This was a somewhat interesting trip to plan. When I first started looking, Southwest Airlines was about $240, but they were a logical option with the only nonstop flights between Albuquerque and Los Angeles, though America West, with a connection in Phoenix, was closer to $200. Unfortunately, I wasn't sure of my schedule until after the 14-day advance purchase deadline passed, and as a result the airfares had gone up. Southwest was sitting at about $295, which seemed a lot for a short weekend trip. Travelocity did have a slightly better offer, a $288 web fare on Frontier via Denver. A few days later though, United started a "Sweetheart Sale" for the Valentine's Day weekend, and was able to get this ticket for $211. MyAviation.net photo:
It was also interesting to note that this would be my first trip in over a year that did not involve at least one flight on 50 seat or less regional jet or turboprop.
Friday, February 11, 2005
United Airlines flight 486
Albuquerque, New Mexico (ABQ) to Denver, Colorado (DEN)
N912UA (United Shuttle titles)
Photo © David Mueller
This was my first time flying out of ABQ, having visited the terminal just once before to drop off my father for his flight after I moved here. The United counter was not very busy when I arrived, and was able to walk right up to a kiosk and check myself in. I was happy to see that window seats were available, and I changed my seat from the originally assigned 16D to 18F. The boarding passes printed by the kiosk were on the thin paper used by many other airline kiosks, rather than the thicker card stock I had gotten from United kiosks in San Diego and Los Angeles.
I went over to the security checkpoint, where there was just a short line, and went through without any difficulties. I headed over to the departure gate, A3, to wait for boarding. My 737 was parked at the gate, and next to it at gate A1, was a Chautauqua Embraer 170 that would be heading to Chicago. Parked further back on the ramp and not at a gate was a United Airbus.
Boarding began at 0600, and was done with first class passengers boarding first, followed by seating groups, numbered 1 to 4. The procedure would be the same for all the flights on this trip. I was in group 3, and when it was called, went to board. The agent scanned my boarding pass under the barcode reader and handed it back to me, much like American and Delta do with their kiosk printed boarding passes.
I placed my carryon in the overhead and settled into my seat. I plugged my iPod's headphones into the aircraft's audio system, and was happy to find that Channel 9 was set to "From the Cockpit." We pushed back at 0626, the flight attendants did the safety demonstration, and at 0633 we were rolling for takeoff from runway 8, into the dark, drizzly morning.
After a few minutes of climbing, we emerged from the clouds into the dawn, and made our way towards Denver. The flight attendants came through the cabin with a beverage service, one offering coffee, another water, and another orange juice. I had the juice.
A nice short flight at 33,000 feet over the snow-covered Rocky Mountains. There were a few bumps here and there, nothing major. We touched down on Denver's runway 26 at 0729, and headed for our gate, B18, where we parked at 0738.
Just a couple of noteworthy aircraft spotted, an Allegiant MD-80 and a Midwest 717. Plenty of Great Lakes 1900s and a Brasilia or two as well.
United Airlines flight 491
Denver, Colorado (DEN) to Orange County, California (SNA)
N539UA (old colors)
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Photo © Shaun Edelstein
Boarding for our 757 started from gate B39 at 0816. I was again in group 3, and when I went to board, rather than scanning my boarding pass as the agent in Albuquerque had done, he simply tore off and handed me the stub (which is what American Eagle seems to usually do). I guess not everyone is set up for the new boarding passes yet.
I settled into my seat, but the audio system didn't seem to be working. It was, and after push back while playing with it some more, I determined that I simply hadn't turned the volume up enough. Again, From the Cockpit was on Channel 9.
Push back at Denver was different than at other airports. Rather than pushing us and then turning us parallel to the terminal, we were simply pushed straight back at 0840 and stopped. The safety video was started during this time, the end of which I noted thanked us for flying "The Friendly Skies." When we were ready to go, from our pushed back position we simply turned and headed out. Being a new airport, the airport designers had the sense to put the concourses far enough apart to allow plenty of room for aircraft movements, unlike the tight alleys at LAX.
We headed for our departure runway 25, and didn't have to wait too long for our turn to depart. As we turned onto the runway, I saw several more aircraft waiting behind us. At 0855 it was our turn to go.
Weather worsened as we got further west. Flying at 40,000 feet we were above much of it, but we still got our share of bumps. Listening to air traffic control, it sounded worse at lower altitudes though, with many aircraft asking for ride reports when they checked in with a new sector and hunting for smoother rides.
The flight attendants did a beverage service, which was accompanied by Biscoff cookies. Short subject features, produced for United by NBC, were shown on the televisions mounted every few rows in the center aisle. I continued to listen to Channel 9, while my attention wandered between the video, window, and the inside of my eyelids. I don't know if it was my imagination or not, but the 757 seemed to have a tighter seat pitch than the 737.
Our descent was more turbulent, as we descended through the clouds. Once we emerged from them and into the rain, the ride did improve as we approached John Wayne Airport. We touched down onto a wet runway 1L at 1013, and just a few short minutes later, at 1017, we were parked at gate 4.
The one aircraft I saw at SNA that is worthy of mention is N619AS, a winglet-equipped Alaska Airlines 737-700.
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Photo © Troy Prybyski / Cactus Wings
During the stay in Southern California and while reflecting on the flights, I came to a conclusion. The major US airlines are pretty much all the same, so I might as well fly United and get Channel 9. Plus, I was impressed with the small courtesies shown by the airline's employees. Lot's of "Please" and "Thank yous" and I tried to respond as well with the same. It's the little things that can make all the difference. The days of Shuttle by United's horrible customer service seem long gone.
Sunday, February 13, 2005
United Airlines flight 118
Los Angeles, California (LAX) to Denver, Colorado (DEN)
N556UA (old colors)
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Photo © Manas Barooah
I got to the airport earlier than I needed to, since my mother was leaving on a flight leaving two hours earlier. After she got her bag checked and to the security checkpoint, I headed over to United. Always in need of whatever exercise I can get, I took the long way around, walking through the Terminal 2 and 3 lobbies, then outside past the Tom Bradley International Terminal, then back inside at Terminal 5 and on past Terminal 6. Between 6 and 7 I saw several United kiosks waiting for somebody to use them, so I walked up to them and checked myself in. My originally assigned middle seats had become aisle seats. I was able to change my seat for the LAX-DEN flight to a window, but the computer was unable to retrieve the seat map for my DEN-ABQ seat, so I kept my aisle seat on that flight.
After my boarding passes printed (on the thicker card stock), I went to the nearby security checkpoint, where the line was short and I went through with little difficulty. I headed up the escalator and to Terminal 6, to wait for my flight to board from gate 67B.
When I arrived at the gate, there was a United 757 parked there, but it wasn't my flight. I would have rather have gone on it though, since it was bound for Lihue, Kauai. I had plenty of time to wait. I was tempted to go to Ruby's and get a hamburger, but I wasn't that hungry, having stopped off at Starbucks for breakfast just before arriving at LAX. Plus, the Ruby's at LAX doesn't have my favorite Ruby's hamburger, the Aloha Burger. Instead I passed the time just watching the planes and the United and Continental flights board. I had managed to do pretty well: Continental had a flight delayed due to a mechanical problem, and weather was causing delays to United's Chicago-bound flights.
There was also plenty to see. Topping the list was John Travolta's 707, which was parked on the other side of the runways at an FBO. Also notable was an El Al 767 and EVA Air Cargo MD-11.
| MyAviation.net photo:|
Photo © Tibor Mester
| MyAviation.net photo:|
Photo © David Mueller
The most interesting sequence of events, however, starred Hawaiian 767-3CBER N590HA. As I was looking out the window towards the runways, I saw a shadow pass over the ground, so I looked up expecting to see a departing aircraft. Instead, the 767 flew over runway 25R, wheels down, then climbed away. They didn't get too high, and the wheels were still down as they turned, looking like they were circling around for another approach. A few minutes later the fire trucks appeared, and a few moments after, I saw the 767 rolling out on 25L. The trucks followed as the aircraft departed the runway and taxied towards the north side of the airport. I called my brother, who did some checking and found out the flight was the Phoenix-Honolulu flight and had been diverted to LAX. Beyond that I don't know what happened, I saw the aircraft was parked at Terminal 2 from onboard my 757 as we taxied to our departure runway.
One other thing I found a little interesting about Terminal 6. The area I was in, the circle at the end of the terminal, was used by United and Continental. Several of the gates had two separate counters for each gate, one used by United, the other by Continental.
When the time came, boarding started. Again I was in group three. I sat down, plugged my headphones in, and tuned to Channel 9. I listened to the busy ground controllers as we finished boarding. One amusing exchange was when the pilot of an arriving aircraft asked what kind of aircraft the Qantas one was. The controller responded that it was a Boeing 707, and a moment later, that it was John Travolta's.
At 1301 we pushed back from the gate, and the flight attendants started the safety video. We had to wait at the end of the alley for a couple of minutes until we got our runway assignment, when it came through, we turned right and headed for the north side of the airport and runway 24L.
During the taxi I saw a few more interesting aircraft: An Aerolitoral Saab 340, one of Southwest's Shamu 737s, an AirTran 717, a World MD-11, an Aviacsa 737, and an Air New Zealand 767-300.
When it was our turn we moved into position on the runway, and at 1316 were rolling for takeoff. We made our way up to 39,000 feet, and the flight attendants did a full beverage service. It included a snack mix that was new to me, and a nice change after a year of American Eagle's cheddar cheese flavored snack mix. More short feature videos were shown, but instead I continued to listen to Channel 9 and stare out the window.
The flight was pretty uneventful, and when the time came we began our descent into Denver. We touched down on runway 35L at 1558 and had a very short taxi to our gate, parking at B42 at 1602. Next to us was United's Star Alliance 777-200, N218UA.
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Photo © Matthew Smith
I disembarked, and with more time in Denver, I wandered around a bit. Parked over at Concourse A, among the various United Express aircraft, was a Dash 8 in United's new colors. I hung around for the departure of a United Express BAe-146 in order to get photos of it. Also saw a couple of Allegiant Air MD-80s.
United Airlines flight 395
Denver, Colorado (DEN) to Albuquerque, New Mexico (ABQ)
N910UA (gray top Shuttle by United titles)
Seat 4D (Economy Plus)
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Photo © Chris Coduto
Once the BAe-146 left, I headed all the way to the other end of Concourse B to wait for my connecting flight, which was leaving out of gate B15. I didn't have to wait too long before boarding started at 1719. With an Economy Plus seat, I was in group 2 to board. Once on board I settled into my seat, in the first row of coach. I plugged in my headphones to find that Channel 9 was playing music. I asked a flight attendant if the Captain would be turning on Channel 9, and she advised that he did not. So this was a mixed flight... +1 Economy Plus, +1 bulkhead, -1 no Channel 9, -1 aisle seat.
We pushed back at 1751, the flight attendants did the safety demonstration, and we headed to the runway. Once again, departure was on runway 25, with our takeoff roll at 1800. Flight attendants did a beverage service, with the same snack mix as on the LAX-DEN flight.
It was a short flight, less than an hour, and before long we began our descent. Despite the aisle seats, I still had a fair view of the lights of Albuquerque, mostly on the port side of the aircraft. We turned onto final, and touched down on the Sunport's runway 8 at 1852, turned and headed to the terminal. We pulled into gate A3 at 1857.
After disembarking, I headed outside, caught the shuttle to the lot I had parked my car in, and headed home.
David / ABQ