My dad and I hopped into his Explorer at 5:10am on March 23rd. Destination: MSY. Of course at this ungodly hour there was no traffic, so we arrived at United's check in door by 5:25am. I walked in and found a fairly large line for a Tuesday moning. Probably about fifty people, not including the one's using the E-Ticket machines. I finally made it to an agent by 6:00am. He advised me that I should be able to get a seat on all three flights today, which is always a nice thing to hear. By 6:05am I was at the Concourse C checkpoint. No line this morning, alas, security was a breeze. I got to gate C-5 at 6:10am and handed the agent my standy pass for United 1233 to SFO. Since this flight was nearly booked to capacity, I had a feeling that i'd end up with a middle seat, but to my delight, I got a window: 14A. Great way to start the trip! And so, at 6:38am, I boarded the A319 for what would ultimetely be a very long and rewarding day of flying.
United Airlines #1233
New Orleans,LA to San Francisco,CA
Duration: 4 hours 14 minutes
Load: five open seats in coach, First Class was full (F8/8, Y107/112)
Photo © Jason Whitebird
Even though both seats next to me were occupied, I lucked out by having two attractive females with British accents sit there. It could have been worse that's for sure. I was fairly impressed with the comfort of the new blue seats in Economy class. They were cushioned well, more so than CO's 737NG's, about the same as F9's A319's. Push back was on time at 7:00am. We taxiied to runway 28 and were quickly number one for takeoff. Takeoff roll lasted 33 seconds and the climbout was anything but steep. The in flight movie this morning was "Something's Gotta Give" with Jack Nicholon. I had seen it in the theater's but I deemed it good enough to watch again. The meal service consisted of either a ham, egg, and cheese pannini or a banana. I had the pannini, which was good, but would have been better at least somewhat warm. A couple of rounds of drinks were served en route, the last being 1.5 hours before touchdown. Overall the flight was very smooth, and for the last two hours of it, I was glued to the ATC radio on Channel 9. Always interesting. Approach was scenic as we came in over the mountains under a cloudless sky. We landed over the bay and touchdown itself was at 9:20am, about 22 minutes ahead of schedule. We parked at gate 69.
***Connection in SFO***
I made the walk to gate 82 with a feeling of both excitement and trepedation. Excitement becuase I would be getting on my first 747 in a little over an hour. Trepedation because I knew my track record with the plane was not good. There have been several times where I've been oh so close to getting on a 74, but something's always happened from preventing me from getting on the bird. To be certain, one terrible though clouded my mind: equipment swap.
Thankfully, mercifullly, things went my way today. After looking out the windown from one of the few remaining open seats in the gate area, I saw the sight which I had travelled some 1900 miles to see - the unmistakable nose of the 744 making a turn and coming to a stop at our gate. Needless to say, I was relieved; however, it did not appear that this flight was as "wide open" as the agent in MSY said it was. Boarding began at 10:30am, and the line was almost never ending. At this point I was fairly certain that I would get a middle seat - but what the hell, I could care less, getting on the 747 was all that count's. Heck they could have put me in the overhead bins and I wouldn't have cared.
After the last revenue passenger boarded the jet, I heard my name called over the p.a. I went up to the podium with a big smile on my face and as usual, asked the gate agents how they were doing today. In the past I have found out that showing a little courtesy and respect towards my fellow industry associates (and anyone else for that matter) goes a long way. Today was no exception. Even though there were coach seats left, they put in in Business Class. Seat 7C. I was on cloud nine.
United Airlines #1130
San Francisco,CA to Denver,CO
duration: 1 hour 58 minutes
load: First Class had a few open seats, the first business cabin had about eight open, not sure about the upper deck, the 2nd business cabin had about six open, and coach seemed to be about 90% full
Photo © Tony Zeljeznjak
United uses two jetways for boarding its 744 aircraft...one for 1st/Business and 1 for coach. I walked down the then-empty First/Business jet bridge with chills going down my spine. As I took my step into my first-ever 747, I closed my eyes for a moment and imagined myself walking on Clipper Juan T. Trippe heading off on another transatlantic flight from JFK. Back to reality. I was totally blown away by the sheer scope of the aircraft. It was everything I imagined it would be like and more. I took a couple of pictures of the First Class section in the nose as well as my section, which was the first Business Class cabin. I took my seat and found it to be extremely comfortable. I was in the middle section of the 2/3/2 configuration, and the seat next to me was empty. Looking around the cabin, I was struck by how large the windows appeared to be. I have no idea if that was just my imagination playing tricks on me but those windows seemed immense. A nice flight attendant took my coat and shortly thereafter, she was on the p.a system for the safety demonstrations. Push back was about fifteen minutes behind schedule due to baggage loading.
I found the big jet to be very quiet during engine startup, and the taxi to the runway was amazing. It felt like an ocean liner just crusing along. You literally could not feel any bumps along the way. After waiting for a CRJ to depart ahead of us, we became #1 for departure. Takeoff was quick and powerful, only a 25 second roll and the climbout was at an impressive angle of attack. The classic "humming" sound of those big P&W engines was music to my ears. After we passed through 10,000ft., a movie was shown "The School of Rock", which is a new classic as far as i'm concerned. I watched some of it on the neat ptv that flipped out from underneath the armrest and also listened to channel 9 once again. One round of beverages and a snack mix pack was served when the movie came on. The meal service for Business Class passengers was either a chef salad or a deli plate. Since they had both selections remaining by the time they finished serving the revenue passengers, I was offered both, and I got the deli plate. It wasn't bad at all...ham, roast beef, turkey, potato salad, a pickle, a warm baguette, and a warm chocolate chip cookie. Nice and simple, and tasty. Wine was offered with the meals, but I declined, instead going for my in-flight beverage of choice regardless of the class: Ginger Ale. Somehow Ginger Ale always tastes better on a plane I have no idea why.
Once we were abbout 200 miles from Denver, I decided to get up and take a walk around the plane, taking a couple of more pictures and just taking the experience all in. Before I knew it, we were starting our initial descent, so I returned to my seat. The captain told us that approach may be bumpy as we were coming in over the mountains, but it was anything but, just a light chop. The plane handled amazingly well even though we landed in a 20 knot crosswind. The landing itself was one of my top two or three best landings ever. You could hardly feel the wheels hit. The plane stopped with tons of runway remaining and exited via a high speed turn off. Taxi time to the gate was minimal. After the passengers deplaned I got the ok from the purser to go upstairs and take a couple of pictures. He advised me to let the f/a up there know what I was doing. When I got up there and told her, she insisted on making sure all the overhead bins were closed for me so that I would have a better picture. She even took a picture of me on the stairs looking down. Quite a way to conclude the flight of my lifetime thus far! To be certain, I didn't want to get off the plane, but alas, all good things must come to an end. The 747, plain and simply, exceeded all my expectations. Everything about the flight was "magical", and I say that in quotes because it was the closest word I could think of to describe it. Somehow - someday - I'll get on another 747. It was always my favorite aircraft even before I flew on her, but this solidifies what I always knew to be true: The 747 is the true queen of the skies. Nothing else I've ever flown on before comes close. Not by a long shot.
***Long layover in Denver***
There are worse places to spend five hours than the Denver International Airport. Always a nice variety of aircraft (including mine, there were three United 744's parked next to each other on Concourse B...plus a Lufthansa 744 on A...an impressive lineup to say the least). I took the train over the the A gates, got a soda, took a seat at an empty gate, and wrote most of this report. Also, I called my friend and told her about how my trip has been thus far. At about 6:00pm I went over to the Ted customer service desk and inquired about the flight load. Good news, the flight to MSY was pretty empty this evening. I got to gate A44 by 6:30pm and had a seat, looking at the several Ted aircraft do their thing on the ramp. I got a seat assignment, 6F, Economy Plus window, at about 6:45pm. Boarding for United/Ted flight 1434 began promptly at 7:00pm.
United Airlines #1434 operated by Ted
Denver.CO to New Orleans,LA
duration: 2hours 10 minutes
load: A little less than half...I counted about 72 passengers in the gate area right before boarding .
Photo © Jerry Search
Time to see what the competition was like! The interior of the A320 was just like a normal United 320 with the obvious lack of First Class cabin as well as a small "Ted" sign printed on the forward bulkhead. My seat was very comfortble, but the armest cover was hanging off, which I have never seen before actually. Also the audio/video controls in the armrest were not working. No biggie, the two seats next to me were empty, so I just used to one next to me. The captain informed us that climbout would be bumpy due to some nasty weather in the area. Push back was right on time at 7:28pm. Taxi time was quick and we were off like a rocket after a 28 second roll. Once we got above the weather the in flight service started. A drink service with pretzels followed by the optional "buy on board" service. I was hungry and the Chicken Caesar wrap sounded good, so I forked out the $7 and had it. It was good and filling. Not many people in the forward section of the plane bought anything...maybe just two besides me. "Tedevision" started around this time. A couple of sitcoms were shown, as well as some stand up comedy and two muic videos. It was pretty entertaining overall. The "Ted Tunes" music programs was decent as well. They had a some classic Rolling Stones songs on the Ted Rocks channel, so that caught my attention. We stayed at 37,000 ft. for most of the flight. One more round of drinks was offered before we landed. Touchdown was right on time at 10:55pm, and once again, it was a smooth landing. Taxiied to gate C1 and deplaned. Overall, the Ted experience was ok, nothing overally amazing or anything. The flight attendant's seemed distant and not really as friendly as compared to the other flights. I don't see how it's any better than mainline United honestly.
I hope yall enjoyed this report. Feel free to comment.