This is a rehash from another BB but I'll share it anyway. It's a trip report from mid-October that’s half-normal and half-mileage run (all-Boeing, though, 777, 757 and 737). The normal part was because of my parents being with me and the mileage-run part was me alone.
777-200 (Type 1, with C+ and E+)
We arrived at DIA where I met my parents. I used 500-milers to upgrade myself and 2 HK-49s to upgrade them – felt a bit extravagant but sometimes its nice to treat someone. They’d already checked bags with the skycap so I went ahead and checked my duffel. Security was short (Mom got the wand treatment, I’m afraid) so we had time for breakfast at Pour la France on the B concourse. Dad got a shoeshine and off to B36 we went.
Boarding was painless; C and F were full, Y about 90% so. I was in 13B, right behind M&D in 12 A and B. Pre-departure water, OJ and sparkling wine were offered. I had a mimosa. Pushback was right on time at 10:20, followed by a quick taxi and takeoff to the east. The Pratt & Whitney engines felt as wonderfully powerful as ever.
Airshow and Empower were both present and functional; soon I had my laptop out and was uploading and editing some digital photos on my laptop. Soon enough the flight attendant was asking me for my lunch choice (by status, but discreetly). I had noticed here doing the safety demo and the fact that her lipstick was very dark, nearly black, in color. She looked kind of mean but turned out to be really nice. Chicken Caesar salad and chicken on foccacia with cheese were the choices; I went with the salad. (My parents both had the sandwich and gave it high marks.) I chose some Carmen red wine from Chile to drink, along with water and snack mix (gold package, I forget which one that is). My seatmate drank only water and didn’t eat. The video entertainment began; I chose “A Beautiful Mind.”
Lunch arrived and it looked pretty good. Two tubs of Caesar dressing, a breadstick and a slice of fruit tart and a new-style gray plastic knife came along with the salad, which was large and quite nice. Greens, chicken, tomatoes and Parmesan cheese shreds, all fresh and tasty. About this time my video unit abruptly malfunctioned (just as Mrs. Nash-to-be asks John to the fancy dress ball). “No video signal; please select another channel,” it read. I had audio and could see the picture in row 12. The flight attendant came and checked with 13A; no picture on his unit either. All the other channels worked fine. Sorry, Russell, that’s all for today (I read the book so I knew the ending already). About 10 minutes later the purser appeared to apologize. I suppose I could have asked for something but I really didn’t mind that much since everyone was nice about the situation. I edited some more photos to keep busy. Channel 9 was not on.
I had a Bailey’s and coffee with my dessert, then wandered back to the rear galley to chat with the crew. One flight attendant told me about her 3 teenage kids, all of whom are dancers/actors. Later she came by my seat to show me a small photo album which was pretty interesting. Overall a very professional crew.
It was cool and mostly cloudy in D.C. We had fretted a bit about the sniper situation but decided that it was better to proceed with caution. Landing was about 15 minutes early. I noticed that our aircraft was going on to FRA as UA916; UA962 to MUC was a 767-300 and at another gate. After a rather long hike to the baggage carousel (we rode the “D” shuttle down at the north end of the terminal) we found our bags right away.
Hertz and the Baltimore Hyatt (Inner Harbor) were as dependable as ever; the most exciting part of the trip was filling up on Rt. 50 on the way back to Dulles.
The conclusion is a 3-parter back to Denver via Chicago and Houston that satisfied the mileage runner in me.
UA923 (continuation of LHR-IAD-ORD), N521UA
“A Glint in the Eye”
After the weekend in Baltimore it was time to head back to Dulles. The ‘rents were going on to SW Virginia for the week so they followed me as far as I-66. The (hopefully) last sniper victim was shot near Connecticut Ave. and 495 was a huge mess in that area. We stayed on 95 and went clockwise around the beltway and encountered minimal traffic.
I quickly fueled the red ’03 Cavalier (I thought Hertz always had Fords) quickly, returned it with 241 miles on the clock and was back at IAD at about 10:45. A shiny bank of Easy Check-In machines was waiting inside so I made use of one. My seat assignment seemed to have changed on one segment but I found a new one without much trouble. I soon had three gold boarding passes and headed upstairs to check my duffel again. The lines at the “back” counter were short and I soon was on my way to kill some time on the B concourse, with its much nicer ambiance than C/D. I headed for Starbucks and had little can of double-shot espresso. The ANA flight to Narita was delayed so I had a chance to chat a bit with the gate agent, who didn’t know anything about the Red Carpet Club in Narita changing locations.
About 12:00 I went down to C. It wasn’t too crowded and soon I was on board. I immediately noticed the new interior with its blue and gray seats, Formica bulkheads and two-tone economy +/- cabin. It looked spiffy. The crew in F was a great, energetic couple of young women who worked hard to serve lunch to 24 of us on the short segment.
Departure was on time. Channel 9 was on this time. I noticed six or seven non-revs, including a mother and her two kids in row 6 (I was in 5C), but economy wasn’t full and I assume that everyone who wanted to upgrade was able to do so. An in-uniform captain who slept most of the flight and declined everything except a glass of water occupied 5D. Two other uniformed flight officers were in row 3.
Soon we were airborne and drink orders were taken by status. I chose red wine and water again (served with gold-wrapped snack mix again). The (quite pretty) flight attendant was charming and even winked at me when she asked my lunch order with a glint in her eye. I chose the warm chicken-breast sandwich over the Chinese chicken salad. It arrived as the NBC in-flight magazine started up, hosted by Matt Lauer this month. Melted cheese, mayonnaise, red and yellow tomatoes and onions a soft Kaiser roll made up the sandwich, which came with a dill pickle spear, a rather bland pasta salad, a small fruit bowl (melon and orange slices) and plain cheesecake (my favorite). I ate every bite except for the bottom half of the roll. (I forgot to mention that the DEN-IAD lunch also had a similar fruit bowl. Guess it wasn’t too memorable.)
Lots of promos (if you have to say how great “ER” still is, I guess is isn’t anymore) and ads preceded an episode of “Frasier,” which I enjoyed (Niles was threatened with eviction by his snobby neighbors). Soon we were treated to a nice view of downtown Chicago as we approached from the east and did a wide right turn. We arrived at the gate (C-concourse) just about five minutes late.
“A Shuttle-Free Experience”
ORD was pretty busy for a Tuesday afternoon. A 30-minute delay was showing on the monitors, along with a gate change. I don’t have a RCC membership so I passed the time strolling the concourse (one advantage of checking a bag – less to carry around) and noting how many 737s come and go from ORD in the afternoon.
We had another gate change, this time to C-4, next to Tampa and Omaha. It gets very crowded at that end of the concourse. I made a couple of phone calls and boarded next to last. First was full of suits, all male. Pre-departure drinks were offered, as well as coat hanging. Channel 9 was on.
The lead flight attendant had a sort of Southwest-like announcement style that was kind of refreshing; in general his service was top-notch and very personalized and polished. The small first-class cabin of a 737 or 319 can be tough to get into but is often nicer, in my opinion, than a 757 or 767. Soon enough we pushed back and departed maybe 35 minutes late and climbed toward the south.
I indulged in more Chilean red wine, water, and some blue-bagged snack mix. An afternoon snack was offered. Choice of another chicken sandwich (gruyere cheese-topped) or a "fajita chicken salad." This time I chose the salad. Good salad, with chicken pieces, red and yellow pepper strips, tomatoes, shredded cheddar and small pieces of crunchy tortilla. Two tubs of Caesar-style dressing, a standard fruit bowl and a breadstick came with. Only two of us ate, which surprised me. The flight attendant basically gave us service on demand; I waited about an hour before eating, which was very nice. In fact, the dessert of Mrs. Fields chocolate-chip cookies was brought around to the other six before I’d eaten my salad (my cookie was safely in place on the tray when my food arrived).
I enjoyed the “soft sounds” channel while I read and enjoyed the view (I was in 2-D of the mainline-equipped 737-300 with its solid cabin divider and e+ seating). The afternoon thunderstorms had passed and our approach was pretty leisurely but I enjoyed hearing about a CO retirement flight landing behind us. We arrived at the gate maybe 20 minutes late.
“O Duffel Where Art Thou”
Since we were late arriving in IAH, I only had about 15 minutes to walk around before reboarding. I don’t get to Houston much and it looks like the terminal has been renovated. I remember the UA gates as being in a rotunda and this was a wide, rectangular concourse. Of course I didn’t have time to ride the groovy underground people mover to the also-groovy Marriott, but maybe another time.
I was warmly welcomed back onboard by the same crew, who were even friendlier than before. Service was again excellent, but the purser’s creative announcements were not quite as refreshing the second time around. It was “men’s club” again in F, with all 8 seats occupied by business-types. I was in 2-C this time, on the same aircraft as ORD-IAH. Economy was pretty light, with maybe 25 seats occupied.
The evening rush was over by the time we pushed back at 6:35 and we were quickly airborne (the runway seemed very bumpy, but maybe that’s just how it feels in a 737). I really indulged this flight, with a Dewar’s on the rocks, water on the side and more of that Chilean plonk that was now more familiar than some friends of mine. Our meal choices were a choice of ricotta-cheese stuffed chicken breast (with asparagus and little wedge-shaped fried potato bits) or cheese ravioli. I went with the ravioli (two big round ones with black and green stripes and stuffed with what tasted like ricotta and perhaps artichoke bits), which was served with red sauce with black and green olives, a small salad and a roll. Dessert was more plain cheesecake.
Speaking of indulging, seats 1C and D liked (and I mean LIKED) the Jack Daniels. I counted at least five each, with their conversation getting louder with each round. But the flight attendant handled it well, discreetly slowing them down if not outright cutting them off. They were very pleasant about it, though, and quieted down before landing. I settled down to finish my book with a cup of decaf. I may have snoozed for 15 minutes or so, until it got bumpy on our initial descent. Visibility was really bad; we popped out of the clouds at about 500 feet and bumped down in cold, frosty Denver. Our arrival was perhaps five minutes early.
Once at carousel 10 in the terminal, I looked for my bag. Nothing for 20 minutes, although I saw others from our flight. Two trips to the baggage service office later, I’d filed a claim with the very pleasant agent. Just by chance I glanced down at carousel 14 (L.A. and San Francisco flights) and there was my bag, all by itself. Very strange, but I grabbed it, returned the claim form and was on my way. An enjoyable trip, apart from the bag glitch. The crews really did stand out on this trip, which makes all the difference.