July 10, 2001
United Airlines UA54
Photo © Saul Loeb
After two days in paradise it was time to take United to the mainland. I took the cab to the airport again as the buses don't accept luggage onboard. First my bag was X-rayed at the airport, I could only check in after that. There were literally no other passengers at the UAL check-in and also no separate check in for Star Alliance Silver. The check-in agent was friendly and handed me my boarding pass, seat 10J, Economy Plus bulkhead. I then proceeded through security to the Burger King to have something to eat. It was also a good place to take a look at the ramp action. An AA763 was pushed back for departure but the most beautiful sights were the four classic heavies, two Northwest DC10-40s and two Continental DC10-30s, still looking absolutely beautiful. I then made my way to gate 7, to board United 54 to Los Angeles. I was hoping for an equipment change to a 777, but N675UA, an almost brand new 767-322ER was waiting.
We were on time and would start boarding at 8:30PM. Next to my plane was another B767-300 (N666UA), also heading to L.A. and on the other side a B777-222 going to San Francisco. Boarding started at exactly 8:30 and I was the second one to board thanks to my status with Lufthansa. The aircraft looked nice inside, as you might expect this being United's second newest 767. The blue seats had adjustable headrests but were hard as rock though. The legroom was awesome though. We had a very old Honolulu based crew and the purser was obviously the only one who knew how to smile. I asked her if channel 9 will be on and she confirmed it will be on for takeoff and landing.
Boarding was complete at 9PM and we were 100% full. The Honolulu gate agents thanked for "helping them to achieve another on-time departure" and we were pushed back at 9:02, 13 minutes early. I started listening to channel 9 after the safety video was shown. We were given instructions to taxi to 08R. Halfway through the long taxi the captain came on and said "It might seem like we are driving to L.A. tonight, but don't worry folks, we'll take off in about five minutes. We're just taxiing to the far runway." A little later Continental 72 was cleared for takeoff and we entered runway 08R. As soon as United 63 had landed on 04, I heard on channel 9 "United fifty four heavy, cleared for takeoff, runway eight right, when airborne contact departure". "United fifty four heavy, clear for takeoff, Aloha!" We took off at 9:20 and climbed up to FL350 initially. Flight time today was 4 hours 50 minutes.
The seatbelt sign stayed on for ages and once the captain switched it off, we were given our meal boxes and drinks. Diet Coke for me again. The box contained a cold sandwich, a tiny cup of potato salad and a Twix bar. The sandwich was downright awful, and the potato salad was four big pieces of potatoes and didn't taste anything. The meal was absolutely terrible, even the Qantas cookies are delicious compared to this one. The flight attendants never smiled during the service. I decided to sleep after the so-called meal and succeeded to do so for maybe three hours. I only woke up once we were served "breakfast". All we got was a 0,1-litre cup of orange juice. No smiling flight attendants this time either.
I started listening to channel 9 again and soon we were cleared for 07L approach. Also NZ14 was flying somewhere near LAX, he was coming from SYD. I couldn't really see anything during the approach, it was dark and cloudy. Soon we were cleared to land and touched down at 04:58AM and taxied quickly to gate. I was too tired to do any spotting but still noted a couple of UA 747-400s and a 777-200 going to DEN or ORD I believe. I disembarked quickly and claimed my bag. Before I was able to get out of the terminal, I had to show the baggage receipt to an extremely rude woman who was blocking the door and kept saying "stub" with regular intervals. I had no idea what she meant at first, so I said Excuse me, and she of course repeated "stub". I have never needed to show the receipt before. I headed to downtown after this.
July 13, 2001
Shuttle by United UA2554
Photo © AirNikon
I took the shuttle from the Ramada Plaza to United's terminal and checked in quickly. I was again handed a gold boarding pass thanks to my Silver status. Next I went to grab some breakfast before making my way to shuttle gate 87. N371UA was waiting. I was again among the first passengers to board and took my seat 22A. Nobody was greeting us at the door. Legroom was a bit on the tight side but the seats were ok, not great though. The flight was again packed and as the passenger seated in 22F boarded, someone had taken his seat. He told the crew about this but the flight attendant, wearing a dirty white UA Shuttle shirt, rudely said "take the middle seat, it doesn't matter who has the window, so we can close the doors on time." I personally wouldn't have accepted that.
Anyway, they closed the doors at 7:55AM, four minutes early. We just kept sitting at the gate until we finally were pushed back at 8:06. I noticed at least the following flights from channel 9: QF107, KE006, AC790, UA2, UA10, AA34, AA45, WN845, NW323 and Aero California 145. Also a ton of other UA flights. It was fun listening to it and realizing how busy LAX was. We had a very long taxi and our female captain soon announced over the PA that our taxi is just slightly shorter than the flight time today. Lineup for takeoff (24L) was very long and included N191AT, a TZ TriStar and a N832MH, a DL 764 operating DL023 just to mention some of them. Finally at 08:36 the Boeing 737 rotated off runway 24L.
Again the seatbelt sign was on until we reached our cruising altitude of 23000ft. By now they started the beverage service and as I asked the same rude F/A for a water and a coke, she said "Just pick one, this flight is too short to serve two beverages." I chose the Coke which was a cup full of ice and maybe 0,1 litres of Coke. I had fun listening to channel 9 though. The following examples are funny in my opinion: LA Center: "United two heavy, where are you heading?" UA2: "I'm heading to Dulles, sir, United two". LA: "So you are going to Texas (obviously meant DFW)?" UA2: "No sir, we're still going to Dulles, Virginia." Also UA174 asked what the airport below them was, dont they have maps??? It was an air force base, could someone please enlighten me what AFB that could be, between LAX and LAS?
Soon we started our descent into McCarran and were cleared for a visual approach for 25L. Lots of America West planes were landing and taking off too. I could see the airport, we flew past it, then made a 180 degree left turn and touched down at 09:25 a couple of minutes late. A United 737-500 was sitting close to our gate with its right engine damaged. Also lots of HP/WN aircraft were visible of course plus a Hawaiian DC10. I disembarked quickly and took the train to the baggage claim. McCarran airport was really nice and of course Las Vegas style with lots of slot machines! I claimed my bag and was again asked for the receipt. Next step was to store the bag at the airport and go to the city.
July 13, 2001
United Airlines UA720
Photo © John Kelley
I spent the day in Las Vegas and took the redeye to Chicago. It was great to see Vegas but it was a strange city to say the least - just the casinos and hotels and that's more or less it. I checked in for United 720 and again was handed a gold boarding pass with seat 13F in Economy Plus. Next I did some spotting again (surprising, eh?). Again lots of Southwest and America West planes as one might guess, including the B757 in Phoenix Suns colours. I also saw some great looking National 757s and then the worst looking aircraft of my whole trip - A Delta 757 in the very old colours. It was extremely dirty and the paint was peeling off all over the fuselage. When is DL going to realize that planes CAN be washed and even repainted. Even the ones being retired shortly (some of the 727s look like pieces of junk and so do the DLX 737-200s)! The old scheme is nice but not when it looks like this one did. Another 757 in the "Delta Air Lines" colours was seven hours late and went to SLC practically empty, a rather impressive climb rate out of LAS I might add.
Next stop was BK again, knowing that your wonderful UA isn't giving any food on this flight. After that I went to the gate and UA announced the arrival of the Chicago flight. N569UA later pulled to the gate and would later go back to O'hare with me onboard. At the same time DL was boarding a 757 service to Hartsfield and a 767-300 going to Orlando. At this point I noticed that while all the UA gate agents (maybe 4 or 5) wore different kinds of uniforms and never smiled to anybody, DL staff all wore the same uniforms and generally looked much friendlier.
I boarded the 757 at 11:05PM and took my seat with very generous legroom. The next thing was to plug in the headset, but it didn't work! Damn - no channel 9 I thought. Anyway I kept hitting the armrest a couple of times and was delighted when I suddenly "Cactus xxx, cleared for takeoff, runway 25R". It worked again! The flight was full again and we were pushed back at 11:30, five minutes early. A United Airbus (N474UA) was next to us, going to Dulles. Also the 737-500 with engine trouble was still there. We taxied via Bravo to the holding point for runway 25R and waited there as CO1732 (B757-200) and HP515 took off. The clearance for United seven-twenty was given at 11:41 and we started rolling. The climb was steep and smooth as with the 757 usually and I had a great view of the Strip from my window. At 11:49 we contacted LA Center and were instructed to climb up to FL270 and further to 330 at 11:55 and eventually to FL370 at 11:58.
Around ten past midnight the captain contacted Denver and the seatbelt sign was switched off, so the generous service could begin. Before that the purser, very friendly this time, told us about 10 times that they will be showing a complimentary movie even in coach. Soon the carts were rolled out and the meal for this three hour flight was served, a 14g bag of UA party mix. But hey, I got a whole can of Coke this time, not just a cup full of ice like on Shuttle. I was tired but somehow couldn't sleep, so I kept staring out of the window and listening to channel 9. There was a bit of turbulence and the seatbelt sign went off again. Instead of letting the people sleep, somebody shouted over the PA "seatbelts please!" Usually you are asked to keep them fastened so the crew doesn't need to wake you up. It didn't bother me though as I wasn't sleeping.
At 1:22AM LAS time we contacted Minneapolis center and after that I fell asleep for an hour. I woke up as we were descending to O'Hare. Clearance was given at 04:30 ORD time and we touched down on 27L at 04:33. My first mission at ORD was to find some comfortable seats, good for getting some sleep. That was no problem and I slept until 8 AM. A girl who also flew on UA720 did the same and ended up missing her connection to CVG. I felt sorry for her… By now I made my way to the subway station and headed to the city. I had breakfast and stayed a couple of hours there. I found the downtown area very nice and clean, exact opposite to Los Angeles. Next I purchased a subway ticket back to ORD from a vending machine.
July 14, 2001
United Airlines UA256
Boeing 727-222 Advanced
N7442U in the "Ghost" colours
Photo © AirNikon
I went to check in at the Star Alliance Gold/Star Alliance Silver/First Class counter. There was an unfriendly woman instructing passengers to the right lines and told me I can't go there because I'm not in First I pointed the Star Alliance Silver sign to her but she insisted that I have to fly First to check in there. Well, I then told her that it IS ok for me to check in here and was checked in by a friendly agent. Seat 9A, again in Economy Plus.
I then walked around the terminals a bit and I have to say that the UA terminal is very nice as are the screens at the gates with all the information. The traffic at ORD was unbelievable and I really felt I was at one of the busiest airports in the world! I saw the same UA 767-300 that operated my flight from HNL to LAX, a couple of 777s, a beautiful Lufthansa 747-230B, LH A340 and loads of smaller UA/AA/other US majors' jets. My flight was scheduled to leave from gate C2 but it was later changed to C29 quite a distance away (the other end of C concourse). Soon to my utter delight the 727 operating DEN-ORD-CLE arrived from Denver and was parked between two other 727s (N7280U and N7441U). It was N7442U in the strange light grey colours. (I'd appreciate some info on that c/s) At the time I booked my trip, most CLE flights were 727s but they later changed most of them to 737/757/32S, UA256 was the only one left with B727. Luckily they didn't have an equipment change since this was my very first experience on the beautiful tri-jet!
Boarding was again exactly on time and I boarded among the elite members (really few of them on this flight). Legroom was awesome again and the 727 was very well kept, very clean interior and good seats. The headphones were a blast from the past though, but hey, they worked! The crew was very nice this time and I felt like I was flying the friendly skies again! We were pushed back at 6:10 PM, 10 minutes early, with a rather light load. We taxied to runway 04L and to my surprise there was no lineup, just one American Eagle RJ (N605RR). O'Hare tower cleared UA256 for takeoff at 6:22PM. The takeoff itself was very nice, quiet and smooth, and I was very impressed! I wish I could fly this bird again instead of the A320 or MD80 that I'm always stuck with in Europe.
Our flight time today was 48 minutes and I entertained myself with channel 9 all the time. A full can of Coke and a party mix were handed to me with a smile. We were cruising at FL250 and soon after I had finished my drink, we started our descent into Hopkins international airport. A visual for 06R was cleared at 8:04 PM (CLE time) and the old bird touched down smoothly five minutes later (20 min early). My only, greatly enjoyable 727 ride was over. Once parked at the gate I asked for a cockpit visit and that was no problem, so I chatted a while with the pilots and took a picture. After that I made my way to the bus stands and took the free shuttle to the local EconoLodge.
July 15, 2001
United Airlines UA1223
Photo © AirNikon
I woke up at 04:30AM (really too early for me) and took the shuttle back to the airport at 5 AM. I checked in for my flight at 5:30 AM and was given seat 5A. This early morning service was also a B727 once I booked but was switched to a 737-300 later. Proceeded through security after that and the guy wanted to search my bag. Finally I made it to gate B7 where N345UA was waiting. The B727 I took the previous evening was still at B6. Boarding started at 5:55 and I was the first to board. Needless to say, the legroom was very good again and the Chicago based crew was friendly too. Also one very good looking flight attendant We were pushed back early again, at 6:20. A Southwest 737 (N635SW) was next to us on the other side. Also visible was a Sun World B727 with winglets.
We were instructed to taxi via Juliet and Lima and hold short of Whiskey. A Continental 737-500 took off from 24L and a 757 (N12125) landed at this point. After that we further taxied via Whiskey, Uniform and runway 28 and entered runway 24L. We kept sitting there for four minutes until Hopkins tower gave the clearance. The lightly loaded 737 took off like a rocket at 6:34 AM for its 53-minute trip to Chicago.
On this flight we climbed up to FL310 and later descended to 280 due to light turbulence. The crew again served drinks and partymixes, I asked for a Diet Coke and a coffee this time. Again I listened to channel 9 for the whole duration of the flight. At 06:00 AM (ORD time) we contacted Chicago center and were told to expect a visual for 27L with no delay. Soon I had a nice view of Chicago-Midway from my window, followed by the stunning Chicago downtown. A second later I also had O'hare in sight and we were cleared to land on 27L as expected. We touched down about 10 minutes early, at 6:25 AM. We taxied to gate B4 and one of the more interesting planes I saw was a beautifua Air jamaica MD80. I thanked the crew and made my way to the Air Canada gates to catch my flight to Toronto.
- Excellent on-time performance, all flights on time or early execpt for a slight delay at LAS (UA Shuttle)
- Economy Plus legroom was fantastic as was channel nine.
- The aircraft were clean and well kept
- Terrible flight attendants on HNL-LAX and LAX-LAS (ORD based crews were nice)
- Miserable food (if any)
- United Shuttle
Hopefully you enjoyed the again long report. I want to hear your comments, please! Next part will be 10 flights with Air Canada and its regional affiliates.