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MSP-LAX/PSP-MSP On UA, Ted, And UA*, Many Pictures

Fri Apr 04, 2008 12:45 am

When my parents suggested I flee the bitter cold of Minnesota to meet them in California, so we could visit my 96 year old grandmother in the Palm Springs area, I did not need to be convinced. I wouldn't be able to spend as much time in California as my parents, so we agreed they would pick me up at LAX, we would drive to Palm Springs together, then I would fly home from PSP.

Fares in / out of PSP tend to be at least $100 higher than elsewhere in Southern California, but I was able to find a fare of $304 round trip on United. The flights I chose would also enable me to log Ted, and (believe it or not) also log DEN. In almost 450,000 miles of flying, I'd never been through DEN - I'm one of the few people who logged IWD, ZSA, SAB, and ORK before logging DEN!

My parents asked me to arrive at LAX no later than 10 AM, so we could have an early lunch with one of my uncles in Irvine, before driving to Palm Springs. To get to LAX by 10 AM, I had to book a 6:20 AM flight out of MSP. Super Shuttle told me I should expect a 3:55 AM pickup, and the bus arrived ten minutes early - fortunately, I'd set my alarm for 3:30 AM!

The mood on the van, which was filled with other travelers fleeing Minneapolis' cold, was very upbeat despite the early hour, and the mood going through security was almost euphoric - everyone was thrilled to be leaving -3 behind. I cleared security at 4:25 AM, and was the first person to gate E6, where I read for 1 1/2 hours before boarding.


The very deserted North Star Crossing at MSP


A Compass Embraer 170 at the D Concourse


My 737 is on the left

8 Mar 2008 UA 497 MSP-DEN 737-322 N342UA Seat 19F

When I reached my seat, I was surprised to see several more rows behind me. UA 497 is normally operated with a 737-500. The door was closed a few minutes ahead of the scheduled 6:20 AM departure, and pushback was a minute or two early, too.


Pushing back from E6

Fortunately, we did not need to be de iced, and headed directly for Runway 17


Taxiing to Runway 17. Downtown Minneapolis is faintly visible on the horizon.

We were cleared for takeoff as soon as we reached the runway.


After rotation, we passed just east of IKEA and the Mall of America, before turning southwest over the Mississippi River.

After we turned, I was able to get a nice view of Downtown Minneapolis, and the Chain of Lakes south of downtown, but it was a little disconcerting to have them much further away than if we'd taken off on 30R.

We left the Twin Cities behind after we passed Lake Minnetonka, and the 680 miles between MSP and DEN are so sparsely populated that I didn't recognize anything on the ground for the rest of the flight. Fortunately, Channel 9 was on, so I was able to have a general sense of where we were. As we grew closer to DEN, I could hear controllers sequencing UA 1235 from DSM behind us; I'd be connecting to the next leg of UA 1235, DEN-LAX.


With the front range of the Rockies ahead of us, we began our descent into DEN. As mentioned earlier, this was my first trip to DEN (I never visited the old Denver Stapleton, either). I was amazed at how remote DEN is from populated areas. Even on final approach to 16L, we did not pass over any buildings more substantial than a farmhouse or two.


After landing, we had a brief taxi to gate B31. Our on time departure from MSP, and the absence of de icing delays, brought us into DEN about 20 minutes ahead of the scheduled 7:28 AM.

After I deplaned, I walked from Gate B31 to Gate B48, which is longer than it seems because I had to walk through the mid concourse subway stop / food court.


I wish I was taking this 777, but....


I was taking this 737 instead.

8 Mar 2008 UA 1235 DEN-LAX 737-322 N382UA Seat 21F

The door was closed right on time, at 8:25 AM.


We had to wait for one other aircraft to push back, before it was our turn. While I was on the ground, DEN switched from a southbound to a northbound / westbound runway pattern. Channel 9 was on again, and I enjoyed listening to the harried ground controller as he sequenced a string of United and Frontier aircraft coming off their gates for the taxiways at the west end of the terminal complex. When we reached the southwest end of the airport, we only had to wait for two or three other aircraft, before it was our turn on Runway 25. After takeoff, we followed the extended centerline of the runway out of town, passing just north of downtown Denver.


Crossing the front range of the Rockies

Just past the front range, it clouded up, and stayed cloudy until west of the mountains. I had chosen a seat on the right side of the airplane in hopes of seeing the Grand Canyon, and I was not disappointed!


We passed a few miles south of the canyon, which was bathed in the strong light of early morning sun, highlighting the geological striations beautifully. For more than ten minutes, everyone on the right side of the airplane oohed and aahed over the view. It was so clear that after we left the canyon behind, I could see the Colorado River all the way northwestward to Lake Mead.


We finally crossed the Colorado River for good over Lake Mohave, with the spires of Las Vegas visible on the horizon. We began our descent soon afterward, entering the Los Angeles Basin through the gap between Mount San Gorgonio and the mountains around Big Bear Lake. After we entered the LA Basin, we made a gentle right turn, to intercept the extended centerline of LAX's runways. It was clear in Los Angeles, with just a thin layer of smog, so I was able to have a beautiful view of:


Big Bear Lake


Lake Arrowhead


Mount Wilson


Downtown Los Angeles

Our landing was on 24R. After landing, we went all the way to the west side of LAX, crossing the overpass near the remote international gates, before taxiing all the way back to Satellite 7


The Imperial Hill, which I prefer to the In n Out Burger on the other side of the airport for spotting

We were assigned Gate 71A, the closest gate to the terminal. We had to hold near Satellite 6 for a few minutes before the alley between Satellite 6 and Satellite 7 opened. We pulled into Gate 71A almost right at the scheduled arrival time of 9:58 AM.

When we pulled into the gate, I called my parents, to see where they were. They had spent the night in Sherman Oaks, and unsurprisingly, were stuck in traffic on I-405. I asked them to call me when they entered the terminal complex, then headed for the pedestrian walkway between T7 and T6 to spot.


My 737 is the aircraft closest to the terminal, boarding passengers for SEA.

While I spotted, I saw a DL 777 land, and thought nothing more of it until I returned home, and discovered that I'd seen the first landing of The Delta Spirit.

Around 10:30 AM, my parents called to say they were at Century and Sepulveda, so I headed out to the curb to meet them. If I'd known they were going to be late, I would have taken a later flight, so I could have gotten more sleep.....

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[Edited 2008-04-03 17:56:39]

[Edited 2008-04-03 17:57:53]
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RE: MSP-LAX/PSP-MSP On UA, Ted, And UA*, Many Pictures

Fri Apr 04, 2008 1:45 am

After a wonderful four days in California, it was time to go home.


View from PSP's parking lot of Mount San Jacinto

I could have taken a UA 737-500 nonstop from PSP to DEN, but for no extra fare, I was able to route PSP-LAS-DEN-MSP to add Ted to my logbook.

The commuter terminal at PSP has both inside and outside seating. I chose to sit outside, to enjoy the 85 degree sunshine of California a few more minutes.


The walkway from the commuter terminal to the main terminal.


Horizon Air's University of Oregon CRJ.

12 Mar 2008 UA / Sky West 5774 PSP-LAS Embraer 120 N569SW Seat 10A


There were only seven people on this flight, so boarding from Gate 20 went quickly, and the door was closed a few minutes early. After we left the gate, we had only a brief taxi to Runway 31L. Inexplicably, we were held at the Runway 31L threshold for about ten minutes, even though traffic was light.


Waiting for departure.


We're finally rolling. Mount San Jacinto towers 2 miles above the airport.

As soon as we lifted off, I had a great view of the Palm Canyon strip through downtown Palm Springs, about a mile west of the airport, and the foothills of Mount San Jacinto, which rise just a couple of blocks west of town, before we made a hard right turn to steer away from the mountain. We made a further turn to the east as we were in the shadow of 11,500 foot high Mount San Gorgonio, a few miles north of the airport. As we reached our cruising altitude, we headed almost due east, probably to avoid conflicts with the air space of Twenty Nine Palms Marine base.


When we finally turned northward for LAS past the base, it was so clear I could see both San Jacinto (on the left) and San Gorgonio (on the right) far to the southwest. We began our descent soon afterward, as we passed Potosi Mountain - I was on the wrong side of the airplane to see the Colorado River. Our final approach into LAS was simply spectacular.


We flew directly over the approach end of the 25s, before.....


making a 180 degree turn north of the airport, for a landing to the south on 18R. After landing, we had a circle tour of the terminal, to gate D33.


Taxiing past a Thomas Cook A330.


At Gate D33. The door was opened on time, at 2:25 PM.

I'm not a gambler, so I spent my 1 1/2 hour layover at LAS at the end of the D concourse spotting, rather than playing the "one armed bandits" a.k.a. the slot machines.

12 Mar 2008 UA / Ted 1486 LAS-DEN A320 N457UA Seat 24F


I'm about to board this A320.


This is what the interior of a Ted A320 looks like....


Waiting for push back, which was actually a few minutes earlier than the scheduled 3:50 PM.


Taxiing out. Can you see the ATA 757 through the trees? I did not realize at the time that this would be the last time I saw an ATA aircraft in revenue service.


Waiting for our turn on 25R. We were airborne by the time we reached the D concourse, using only about 1/3 of 25R's 14,150 foot length.




Crossing the Strip. On past departures from LAS, we turned north almost as soon as we crossed the Strip, enabling me to have a phenomenal view of all the casinos, but this time, we flew about five miles west before we were turned.


We crossed the Strip again just north of the Stratosphere Tower, but by then, we were a little too high for a nice view.


Past Las Vegas, we flew along the north end of Lake Mead.


The white line at the edge of the lake indicates how far down the lake is, due to the drought in the Western US. Yikes!


It was clear enough that I was able to get a good view of the Grand Canyon, although not as spectacular as my view on the flight out.

Past the Grand Canyon, it clouded up again, and it stayed cloudy until after we crossed the Front Range of the Rockies, as we were well into our descent. Even though we were coming in from the west, we landed on 35L, on the east side of DEN, then had a long taxi back to gate B26, near the west end of the B Concourse.


We were at our gate around 6:25 PM, 20 minutes early.


Goodbye, Ted!

After I deplaned, I stopped for dinner at Cantina Grille, on the mezzanine level food court, for a tasty pork burrito, before heading to B39 for the last flight of the trip.

12 Mar 2008 UA 726 DEN-MSP 737-522 N902UA Seat 10A


Pushback was right on time, at 7:49 PM. We had to wait a few minutes at the west end of the B concourse, before we could join the queue for the west runways. Even though we were going northeast, we were assigned Runway 25, which is pointed in the opposite direction - I wonder why we weren't assigned one of the 34s? As we were taxiing to Runway 25, I saw the main terminal, with its beautifully illuminated tented roof standing out from the blackness surrounding this very isolated airport. After rotation, we made an immediate right turn, flying due north fifteen or twenty miles, with the lights of the cities along the Front Range a few miles west of us, before we turned northeast for home. After we turned, I didn't look out the window often, because there are so few towns to see between DEN and MSP.

Unfortunately, the passengers behind me had had several drinks before boarding, and were carrying on a conversation that was so loud I had a hard time reading, even with my headphones on. I bit my tongue until the drunk behind me started kicking my chair, when I turned around and snarled "DO YOU MIND???". He did not apologize, but at lest he kept his feet to himself for the rest of the flight. Fortunately, we began descending soon afterward. Our landing was on 12L, so I got the usual nice view of the lights of downtown Minneapolis as we were on approach. After landing, we had only a brief taxi to gate E8; we pulled in right on time, at 10:43 PM.

After five flights, a new airline (Ted), a new airport (DEN), and four new segments, what are the takeaways from this trip? First, my overall impressions of United, Ted, and SkyWest were very positive. All of my flights were on time, the airplanes were clean, and the employees, in the air and on the ground, were friendly. In this day and age, that's about all you can ask for. When I boarded my United and Ted flights, I stopped by the cockpit, and asked the pilots to turn on Channel 9. The pilots on all four flights said either it was already on, or they would turn it on for me. United's employees have a right to be very upset about the obscene dividends United is paying its investors, at a time when furloughs and schedule cutbacks are inevitable, but turning off Channel 9 is not the best way to "get even", because I think it's pretty unlikely United's managers will change their behavior just to get pilots to turn on Channel 9 on more flights. I do question the point of Ted, however. Other than the orange napkins and winglets, my flight on Ted was no different than a flight on a normal UA mainline A320. It might make sense to fly aircraft without a First Class section to resort markets like LAS and Florida, but I think UA could do this just as easily with a Y only A320 sub fleet, without all the hoopla, like they did with their Y only subfleets of DC-8s and 737s before deregulation.

As mentioned earlier, this was my first trip through DEN, and I enjoyed it. The B Concourse was spacious, and easy to move through, and I think the fabric "peaks" of the main terminal are beautiful. Finally, the first trip I can remember was a trip to PSP when I was six years old. I flew to PSP on two AA 707s, routing DTW-IND-DFW, connecting to DFW-TUS-PSP. I returned home on a two stop AA DC-10 (yes, AA flew DC-10s to PSP in 1974!), routed PSP-PHX-ORD-DTW. 34 years later, PSP remains my favorite airport in the USA. The view of Mount San Jacinto from the airport is beautiful, and the palm lined outdoor corridors between the terminal and the gate areas make you feel like you're on vacation from the moment you land until the moment you have to board your flight home.

[Edited 2008-04-03 18:46:03]

[Edited 2008-04-03 18:48:29]

[Edited 2008-04-03 18:52:34]

[Edited 2008-04-03 18:56:11]
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RE: MSP-LAX/PSP-MSP On UA, Ted, And UA*, Many Pictures

Fri Apr 04, 2008 3:16 am

Great trip report, glad you got to enjoy some sunshine in California. The departure from Vegas is great with the view of the strip especially at night when everything is lit up.

I have only flown United once but I had good experiences as well. Channel 9 is definitely a great feature. I know it is up to the pilots' discretion whether it is turned on but I had not heard that some were using it as a retaliation against management. But I agree that it wouldn't be likely to change management's views.

Look forward to reading more trip reports from you in the future.
The views expressed do not necessarily represent those of Southwest Airlines its Directors or its Employees
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RE: MSP-LAX/PSP-MSP On UA, Ted, And UA*, Many Pictures

Fri Apr 04, 2008 7:45 pm

Nice report and photo's, thanks, did enjoy the scenic pictures.

I do agree with you about TED, what is the point? - I really can't see it lasting much longer, just makes no sense.


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RE: MSP-LAX/PSP-MSP On UA, Ted, And UA*, Many Pictures

Fri Apr 04, 2008 7:51 pm

Great Trip Report! I really liked the pictures. Must have been fun flying the SkyWest EMB120, your lucky to fly on that small aircraft.

Thanks for posting, it's a great report. Glad you had so many pictures too.
"None are more hopelessly enslaved, than those who falsly believe they are free" -Goethe
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RE: MSP-LAX/PSP-MSP On UA, Ted, And UA*, Many Pictures

Thu Apr 10, 2008 11:14 am

Nice TR

The pics are pretty good.

Can you listen to ATC on all UA flights??? Didnt know that they offer something like this. Do other carriers do it??

Thank you for sharing

Work Hard, Fly Right
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RE: MSP-LAX/PSP-MSP On UA, Ted, And UA*, Many Pictures

Thu May 01, 2008 2:03 pm

Quoting B747forever (Reply 5):
Can you listen to ATC on all UA flights??? Didnt know that they offer something like this. Do other carriers do it??

United has a dedicated ATC channel on all aircraft equipped with in flight entertainment ("Channel 9"). It is the most popular of UA's in flight options - a recent Wall Street Journal article said more than 20% of United passengers who use in flight entertainment listen to Channel 9.

However, Channel 9 is available at the pilots' discretion - they can turn it on or off at any time. The same Wall Street Journal article said many UA pilots are not turning Channel 9 on, to protest the obscene dividends UA's management gave the airline's investors at the end of last year, and the high pay of UA's top management.

Whenever I get on a UA aircraft, I always stop by the cockpit, and ask the pilots to "Please turn on Channel 9 !!!!!" So far, every time I've asked, they've turned it on.

As far as I know, no other airline offers something like Channel 9.

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