Please feel free to read Part 1 of my report here:
Trying The New United - YWG-ORD-MCO (vids+pics)
PART 2 – The Flight Home: MCO-ORD-YWG
After 5 days in the warm and sun of Orlando (and air-conditioned goodness of Orange County Convention Center), it was time to head home.
My flight to return home was booked for Friday, simply because the conference went too late on Thursday for me to get a flight home that day. Oh well, an extra day to explore some of the attractions of Orlando. I was able to finish visiting Disney Hollywood Studios (one of the theme parks I really didn’t get to see when I was there last year.) It was OK, but definitely something to experience WITH the kids. It’s weird being at Disney without kids.
I checked in to my flight Thursday afternoon, and saw that the MCO-ORD flight was 100% booked, again. The ORD-YWG flight was 50% booked, again as well. The flight time was significantly longer this time as well. As I discovered, it was going to be a long day!
April 15th, 2011 - Departure Day
A 14:21 departure meant I had lots of time to sleep in, pack up, and check out. This was a good thing after hitting the hotel bar the night before (after Disney, no less.)
I left the hotel at about 11:00am for the short 20 minute drive to Orlando International Airport, parked the rental car, squared up the bill, and went to drop off my bags. This is when I discovered what was going to be the theme for the day….lines. Really, really, long lines.
United 199 – MCO-ORD
ETD: 2:26PM ATD: 2:37PM
ETA: 4:20PM ATA: 4:36PM
The first of many long lines on the day. The security line at MCO
The Security line was so long, it almost stretched back to the checkin areas. It would appear that many, many flights were leaving at the same time, and TSA was getting overwhelmed. TSA opened the second half of the security checkins, and people RAN to get in there. I thought I was I at the running of the bulls, with the flying people everywhere, screaming people, kids looking doughy eyed at the chaos, and security trying to control the situation. It was chaos. I stayed in my line, despite it being longer. I eventually got through the first ring of hell…ahem security… about 45 minutes later. It was a good thing I arrived very early for my flight.
Once through security, I had some time for lunch. The terminal on this side of security was surprisingly quiet. Where had all the people gone? They must have had to run for their flight! I grabbed table to eat at Ruby Tuesday, and enjoyed the Salad Buffet. I managed to grab a couple of shots with my iPod during lunch:
US Airways 737-400
A different US Airways 737-400
After lunch, I had about 45 minutes before boarding, so I decided to walk up and down the United/Continental pier. I was a ghost land, without any arriving or departing flights. There was one interesting arrivals:
BahamasAir 737-200 pulling up to the gate
I do love the distinctive whine of the 737-200! Much of my youth was spent flying on those birds.
Soon our A320 arrived to take us back to Chicago.
United A320 pulling into Gate 40 at MCO
We proceeded to board shortly after the plane was unloaded and cleaned. This flight was 100% full. Thankfully, though, the window was not behind me, so I could take better videos of take-off and landing this time.
I was a little worried about this flight, because there was a wicked string of thunderstorms and tornadoes rolling though the Midwest. It was causing havoc and delays everywhere for flights, but the strength and number of storms was very high.
April 14-16th Tornado outbreak
The plane was loaded, Channel 9 was on, and we proceeded out to runway 18L for departure. Shortly after takeoff, we headed directly west to avoid some incoming thunderstorms/rain. It was shortly after this that I fell asleep to soothing sounds of ATC…
Takeoff: MCO –ORD on United A320
As we started to approach Chicago, the ATC was heating up. There was ground stop in ORD, and bad weather, and it was causing tons of delays for the incoming flights. We had to do a 15 minute hold on the way in to Chicago, and then we’re cleared to proceed in.
Landing at ORD
The descent was long and slow, and when we touched down, it was very, very wet in Chicago. The winds were gusting, but it looked like airplanes were moving nicely.
As I got off the flight, I was greeted to a sea of chaos. Flights were cancelled left, right and center! The lineups for customer service were at least 100 people long, and not moving. It was a sea of humanity, and none of it was moving. Every restaurant was full, and every seat in the waiting areas of the gates was taken. I was now in the second ring of hell.
I went to the departure board to discover that my flight to Winnipeg was…drum roll please… on-time?!?! In these sea of chaos, my flight was on-time? So I made my way from Terminal 1/C30 to Terminal 2 F2B. The ride on the bus was awesome, but very wet this time. People were not in a good mood this time around.
United 7001 – ORD - YWG
ETD: 6:04PM ATD: 8:46PM
ETA: 8:03PM ATA: 10:26PM
I made my way through the Terminal 1, to gate 2. For anybody that hasn’t been to around here, it is right next to the customer service area for United. During these irregular Operations, this area was a hive of activity.
At 5:30pm, just before we were to start boarding, they updated the departure to a 30 minute delay because of ATC. Hmm, just enough time to try a grab a burger from McDonalds right near the gate (yech!) Just before 6:00pm, they updated the departure for another 30 minutes. Reason: ATC. This 30 minute rotating delay kept up until 8:00pm, when our plane finally arrived at the gate.
Apparently, President Obama was in town for a democratic fundraiser, and put ORD into a ground stop when he left that afternoon. That, combined with the bad weather, caused all of the chaos that day.
After getting on board, I quickly texted the wife to let her know we were going…for real now! At 8:46pm, were were on our way.
We made a relatively quick taxi and departure out…
Takeoff from ORD for YWG
The flight back to Winnipeg was very quiet, and uncomfortable (this is a CRJ200, after all). I was very glad to be getting back to home, finally!
On descent, the pilot let us know of the temperature (30 F) and that it was snowing…SNOWING! What a shock to the system after spending a week in Florida!
Landing in Winnipeg
I went through customs, and was met by my family. Who knew I’d have to shovel the driveway the next morning!
The iPod is a pretty decent video camera for recording. The battery life sucks on it, but it did OK for a minimal approach to technology. The camera in it, though, is not very good for pictures. I missed having my SLR for taking proper pictures, especially in ORD.
From a travel perspective, United can be best summed up as average. It’s not great, but it’s not bad. It worked, but didn’t leaving you feeling particularly overwhelmed. It’s like shopping at Walmart, you know what you’re going to get. I’ll continue to use them to the USA as my other alternative is Delta (double yech!)
I hope you enjoyed reading this! I look forward to hearing your comments!