United Airlines (Operated by Shuttle America)
Flight 7523 CMH-ORD
ERJ-170 / Seat 6F
Departure time (actual): 7:45AM (7:43AM)
Photo © John Davies - CYOW Airport Watch
I arrived at Port Columbus a little bit after 6AM, and parked at the Blue long-term lot. After waiting for a very frigid 5 minutes, a shuttle bus arrived and took me to the terminal. I proceeded to United's counter and checked in. I spent several minutes there catching up with all the people I had met while I was at FLYi, from the TSA-ers, to agents at UAL and Midwest, to the guys at the corner coffee shop. The butterflies in my stomach due to my upcoming interview desimated any appetite that I had, but I figured it would be best to scarf down a bagel and some orange juice to keep me going through the day.
After that, I proceeded through the security checkpoints and into the B Concourse. Immediately I saw the old Independence Air gate, where Comair was now overnighting a CRJ-700. Most of the early morning departures had left, however there was still a steady stream of Chautauqua and American Eagle jets making their ways from the maintenance hangars to the gates for their first flights of the day. I walked to B28, where my E170 to Chicago was waiting. There was another UA E170 parked at B29 which would be departing to Denver later that morning. I spent a few minutes at American's gates, which provide the most comprehensive view of activity at CMH. By the time I walked back to B28, the agents were already well into the boarding process, so I got in line and headed down the jetway.
At the door I was greeted by Philip, the lead F/A for my flight to ORD. The interior of the plane was immaculate, bright, and spacious. Soothing guitar music was playing over the intercom, making for a very relaxing environment. My seat was in economyPLUS, and the extra legroom was certainly noticeable. The aircraft filled up completely, mostly with people in suits (including myself). The only person that wasn't was an elderly woman that sat in the seat next to me. She found her seat, and remained hudled-over in her large down coat for the entire journey.
We pushed back from the gate on time. I expected us to make our way to runway 28R, however we ended up taxiing the other way, past the terminal to 28L. We began to turn off the taxiway, and immediately I knew we were going to "time out." Sure enough, the first officer came onto the P.A. to advise us that due to flow control in ORD, that our departure would be pushed back for 20 minutes. The crew shut down the engines while an American Eagle ERJ-145 joined us in the penalty box. The aircraft was completely silent, most people were either sleeping or working, I was staring at my watch. We ended up getting on our way a little earlier, so the engines revved back up, and we taxiied onto runway 28L as an AA MD-80 did the same on 28R. We were cleared first, and we roared off into a slightly overcast January sky. Takeoff and climb were uneventful, the E170 seems to have a nice steady, but powerful takeoff.
Our heading took us straight ahead for several minutes, then we banked to the northwest on our way to Chicago. Upon leveling off, a beverage service was offered. Since I had most of the bottle of orange juice that I had bought from the airport, I just asked for a glass of ice along with the snack mix. I was impressed that a full beverage service was given, especially with the very short duration of the flight and the full load. Only maybe 10 minutes or so after the service was completed, the cockpit crew announced our descent into Chicago. We straddled Lake Michigan for most of our approach, then turned towards the land just a little bit north of Chicago's loop, providing an incedible view for the other side of the airplane. I was rewarded however with a great view of a JAL 747-400 flying in the other direction parallel to our aircraft to join our queue in the sky. I watched the Chicago traffic crawl its way towards downtown for most of the approach, and we made a smooth touchdown on runway 27L. Our taxi provided a magnificent view of the constant activity, among the aircraft in ORD that morning was an AeroMexico 73G with winglets, not one, but two America West A320s in their new USAirways colors, and United's Star Alliance triple-7. We taxied to B19, next to another E170. Upon departing, we were wished a pleasant day by Phillip, and I ran into the B Concourse to meet up with the escort that would take me to the offices for my interview.
January 26, 2006
Flight 586 ORD-CMH
737-300 / Seat 1C
Departure time (actual) 3:45PM (3:50PM)
Photo © Kevin Shop
After several hours of interviewing, test-taking, form-filling, and general pre-employment work, I was exhausted. I made my way to C22, where my 737 was waiting to take me back to CMH. I had to get my boarding pass, so I walked up to the counter, where a lone United agent was busily working. She greeted me with a smile and complimented my tie (has airplanes on it ), to which I said thank you. She said that she hadn't assigned my seat yet, and would call me to the podium when it was ready. I thanked her again, and waited by a wall and watched her work. This woman was a pro. Not only did she process the line infront of her quickly and thoroughly, but with a very professional demeanor and smile. I was very impressed. A few minutes later I was called up to the podium, where I was given my seat; 1C in first class. Man, was I ever happy about that.
Maybe 5 minutes later, our boarding agent walked over to the gate door and began boarding for United Mileage Plus members and First Class passengers. I thanked her again for all her help and boarded the aircraft. I was greeted there by 2 of our 3 inflight crew member for this trip and quickly sat down in 1C. A pillow and blanket were positioned on the seat, but for such a quick flight, plus the fact that I generally don't feel very sanitary using them, I quickly stowed them away. Headphones were also placed in the magazine pocket for our short trip to Columbus. The only other time I had flown on United mainline, channel 9 was not offered, so I was hoping they would have it on today. I was then offered a drink, and had a ginger ale. I made small talk with one of the flight attendants until everyone had boarded. Coach was completely full, however there were 3 open seats in first class. Once everyone had boarded and the gate agent gave the final paperwork to the crew, she picked up the aircraft intercom and wished us a pleasant flight on behalf of everyone at United in Chicago and thanked us for choosing them.
We pushed a little late due to some late arrivals onto the aircraft, but nothing major. We taxied for several minutes to runway 22L, where we were informed that Channel 9 would be available for our flight. I immediately tuned to it and listened to the endless stream of commands from the controllers; truly incredible. After waiting for a company 757 to land on 27L, we taxied to 22L, roared off and immediately banked left on our way to Columbus.
The flight was smooth and uneventful. I spent most of the flight taking to my seatmate and the flight crew, as well as listening to the music channels provided. The beverage service included a small packet of "premium" nuts. I found the snack packet given on Shuttle America to be better than this. However, I did get a rum and pepsi, which was extremely nice after such a vigorous day. It was served in a short, curved, highball glass with "U N I T E D" titles on the lower part of it. I had never traveled in United First before, so I don't know if the cabin was old or new or not, however the seats were of gray cloth, very comfortable and wide, but seemed lacking in terms of the height of the seatback.
In no time, we made our descent into Columbus. Out the window, I could see the northern areas of Columbus, including Crosswoods and Westerville. We banked twice to the right and lined up for runway 28R, trailing a Southwest 737. We landed and taxied to B28, the gate I had departed from earlier that day. After chatting with the UA station manager and some of the agents there and at the TSA checkpoint, I made my way to the arrivals level and out to the shuttle pick-up station to get back to the Blue lot.
Overall, I was extremely impressed with the entire trip. The Shuttle America E170s are magnificent birds, and the crew on the flight was superb. The same goes for the crew on the United flight back to Columbus. The last time I had flown United mainline was in December of 2001, and the crew was exactly how I remembered them. They were professional, courteous, and did their job with pride. I hope all United inflight crews are like that! Though what most impressed me was the gate agent at O'Hare. I had flown United Express from ORD to CMH a few months earlier, and the gate agent was one of the most indifferent and cold people I'd ever seen work a gate. I wish I had gotten the name of the woman at C22 that afternoon, because she certainly deserves praise for the job she does. Overall, it was an excellent journey.
By the way, I got the job. I start with United as a CSR in two weeks .