Sponsor Message:
Aviation Trip Reports Forum
My Starred Topics | Profile | New Topic | Forum Index | Help | Search 
UA Harrisburg To Beijing And Back. W. Pics.  
User currently offlineOB1783P From United States of America, joined Sep 2003, 329 posts, RR: 0
Posted (11 years 4 months 1 week 3 days 5 hours ago) and read 9302 times:

Harrisburg to Beijing and back. January 7 - 16.
$900 at United.com Y class (issued 12/10/04)

When I booked the ticket, United.com first offered me a 50 minute connection at ORD, but I chose an earlier first flight, with a generous 2 hour-plus connection. By the way, I investigated all foreign carriers, just to try something new, but United was far more convenient and quite cheaper all around.

On Friday, January 7, I woke up early. I went on line to check the status of my flights and discovered that the first flight I was booked on (UA559) was delayed by 2 1/2 hours.

I knew that United had many ways to get me to Beijing, so instead of calling I drove to the airport. I parked in the long term parking ($55 for 10 days).

It was my first time at MDT's new passenger terminal. It feels a little cheap, but of course it is not built for enormous traffic. Most damaging are two rows of cheesy looking rocking chairs and bottom-of-the-barrel country and rock music. I guess that is what the South central PA flying public feels most comfortable with, but Changi it ain't. Would a touch of elegance seem pretentious and uninviting?

The helpful United agent immediately rerouted me through IAD. Unexpectedly, he put me on a flight from IAD to ORD that was not the first leg of flight 851 (IAD-ORD-PEK). When I asked him how come, he didn't understand my question. I didn't insist.

The security check was extremely cautious and slow. Good thing there were so few of us at this early hour.

MDT to IAD ---- Flight UA 7891 645A-725A Gate B1
Embraer 145 N290SK New C/S Seat 3F (bulkhead, legroom++)

This was my first time in an Embraer jet, and it felt perhaps roomier than a CRJ, with very large windows. The flight was full. The safety instructions were mimed to a recorded tape. No drink service. We took off and landed on time, but we ended up taxiing for 20 minutes at IAD.

We parked at gate G25, a drafty horror, and it was quite a journey to C4. IAD used to be chic...

IAD to ORD ---- Flight UA 1251 820A-930A Gate C4
Boeing 737-500 N927UA Old C/S Seat 4F (economy plus, bulkh., leg++)

I barely made it to the gate, but C4 is not an inviting waiting area anyway, right next to a smokers' cell.
Another nice flight, on time and chock full. The safety instructions were "live". There was a drink service. We parked at ORD at gate B5.

Believe it or not, this was my first time at O'Hare. What I saw of it (concourse B) was bustling but cheerful, more inviting than IAD or ATL. I finally had breakfast, and joined the crowd waiting for the Beijing flight.

The gate agents checked our Chinese visas and stamped our boarding passes.

ORD to PEK ---- Flight UA851 1200N-340P (Day 2) Gate B16
Boeing 777-200 N2625UA Old C/S Seat 32C (OK legroom)

There was a bit of a delay boarding, and we didn't push back until 1235. The flight was, again, 100% full. Naturally, the safety instructions were "live". Thanks to the cold air, we made a sprightly takeoff at 1255. We made up for the delay in the air. The passengers were maybe 1/3 Chinese, 2/3 Americans, and well behaved. My neighbor was a serious Chinese girl who worked on a laptop. When her battery dimmed, she got another laptop out!

At first, the cabin crew struck me as overly folksy-joky. But honestly, they did a fantastic job. As good as SQ, with the biggest difference being the "you guys'' and "honey" manner. They never tired with passengers questions, be they clever or not. Their good spirits never flagged during the long flight.

I had some reading to do, so I just turned on the map and left the earphones alone (Catwoman, no thanks).

Itinerary: Milwaukee - Hudson Bay - Gulf of Bosthia - Queen Elizabeth Island - North Pole - Siberia - Mongolia

Service: Drink - Towel - Dinner I - Coffee - Drink - Ramen and Cookie - Towel - Dinner II, with many water and tea passes in between. I never felt abandoned, as I did on Alitalia transatlantic for instance. The crew never hid behind curtains, and they jumped up to help whenever you went to the rear section during down time.

The dinners were fine, but not as good as they would be on the way back.

I had wondered if it would be a day or a night flight. Well, there were about 5 hours of darkness centering on the North Pole.

We landed at 336P, on "Day 2" of course. The arrival hall and immigration at PEK were sparkling clean and shiny, and the passport control, although extremely attentive, was rapid.

PEK to ORD ---- Flight UA850 535P-430P (same day!) gate 14
Boeing 777-200 Never could see tail # clearly Old C/S Seat30A (exit bulkhead, tons of legroom)

For $3 more than a taxi (total $15), I got the hotel driver to take me to PEK in a clean, smooth car. He drove very fast and I felt glamorous and important.

The departure hall at PEK is, not surprisingly, shiny and clean.

The first step, before check in, is a quick passport and ticket check. I had read again and again about a departure tax, and I had my money ready, but guess what, that has been abolished.

I was about 10th in line at the United windows. There were no agents of yet. By the time they finally showed up, there must have been close to 100 impatient people in line, reading in a trance a strangely worded electronic bulletin board about diseases (You can't catch AIDS by simply living). Then many windows opened and things went very fast.

Security and passport control were well organized for large crowds. When I saw all the exotics destinations available, I really didn't feel like going home...

After one last bite, I exchanged my unspent Yuan into US$ (be sure to keep your original exchange receipts).

The beast was already at the gate.

These giggling ladies had finished the cleanup.

The waiting area was quite comfortable.

And you could catch some interesting sights.

Everything I described outbound holds true on the way back, a full flight again, except that we were on time departing as well. The crew was superb and attentive while informal. The sequence of service was identical, and the food noticeably better.

We didn't come back quite the same way, but we had great tail winds all the way.

I watched Vanity Fair and The Village.

Two things did happen that might interest you.

My neighbor, an American drug-rep, drank 4 miniature bottles of Scotch, 3 beers and 3 bottles of red wine during the flight. And he already stank at boarding time! Yuck.

The lady at 31B, a Chinese Ada Quonset type, smoked in the restroom! Twice! The second time, a F/A was waiting to reprimand her when she came out.

Arrival at O'hare was quite a letdown, in an ugly corridor from which I couldn't see the plane's tail. Lots of walking, and then total disgrace at immigration, with harried agents acting as if it was the first time ever planeloads of people arrived there. They kept switching the heading of the lines, utterly confusing the poor foreign nationals. As always in US airports, foreigners in transit were completely disoriented. The passengers continuing on the same flight to IAD were justifiably irritated too at having to clear security again!

The wretched journey between teminals afforded me a beautiful sunset. I called my wife from the same telephone I had used 10 days ago for one last goodbye.

ORD to MDT ---- Flight UA392 700P-946P Gate C32
Boeing 737-300 By now, who the heck cares about tail # Old C/S Seat 15F (tight)

A mundane conclusion to my journey. And another full flight, this time 45 minutes late. I was getting a bit cranky, and ended up in the middle of a loud group of Penn State students. The plane was very hot, and I managed to sleep a bit. The hyperactive male F/A was wearing plastic fangs while offering drinks.

In Harrisburg there was snow and an icy wind. In the bright empty terminal, Elvis was singing "Viva Las Vegas".

For my Chinese domestic flight, see

I've flown thousands of miles and I can tell you it's a lot safer than crossing the street!
5 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlineGamps From United States of America, joined Jul 2003, 469 posts, RR: 1
Reply 1, posted (11 years 4 months 1 week 3 days ago) and read 8874 times:

Looks like you had a good trip with UA. I flew in almost same time frame from SFO to PEK and back and had same experience. Some of the photos I took look identical to your photos! I also was fooled by the now abolished departure tax.

Great report. I will be posting mine this week. Only negative I guess was it was a 744 with no PTVs. (not a biggie for me, but I missed the air show).

User currently offlineBoeingnut From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 2, posted (11 years 4 months 1 week 2 days 16 hours ago) and read 8627 times:

The airport tax wasn't abolished, but China finally got its act together and the 90Y tax is now included in your ticket, along with all the other assorted fees that go along with air travel these days (must....restrain....from taking cheap shot....at TSA.....)

User currently offlineStevenUhl777 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 3, posted (11 years 4 months 1 week 1 day 2 hours ago) and read 8146 times:

Great report!

I was amazed at just how far north those flights go! I have full faith in the T7 and the ETOPS certification, but I wonder what alternate airports are within 1,500 miles? I guess FAI and some in Siberia, now that I think about it.  Insane

Quite a trip! One way would be what...15 hours of flying alone?

Thanks for flying the Friendly Skies of United!  Smile

User currently offlineMusapapaya From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2004, 1163 posts, RR: 0
Reply 4, posted (11 years 4 months 1 week 5 hours ago) and read 7876 times:

feels like UA really offers the BEST service among all US Carriers, am I quite right on this?
I think carriers like AA have to learn more from this Star Alliance carrier. Best regards.

Lufthansa Group of Airlines
User currently offlineCaptain_777 From United States of America, joined Jan 2000, 295 posts, RR: 2
Reply 5, posted (11 years 4 months 3 days 6 hours ago) and read 7566 times:

Great Report. I flew PEK-ORD on United 850 on August 29th. Very long flight indeed, but I enjoyed it. You can read it here: http://www.airliners.net/discussions/trip_reports/read.main/51571/

Top Of Page
Forum Index

Reply To This Topic UA Harrisburg To Beijing And Back. W. Pics.
No username? Sign up now!

Forgot Password? Be reminded.
Remember me on this computer (uses cookies)
  • Trip reports only! Other topics here
  • If criticizing an airline, express yourself in a dignified manner.
  • No adverts of any kind. This includes web pages.
  • No hostile language or criticizing of others.
  • Do not post copyright protected material.
  • Use relevant and describing topics.
  • Check if your post already been discussed.
  • Check your spelling!
Add Images Add SmiliesPosting Help

Please check your spelling (press "Check Spelling" above)

Similar topics:More similar topics...
SFO To Beijing And Back On United 889/888:Good! posted Thu Jan 27 2005 04:56:23 by Gamps
Amsterdam To Berlin And Back On AB (pics) posted Thu Dec 22 2005 23:00:06 by Airbuseric
Daytrip From AMS To BHX And Back On Bmibaby posted Sun Oct 29 2006 15:26:33 by Airbuseric
My Free Jumpseat Flight To CGN And Back (photos) posted Fri Apr 28 2006 23:40:52 by DeltaWings
ARN-LHR-JFK And Back W/pics posted Sun Feb 26 2006 18:13:00 by Christian
Dallas-Love To Houston And Back, COEx posted Mon Jan 2 2006 06:41:28 by AA737-823
Brussels To Beirut And Back Via Milan On Alitalia posted Sat Dec 24 2005 18:29:55 by BrightCedars
BGY To BTS And Back posted Sun Dec 18 2005 01:40:22 by IFACN
Kykm To Ksea And Back posted Sat Nov 26 2005 07:49:11 by CWUPilot
MH Domestic On B777 - To KUL And Back posted Sat Sep 3 2005 13:25:20 by 777MAS

Sponsor Message:
Printer friendly format