I had just spent about 3 weeks of summer break in Wolfeboro, NH visiting my mom’s parents with my younger sister. We flew across county in late June on JetBlue Airways, spent 2 weeks in Greece, and then spent some time at their lakefront house in Wolfeboro. My sister had flown home the previous week on the nonstop flight to PDX, AS 35. I opted to be just a bit more adventurous for my trip home. Shortly before I left Portland, my grandmother and I discussed over the phone a United itinerary for me. Here is what it looked like:
Wednesday, 28 July 2010
Dep BOS 6:20 AM
Arr SFO 9:49 AM
Equipment: Boeing 757-200
Flight Time: 6 Hours, 29 Minutes
Dep SFO 10:40 AM
Arr PDX 12:33 PM
Equipment: Airbus A320
Flight Time: 1 Hour, 53 Minutes
We were both a bit concerned about the 51 minute connection time, but we decided just to go for it. She was also unsure about the early morning departure, but I didn’t have a problem with that either.
If you have read any of my TRs before, you will know that I love flying. This is also my first time flying by myself. I have flown as an unaccompanied minor before with my sister (not on our recent JetBlue flights, however), and I hated having to fly as a UM. This was going to be a great relief.
Due to the fact that my old (rigid plastic) suitcase was completely trashed after my trip to Europe, my grandmother had bought me a new Travelpro, 25” suitcase from eBags. I started packing a week or so prior to my departure, and I knew that it was going to be a tight fit.
Logan International Airport is about a 2 hour drive from Wolfeboro. Whenever we fly in or out of BOS, we always take C&J Trailways from Dover, NH. It is really a great way to get to and from Logan. The bus terminal is only 40 minutes from their house, and the coaches depart for Logan on the hour, starting at 2:30 AM and running until 10:30 PM. Remember that my flight departs BOS at 6:20 AM. This means that I will be catching the first southbound C&J bus of the day at 2:30 AM. Wow!
The afternoon before my departure back home, I checked into my flight online so my grandmother could pay the $23 to check in my bag. I was also able to change my seat from 25D (which I chose at booking) to 22C due a vacancy further forward on the 757.
Here was the plan for the next morning:
12:30 AM – Revely (Wake up)
1:30 AM – Grandfather and I depart for the bus terminal
2:10 AM – Grandfather drops me off at the C&J Terminal
2:30 AM – C&J motorcoach departure for Logan Airport
4:15 AM – Logan Airport arrival
6:20 AM – UA 171 departs for SFO
Whew! As you can see it was going to be quite a travel day for me, the biggest one yet. This is also the earliest I have ever had to wake up for a flight.
The eve before my departure, I packed up the last of my things. It WAS a very full suitcase. Whew. Tomorrow morning I just had to squeeze in the toiletries and today’s outfit. I write a note to my grandmother to leave on the kitchen table the next morning, since she would not be up when we were.
I got into bed at 9:30 PM.
Then I lay in bed, awake, for 3 hours.
Then my alarm goes off at 12:30 AM in what felt like the dead of night. Oh boy...
The night of literally no sleep! Oh well, at least I had a 6 and a half hour flight ahead of me to get some sleep on.
Departure Day – 28 July 2010:
I shower, shave, and put on my blazer and tie. It was going to be a formal travel day today. At around 1:00 my grandfather wakes up and comes downstairs. I then cram the very last of my things into my over-stuffed suitcase. It just barely closes, with the expander unzipped. I lift it up and it’s heavy. Really heavy. I crossed my fingers and hoped that it wasn’t over 50 lbs.
I then drag it upstairs with my back carry-on on top, and load them into my grandmother’s Prius. My grandfather tries to check my flight status on the Massport website, but it’s too early to get details. I then get a call from home! They sure are up late.
My over-inflated suitcase and carry-on.
|My suitcase, stuffed to the brim. 28 July 2010|
I then put on my fedora and we leave their house at 1:33. I just got my permit in late March, so I was able to drive my grandmother’s Prius to the bus terminal. This was only my second time driving that car, and my first time driving at night. That was pretty cool! Cruising down Rt. 16 at 1:45 in the morning, with little other cars around was also pretty fun.
We arrived at Dover C&J at 2:17 (44 min). I unloaded my bags and walked into the terminal. There wasn’t a single soul inside, except or one agent at the ticket counter. I was greeted by the sweet sound of steel drums playing over the PA system in the quiet terminal. Lovely. I then go to the ticket counter to check in and get a terminal luggage tag for my suitcase which needed to be loaded underneath the coach. The southbound travelers going to Logan Airport need to get free luggage tags, that identify which terminal you are getting off at (A, B1, B2, C, or E). The driver then loads them accordingly. It’s a cool system. I then tell the agent that I need one to Terminal C. He checks my ticket and gives me one green Terminal C tag.
I then give my bag to the driver, who loads it underneath the bus. At this point I said goodbye to my grandfather who then headed back to Wolfeboro. He wishes me “good luck on weight”.
I give my ticket to the operator who scans it and keeps it. I then board bus #2903. We roll away at 2:29 AM. At this point I am sharing the bus with only 5 other people. I use the bus’s free WiFi to check my email, update my Facebook status, etc.
About 20 minutes later, the coach stopped in Portsmouth, NH to pick up additional passengers. This is the main C&J Trailways hub, as Dover is just a small outstation. 19 people get on, including lots of flight crew. Another stop in Newburyport, MA follows half an hour later, with another 5 people on. The world still doesn’t really feel awake yet.
At 4:08 AM, we arrive at Logan international Airport, 7 minutes early. 12 people get off at Terminal A. 4 people off at B1, and 3 off at B2. I get off at the outer roadway of Terminal C, pick up my bag, and tip the driver. Overall, a very easy ride. I then cross the street and walk over to United, through the automatic doors into Terminal C (my favorite terminal at BOS, by the way).
I then head for United Economy. I was very surprised by United’s check-in procedures at Logan. The self-service kiosks are placed in rows in front of the check-in desks. Instead of an agent checking you in personally, there is a representative at the front of the (short) line, who points you to an open kiosk. You then retrieve your reservation, pay for bags, etc at the kiosk. When you are finished, a representative looks at her computer screen and calls out your name. She then takes your bags. So all she’s really doing is running back and forth tagging bags. A very interesting process. I don’t know if this was just because the United folks weren’t interested in doing their jobs at 4:15 in the morning, but it seemed like that’s always how they run it there. Weird.
I reprint my boarding passes at the kiosk to replace the incontinently-sized web boarding passes from yesterday. A UA representative then calls my name, prints off a bag tag for me, and peels off and gives me my claim stub. Something I like about UA is that they just give you the baggage claim stub, and don’t fuss around sticking it to something, like your boarding pass, passport, etc. I hate it when they do that. I place my really heavy bag on the scale...
58 pounds. CRAP!! The representative then, of course, tells me that I’m only allowed 50. Now what?? So I pull my bag off the scale, and move it off to the side to see what I can get rid of.
I take out a vest, a few t-shirts, and a pair of sandals. I put them into my carry-on which is now full and quite heavy. I try putting my bag back on the scale and I’m down to 53 pounds. Because my carry-on is full, I had to do something a little naughty. I put my bag ajar on the scale, so one of the wheels isn’t actually on the scale, just on the platform. The weight now shows as 48 pounds. So, I call over a new representative, show her my boarding passes and claim stub, she tags my bag and puts it on the conveyor belt behind her. Phew!
UA check-in counters at BOS
|United check-in desks at BOS, Terminal C. 28 July 2010|
After all that drama, I walk around the departures area a bit before heading to security. I really like the unusual layout of the check in counters at Terminal C.
I then head for security. A woman at the entrance waves me through to the economy line. One day I’d love to have airline status. There was almost no line, so very little wait time. A TSA guy then scribbles my boarding pass, hardly looking at it. What a waste. The TSA guys also didn’t seem really interested in doing their jobs. I had to get their attention several times. Argh. Other than that, no problem.
As I leave the checkpoint, the first thing I see is a big, JetBlue Airways departures board to my left. Upon seeing this, I think to myself for a moment, “Sh**, did I just go through JetBlue security!?” Luckily, after immediately seeing a United sign at gate C11 (I think) I knew that this was not the case.
Upon exiting looking back at security, I notice something interesting. The security checkpoint is divided into 2 halves. The checkpoint is located on one side and only takes up about half of the width of the terminal. The other half is the exit lane. The pillar in the middle is marked with signs directing you to the exit. This is different on the JetBlue side, as the checkpoint takes up most of the width of the terminal, and the exit lane is just a small, enclosed glass hallway on one side of it. As curious as I was, I made certain that I did not wander past the “You are exiting a secure area” signs...
Scheduled Departure Time: 6:20 AM
Actual Departure Time: 6:20 AM
Departure Gate: C17
Scheduled Arrival Time: 9:49 AM
Actual Arrival Time: 9:28 AM
Arrival Gate: 82
I walked over to C17, which is at the very left end of the “T” shaped pier. Our Boeing 757 was already there, painted in the old “battleship gray” livery. Me being the observant young man that I am, I noticed that the UA side of Terminal C uses different gate signs than the ones that are used in the JetBlue side. The UA signs are simply a white number on a black background. No “C” in front of it. Pictures (not taken by me): JetBlue PierUnited Pier
I sat around C17 for a little while, and then eventually walked around the terminal. Not a lot to see, so I just wait at my gate and watch UA board flight #89 onto an A320 to ORD out of gate C16.
Gates C16 (left) and C17 (right) at BOS
|UA gate C16 (left) and C17 (right) at BOS, Terminal C. 28 July 2010|
Gate C17 signs
|UA gate C17 at BOS, Terminal C. 28 July 2010|
|UA gate C17 departure monitor at BOS, Terminal C. 28 July 2010|
Boarding lanes at C17
|UA gate C17 boarding lanes at BOS, Terminal C. 28 July 2010|
I then ask a gate agent about Economy Plus upgrades. Here is what happened:
Me: I am curious about Economy Plus upgrades today.
Gate Agent #1: Alright, this woman here can help you with that. (He points to the other gate agent)
Gate Agent #2: I will need to see your boarding passes. (I give her my boarding passes; she fiddles around on her computer for a few seconds)
Gate Agent #2: And how would you like to pay for that?
Me: Wait a minute, how much are the upgrades?
Gate Agent #2: Oh, are you over 16?
Me: No, I’m not.
Gate Agent #2: Sorry, you have to be 16 to sit in Economy Plus. Come back when you’re 16.
Boarding began at around 5:50 and they had to change things around a bit due to the fact that this 757 was completely full. They did offer to gate check any carry-on bags to your final destination, and I would’ve gate checked it, but decided against it because I thought I might need an entertainment device during the long length of the flight. So I took it onboard with me. They (of course) began boarding with the first class cabin, followed by premier members. I was unsurprised to see the gate agent just scanning the boarding passes, and handing them back intact. General boarding eventually began and I was in Zone 4. My boarding pass was scanned, and I walked down the Jetway and onto the 757.
I was just about to settle into 22C when a lady asked me if I wouldn’t mind sitting in 22D, so her family could sit together. I didn’t have a problem with that. The flight closed up at 6:15 and we departed on-time. The captain then announced that due to the wind speeds/weather we would be arriving in San Francisco 20-30 minutes early. Cool! I thought that only happened on eastbound flights.
Immediately after takeoff, I get very tired, very fast. I am a really good plane sleeper, so I close my eyes and sleep through almost all of our 6 and a half hour flight to SFO, only waking up once in a while. I sleep through the first beverage service but not the second, where I get the full can of Diet Coke. Very nice.
Before I know it, we land in SFO at 9:18. Wow! What an easy flight. I had never slept that much on a plane before. We arrive at gate 82 at 9:28 AM, 21 minutes early. I then deplane and check the monitors for UA 187.
Scheduled Departure Time: 10:40 AM
Actual Departure Time: 10:36 AM
Departure Gate: 90
Scheduled Arrival Time: 12:33 PM
Actual Arrival Time: 12:03 PM
Arrival Gate: E2
I head over to gate 90, which was a fairly short walk. Our Airbus A320 was already there, painted in the new livery. I had some time to kill and was hungry, so I went to a nearby Peet’s Coffee and bought an over-priced hot chocolate and lemon-poppy seed muffin.
Gate area at SFO
|SFO gate area. 28 July 2010|
(I must apologise for my lack of pictures on this TR. I think it was because of the fact that I was still a little uneasy about airport photography after my photography incident at LHR earlier this summer.)
At around 10:00 we started getting boarding for our flight. This was another full flight, and they again offered to gate check any carry-on bags that you did not want to bring onboard with you. I decide to give it a try this time. So I take my black carry-on over to the desk.
Me: I would like to gate check this, please. Need my boarding pass?
Gate Agent #1: Yes. (I give her my boarding pass, the looks at it and fiddles around on her computer for a few seconds)
Gate Agent #2: (Walks over with a bag tag) O.K, Mr. Alness?
Me: That’s me.
Gate Agent #2: Here’s your receipt (he peels off and gives me my claim tag), I will take this down to the aircraft for you, and you can pick this up at baggage claim in Portland.
Me: Great, thanks!
What a nice guy. Also really nice having one less thing to carry with me.
Boarding began at around 10:10 with the usual United procedures. I board in Zone 2 and sit in 15F. The flight closed up at 10:34 and we departed at 10:36, 4 minutes early. A relatively uneventful flight, with one beverage service.
FOUR Boeing 747s were seen across the tarmac at SFO at the international terminal. Wow!
|FIVE B747s seen at SFO. 28 July 2010|
Now that I have a window seat, I can finally get some shots in the air!
|Flying over Oregon on UA 187. 28 July 2010|
Mt. Hood (I think)
|Mt. Hood (I think) seen from UA 187. 28 July 2010|
We land in Portland at 12:00 PM, and taxi to gate for about 3 minutes. During taxi, I notice a Delta A330 arriving from AMS, and the International Arrivals Bus scooting around on the tarmac. We arrive at gate E2 at 12:03, 30 minutes early! Yay.
A Delta A330 arriving from AMS
|DL A330 arriving from AMS. 28 July 2010|
International Arrivals Bus at PDX that brings Portland pax from Customs & Immigration to the main terminal
|International Arrivals Bus at PDX. 28 July 2010|
Pulling into gate E2
|Pulling into gate E2 at PDX. 28 July 2010|
I deplane and then head for baggage claim. I walk into the north lobby and wait for a few moments at the “Once you pass this point you must exit” sign at the exit lane. I give PDX a little mental thank you, and I would not be flying out of Portland again until Christmas. However, I will soon be proven wrong. After my little moment there, I walk down the exit lane and head for baggage claim. Yeah, I’m weird.
Something I’d love to see at PDX are maybe some more enclosed security exit lanes, with escalators at the end that take you straight down to arrivals/baggage claim, like they have in BOS. I don’t like having to wander through departures/ticketing to get to baggage claim.
I head to Carousel 10 on the arrivals level, right next to International Arrivals. I call my dad who is picking me up and wait for a few minutes. First my suitcase appears, and later my black carry-on. I really liked that gate check service, and plan on doing it again in the future.
Not long after that, our silver van pulls up to the curb in the arrivals area with my dad at the wheel. We load up my bags, and we head home.
What an adventure!
I really enjoyed my experience on United and didn’t receive any poor customer service that people are whining about. I love United.
The “real” United Airlines will be highly missed if this silly merger with CO takes place.
Thank you all very much for reading this! I look forward to hearing your feedback.