Here's the story of a friend's journey over the weekend. She's an A-320.
I took a quick mileage run last weekend to accrue segments for United's "Great Offer." Each segment was worth 2,000 extra miles toward elite qualification (EQMs) for 2004. The segments had to be in "V" class or higher. So I searched around and found COS-DEN-OMA-ORD-FLL-ORD-OMA-DEN-COS. Eight segments for 16,000 EQMs plus 5,364 base miles for 21,364 EQMs and 5,364 bonus miles (I'm a 1K). All on mainline except for COS-DEN-COS which was Canadair jets on UX (Air Wisconsin) and easily upgraded. Sort of like doing a Singapore run but a lot shorter. A $45 room at the Sheraton Ft. Lauderdale Airport from Hotwire and I was all set.
The trip was uneventful other than a mechanical in OMA that turned my three-hour connection in ORD into a 40-minute connection. I got a seat on the next flight OMA-ORD with no trouble but almost everyone else had to wait in line at the gate to be reaccommodated. (Hint: call up UA reservations and get protected, then go to the ticket counter for your boarding pass on the new flight.) No offense but Omaha is a pretty boring place for four hours!
After two ex-shuttle 737s (one 500 and one 300) DEN-OMA and OMA-ORD, I stepped aboard N494UA. It seemed so fresh and spacious in comparison. I knew it was fairly new because of its high reg. number and latest UA interior (two colors in Y to separate E and E+, blue and gray F seats, gray "Formica" bulkheads). As it turns out I flew on the same aircraft ORD-FLL-ORD-OMA-DEN. Eight segments and four were on old 494. Pretty cool.
We did have another mechanical after we left the gate in ORD. As we taxied, the captain announced that there was water leaking in the rear galley and that we would be returning to the gate (a different on than we left from). A mechanic was called. I think they were worried it might be a lavatory leak because the purser was asked to check the water level from the control panel on the forward bulkhead ("There's only one green line not lit up," she said.). Turns out it was rainwater that hadn't drained from the rear after it had collected while the aircraft sat on the ground in Portland or Denver. The problem was fixed within 25 minutes and our arrival in FLL was only 40 minutes late. The crew, especially the captain, was very professional and gave us lots of information about what was going on.
Also, the video screen above seats 1C/D would not retract completely. Some passengers would nudge it into its compartment, others ignored it.
I had the same crew ORD-FLL-ORD. They of course thought I was crazy to turn around so quickly but were understanding when I explained the rationale behind my trip. I consumed two meals, a chef salad ORD-FLL and a breakfast burrito FLL-ORD, along with two scotches (ORD-FLL), a bloody mary (ORD-OMA) and a gin and tonic (OMA-DEN). I watched two movies, "Daredevil" and "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" and the first half of the "United Entertainment Network," twice (ORD-OMA and OMA-DEN). Never got to the episode of "Frasier." My butt indented seats 3C, 2C, 3C and 2B, respectively. Two new crews worked ORD-OMA and OMA-DEN.
Based on my flights, the UA Electronic Timetable and united.com, here's where N494UA flew June 7-9:
Of course this is barring any aircraft changes after 494 and I parted ways. Today (June 10) I can't keep on tracking because there were three 320s that left San Diego in the early morning (i.e. using aircraft that overnighted there). One was at 6:30 a.m. (UA86 to SFO and PHL), another at 6:40 a.m. (UA616 to ORD and DCA) and the third at 8:10 a.m. (UA410 to DEN and ATL). Not glamorous, these routes, but not quite milk runs either.
But I enjoyed my time on N494UA. She brought out the Trainspotter in me!