I'm 14 but look as if I am much younger. My parents had some work issues and my school demanded I come home separately from them. Thus, it came to the booking of tickets, and I decided to take UA metal across the pond and try my luck with an upgrade. My upgrade cleared two days before the flight.
Lufthansa flight 3409
Scheduled Departure: 6:40AM
Actual Departure: 6:49AM
Scheduled Arrival: 8:35AM
Actual Arrival: 8:44AM
Departure Gate: Unknown
Arrival Gate: C Pier, Bus Access
Seat: 5A, 19D, 5F, 5D (assignments changed in that order)
Equipment: A320 (registration unknown) with a nose painted like a soccer ball
The morning began with an alarm clock buzzing at 4AM. Today would be the day of my coming home to the US. We arrived at the Lufthansa check-in counter and checked in with a friendly agent. She asked whether my mother was sure I wouldn't like UM service, and we confirmed that it would not be necessary. She wondered about my business class reservation for FRA-IAD, because I held economy tickets, but I showed her the ual.com printout showing that it was a confirmed upgrade and the boarding passes were spit out.
After visiting the cafe at the airport, I went to security and customs. Contrary to my worries, Serbian customs asked no particular questions, and soon enough I was out in the Belgrade departures area. My first thoughts of Belgrade were “Wow, this is a large airport”. And indeed it was. I also noticed a few interesting aircraft at BEG. As I was walking, I saw an Aero Flight A320 (also bound for Frankfurt), presumably empty because there weren't any people at the gate area. I assumed that I saw that same A320 in Frankfurt, but I couldn't confirm. A JatAirways 727 headed for Tivat (the 727s are operational, although all white), and some sort of odd 737 from a European charter operator.
I spent about 15 minutes waiting in front of the gate before they opened up security at the gate. A friendly gate agent took my boarding pass, processed it, spit out a stub and told me to wait for a bit. They were boarding some special pax, when a supervisor walked out and said "I have one more person left, Mr. UN_B732. I said that was me and he changed my seat to 19D for some problem in the front of the aircraft. I later tagged onto boarding with the UMs and he changed my assignment to 5F. However, when I arrived at 5F, a man was sitting there. I looked at the purser, and she seemed to understand as she walked right up and asked me if I could take 5D. I obliged.
My neighbors were an older couple, who were quite inexperienced fliers. They were far from the most hygienic people, so I eagerly waited for this flight to end to disembark. I wound up getting up three times for them to use the bathroom and also doing some translation for them. Service on this flight consisted of two sandwiches with cheese. When I decided I didn't want anything to eat the FA asked me again, and then brought me some gummy candies (a "hot dog") and some biscuit cookies.
We approached Frankfurt with a beautiful view of downtown (perhaps we landed on 26R? Don't quote me on that please) and landed. I disembarked our aircraft, said thank you to the crew, and boarded the bus. We were deposited at C pier arrivals, where security quickly checked me (with a wand, no metal detectors used) and I continued on. I decided to go to the Red Carpet Club and wait for my next flight, 917, there, as every time I moved between piers there was a security check, and I was told there weren’t many stores airside.
United Red Carpet Club, Frankfurt
Upon entering the Red Carpet Club I was greeted immediately by a friendly woman. I told her Good Day, handed her my boarding pass for Frankfurt-Washington DC, and she walked over to a desk and asked me the typical security questions, placing a sticker on my passport when she was done. Then she went to the main desk, collected my BPs, and had another person at the RCC desk reprinted them on United stock, giving me a gold jacket, a gold BP for FRA-IAD, but, sadly, a blue BP for IAD-BTV. They told me to proceed to the First Class Lounge and they would pick me up there. I was impressed and somewhat thankful (even though my freedom to roam about the airport was quite limited, you would see this would change later). The First Class section was small and modest, but had a buffet with self-serve drinks, was clean and had comfortable seating. It was a decent place to relax a bit before the flight. I watched some CNN International, ate a bit, read the paper, and 11:15AM came. It would soon be time to fly. I had an odd feeling the person wouldn't be picking me up, so at approximately 11:20AM I just casually set out of the RCC headed for my gate. I didn't see the person who was manning the desk earlier and promised to take me to the gate.
Frankfurt Connection, from above gate C3 to B gates.
I was a bit confused as the signage to the B pier wasn't marked from the C pier from all directions, but that was quickly cleared up and I reached a large central area of the terminal, and soon enough, the line for B pier security. It was segregated between First & Business class. While the Economy class line was long it didn't seem as if there was a particularly long wait. The business class line took maybe 5 minutes to clear, and I was wanded, the agent looked at my sunglasses, and my bags were cleared. I left and headed for our gate (B26?). There was another person at the gate who looked at my BP (marked SSSS, and I have no clue why as I didn't have this marking on IAD-BTV) and told me to proceed to the line.
United Airlines flight 917
Frankfurt (FRA/EDDF) - Washington DC (IAD/KIAD)
Scheduled Departure: 12:25pm
Actual Departure: 12:25pm
Scheduled Arrival: 3:05pm
Actual Arrival: 2:47pm
Seat: 18H, Business Class
Equipment: Boeing 747-400, N106UA (There were two 747-400s parked beside each other, but I think this one was it, JP claims 106UA is stored, I'm 95% sure I saw it. Does anyone have a list of the names so from there I could ascertain the exact registration?)
We boarded after 10 minutes and I was the first person on the plane (a four hour time spent in the RCC without the notebook really bores you!). I said “Good morning” to everyone I walked by and I was ignored. I climbed the stairs and sat down in 18H, my assigned seat. An amenity kit was at the seat, as were the noise canceling headphones, and in addition some shredded carrots I'm sure someone on flight 916 enjoyed. I didn't know where to store my backpack and I didn't know where the closet was, so I proceeded to the back and stood in front of the galley for a couple of minutes before I finally found the closet and popped my backpack into there. An FA had walked by me when I first got seated but simply ignored me. I was nervous that I would be receiving poor service for the rest of the flight.
Sadly, so far, my suspicions were confirmed. When walking with newspapers, the FA dogmatically assumed that I didn't need a newspaper and while I should have said something I didn't. My neighbor, a man of far eastern origin, took his seat and started playing with his Cingular Treo 600. Now that I had a neighbor, I was offered a pre-departure drink of water as the FA ran out of orange juice by the time they reached me. I should have been asked if I wanted juice.
After about two more minutes, the purser walked up to my seat. I presume my name is a dead giveaway of my eastern European origin as she asked me if I spoke any Slavic Languages (Russian, Serbian, Croatian, and perhaps some others). I said I spoke Serbian, our purser was Croatian, and as Croatian and Serbian are very similar (yes, I apologize if I offended any representatives of either country). We spoke to each other in those languages. She asked me where I was going, if I had flown alone, and seemed to be very worried about my connection at IAD. Even though I told her I've been through IAD before. She offered to help me with my immigration form. I was really appreciative of the effort, and the level of concern of the purser. The purser then went to the FAs on our deck and said "He's connecting in Dulles and says he's been through before etc., etc." At that point, I believe any suspicions of being a seat poacher (or the unjustified arrogance that was somehow warranted by my boarding first and sitting in Business Class) were gone, even though I would still ignored by the pilot who had walked by 3 times and was greeting everyone going onto the upper deck.
At that point the UA RCC rep who had promised to walk me to the gate walked up to me, and asked me why he couldn't find me and how he had paged me. That was quite embarrassing, especially with someone beside you to hear the dialogue. He just told me to "never do that again" and humbly left to deal with some "missing passengers". Soon after that, the doors were closed and it was time to fly.
An FA approached my neighbor and said "I understand that you wanted a window seat sir, we have an empty row up front." That really impressed me. It was a very diplomatic way of saying "You can sit away from this kid.” It is certainly more diplomatic than an ex-Soviet airline that is desperately trying to raise their reputation. When I was alone, our (now) very energetic FA came up to me and said "Here's some more of these things, give them to all your friends" and gave me five amenity kits. He then said "Be sure to give them only to those you like". I packed the amenity kits into the side storage bin and realized that the initial service problems must have just been a fluke of some sort, and that I was in for a good flight.
During taxi, the flight attendants distributed menus. The taxi was short and efficient, and we were quickly on the runway. I think we were followed by an LH Cargo MD-11. Before we get into the air however, let me go into the menu
-- U N I T E D B U S I N E S S --
Crabmeat mousse and marinated roast beef appetizer*
Chieve creame fraiche
Fresh seasonal greens
Asian sesame ginger or blue cheese dressing
We have boarded additional servings of vegetables for our customers who are restricting their consumption of carbohydrates.
Let your flight attendant know if you would like today’s selection of julienned red bell pepper and broccoli florets.
Filet mignon with shiitake mushroom Port demi-glace*
Garlic mashed potatoes with carrot and zucchini batonnets
Breast of corn-fed chicken with blueberry peppercorn sauce
Glazed turned carrots, grilled courgette slices and almond croquettes
Ravioli stuffed with ricotta and herbs
Courgette and carrot spaghetti with olive tomato Provencal sauce
International Cheese Selection
Appenzeller and Bavarian Blue cheese
Haagen-Dazs. ice cream
PRIOR TO ARRIVAL
Roast beef on ciabatta with fried corn rings*
Honey Mustard Sauce
Chilled deli plate with a Swabian-style potato salad*
Farmhouse ham, beef, breast of chicken and herbed cream cheese
A low carbohydrate alternative
* Today's menu features beef from South America
We are proud to operate this flight in cooperation with our partner Lufthansa
We apologize if occasionally your choice is not available.
Now that we have that aside, I definitely felt the power of the 747-400 as we taxied past the taxiway and the terminal. Channel 9, sadly, was silent for the flight. As we reached close to the end of the runway our 747-400 and all of its might and 350 passengers rotated into the clear blue sky. We reached about 20,000 feet but the fasten seatbelt sign was still on. It only came off at our fairly low cruise of FL320 (32,000ft). The flight attendant approached me with his manifest and said “UN_B732, right?" and for some reason said he should take my order first. I definitely am not with status, but my initial BPs said UAP (UA MP general member). I asked for the steak and decided to have the roast beef appetizer. After a few minutes, the flight attendant came around with beverages and I asked for an iced tea. He offered to make a hot tea and then put ice on, and I obliged. The other flight attendant brought the tea in a glass. It was given to me with a napkin proclaiming that United was glad I was here. I was glad I was there too.
The appetizer was well presented and quite tasty. It was clearly fresh. The filet mignon was also well presented and excellent. The flight attendant offered rolls, so I enjoyed a decent (but not hot) roll and a refill of my iced tea. Soon enough, the flight attendant took my meal and came around with the ice cream or cheese. I had the ice cream, which was slightly too cold, but had some sort of an maple substance on the side which was an excellent combination with the vanilla ice cream.
After that, I went to the bathroom and prepared to get some sleep as the food had put the final string into my tiredness (I had awoken at 4AM). I reclined 18H impressively far, put a blanket on, and the next thing I knew I was awake with most of the cabin sleeping and a cup of water placed next to me. I found that to be a very nice touch. I popped the TV out and pressed the MAP button to view the Airshow. It's neat that United IFE lets you view the map together with an audio channel of your choice. We were in between England and Ireland at 34,000 feet. At that point, I put my seat slightly up and listened to some music. A flight attendant came around again offering beverages and I asked for a Coke. He said they only had Pepsi, and brought me a Pepsi Light. That was odd but I guess they didn't have regular Pepsi. Time passed fairly quickly with skimming through the IFE and listening to a mix of Disney and another United channel.
The purser walked up and sat down at the aisle seat. She kicked back her seat and said she'd read and get some sleep. I was surprised that she was sitting there, but she said there was some sort of a problem with the room they would be sleeping at or something similar. She asked me if I'd like to watch the IFE as it was reset 10 minutes ago, and I said no thanks. But later on I turned on the IFE and watched the Disney Channel, which seems simply to be recorded from the Disney Channel cable broadcast.
After the purser had just settled in, FLASH!!. The flight attendant serving our part of the upper deck was photographing a female flight attendant who was in the galley. At that point, the purser quickly got up and went to the galley to (what I assume to be) confronting the flight attendants. She then told me they said that they said that I had asked them to take a picture of me. At that point I explained that they were taking pictures of each other, and I certainly didn't ask them to do anything. Surprisingly enough, she believed me and got very angry and took right off out of the seat, put her shoes on and disappeared into the galley. She then returned and read for a bit more, while I bought my brother some Toblerone from duty free. They didn't have change for US$100, so I had to pay them in Euros.
Until about 2 hours before arrival I killed time with more IFE and relaxing. The purser approached me once again and explained the procedure for connecting at IAD, made sure I didn't want any sort of accompaniment at IAD. I told her I was 100% confident I'd be fine. This attitude was one that was far more concerned and attentive than that on 3409. Perhaps the LH People understand that FRA is a lot better than IAD. I relaxed a bit more on the aircraft, and then started feeling somewhat nauseous so I got up.
For the last 25 minutes I was overhearing about how our FA was quite offended by the purser's action and I could hear their discussion in the galley. Our FA criticized the purser for not going how to do her job, and how she wasn't supposed to sit with the passengers and sounded genuinely upset. I was worried that this argument would impede the service the FA provided to me, but I later found that to be not true. His upset voice did make me feel some sympathy for him, but then again, I don't understand how trying to use me as a cover for your actions is ever a good idea. Eventually, they all headed forward and resolved the conflict somewhere up front.
Due to my nausea, I refused the last meal that was offered. The flight attendant even made sure I didn't want anything, and another FA asking. A few minutes after the meal service, I approached our FA and asked for a plastic bag. He said "Duty Free might have some" and he came back with 3 white plastic bags. I put my amenity kits and a 1.5L bottle of water an FA had generously given me earlier into the bags.
We began descent into IAD and coats were being handed back to people. We had a long approach which brought us past IAD and we turn right and lined up for landing. We landed in IAD and taxied to the terminal. I got up as soon as we docked at the gate and went to grab my backpack. The FA generously took it out of the closet for me and told me to "have a safe trip home".
The last time I had connected at IAD was extremely difficult, (I could understand the foundation of the purser's concern) and I only had a 90 minute connection time at IAD so I had to be ready to go. There were flights from AMS, ZRH, CPH, BRU, FRA (our 744) and I think some other flights expected to arrival at the same time or almost the same time. I was at the exit before they opened the door, and got out of the aircraft first.
Washington/Dulles Airport Transit/Arrival
I had some random patriotic thoughts and realized I was home. In the land of the free and the home of the brave - back in the USA. There were quite a few people standing in the jetway to meet our flight. I proceeded down the jetway and a lady asked "You came from Germany? Take a right here." I walked down towards the transit area, following the purple Transit signs, as the purser had instructed me to do. I went down an escalator and another lady asked me if I was traveling alone and where I had come from. She then said "This nice man will clear you through" There was no line to speak of and the immigration guy stamped me right through. At that point, as I walked down the desolate corridor, with no one other than airline employees walking down it, I felt like someone who had the won the Olympics. One UA Employee asked me if I was in First Class, another who confirmed I was coming from FRA, and there was probably another who I had neglected to mention.
The agriculture/immigration cleared me quickly, as did TSA but TSA made me go through the detector again and made me put my sandals with thick heels through the metal detector. I then proceeded towards gate C26R for Burlington and wondered if I could use the RCC for arrivals. First though, I split $100 with Travelex and bought a $10 Verizon phone card. I walked into the RCC near C17 and the entrance agent (matron/dragon/whatever) gave me a quick surprised look. I asked if I could the lounge if I flew in on business. She asked me from which city, she said that if you flew business from that city yes, then I gave her the BP and she said the club was downstairs, Mr. UN_B732. I relaxed at the club, which seemed to be far from the newest, but not decrepit in anyway and I called my mom and brother (.45 a minute domestic, over $1 a minute to call Serbia). I then went to the desks to see if I could get any seat further up front and what time I should leave. They said I should leave the club at 4.15pm for my 4.45pm flight to Burlington and nothing further up front was available.
One interesting thing, I wanted to grab a burger, onion rings, or some sort of snack so I headed towards the B pier for Burger King, and about half way a pilot was talking to another pilot and said I was probably Russian and said “How are you” to me in Russian. I responded, but still don't understand why I look so Russian.
United Express flight 7966
Operated by Trans-States Airlines
Equipment: Embraer ERJ-145LR
Our gate agent called to make sure we could board on time and it was confirmed that we could. A CRJ-200 in old colors and an ERJ-145 in new colors were parked at the gate. I stood at the gate and boarded after the lucky folks in Zone 1, as they boarded Zone 2 and others. I got onto the plane and put my bags down under the wrong row, but after the real owner of that seat telling me I was in the wrong seat, terribly embarrassed. I then moved my bags to be under my real row and took my aisle seat. I made a comment to my neighbor about how the announcement quite personally says "I recommend .......", while you are listening to an impersonal recording probably recorded at some non-descript studio in Cleveland.
We were scheduled at the same time as a flyI flight, and I was interested in who would arrive first. Our flight attendant on this flight was older, surprisingly old for an ERJ, as we had younger-looking crew on the 747. We had an insecure flier in the exit row, but our Flight Attendant was very kind about it and kept on checking on the person in the exit row. We had a Smooth flight, and seem to have clocked in before the flyI flight even though it seems as if we took off before them as I saw a flyI taxiing towards the runway as we pushed back slightly late. More detail available upon request.
SUMMING IT UP
Lufthansa flight 3409 - Lufthansa was good; they got me there in one piece, on time, and with good service.
United 917 - United was, after the initial issues, friendly, reliable, and got me in early. Sure, they did have a conflict, but that's only part of human nature.
Trans-States 7966 - A great regional flight, good friendly crew, decent service, reliable, comfortable plane, no temperature issues. No complaints whatsoever and that ERJ-145 in new colors looks HOT.
Food : N/A
IFE: 8/10 (No AVOD)
Service: 6.5/10 (had to deduct for the fight and the initial problems)
Cleanliness: 8.5/10 (I hope the person on 970 enjoyed his/her carrots)
Food: 9/10 Pretzels are a good thing.
1. Do you have a list of 747 names?
2. What does SSSS on a BP ex FRA mean?