Last weekend I took a trip out to Atlanta from San Francisco. I am currently working on a long-term research paper about the 747 and its role in a changing airline industry. Sean Mendis agreed to help me with this project, as he works as an airline consultant. My dad has been and still is a loyal United Airlines employee for 13 years allowed me to fly out to Atlanta for my interview with Sean. Below is a summary of my journey, which contains graphic information about the life as a non-rev.
Friday after school, I bolted out of my English class, and went out to my car. My car was broken into the day before and the parking sticker was stolen. As a result, I am working with the administrators to replace the sticker. Since the sticker is gone, I am now parking on a side street of my school.
I got home, and finished packing. I did a few more checks on my flight loads, and just relaxed for a while. On Friday April 5th, I took United Airlines flight 150 to O’Hare. That flight departed at 11:15pm. After eating some dinner, and saying goodbye to my mom (dad is at work), I began my walk to the train depot.
The Caltrain station is about a 15- minute walk from my house. On the way, I realize that I forgot to pack socks, so I walked back, and took the 8:23pm train. Once on the train, I settled in, and read chapter one of the book Hard Landing which was on loan from the Sean Mendis collection.
There was no line at the security checkpoint around 9:30pm. After clearing security, I walked down to gate 80 where I found ship 2792 N792UA ready for its Chicago bound flight. There was a large amount of passengers waiting in the boarding area by this time. The flight was going to go out full. Earlier that day, I checked and first and business class showed availability. There were close to 80 non-revs listed for this flight. It was quite a battle getting on.
Photo © Vincent Gury
I began talking to a United flight attendant that was deadheading home to Chicago. We talked about the availability of the flight, and I pondered the idea of going via Dulles. I even ran over to the gate, but the flight had already closed. Hmmm. Life goes on. On my way back to gate 80, I stopped by the Pizza Hut and grabbed a quick bite.
Pat (the flight attendant) and I continued to talk, until she boarded. Around 11:05, I was cleared to seat 38E, a middle, 4 rows from the back. Once onboard, I passed all of the Business Class seats wishing that I was there. Oh well. At door 3, the flight attendant said that there was bin space on the right side for my belongings. I stowed them in the oversized 777 bins, found my seat, then went to the restroom before departure.
Photo © Nick Depner
At 11:15, the doors closed, and we were ready to go. While sitting at the gate, the flight attendants preformed the live safety demo, which is found on all United 3 class 777s. Just after the demo, the plane pushed back, and the rumble of the PW4000 began. It also made its whines and rings as we moved to runway 1L.
Runway 1R was closed for maintenance that night, so we took off from the shorter 1L runway. Channel 9 was active, and I followed our flight’s progress on my PTV.
Once air-born, we turned left heading north, and climbed to 15,000. Once at 15,000, we contacted Oakland center which had us turn right and point towards Chicago. There were several chimes in the cabin, and reading lights on at this time. The crew began the beverage service, for which I dozed off. There were several movies and short subject shows shown on the PTV system, but I kept turning my screen off and on to check our progress.
During this flight, I was in the middle of 5 guys. The one to my left began snoring for the rest of the flight. Greeeattt! The beverage service was done by the time we reached Salt Lake City. At this point, I tried again to sleep, but found it hard to get comfortable. The headrest was just a bit too high, and I was sitting on a pillow. The headrest was also quite hard on this plane.
By the time we passed Kansas, it got really warm in the plane, and I clunked out asleep for about an hour. Now I’m a really light sleeper on flights like this, and everytime someone or something passed or moved, I woke up. I implemented the DeltaSFO sleeping technique for coach flying. Tray table down, head in hands. Oh well.
During the second round of drinks, I got a cup of water and some snack mix. On my PTV, it was saying that ORD was 28 minutes away. On channel 9, UA 434 the SJC redeye to ORD was behind us, and there were some AA flights out there too. ATC had us slow to mach .78 for sequencing. We flew north, then turned south flying into O’Hare.
About 10 minutes prior to landing, the cabin lights were turned on, and the crew woke the passengers from their slumber. At this point, we were asked to bring our seatbacks up, and yada yada yada.
The lights were turned off and the crew took their jumpseats. Out of the windows on the left side, the sky was a sort of lavender color at an early 4:50am. At 4:55am, we landed. Our arrival was ten minutes early; we taxied to gate C16. I was happy to be off of the plane, and wandered the grounds at O’Hare for a while.
There is nothing open at 5am in O’Hare, with the exception of the Cinnabon. Yuck. But, when you are hungry, I guess it works. Big Mistake.
My Atlanta flight would depart from gate B3. It was parked next to an Air Jamaica A321. Our aircraft this morning was N808UA, or ship 4008. This would be operating as the 6:30am to Atlanta on flight 1268. I was cleared to seat 4C in economy plus.
Photo © Chris Coduto
Photo © Jake
Photo © Justin Cederholm - Orlando/Tampa Aviation Photography
Photo © Justin Cederholm - Orlando/Tampa Aviation Photography
We pushed back right on schedule, and the computer animated safety video was presented to us. After a short taxi, we were airborn. On our way to Delta-land…I mean Atlanta, the purser announced that we were going to be shown NBC inflight. After the beverage service started, I was still waiting for the video programming. Finally, it never came, so I went and got rid of my soda, came back to my seat where I could view the streamlined breakfast through the open divide in the cabin, and dozed off. Before I knew it, we were on approach to Atlanta.
Photo © Vasco Garcia
Before I knew it, we touched down in the heart of Heartsfield…Delta land. I felt like such an impostor in my gray A319 passing widget after widget and Ribbons that waved in the winds. Did you see the Ribbon-Demon, I certainly did. Our landing was about 30 minutes early, and our arrival at gate T14 was prompt at 9am. God job United for the early flights so far.
Getting off of the plane, I did not feel well. Piece of advise, do not eat Cinnabons. Within minutes, I was in the men’s room saying a fond farewell to that cinnamon treat. I felt like shit, but then Sean came and met me. We headed up to the Crown Room where I had some time to re-cooperate, and say my final good byes to my ORD breakfast.
From the Crown Room, I watched Delta break a 767-400 by the UA gates delaying all of United’s outbounds around 10am. Also, Delta ramp is utter utter chaos. I enjoyed seeing a 764 and a 763 taxi nose to nose. Does Delta know at all what they are doing? It is not evident by their taxi patterns, like taxing that 764 around a corner which it cant turn around. Good job!
We left ATL bound for his apartment near downtown. Once there, I met his roomate Will and his fine girl friend. After taking a shower, I slept on the couch until 2pm. When I finally awoke, I was ready to hit the town, and get the interview out of the way.
I was hungry, but afraid to eat. Finally, I consumed my deli sandwich, which I purchased while out and about.
That night, Sean and I hit Centennial Olympic Park, the CNN center, the food court, and walked around, and back to his place. We made arrangements for my flight back home. My dad even helped via the phone. Things were not looking good. One of the Denver flights had been downgraded from an A320 to an A319, and IAD was looking packed. SFO was oversold.
That morning, the time change had caught up with me for my 6am wake up. By 7, Sean and I were out to the nearby Marta station for the 20 minute ride to Heartsfield. Sean was going to enjoy getting a bump off of a flight later that day. He was heading up to EWR. Security had a non-existent line, and I was cleared in less than 2 minutes. Once we arrived at my gate for my SFO flight, they were clearing the flight. There were bumps. I would not have gotten on.
The next Chicago flight at 8:25 had 16 open seats, with 18 passengers listed. I didn’t get on. Delta was a back up to get out of Atlanta as I had some S4 passes in my bag. Sadly, the agent could not ticket me through to Denver. I thank him for trying, but they have worked in the past, so I felt that he gave me a line of bull shit. The flight had 101 open seats on a 757 in coach. Hmmm…I wonder why United’s flights are always full and Delta’s flights leave with over 100 open seats. No wonder AirTran’s yields are higher.
Sean and I headed back over to the T gates where I was put on the list for the Chicago flight. Since we had about an hour and a half until the scheduled departure, we headed over to the Crown Room where I got some juice and a Nutri-Grain Bar. I saved the latter for my flight to Chicago.
By 9:25, we walked back over to gate T13 to find our selves in the midst of many many crewmembers. This was almost as if it was the crew shuttle to Chicago. There were pilots and flight attendants. Some from United, and others from American, ACA and so on. I was the 4th NRSA passenger called to the podium, where I was cleared to seat 18A in the main cabin. I thanked the kind agent for working on getting me out of Atlanta that day, and I said my good byes to Sean and thanked him for allowing me to stay with him.
I was not selected for random security screening. My ID and BP was collected and inspected. I was now walking down the jetway to my passage home. Flight 1707, ATL-ORD would be flown by one of United’s oldest Airbus A319s. N802UA also known as ship 4002. 4002 was in perfect condition for the ride north.
Photo © Richard Austen
There was a cabin crew of three on this flight. The two women were tall, one with freckles and the other with dark brown hair in a pony tail. The guy, who was wearing the old uniform looked as if he had just a tad bit too much foundation on his face. I think that his lip stick could have used some touching up as well. I mean, if you are going to wear make up (and you’re a guy) please make it look nice. Oh well.
I took my window seat, and settled in for the short hop. A pilot sat in the aisle, and shortly before departure, a flight attendant took the middle. Her name was Cheryl. She was black, and had her hair nicely wrapped. The braces on her teeth were evident. She commented on my chapped lips. Isn’t that nice.
I guess that there was a slight delay in pushing back; I don’t know…my watch broke the day before I left. Once we pushed, the safety video was shown. We had a relatively quick taxi out to the active. Once airborn, we took off flying towards the south, then turned left heading east. Shortly there after, as we passed 15,000, we flew north passing downtown Atlanta. I could see Sean’s apartment from my window.
A beverage and a bag of party mix (Delta snack mix) was served. I received the full can of soda just like I would on all other United flights on mainline equipment. On today’s flight, the crew showed us some inflight entertainment on the flip down screens. For the most part, I skimmed through Hemisphere’s magazine, and listened to channel 9. I also looked out my window, enjoying some country side that I don’t usually see.
Cheryl fell asleep, and the pilot in the aisle seat busied himself in a book. Since my books were in my bag, I did not get up and read any of them. I started to doze off, and then I looked out my window. We were passing an airport. There was a river next to the airport. The terminal shape looked familiar and reminded me of Cincinnati. It was CVG!
Photo © Brian Mayer
We continued to fly north west, passing over Indiana. By this time the ride started to get a bit bumpy 25 minutes out. Clouds now filled the sky below us making it impossible for me to see the ground. I tuned into the in flight entertainment to watch some of Jay Leno’s Headlines. Back to channel 9.
We had begun our decent into the clouds. Outside of my window, it was completely white, and remained so for almost the rest of the flight. Clearing the clouds, I could see the area north of O’Hare. Within a few minutes, we landed on the same runway that I came in on the day before.
Our taxi took us to gate B22. For most of that taxi, we were instructed to follow an American MD80. Once at the gate, I called my dad to let him know that I am in Chicago. I’m glad that I was no longer stuck in Atlanta.
Once leaving flight 1707, I checked the departure monitors and found that there is a SFO flight leaving in 30 minutes from gate C9. I made a dash over there, to get added to the list.
About 10 minutes before departure I was called up and cleared to Economy Plus seat 17E. Sure it was a middle, but I didn’t care. I wanted to get home. My ID and BP were checked and collected, and I walked down the cold jetway to aircraft 6775 (N675UA). 6775 operated flight 143 on Sunday.
Photo © Aaron Mandolesi
There was someone in my seat, but another flight attendant and I figured out that it was ok for me to move to 15E. Due to the limited OH bin space at this time, the crew offered to put my bag in closet for me. I accepted their offer. They even hung my coat up. How’s that for Economy service?!?
Making a quick jaunt to the adjacent restroom, I made use of the facilities before departure. Hopped back in my seat, and we left. The crew started the safety video, but something always happens to me on the 763 when I fly it to make it so they need to reset the video system. They did not make an announcement about that, the purser just rewound the tape and started over. The projector in my cabin now worked.
Our taxi was short. "United 143 Heavy, cleared for take off…United 143Heavy, cancel your take off, turn off and join the wait." Ahh…my first aborted take off. I’m so proud.
After a 737 took off, we went. At row 15, there is no window, so I had little clue as to what was going on outside of me. We climbed out into the turbulent skies south of ORD. The seatbelt light stayed on for a good 40 minutes until we found a good altitude to cruse at. Lunch boxes were served with a cold cut turkey sandwich, carrots and dip, and Milano cookies. I took a Diet Coke to drink. Much to my surprise it was a Japanese made can.
Lunch was filling. I wouldn’t write home about it but it was good. The movie Kate and Leopold played on the video screens. There were some parts that were really funny, and others that just plane sucked. The person sitting next to me rather enjoyed the movie.
During the flight, I got up and stretched my legs. I went back and talked with the awesome MIA based crew. They were doing an excellent job, and I pointed that out to them. It is not about what you get, it is how you get it. A beverage service would have been fine as long as the crew is good. Although, for the record, that flight is just a tad bit long for a beverage service. On the redeye, I didn’t care. I was tired. That is what mattered.
I helped the crew set up for the second beverage service in the back galley. Then I took my seat. During the beverage service, I was served another Diet Coke…well…sort of. This time it was a can of Coca Cola Lite. It tasted like cough syrup. I didn’t finish it.
Before I knew it, we were on approach to SFO. Flying over Fremont the crew was asked to prepare for landing. I could hear the gentle rumble of the engine’s power level changing as the crew flew the airplane on approach to 28L.
We touched down at 2:04pm Pacific Time. Our taxi took us to gate 81, where we waited to be towed in. The door opened at 2:11pm. During our taxi in, the crew made the landing announcements in English, Spanish and French. By the time the plane was at the gate, we were still 10 minutes early.
I had fairly decent flights on United. No major complaints. The crews all did a good job, and most of the flights got in early. The curtains were kept open between the cabins. One thing, regarding my 767, it was in the old new interior with the checkered seats.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this trip report. Questions, comments, concerns?
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