As all of you know, I recently took a trip to Tuscon, Arizona on United Airlines. After reading many of the anti-United posts over the last few weeks, I was a little hesitant about traveling on them. I warn you that I am going to be as thorough as possible. Here is my trip report.
EWR=Newark International Airport
DEN=Denver International Airport
E14=Avra Valley Airport
LAS=Las Vegas McCarren International Airport
Thursday Aug 3, 2000
Flt 347 EWR-DEN
Flt 1579 DEN-TUS
I woke up a 5:30a.m. to get to the airport for my 8:16a.m. flight out of Newark to Den. I drowe to my friend's house at 6:20a.m. to pick up him and his girlfriend who were also going on the trip. We arrived at EWR around 7:50a.m. and promptly checked ourselves in at the curb. Seeing that we had E-tickets, it was relatively painless as no "paper work" is need to be carried. Our luggage was tagged and we headed inside. Almost all of United's flights out of EWR depart from Terminal A Concourse 1. We went through the security check and down into the circular terminal. There were many aircraft awaiting their passengers under the rainy clouds which seem to have been above N.J. for over a week. I was able to get some spotting in while waiting for our flight. Seeing that I was in United's terminal, the majority of them were UAL aircraft. Aircraft that I photographed and entered in my "log" were as follows UAL 757-200 (543UA), 727-200 (7291U), A319-100 (824UA), A320-200 (432UA), and a 737-300 (322UA). At gate 12 (Our departure gate) stood an A320-200. We were scheduled on a 757-200 so it was a little confusing for a moment or two. Actually the A320 was being pushed back and our jet was yet to arrive. I was able to get in some more spotting and viewed a UPS 747-200F (522UP) on the UPS cargo ramp along with a Continental 737-700 (23707) taxing. Attached to an airbridge at United's terminal was my first ever seen 717-200 belonging to Air Tran (945AT). Air Canada/Canadian was across at Concourse 2 with a 737-200 in Candian's colors. Spirit Airlines was at Concourse 2 with several MD-80 series aircraft. I was only able to get one registration though in (805NK) a MD-81. I then viewed a UAL 757-200 (527UA) taxing towards Concourse 1. I began my walk back to gate 12 but not before photographing 3 more aircraft which consisted of an A320-200 (409UA), 737-300 (306UA) and a 757-200 (517UA). Walking over to were my friends sat, we began to get in line for the flight. Our aircraft was indeed a 757-200 and one that I had already seen. It was 527UA. The flight was overbooked so in order to sit together rather than be seperated my friend's and I decided to keep our bulkhead seats. Boarding commenced shortly after that and we were some of the first on. Seat 34C was my assigned domain but my friend gave me the window at 34A.
While boarding we were able to get into the cockpit for a little chat and photo op. The capatain and first officer were both very cordial and asked us more questions than we could of them! We each got our photo taken in the captain's chair and proceeded back to row 34. Unfortunately Channel 9 ATC was not operating. The flight was scheduled to push back at 8:16a.m. At 8:19a.m. the tug began pushing 527UA back to the starting postion. We began out taxi towards runway 22R. As we taxied I viewed an Air Canada A319-100 (C-FYKR), United 727-200 (7273U) along with a Continental 737-500 (69602). We were eleventh in line for take off. For the better part of 45 minutes we waited as the aircraft ahead of us departed. During this time I viewed 2 Delta 737-200s along with a MD-80. Continental's fleet made their presences felt with a DC-10 and a 737-800 (14230). We were next in line for take off when instead of turning right onto the runway we turned left. My friend and I looked at one another with a smile. Seconds later the captain was on stating that the weather radar had checked fine at the gate but was now inoperative. Seeing that the weather was less than sunny we were heading back to the gate. We arrived back at the gate at 9:00 and by 9:15 were once again taxing back to 22R. I must say that the crew kept us informed every step of the way. We would have been back in line earlier than 9:15 had it not been for the passengers using the bathrooms! We were once again at the back of the line. Aircraft also waiting on line or taxing into the terminal sections were a Continental DC-10 (15069), Casino Express 737-200 (789TM), Continental 737-300 (17329), Delta MD-88 (939DL), US Airways 737-200 (229US), Delta Express 737-200 (236WA), Continental ERJ (14945), Continental 737-800 (26215) and another Continental 737-800 (17245). At 10:22a.m. we began our takeoff roll on 22R and shortly there after were airborn. Quite a quick role despite it being a full load. Up into the IFR weather we went. The captain came on and said that we should arrive in DEN at 11:30p.m. local time (2hrs behind Eastern Time). As my friend and I watched our Garmin GPS follow the 757s flight track breakfast was served. Blueberry pancakes & orange juice along with some fruit. I also went for a can of Coke. After just about 3:30 minutes of flight time we touched down in DEN. We arrived at United's terminal at 11:50p.m. Mountain Time. While taxing I was able to view several United aircraft. They were a 727-200 (7290U), 737-300 (381UA), 727-200 (7294U), and a 757-200 (520UA).
Fortunately for us despite getting out of EWR an hour late we still had time to make out connection.
There was no waiting period for boarding this aircraft. Seeing that it was to depart at 12:35 it was already for the most part done by the time we showed up at 12:10p.m. Awaiting us at the gate was a 727-200 (7467U). There was no time for a cockpit visit on this flight. Moving down the center aisle I saw that my seat 12A was already taken. Stating that it was my seat brought a quick collection of the 13-15 year olds items. I plunked myself down and quickly looked around. This flight was indeed full. The 727 was quickly pushed back and I began to listen in on Channel 9 ATC. Fortunately we were told to use another runway than the one being used by the majority of the other aircraft. After a very long takeoff roll we were airborn. Basically we got airborne with less than 1,000ft left of tarmac. Seeing how long it took us to get airborne, I believe that United should order the 737-800 with winglets as the 727s replacement. The flight was as advertised with a 1:05 minute flight into Tuscon with a cruising altitiude of 31,000ft. We landed at 2:55p.m. local time and quickly taxied to our assigned gate. Next to us was a Continental MD-82 (478AC). Less than 25 minutes later we were departing in our rental car.
Saturday Aug 5, 2000
Seat: First Officer
After spending 2 days in Tucson, we decided that our flying trip would be to Las Vegas. Friday morning was spent getting my friend checked out at the local airport. He was familar with the territory and school having flown their before. On Saturday we awoke around 6:30a.m., showered, packed and headed off to the airport. Awaiting us was a sparkling new Cessna 172 (9549F). We departed a little after 8:00a.m. 9549F was taken up to a cruising altitude of 6,500ft but preferred 6,600! My friend and I used the autopilot to hold the heading and trimmed off the aircraft. We flew above the Colorado River for some of the flight. After getting into the "stack" we were scheduled to land behind a Southwest 737. Unfortunately the aircraft behind us was gaining so we had to make a further out base turn. After the another faster moving Southwest 737 blew by we were once again #1 for landing on 09R. 3 hours and 30 minutes after departing Tuscon, we were on the ground with the engine shut off at Las Vegas on Singnature's (FBO) general aviation ramp.
Sunday Aug 6, 2000
Seat: First Officer
Las Vegas is extravagant to say the least. Even though this was my second time there I was still shocked. A night on the town left us quite tired and we did not get to the airport until 9:00a.m. Shortly there after we were taxing for a departure for 09R. We passed the "Area 51" terminal with the U.S. governments 737-200s and Beech 1900Ds glimmering in the morning sunlight. Unfortunately there were no "Janet" flights on the radio. At the last minute we were told to cross 09R and use 09L. On the runway and ready to go, we had to wait for a Northwest 747-200 to land and taxi off the perpendicular runway. Engines in the green and away we went. 9549F did its best to get to our cruising altitude of 7,500ft as soon as possible. We didn't use the autopilot on this flight as my friend let me hand fly it. Once again we used the Colorado River as a visual reference. The Garmin's GPS guided us elsewhere though. 3 hours and 24 minutes after leaving Las Vegas we were at E14 and placing the chocks underneath the front wheel.
Tuesday Aug 8, 2000
Flt 1454 TUS-DEN
Flt 906 DEN-EWR
I was scheduled to leave on Monday but extended to Tuesday. We awoke at 6:30a.m. and after getting all three through the bathroom in a record amount of time we we off to Tuscon International Airport. We arrived around 8:00a.m. My flight was scheduled to depart at 8:51a.m. I was the only one actually flying today as my friend and his girlfriend were staying till Friday. I quickly checked in at the desk and asked for a window seat on both legs of the journey. The ticket agent said that it was possible and quickly printed out my tickets. My friends and I walked to gate 9 and viewed the United 727-200 (7461U) through the window. The old girl looked splendid and prepared for its days work. I was assigned seat 13F and within 20 minutes the call for boarding was made. I said goodbye to my friends.
As I boarded the aircraft I ducked into the cockpit to see if I could take a picture. The captain got up and went over to the FE's board to test the oil temperature on an engine. The captain was the nicest one I have ever had the pleasure to meet. He was enthusiastic about his job and quickly was discussing the 727, his job, along with asking me questions about myself. After finding out that I work at a flight school and some day hope to fly the big iron he became even more interested. Captain Ave began showing me what he was looking for in the oil temperature. He told me to sit in the captain's seat so he could take a photo of me there. After talking for a few more minutes the FE was back and it was time to go. I asked him if Channel 9 would have ATC on it. He said yes. He asked me my name and where I was sitting. When he made his initial cabin announcements he told the 99% full flight that I, the passenger in 13F had asked for ATC to be on this morning so that we could all listen in!!! The flight pushed back at 8:59a.m. and we were soon on our way to 11L for take off. At 9:09a.m. we began our takeoff role. After a gradual departure we turned north towards Denver. Our Estimated Time Enroute was 1hr and 29 minutes. Our cruising altitude was 29,000ft and during our ascent we had to expedite in order to get above an AA DC-10 which blew by underneath a few minutes latter. I listened to ATC the entire trip and before I knew it we were cleared for landing at DEN on runway 35L with winds coming from 030 at 10 kts. We arrived at B16 at 11:45a.m. Mountain Time. During our taxi to the gate I was able to view several United aircraft. Aircraft seen were a 757-200 I had seen on Aug 3rd in (520UA), along with a 757-200 (523UA), 737-300 (938UA) and a Shuttle by United 737-300 (918UA). While deplaning I was able to talk with Captain Ave again and got him to sign my boarding pass. My journey to the other side of United's Terminal then began as B37 or 39 (Can't remember) was my destination.
I have flown several airlines during my life and have flown on countless number of flights. Flt 1454 was the best flight I have ever had and Captain Ave the nicest captain I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I tip my cap to him.
After making my way to B37 saw that the line was forming for its 12:20 departure time. I hurried back to the window before the gate and snapped two photos of the United 777-200 772UA (not an ER model). Boarding soon commenced and as I boarded I asked if visit to the cockpit was possible. The answer was yes and I walked through the first class section to the cockpit. In the cockpit were the Captain and First Officer. Once again the crew was courteous and talkative. After asking to take a photo of the cockpit the captain said for me to get in the captain's seat for another photo. After the photo was taken I began to leave, I said thank you but wasn't allowed out of the cockpit!! The captain was still talking and we did so for another 5-7 minutes. We discussed my future at flight school, what to do and what not to do. The 777's FBW was also discussed and how it is different than the Airbus's. It was then time to make my way to the back of the Boeing. Seat 42A is the last window seat but is not in the last row. The flight was 95% full and despite the long boarding process (which I luckily missed due to my extended cabin stay!) we pushed back on time at 12:40p.m. ATC was again available and we began our taxi out to Runway 08L. Our flight's call sign was changed to 8159 for some reason also. At 12:50p.m. we began our takeoff run and despite the load became airborn after a short run. Within 20-25 minutes we were at our cruising altitude of 37,000ft. Lunch was soon served and boy was it hot. There was no choice as I was given a cheeseburger, potato chips and two sugar cookies. My seat mate in 42B was an elderly lady who was very interested in aviation. She was actually a "Link" trainer in WWII. She explained that it was an early simulator that taught pilots how to fly blind or in the dark. Before the flight was even started it seemed that we were descending into EWR. 22L was the runway being used for landings and about 10 minutes after passing my house we were on final. We arrived ontime at 5:56p.m. Tazi time was a short 5-7 minutes as Terminal A is near the end of 22L and 22R. Most of the passengers were continueing on the same aircraft to LHR but had to deplane and ride the tram to Terminal B (International) for the 7:35p.m. departure. I was one of the last ones off as I once again made my way up to the cockpit. What I found was the cockpit empty!!! I took a glance and made my way off and down to the luggage carousel.
All in all it was a great trip. United Airlines performed exactly how you would want an airline to operate. Besides the 757's weather radio there were no "delayed" departures. NO CANCELLED FLIGHTS. The crews were polite, the service was excellent and the seats comfortable even though I had the bulkhead twice. I give United an A+.