After months of hard working for my exams (which I eventually passed it was finally time for my long awaited holiday! Together with a friend we decided to tour the west coast of the US. Since we did a tour of the east coast a year ago, the west coast was a logical choice We booked a total of four flights, six legs, all on United since they gave us a great fare, AMS-IAD-DEN, DEN-SAN, LAX-SFO and SFO-IAD-AMS for just 770 Euro, during peak season! This trip report covers the first part of our trip, AMS-IAD-DEN. Enjoy!
6 July 2004
UA 947 AMS-IAD
Scheduled departure time: 13:05
Scheduled arrival time: 15:25
Photo © Kyle Donagher
My dad brought me and my friend to Schiphol airport before he went to his work which meant that we would be slightly early at the airport, but that's only a good thing of course . Check-in went smooth, hardly a line and to our pleasant surprise we were sort-of upgraded to economy plus, always nice to have a little bit more room. Downside however was that the seats weren't window or aisle seats, so we would be stuck, with me getting the 'double excuse me seat' (stupid Boeing seating lay-out :-P)
After check-in we went trough security without any problems (which was a first for me, I always get frisked at security checkpoints for some reason) and after a coke we walked around a bit, doing a bit of spotting and duty-free shopping.
Got to the gate fifteen minutes early and after a second security checkpoint we were allowed to board. It was my first time on a 777 so I was a bit excited. I was even more excited when we found out that we got bulkhead seats! Really lots of legroom (I almost could completely stretch my legs without hitting the wall) and getting in or out your seat was really easy. The interior of the aircraft was decent, not as nice though as the Swiss A332 we took last year to the US.
We pushed back right on time and luckily channel 9 was active, a great feature if you ask me. We took of from runway 18C and after a rather powerful take-off (nothing compared to a DC-10 take-off however) we quickly turned towards England and eventually towards Washington Dulles.
After reaching cruising altitude of 37.000 feet drink service commenced. I opted for a Pepsi and got the entire can (not just a glass as with KLM) and of course some delicious pretzels. The flight attendants were quite indifferent, I can't call the nice but they weren't grumpy either, they just did their work. Half an hour later meal service began and we had a choice between pasta and chicken. I went for the chicken which was actually quite nice. It came with some carrots and the usual bread, grapes, some delicious cheese and salad. Overall an okay meal.
Listened most of the time to channel 9 until we were over the ocean, when I decided to watch Jersey Girl, a very very lame movie with Ben Affleck and Liv Tyler (If it wasn't for her I wouldn't keep watching the boring piece of crap). Can't remember the other movies but I do remember they weren't great either. After the movie was finished I decided to do a bit of reading and keep checking the Airshow.
Drink service wasn't very frequent but frequent enough to not go thirsty. Two people next to me were constantly talking about religion, a bit too passionate now and then, not a great subject to discuss while in a plane IMHO.
As soon as we were in US airspace channel 9 was full of activity and made some interesting listening. A snack-service commenced, a box with a candy bar and a ham/cheese sandwich, which was quite tasty.
We started our decent quite early and after a lot of turns the captain smoothly put the mighty 777 down on runway 1R, a few minutes ahead of schedule. After a quick taxi ride we docked at Concourse C. Disembarking went quick and as we left the plane the captain wished the passengers a nice day, always a nice touch. Although we had a connecting flight to Denver we had to collect our bags and go trough immigration, standard procedure in the US. The immigration officers acted more like prison guards (as always) but we got through it relatively quickly. Went uneventful through customs and rechecked our bags.
For some reason United decided to put us on a later flight to DEN, departing at 19:55. Originally we had picked a flight which left at 18:50, but we were replaced without notice.
Quite annoying, but I wasn't the end of the world. Just more time to do some spotting . However, Concourse C must be worst designed terminal in the whole world. It almost has no windows, a very low ceiling and little room. We roamed a bit around and saw the BMI Star Alliance A332, an Austrian A332, a Lufthansa A343, some Jetblue A320s, those ugly I-air CRJs and of course a lot of United planes, including a 777 and CRJ-700 in the new, great colors.
6 July 2004
UA 803 IAD-DEN
Scheduled departure time: 19:55
Scheduled arrival time: 21:50
Photo © Tim Samples
Boarding started at 19:25, with the first class and Star Alliance elite members boarded first of course and after that seating zone 1, 2 and 3 in that order. I still don't understand why airlines don't start boarding with the passengers who have a seat in the back of the plane, wouldn't that go much faster?
Anyhow, we got to our seats, a nice window seat for me on my first 757 flight. We pushed back a few minutes late but the captain promised to make up for the lost time. Luckily channel 9 was active and I listened how we were cleared for take-off, right after a company 737-500 and a Swiss A332. Take-off was smooth and powerful, a classic 757 take-off I guess. After a quick climb to cruising altitude drink service commenced and the nice but quite old flight attendants offered buy-on-board meals, ridiculous for a respected airline like United to have to pay for your meals on such a long flight, but I can understand why they do it. Anyhow, I got a Pepsi and a small snack bag, which was not a lot, but still tasty. The movie on this flight was Hidalgo. Well, that movie was even worse than Jersey Girl. I decided to keep listening to that great channel 9 and half way the flight I managed to get some shut-eye. I waked up during another drink service and quickly after that we started our decent to Denver International Airport. Meanwhile it had become dark and I had some great views of the land below. The pilot made a smooth touch-down and after a few minutes we docked at gate 27, concourse B. Disembarking went really quick and quickly I noticed how great of an airport DIA is. Very modern and lots of room and little train to the main concourse was quite a funny ride with it's ridiculous tunes (people who've been on it will know what I mean). We went to the baggage claim but after a long wait our bags were still not on the belt. We went to baggage customer service and the agent told us our bags had come with an earlier flight. A bit annoying that they didn't tell us that immediately, that could have saved us a long wait which isn't fun when you're already almost 30 hours awake (apart from my short nap). We took the hotel shuttle to our hotel and had some long awaited sleep.
Overall United offered a good product, here and there room for improvement but they make up for that by great touches as an upgrade to economy plus and of course channel 9. On a scale of 1 to 10 I would give United a well deserved 8.
Hope you enjoyed reading my first trip report and comments/questions are always welcome! And stay tuned for the trip reports on my other flights that holiday: DEN-SAN, LAX-SFO and SFO-IAD-AMS
[Edited 2004-08-15 17:10:31]