UA 870 – SYD to SFO (747-400)
UA 838 – SFO to IAD (A319)
UX 5234 – IAD to HPN (Saab 340) – Colgan Air
UX 7604 – HPN to ORD (E170) – Republic Airways (?)
UA 1431 – ORD to LAS (A320) – Ted
HP 3 – LAS to PHX (A320)
UA 1547 – PHX to SFO (A320) – Ted
UA 863 – SFO to SYD (747-400)
Check-in for the flight was a snap at SYD except for the overweight bag, which was easily solved by removing the smaller suitcase which was contained in the larger suitcase. Then we were on our way. Since my fiancée had travelled for business around the region on Singapore air, she was already premier status when our trip began and I was able to follow her to the yellow boarding card holders line by default…
After picking up 2 bottles each of wine in duty free we made our way to the gate area and were informed that our flight would be 45 minutes late because of a delay with the flight from Melbourne. No worries, we still would land 2 hours before our scheduled flight to Dulles in San Francisco and it gave us more time spend money at the airport. We were in seats 59H/J which is the first grouping of two seats by themselves when the plane narrows towards the rear. There was room for my backpack at the back of the plane which came in quite handy for retrieving snacks, drinks, and my laptop for movies. We watched two movies on the laptop, and I started and finished “Air Babylon” (which I found amusing if not completely believable. I know they make the point that the book is written to take all the weird stuff that happened in one man’s career and condense it into one day, but still…).
The flight actually did not seem that long and I think we made good time in the air, as we landed we had a little CRJ right beside us landing at the same time. That was cool! Cleared customs and immigration, and took the wine from the carry boxes and put it in the empty suitcase for travel in the belly hold from SFO to HPN.
Boarding in SFO was a breeze except we were not seated together, one of us was in front of the other for that flight. It did not matter much as I slept almost the entire flight, thankfully. After landing in IAD, it was a 35 minute layover to catch the Saab to HPN. A scurry to the gate 30, a bus, then the zoo that is the regional airline terminal. What a organized piece of chaos that place is! We boarded there onto our Saab, and our flight scheduled for 1hr 40 minutes was done in about 52 minutes. A very smooth ride, and the Saab is quite nice. I rather liked it. That and plane was mostly empty, since we were so early, there was no one there to greet us. So we called the parents and prepared to spend Thanksgiving in Yorktown Heights. Also, we had to plan our wedding for next December (2006).
Everything more or less worked itself out for that week and then we were on our way to Las Vegas to visit my dad, and try our hand at gambling. I was excited about this leg of the journey as it was going to be my first flight in an E170. I cannot say I was all that thrilled, it seems small on the inside—probably because it is small. The flight on the Saab was much nicer though, I think it was because I was not expecting to like flying on the turboprop and it turned out to be really smooth. Inside the E170, I felt cramped when I did not think I would. However, the flight was fine and soon we were landing in Chicago in a snowstorm. Not a bad one, in fact, the airport seemed fully functional. After landing, we made our way over to the Ted gates and waited for our flight Las Vegas, the plane was late coming in from Tampa, but we were on time leaving and this flight was awesome. The cabin staff were amazingly friendly and one of them talked on loud-speaker in this cabaret concert style breathy voice and would always refer to Vegas as, “the most exciting city in the world.” (spoken in deep sultry voice). Landing was amazing, as the plane on the right hand side has a view of the strip at eye-level. Then taxiing was an eon long before arriving at the gate.
The stay in Vegas was not-so-fun as I became ill for a few days. But I was able to donate to the profits of several casinos before leaving. We estimated that we won $150 but deposited about $200. I think it would have been more fun if I were feeling it, but I think all I really wanted to do was lie down on the couch and sulk. Note: Red Rocks is excellent for those in Vegas and have the time. I recommend climbing to the top and taking in the views.
On our last day there came our only non-United segment of the trip. Flying UA would have required a plane change so I thought it was easier to fly America West/US Airways direct. Simple flight, on time and less than an hour we were in Phoenix. But when I visit Arizona, my home town is just outside of Safford, so it requires a rental car and another three hours of your life to see mom and grandma. My dad tells me that in the 1950’s Safford had air service on Frontier (Frontier of the old white F in a red circle days), and that a rich aunt in Tucson would pay to fly him and my aunt to Tucson for the holidays. Hopefully with the new copper mine opening up and heavy machinery factory to support the required mining equipment air service will be restored to Safford Municipal Airport, but I am not holding my breath.
After a few days in Safford/Pima, we made our way back to the Phoenix for a family barbeque and said our goodbye’s before returning to Australia. Checking in at Phoenix, we had a good idea, first we would park the rental car in the short-term garage at Terminal 2, then check our bags in. By this time we had another suitcase giving us two each, and in two of those was a power transformer each weighing easily 20 pounds per unit. By this time we were both Premier status so we were upgraded automatically to economy plus on both flights PHX-SFO and SFO-SYD. Our luggage weighed in at 47, 43, 48, and 52 pounds each! Wow. She let the last one go without fine. So then we went back to the rental car and returned it before heading back on the van to the Terminal.
This flight was on time and not crowded but once again the service on Ted was actually really good. I don’t know what I was honestly expecting on Ted, but I thought that they would hate their jobs after being shifted away from United mainline. Landing on time in SFO gave us three hours to play in the San Francisco airport. At the advice of the crazy guy at the information booth we decided enjoy a nice meal at the food court in the United domestic terminal before taking the really crappy bus to the international terminal.
While, there, I found a tiny deli that sold Diet Dr. Pepper, my favourite soft drink in the world (and not sold in Sydney that I can find), and loaded up on it for the flight. By then, my backpack was weighing a fair amount of kilos from all the soda and the documentation from wedding planning. However, in flight, I was able to consume away a lot of those beverages and it made my bag much lighter.
Boarding was a snap; however, our upgrade to economy plus, left us in row 35 with a “window” seat. However, on the UA 744, the window does not exist on row 35. This was distressing, because to see outside, you had to lean forward and look out the exit door window over the wing. I was disappointed—however, I made the best of it and with the help of a sleeping pill I was able to put most of the flight behind me. When landing in Sydney, we went to customs declared our food, and went through the red doors. When they saw all our food was packaged candy, they waved us through. Hey, the customs form said any food and after watching border patrol I was not about to take any chances.
All-in-all, the flights were good, and the Ted flights were especially good. I added two more to my flying types (Saab 340 and E170) which was a hoot. The best advice I was given was to declare something to get put through the red doors where they are much nicer to you instead of the green “guilty until proven innocent” doors.
This put me 5200 miles short of Premier Executive status with just a couple of weeks to go in the year. Unfortunately, in order to take this trip, I had to borrow five vacation days against next year, since I just moved to Australia in July. A hair disappointing to say the least, as a weekend mileage run to CHC on Air New Zealand would still leave me short.
On the brightside, I know when and where I will be getting married now!
[Edited 2005-12-14 07:03:21]