My cousin decided to have his wedding in Aspen which sounded great (it beats having it on Long Island [where his originally from], Washington [where he and his wife currently reside], or Columbus [where his wife is from orginally])...Well, sort of. I didnt know what days I'd have free from work and how many days I could spend in Colorado until about 6 days before I departed. Needless to say, I was charged an arm and a leg for my flights which initially looked like DFW-DEN-ASE/EGE-DEN-DFW (the ASE-DEN flights were sold out for Sunday). America West ended up only about $30 cheaper, but I decided to fly UA and leave out of EGE.
Of course, I was sleep deprived. My parents had left for Colorado the night before, and someone (cough...cough...my mom) had neglected to do my laundry, so I stayed up all night doing it. When I was finally done at 3AM, I decided against sleep (no way, with such little sleep I wouldve woken up by the alarm), and instead headed to 7-11 for a cup of coffee before going back home and loading my bags in the car and driving to DFW. I arrived at the airport at 4:30AM for my 7:10AM departure to Denver. Unfortunately, the UA ticket counter did not open until 4:45AM, and I was only behind 3 or 4 people who were all heading on the 6:10 to ORD. I am not a huge fan of the self-check in kiosks, because on most airlines they spit out flimsy paper boarding passes. At DFW you really have no choice though but to use self-check in, as the staffed queues are only for Intl Passengers, First/Elite Members, and Paper Tickets. I hadnt been on UA for about 6 months, and had yet to use their self check-in kiosks, but to my surprise they produced real boarding passes. Unfortunately, I had neglected to change my seat assignments (which were all middle seats, in regular economy...I didnt have Plus), so I would have to do that at the gate. I had a feeling they wouldnt put me in Economy Plus anyway.
Luckily, there was no line at security (one of the few advantages of having to fly from our crappy airport), so I put slid my backpack through the X-ray machine, and walked through the metal detector, which surprisingly didnt go off. I walked over to the vacant BA gate, bought a paper, and read it for about an hour before I walked over to my gate. I sat down at the gate next to an attractive brunette, and started reading a magazine (yeah, I'm smooth...what can I say). When I saw a gate agent arrive, this was around 6:20, I went up to the podium to get my seat assignments changed. No sooner had I arrived, than he said to his colleague, "The plane (an A320) wasnt repaired....We're gonna cancel it." He made the announcement that maintenance had neglected to repair the aircraft overnight, and that we would all need to go retreive our luggage, and have our flights changed at the ticket counter. Being the smart guy I am, not listening, I asked him to rebook me on the next flight. He told me to go to the ticket counter, without giving me the "Are you retarded?" look. By this time, the full A320 had lined up at the ticket counter waiting to be rebooked. No thanks. Instead, I got on my cell phone, and called United customer service.
The nice agent notified me that I had two options, one was to wait around DFW until 11 for the next availible flight to DEN, which would put me into ASE (all the earlier flights for both legs were overbooked) at 4:15 or connect through ORD and DEN, and be on the same 4:15 flight. Of course I did what 99.9999% of the members of a.net would do....double-connect! I returned to my new friend, the self check-in kiosk, where I prayed that I could get my new boarding passes and recheck my bags through ORD and DEN. Of course, it wouldnt pull up my new reservation, but the friendly woman behind the kiosk who's job was to tag luggage, asked me if she could assist. She printed out my boarding passes, and I decided to push my luck and see if I could land Economy Plus seats in the exit rows. "Sure!" was her response. Nice.
I went back through security, where my bag was actually hand-inspected (my camera's sharp innerds tends to raise suspicions). I proceeded to the gate where the 737-500 to ORD would be boarding.
Scheduled Dep.-Arr.: 7:55AM-10:09AM
Actual Dep.-Arr.: 7:50AM-9:46AM
Flying Time: 1 hour, 56 minutes
Seat: 9A (Exit Row)
I really think that row 9 on a 737-500 are the best seats in Economy in the entire UA fleet. The legroom is unbelieveable. It has to be somewhere around 38-40." Everytime I get this seat, I like it more and more. UA Economy Plus, it blows the doors off AA MRTC, although to get a seat in Economy Plus you usually have to do one of three things; buy your ticket through Priceline, have Elite status, or be lucky. We departed a bit early, and to my surprise there wasnt any turbulence on the climb phase of our flight. You'd be surprised as well, if you felt how humid it was that morning. Once aloft the flight attendants came around the cabin and offered refreshments and Biscoff cookies. I went for a black coffee, UA has some of the best (for an airline), and ate my Biscoff cookies. One thing I noticed was how Biscoff packages differ from airline to airline, but still no airline has their logo or branding on any of the packaging. After the flight attendants had served the rest of economy, they came back through the cabin and offered more coffee and Biscoffs. I opted for sleep, and dozed off until we began our initial decent into ORD. Unfortunately, we didnt get the scenic decent over Chicago, and instead decended over farm land and the suburbs. We pulled into C30 at ORD and deplaned.
I had a couple of hours to kill at ORD before my departure to DEN, so I took a walk around the concourses, walked over to the AC gates where they were boarding the Trans-Canada A319 to YUL. I decided to go back to the United concourses and have some lunch before my flight to DEN.
It seems that the past 3 times I have flown UA through ORD, I have somehow ended up arriving or departing from B14. This time was no different, and my flight to DEN was leaving from their. I went and grabbed a burger at the Chilis next to the gate....and thats when the fun started. As soon as I left my table, I felt like I had been shot in the stomach. I mean, my stomach was killing me. It felt absolutely awful.
As I found a seat at the gate area, I noticed that their was a gate change announcement on the TV screen above the podium to gate C1. Great...in agony, I walked back through the rainbow tunnel, and all the way down the concourse to C1. When I arrived, the DEN flight wasnt even showing on their monitor. I asked the gate agent, and she seemed as confused as me as to why they would have such a big plane at C1 (she thought I was on the 744, which was departing to DEN 10 minutes later). She dialed up her supervisor, and said, "Sorry, it looks like we made a mistake here, youre actually going out of B14." Ughhhh....back down the length of the concourse, through the rainbow tunnel, and up to B14....again. Only making me feel worse was that 10 minutes later was a 747-400 departure to DEN boarding right next to our A319. Unfortunately, both flights were fully booked, so I couldnt change onto the 744.
Scheduled Dep.-Arr.: 12:10PM-1:45PM
Actual Dep.-Arr.: 12:22PM-2:39PM
Flying Time: 3 hours, 17 minutes
Seat: 12F (exit row)
I boarded the aircraft, my stomach still in knots, and was pleased to see that their was no seat in front of my exit row window seat. Noticing the flight was fully booked, I also smiled to myself seeing the seat next to me, and the seat in front of that one was open. What luck! Of course, just then, a really good looking brunette around my age, and a fat middle-aged man come down the aisle. Which one will sit next to me? The fat guy? Or the attractive brunette? Of course, the fat guy. As if my stomach didnt hurt badly enough, I had to sit next to this guy for the two and a half hour flight to DEN. I put on the headphones and listened to channel 9. Right after takeoff, the pilot came on the PA and announced that due to severe storms west of ORD we would be deviating north to Duluth (!) before heading west. Listening on Channel 9, I could tell the poor Duluth controller was totally overworked, not used to all these ORD westbound departures. Once we had overflown DLH, the flight attendants came through the cabin to offer drinks and pretzels. I, not wanting to kill my stomach, just decided to go with a water.
After we turned towards DEN, I fell asleep again, and didnt wake up until we were on final approach over...uhhh...the middle of nowhere.
When I woke up, the first thing I noticed was that my stomach was miraculously better. I got off the A319, took the moving walkway down to gate B60 to wait for the BAe-146 to board.
UA5659 (op. by Air Wisconsin)
Scheduled Dep.-Arr.: 3:30PM-4:15PM
Actual Dep.-Arr.: 3:49PM-4:20PM
Flying Time: 31 mins
The first thing I noticed when I boarded the BAe-146 was how shoddy and in disrepair the interior was. The bulkhead had drill holes all over it, the armrest was duct taped around where the ashtray is. C'mon...duct tape? You have to be kidding me. The windows were very dirty, as well. Before takeoff, the captain came on the PA and announced that because we are traveling at low altitude over the Rockies, the seat-belt sign would stay on for the duration of the flight, and the F/A would also remain seated for the entire flight, and that it wasnt safe to get up. No sooner had we lifted off from DEN then some hillbilly backpacker in the seat behind me got up to use the bathroom. The flight attendant gave him a dirty look (as she should have...) and got up from her seat to allow him to use it. Ironically though, there was no turbulence the entire flight...except for flying over the plains...go figure. People warned me about the approach to Aspen, I really didnt think it was too steep, although you do fly pretty close to the mountains. Once we touched down in Aspen, and the door opened, a nice cool blast of wind came through the cabin...and after days of 95 degree heat in DFW, it felt great! We walked down the airstairs, and into the rustic Aspen/Pitkin Cty. airport. Pretty cool airport, built mostly of wood, and its interior makes it feel like a log cabin.
The wedding was an absolute blast. I've been to the Rockies in the winter, but not the summer. Its almost better in the summer, its not as crowded, the weather is awesome, and the local girls look even better!
At about 10AM on the Sunday I was to leave Aspen, I decided to call UA to see if I could standby for a flight out of Aspen instead of Vail. When UA rep tried to look up my reservation for that day she couldnt find it. Turns out, I booked my tickets for the 30th....not the 29th....Arrrrghhhh! Well, all the flights from Vail and Aspen were booked. So my only other options were going from Denver, Grand Junction, or Gunnison. My father could drive me to GUC or GJT, but it would be a 4 hour drive. Instead, I decided to take the flight from DEN. One of my cousins was leaving on the midnight B6 flight from DEN-JFK, so he offered to drive me to DEN. I'm actually really glad I drove through the mountains on the road through Independence Pass....it was awesome! I got to DEN by 6:30PM. For some reason at DEN you cant check bags at the self check-in kiosk, you have to go back to the end of the check-in line or head out and check-in with the skycap.
By the time I reached concourse B, I had about 30 minutes before boarding started, so I went to Dominos, grabbed a crappy pizza, and headed to B55.
Scheduled Dep.-Arr.: 8:55PM-11:42PM
Actual Dep.-Arr.: 8:49PM-11:17PM
Flying Time: 1 hour, 28 mins
Seat: 25F (moved to 20F)
Unfortunately, I boarded in the last group, and by the time I reached the second to last row in the 320, I realized what I had done...inadvertently. I was the only person in the last 3 rows who wasnt in a family with small children or babies. My chances for sleep were looking rather poor. Luckily the flight wasnt sold out, so told the flight attendant that I wanted to get some sleep, and that I would wait until the boarding door was closed, then move to an open seat further up in the cabin. Unfortunately, the only window or aisle open was in row 20...oh well, it was better than being surrounded by families and crying babies. I put my headphones on, listened to Channel 9, and fell asleep right after takeoff. It wasnt until we were on final approach to DFW that I woke up.