottle of Grey Goose (bought at Duty Free at ORD question free, come on!) confiscated on the basis of age. It didn’t matter. Bought the same bottle later that night in Gatineau, QC legally, but of course it was more expensive. The nice customs lady officer (young, attractive) saw my pained face as she put a “confiscated” tag on the bottle (marking it for disposal) . I asked if I could transfer possession to her, as a gift, before she officially confiscated it. She said that was impossible, although she appreciated the fine vodka. As we finished up, she said “You don’t know what pain is until you have to pour Veuve Clicquot down the drain”. She’s probably right.
Aspen is the best airport I could ever hope to have in my hometown. United managed to not mess up (too bad) with their domestic F service. Ground services impressed me, although I'm sure if I were sentenced to fly economy the story would have been much different. Is a meal during a mealtime flight too much to ask for? Flying seems to always be a combination of good and bad. It's finding those special flights where the good outweighs the bad that continues my love for planes and my passion for flying.