I arrived at the Indianapolis airport about 1 hour and 30 minutes before my scheduled departure time. After parking in long term parking I headed over to the UA
check counter which is now located in the D departure hall. There were a lot of people awaiting check in at UA
. The overall setup was rather disorganized. Even though they made the move a month ago, they still haven’t worked out the bugs of the system. The economy section was just a mass of people fighting to get to the ticket counter. There were no ropes setup and no lines for economy. Fortunately I am a premier executive member on UA
, so I went through the short line to avoid the messy crowd. There were already 3 people in the premier line and check in took longer then it should. I have never had to wait more then 5 minutes at IND
before, but today it was a mess. There weren’t necessarily a lot of people, just a horribly dysfunctional operation and poor staff. I presume things will get worked out better in the future once everyone is acclimated to the new gate area.
UAX Flight 7717 operated by Chautauqua
Departs: 2:45pm (actual 2:47, 2 minutes late)
Arrival: 2:52pm (on time)
Flight time: 43 minutes
E170 Regional Jet
First Class Seat 2A
I arrived at the gate area after passing through security. D is significantly less crowded then C concourse where UA
used to be. Unfortunately the terminal isn’t as nice and is a little bit older. UA
uses gates D7
, D9 and D10 for their flights and US Airways uses the rest. There are decent concessions, but nothing really exciting.
Boarding commenced a few minutes later then expected at 2:30. There were a number of standby passengers waiting to get on the flight, so it was completely full. Once on board I took my seat at 2A. The seat was very comfortable on this brand new airplane that had been operating less then a week. The first class leather seats are amazingly comfortable. Probably the best domestic seat I have ever sat in. Rows 1 and 2 were first class at 3 abreast seating and the rest of the plane is 2 by 2 seating in comfortable leather seats as well. I tried to take this picture, but it isn’t very good because the plane was really crowded and I couldn’t get a good shot. Also the windows on the E170 are quite high. At 5’11’’ I actually had to sit up to look out of it. This is a huge change from the CRJs where you can barely see anything except the ground below you from them. Also the cabin was plenty wide. You don’t get the feeling of the side of the plane curving over you at the window seats. It is not claustrophobic at all and very comfortable. I think Embraer has a real winner here from the passenger’s point of view.
Unfortunately as soon as I took the second picture one of the flight attendants came to my seat and said that she doesn't think that photography is allowed on the airline (she was only a trainee, so she wasn't familar but pretty much suggested that I shouldn't be taking photos). I apologize for the bad quality of pictures.
There were 4 flight attendants on board this flight. Two of them were training on the new equipment. I believe that the first class flight attendant was a new hire and this was her first flight working. She was being constantly assisted by a gentleman that was apparently one of the first Chautauqua flight attendants to receive training on the airplane. I presume the same was going on in economy, but I never saw the two flight attendants back there. All of the announcements on the new E170s are completely automated and recorded. The flight attendant only gave the flight number. However she messed up horribly in the safety demonstration dance. She obviously was nervous and kept running between first class and economy trying to show all the procedures twice. The other flight attendant supervisor had to help her as she wasn’t familiar with how to work a two class plane. It was entertaining to watch he try, and she put effort in.
We departed a little late, but quickly taxied to the runway. Takeoff was fast and incredibly powerful. I was surprised at how much punch the new E170s have. Based on the take off performance that we had, I am sure the plane would be able to operate out of mountainous runways like the Colorado Ski Destinations. The flight ascended very smoothly and was incredibly quite on takeoff. After a few minutes the training flight attendant came by with drink orders. Economy did not receive a full beverage service and was only giving beverages to people who requested them due to the short duration of the flight. Overall the flight was very smooth and pleasant. Unfortunately the E170 seems to be a bit noisy when it is up at speed and altitude. The wind noise is very present. But that is expected in smaller planes, but I think that it is louder than an ERJ145.
The seatbelt sign was not turned off at all during the flight. There is a new innovation for UA
on these flights where the smoking sign was replaced by a “Turn off Electronic Devices” light. This is a good move than many airlines are doing in a move to get away from the antiquated no smoking signs that no longer serve a purpose. We descended quickly and smoothly into a cloudy and rainy Chicago. Traffic was not bad at all and we made a smooth landing. The E170 landing was probably one of the smoothest that I have ever been on though it did seem like we landed with quite a significant nose pitch up. We then taxied to gate C3
for arrival. Unfortunately the gate agent had never seen an E170 before and had huge problems with the jetway. It took her forever to get it in place and then when she did, she ended up smashing into the airplane with quite a bit of force so that people inside could feel it. It is good that they use the C gates rather then the much dreaded terminal 2 gates used by other United Express flights. It seems that they are still having some teething issues introducing the new planes at UA
. The flight attendants for Chautauqua are still getting used to United policies and the influx of E170s that are coming online fast. IND
almost has more E170s on UA
then 737s now. The IAD
flights were E170s. These are much better then the CRJs that were operating the routes in addition to the occasional mainline plane. The larger regional jets are the perfect size for the market. They make the business travelers happy, while still not flooding the market with seats which cause yield to drop but still maintain good frequency.
Overall the E170 is a great plane. It is comfortable and great to fly in. It is just like flying on a mainline full size jet, but is more intimate. Full size roll aboard suitcases easily fit in the overhead compartments, and first class was comfortable. I am much more comfortable in one of these new birds rather then the old 737s, especially the former shuttle ones. I hope Chautauqua does well and keeps up the service. Passengers seem to like it, and the service they provide is some of the best seen in this country.
Departs: 4:55pm (actual 5:27, 32 minutes late)
Arrival: 7:23pm (actual 7:29, 6 minutes late)
Flight time: 3:43
Boeing 767-300ER Two Class
First Class Seat 5J
Upon arriving at gate C19 in ORD
the gate screens were not functioning, so it was impossible to tell if this was actually the correct flight. Fortunately it was and boarding began on time at 4:15. The 767 is a comfortable plane, but the seats in first class are a little narrow. 2-2-2 seating isn’t as pleasant as the 1-2-2 offered by Continental, but it is the standard for 767 operations. The flight was full again this time. Boarding seemed to go smoothly but passengers kept boarding well after the scheduled departure time. Then when the door was finally closed they blamed more delays on some last minute bags that had to be loaded. Next they blamed our escalating delay on the lack of a sufficient tug to push this fully loaded 767 back. Then the next explanation was that the taxiway was not clear. Finally we pushed back after some last minute passengers and some difficulty with the overly stuffed overhead bins. No one seems to like the overhead bins on the 767. They are too high to reach for some people and not large enough. Eventually we made it and pushed back 32 minutes late. There seemed to be no real reason for pushing back so late. I guess UA
was just having trouble securing everything for departure. The heavy rain didn’t help the situation at all.
(apologies for the low quality, I took them quickly with no flash) Taxi to the runway was quick. Even with the bad weather there was no significant delay for takeoff. The reducing of schedules by UA
seems to have solved a lot of the problems that ORD
used to face with excessive traffic. Take off was smooth and quick, but no where near as peppy as the E170. The 763 seemed to take quite a bit of runway even though it was only a 4 hour flight to Los Angeles. We made it up smoothly though and made a smooth climb up to 35000ft for our cruise to LAX
. The flight was overall a smooth and pleasant one for most of the journey.
Dinner was served soon after takeoff. The purser came around to 1K and Global service passengers offering them their choice of meals and pointing out how much they are appreciated. Usually they do the entire meal service according to status, but I guess premiers and premier executives aren’t good enough anymore, especially because there were 10 1Ks and global service members of the 34 passengers in first class on the flight. The choices were between Mahi Mahi and Chicken stuffed with Ricotta and Spinach. I had the chicken. It was decent but a little dry and the spinach was not good at all. At least they served a full meal that tasted decent. There were 4 flight attendants working the first class meal service, which progressed smoothly. After nuts and drinks came the main course accompanies with salad and bread. The dinner also was accompanied with a bag of coffee from Starbucks to take home. Dessert was then served a little bit after the meal. It was ice cream sundaes with chocolate sauce, nuts and whipped cream. It was quite good. I haven’t seen ice cream sundaes on a domestic flight in a while, so they were appreciated.
The movie was The Anchorman, which is funny and good. It was worth a few laughs, but not one of the best movies out there. The rest of the flight was pretty good. After the meal service though all of the flight attendants disappeared. They had been busily serving the meal for the first two hours of the flight and for the rest, they were gone with only a pass through of the first class cabin every 15 minutes or so.
Descent into Los Angeles was smooth and pleasant. The flight ended nicely with a good landing at LAX
. We taxied into the gate and deplaned quickly. Overall it was a good flight, and it is nice to see wide bodies on the domestic runs. The three class planes are far better though because the 36-38 inch pitch on the 767 and the 2-2-2 seating isn’t as good as most first class sections on other planes. The service often is better though on them because there are enough FAs so none of them are running around constantly and the food is prepared well. The E170 is a far more comfortable plane though in both first class and probably coach. I am surprised to say that I would almost prefer to fly on a regional jet now over mainline, but the E170 isn’t really a regional jet. 95% of the passengers do not notice a difference and them being really new and spacious makes up for the small size.
[Edited 2004-11-28 22:57:31]
If you have never designed an airplane part before, let the real designers do the work!