I just got back home a few days ago after a trip to USA for the International Trumpet Guild Conference 2013 followed by a 3 day short holiday in New York. I decided to choose UA117 because of the flight path over the North Pole and since it was summer it was gonna be midnight sun and a whole day flight, which meant lots to see!
A short summary of my trip before the actual trip report focussing on the trip home. I chose to purchase a multi city flight on UA originating from SGN and ending in SGN because it was nearly $1000 cheaper than starting from SIN. minus the extremely cheap 3K flights available to SGN, I had savings of nearly $900, at the cost of 2 extra days of travelling. I don't earn $450 a day (If I did I would probably have flown SIN-EWR non stop :P) A tip to all asians flying to USA, if a cheap hop to SGN is available and tie permits, do consider starting UA flights from SGN for good savings!
So now to the main part of the report! After a quick search, I couldn't find any trip reports on this sector in Economy or in the day, please correct me if I'm wrong, but this is possibly the first day + econ EWR-HKG trip report!
777-200ER, N78001 "Gordon M Bethune"
12,974 km, 14hr57min.
checked in at EWR terminal C, I don't know what got into my mind but during check in I was given the chance to purchase an additional 10000 miles for $210, but I didn't select it because I thought I wouldn't really need those miles, but then after dumping my baggage I thought to myself again and I started feeling dumb for passing up on the good offer.
N78001 waiting at my gate, I wonder if it's Continental's first 777 (can anyone shed any light on this?)
It's gonna be a heck of a long journey!!!
FAs distributed newspapers, on the front page of that days issue of the Wall Street Journal was this really funny article. How apt that it was read on a plane.
Then came the safety video and announcements. I'm amused at how the safety video is always preceeded by an advertistment about United's multilingual capabilities and other stuff. Then comes the safety video, which begins with another multilingual showoff moment before the actual safety and emergency procedures feature. And then the safety video ends with another multilingual showoff moment. Haha united must be really proud of its extremely wide network and coverage. Reminds me of this United advert that said "The Earth is 70% covered by oceans. We cover the rest."
And right after the safety video, the chief FA gave final announcements about the usual switch off electronics blah blah, and then "We thank you for flying Conti- oops sorry United Airliness, please sit back and enjoy the flight" That kinda sounded possibly intentional and I wonder if it's a common occurence!
Takeoff! Byebye EWR!
After turning north and heading towards the border with Canada, this plane suddenly appeared from below us. This was the best I could do for the air-to-air attempt.
Flying over Montreal, with Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport just below!
It got cloudy quite quickly, and then the view got obscured. Was quite disappointed because I was hoping to see stuff like the Baffin Island and Greenland, the clouds persisted for awhile, so to kill time.......
I took my instrument out to practise at the back of the cabin, with a practice mute so that I didn't disturb anyone. helps me to keep up with my daily practice regime too!
FA adjusting the temperature. She told me that whenever they went over the pole the cabin temperature drops by a few degrees and so they have to push the thermostat up to make it more comfy for the passengers. Such a minute but unseen detail put into making the journey comfortable for us!
The clouds broke through and I saw something I've never ever seen in my life, not even on discovery channel or NGC. The arctic ice shelves in the Baffin Bay. This got me excited because it gave me the hope that I'd see Greenland after all
This is incredibly beautiful and amazing.
Alas, good views didn't last for long, clouds came back. So I went back to my practising, and the whole time I practised I faced the cabin door window. And then after an hour, suddenly the clouds disappeared, and my jaw dropped.
Greenland. Not green at all, but the beauty of it. Absolutely stunning.
various rocky areas that weren't covered by snow
amazing canyons with clear different layers of rock.
All too stunning views!!!!!
All good things must come to an end, and we left the shores of Greenland and headed out over the Arctic Ocean.
This is somewhere near the North Pole. After checking with maps I found out that we went extremely close to it, most likely within visual range of the actual pole. And because I was flying on Summer Solstice I was experience the greatest extent of the midnight sun!
All too soon, we reached the other end of the Arctic Ocean, THE MOTHERLAND!!!! Siberia looks very very pretty!
Frozen river of sorts? Whatever it is, it looks out of this world!
And then as we headed further south, all the ice and snow disappeared, and then we crossed Lake Baikal. I quote Wikipedia "Lake Baikal is the most voluminous freshwater lake in the world, containing roughly 20% of the world's unfrozen surface fresh water, and at 1,642 m (5,387 ft), the deepest. It is also among the clearest of all lakes, and thought to be the world's oldest lake at 25 million years."
We then entered the Gobi Desert in Mongolia.
Soon I was asked to lower my shades because people needed to sleep. I found it annoying because why the heck are people trying to sleep at 2pm Hong Kong time? I understand that it's 2am new york time, but we're going hong kong and not new york, shouldn't we be trying to adapt to hong kong time? Airline policies of lowering shades for people to sleep seem to encourage jet lag!
I decided to check out the classical music selection, and mainly to look out for a certain something. Right on the first page, there it was: Rhapsody in Blue. Was thinking to myself that it was only apt that Rhapsody in Blue be available on all AVOD flights, just in case any pax can't get enough of it from United!
Meal service. United's food is notorious for being one of the most disappointing in the airline industry. Small portions (something you'd last expect from a country that serves huge portions of food!) and the taste was awful too.
Going into the south china sea on approach to HKG. Made a really steep descent!
Touchdown! after nearly 15 hours of flying! This flight sets my new distance and duration records in my flight history!
It felt really good to be back in HKG, an airport that I frequently visit!
Rare bird caught at HKG! Biman Bangladesh DC-10, one of the last few surviving pax DC10s around left on this planet!
And then I did the continuation flight of UA117, changed to a 737-800. And then it was a 2hr30min nap all the way to SGN, so no pictures or info on the flight, was too tired by then and adjusted to the new time zone!
Ho Chi Minh's Tan Son Nhat International Airport's new terminal, modern design, nice and spacious. And clean too! The flight landed at 1.30am and by the time we set up camp at the cafe at the 3rd floor it was 2.30am or so, the airport terminal was very empty!
at 7am we checked in for our last journey back home. It was interesting that the immigration officer stamped my boarding pass too, never seen elsewhere in the world. Didn't get it on the way out towards USA too!
arrived at gate 1hr before departure to do some spotting. A Vietnam Airlines 777-200 arrives with the smoking tyres upon touchdown!
Jetstar Pacific A320, but with absolutely no livery other than the basic Jetstar colour scheme, does anyone here know why?
Decided to try out some panning shots, will put 2 up here. Here is a panned shot of an AirAsia A320 arriving from KUL
9V-JSO, Jetstar A320 arriving from SIN to pick us up and bring us back home!
At this point, there was this kind soul who was giving out surgical masks to random passengers. For those who don't know, Singapore is being shrouded by unprecedented levels of haze and smog courtesy of our close neighbour Indonesia, where irresponsible companies burn peat land to clear the land for plantations. Poor kind soul, he doesn't know that surgical masks wouldn't help at all in keeping out the hazardous particles, and only N95 masks can help keep them out.
Upon entering, I was surprised to see the seat pocket now at the top of the seat. A new design that I haven't seen so far!
I find Vietnam Air Caterers' colour scheme extremely familiar...wonder where i've seen it before...*coughCXcough*
Takeoff! Goodbye to the colourful city of Ho Chi Minh!
The journey was very uneventful, and then after about an hour, we began our descent, and this view shocked me....
The ground is blanketed by a thick layer of haze and smog, I began to treasure the last few minutes of a visible blue sky before we dived into the thick of it, pun intended.
flaps deployed, landing gear down, but no sight of the ground.
And then suddenly the coast appears during finals.
so far, when i touch down at changi after every single trip, my thoughts are "ah i'm finally back home" but this time, at touchdown and looking at this view, the first thought is "what the hell happened back home?!"
Lucky me, after an hour of landing, the haze miraculously cleared up and has stayed clear up till now! I can only wish that it stays this way but the prevailing winds are likely to return and blow the haze back.
Hope this trip report has been an eye opener to those who have never seen pictures of our polar regions before! Thanks for reading!!!