The first “first” is that this is my first trip report on A.Net! I have been a lurker for many years and every time I think about doing a TR, I chicken out (read: zone out and can’t bother with pictures-n-stuff). I’ll stick with the normal flow that most people use here and hopefully it stays interesting for you!
My routing is as follows for the entire journey (which will be completed in 9 days).
Part 1: RDU-ORD-NRT-BKK
Part 2: BKK-CNX-BKK
Part 3: BKK-PEK
Part 4: PEK-ICN-SFO-RDU
Thanks to Great Circle Mapper!
Ok – yes, it looks a little crazy for 9 days, but part of the madness was that I wanted to burn some miles in C and didn’t just want to stick with United. This routing allows me to also try out Thai Airways, Thai Smile & Asiana. Thai Smile and Asiana will be new ones for me, so I’m curious and looking forward to it! I’ll also be able to try out the fairly new routing on United from SFO-RDU…
Alright, enough of the intro! Let’s get on with it.
My day started out very earrrrrrly (2:30a) to be exact. I don’t live far from RDU, but I also hate rushing that early in the morning. Nice shower, a little nibble (because my stomach is like “Ooooo….I’m hungry, even though it’s bed time) and finish packing last minute things with no stress! TripIT alerts me that everything is on time.
My second “First”, I have never * gasp * travelled WITHOUT checking a bag. I just always do. I never pay for it (because of status or class or credit card), but I am known to over pack and take too much stuff. This time around, I am determined to bring only a backpack and a rollaboard suitcase on this trip. Now, I’ll be in Thailand and China in one go, which means pretty different climates. How will I do this? I picked up some compression bags from Target and WHOA – those things are awesome! I squashed a bunch of clothes down to practically nothing and my bag still only weighed in at 25lbs, which included a pair of shoes and flip flops. Not bad!
The third “First” was that I always travel with my camera gear. Always. No matter how short the trip. I just carry it with me. This time, I am determined to only take my iPhone on this journey. What? Am I crazy? Yeppers. I still take my laptop and iPad (for reading), but no extra camera bag for me. So, you may get some good ones and you may get some bad ones or you may not get all that you like. Deal with it!
And the fourth and fifth “First” will be that I am starting off my journey in Domestic First on United AND flying on United for the first time since the official cutover. My travel has been greatly reduced over the past few years and I just don’t get out as much.
October 5, 2012
United Flt 80
Dep: 5:32a (Actual 5:43a)
Arr: 6:26a (Actual 6:21a)
Arriving at RDU is always easy and pretty stress-free with Terminal 2. I go to one of the kiosks, slide my credit card, scan my passport, retrieve my boarding passes….oh wait, I now have Passbook on my iPhone, so I’m going to give it a try. I’ll take the BP’s anyway as backup in case something goes wrong. Then I stand there. After about 30 seconds, I realize---you dummy---I’m not checking a bag. I’m all done! I head over the security and try to look awake. I hand the TSA agent my phone and realize she has not powered up her QR reader thingy…so not one to hold up my fellow travellers, I hand her my paper BP. Oy! So much for Passbook this time. The airport is surprisingly busy this time of morning (4:30am). I head over and get my Starbucks and plonk down at the gate. So far, everyone has been in a good mood….even the TSA….and things are looking up! Boarding is ontime with a very spry crew (fairly young). As boarding begins, I swipe open Passbook and boobeep, the reader works just fine and I am off.
Waiting for boarding.
Obligatory legroom shot. iPad and earbuds ready to go!
Onboard, it’s the usual. I get a water and settle in with my gear (iPhone, iPad, earbuds). I’m not sure what we’re getting in the way of “breakfast”, but we shall see. Pushback on time and a quick taxi to 23R. Take off was nice a smooth, with clear weather most of the way to ORD. Ran into a little rain, but nothing major. “breakfast” consisted of a warm blueberry scone (sorry, forgot the picture…see, I told you!) and a nice mug of coffee. I did read most of the way and time went quickly. We started descending into the Chicago area and I initially thought we would not do the downtown flyby, but our flight plan did take us up the coast of Lake Michigan and we were treated to a spectacular view of the city! It was still dark out and crystal clear. The lights were so bright – it was a real treat! Upon landing, we were put into a penalty box until our gate cleared. We were early, but that only lasted a couple minutes and we were parked at C29 in no time. Great crew, friendly and helpful! Thank you United!
Sorry, it's still early and I forgot to take a picture of the warm scone. It was delicious and here are the remnants.
Approach into ORD was beautiful!
Since I will be at ORD for 6 hours (bleh), I figured I would just head to the UC in-between the C gates. I’ll head over to B later. The front desk staff were very nice too. They said “You know, your departing flight is leaving from B, so you could use that lounge instead!”. I joked that I would be here for so long, I’ll just take a tour of each one. We had a laugh and I went and found a spot in a pretty empty lounge (wouldn’t stay that way for long).
I sat around, ate some cereal and a banana and wrote this report. After a few hours of twiddling my thumbs, I went over to “B” and setup camp until boarding time. By this time, they had switched out the cereal for M&M’s and other snacks in the “tube” things.
Doing some spotting
Heading over the B now
Here is a shot of the UC in Terminal B. I forgot to get any shots inside. It's in the "basement" and not very attractive.
I decided to head up and see what was happening to the boarding area…it was already packed and seemed a little “confused” as to where people were supposed to go. Finally we made out the BusinessFirst line and queued up. Boarding was a little crazy, but I didn’t mind so much. I haven’t been on the upper deck of a 747 for quite a few years (last time was on Northwest from Bangkok to Tokyo). It’s not often that I get to travel in the premium cabins, so I was looking forward to it. Sitting backwards on the upper deck would make another “First”.
I climbed the stairs and was met by a very pleasant crew! I thought “this could be a halfway decent trip!”. Unfortunately, I had a chatty “CIO” next to me, so it ruined the experience a little bit. While we were sitting, we were offered anything we wanted to drink. I just went for the water for now. I’ll have something more “substantial” later on. Then a few moments later, the Captain came around and thanked each and every customer on the upper deck, shaking hands and saying how much they appreciated our business. Wow! Very nicely done!!
Getting under way, take off was interesting going backwards. It didn’t bother me, but was unique. I can’t decide if I like it or not. I settled in and started playing with controls and found that I fit just fine in the space (I am 6’ and slender). I can see how some might not have quite enough room, but it was fine for me.
October 5, 2012
United Flt 881
Dep: 12:42pm CDT
Arr: 4:02pm JST
Here is the beauty that is taking my to NRT and onwards to BKK
15K was my throne for the next 13 hours!
Legroom was really not bad
What's to eat?
Only had this on the ORD-NRT leg. NRT-BKK was the standard pillow
A little Glenlivet with my warm nuts
Good salad and prawns, but the bread was terrible. Hard!!
Chicken dish was very good! I had tried for the Amazon Cod, but they ran out
And the 'ol standby!
I didn't have any cheese or port. I was too full!
I missed the snack service, but didn’t mind. My stomach was feeling a little rumbly as the food is either too rich or something, so I wasn’t that hungry. I did go for the “eggs and ham”, which was surprisingly good, but I didn’t eat all of it.
Approach into NRT was smooth and I was thankful for a nice smooth flight. I didn’t mention IFE, but I do think United’s is pretty good…in the premium cabins. The poor souls in coach just got to stare at the big screen. Been there, done that.
Breakfast is served!
Approach into NRT. I really liked sitting backwards.
I do remember taking pictures of the United Club at NRT, but I can't seem to find them now! Oops! Sorry! I did get in the queue for the shower. This was a bit of a mess and I think they could change their process for reserving shower rooms. There were so many people wanting to take showers that I thought I may have to cancel my reservation so as not to miss my flight to BKK. I did manage to make it though and enjoyed a nice shower. The bathrooms are in need of serious updating, but they are clean!
As for my NRT-BKK flight, I think I was so tired, I didn't manage to take any pictures and slept most of the way. I'm sorry about that too! I'll say that the flight was uneventful, food not as good as ORD-NRT and the flight attendants "just doing their job". A real difference between the two crews! I arrived into BKK late, but was out in no time and in my taxi to the Bangkok Christian Guest House (which by the way is very cheap, very clean (but plain) and a five minute walk from the Sala Daeng sky train station). I love staying there for some reason.
Flight info, in case you are curious.
October 6, 2012
United Flt 881
Dep: 6:34pm JST
Arr: 11:29pm ICT
Watch for the remaining 3 parts!
[Edited 2012-10-19 11:12:00]