Route: Richmond – Int. (Byrd Field) – Newark – Liberty Int.
Airline: United Express operated by Atlantic Southeast Airlines
Flight Number: UA4299
Aircraft: Embraer ERJ-145XR
Seat: 11C (Single Class Economy)
Distance: 277 miles
Photo © F. Camirand
Photo © AJ Heiser
The wife and I had stayed at the Doubletree near Richmond airport the night before, I’d got work sorted out early and my wife’s job allows her to work remotely so we got to the airport a couple of hours before the flight. This was unusually early for Richmond airport but as I’d been unable to check-in online I wanted to prevent any SNAFUs with our ticket. When we arrived at check-in we were the only passengers and the helpful Tony assisted us with getting the boarding passes printed off and our bags sent off in the right direction. Surprisingly the gate for our EWR-EZE flight was already noted, quite a difference from the Terminal 5 LHR equivalent where the gates are barely known, I mean listed ( ), until an hour or so before departure!
With few terminal options at RIC we chose to sit at the gate, my wife worked using the airport’s free wireless and I kept tabs on the work situation using my phone. Around 12.25pm, some 30mins before departure the rampers outside were in a state of readiness and through the windows on the other side of the concourse I could see our ERJ taxiing over. Two gate agents quickly appeared and passengers started disembarking into the concourse. Right away Mr. Self Importance rocks up and parks himself in the middle of the Premier Access line, he and his rather plastic wife obviously had to be first onboard…I grabbed a gate check tag for my rollaboard and packed my items away in preparation for an imminent boarding announcement. The gate agent promptly boards the flight and sure enough Mr. Self Important decided to kick up a fuss with the flight attendant over his Rimowa carry-on that to anyone with the gift of sight was blindingly obvious a gate check item on ERJs. Alas, no, this guy wanted to argue the toss holding up the entire boarding line for the flight behind him. The flight attendant somehow relented and the bag was tightly wedged under the guy’s seat. The doors shut around ten minutes before departure and the safety tape was played.
View from 11C
After holding for a few minutes short of runway 2 we eased out and set for the skies of Virginia. The sunny conditions created quite a bit of chop on our ascent up to 17,000ft.
Climbing out of RIC
Being a geography nerd with a mild interest in cartography I’m always keen to situate myself, usually this isn’t a problem over an area you’re familiar with but with some cloud we had to pass through soon after departure I was a little lost, always correcting myself until I recognized the eastern shore of Maryland and Route 50 around Kent Island.
1) Eastern shore of Maryland
2) Coca-Cola and Continited propaganda
The drinks cart was brought round but no nibbles and as I supped away on my Coca Cola happy in the knowledge I finally knew where we were we the Delmarva Peninsula disappeared behind thick cloud, once again throwing my mental GPS off. It partially cleared allowing me to glimpse the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal, Delaware Memorial Bridge and Philadelphia Airport before the clouds masked the view once more. As we descended through the cloud layer we experienced some pretty heavy chop but nothing out the ordinary, popping through again over the Delaware River near Trenton.
As we headed towards our destination Princeton University and the distinctive New Jersey Turnpike became clear, the latter being obvious due to the numerous warehouses and distribution centres flanking it. Nearing runway 4R the sights of the familiar sights of the New York area became clearly visible, the Verrazano Narrows Bridge off in the distance and the financial district of lower Manhattan.
Jersey Gardens, Bayonne and Manhattan off in the background
As is usual for landing at hubs, even fortress hubs, the aircraft outside the window make for some interesting viewing; Air India 777, Kalitta Classic 747s off in the distance and Openskies 757 to name a few, and due to the Continited Express aircraft operating from Terminal A we taxied right past the lot of them. We held off stand for about five minutes and the “bing bong” for the flight attendant to pick up the phone caused a load of people to assume it was the seatbelt sign going off and so they got up, cue much consternation from the sole flight attendant as we waited a few minutes longer before pulling up those last important few feet.
We queued up politely in the jetbridge and waited for the gate checked bags, many moons passed, or so it seemed, before the bags started to show up. The supervisor of sorts showed up and a few people had a moan before she explained it was due to a shift change, err, overlapping shifts anyone? Once they started appearing though it wasn’t long before mine showed up and I emerged from the jetbridge into the eternally overpopulated Express spoke of the A terminal.
Our next commitment was at 5pm, the interview for Global Entry, something I should have arranged years ago. With so much time to kill I wasn’t quite sure on a lounge strategy. Should I use the United Club in A for a bit, then head over to the interview and go to the C Clubs. I’d been to the A Club a few times before and knew it was quite small so decided to tackle the Global Entry first, we’d see if we could sneak into an earlier appointment spot if some were available. After taking the train over to Terminal B it wasn’t long before I spotted the enrollment centre but it appeared to be in an area I shouldn’t be allowed access to on the ramp just after customs. Either way I ignored the “No Entry” signs and carried on walking. We were able to bring our appointments forward so sat outside people watching (the bench had a great view of people leaving the customs area) and waited until we were called inside for our 20min or so briefing. Then it was back on the AirTrain over to Terminal C. What a zoo! The Priority Access line was chock-full but at least seemed to move at a reasonable pace. The large United Club was right beside the security checkpoint and it became our base for the next few hours. Despite being impossibly busy we found a couple of seats and grabbed a few drinks from the bar. As better seats opened up we moved by the window where you could watch the aircraft departing off the 4s and heading in their various directions.
United Club – Terminal C3
Due to the length of time we were In the lounge we got to see quite a few people come and go. In our little grouping we had one “middle aged” businesswoman from Germany and then a few women celebrating a girls trip somewhere that had decided to get some glasses of “champagne”. The lounge emptied out quite a bit during the time we were there as, I assume, the first bank of European departures left. Nevertheless at around 8pm or so we decided to switch things up and went to the other United Club down in C1.
United Club – Terminal C1 – note the rotunda feel
It had quite a different feel with it being upstairs in the rotunda with the lounge on all sides looking down into it. This lounge was very quiet so we were quickly able to grab a drink and find a convenient quiet spot for the last hour or so before we had to walk the 50ft or so from the lounge to the gate. From where we were seated you could just make out the lights of the Manhattan skyline through about six panes of glass.
Route: Newark – Liberty Int. – Buenos Aires – Ezeiza/Ministro Pistarini
Airline: United Airlines
Flight Number: UA847
Aircraft: Boeing 767-322/ER
Seat: 8A (Business Class)
Distance: 5290 miles
Duration: 10hrs 6mins
Photo © Andrew Compolo
Photo © Stefan Hofmann
After a couple more drinks at 9.10pm the announcement was made that our flight was boarding so we packed up and scooted off down to the gate. The gate was quite busy and the gentleman in front of me, seated in First Class or Global First or whatever United call that little cabin at the front where employees sit was having trouble stowing a bag, Not usually a problem longhaul unless you’re boarding a 767 through door 1 and therefore holding up the entire jetbridge…
Once at our rearward facing seats in row 8 we immediately got situated and settled. I grabbed my carry on items for the flight and also the necessary pyjamas I’d brought with me and headed for the nearest vacant toilet at the back of the cabin, passing the awkwardly positioned economy crew seats as I did so.
Settling in nicely
Once back at seats we were offered drinks; orange juice, water or “champagne” and a newspaper cart was wheeled through the cabin. Little washbags were left at the seat and having no immediate use for them these were quickly packed away in my large rollerbag. A couple behind us appeared to be celebrating, clinking their champagne glasses and having their photos taken in their seats. How sweet!
Evening at EWR
Around 9.40pm the announcement was made that the door had been closed and that we’d be on our way shortly with Argentinian immigration and customs forms handed out almost as if it were part of the departure routine. I was thankful as I despise trying to attempt to fill out the forms after an overnight flight, all in a rush prior to landing. Some twenty minutes later and we pushed back and the safety video was shown (Hi Jeff!).
The FA came round and took our meal orders but was rather snippy with some of the passengers, a little unnecessarily in my opinion from what I heard and I was waited for her to get to our seats I fired up the moving map. At one point it stated we’d take 47hrs 4mins to reach our destination, which given the comfort of the business class seat I was quite OK with! I’d flown the 767s in the new first class cabin before but not the middle cabin and I was rather impressed. The only downside was that there wasn’t a whole lot of storage space. With headphones, iPods, duvets, pillows and all the other accouterments that one has when flying premium cabin longhaul you need space for stuff! I wedged my duvet between the side and the fuselage wall and squeezed my headphones and camera and what not next to me in the seat. Not ideal…
By the time we’d taxiied over to the 4s and sat in the line for takeoff it was close to 10.30pm and we were treated to a great view of the airport and lights of the NYC boroughs as we turned south after takeoff heading down over New Jersey. Embarassingly the little bar that keeps the inflight magazines and such in place during ascent had been knocked from its horizontal position and as we rotated they all flew loose and it was only quick hands that prevented a pile of publications in the footwell and “Noob” status to be permanently cemented in the minds of our neighbouring passengers! The skies were quite clear as we climbed and the lights from Jersey shore extremely clear, Atlantic City and all the roads leading to it, being the most obvious.
Newark Airport below just after departure
With a late departure I was hoping it wouldn’t be too long before the meal service got going and sure enough it was about 20mins or so after takeoff when the hotnuts arrived along with some water.
Drinks were offered and the wife opted for some wine, the FA’s words that “Most people prefer the Spanish wine” speaking volumes about the one choice on the wine list More nuts were handed out along with the hot towels just prior to the cold starter, a spring roll, and accompanying salad arriving.
Vegetable spring roll with ginger soy sauce
At one point as we neared the southern tip of the Delmarva Peninsula the aircraft went into a gentle roll, but sustained for such a period of time that I thought we were almost going to be heading back to Newark for some reason. Alas, the wings leveled and we continued our track towards Buenos Aires, just in a more southerly direction than before.
For some reason I didn’t find out my PTV, all 19 inches or whatever (they are enormous) would cut out every five minutes. A quick flick of the remote and it would come back to life though. At first I thought it might be a loose connection but in my bored state between courses I decided to start timing it and sure enough every five minutes to the second…I guess United aren’t expecting people to leave the map on for more than a few moments!
Braised short rib of beef with red wine demi glace, potato pancakes and oven roasted root vegetables
With the time getting on some passengers had chosen to forego the meal service in favour of sleep, Mr. 8C sleeping with the seat in its upright position! For us being used to mostly 6hr or so overnights from the US East Coast to Europe this seemed nice and relaxed so we continued with the meal service. I had the rib, the best of a bad choice if you ask, and it was OK, a little bland but not entirely surprising given it was root vegetables that it came with. By the time I was done with rib the clock was ticking close to midnight east coast time and it seemed sensible to pass on dessert and get some sleep. I grabbed the duvet and pillows, unpacked them and reclined the seat into its most comfortable position before quickly heading to the bathroom for a quick brush of the gnashers.
Although it felt like I didn’t sleep particularly well the fact I awoke over 6hrs later and felt great suggests otherwise. I lay in the seat lying back for a good 30mins or so before deciding to put the seat into a more upright position and peer out of the window, my duvet shielding the cabin from the bright lights outside. The thick layer of cloud prevented me from seeing anything of interest that may have lay below however. Conveniently breakfast service was just getting underway and I chose the yoghurt and fruit plate, the wife opting for eggs. Bizarrely there was no spoon in the breakfast cutlery pack so I used a fork to get yoghurt from cup to mouth. It was the second cutlery SNAFU of the flight as one of my dinner forks was filthy dirty. Unusually I did have a stab at the fruit plate, yay for vitamins!
Fresh seasonal fruit and yoghurt
After trying to eat in record time so I could change back into my normal clothes I went to the bathroom with my washbags to freshen up. Although it was “rush hour” I didn’t have to wait long but despite speedily working through my freshening up routine I had a bang on the door, then another a minute or so later, then with my jeans around my ankles the door started to be opened and only a yell retained my dignity! Total I was in there no more than three minutes so nothing ridiculous, and how many people are waiting to warrant such an intrusion? One. Between both toilets. Grrr! It’s not like we’re imminently landing or the 20mins to landing announcement has even been made! As I packed my items back at my seat and completed a final few details on the Argentine entry forms (including bizarrely declaring any semen I’m bringing with me!?!) I opened the windows to the Uruguay River outside with the early morning sun reflected, my first proper glimpse of South America.
1) Uruguay River
2) Descending over Buenos Aires suburbs
As we descended further towards Ezeiza the city of Buenos Aires itself came into view stretching out with the Rio de la Plata behind. In preparation for landing on runway 11 we headed west of the city touching down just after 9.30am, an Aerolineas Argentina A340 waiting in the wings to head out just after we left the active runway. Ezeiza seemed quite busy with BA 777, IB A340, American 777 and sister aircraft already parked up, some at the terminal some off away from it. In the background the AR A340 lumbered into the air…and far behind that, across the active runway, a number of other aircraft parked up too awaiting their departure that evening.
It wasn’t long before the doors were open and everyone, well almost everyone, was in a rush to make it to immigration. Despite having a minute or so between the seatbelt sign being switched off and having to leave the aircraft some were clearly not so bothered which resulted in some argy bargy from passengers left marooned by their tardiness! The airport was clearly under some quite severe renovations so the walk to immigration wasn’t the best showcase of Argentina by any stretch! At the bottom of the stairs to the immigration hall the arriving passengers were divided into three groups; Mercosur member states, those who had to pay the reciprocity fee and everyone else. I was in the latter group which had the shortest line so was dealt with in a matter of seconds. Alas it turned out United had given us the old forms onboard so the patient and friendly immigration agent gave me a pen and paper and allowed me to use the ones he had spare, luckily there was no line behind me so I didn’t feel eyes staring down at me! The baggage hall was right behind immigration and our belt had already been identified so it was a case of waiting for a few moments for the belt to start up. Priority handling was well observed and both bags were through before my wife had emerged from the “reciprocity fee” line.
It was an almost a BAA-esque arrival with a few duty free stores to dodge before getting in the line for customs. I was glad we made it when we did because they rapidly grew and it took a good ten minutes or so for us to reach the front where all our bags were scanned but nothing else. The people in front of us were questioned and we just walked round, quite bizarre. We emerged into the public area where I got some pesos from an ATM and arranged for our cab into the city.
Route: Buenos Aires – Ezeiza/Ministro Pistarini - Newark – Liberty Int.
Airline: United Airlines
Flight Number: UA846
Aircraft: Boeing 767-322/ER
Seat: 7K (Business Class)
Distance: 5290 miles
Duration: 9hrs 55mins
Photo © Andrew Compolo
Photo © Omar Alex Saffe - Spot This!
The United website had suggested arriving four hours before departure, even by really conservative, never-taken-an-international-flight-in-my-life standards that was a bit on the safe side. Nevertheless we couldn’t get our hotel room past 4pm and decided to wind down nicely and head to the airport shortly thereafter. Our car got to the curb at 4.40pm and we looked round the departure hall for the United desks. I couldn’t see them and so looked at the departure monitors and found the corresponding desks right beside us, alas without any United signage so I didn’t feel too stupid. There were a few podiums setup in front of the desk, each one staffed and then a gatekeeper of sorts granting entry to speak with his minions. A fairly lengthy line had already formed so I asked the gatekeeper if this was the business class line. He told me to wait where I was so thought I’d just have to wait for the next interviewer to become available. Alas, no, everyone in the long line that was there before me was introduced to someone before I was allowed my turn After a few questions we were handed small scraps of paper and directed to a check-in line. We already had one young couple around our age in front of us in the “business class” line but the economy ones were pretty busy already. Just before 5pm the doors to the back opened and in turn one after the other the overhead screens were turned on to reflect the flight and class of travel they were servicing. Ironically the economy desk was up and running first and we’d been wrongly directed to the First Class line. The couple in front of us though took an age so the guy manning the Business Class desk waved us over, I asked about switching to an earlier EWR-RIC flight and he said the flight looked pretty empty but he didn’t want to switch us over quite yet in case of problems at Newark so advised us to hit up the transit desk when we landed and go from there. Seemed reasonable enough so with boarding passes in hand we started the departures procedures….
A quick check of the boarding passes and we were in line for security, well almost, we’d been directed to a sort of customs declarations line so we quickly ducked under the barrier and joined the security line proper. Despite there being no priority line it moved quickly (in part thanks to lax security regulations compared to TSA counterparts) and we thought we were through for a few beers in the lounge. As soon as we walked round the corner it was clear that wasn’t going to be the case. The outbound immigration line was nothing short of epic. It snaked back and forth about 5 times and I noticed a guy that had checked in at the United desks about ten minutes before us was only about a tenth of the way round the barrier maze. Buggeroo…There was a priority line but for diplomats, the disabled and pregnant women. Given the length of the normal line I was considering seeking out a nearby toilet or quiet spot with the wife to qualify us for the last category, the regular line was that bad! Nevertheless with plenty of time to kill and little other options (something told me United wouldn’t pay to have business class passengers go through the diplomat line) we grinned and we beared it. After a good hour or so of winding slowly towards the front of the queue, an immigration video ironically espousing the benefits of the new system (argh!) being the only entertainment, the end was in sight, although I’d rapidly lost patience. At the very end a man and his wife tried to shove me out of the way “Primera Class” he barked, I was having little of it…I held my boarding pass aloft and said with some poetic license, “Me too, yet I’ve got to wait in the line as well”. “My flight leaves at 6pm” he retorted (it was about 5.55pm) but given I wasn’t exactly the line police I couldn’t stop him barging past but felt dutifully bound to give him a final piece of my mind as he walked away, “I got here on time, like all these other people did, maybe try that approach next time”.. I like to think had I been in an English speaking country I’d have received a few claps! I did say to the wife that if I saw him in the United Club or duty free store I’d probably have punched his lights out! As we had all our forms and had plenty of time practicing the “routine” as we watched others we were both dealt with remarkably quickly and all that was preventing us from an ice cold beer was the walk through the duty free store…
United Club at Ezeiza
It may have been a United Club, and a rubbish one at that, but after that line and all that waiting it was like a Bacchanalian paradise! Although…I couldn’t find the beer at first since the 330ml cans of Isenbeck were quite well disguised in the fridge looking almost like sodas, one of the waitstaff put me straight on that one. The snacks were typical United rubbish but around 7pm some canapés, sandwiches and olives and things were brought out. Nothing to set the world alight but nice to nibble on whilst we waited to board.
At 7.25pm we noticed a few passengers from the check-in area pack up and leave, including a wheelchair bound gentleman who had assistance, although no announcement had been made yet. My wife decided to go ask at the front desk and when she came back she seemed a little confused, the agent had mentioned something to her about clearing immigration so I said to go and ask again what the deal was…that wasn’t a good idea since the agent chewed her out, “I told you already! The crew are held up in immigration”. Yikes lady, chill out!
It was only another ten minutes though and then boarding was properly announced from Gate 2. As is normal for these sort of flights a makeshift security checkpoint had been setup and I was pulled to one side and a rather quick and pointless glance in my bags deemed me secure enough to board the awaiting 767 outside. Luckily I’d retained the scrap of paper I’d been handed at my pre-check-in interview, nobody had told anyone to keep a hold of it so I wouldn’t be surprised if some just binned theirs!
Once onboard we went through the same boarding routine as the previous flight, changed into pyjamas and got out the various items we wanted for the initial stages of the flight. Menus and washbags had been placed on the little shelf underneath the PTV in anticipation of our arrival and we were quickly offered a choice of drink to pass the time before the door shut.
United Business Class cabin
At 8.30pm some twenty minutes after our flight was due to depart a PA was made from the front office. Due to hold ups at “customs”, yes the pilot said customs (ugh!), there were quite a few passengers who hadn’t made it onboard yet so they were going to hold the flight back for an unspecified amount of time. At this moment the purser was walking round the cabin taking our meal orders and by the time she reached the lady across from us she was quite concerned. By all accounts her EWR-EZE flight had been cancelled when the crew timed out during a ground delay and she was worried it would happen again. As the purser was talking to her door 1L could be heard closing and it was announced we were on our way.
We pushed back at 8.50pm, some forty minutes after our scheduled departure and taxied around the well lit terminal past some unexpected visitors (unexpected for me anyways) notably those from Emirates and Qatar. From where we held short of runway I could see we only had to await the arrival of one aircraft before rolling onto the runway for a rather aggressive throttle up. As we lifted off the ground the lights of Buenos Aires were visible through the windows on the port side before we were enveloped by cloud and I was relying upon the inflight entertainment map for our position. Within 15mins were we at FL310 and following the Rio Uruguay north.
Soon after departing…
Preferring to keep an eye on the moving map I fired up my iPod and started listening to a favourite mix whilst the wife preferred the Coldplay album Mylo Xyloto that was on the IFE system. Rather amusingly she was having a bit of trouble and ended up playing a Barry Manilow album over and over as she tried to navigate the albums! The flight attendants were pretty on the ball and quickly came round with proactive drinks top-ups, toting both champagne in one hand and water in another, then hot towels and ever predictable hot nuts. By the time the appetizer was coming round it was an hour into the flight and we were over the southern part of Paraguay. Surprisingly you could see the lights of Asuncion out of the window.
1) Curried chicken starter
2) Filet mignon entrée
Of the three mains I’d opted for the filet mignon…oh no I hear you cry, why would I want another brown steak? Well it was the best of a bad choices; salmon, eggplant pasta or filet mignon. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised with the beef, rather well cooked with no signs of brown and a nice red hue to it when cut open. Due to the earlier departure time I was quite prepared to enjoy a nice made to order ice cream, alas it was cake or cheese for dessert. Ho hum. The chocolate cake was alright I guess By this time I was ready to bed down and so went to the toilet to brush my teeth and pack my items away for the night. …
After another good night’s sleep I awoke off the coast of the North Carolina Outer Banks where we were cruising at FL360, perfect! Breakfast service was just commencing and the sun was due to rise any minute out of my window to the right…well I would have seen it if I had the blind open. I opted for the eggs (which really weren’t that bad) and a glass of orange juice.
Eggs for breakfast with sausage and mushroom
Anticipating a similar scenario to the flight down I quickly finished up with breakfast, balancing the partly used tray on the drinks table area, and headed to the toilets to change and freshen up. As I waited for the toilet to become vacant I noticed a gentleman in the front row of economy replete with DSLR snapping photos of the rising sun. This time my ablutions went uninterrupted and I got back to my seat as it was announced we’d be landing shortly and the seatbelt sign was switched on.
1) The sun rises…
2) Nearing our destination
As I was putting my bags in the overhead locker I was almost knocked to the ground though as out of nowhere the P&Ws on the wing throttled up inexplicably and we pitched up quite violently. No clue what that was about but it certainly caught a few people off guard! Back in my seat comfortably strapped in I peered out of the window for something interesting to look at. Mother Nature had other plans and as we skipped across a thick blanket of cloud at 3000ft or so it was rather clear it’d be a rather different view from my EWR approach two weeks previous. Indeed, as we punched through the clouds just a few hundred feet off the deck the first thing I noticed was the Ikea, just across I-95 from the runway, 4R, that we were touching down on.
As we taxied over to Terminal C the crew went through their pleasantries on the PA and they noted they were DC based, a hangover from the IAD-EZE rotations or just a fluke, the latter most likely…this was followed up by the standard PA reminding passengers to stay in their seats until we had reached the terminal, etc. A male FA quickly chimed in after, “SIR, PLEASE TAKE YOUR SEAT…YES, YOU!”
Our gate, 125, was right at the end of the concourse so we had a nice stretch of the legs en-route to the immigration hall. The Global Entry lines were easily identified and with no queue so we were as good as instantly through to the baggage hall. On this trip though Global Entry meant we were just waiting in the baggage claim hall instead of the immigration line We were the first passengers through and then the lady across the aisle joined us, amusingly doing some rather over the top yoga moves before the belt fired into life. A few weary looking faces had joined us by that time and surprisingly priority handling wasn’t too well observed, a rarity for Star Alliance. Instead our bags came in the middle of the pack. With our Global Entry customs declaration slips we were down to the transit area quickly, where we explained we were looking to change the flights so were directed over to the United desks. Three agents were available and we were switched over onto to the Richmond flight leaving around two and a bit hours later The only downside was for some reason the “Premier Access” notation had now been scrubbed and we were in row 19 and boarding group 6 on an EMB-145! I didn’t realize there were six boarding groups on an RJ, let alone a nineteenth row!
From where we were we emptied into the main departures area which, given it was early on a Monday was a disaster. Security was overfilled so red coated personnel were preventing passengers taking escalators to get up to the same floor as security. I wasn’t the only one to ask about Premier Access so didn’t feel too bad but the situation was rather ridiculous. Some people took an escalator down another level so they could reach the security area another way and sure enough this was pointed out to our daft red coat who instead of being sensible asked us to wait in a straight line instead! Once that farce was over we entered the Premier Access line itself and despite being jammed it moved quite quickly and in ten minutes we were at the front. I did notice a Global Services line, the “Premier Access Premier Access” if you will, allowing you to cut right to the front of the line
Back in the United Club
The United Club was just across the way and we booked ourselves a shower to share that would be ready in about ten minutes. We took a seat, grabbed a glass of OJ and checked emails and various other things to occupy that short amount of dead time.
The shower itself was almost wetroom style and very large indeed, plenty of room for two people, unlike the BA equivalents at Heathrow. By the time we’d both managed to get ready and freshen up it was almost boarding time so we gathered our items, thanked the valet and powerwalked to the very end of the concourse, C88, one of those goofy dungeon gates that regional jets always seem to board from at hubs…
Route: Newark – Liberty Int. - Richmond – Int. (Byrd Field)
Airline: United Express operated by Atlantic Southeast Airlines
Flight Number: UA4317
Aircraft: Embraer ERJ-145XR
Seat: 19C (Single Class Economy)
Distance: 277 miles
Duration: 1hr 2mins
Photo © F. Camirand
Photo © AJ Heiser
It was announced that crew were on their way but had accidentally gone to Terminal A instead of Terminal C (Richmond flights go from both) and once they’d done their checks we’d be good to go. Surprisingly quickly they showed up and it was announced that boarding groups 1 and 2 would begin shortly. Cue ruckus at the entrance to the gate….A gentleman, with a voice that could shatter windows, asked the gate agent loudly about Premier Access and when he could board. She asked if he was in groups 1 or 2, he asked about Premier Access, ad nauseum…The guy eventually goes nuts and asks for the GA’s business card loudly exclaiming how he was going to call customer service right now and tell them about this horrific ordeal. By now everyone in the regional jet dungeon was watching this standoff including those passengers at the other gate It was funny if it wasn’t for the fact it was so pathetic and he was holding up boarding with his tirade. The GA seemed prepared to let him through but not after he’d hassled the guy at the podium too. As boarding groups 3, 4 and 5 left it seemed there weren’t many of us left but there was at least a seventh boarding group too It was a long walk to row 19 and the little turbofan was right by the window. From where I was sitting the back of the aircraft was jutting out so I could see the aircraft taxiing out to runway 22R. Unsurprisingly there weren’t many aircraft other than the “globe tails” about but there were a few unusual characters, a Miami Air 737-800, a Southwest 737 (didn’t even knew they served EWR!) and a couple of Porter Dash 8s, not to mention the USPS van driving about!
”Where’s that blasted mailbox again?
Our flight attendant had one of those great voices that’s ideal for making announcements; professional, soothing and with a feeling of there to help and as we prepared for pushback her dulcet tones settled the cabin. The engine beside me span into life and we taxied off to join the queue for 22R. Having never sat so far back on an EMB-145 I got to see the wing configuration set up in preparation for takeoff and eyeballed the intricate movements of all the other hopeful departures as they meandered their way around the taxiways.
Monday morning rush hour, EWR style
As we headed for the skies the little turbofans wailed into life propelling us through the thick cloud layer emerging into beautiful bright blue sky, giving no clue to the pitiful conditions beneath.
The view from minutes 2 to 58 on this flight!
For the entire flight there wasn’t a whole lot to see from FL160 and the only service was the one pull through of the drinks trolley, most partaking in something caffeinated.
By the time the FA had got to us, serving all 19 rows, we were only about 25mins and 110 miles from RIC. A sleeping guy a couple of rows in front of us shouted something incomprehensible a couple of times in quick succession, this caused a few of those around him to be rather startled. I took this opportunity to remind my wife of an overnight flight she took a few years ago where in the middle of the night one of the other passengers in the F cabin was screaming in his sleep, so much so he woke all of the other passengers and the flight almost had to be diverted!
What’s this? Something other than blue sky above and thick cloud below?
The thick cloud continued down the Mid-Atlantic coast to Richmond and when we poked through the thick cloud the airfield was visible off to the starboard side around 10 miles or so away. We flew round from the east approaching runway 2, touching down after one hour of flight. We landed in a convenient direction for a quick taxi in to the little area where the United flights depart from, although we blocked the outgoing aircraft so had to do a U-turn back out again in order to let it out.
On the way out of the aircraft the flight attendant and flight crew thanked us and wished us a pleasant day, a nice touch from the people in the front office As the last passengers to disembark the aircraft our luggage had a good headstart on us and even though RIC is a pretty small airport (so we didn’t have far to walk) I was amazed to see all the bags had already made it to the baggage belt and it had stopped! It was almost as if we’d taken hours to make the short walk over.
Waiting for the shuttle bus to take us back to our hotel we were joined by the flight crew, they recognized us and again thanked us wishing us a safe journey, it was all rather friendly Then I got that dreaded feeling that your holiday is over and within an hour I was back in the office!