LHR - ORD
Scheduled Departure: 10:25 (local)
Actual Departure: 10:31
Scheduled Arrival: 13:10 (local)
Actual Arrival: 12:39
Photo © Jason Taperell
My family and I arrived at United's ticket counters in zone G of Terminal 3 at 8:30. After about 45 minutes, we were checked in and headed up the escalator to get some food and spend the rest of our pounds. Finishing some Starbucks coffee, I headed to security and surprisingly passed through rather quickly. I saw that UA929 would be departing from K16, which is on the satellite of terminal 3.
Arriving at K16, I found it had a secluded departure area and my ticket was taken up at the counter rather than the gate. Boarding was called soon after I took a seat. I boarded through 16B (A was used for 1st class) and walked to the rear to find seat 35J waiting for me. Once again, I immediately turned on Channel 9 and was happy to learn that it worked better than my previous flight. The flight was was packed, and I only saw 2 empty coach seats.
Boarding was quick, and right before we pushed back an American 763 left to the gate on our right. After he left, it was our turn. Once we were under our own power, I saw a BWIA L011 in the new scheme taxiing out in front of us. We were #3 for takeoff behind that L011 and a BA319. At 10:38, our pilot eased us onto 9R and we powered up. About the same time as rotation I looked out of the window and saw Concorde taxiing to the runway from Terminal 4 (I guess to NYC).
It was very cloudy during our ascent but became only partly cloudly during our cruise of 35,000 ft. I could see well out of my window and took a good picture of the Ireland coast.
Drink service started immediately and I got a Pepsi (mixed in a little Bacardi thanks to my sister) and a savoury mix. Note the British spelling; on the flight to LHR it was spelled "savory." Soon thereafter Lunch was served. Choices were either Pasta or Chicken. I chose the pasta and wasn't dissapointed. I got a pasta mixed with alfredo and tomato sauce, salad, crackers/cheese/grapes, rolls, and Cadbury's chocolate ice cream. Overall, I very good meal!
Anyway, the movie's were only marginally dissimilar from the previous flight's so I looked out the window and listened to channel 9. I also read John Nance's Turbulence (which I picked up in a bookstore on Trafalgar Square the night before).
The British FA's dutifully came around with coffee, tea, and water during our Atlantic cruise of 550 mph at -70 degrees fahrenheit. The pilots constantly informed us of our situation, and once we approached Canada they requested and were granted FL390. When we hit Canada, the sky became completely clear and I got some good views of the frozen earth.
Something strange happened when we were passed into Montreal center's control. We were in contact with a woman controller when she started speaking french to us. Our pilot said asked her if she was "under the influence down there," to which she repied "negative, I wish I was." Weird,Weird,Weird..
After that little inconsistency, the snack was served. I received a turkey and cheese sandwhich, a Walkers (Lay's?) brand potato chip bag, and a Toffee Crisp bar. Although not too plentiful, it was nontheless decent.
We passed into US airspace over Michigan and began descending. We crossed over Lake Michigan and were passed on to a controller who was talking 300 mph. Later, we flew south of Milwaulkee and turned south to Chicago. I noticed about 10 golf courses in a 2 mile area on the lake as we were getting close to Chicago.
About 10 minutes later, we smacked down HARD on 9R and exited the runway right at the international terminal. I was treated to a view of Chicago's skyline, as well as a parked UA744. We approached the gate and stopped at M7. A JAL 744 was on our right and a Mexicana 320 further down to our left.
We passed through immigration/ customs pretty quickly (bags were delivered within 10 minutes of arrival) and got on the little train to Terminal 1 for our connection.
I was disspleased to find we had to pass through security again, and it really was a pain. My shoes set off the alarm (didnt happen in LHR or CLT earlier in the week) so I had to go through the embarrassing pat down. The stupid TSA guy thought my piece of gum set it off! Well, after the full cavity search produced no guns or knives, he let me go, but not before saying that next time I travel from O'Hare I shouldwear different shoes. I had already been screened in London, and I'll be damned if I'm to wear a specific shoe type to appease one idiot fed. Anyway, moving on..
We had 5 hours to kill before our flight to Charlotte, so my parents set up camp by our gate while my sister and I roamed United's main base. I saw a LH744 depart from gate B17. I also saw 3 consecutive gates where 763's and 752's were departing to SFO (Hmm, I wonder which one won). I found time to eat at Chilli's then headed back to base to see what was going on.
AT C1, the San Antonio flight turned into the Pittsburgh flight, which later turned into the Atlanta flight. Our gate was then moved to C2 where the MSP flight left prior to ours. Finally, at 17:55, our 733 arrived.
ORD - CLT
Scheduled Departure: 18:15 (local)
Actual Departure: 18:32
Scheduled Arrival: 21:06 (local)
Actual Arrival: 21:11
Photo © Ryan Gaddis - SPOT THIS!
The sun had just set when we began to board. I was in the second group and headed back to seat 15D. I found an elderly couple on my side of the 3-3 configured plane. The old man was nice, telling me how he used to fly for the Air Force and later for PAN AM with 707's. The old woman, however, was quite annoying. She had a little poker game that had the most annoying sound effects. So, throughout the 1:30 hr flight, tunes from "We're In the Money" permeated the cabin.
We pushed back just before the Atlanta flight from the adjoining gate did, and we taxiied to 9L. We were given takeoff clearance a good 3 minutes before we reached the runway, with the ATL bound 733 right behind. We climbed into darkness and soon turned and headed southeast.
When we reached cruise at 29,000 ft I was given a party mix and a whole can of Ginger Ale by the geriatric flight crew. Funny, I thought that such a senior crew would be operating these types of flights. ESPECIALLY on new year's eve.
The flight was short, and we experienced light chop at FL290 so we moved up to FL310. During the flight, I read through the Jan issue of Hemispheres (my seatback was the only one to have the new issue - lucky me).
We descended rapidly and quickly into the Charlotte area. During finals, our wings were dipping left and right, but the pilot made a smooth landing from the north on 18L. We taxiied fairly quickly across to Terminal D on the other side of the airport. I saw very few Darth Vader's scurrying about, most were sleeping.
N347UA docked at A2 next another UA737 that was staying overnight. We deplaned and headed to baggage claim for a 40 minute wait. At least our bags made it. We then got on a coach to parking lot RAY to find my car. Headed out on Billy Graham Pkwy, then onto I-77 homebound.
Made it home at 23:45 (est), some 23 hours after the day started in London.
United earned alot of respect from me. All flights were reasonably on-time, the fares were very economical, and the crews extremely courteous. I'm reminded of a United poster in Chicago - "We're going to treat you like our future depends on it - It Does." My sister has already booked a United flight to Italy during spring break and I hope to fly UA again sometime soon.
Thanks for reading, once again feedback/questions welcome.