This is my first posting in this forum, so here goes:
Living out in New Jersey, I made plans to fly back to Iowa to visit my Grandmother as well as see my parents who were in town for my dad's 40th high school reunion. A fairly good choice of flights were available using my AAdvantage miles, and I booked flights from Newark to Des Moines through Chicago O'Hare for the long weekend. Flights were also available that connected through DFW, which seemed a little too out of the way, even for an flying enthusiast.
Friday, July 29th, 2005
American Airlines 417, Newark - Chicago O'Hare
Aircraft: MD-80 (couldn't see registration number)
Scheduled Departure: 6:15 AM
Pushback: 6:13 AM from Gate A32
Takeoff at 6:31 AM from runway 22R
Scheduled Arrival: 7:30 AM
Actual Arrival: 7:20 AM at Gate H14
Leaving my house at 4:45 AM, I made the 25 minute drive to Newark at parked at the SkyPark off-airport parking lot. They have a summer promotion of only $9 per day if parking at least 4 days, which is much cheaper than the airport monorail lots of $20 per day. The shuttle bus dropped me off at Terminal A at around 5:20 AM. I already had my boarding passes from checking-in on line the day before, and I used the self-service check-in to get my baggage tags. The desk agent pointed behind me and told me to take my bags to the TSA baggage screening facility. This facility could best be described as a closet - a doorway that had a few security agents inside loading bags on a conveyor belt inside, with a bunch of bags piled up outside the doorway. They took my bag ahead of some of the others due to my earlier departure. The Port Authority of NY/NJ (who run the airport) really needs to upgrade the terminals so that we don't always have to haul our luggage to the TSA screeners set up in the check-in areas - it really make Newark Liberty look second class.
After dropping off my bags, I headed down to security and gasped when I saw the line. American, US Airways and Independence Air share the 9 or so gates located at the end of terminal A3, and there are 4 security lines that can process people. There must have been more than 200 people in line for security, a line length I haven't seen since shortly after 9/11. Of course, American alone has 5 flights to Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Miami & Raleigh leaving between 6:00 AM and 6:20 AM, along with 7:00 AM flights to Miami, St. Louis & San Juan. I joined the line with the intention of looking for a American agent who would be calling people forward for specific flights. A family of four in front of me was brought forward a few minutes later for some unknown flight, so I walked right behind them to the front of the security line. After getting through security, I was at the gate around 5:40 AM.
The tarmac is pretty full of planes sitting overnight at Newark. This includes US Airways 737-400 & EMB-170, Independence Air CRJ-200, NWA DC9-30 & A319, Delta 737-300, MD-88 & CRJ-200, American EMB-145, MD-80, 757-200, Continental 737-500 & EMB-145 (sitting at terminal A), America West A320 & 757-200, Hooters Air 737, FedEx MD-11 & 727, DHL 757, Virgin A240-300, BA 777-200, USA3000 A320, AirTran 717-200, ATA 737-800, Air Jamaica A320 & an Air Canada Jazz plane.
We pushed back on time and only had to wait for about 5 planes to take-off prior to our lift off at 6:31 AM. Luckily for me, seat 9E remained empty during this flight, so there was plenty of space to spread out. The flight attendants came through with granola bars & a beverage service. My only complaint is their use of Minute Maid Orange Juice that comes in a sealed, light-proof container that tastes as good as OJ from a can. The flight pattern was pretty standard, taking us over the southern end of Lake Eire and just south of Northwestern University before touching down on Runway 27R in O'Hare. We taxied into to Gate H14 at around 7:20 AM.
Friday, July 29th, 2005
Originally Scheduled Flight: American Eagle 4017, Chicago O'Hare - Des Moines
Original Departure Time: 9:59 AM on a CRJ-700
Actual Flight: American Eagle 4125
Aircraft: EMB-140, Registration N839AE
Scheduled Departure: 7:59 AM
Pushback: 8:05 AM from Gate G2A
Takeoff at 8:20 AM from runway 32R
Scheduled Arrival: 9:07 AM
Actual Arrival: 9:04 AM at Gate C7
My connecting flight was not scheduled to depart O'Hare until 9:59 AM, but I made my way over to the American Eagle terminal to see if I could get on an earlier flight to Des Moines. They were boarding the aircraft when I reached Gate G2A, but the gate agent said there would be no problem in getting me on this flight with the caveat that my luggage would not make this flight. Given the choice between waiting at O'Hare for 2 1/2 hours or driving around Des Moines for 2 hours before picking up my luggage, I chose the 2nd option.
We boarded and took off from runway 32R, flight to the north of Iowa City before touching down on runway 23 in Des Moines. Load factor was around 65% and we flew at 26,000 feet. The main runway (13/31) is currently closed for refurbishing, so all traffic is using runway 5/23. This runway was recently expanded to around 9000 feet in length to handle any traffic Des Moines will receive. After departing, I watched a United 757-200 depart for Denver. I screwed up my rental car reservation at Enterprise, but he still graciously gave me the rate I had indicated of $10.59 per day for an intermediate car. The man at the counter even took me out to the lot to show me my car (a Chevy Cobalt) and asked if I had any questions. I know I wouldn't get that level of service in Newark!
After shopping at the Southridge Mall & Target for a while, I returned back to the airport to pick-up my luggage. They were just shutting off the baggage claim when I picked up my two bags from the belt. No charge for parking (thanks again, Des Moines!) and I was on my way to southeastern Iowa.
Monday, August 1st, 2005
American Airlines 4115, Des Moines - Chicago O'Hare
Aircraft: CRJ-700, Registration N508AE
Scheduled Departure: 4:48 PM
Pushback: 5:03 PM from Gate C7
Takeoff at 5:10 PM from runway 23
Scheduled Arrival: 6:04 PM
Actual Arrival: 6:03 PM at Gate G4
I returned to Des Moines on Monday, August 1st and took the shuttle bus to the airport after dropping off my rental car. I used the Self-Service counter to get my boarding pass and check my bags and then headed up to security. There, they were suggesting that people remove their shoes "to help speed things along", as opposed to Newark where the shoe removal procedure has been in place for a couple of years now. Apparently, the required shoe removal procedure has now spread to other airports, as I walked through with my shoes on (not setting off the metal detector), but they still subjected me to a full wand scan, upper-body pat down and swabbing of my shoes for explosives. Ugh.
I headed down to my gate to await the delayed incoming flight. The 4:00 PM departure to DFW on American Eagle had been cancelled due to a mechanical issue, so they were finishing rebooking people on the later 6:07 PM departure. While at Des Moines, I noted the following aircraft: Allegiant Air MD-83 (N860GA) heading to Orlando/Sanford, a Skyway B1900 (N855K) heading to MKE, a NW CRJ-200 to DTW, a NW CRJ-200 to MSP, a NW ARJ-85 to MEM, a United Shuttle 737-300 to ORD, a America West CRJ-200 to PHX and a Delta Connection ASA CRJ-200 to CIN. We took off a little late and flew south of Dubuque and into O'Hare, landing on runway 22R at around 6:00 PM. Load factor around 70%.
After departing, I joined the remaining hoards of people in trying to eat some dinner before their flight out of O'Hare. I had plenty of time to kill, but plane spotting at the American terminal at O'Hare is pretty boring (a lot of MD-80s, CRJ-700s, EMB-140/145s, and a few 757-200s & 767-300s). I could also see a Cargolux 747-200, an Aer Lingus 767-300, two BA 777-200s, a Spirit MD-80, a SAS 340-300 and an Asiana 747-400 while we were taxing for the next flight.
August 1st, 2005
American Airlines 1914, Chicago O'Hare - Neward
Aircraft: MD-80, Registration number N590AA
Scheduled Departure: 7:53 PM
Pushback: 7:51 PM from Gate H18
Takeoff at 8:05 PM from runway 22L
Scheduled Arrival: 711:01 PM
Actual Arrival: 10:49 PM at Gate A35
We were about #5 for departure on runway 22L and had a very smooth takeoff. Our departure took us north of downtown and just to the north of Wrigley Field and then over Lake Michigan. I do like the MD-80s a lot, as they are very quiet when sitting up front. Load factor around 75% again, but I did have seat 9E open next to me, which always makes the experience more enjoyable. Snacks included some cheesy pretzel/crisps and beverage. Due to the darkness, I couldn't determine the actual flight pattern, but upon decent I noted the standard 22L approach: follow I-80 east to follow Rte-21 / New Jersey Turnpike into the airport. We landed in Newark on Runway 22L on time and taxied off the runway to wait for departing traffic on Runway 22R to clear. For some reason, the cabin lights were turned on while we were waiting, so 3 people stand-up and start taking their items out of the overhead bin. Needless to say they were told to sit down and wait until we had arrived at the gate. Luggage came through fairly quickly and I was back home around 11:45 PM.
Overally, a very enjoyable experience on American, a lot of which was probably due to the good weather in Newark and Chicago that tends to cause problems, expecially in the summer months. Next flights will be on my "normal" carrier, flying to MSP in September on a DC9-30 and A320. Hope you enjoyed my first trip report.