This is the 2nd half of my round-the-world journey. See part 1 here:
Circumnavigation - Part 1/2 (ATL/PHX/SEA/NRT/HKG) (by captainstefan Jun 5 2012 in Trip Reports)
N787UA - 777-200ER
Seat 22A / 8D
It came time to board UA803 to Bangkok, and about halfway through the
boarding process, all standbys (me and a fair number of others) were called to
the podium. The gate agent initially told me that I could have a BusinessFirst seat,
but that the ottoman was broken so the flat bed was somewhat defunct. He
asked me to wait to the side, which I did, then told me that someone had
upgraded and that seat was no longer available. Oh well, I am happy with a
window, I told him, and he gave me seat 22A. I boarded and got settled in my seat.
I was excited to try out UA's new on-demand IFE in Economy Plus, with a great
view of the wing. A few minutes after getting settled in and used to the touch
screen, one of the gate agents approached me and offered the previously
rescinded BusinessFirst seat. I took it purely because there would be more food
available to me, and possibly because the seat did still recline all the way. When I
had been told that the ottoman was broken, I feared that the leg rest was inop
and my torso would be fully reclined but my feet would still be flat on the floor.
When I moved my bags to the seat, I found that it was fully functional, and the
ottoman piece (that the leg rest joins to form the flat bed) was simply missing.
Apparently that was enough to keep some other passengers from upgrading, but I
had no problem with it. (This was the only flight of the trip on which I did not have a
window seat, so no videos to be had of takeoff or landing)
Our takeoff was uneventful, if a little bumpy, and soon we settled in at 34,000 feet.
I made use of the on-demand movie system while eating dinner (I didn't have an
option - by the time I was seated, the beef dish had been chosen for me), and
then leaned back to take a nap. I woke up with about an hour left in the flight, got
some water from a very, very friendly and efficient flight attendant.
Channel 9/From the Flight Deck was back on as we approached Bangkok, and I
listened (and craned my neck to see out the window across the aisle) as we
made a smooth-ish touchdown on 19R. Our taxi seemed to take forever, and I
don't know why because I couldn't see outside, and Channel 9 had been switched
off after we left the runway. After the eternity taxi, we parked and offloaded for
the long walk down the terminal to officially enter Thailand. I proceeded through
the international transfers security check and then to Emirates' service desk at
the intersection of the concourses. After a few hundred phone calls, a couple
scans of the passport and some anxious waiting, I was told that my Zed
reservation was confirmed, and I was given seat 52K on my first A380 flight to
A6-EDS - A380-800
At this point, exhaustion was starting to set in a little bit, along with some hunger.
This disappeared, if just momentarily, when I got to gate E4 and beheld my first
A380, A6-EDS. The smile is still on my face as I write this passing through FL380
for FL400, with the nice 10" screen showing the tail view of our plane. My
impression as I embarked on this whale of an aircraft was one of awe - the plane
looks more like an ocean liner from the jetbridge, with barely any curves of the
fuselage visible. My seat was just behind the galley at which we entered, on the
right side of the plane. I had a bulkhead seat so both bags went up in the bin after
the extraction of my camera, tablet and headphones. Once seated, I couldn't help
but stare, starstruck, though an elegantly trimmed and massive window frame.
The frame itself in the cabin wall is large, but the window on the exterior seems
to be normally sized.
We had about a 15 minute taxi to runway 19L for our departure to Dubai. The
entire time, it seemed as though we were taxiing downhill - the engines barely
made a whine. When we lined up, I was pretty excited to hear what these Trents
had to offer at full power. The 4 mighty turbines spooled up what seemed like a
little bit, and we began rolling. Here I am, expecting some majestic growl from the
engines and all I hear is about the equivalent of a 737 on descent - a distant whirr.
I really couldn't grasp how these humongous fuel engines could be so near silent
at takeoff power, and soon we were climbing through 5000 feet and making our
turns westbound, turning about the Bangkok metropolitan area.
Takeoff vid: http://youtu.be/kcmoNPc-bGQ
For "breakfast" (or midnight munchies, rather), we were offered an omelette, a
chicken/fried rice dish or a croissant. I chose the chicken and rice, as it seemed
most harmless and filling. I don't know how the omelette or croissant tasted, but
I made a good choice. Maybe it was how hungry I was, but the chicken was
fantastic. The sauce on it had a slight nutty note to it, and the chicken itself was
very tastily seasoned. The rice seemed a bit undercooked, but the chicken more
than made up for it. Also along for the ride was some fruit (cantaloupe, pineapple,
and papaya), a small roll, a cup of very sweet orange juice, and naturally I had my
apple juice in addition. The meal service was conducted very quickly and never
without a smile from the lovely cabin crew (who as a group spoke more than 10
languages - something amazing when one normally only flies states-based airlines.
As tempting as it was to explore the IFE system, I succumbed to sleep again.
I woke up as we were about to cross over into Oman, having slept the entire
span of India. The flight attendants were busy in the galley (cleaning I assume), but
the noise didn't bother me too much apparently. About a half hour before landing
in Dubai, we were offered some orange juice and water, a welcome refresher
after the nap. The cabin was prepared for landing, and the Airshow monitor on
the bulkhead in front of me switched to the nose camera of the plane. That just
made my day, as I was able to see our final approach in its entirety. As a pilot, I
guess having it on really puts some pressure on to keep the centerline on the
landing and ground roll. Our captain had it a tad left of center almost the entire
roll down the runway, but I can't imagine it was more than 5-10 feet.
Landing vid: http://youtu.be/PVB1k-YElLM
After our taxi, we quickly pulled into our gate on the F side of the terminal. After a lengthy
wait at entry security, I got through and found my way to gate 225 for EK45 to
A6-EMO/GO ? 777-300ER
A two hour wait and some seriously spotty WiFi later, we were admitted through
the first gate into the holding area, waiting to board our 77W to Frankfurt. My
ZED listing worked like a charm, and the Emirates gate staff was nothing but
helpful in making this crazy trip work. While waiting, I sat next to a woman from
Yugoslavia who had stories on end about her travels, as she now lives in Australia.
Boarding was quick and easy, the flight probably had a load factor of about 85%,
leaving a little bit of breathing room.
We pushed back on time, taxied for a few minutes down to runway 30R. We
waited behind a flyDubai 737 that was holding for wake turbulence from the EK
A330 that departed just prior, then very soon after that 737 was rolling, we crept
into position. The nose view camera was being broadcast on the screens, which is
still such a novel idea to me. The RR Trent 800s spun up, satisfying my craving for
some deep engine music. They bellowed as we accelerated quickly and were
airborne about 50 seconds later, with a well-defined vortex being flung off the
Takeoff vid: http://youtu.be/rHxeUCyj5Hk
Our menu selections for the flight were for breakfast either an Arabic morning
mezze (labneh mint, hummus, halloumi and vegetables); a deli platter (smoked
chicken, pastrami, cheese, potato salad and crudtiés); or a croissant. For lunch,
one could choose either stewed beef with mushrooms or a butter chicken curry.
Quite a selection for a 5 and a half hour flight. I took the deli platter, a nap, then
woke up just in time for the stewed beef. The deli platter was a little low on the
substance side, but was otherwise quite satisfactory, as was the beef. Eating the
beef was the first time on this whirlwind trip that I wasn't ravishingly hungry,
which allowed me to enjoy it more instead of just inhaling it. The cabin crew was
just as excellently helpful as they had been on the BKK-DXB leg, leaving me a
very good impression of Emirates in general. Each staff member, airborne or at a
desk, greeted me with a smile and did everything they could to help me.
We began our cruise at 34000 feet, creeping up to 36000 just before crossing
into Romania. The scenery was gorgeous as we flew over eastern Bulgaria and
then Bucharest, but that quickly gave way to a think overcast layer before we
Before we began our descent, the purser, Fred, came by my seat to ask me how
everything was on the flight. I told him that it was great, and as my first trip on
Emirates, I was very impressed. He asked because on the manifest it indicated I
was staff, and he wanted to make sure all was well. All I can really say is A+ to EK
on their level of service.
We broke a bunch of clouds on our way down, weather in Frankfurt was pretty
dreary - overcast and 16 degrees C. Some serious vapor was being generated by
the expansive wings of our 77W, and we touched down on a soggy 25L right on
time. The disembarkation was painless and I hopped on the interterminal train to
the Z gates for my UA flight to IAD.
Landing vid: http://youtu.be/e_PHo2ej5Xw
N655UA - 767-300ER
I stumbled, bumbled and fumbled my way through Frankfurt's airport, catching my
shoes and suitcase on anything and everything possible. I guess all this flying was
starting to catch up to me. I made it through Germany's entry security, and then
had no idea where to go. All the Z gates are marked as Lufthansa, with some
small temporary signage at the ones currently being used by United. I found gate
Z17, where UA933 was scheduled to depart at 1700. While looking at the
departure board to make sure I was at the right gate, however, I noticed that
UA953 had been delayed 4 hours, for a 1500 departure. Given that I had over 90
minutes to spare for 953, I decided to list for it. Unfortunately, none of the
employees, LH or UA, at the desk could re-list non-revs in the new computer
system (SHARES, I believe). They told me that I would be able to get on the flight
no problem, but I had to find an Internet source and list myself so they could
check me in. I went hunting, and after many futile efforts to attach to free WiFi I
found a pay-terminal. I paid 2 euro for 10 minutes, which was enough time for me
to list myself, update my family as to my plans via Facebook, and check the flights
from IAD to ATL. When my time expired I changed clothes (I was feeling pretty
grungy at that point, after over 24 hours in the same outfit) and went to Z22 for
UA 953. Boarding began at about 1440, and the incredibly light load was on board
in less than 15 minutes. I was initially assigned seat 1C, which bugged me a little -
I knew there had to be at least one window open! I didn't want to bother the
gate staff though, they looked pretty ready to get this flight going. Instead, when I
got on the plane, I made friends with one of the flight attendants, who gave me
permission to move to any open seat once the main door was closed. I shot, and
I scored - 2A was free and I made the quick swap over to the window. Now
seated, I remembered just how comfortable UA's 'new' (3 years old) "GlobalFirst"
seat is. I know that foreign carriers like Emirates and Singapore kick the tails of
US based airlines, but for what it's worth UA got it right with their new premium
product. To put it in perspective, this chair is so comfortable that when returning
it to fully upright for landing, I can't believe how cushy it still is. I'd honestly rather
sit in one of these than my own recliner at home. Well, that might be pushing it,
but you get the point.
We taxied for a few minutes, past a few LH A380s and back over by the E gates
for runway 25C. I saw the EK 77W on which I'd flown into Frankfurt being
pushed back as we crossed the bars onto the runway to line up and wait. We held
for an intersection departure ahead of us, then the PW fired up for departure.
We burned the pavement for 45 seconds before taking a low angle climbout to
the west. Our climb to cruise included a slight course alteration, and the seat belt
sing was off in just about 15 minutes.
Takeoff vid: http://youtu.be/k8370cATGXI
For dinner, I had selected the tenderloin
with asparagus filled pasta, after a shrimp/spring roll/soup/fresh greens array of
appetizers. The most exciting part of the meal was discovering that the warm nut
dish had been purified and was not just cashews - rejoice, O you people! No
more are the days of fishing though the nasty almonds and chickpeas to find the
gold standard of fatty protein. Ok, almonds aren't *really* nasty but I just love me
The soup portion of the appetizer just wasn't appealing, it was too much on the
mushroom-y side for my taste. The fried onions and spaetzle were on point, and
the tenderloin, though not *that* tender, was filling. For dessert, I attempted to go
healthy and had the fruit and cheese plate. They should probably rename it the "4
grapes and cheese plate", for reasons you can conclude. After watching "In Time",
starring Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried, I made good use of the 78" flat
Really good use. Last time I saw the moving map, we were about an hour past
Ireland. When I woke up, we were being handed off to New York Center from
Boston - I guess 48 hours of traveling will do that to you. We were served a
breakfast tortilla/burrito/spanish food word thing - and honestly, I couldn't
stomach it. I don't know exactly what it was about the thing, but the smell just
didn't sit well with me. I ate the fruit served with it, which was good, and grabbed
some chips from the mid-flight snack tray sitting up front in the galley. That held
me over for the time being.
We flew down to about 4000 feet when we were handed off from Potomac
Approach to Dulles Tower, for the visual to 1C. As we landed, I saw an AN-124
sitting on the west pad with some activity going on about it; no clue what was
Landing vid: http://youtu.be/Qb_F2BuwsQY
We had a little bit a of a taxi, including one sharp right turn that took
just about all of the 767's turning radius. Once parked, going through customs
was an absolute breeze and was probably the fastest I've ever cleared and reentered
the secure area. A guess on total time from disembarking to popping up
next to the C concourse United Club would be under 10 minutes.
N315US - A320(SR)
Exercising my own flight benefits (for once on this trip), I listed for DL1504 while
on the train between terminals. I gave in to temptation (and the hunger resulting
from the turned-down burrito) and got a burger at Five Guys. Judge me for it.
After waiting just about forever for the burger, I was one of the last to board the
short range Airbus and found my seat in the first row of economy, which
happened to be Economy Comfort on this aircraft. The bulkhead is simply a little
curtain thing that only hangs down about 3 feet from the ceiling, so my backpack
was able to go under the seat in front of me (which hadn't been possible since
the HKG-NRT leg, due to bulkheads on Emirates and the seat layout on UA
premium cabins). We pushed on time and taxied to the penalty box, awaiting
clearance from the powers that be in Atlanta. After about a 10 minute stall, we
proceeded via taxiway Q to runway 30 and blasted off. As the shortest flight of
my journey, this was probably also the shortest takeoff roll and likewise we were
quickly at our cruising altitude of 36000 feet.
Takeoff vid: http://youtu.be/woaeUcCIQgU
My travel companion apple juice and I reunited once more, along with a tiny sack of nuts. They didn't bother me, I had
my Five Guys ready to make everyone jealous (or hungry).
Landing vid: http://youtu.be/eSN4OvRXrzw
This flight was over in what seemed like a wink, and we touched down on runway 26R at 8:39pm - 8 days, 2 hours and 39 minutes after lifting off from the adjacent runway in Atlanta, completing a circumnavigation of our planet Earth.
Thank you so much for coming along with me, and I look forward to your comments!