Anyway, we took the escalators down and joined the security line. It was incredible. The line was out to the doors to the short-term parking lot (for those of you familiar with PIT). After 90 minutes in the security line, we took the tram over the Airside Terminal, and headed to our gate, C53. Walking around, I noticed how dead Concourse C is. There’s United at C51 and C53, and AirTran at C54, and that’s about it. I guess it gets busier when the European flights arrive down at the end. At the gate, there was our 737-500 in regular UA colors, and another 737-500 in Shuttle by United colors sitting at C51. I noticed a ramper doing push-ups on the tarmac next to the 737. I thought that was a little strange. We sat at the gate for about 20 minutes, and the agent began boarding. I noticed UA changed their boarding procedure. Instead of calling row numbers, they call by “section numbers,” which are printed on the boarding passes. We were section 3.
June 23, 2003
Pittsburgh, PA (PIT) – Chicago, IL (ORD)
Scheduled departure time: 8:40 AM (08:40)
Photo © Aaron David Mandolesi
Took my seat at 11A, and wow, it was pretty hot on that 737. We later learned from the captain that the APU wasn’t working, and he had to request from ATC to start an engine at the gate so the air conditioning could be turned on. I heard the no. 1 engine start, and shortly after, we pushed back and started our second engine. I turned on Channel 9 (that’s awesome) and listened to the controller give us taxiing instructions. We taxied out, gave clearance to a Delta MD-80, and departed from Runway 28R.
After a few turns, we reached our final altitude, FL290. The F/A’s came around for drink service. (By the way, the head F/A [“purser”] was really funny. After boarding, she announced, “Ladies and gentleman, we’d like to welcome you aboard United Airlines flight 1597. We’ll be heading out to Chicago this morning. If Chicago is not a part of your travel plans, now would be an excellent time to deplane.” and during the safety demonstration, “Tampering with, disabling, or destroying lavatory smoke detectors is prohibited by law, not to mention what the flight attendants will do to you.”)
After a very smooth flight, we began our approach into Chicago. Final approach was absolutely incredible. We flew north over Lake Michigan, and made a left turn, cornering downtown Chicago. There was an incredible view of the Sears Tower. After the left turn off Lake Michigan, we made our final descent and landed at O’Hare, parking at gate C28. We made our way down to C16, where our flight to LAX was leaving from. When we got there, they were just beginning to board, so we had no wait at all. I couldn’t really see through the windows, but I was getting really excited, my first 747 flight!!!
Chicago, IL (ORD) – Los Angeles, CA (LAX)
Scheduled departure time: 10:00 AM (10:00)
Photo © Chris Starnes
After stepping on to the plane, to the left were the First Suites, and then we passed through United Business, and made our way to economy. After a meeting with the lavatory, I took my seat at 49A. Parked next to us was a 777 just getting ready to push back. After a bit of settling in, we pushed back and I turned on Channel 9. During taxiing, I saw a UA 777 (the one parked next to us earlier), the JAL 747-400, a plethora of AA MD-80’s and 737-800’s, with an F-100 or two, plenty of American Eagle ERJ’s, and a few United Express CRJ’s. We taxiied out and departed on 27L (I think, I’m not sure). The 744 has an incredible wing span! Looking out, I could only see one engine (#1), and the winglet all the way on the end of the wing as we passed over what looked like an industrial area. After a few minor turns, we reached our cruising altitude FL390. Shortly thereafter, we were passed over to K.C. Center. While passing through a few thunderstorms, the F/A’s came around with the initial drink service and started the movie, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. A little later, they passed around the “snacks,” which consisted of tortilla chips and salsa, crackers and cheese, two sugar cookies, and orchard mix. I wasn’t that hungry, so it wasn’t bad. I watched the movie most of the way, while switching over the Channel 9 every now and then. The movie wasn’t bad, it had some humor to it. We made our way up to FL410 over Kansas or Missouri to avoid some thunderstorms, and stayed there most of the rest of the flight. The flight was, for the most part, uneventful. I switched back and forth between the movie audio on Channel 1 and ATC on Channel 9, and listened as we passed center to center, K.C. to Denver, Denver to Albuquerque, and Albuquerque to LA. We made a few turns on approach, and the captain made a very smooth and professional landing. I believe we landed on one of the 24’s, but I’m not sure again. We were informed that we would have to shut all engines down and be towed into the gate. We parked at Terminal 7, gate 77.
As were walking through Business Class toward the door, my dad saw some people going to the upper deck, so he asked one of the F/A’s if we could take a look upstairs. “Sure,” she said. Upstairs, I walked through and poked my head into the cockpit, just to see. The captain was still there, but the F/O was nowhere to be seen. “Come on in,” says to captain to me. I walked in and looked around a bit. “Can I get a picture or two?” I say. “Absolutely.” “Hey, why don’t your mom or dad get a picture of you in here. Go ahead and have a seat,” he says. “Great!” I say. I sit in the captain’s chair, and as my dad begins to get a picture, the captain interrupts, “Wait, let’s make it look real. Put your hands on the flight yoke and throttle, and here, let’s turn these on,” as he turns on display screens. My dad got a really nice picture. “So where does she go from here?” I ask. “Aahh, nowhere exciting, just back to Chicago.” I asked him a few more things. He was a really great guy. Heading out of the flight deck, a male flight attendant came the stairs and handed out United Airlines Boeing 747-400 fact cards to everyone up there. We finally headed downstairs and into the airport. What a great experience.
After some great time spent in Santa Monica and Long Beach, it was time to head back home. We returned our rental car and arrived at the airport around 11:00. There were masses of people in United’s check-in with several ticket agents walking around yelling out instructions. It turned out the lines weren’t that long and we had our bags checked through to Pittsburgh and obtained our boarding passes using the one of the self-service check-in machines in minutes. We took our bags over to the screening area and we on our way to our gate. The security line was fairly short. The screeners were friendly and efficient. We made our way to Terminal 7 and found gate 76 with ease. We had plenty of time to kill, so I just got something at McDonald’s and walked around a bit. The flight must have been overbooked because there was a huge line at the podium at the gate with people asking for new seats and the agent telling them there were no empty seats. The agent then called for boarding, and they opened two gates, with three lines.
July 2, 2003
Los Angeles, CA (LAX) – Chicago, IL (ORD)
Seat 41F, Economy Plus
Scheduled departure time: 1:40 PM (13:40)
Photo © Tim Samples
I took my seat at 41F, economy plus!!! I have no clue how we got into economy plus. However, it was the middle section and I like window seats better, but oh well. An older gentleman took the seat next to me. I plugged my earphones in, but there was no Channel 9. Turns out there wouldn’t be for the entire flight. It was just as hot on this 747 as it was on the 737 I flew first. I figured the APU wasn’t working again, and the captain confirmed that minutes later. He said he’d start an engine, but it would take all four engines to get the cabin completely cooled. We pushed back a few minutes later, and taxiied out. I didn’t like not being able to see anything. After a fairly short takeoff roll, we began our climb out of LAX. A few minutes into our climb, the flight attendants announced snack and beverage service, and they’d be showing the movie, “Bringing Down the House.” The flight attendants, who were very friendly and helpful on this flight, first came around with beverage service. I got a Pepsi. Has United recently switched from Coke to Pepsi? I thought they served Coke when I flew them last year. The snack service came later, which turned out to be… chips and salsa, crackers and cheese, two sugar cookies, and orchard mix. The exact same snack as on the flight out. Oh well, it was decent.
The projector screen was pulled down and they started the movie. I didn’t pay any attention to it and slept off and on a little. The flight was incredibly smooth. After the movie, the flight attendants came around and offered drinks again and passed out breath mints. Once the movie ended, they showed some type of programming and then airshow for the rest of the flight. Groundspeed of 596 mph is indeed a bit quick. We flew over northern Kansas, along the Iowa/Missouri border, and then over northern Illinois and began our descent into ORD. There were a few sharp turns for the approach, but we made a smooth touchdown. We taxied into gate B15 (I think). Our connecting gate to PIT was B2. I really like the glass ceilings of UA’s ORD terminals. It makes the terminal really bright and airy. Gate B2 was just finishing loading a flight to Boise, so I grabbed some pizza first. By the time I was done, the display had changed from “Boise” to “Pittsburgh.” Shortly after the Boise 733 pushed back, the A320 pulled up from Las Vegas.
Chicago, IL (ORD) – Pittsburgh, PA (PIT)
Scheduled departure time: 8:55 PM (20:55)
Photo © Gregg Stansbery
After unloading the LAS passengers, the agent began boarding and I took my seat at 17F. Window, good. Compared to the 744, it was freezing on this A320. I plugged my headphones in, but there was no Channel 9, in fact, no audio at all!! I tried a different pair of headphones, to see if maybe mine weren’t working, but no audio again. Oh well. I looked out the window and watched some UA Express stuff and the ground workers loading the baggage. Shortly after we pushed back, started up and taxied out. The Airbus made its typical weird screeching noises. We joined the queue behind an American Eagle ERJ and soon after departed. The flight attendants, who were not friendly at all, offered drinks to everyone. Another person who wasn’t friendly was the captain, who spoke to the passengers a total of one time during the entire flight and that was “Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve been cleared for departure. Flight attendants be seated.”
The farther we got from Chicago, the darker it got, and soon, I could clearly see our red beacon flashing in complete darkness. All I could see on the ground were a bunch of lit cities and towns. Before I knew it, I could see the X-shaped terminal of PIT off to the right. Obviously there would be a long right turn ahead, and there was. We made our turn and set up for our final approach to Runway 28L. We touched down, used a lot of brake and a little reverse thrust, and taxied in toward Concourse C. During taxiing, I noticed a bunch of construction equipment on Rwy 28C. Anyone know what they’re doing? We parked at C51 next to a UA Express Jetstream 41. I saw no other aircraft except for a US Airways 737 parked at Concourse B.
Overall, I was very impressed with United. Their people are great and I wish them the best of luck.
Thanks for reading. Comments welcome.
Btw, hopefully I’ll have another trip report on my recent CO Express trip to Mexico.
[Edited 2003-07-23 01:35:40]