I arrived at the airport and proceeded to the UA kiosk, where I was able to procure Seat 23A (window, second row from rear) and check my single bag. Having changed my flight three days before departure, I was not surprised to see the dreaded SSSS on my boarding pass, and my desire to get the unhappiness over with lead me to the checkpoint. Security lines were somewhat longer than average, and I waited approximately fifteen minutes (non-selectees probably waited ten or twelve). After submitting to Uncle Sam, I was on my way and headed to Terminal 2 for a little spotting. I was hoping to see a mainline UA jet in the new livery, but a cursory check of Terminal 1 didn’t reveal any. Highlights of my trip into the abyss (Terminal 2) included:
C-FYJP, an AC A319 headed for YYZ
N976SW, N469AW, and N502MJ, UA Express CRJs in the new c/s
N532AU, a US 733 with paint in a condition that makes AF’s planes look like the cleanest in the industry
N520XJ, an XJ ARJ
N505MJ, an interesting YV CR7 which had had a panel on the engine replaced with an HP panel (complete with the lower right fourth of HP’s logo)- especially ironic since this bird used to fly for HP Express
N449AW, a CRJ in the FL/UA “transitional livery”
N403SW, a CRJ in Skywest colors and sporting what appeared to be a widget on the nose
Photo © Manas Barooah
N676BR, the first IJet I have seen in person. I noticed that this and the other IJets I saw on this trip (N674BR and others) appear to still have UA blue on the engines and the winglets. The website makes this look like the correct color scheme. I don’t like it at all. The blue used on the rest of the plane would look fine.
After returning from the depths of Terminal 2 to the relative brightness of Terminal 1, I noticed that my gate had changed from B9 to B7 due to the previous flight at B9 going mechanical… no big deal. I decided to go check out the new Ted area in the concourse and was not impressed. It was far too bright for me. By that time, it was about 11:20 and I decided to head to the gate for
N818UA (ship 4018)
Scheduled Departure: 11:06 AM
Scheduled Arrival: 1:57 PM
Actual Arrival: 1:48 PM
Boarding was pleasantly unspectacular. Sitting in the rear of the plane, I held a Group 2 boarding pass, so I was the first Y passenger aboard. I noted with some interest that there were no air marshals in Y on this flight. I sat down and immediately found the nearest pair of headphones so as to listen to Channel 9 when it was turned on. I was soon joined by a nice enough man in 23C who I believe was a clergy member of some sort. We had no middle passenger. By the time we pushed back, the load factor was around 65% with a handful of nonrevs.
Soon enough, we pushed back, turned south, and began to taxi to Runway 32L. When we arrived at the runway, it appeared we were roughly sixth in the queue for departure, but I don’t believe we waited for all of those aircraft. I noted a UA 744 and 772 parked on Concourse C among a row of 737s. It’s much easier to grasp the size of both of those birds in that setting- seeing them at the international terminal amongst a bunch of heavies doesn’t really allow comparison. It was about this time that my seat began to annoy me. I don’t know what it is about the seats on UA’s airbii, but I really find them uncomfortable. The ironic thing is that I think I generally prefer the A319 and A320 to Boeings. I remember that I used to think that the drop down TVs were the coolest thing in the world (now I see them on TZ 738s more than on A319s or A320s). As we waited for departure, I spotted a ZW 146 jet and the XJ Avro I had seen before holding next to one another. I wish I had had a camera as it’s rare to catch these two relatively rare and related birds near each other.
Before long, we pulled onto 32L just north of the intersection with 9R-27L and began our takeoff roll. Rotation occurred after about 5000 feet and soon after we were off the ground, we began a left turn to a heading of 180 degrees. We passed into the clouds near the intersection of Route 83 and Irving Park Road in Bensenville, and I would not see the ground again until we arrived in the Atlanta area. Because of the clouds, I cannot be sure of our exact route, but we flew due south for a while and then turned directly toward Atlanta. Some turbulence kept the FAs in their seats for a while, but when they arose, they offered a pretty standard short flight service, and I partook in the (new) UA snack mix, which I think is much better than the old stuff, and a glass of water. We hit moderate turbulence somewhere near BNA, causing the flight attendants to take their seats. Besides this, the flight was uneventful.
We approached ATL from the north, flying west of the airport, making a left turn, and then making a 180 degree turn to line up for landing on 27L. As we were on final approach, I noticed what appeared to be a single, closed runway in approximately a 4-22 configuration roughly 5 miles from the airport. Does anyone know what this is? We landed on 27L at 1:43 PM, and after a short taxi in which I was able to see plenty of the ridiculously ugly exterior architecture which defines ATL, we were at Gate T13.
Atlanta, Georgia- August 11-15, 2004
I stepped into the terminal and was immediately reminded of the primary reason I despise ATL: the incredibly narrow concourses. However, I had never terminated in ATL, so I was willing to give the airport a chance. As I stepped into the north terminal, I was assailed by incredibly dense crowds trying to navigate around the CTX machines and check in for their flights. I hope that the current project to bury the CTX machines will improve this situation. ATL has a one-level terminal. I thought this might make things easier. Instead, I have concluded that it is just a bad idea. Once I found my way to the baggage claim, I waited only a few minutes for my bag and was off the MARTA station. In contrast to the chaos of the airport, I found MARTA quick, quiet, and clean and was soon deposited in Downtown Atlanta. Coming up the escalator, I must have looked confused as an Atlanta “downtown ambassador” immediately approached me and offered directions. I gladly took them and was on my way. Hats off to the city of Atlanta for a job well done on MARTA and the people downtown. I enjoyed Atlanta immensely, got to watch the Braves win, and had a fabulous time at my conference, but soon enough it was time to head home.
My friends deposited me at ATL at noon for a 3 PM flight so that they could drive home. I headed to the kiosks and was a bit disappointed that they would not display my reservation, but checked in with an agent in about 15 seconds. I then headed to security. Seeing a line of about 25 minutes at the main checkpoint, I followed my A.net training and walked to the T Gates where I was greeted with, “Sir, there are two lines open with no waiting.” I was through in under a minute. I hopped on the train to go out to Concourse E for a little spotting, and was pleasantly surprised with the variety I saw including:
N630AX, an Omni Air International DC-10
a World DC-10 whose registration I could not see (it was actually parked at Concourse D)
HL7498, a KE 744
N267AV, a U5 A320
XA-AAM, an AM 73G off to CUN
6Y-JMK, a JM A320 off to MBJ and
D-AIGA, the daily LH A343 to FRA
I also was lucky to see N149AT, one of the FL 73Gs. The new color scheme looks much better in person. I hated it when I saw it on A.net, but seeing it in person changed my mind. I also noticed that ATL has the exact same overhead signage as CLT. Can someone confirm that the same people did both? Before too long, it was time to head for D-23 for
Scheduled Departure: 3:00 PM
Scheduled Arrival: 4:44 PM
Actual Arrival: 4:24 PM
When I boarded the E170, the first thing that struck me was the amount of space. The aisle was wide, the overheads were large, and the seats seemed closed in size to first class seats than to coach seats. As I settled into my seat, I realized that the windows were at least twice the size of the windows on the CRJ. I love this aircraft. The flight was 100% full.
Before long, we pushed back and headed for 8R. The takeoff roll was quick, and we were soon airborne and turning northeast. Before we passed into the clouds, I got an excellent view of Stone Mountain. I found that the E170 has a quiet, smooth ride. Takeoff was (obviously) somewhat noisier than climb, cruise, and descent, but the overall the plane was one of the quieter ones I have ridden (being in the front may have had something to do with this). The flight attendants offered two drink services and even remembered what I had been drinking when offering the second round of drinks. US’ cabin crews are generally excellent, but the MidAmerica crew was even better than most.
We left the clouds above Wheeling, WV and began our approach into PIT. We passed south of the airport and then turned 180 degrees to fly west into the airport. On this approach, I was treated to a magnificent view of downtown Pittsburgh. As we continued the approach, I swore that we were going to land on top of a mountain (the Midwestern roots do that to you), but before long, we touched down on 28L and taxied to B-47. On the way, I noticed that PIT has icing booms which are stationary instead of the usual trucks. I wonder if these are quicker/more effective. Once at the gate, we had to wait about 6 minutes for the gate agents to get the jetway lined up, but we were so early that this hardly mattered. The wait was also quickened by the pilot’s continual use of the loudspeaker to throw every insult imaginable at the ground workers- a bit tasteless, but funny nonetheless.
The pessimist in me had been expecting a late arrival and a good run down to B-27, but the early arrival allowed me to walk. Thus, I explored the airport. I found that I really like PIT. I would have loved to spend more time browsing the stores, and the concourses are logically arranged and wide enough that walking at any pace is easy. It’s a shame that such a nice airport is losing hub status, but I am sure that someone will fill in the void. I was tired by this point, so tired that I thought the tail of the UA 733 parked next to the A333 bound for FRA was the winglet of the A333. Thus, I sat at the gate and waited to board
Scheduled Departure: 5:35 PM
Scheduled Arrival: 6:14 PM
Actual Arrival: 6:04 PM
I boarded and sat down in my seat, cursing the old plane and the standard coach seats. I guess that Embraer had spoiled me a little bit. A family with a couple of little kids settled in to 12 A, B, and C… more on them later. At about 5:30, we pushed back and headed to 28R, where we were informed that we would have to wait about 6 minutes (until 5:45) for ATC to clear us to ORD. We wound up getting cleared at 5:42, so the delay was even more minimal than we had anticipated. The FO announced the route as PIT-CAK-FWA-GYY-ORD, and I’ll have to take his word for it as we were in clouds before the Ohio border and didn’t come out until we were passing over Interstate 80 near Lansing, Illinois. About the time we entered the clouds, the kid behind me began kicking my seat. He didn’t stop until the seat belt sign was turned off at ORD. I have no problem with small children, but I wish that parents would control them. Service was typical US- done with a smile but unspectacular.
After about 45 minutes, we came out of the clouds over the Chicago area. We flew northwest, then turned due west roughly over 35th street. Just past MDW, we turned southwest and I was greeted with a spectacular view of a WN bird rotating on 4R at MDW. Ironically enough, we’d be on 4R at ORD a few minutes later. Soon, we turned back northeast and passed over Elmhurst and Bensenville on final approach to 4R. We landed about 5:50 PM and taxied quickly enough, but our gate was still occupied. After a quick wait between Concourses E and F, we pulled into the gate about ten minutes early. At the baggage claim, I waited about two minutes for my bag and was on my way.
Conclusion: As usual, I enjoyed US’ excellent service. This was my first mixed UA/US itinerary, and this allowed for easier comparison. I really missed Channel 9 when on US. I never realized how much I enjoyed it until I had it and then did not have it in quick succession. I also realized how much more I enjoy the service on US flights. UA gets the job done, but US’ crews do so with a smile and with incredible courtesy. I hope that US pulls through, not only for its employees but also for the flying public who deserve the kind of service that US provides.
I hope you enjoyed reading this (and am quite glad that you made it this far). It's nice to do some non-academic writing, and I hope that this trip report is the first of many. Please do leave questions/comments/criticisms.