My mom had work to do in Orlando on Friday and Saturday, so the plan was for us to meet her on Saturday afternoon. This is where the fun began... the flight search! My siblings' flight plans, along with my own, were entirely in my hands. I could take us anywhere to get to Orlando. DTW, PHL, MSP, MEM, ATL, CVG, CLT, EWR, oh yeah... and ORD. After searching through many options, my mom and I finally agreed that this itinerary looked the best (mostly because of the timing): CMH-ORD-MCO on United Express/Ted. Coming back we would be on the same flight my mom was on: MCO-CMH, a non-stop on a DL Connection ERJ. Being on three different "carriers" on one trip made it a nice variety of some U.S. airlines. Add to it my first E170 and Ted flight and this trip was going to be pretty exciting!
Saturday, July 9, 2005
United Express flight 7731, operated by Chautauqua Airlines
Depart: Port Columbus International, OH (CMH)
Arrive: Chicago O'Hare, IL (ORD)
Departure time (actual): 6:00am (5:55am)
Arrival time (actual): 6:14am (6:00am)
Departure gate: B28
Arrival gate: C8
Equipment: Embraer 170, N664RW
Load factor: 85%
Crew (bonus feature): Captain Weatherhead, First Officer Manis; FAs Tiffany and Katie
Photo © Bruce Leibowitz
(this is N647RW; there is no picture of N664RW currently in database)
I pulled out of the driveway at about 4:20am with my brother, sister, and neighbor all riding along. Yes, we added another passenger... well, at least for the car ride. Our 13-year-old neighbor and his family were also flying out of CMH on Saturday morning, going CMH-DFW-SNA on AA.
We made it to CMH in the usual 20 minutes and headed for Thrifty Airport Parking. We were met there by a friendly attendant who rode shotgun with us up to the terminal. He explained to us about his recent streak of Honda customers that he had... pretty interesting. Anyway, we unloaded from the car and took our few bags with us into the terminal.
There was a large group, I believe a church, just inside the doors. We navigated around them and over to the United counter. There was a decent group lined up for international/paper ticket check-in and for those e-ticketers checking bags. The carry-on-only EasyCheck-in kiosks were empty, however, so we stepped on up. I plugged in my Mileage Plus number and we had our reservation up on the screen. I looked at the seats and checked to see if anything could be changed. On the ORD-MCO leg, we were slated to be in the last row of Ted's A320. The only other open seats were in Economy Plus. I decided not to pay the $43 (not like I could have if I wanted to) to upgrade. So, we printed....... well, not quite. Something was wrong with the kiosk we were using and it could not print our boarding passes. So, we had to use the other EasyCheck-in kiosk for carry-on passengers and print our boarding passes from there.
After checking in, we waited some more for our neighbors, who were checking in at AA. They met up with us and we all walked down to security together. We had our boarding passes checked and my ID checked and then went through the security line with ease. They did have to re-scan my big carry-on bag, probably because it had my video camera and digital still camera in it.
We continued on past the YX and DH gates in the B concourse. I hadn't been through the B concourse in a while and it is really depressing to see all the unmarked, empty gates that were once busy with HP travelers. Only one gate remains with HP titles, although they still use two (B23 and B25) at CMH.
We walked down to our gate, B28, and said goodbye to our neighbors as they went down further to the AA gates.
I checked out the window and there was our beautiful E170 jet sitting in the darkness.
To my left, was a Southwest plane... and another and another. They were using the vacant B gates to RON a 737. In all, there were 6 WN planes RONing out on the ramp. It looks like WN is continuing to have a pretty good-sized operation out of CMH.
After using the restroom and buying a newspaper, I returned to the gate area to wait for boarding. At 5:45am, boarding began with Areas 1&2. That was done quickly and areas 3&4 were called up. I got in line and watched my boarding pass go through the reader and out the other side (a little smaller than when it entered). I then made a left turn and down through the jetway.
We were greeted by Tiffany, and what a treat it was! Now, I've seen and heard about some good-looking FAs before, but Tiffany would be very tough to top. I didn't want to, but I continued back to row 12. No problem, though. There was yet another incredibly hot blonde FA handling the back galley. Was I on Hooters Air? No, just good old UAX! I finally forced my eyes off the FA and tried collect myself.
I put my bigger bag up top and discovered it fit nicely in the 170's overhead compartment. The plane seemed to be just a larger version of the 145 on the inside, with an extra 20 seats and much higher ceiling. It was definitely much more accomodating to the tall traveler than the 145. The leather seats were very comfortable, similar to the 145. With the higher ceiling, the cabin was overall a lot more spacious than the 145.
My brother got the window and my sister the aisle on the left side of the plane. I had to settle for the aisle on the right with a older woman in the window seat. Not the greatest seatmate, she made really loud and over-emphasized sighs... good thing the flight was less than an hour. The door was closed at 5 'til 6 and we pushed back moments later.
We backed up past 2 UA 737's, a UA ERJ, and an AC Dash 8 that were parked at gate B29... a pretty busy gate. A few DL Connection ERJ's passed us by on their way to runway 28R. We followed their path and made a short taxi to the runway.
We turned onto 28R and immediately sped down the runway. The 170's powerful takeoff was pretty fun and we were up in the air quickly. We basically continued straight ahead after takeoff. We had to turn to the north a little to head towards ORD. We cruised for about 30 minutes before descent began. There was no drink service (except for F class) on this short hop. Probably good, because I would have been so nervous talking to the FAs that I would have spilled my drink on my pants.
We were treated to a gorgeous view of the FA.... uhhh, I mean downtown Chicago as we came in right over Lake Michigan. The captain made some nice left turns to give us an even better view.
We started final approach to ORD and came down over the railyard on 27L. We quickly escaped from the runway and taxied around the E and F concourses to park at gate C8.
We deplaned and I thanked the captain for the great approach on my way out. We walked out into a pretty quiet concourse C at ORD. After all, it was Saturday morning before 6am. We headed for the underground walkway to take us to the B gates. We watched the light show above us as we walked under the ramp. We made a left turn once we were out of walkway and did some more walking. We went down to the end of B concourse and walked into the home of Ted.
United Airlines flight 1518, operated by Ted
Depart: Chicago O'Hare, IL (ORD)
Arrive: Orlando International, FL (MCO)
Departure time (actual): 6:50am (6:54am)
Arrival time (actual): 10:22am (10:21am)
Departure gate: B19
Arrival gate: 40
Equipment: A320, N442UA
Load factor: 100%
Photo © Art Brett
There was no mistaking it: orange signs, crowded seating areas, a bunch of kids, and "Ted" plastered all over everywhere.
Yep, we had left the Uni behind and were left with ted. Of course, all of the seats were taken in the gate area, so we sat on a grate across from the gate.
My brother and sister went to get something to eat while I stayed and watched the bags. We sat around for another 10 minutes before they began to board the flight. They started with Area 1, then went to 2, and we were up as they called 3. We had our boarding passes thrown into the reader by a stone-faced agent and proceeded to board.
Two FAs were up front, pounding away at a bag of ice, and therefore unable to greet any passengers. There was, however, a very friendly FA standing in about row 15 greeting the regular economy pax... so much for EconomyPlus! We ducked into row 26 as we couldn't go any further back or we'd be in the galley.
The rest of the plane filled up and I discovered my free headphones in my seat pocket. Two of them, actually. I plugged one set in... no sound. I tried the next.... no sound. I tried a third pair..... nothing. At this point, I'm really regretting forgetting my own headphones at my house. I finally determined it was not the headphones, but the audio system in my seat that was causing the problems. Take note: If you want to listen to audio on a Ted flight that's on N442UA, avoid seat 26F.
The flight deck briefed us on the weather situation down south as we prepared to pushback. They said once we got into the state of Florida things could get bumpy due to "Dennis the Menace." However, they said, it looked like the hurricane was going to be far enough west to not cause any major problems.
Pushback was a bit late, not sure exactly why. Another Ted Airbus was pulling away from B20 at the same time.
We started a taxi that took us around the "back" of ORD. We crossed over the road leading to the terminal, around the L and K concourses, and over to 22L.
We waited for an MQ CRJ to land on 27L and then we were off and running down 22L. We continued to soar towards cruising altitude (which I do not believe was ever announced).
In a few minutes, the friendly FA came around offering snack boxes. We definitely passed and it appears many others did as well. I don't think Ted's boxes of food&fun were too popular on this flight. A little later, the drink service came back, which included Biscoffs. I decided to start my hydrating for Florida so I got a water.
I continued to write my trip report on my laptop during most of the cruise.
As we flew over Georgia, Captain Dome came on and again warned of turbulence. Towering clouds were seen out the window, as I had the view to the west. The captain told the FAs to be seated early and they did not get up again until we were at the gate.
The weather did not turn out to be that bad on our approach. Some fairly light shaking took place as we lowered through the clouds.
In just a few more minutes, we touched down on 18R in a soggy MCO.
We made a left turn off the runway and had a short taxi to gate 40. It took a while for us to get off from the last row. Once we made it to the front, we said our goodbyes to the captain and the FAs. We trekked up the jetway and then towards ground level. Our aircraft was turning around (rather slowly) for an 11:50 flight back to ORD.
Ground service (1/5): CMH CSR's, although we did not deal with them directly, had a sloppy appearance. The broken kiosk at CMH (actually I think it just ran out of boarding pass paper) doesn't help either. Ted CSR's in ORD were unhappy and unfriendly. The gate agent at CMH at least gave us a "hello".
In-flight service (3/5): Great crew on the CMH-ORD leg gets two points... can't forget those friendly (and hot!) FAs. There was at least one friendly and helpful Ted FA, so she earns them a point. The broken audio system in my seat was annoying.
The flying! (5/5): Another great job by the pilots on the CMH-ORD leg... a nice takeoff and great approach. I really enjoyed by first E170 flight! Ted's pilots were up against a major hurricane, so it's tough to knock them. I think they did a great job getting the plane down as smoothly as possible. Early arrivals on both legs help to earn UA a perfect score in this category.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Delta Connection Flight 6283
Depart: Orlando International, FL (MCO)
Arrive: Port Columbus International, OH (CMH)
Departure time (actual): 9:00pm (9:00pm)
Arrival time (actual): 11:15pm (11:14pm)
Departure gate: 60M
Arrival gate: C53
Equipment: ERJ-145LR, N274SK
Load factor: 40%
Crew: Captain Jeremy, First Officer Tom (last names were too hard to even guess at), FA Diane
Photo © Matt Coleman
Photo © Justin Idle
After a less-than-stellar few days around the Orlando tourist traps, I was really looking forward to heading back to the airport. The flying would turn out to be the best part of this trip. I think I am growing old of the theme parks and am not really planning on returning to Orlando for vacation for a long time.
Ok, enough of my whining, on to the flight.
Because there was really not much else to be done at Universal Studios, we left from the park pretty early to get to MCO. We pulled out of Universal at about 6:15pm and were at rental car return around 6:45. We made our way from the garage up to level 3 of the terminal.
Delta's check-in counter was near the end of the hall, so we walked some more until we met up with a DL kiosk. It was a bit harder to access my reservation on Delta's self-service machines than on United's -- but I can only blame myself for that. I didn't have my SkyMiles number with me, and, unfortunately, I don't have any credit cards, so I wasn't sure what to do. Alas, a DL CSA comes to my rescue. He informs me that I can use my driver's license to retrieve my flight information. Sure enough, up came my name on the screen. The agent continued to walk me through check-in like a baby, which I inwardly detested. Our boarding passes printed out and my bag tag was applied in a short manner. I handed it over to the TSA folks for the inspection.
With two hours still left until departure of our flight, we decided to just get the security check over with and head towards the gate area. Security lines were light, which would be expected for 7pm on a Tuesday. No problems going through for myself or the rest of my family.
We boarded the trams to take us on over to our gate. This airside had all-glass doors on the tram stations. It's a minor detail, but it made this side of the airport look a lot better than the United/Ted side we came in on.
We decided to get dinner at the ramp-side Outback Steakhouse in the concourse. The host gave us a great table by the windows that overlook the Delta ramp and runways at MCO. A lot of WN arrivals, as well as some B6 and FL. The highlight, though, had to be the VS 744 rotating right in front of our table! I took a walk while waiting for my food to come. The Delta gates were pretty quiet at this time. There were a couple flights leaving for Atlanta around 8pm and a few Song flights arriving/departing. There was also a YX flight boarding for MKE.
After dinner, we headed down to the basement with the rest of the Delta Connection pax at gate 60. Although there were actually 14 (I think) different boarding gates, there didn't seem to be that many people waiting for flights. It seemed to pretty slow tonight as it was a Tuesday. I thought the DL Connection operation they had was pretty decent down at gate 60. They had a number of different boarding doors to keep things from getting backed up and the flights were running on-time.
They had clear displays of where each flight would be departing from and where it was going. The only problem was the constant static from the TV that was going on for about 15 minutes. But, the DL CSA's apologized and had it under control quickly.
After taking some pictures from ground level, I returned to wait for boarding.
At about 8:40pm, DL 6283 began to board. The agent welcomed everyone on this light-load on board at the same time. I was fourth in-line to board, had my boarding pass scanned, and then asked a strange question I hadn't heard in about 5 years: "Are you older than 12?" She had to be joking, I thought. But nope, no laughs, she was sure that I looked nowhere near 17. The best part was, she didn't even ask my 11-year-old brother or my 13-year-old sister the question. I'm sure she was thinking about some UM rule.
Anyway, we continued on down the hallway on our way to the M portion of gate 60. I really liked the setup once again. They had clearly marked doorways where each flight was leaving from and big windows which gave you a great view of all the RJ's close-up.
We made it down to the end of the hall and made a left turn for our ERJ-145. Just as I got outside, I got out my camera and got a picture of the jet.
Two rampers were close by and offered to take my picture on the steps of the ERJ. I declined, but was amazed at how friendly and relaxed they were. Usually when I board from the ground, the ramp guys are very uptight and guarded. At EWR, I was yelled at while trying to take a pic outside of a CO ERJ. This was great to have some freedom to enjoy my time out on the ramp.
I continued across the ramp and then up the stairs and into the 145. I was greeted by Diane, our FA. I immediately noticed how different this ERJ was from most others I've flown on. The big difference: it was older and had more wear and tear. The armrests had scratch marks all over them and the seats did not look as clean. The USX and COX jets I've been on recently had been in perfect condition so it was different to see an ERJ a little battered.
I took my seat, 8C, and soon realized there would be plenty of seats open on the "A" side, so I decided to switch sides. I took over seat 8A and looked out the window as we waited to be pushed back.
The flight deck came on and greeted us. They told us they were expecting a fairly smooth flight and an on-time departure, which was all good news.
Right at 9:00pm, we began to move back off our stand. We began our taxi around the entire Delta concourse and by WN's gates as well. We were number 2 in line for takeoff, behind a DL 763. After the mainliner took off, we lined up on the runway for a couple minutes. After sitting on 17R for two minutes, we began our roll and the wheels came up at 9:17pm. I had a great view out my window of MCO as we left. All those lights sure are pretty!
We continued to climb out of Florida and, as we did, Diane started the beverage and snack service. This was done rather quickly due to the lack of passengers. I had a orange juice and was generously handed 3 packs of peanuts to go with it.
After the snacks and drink, I pulled out my laptop to start writing. Looking out my window, I could still see some faint light to the west and many flashing lights from airliners all over the sky. It was a cool twilight view; unfortunately, it was too dark to get a good picture.
There were some random bumps during cruise, but it was mostly smooth.
At about 10:58pm, the flight deck officially announced descent into CMH. They estimated we would be on the ground in about 12 minutes. They apologized for it not being the smoothest ride, which was nice of them to acknowledge.
Our approach basically took us over the eastern side of Columbus. Since we came in from the south, all we had to do was swing out to the east a little and line up for runway 28R.
Touchdown on 28R was rather abrupt and we used most of the runway before we turned to the left to taxi. We were welcomed back home at 11:10pm by our CMH-based flight crew... you don't hear that one too often!
We parked on the Delta ramp, next to another RP ERJ, at gate C53. We quickly were off the plane and I turned around to take one final picture of this trip.
I finally left the ramp, went up the stairs, and into concourse C. I hadn't been in this concourse since they renovated it a few years ago, so I took a look around. The new Delta area looks really nice. Big, wide seating areas and good-looking gate podiums. A DL 738 from ATL touched down outside on 28R as I left the gate area. I went down to claim by bags and then left the terminal to go get my car and that just about did it for this trip.
Delta Connection/RP grades:
Ground service (4/5): The CSA at check-in was pretty helpful when I didn't have a way to bring up by reservation. However, after that he treated me like a was an idiot and showed me how to do every other step, which I already knew... not a big deal though. The gate agent really mystified me when she asked if I was older than 12! C'mon lady, have you ever seen a teenager? (-1) The rampers who offered to take my picture in MCO were a nice surprise too!
In-flight service (4/5): Diane did a great job, although it was pretty easy with a load of just 40%. The 3 packs of peanuts were really fun! The flight deck probably could have kept us better updated on the sometimes-shaky flight (-1).
The flying! (4/5): Some of this shaking could have been prevented, but it was nothing bad at all and it's hard to predict. Takeoff was great, but landing could have been smoother (-1).
Thanks for reading and please write any questions, comments, or corrections (cause I know I screwed something up)!