Here’s a report on a mileage run on UA: with double miles and off-season fares it was too good to resist.
I arrived at DIA at about 9:00 for an 11:10 departure; wait times for security have improved a great deal so I wasn’t worried about being late. Check in was quick; three recently-expired 500-mile upgrade certificates were collected for the DEN-IAD upgrade to C. I was selected for extra screening; I removed my shoes and unbuckled by belt for a thorough wanding and pat down.
I headed down to the C concourse to take a look around since I had some time to kill. It was very quiet but I did see a US A-321 and A-319 along with a bunch of AA MD-80s. I snapped a photo of the one TWA gate since that signage will soon be gone. That gate is now at the west end of the concourse at C-31; TWA’s gates used to be at the east end.
I made my way back to B and the west Red Carpet Club for a tiny Danish and some water. Soon it was time to board at B32/34, the usual two-jetway procedure for a 777. C class was full. I usually like window seats but when I’m alone I take the aisle so I can come and go without disturbing my seatmate. The only post-9/11 difference on this flight that I noticed was opened wine bottles being brought back to the C galley from the F galley where I assume that the corkscrew was located.
Pushback was on time, followed by a long taxi and a smooth takeoff. I was disappointed that AirShow wasn’t working but enjoyed the usual excellent 777 selection of audio channels. With my noise-canceling headphones the sound quality was great, much better than any other aircraft in the UA fleet.
Service wasn’t great on this flight; no menus were distributed and the flight attendants disappeared after serving drinks and lunch (no menus in domestic C nor transatlantic Y on this trip, kind of disappointing since I collect ‘em). “Ravioli or a chicken sandwich” were the choices, same as LAX-DEN last month. I chose the ravioli, which were small and served with red sauce instead of large with cream sauce like last time. I asked for Caesar dressing when I ordered but received French; no Caesar was left (pitfall of the next-to-last row). A doily and butter were present on the tray but no roll appeared. Turtle cheesecake was dessert. I watched “America’s Sweethearts” mostly to pass the time (anything with Julia Roberts is automatically shown on UA, it seems), then Discovery Channel.
Since I wasn’t upgrading the international legs of this trip (W class) I checked out the Economy Plus section for legroom. Not bad; I noticed that the crew rest area was rows 17-19.
We landed at Dulles about 15 minutes early in some gusty crosswinds. I was off quickly and hiked from D-3 down to the C-7 RCC. I was offered a drink coupon and had just sat down with my Heineken when I realized that I didn’t have my Visor (Palm-like PDA). I hiked back to D-3 where an agent retrieved it for me. Back to C-1 for boarding; what a mess! It was a solid mass of people split between the UA and LH (at C-2) Frankfurt flights. There was only one agent checking each passenger’s passport and running boarding passes through the reader.
It was still early in the boarding process when I found my seat to discover that this aircraft was not equipped with Economy Plus (the crew rest seats were back in rows 25-27, I believe). Legroom was dismal but this was the shorter of my transatlantic legs and eastbound flights are quicker (trying to look on the bright side). We pushed back about 20 minutes late and taxied for a good 30 minutes, not unexpected during the busy part of the afternoon at IAD.
Service was very good; I’m always amazed how many times they have to wheel the cart up and down in Y. Hot towels were distributed, then cocktails and dinner. I chose chicken (beef or pasta were the other choices); it was really very good, with a nice sauce, rice and green beans. It came with a melon and Prosciutto appetizer, a tiny salad, a roll and chocolate cake for dessert. We were “watered” every 30 minutes without fail.
The purser came by my seat to say hello and give me an amenity kit from C, a very nice gesture. I tried to get comfortable which was tough, but about 30 minutes of “The Princess Diaries” put me out for a couple of hours. After I woke up I watched AirShow off and on and read. Soon it was breakfast time; a very modest warm roll, fruit and a croissant with jam and butter, plus coffee and an OJ cup. We never made up the time from our late departure. I grabbed a couple of menus from F and C on the way out.
FRA was busy with the usual assortment of European carriers’ Airbuses; I didn’t see any parked LH 747-200s, though. I took the Sky Line train over to the A concourse (don’t like walking through that tunnel). I didn’t receive a stamp in my passport. I wanted a shower so I went to the LH lounge by A-51. I had to wait for about 40 minutes. This worried me since I was booked on the 8:20 flight to TXL but I knew there was another at 9:20 (the flight I originally wanted, but not available in my fare class). I went ahead and had the shower after a snack on the Senator side of the lounge (pretty good selection of soft pretzels, sandwiches, yogurt and cookies).
Back at the gate my flight had departed about 10 minutes before. The agent was stern (“Is delayed” is what I heard him say; I guess he meant why was I delayed.) but put me on the 9:20 flight, unfortunately in a seat in the middle block on the aisle.
Even though it was a clear morning it was cold; cold enough to require deicing of my original aircraft, an A-300 [D-AIAH “Lindau/Bodensee”]. With time to kill I strolled the concourse until we boarded about 9:05.
FRA-TXL LH 1034
D-AIAR “Bingen am Rhein” A-300-600
I like LH’s A-300s; even though they get a lot of use they always seem to be in spotless condition. We were only about 40% full; boarding was quick and we pushed back a couple of minutes early. The temperature apparently had risen since we weren’t deiced. I couldn’t see much from my seat in the middle block over the wing, but we didn’t wait long for a takeoff slot and were soon airborne. I think the captain must have been an ex-fighter pilot; turns were executed in a very “snappy” way that was kind of enjoyable. I dozed off so I missed the beverage service. We landed a few minutes early in very gray and cold Berlin.
I arrived very early at TXL; the train/bus was faster than I expected. I found my way to gate 11 for my flight to MUC but the counter wasn’t open yet so I headed up to the lounge. The agent there was happy to check me in; she issued me boarding passes all the way to Denver and didn’t ask for any upgrade certificates for the IAD-DEN leg. There was a rather meager food spread here but I had a couple of small pastries, coffee and water while I browsed through some German newspapers. I saw a couple of Deutsch BA 737 300s, a Germania 737-300 and a SAS MD-87.
After picking up some Lindt Weihnachts (Christmas) truffles to use up my spare Deutschmarks, I headed for the gate. The line was pretty slow; an airline called Augsburg Airways (a Team Lufthansa member), was promoting itself with a funny-looking guy with a bright red suit and glasses (think of a mad professor) handing out cans of what appeared to be an energy drink like Red Bull and featuring the Augsburg Airways logo.
D-AIRA “Finkenwerder” A-321-100
I couldn’t see our aircraft very well from the gate; after we boarded at about 8:45 I realized that our scheduled A-320 was really an A-321. Cool! My first time onboard this type of aircraft (I don’t fly US Airways). I like the way LH puts the name of the aircraft on a sign by the door. Unfortunately my window seat was in a spot missing a window so I had to crane my neck to see very much. We pushed back on time and followed a Deutsch BA 737 to the runway. That familiar Airbus engine whine started up and we were above the clouds in a few moments.
Service was minimal; just drinks. I had a tomato juice (LH always gives you a little packet of pepper to put in it). The flight was only about 60% full so I had the middle seat empty. About two-thirds of the way through the flight I noticed a strange sort of side-to-side “rocking” motion, one I’ve never experienced before in an airliner. Is this something specific to the A-321?
We landed on schedule in Munich, where it was even grayer than it had been in Berlin, and parked at A-11, the last gate on the end. I didn’t have a very long layover so I just headed to the Senator lounge to wait. The food selection in MUC was much better; they even had a kind of wurst I’d never seen before. Unfortunately it was very crowded, but it was Monday morning.
I headed down the mezzanine, though passport control (got a Munich stamp for my passport) to a very thorough bag check at the gate. The guard was convinced I had something metal in my bag (“See – there it is,” she said, pointing at her x-ray monitor.) It was just the amenity kit from the IAD-FRA flight. A thorough questioning was next, then I had to check in again. The boarding passes I’d received in Berlin weren’t any good. When asked why I’d received them to begin with the reply was “They just do that as a courtesy.” OK. But I got lucky again since they didn’t ask for any upgrade certificates. Boarding was chaotic; I don’t get the impression that UA staff are the most competent, but they only have one departure a day so maybe that’s the reason.
Onboard I noticed Economy Plus immediately; there are little plaques over each row so equipped. The legroom was pretty decent. We were full in Y and C, with maybe two empty seats in F. Although the 767s all have E+ the audio sucks; sound quality is nowhere near as good as 777s and there are only nine channels vs. more than 20 on the 777s. Too bad the films weren’t great. Two Bob Hope movies? Very lame. I did watch “Cats & Dogs” and “Tomb Raider,” which I enjoyed (Ms. Jolie has a great set of . . . ears).
We pushed back on time and taxied for along time. Seems like we waited at the end of the runway for about 10 minutes before our takeoff roll. Soon they were serving drinks and lunch. I ordered a Scotch and a bottle of water. “Will you behave yourself?” the flight attendant asked before giving me two mini bottles. Lunch was chicken, pork or pasta. The chicken was pretty bad, with mostly dark meat with the skin on, overdone pasta and a strange-tasking tomato sauce. Water didn’t come around as frequently but there were plenty of refreshments in the rear galley.
I can’t usually sleep on daytime flights so I read and watched the aforementioned movies, AirShow, the VH-1 channel and a DW program about Porsches. About 70 minutes before landing a snack of cheese and chicken turnovers, fruit and candy was served. This flight was long and uneventful. The Italian guy next to me didn’t say a word.
After landing at Dulles, immigration and customs were quick (no problems with my short stay in Germany). I headed back to the C-7 RCC where I found out the sad news about AA587 that had crashed that morning. It was strange to think that we had been flying while it happened, then flew right past New York.
Sketchy details about this flight since I was very sleepy by this point and kept dozing off. C class seemed very roomy after all those hours in Y. C was full, Y about 70% so and not sure about F. I woke up as we made our takeoff roll to the west. As soon as the nose went up there was an enormous crashing, banging, glass-breaking ruckus from the C galley a few rows up, followed by the smell of spilled wine. Guess something wasn’t strapped in properly. Oops. This must have been the portly businessman’s special flight; many of the other passengers seemed well-fed.
I drank more Scotch and ate my dinner (beef stroganoff or crab cakes). The beef was pretty good, with an enormous portion with plenty of beef and not-overcooked noodles. The salad was nice as well, with a yellow tomato slice and a hunk of mozzarella. An apple tart was dessert. Then I slept more. About 30 minutes out of Denver I monitored Channel 9 as we made a very circuitous approach and smooth landing.
After landing the purser announced our arrival at C-39. As we approached the north side of the C concourse we made a big U-turn and then headed for C-39 on the south side, delaying our arrival by 10 minutes or so. Another mileage run bites the dust!