Finally it was that time of the summer for me to head over to the states for my vacation again with my girlfriend to stay with her parents in the mid-west, but we decided to pick up a week on the west coast with her relatives before heading to the mid-west. This trip had been booked for over 3 months after doing a couple of Weeks research on prices and dates.
I wanted to travel Star Alliance and preferable BD/UA, with BD dropping the A330 from its IAD route, my only option was through ORD which I have never done flown with them, I have been to IAD with BD, and ORD with AA.
Eventually the best price, by along way was found through the united airlines website here in England.
When booking the route, I also wanted to try and pick up a few more FF miles than the straight forward routing would get me, although this didn't happen on the outward leg.
At last August the 17th came, I got up @ 5.20 in the morning to make the 75min drive from my house to Manchester. At 6.15 we were on the road and at 7.30 we were at terminal 1 making our way to check in. I had wanted to get there for about 7 to avoid having to queue for to long to check in.
As we made our way into the terminal building the queue at BD's check in desks was already long, when we joined there were about 20people waiting to go through the security checks and the line beyond the security checks was already full back to the security points.
Eventually we made it to the front, and were asked the usual security questions, although the lady who was doing it had a trainee with her and was very slow and thorough doing it, much to the dismay of the lady behind us in the queue. Everytime, the security lady tried to show the trainee something simple, the woman interjected, which caused some raised voices and dirty looks.
Bmi had 3 flights checking in today, and they all looked pretty full, Barbados, Chicago and Washington.
Finally when we made it to the front of the check in queue the lady, who was very pleasant said she would book us all the way through to Oakland. Although the check in process took a while as United had changed our flight time and number for the ORD-OAK. When I asked her about this being a full flight, she said "not a spare seat for me to move you to I'm afraid, and I couldn't get on this flight if I wanted to!" Eventually we were set with boarding cards and window seats assigned (24A&C for the transatlantic flight and 20E&F for the internal), we headed for breakfast and then the departure lounge.
Breakfast & Security were a breeze, although my girlfriend managed to leave a bag at the security point, and we were half way through duty free before she realized.
Our gate was already on the board, Gate 29, so we headed to the far end of the pier on terminal one, I was hoping for G-WWBD, as I think the livery is awesome, and as we wandered down towards the gate, I saw the familiar two tone tail of either BB or BM taxiing out to 24L for its departure to Barbados, so I knew there was a 50/50 chance of getting G-WWBD for our trip. Sure enough, she was there being loaded as we sat down to wait for boarding.
The gate area was absolutely heaving, with a TCX flight to Rhodes, and another charter operator heading out to Palma, both those flights commenced boarding shortly before we did.
(I took this photo last time I flew to the states in March.There screens up in T1 didn't give me any decent angles for a photo.)
Eventually our flight was called for boarding, and we headed into a little screened off area around gate 29, where my girlfriend was selected for pat down, and having your bag routed through. After that we just kind of sat in this area as they boarded Elite FF's and then people needing assistance. They then boarded by sections, eventually we were called, and we headed towards the gate, grabbed the complimentary paper and bottle of water and headed down the jetway to the aircraft.
Flight number: BD705/UA4821 to Chicago O'Hare
Departure Gate: 29
Departure Runway: 24L
Reg: G-WWBD - Star Alliance livery
Seats: 24A&C Economy
Load Factor 100%
Scheduled departure time: 11.05
Actual departure time: 11.20
Wheels up: 11.27
Est. Flight time: 8hrs 15mins
Actual Flight time: 7hours 58mins
Scheduled Arr. time: 13.20 local (19.20GMT)
Actual Arr. time: 13.03 local
Arrival Runway: 9R
Arrival gate: M15
UA FF miles awarded: 3,814miles
We were met at the door, by two very friendly and polite stewardesses who pointed us down the first aisle. Once at our seats, we grabbed everything we were going to need for the flight ; books, camera, water, sweets and jumper. Then we settled down.
I went straight for the IFE and put on the pilots eye view and watched as the got the tug ready to push us back from the gate.
I also took a couple of shots of the TCX 752 that was pushed back from the gate and then towed back in with what appeared to be some sort of a problem, as 3 guys came with a set of step ladders and set about working under the right engine, if you look in one of the photo's you can see the bottom of the ladders. Although I think I was more impressed with the sleek look of the wing on our aircraft.
After taking those shots, the flight attendants came round with menu's for today's flight.
Just as I had put my camera away, I saw the BD757 for the IAD flight being towed in from the remote parking opposite T2, but couldn't get my camera out fast enough to take the picture.
The captains welcomed us onboard, yep, two captains, Capt Q and Capt M on the flight deck, I don't want to use their names out of repsect for them, im sure they don't want their names over the net without their consent.
Once we were pushed back, they started the safety demo, the flight steward on our side of the aircraft was a nice guy, he was older than the other male steward's on the flight but he seemed enthusiastic about his job, that was until he spotted a fly buzzing around in the cabin, and took to swatting at it, much to his satisfaction, and the amusement of a few passengers. Once the safety demo was done, I went straight back to the view from the flight deck, and watched as we approached the crossing point of Runway 24R, we had no wait to cross, and with no traffic taxiing in front of us headed straight to the end of 24L, I thought they would have reverted back to single runway operations by now, but obviously not.
We taxied straight into position, and held for a couple of seconds. Then the RR's powered up and we went thundering down the runway.
We rotated about 3/4 the way down, and it was a fairly steep climbout, especially considering the full load of passengers, and I'm guessing a fair amount of cargo, I did see them loading some.
The climb was steep and we took an right turn and headed out towards Liverpool
Our cruising altitude for the majority of the flight was going to be @ 37,000 traveling at 540mph/868kmh.
After we had leveled out the first drinks service came round.I took a coke and some nibbles. Full cans were given out with the small packet of snack mix.
Our route today would take us out over Liverpool, Ireland, Greenland, Canada, Thunder Bay, Lake Michigan and down into Chicago.
The IFE had mainly mediocre films on, but I did choose to watch Madagascar, which is good fun, although not quite up there with Shrek and Finding Nemo.
That was the only thing that I was really interested in watching. About 2 hours into the flight lunch was served, which was really nice.
I had the Herby Chicken and a coke to wash it down with, very nice, and the ice cream as a dessert was delicious. Bmi really do have a excellent food.
As usual the wait for the f/a's to finish serving right to the back of the cabin and then do the hot drinks run! One kid across from me decided that he would take his tray to the toilet with him, with all the rubbish on it and cup, that is used again. When he returned, his tray was empty, I mean nothing on it at all. So he had either binned the lot in the rubbish bin in the toilet, flushed it down the toilet, or had gone into the toilet to hide his fetish for eating everything, and I mean everything, and the kid looked like he was capable of eating anything!
Can people not wait 10minutes with their tray table down for everyone to get some service? I don't know what the kid did with the stuff,and I probably don't want to, but some people just aren't fit to be let out!
Eventually the f/a's came round and collected the rubbish.
After lunch I settled down into my book and intermittently gazed out of the window.
The flight attendants retired to the galleys to relax and they weren't seen for a while other than going into the toilets to refresh the paper and I guess check them over. I eventually got upto use the restroom, which wasn't a problem as my girlfriend was my seatmate, rather than have to wake some stranger who was in a deep sleep. After using the toilet, I decided to stretch my legs, so I wandered to the curtain between the "new economy cabin" and stuck my head through to find it full, not a spare seat to be seen, i then turned around and headed to the back of the economy cabin. The galley back there is enormous, I didn't realize how far I went back, but I guess they have got to keep all the food somewhere. There were two of the attendants sat having a sandwich, so I apologized for interrupting them and headed back to my seat.
The flight itself was relatively smooth until we got over Canada, when we hit some light turbulence. This was the only time that the seat belt sign was on for the whole flight, other than take off and landing.
It was time to fill in the documentation for immigration and customs, as usual I got it wrong!! So I used the call button and when the f/a came I explained, and he said they would be round later, I tried to say I would like one now, but she was gone already. I knew they would be round later on with the forms, after the snacks, but that means I have to spend valuable time filling it in, when I could be looking out the window and taking photo's.
The rest of the flight was fairly quiet, a few screams from the babies on board, but nothing too bad.
I played on the games on the IFE to pass a some time, mainly Mario Golf for the old gameboy, and a quick game of baseball.
It was then about 90mins until landing, so the attendants came round with the usual snack that I have become accustomed to on BMI, pizza! It is very good aswell, although I do have to pick the olives off. The option was Ham or Vegetarian, which was cheese and tomato. I took the Ham and ate it in about 2minutes flat. There was also a fudge brownie with it, which was very nice, but far too sweet for me to manage to finish it.
After the f/a's had cleaned up the head stewardess came round with the immigration forms, I asked her for one, and then asked about getting a look in on the flight deck on arrival, she said she would ask once we were on the ground, as we were already on our descent. I had my fingers crossed.
I did the formalities of filling out the forms and gazed out of the window as we started to descend through the scattered cloud. We were about 100miles from ORD at this point.
Eventually as the speed was low enough the air brakes were deployed to, slow us up more and increase our descent.
Once we broke through the scattered cloud, I could see downtown Chicago out of my window, the O'hare came into view up ahead, we flew past it and I looked at all the UA aircraft, both old and new colours present, I could see parked at their gates, and the bright sunlight reflecting off of the AA aircraft. I saw a couple of aircraft departing as we flew by.
It was time to switch the IFE to the pilots view. I jumped between gazing out of the window and looking at the pilots view. The last of the UA aircraft on the ground vanished out of site we made a short right turn, and then leveled out, then a long left turn, which I guessed meant we were on our finals. As far as I could tell we had no major holding at all. Sure enough the Runway was dead centre on the IFE screen, the descent had so far been very smooth. As we approached I caught another shot out of the window. The flaps were set for landing.
The runway numbers were clearly visible on the screen in front now, 9R, just then I caught a glimpse of an aircraft crossing our runway on its departure, it was a Korean 777 departing off 32L. I caught a picture of it as it headed further down the runway. Not a great pic.
We were almost on the runway by this point, the numbers were just about to go under the nose.
We hit the runway with a gentle thud, and we were crossing in the intersection with 32L.
As we slowed down I caught a UA777 in the old livery, taxiing out.
Then we were about to turn off as the hydraulics started to whir to retract the flaps.
I was surprised how no one moved as we taxied in, the taxy in was very short, and I looked out of the window I could see the ground staff ready or us @ M15, the camera at the front showed our path into the gate.
As soon as the aircraft stopped the distinct clip of unbuckling of seat belts rang through the cabin, as the crew prepared doors for arrival.
The deplaning happened a lot faster than I though it would, me and my g/f waited til almost last and then I headed to the front, although I hadn't heard back from the head stewardess. I asked another steward about going up front, and he said he would just ask, while I was waiting for him to come back ,the head stewardess came and said to go right upto the flight deck.
My girlfriend decided not to come, as far as she was concerned, the less she knew about how the plane gets from A to B the better.
I headed for the cockpit, just as I was about to enter, one of the captains came out of the toilet, so I shook his hand and introduced myself, he introduced himself as Capt M, he was late 40's early 50's,and took me for a guided tour and introduced Capt Q.
When I asked him it how easy this thing is to fly, "it's a easy, especially this all singing all dancing cockpit!" anyone know what really goes on behind these locked cockpit doors?
I asked him does he prefer Stick or Yoke, and he said aslong as it gets me there its all good.
I then asked him how long he had been typed on the A330, and then I found out why there were two captains onboard. Capt M had recently converted to BMI Airbus long haul fleet from their Airbus short haul, and Capt Q who, was a training captain and had flown in the right seat today had been making sure Capt M was progressing ok. Both were really nice guys and pointed out different instruments and displays, and were asking about what flying I do. It was about time to leave,as I know these guys don't want to stay in the flight deck all day, as the plane is going back and they have a hotel to get to. So I asked if I could take a couple of photo's, and they said sure snap away. Capt M also took a shot of me in the left seat. But I don't want to post my ugly mug on the net. But here are the others.
The pilots were overnighting in ORD, and taking the flight back to MAN tomorrow. They also gave me a small present!
With that I left the guys on the deck to finish their bits and pieces and made my way to customs and immigration. Cleared them no problems in under 5mins. Why can't all US airprts be like that. The Officer I had was very pleasant aswell, more than I can say for some a other east coast airports.
Anyway, now for a 7 hour layover in ORD, we were supposed to be on flt UA481, but the airline had changed it a couple of weeks before we left. It was now Flt 385, and instead of the original equipment and departure time; A319 at 7.55, it was now an A320 and at 8.35. So we went and got some lunch at chili's in the B terminal and sat and gazed out of the windows. There was a Lufthansa A343 being boarded to Frankfurt, so I waited for that to push back and then took a couple of pics of it before I saw it depart of a runway behind the B terminal. It was a very very slow climb out compared to the other aircraft.
Eventually after a couple of hours we went through the cool tunnel between B and C Terminals and sat at our gate that our flight to OAK was leaving from. C12.
I snapped a few pics of aircraft departing and we could see plenty arriving. eventually the new colours 777/ N775UA left from the gate just down from C12 to Paris. Here are a few pics that I snapped at ORD.
Not a whole lot happened at ORD, but there aren't many better places or watching the day go by. Or a 7hour layover for that matter. Eventually our aircraft arrived at our gate.
They did a good job of turning it around and getting us boarded ontime. Here is a shot of it. By this time I had been up and travelling for over 20hours. So I didn't get the reg of it.
When we boarded, it was clear it was an almost full flight. I counted 3 empty seats in the whole plane.
Flight number: UA 385 (changed from 481) to OAK
Departure Gate: C12
Departure Runway: 32L
Aircraft: A320 (changed from A319)
Sch. Departure Time: 20.35
Act. Departure Time: 20.40
Wheels up: 20.50
Est. Flight Time: 4hr32mins
Act. Flight Time: 4hr20mins
Arrival Time: 23.02
Arrival Runway: 29
UA FF miles awarded: 1,835
Channel 9:Off to Start, on for about 30mins in flight, then off.
Once on the flight, I sat into my seat and fell straight asleep, only to be awakened by the woman in 20D arriving and almost departing on deaths arm by the sounds of things she was coughing and coughing, and coughed some more. (Thanks for my cold lady, but next time you don't have to share).
Both f/a's were males on this flight. I asked for a blanket as it was pretty chilly, but I was told if there wasnt one in my seat then I couldn't have one as they didn't have anymore. Instead I gazed out of the window as we taxyed out to the runway. We were behind an AA MD80.
With channel 9 of, I gazed out of the window as we lined up, and then I was rather disappointed as there wasn't a real thrust, just a pick up of pace, and then we were airborne half way down. The flaps were straight back up, before we were even beyond the end of the runway.
On this flight I fell asleep as I was absolutely exhausted. I woke up on approach into OAK. I missed both drink services.
The approach into OAK was cool, there was a lot of mist and low cloud. The flight deck came on and said the descent could be a little bumpy, but we would be on time and arriving on Runway29.
The descent was bumpy, I quite enjoyed it, its amazing how low over the water you are before the solid ground dashes into site. As soon as we were on the taxiway, seatbelts were undone. The f/a's told people to sit down as there were unaccompanied minors onboard who they wanted off first.
Once at the gate the plane emptied pretty quickly, I didn't bother asking to see the flight deck, I was exhausted, I needed a bed, and we had over an hour to drive to get to my girlfriends relatives. We had been traveling for over 27hours!
Once inside the terminal, we headed to the baggage carousel, but nothing happened for a good 15mins, then the carousel spat our cases out first!
We grabbed them and hit the road!
The flights were great and we enjoyed them, although my girlfriend wasn't impressed with our layover, but I enjoyed it. There cant be many better airports to spend a 7hour layover. Our week in California was awesome, Sacramento, San Francisco, Monterey Bay.
Our next trip would take up to CMH, routed OAK-DEN,DEN-IAD,IAD-CMH.
I should get that up next week.
I hope the pics work on this report. It's the first time I have tried to put any up.
Please let me know what you think of this Trip Report. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did flying it and writing it.
Also a big thank you to the Capt's who let me upto the flight deck and the giving me the chance to look around.