I had my ride drop me off at the ticketing level at Sea-Tac airport 90 minutes before my flight. The driveway wasn't all that crowded even though it was the morning rush in SEA. I quickly jumped out of the black BMW and headed into the airport. I had checked in online the day before, however my printer would not print out the bar code on the boarding pass. After a few attempts at resetting the printer and the webpage, I gave up. The United Airlines webpage is extremely slow. I was connected through DSL, but it took forever to load anything on the website as if I was using a 14.4 or 28.8 modem. I like the layout, but they seriously need to bump up the server quality.
I first went to the premier line, but realized that there were about eight people ahead of me and I only saw one agent helping (there might have been more, but I didn't see any in the premier section of the counter). I decided to try my luck with an easy checkin machine. Since I almost always fly with carry on luggage only, I went over to a vacant machine that was for economy passengers with no luggage. I swiped my Mileage Plus card and up popped my itinerary. I quickly printed off my two boarding passes along with a copy of the e ticket receipt because I had lost my only copy of my itinerary somewhere in the packing phase.
Overall the United checkin area (along with AS which is right next to UA) was rather crowded. There was a decent line, but not overly long for most people including economy. I wouldn't think it was disastrous, but it was longer than I would have preferred to wait in. Overall the ticketing lobby in SEA is just a little too small. There is no where to really sit and concessions and stores are almost nonexistent. It wasn't pleasant, so I immediately headed to security. I asked an agent that looked like she was involved with security where the premium security line was. I quickly made my way on the far side of the line. It probably was about a 20 minute wait and there were a number of people waiting up in line. I happily skipped the line since I am premier executive with UA. I had no wait at all. Security was smooth with some TSA agents with smiles on their faces. It was pretty nice and relaxed. I got through security within five minutes of entering the airport.
Since I had some time to kill, I decided to take a walk down the airport. Things were remarkably better on the airside of the terminal. I wanted to check out the brand new central terminal area that has just opened. I had the luck of flying out of Concourse A at Christmas time and enjoyed that, so I was having high hopes for the refurbished part of the airport. I walked past gate D1 which was bulging at seems since it was too small. I then noticed the central terminal area and was quite impressed. I took a number of pictures of the area as it was really spectacular.
The Beautiful New Councourse A
Concourse C Joining to the New Central Terminal Area
Stores in Central Terminal Area Including Borders Bookstore
The Beautiful Wall of Windows at the Food Court
The Food Court
The Central Terminal Area
What a Great Place to Wait for a Flight!!
Wide open spaces with a very high ceiling and a wall of windows that looked out on the runway which is a spotters paradise. There were a number of restaurants in the area. They all looked nice and new. All prices at these restaurants are required to be the same as if they were outside the airport. A hamburger is still 99 cents at Wendy's. Another nice feature is that all the restaurants are required to serve breakfast. The area had a number of people around at all of the different food places. It was odd to see a huge line outside Mexican and Asian restaurants in the morning, but a closer inspection showed that they were serving typical breakfast platters. All of which looked very appetizing. I settled for a sausage sandwich at Wendy's and took, a seat right next to the humoungous window. I was just aww struck by how amazing this area is. Many people complained that it would not be useful since it was only open to passengers after security, however it was pretty crowded. There was a large central area with tables and had a setup for the grand opening ceremony that would be open to the public the next day. The central security check point led right into this area which funneled all of the passengers headed to B and C Concourses into the central terminal's vast open space. It also isn't much of a walk from the A or D Concourse. One huge thing that the terminal has accomplished, is that it has reduced crowding in the gate areas in these concourses. People are more inclined to spend time away from the gates, and in the nice lobby with plenty of shops (including a full size Borders bookstore!). This has helped alleviate some of the congestion in the concourses. B, C, and D can get a little tight when there are a number of flights departing and the food places would always fill up. Now those councourses have the impression of being bigger and nicer since they are less crowded. This is a nice indirect effect from the new central terminal.
I looked at my watch and it was 7:15, so I had to head off to go get my flight to DEN. I walked down to the subway and hopped on it to go over to the North Satellite. The train system is new and rather nice compared to the old dingy subway cars. I then took a short walk around the N gates and noticed why people have been complaining about them. Although not bad by themselves, they do not compare at all to the new terminal areas. The North Satellite was remodelled only a few years ago, and a new food court was put in and signage was changed, but the terminal does still feel a little old. Fortunately they are in the process of installing new bathrooms, which unfortunately means that the temporary ones are pretty bad.
The Food Court at the North Satellite
The Gate Area in the North Satellite
June 3, 2005
Dep: 7:57 AM Act: 7:54 AM
Arr: 11:30 AM Act: 11:31 AM
A319 Seat 12A Exit Row
Load Factor 96%
Photo © Danny Fritsche
Boarding for this flight was a little different than usual. The agents in SEA said that they were going to try a new system of where they preboard first class and premier members, and then board window seats, followed by middle seats, followed by aisle seats. I had never seen this done before. The agent called for preboarding, so I grabbed my boarding pass and headed onto the flight. The plane was a nice A319 with the older style seat covers. I was greeted by a flight attendant that I had seen on the subway over to the N gates.
I noticed that boarding was accomplished really quickly. They started at 7:30 and were done by 7:40. It really seemed like boarding window seats first was faster. People were putting their luggage up throughout the entire plane at the same time and there was no congestion in any specific row. Also there was no one having to get up to let other people by. I don't know if this system might replace boarding by seating areas or row numbers, but I liked it. I had the window exit seat, and on top of that the seat next to me was not occupied. I love the A319 because the actual exit row has no window seat, so in the row behind the exit row, you have infinite legroom and when there is no one in the middle seat, you have more space than first class.
The captain came on and told us that we were nine minutes from pushback. I opened up my book and zoned out for the time. A few minutes later a flight attendant came by and gave the exit row briefing. She wasn't very thorough and a simple head nod was enough to appease her and off she went. We pushed back three minutes early which was nice. The flight was almost full. The only seats empty were a few middle seats in the back part of the economy plus cabin. The safety video was played and we were headed off towards the runway. After the last minute safety checks, the captain asked the flight attendants to be seated for takeoff. There was no queue, so off we went taking off from runway 16L.
The takeoff was nice and powerful. Although the 319 had a rather heavy load, she pulled up into the sky with an assertive force. Takeoff was a standard straight out path from the runway. We passed right into the clouds as we passed over the south satellite. The 319 was climbing nicely into the clouds at 1000ft. It was nice and smooth all the way up to our cruising altitude of 39,000ft. We made the left turn for a heading that would take us over to Colorado. As we passed through 38,000ft the captain turned off the seat belt sign, and the flight attendants were up and about. It was not that long ago when UA turned it off when you passed 20,000ft. But I guess the more time the light is on, the less of a chance for an accident, and then less chance of someone suing UA. Of course the plan usually backfires since the light doesn't mean anything now. People started getting up as soon as they wanted to. Seeing the flight attendants up and about makes it seem like it is safe to be up, which results in the lavatory being used.
The beverage service soon started. I had a nice cup of Starbucks coffee. The beverage service came with a biscoff gram cracker like thing. It wasn't bad. There was no food, or buy on board for this morning flight. I didn't mind though since I had had some food over in the beautiful central terminal area in SEA. The flight then proceeded rather normally and smoothly. Nothing too eventful for a two hour flight into DEN. We didn't hit any chop at all. I took the time to read a Dan Brown thriller. I tried to listen into channel 9, but could not hear anything. I didn't know if it was because I had a bad pair of headphones, the system wasn't working right, or if it was switched off. I enjoy "from the flight deck", but it was ok without it I guess. A good book and lots of legroom made the flight fine. One bad thing though was that the flight attendant didn't start the overhead IFE until about halfway through the flight. This seems to be a recurring thing on UA. I don't know if flight attendants just forget or what, but they always wait a while before starting it. But I didn't mind because it was just the short subject programming on today's flight. That stuff is just some bad news show that has a ton of commercials aimed at high profile business travelers. There are way too many ads for stuff that I do not care for at all. I only watch if there is an actual movie playing.
I felt the decent as we hit a few bumps. The captain turned on the seatbelt light. I was ready to be there by now. The flight attendants collected trash. They seemed to be rather attentive on this flight. They kept coming through the cabin and checking during the flight and collected garbage on a number of occasions. At about 20,000ft the captain quickly came on and said "flight attendants take your seats". About five seconds later we had a strong jolt. We passed into an ominous cloud that had a fair bit of turbulence associated with it. DEN is notorious for turbulence on descent as you pass through the Rockies. However the flight attendants did eventually return and prepared the cabin for landing. Nothing very exciting happened on this flight today. Just a generic domestic flight with good but not stellar service. In general it is what you expect.
The captain made a great landing on the pavement at DEN. We did a slow braking on the long runway. We turned off the runway and the flight attendant made the obligatory announcements and then said it was okay to use cell phones. Instantly a number of them popped out and started ringing. It was obvious that there were a lot of business travelers on today's Friday morning flight. Unfortunately we came to a stop at a stand away from the terminal. The captain came on to tell us that our gate was still occupied. I peered over to see that Ted was using our gate. We waited for about ten minutes before making our way to the terminal. We had been early, but we lost it as we had to wait. Silly Ted being tardy!
I exited the plane and entered the glorious DEN terminal from gate B15. Interestingly enough the continuation of my flight from SEA which was headed to LGA was departing from B17 which was the next gate over. So much for same plane service. I did not have much time before my next flight, so I headed over to check out where the gate was. Denver has a very nice airport. I found out that my gate was B32. I walked over on the moving sidewalk to make it to the gate. When I arrived, the plane was deplaning. I was a little hungry, but decided to just wait it out since boarding was scheduled to begin in about five minutes.
June 3, 2005
Dep: 12:16 PM Actual: 12:15 PM
Arr: 3:06 PM Actual: 3:02 PM
A320 Seat 11A Exit Row
Load Factor 80%
Photo © Ralph Duenas
The gate agent made a special announcement and informed all of the people in the gate area that there would be a survey taken aboard the flight. All passengers would be invited to fill it out. Soon after, boarding began about 25 minutes prior to scheduled departure. They boarded via the traditional seating areas. I was first on as they called first class and seating area one at the same time. Unfortunately there was a little wait on the jet bridge. But I made it on, without trouble. I made my way to the exit row of the plane. It was an A320, which has plenty of room at the exit row. I really enjoy the seats. Full recline, and really good pitch. I suggest this to anyone that can get it, but of course since the exit row is in economy plus, most passengers are not eligible to sit there. Boarding continued on a normal pace, and I was quite excited when I realized that there would not be anyone sitting next to me in the middle seat.
The flight attendants on this flight were extra energetic. I believe one of them was a person in charge of reviewing service. He was uniformed as a flight attendant, but he did not act like one. He just went around helping people out. I tried to look around to see how many flight attendants there were aboard the plane, and I could only see the standard three. I don't know who this gentleman was. Eventually after the exit row briefing, we had the main cabin door shut. The safety briefing went on as normal. And we pushed back. It was a nice clear day in DEN as we taxied out. I started to read my book again and zoned out as we made it to the runway.
Takeoff was fast, but it did have a bit of turbulence associated with it. I had expected this though, as turbulence is no surprise in DEN. As soon as the flight attendants were allowed to get up, the gentleman came by and handed out the survey and pencils. The survey was a four page scantron form. It was rather extensive. It covered more than just the cabin services, but asked for opinions on UA's website, call centers, check in, cabin services, ground agents, as well as more details including a description of myself. I filled it out. I was glad to see that UA cares about its levels of service and is taking data. I am not sure where this data would be used, but it is good to see effort. I am sure this happens on almost every carrier, but this was the first instance where I saw an airline actively soliciting opinions in ways other than the typical comment cards. The only thing I wished that the card has was a little space to write in opinions or suggestions. Everyone at Anet would love to give opinions on how UA could change or update its service.
Beverages came by eventually. It took them awhile. I would not have noticed, except the survey had a section on promptness of beverage/meal services. I had a diet pepsi as I wanted a bit of caffeine to wake myself up. I spent the rest of the 1hr 30min flight reading my text book for flight school as I am currently working on getting my private pilot license. The flight did hit a few bumps as we got close to Dallas. There were thunderstorms in the area, which are extremely common this time of year. Unfortunately channel nine was not working on this flight. I don't know if it was my headset, or if it was not turned on. I didn't really care to check though since I was busy reading and studying. I felt us go down, which was good. This was a rather uneventful flight with the exception of the surveys. I enjoyed it. We came in for a rather rough descent. We had a number of times when flight attendants struggled to stay on their feet as they were preparing the cabin for landing.
We came in for a landing in DFW. It was a rather hot and sunny day. We landed and made a very long taxi to the gate. DFW has some incredibly long taxi times. It was getting annoying. Eventually we made it to the B terminal and parked right next to a Lufthansa jet on its way to Germany. After getting up and out I left my survey with the flight attendant at the door. It was a straight shot to the exit where I was to meet a friend. Unfortunately she was delayed by traffic, so I had to wait. I watched the baggage claim and did some reading. DFW isn't that nice of an airport. It does not have enough windows and the color scheme is dark. Fortunately I headed outside into the extreme heat to meet my friend who works at Texas Instruments.
After spending two days in Dallas, I was off to the airport again. My friend took me from her apartment to the airport at 4:15 in the morning for the 6:00 am flight to Chicago. There were a lot of thunderstorms all night and lightening was visible all around us as we drove through the empty streets of Dallas. The drive was a rather quick one and I made my way into the ticketing lobby for UA. There was a long line of people waiting for the check in desks. I instinctively went right to the premier line and was served immediately. The agent though did tell me that I could have used easy check in. Apparently people were not using the machines and had just formed a long line. I didn't care though and went to security. There was no line at this early hour in the morning. The TSA agents were nice, and I walked over to the gate. It was a short walk. I tried to look around for a power plug for my laptop, but unfortunetly I could not find a single one in the vicinity of my gate. I popped out my laptop anyway to do a little trip report writing. At 5:40am they began the boarding. They also announced that it would be possible that we could get delayed because of thunderstorms, but they would board the E170 anyway.
June 5, 2005
United Airlines Express operated by Chautauqua
Dep: 6:00 AM Act: 7:35 AM
Arr: 8:09 AM Act: 9:30 AM
Embraer 170 Seat 4A
Load Factor 100%
Photo © Ryan C. Umphrey
They first boarded first class for the flight, and then allowed seating area one to board. I had them put a carry on baggage tag on my suit case in case that it would not fit in the overhead compartment. I had flown the E170 in November, but I had a different carry on suitcase then, so I was not sure if my new one would fit. I was greeted by an energetic male flight attendant and made my way past first class. I went to my seat which was in the economy plus section of the plane. I lifted my bag and was able to slide it into the overhead compartment. The bins on this flight were perfect. They just will fit a carry on bag of the maximum dimensions. I was quite happy and then took my window seat. I put my laptop bag under the seat in front of me. The plane filled up quickly as boarding did not take long on the E170. I love this plane. It is really comfortable with its leather seats. It feels plenty big and just as good as anything mainline. The 2 by 2 setup and the quicker boarding and deplaning make this a better plane than the 737 in my opinion. There is even a nice first class section that has the 1 by 2 configuration which means that there is a wonderful option of an aisle window seat available to passengers who upgrade.
The Economy Cabin in the ERJ 170
A Side View of the Economy Leather Seats
Once all the passengers were boarded the captain came on to announce that the ramp area was closed in DFW due to lightening strikes. There was a groan from all of the passengers in plane. We were all ready to go, but could not. They could not fuel the plane with the risk of lightening in the area.
I tried to catch some sleep as we waited. After about half an hour the captain came on again to say that he checked the radar and although there wasn't much lightening visible in the area of the plane, there was a tail developing on the edge of the thunderstorm and that sensors at the perimeter of the airport were still detecting a risk. By this time I wanted to get a bit of sleep, but it was cold. The seatbelt light was not on, so I jumped up to get a sweater. The air conditioning blowing directly on my head. The flight attendants passed out water to economy passengers while we waited. The captain continued to give us updates. Most of the plane was sleeping and wanting to leave, but we could not. The captain informed us that he did not want to let us get off the airplane because we were first in line to be fueled. We already had our baggage loaded and were ready to go. All around us other planes were ready to go as well, so if he let anyone off, those other planes would be fueled first. UA had seven airplanes on the ground. There were three flights with two to ORD and one to DEN along with an AC flight to YYZ in addition to four planes waiting at stands near the terminal. Eventually we did hear the announcement that the ramp area opened. It had already been one and a half hours. I head other people were starting to get frustrated since they knew that they would miss connections. When asked, the flight attendants had no information about connections and what to do. A few people did call up United reservations to get updates and switch their flights around. Finally though the fuel truck did make it to the gate and fueled us. We were finally about to get going. The fasten seat belt sign was turned on and we were ready to go. The flight attendants played the prerecorded safety demonstration while giving the demo. There were two flight attendants on our flight. A man served the six first class passengers, and then a lady served economy. Both were about thirty years old and provided good service to us.
We finally pushed back from the gate on our way to ORD. We made a speedy taxi to the runway in order to get off as soon as possible. I would have loved to listen to Ch. 9, but it is not offered on United Express. The captain warned us that it would be a rough takeoff, but hoped that the flight would smoothen out as we made it up to our cruising altitude of 33,000ft. Take off was a quick one on this little plane. There is a nice amount of thrust on this little jet. Soon after we lifted off, I reclined my seat and went to sleep. There were no pillows around, but I was tired enough not to need one. There were some scared faces on the passengers around me as we hit some moderate turbulence on climb out. We did not go right through the storm though.
I dozed in and out for the rest of the flight. I cannot remember them ever turning off the seatbelt light. It was a rather rough flight the entire way up to ORD. It took us just under two hours to make it. There was a beverage service on the flight. I liked the large windows of the E170 while I was awake. It was a turbulent flight, and I wonder how a larger plane would have handled it. I didn't care that much though, and didn't mind the delay since I was scheduled for a 2hr 50min layover in ORD anyway.
I woke up as we began our descent into ORD. It was a rather rough approach. We made a few turns and finally made our way towards the ground. Landing was actually rather smooth and we taxied over to concourse C. Almost instantly a number of passengers whipped out their cell phones as soon as we slowed on the runway. The flight attendant serving economy got on the intercom though and said that the E170 is a new airplane and has not been certified for cell phone use. We taxied over to C3. I remained in my seat for a while because I still had a long connection. I let the other people jump up and try to rush off the plan in hopes of catching their original flight, or making it to customer service early. I originally had dreaded the wait that I was forced to endure in ORD but it turned out to be a blessing.
June 5, 2005
Dep: 10:50 AM Act: 10:55 AM
Arr: 1:01 PM Act: 1:19 PM
Boeing 733 Seat 10A Exit Row
Load Factor 60%
Photo © Daniel Wojdylo
I grabbed a sausage biscuit at McDonalds before walking over to my gate for my continuation to DTW. When I got to the gate, there was a flight to Omaha boarding. Our plane was to come in at 10:17, which would force a rather quick turn on UA's part. Eventually the Omaha flight left, and our plane came in about two minutes late. They did get the people off quickly, and boarding commenced at 10:35am. I boarded with seating area one as normal and put my bag in the 737 bin. The one thing I like about the 737s is that they have slightly larger bins than the A320 and my bag can fit in wheels first, which is always good. I was happy again to see that no one was sitting next to me on this flight. The exit rows always seem to fill up last, which means they are wonderful places since you have more space to being with before other seats are left empty around you.
After the exit row briefing, the cabin door was closed. There were three nice flight attendants on this trip based out of Chicago and Boston I believe. They were all older, but still were just as energetic as the earlier Chautauqua crew. The safety dance was performed and we were pushed back. I was happy to have Channel 9 available on this flight. It was the first of my four flights that I had taken so far to have it. I listened as we taxied all the way across the airport. We ended up taxing by the international gates. It took a while, and even though we only left five minutes late, I knew that we were going to be arriving into DTW late even though we had a short 50 minute flight time.
The 737 take off was pretty standard. It was a little choppy, but there was no where near as much turbulence as I had experienced on the arriving flight on the E170. We made a climb up to 23,000ft and made a few interesting turns. We were on a heading of due north for a while. The first officer was working the communications for our flight. She acted like she either did not have much experience, or had never flown into DTW, because she missed a point that we were directed to and claimed it was not on our flight plan. Eventually though we were on track to DTW. The second that the captain turned off the fasten seat belt light, some light chop jolted the cabin. It was quite humorous as the light was switched right back on. We descended to 21,000ft and found some smooth air. The flight attendants tried to do a complete beverage service on this flight. It was nice even though we were on a short flight. They were just able to make it before we began descent. I don't think they would have been able to serve the entire cabin if the flight had been full.
We had a few bumps as we descended into a hot Detroit. It was a rather quick descent and we landed at the airport on its north side. We taxied by the new midfield terminal before making our way to the UA gates. I jumped up rather quickly as I noticed we were about 20 minutes late and I did not want to force my friends that were picking me up to wait. I walked into the terminal which was old and disgusting. I haven't been to the new terminal, but the UA gates were pretty horrible. There were low and dark ceilings and everything seemed dirty. Not a good airport at all! I made my way out the exit and went immediately into a disgustingly horrible baggage claim. I went to the bathroom that was disgusting and called my friends who apparently missed me as I went down the escalator to baggage claim. Though we did find each other and made our way to the car in the hot Detroit day. Overall it had been a long day of traveling so far. A nonstop flight on NW or AA would have been a lot nicer, but UA was cheaper.
After finishing up my conference in Detroit and spending a ninety degree day at the GM proving grounds, I headed over to the airport. I called up UA to check to see if there were earlier flights available since my conference ended a little early. I was told that all of the flights were full for the day, but I could stand by for earlier flights anyway. I had my ride drop me off at the disgusting Detroit airport at 3:15, which was a full three and a half hours before my scheduled flight. I went to the ticketing desk for premiers and was immediately served. The agent checked me in for my regularly scheduled flight, but listed me for standby on the earlier flight to Chicago. There were two late flights to ORD leaving 35 minutes apart.
I passed through security and entered the A gates at DTW. I looked around and the only food was Quiznos. I looked around for a power plug and eventually found one next to a flight that was departing for DEN. The flight to DEN was continuing on to SEA, so I decided to go up to the desk and ask if there was space available. I was told that the flight was full, but I could standby if I wanted to since there were delays througout the system. Unfortunately there were no flights with availability from DEN to SEA, which would mean that there would be a distinct chance that I could get stuck in DEN. I did not want to do that when I heard that weather in DEN wasn't that great. I decided to just wait for the ORD flights and hope to make it home as quickly as possible. While writing on my laptop I overheard some UA gate agents talking about some weather problems. They were saying that it was looking like the last flight (my flight) to ORD for the day might get cancelled, and that ORD is really looking bad. Delays were getting worse and worse. This definitely made me a little nervous. I wrote some stuff for a while before heading to Quiznos for some dinner. The terminal in DTW was not well air conditioned. It was 90 degrees outside and felt as if it were 80 inside. I tried to freshen up in the restroom, but that didn't work since it was just too hot and crowded. Also the terminal is old and dirty looking with inadequate seating in areas. It would be wonderful if the old NW gates could be demolished and turned into a nice new terminal for the rest of the airlines that serve Detroit.
I waited in line at Quiznos where the employees there were really bad and didn't care about customer service at all even though there was a long line, but I was hungry. I then headed to gate A3, which was to have both flights to ORD. I waited eagerly hoping to hear my name get called out as boarding time approached. The early flight to ORD landed and people disembarked. A huge crowd of people were waiting at this one gate, since it was scheduled to have four flights (one AC flight to YYZ, a UA flight to IAD, and the two ORD flights) leaving in the span of an hour. A large group ascended and I overheard that AA had to cancel one of their late flights into ORD, which put a large amount of people on standby for the United flights to ORD. I was extremely nervous at this point, because if I did not make it onto the earlier flight, then I might be forced to spend a night in Detroit, which I really did not want to nor could afford to do. Fortunately I heard my name get called and I pushed my way up to the counter. I found out that the flight I was originally scheduled on to ORD was cancelled. I checked on my laptop for reservations, and UA had booked me on a flight that left at 1:36 PM the next day, which I happily would not need. It is a really good thing that I am Premier Executive with UA because if I wasn't, then I probably would not have made the flight.
June 9, 2005
Flight 6853 Operated by Skywest
Dep: 7:45 PM Act: CANCELLED
Arr: 8:05 PM Act: CANCELLED
June 5, 2005
Flight 7170 Operated by Mesa
Dep: 6:55 PM Act: 7:15 PM
Arr: 7:15 PM Act: 8:38 PM
CRJ-700 Seat 15A
Load Factor 100%
Photo © Charin deSilva - CYOW Airport Watch
The massive crowd was growing restless when they finally called for boarding. They first boarded first class for the flight. Right when they boarded first class, the AC flight to YYZ arrived. Since they only had one staircase that could be used for the gate, boarding had to stop so that they could allow the Air Canada passengers to get off their plane. It was a huge mess at this point. After about 20 people got off that plane, boarding resumed. I boarded in the crowd of Seating Area 1 people. It looked like almost everyone on this flight was in seating area 1 and that there were a lot of premier members. I finally made it to the front and had a green tag placed on my bag. After walking down a staircase, I made it onto the ramp and handed over my bag. I walked up the stairs for the CR7 and went to the back. I had only flown the CR7 once and it was in first class. The seats up front are not bad at all, but the economy seats are the typical small CRJ seats. I found my row and stuffed my backpack under the seat. I don't think my rollaboard suitcase would have fit in this bin like it had in the E170. Overall the E170 is much better then the CR7 even though the two planes have the same capacity. In economy the E170 is better since it is wider and less claustrophobic. In first class it does not really make much of a difference. Also there is no economy plus on the CR7, but there is economy plus on the E170. I personally hope that more E170s join the fleet as I really like Chautauqua and the plane. However I still greatly prefer the CR7 over the CRJ-200. The CR7 at least has a first class cabin, two flight attendants, and better windows. The plane feels better, but it still is a small jet.
They had collected a lot of bags from people as they were boarding this flight. I would estimate that there were about 50 rollaboard suitcases that needed to be put in the cargo compartment, which held us up a bit. Finally we did get the main cabin door closed. The flight attendants then did their safety briefing. One flight attendant sat in the back and tried to add a few humorous elements to the briefing while the other flight attendant was running up and down the aisle doing each physical demo at three different points in the cabin (first class, front of economy, exit row of economy). I think the recording that Chautauqua uses is a lot more effective.
After the safety briefing, we head out towards the runway, but then we approach a NW DC9 that was stationary and then I hear an engine shut down. The captain then comes over the intercom to say that due to flow control, ATC has given us a one hour and fifteen minute hold on the ground. Everyone on the plane grumbles while the captain then says that he is in communication with operations to see if they want to have us deplane, or if we should wait and hope for an earlier slot. The flight attendants then jump up and pass out water to people. Fortunately after about ten minutes the captain comes on and says that we would be able to get out a little earlier and that ATC had given us clearance for a 7:45 PM departure. Everyone on the plane sighs in relief as most people would have missed their scheduled connections with the long delay. While we are sitting there and I am reading my private pilot text book, a strong thunderstorm cell passes over the airport. It starts pouring outside (it was a good thing that we had boarded the plane when we did!) and there is thunder and lightening. It looks like DTW was undergoing a ground stop of its own as the cell passed by. Right when we started up our engine, the weather lightened up and I saw a NW A330 gracefully lift up into the sky. We begin to taxi to the east end of the field for takeoff behind a line of DC9s. We stopped for a few minutes, and then make an awkward U turn. We then taxi back past the gates, and past the midfield terminal towards the west end of the airport. The captain comes on again to notify us that they just had to switch around the runways due to changing wind directions associated with the thunder cell. We get in line again and make our way towards the runway. The captain calls for the flight attendants to be seated, and we then enter the runway and then engines spool up. Just as we start to launch down the runway, I hear the engine thrust decrease. We abort the takeoff and then pull to the side. The plane taxis to an open area and I hear an engine shut down again. The captain then comes on to say that just as we got take off clearance, we had our flight path closed for the short flight to ORD. He informed us that the cockpit was in contact with operations again, and that we would try to work something out. We did not have any information on when we would be able to finally leave. While we waited about thirty minutes on the empty stand, I did see a few NW planes make their way off the runway.
It looked like everything was pretty disastrous at the airport. A lot of NW planes were just sitting and waiting too. Weather and operations across the country were not good. One of my friends that was flying to STL on NW that night had her flight cancelled. Finally I hear the engine start again just as the captain tells us that we are ready to go. He apologizes for all of the inconveniences that we had endured. By now we had been on this plane for 90 minutes while we were getting a scenic tour of DTW's entire ramp area. That was just about enough CRJ for me now, and the flight had not even started yet.
We waited for a bit in line before finally making our way to the runway for take off attempt number two. The engines spooled up again and this time we were off. The take off role was nice and fast. We lifted off to some huge bumps. The air was hot, humid and unstable which does not make for a smooth flight. We gradually turned to the north and then westward for our way to ORD. I was extremely happy to be in the air. The flight attendant came on and made the obligatory remarks, but then said that due to the short duration of the flight, there would be no beverage service. I found that they did not even off water because on the 737 flight over, the flight attendants were able to do a full beverage service. I guess this is a Mesa policy. So we got one glass of water for our two hours on the plane. Eventually we leveled off up at altitude for the short flight to ORD. We were never given a flight time for the flight. I was reading my private pilot text book all the while and looking at the wing too. It was fun to read about how exactly flaps work while watching them deploy.
We started a bit of a descent right around where we crossed the shoreline of lack Michigan. By this time we were going really slowly. The pilot then came on and said that we were in a holding patter for ORD. Unfortunately we would not be able to hold this pattern for more than a few minutes. The combination of all the taxing and waiting in DTW along with the slow flight and holding pattern that we experienced resulted in us running low on fuel. The pilot said that he would try his hardest to get us into Detroit, but unfortunately we would probably have to divert to our alternate airport to get some fuel which was Milwaukee. Everyone on the plane got very livid when he said this. We had all suffered in a cramped CRJ and were not getting refreshements just to be told that we would have to wait more since we were headed to MKE. I just laughed inside and was exhausted. I didn't really care at that point, and thought it might be interesting to visit MKE since I had never diverted in a flight and had never been to Wisconsin. The pilot then came on and said that we would be giving ORD a chance. He claimed that some magic had been worked and that we could get into ORD. This pilot seemed to like giving us the worst case scenario and then telling us it wouldn't be as bad, which made it seem like the things were not too bad. We made our descent over the lake and then made our approach into ORD. We had been flying extremely slowly at this point. The weather in Chicago was not that bad as we approached from the west. We then made it closer to ORD and finally touched down near the UA terminal. I think the people were ecstatic that this flight was coming to an end. Just as we turned off the runway, the man behind my seat called someone in DTW on his cell phone. He found out that the flight that I had originally been booked on did get cancelled and that flights for the next day were already full. It seemed like a bus was trying to be organized to get people to ORD. I was so happy that I made this flight and considered it good luck since I made it to ORD without diverting to MKE and around the same time that I was originally scheduled to make it.
We taxied to gate C3 and people jumped up in a rush to get off the plane. I had a confirmed ticket on the 10:00 PM flight to SEA, but realized that there probably would be an earlier flight still there. I was listed on standby for the 8:30 flight, and even though it was 8:40, I wanted to get off the plane to see if I could make it since I was fearful that the last flight to SEA would be cancelled. As I exited, there was a huge crowd on the jetbridge. UA uses gates in the C concourse for its 70 seat jets. This is good since T2 is a miserable place, but the bad thing is that it is difficult to get bags that are gate checked. There was a huge line of people waiting to get the 50 rollaboard suitcases that were loaded in DTW. The E170s fortunately do not have this problem since the overhead bins are larger.
I looked at the television monitors and saw that the 8:30 flight to SEA was delayed until 9:30, which would give me plenty of time to make it if I could get the seat. I noticed humongous lines in front of every United airlines customer service agent. People were missing flights left and right and there was a constant stream of pages on the intercom telling people to go from one gate to another in order to not miss a flight. When I made it to C23, there was no room to sit. I took a seat on the floor next to the moving sidewalk and waited. I was exhausted after a long week and just sat there and stared blankly at people. The incoming flight was supposed to arrive from Baltimore at 9:00. I was doubtful that the plane would be leaving at 9:30 since there is no way that UA can turn a 757 around that fast. I checked to see when the 10pm flight that I was originally booked on would leave and it was showing a 10:30pm departure and was delayed too. I went back to my uncomfortable perch on the floor and tried to hear the inaudible announcements coming from the gate. There were so many people making noise and every gate was announcing delays, immediate departures, arrivals and whatnot. I heard a few people begin to get called up for the flight to SEA. I then called my family in SEA and told them that I was going to be late, and did not know how late I would be, but fortunately I made it on a flight out of DTW. While I was on the phone I heard my name get called. I went up to the agent and received a boarding pass with seat 13E printed on it. I was ecstatic to get on the plane. The good thing was that it was economy plus which would allow me to sleep better since I am 6ft. The bad news was that it was a middle seat, but since I am rather thin, it wasn't too big of a deal.
June 9, 2005
Dep: 10:00 PM Act: 11:00 PM
Arr: 12:16 AM Act: 1:38 AM
June 9, 2005
Dep: 8:30 PM Act: 10:05 PM
Arr: 10:43 PM Act: 12:26 PM
Boeing 757 Seat 13E
Load Factor 100%
Photo © Matthew Wallman
I joined the mass of people that were forcing their way in order to get as close as possible to the door in hopes of getting on the plane fast. They began to board first class at 9:20. I then boarded with Seating Area 1 like normal. Most of the flight consisted of business travelers with large suitcases, so I knew I would have to fight if I wanted to get my bag on this plane too. I know many people claim that it is really bad and selfish for people to carry all of their stuff on with them and stuff it in the overhead compartments, but I think it is necessary. If I had not carried all of my stuff with me, there would be a good chance that I would not have been cleared as a standby for the earlier flight in DTW, and thus would still be waiting in that horrible airport. Even if I did get cleared onto the flight, there still would be a good chance that my bag would not be on the same plane as me and could have ended up in ORD, DTW, MKE or anywhere else that I wasn't.
I was happy to be able to board the plane and get out of the mess that the ORD terminal was. As I entered there were a lot of people trying to stow their stuff. The one bad thing with economy plus is that it concentrates the business travelers that tend to have bigger suitcases in one section. I made it to my seat and found space for my bag. I then watched as other people around me tried to force their bags in the bins. Some were not that lucky and had to have their stuff gate checked which resulted in an even longer delay. As people filed into the plane I dozed in and out as I was just plain exhausted. We finally had the main cabin door closed. I wished that there was a closed near that door since it would help with all of the bags that had to be gate checked since there were so many rollaboard suitcases. The safety demonstration was played as we pushed back. We then waited for a bit though. The captain came on and said that there were some more bags found for our flight, so they held us up right their before we started up the engines. I fell asleep then and did not notice what was going on. It would have been fun to listen to ATC though. ATC in Chicago when there are weather delays can be fun and entertaining.
I woke up when we began our takeoff roll at 10:45. We blasted off. It was a smooth lift off. I reclined my seat soon after as the flight attendants talked about the flight. Scheduled flight time would be 3hrs 43min but the pilots would try to cut that down if possible. I then fell asleep again. The legroom in economy plus is nice and recline is pretty good for economy. I don't know if recline in economy