Hello everyone I'm back with another trip report. These flights actually occurred back in March, but I've been SO overwhelmed with schoolwork that I'm just finally getting around to writing it now since the semester has ended. I just finished up my third year at the University of Arizona studying biology, and after I graduate in a year and half I'm hoping to continue on the medical school. So far I had kind of been lacking in the extracurricular department, but back in October I got an email about a medical brigade to Honduras during spring break. During my first two years of college I just went home to Wisconsin during spring break, but it didn't sound like to many of my high school friends were going to be around this year. On the other hand, I couldn't really go anywhere crazy (Florida, Cancun, etc.) with a group of friends because I was saving my money for a Vegas trip this summer. So after thinking it over for a while, I eventually signed up for the Honduras trip. I did have some minor uneasiness about going, mostly because I had always been given the impression that Honduras was a poor, unsafe country, but at least I'd get to go somewhere exotic and get some real hands-on medical experience. Oh, and of course having a few flights mixed in there wasn't a bad deal either.
So without further ado, on to the report...(Mar. 10-17)
There was around 40 of us undergraduates from the U of A going on this trip, and the girl in charge of the trip had enlisted the help of a travel agent to try and get the cheapest fare possible for the whole group. They finally ended up settling on a crazy outbound leg that had us go PHX
with an overnight stay over at IAH
. As we'd find out later though, cheaper doesn't always mean better. Anyways, our flight from PHX
was at 5:20 PM
, so at about 1:30 one of the girls who was going on the trip picked me up along with her mom. Her mom was one of two American doctors that had volunteered to go on the trip with us, and after picking up two other people from campus we started the one and a half hour drive up to PHX
. When we got there her mom dropped us off at terminal 2 and then headed off since she had a few more hours to kill before her flight. Out of the group of 40, 32 of us were flying UA
while a smaller group of 8 was flying AA
later that night through MIA
. This was the only terminal at PHX
that I had never been in before, and believe it or not this was also going to be my first time flying UA
When I got inside a lot of the other people from the group were already there checking in. In addition to having one bag for our own things, each of us also had a second piece of luggage that was stuffed with medical supplies. I assumed we were going to have to pay for it ourselves, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that we got one checked bag for free since we were traveling to Central America. Another problem I thought I was going to have to deal with was trying to get window seats. I emailed the girl who was in charge of the trip ahead of time asking her if she could make it so I was assigned window seats, but she said there was nothing she could do since the travel agent was in charge of the flights. Of course, I'm sure she could've forwarded my concerns to the travel agent, but I figured she wouldn't understand and would just think I was acting like some little kid for wanting a window seat so badly. Anyways, upon checking in I found out I had been assigned window seats for the second and third flights, but not for the first one to DEN
. I thought about asking some other people from the group if they'd want to switch with me, but I figured they wouldn't want to since I was stuck in a middle seat. With that taken care of I headed towards the security checkpoint and after a few minutes I was in the gates area with still over an hour to go until our flight. I walked the length of the terminal to see what was going on, but there was not a single plane there at the time. I watched some of the landing/departing traffic and then walked back to buy some food.
I bought two slices of pizza and knocked back my first dosage of malaria medication. I noticed a lot of people in the terminal were sporting apparel of various MLB teams. I guess it must be a popular thing to fly in on the weekend and catch a few Cactus League games. As I was eating our 739 arrived and pulled into the gate. This would be my first flight on the stretched -900 version of the 737.
There was actually another delayed UA
737 that had arrived right before ours, so as a result there was going to be two flights leaving to DEN
within minutes of each other. Once I was done eating I decided to take a stroll down the concourse again and there was an AS
734 that had arrived from PDX
When I got back to the gate to wait for boarding to start I noticed the seat map being displayed on the monitor at the gate showed a window seat had opened up over the wing, so I asked to the gate agent about it and promptly had my seat switched - score!
They also announced that due to the full flight, they were going to allow people to check their carry-ons for free. Works for me, since I didn't really feel like lugging my bag around all night. I was in the very last boarding group so it took a while, but eventually I made my way aboard to seat 23F.
This particular 739 must've been new, because right when I stepped onboard I got a whiff of that "new" plane smell. It even had the overhead mood lighting installed, something which I had yet to experience. One of the guys sitting next to me asked about the trip we were going on (we all had custom-made matching shirts on so we stuck out), and I figured I'd be getting that a lot since someone else had already asked me about it inside the terminal, but that turned out to be the last time. After pushing back we taxied out to runway 25R and with no line for takeoff we made an immediate departure.
Climbing out over downtown Phoenix. Down there in Chase Field the US was playing against Canada in the World Baseball Classic.
Looking back at the city of Phoenix and Sky Harbor Airport.
During the inflight service I got a cup of ginger ale along with some cran-apple juice. For the most part I just listened to music and looked out the window. As we made our way towards DEN
it started to get dark out.
The flight was pretty smooth but we did hit a few bumps as we were descending into DEN
. Even though it was dark out, I was still able to make out the airport as we flew past and then swung back around for a smooth landing on runway 16R. After a bit of a long taxi we parked at gate B16. Here's the 739 from our flight that was going to DFW
Our flight to IAH
was leaving out of gate B59, so we pretty much had to walk the entire length of the concourse to get over there. I wasn't really looking forward to this flight because it was scheduled to be an E145 for some reason (had switched from a CR7 about a month back). Kind of strange considering it’s a hub-hub flight. When we got down to the gate there was still over an hour to go until departure so I went to get some McDonalds, and on my way back I glanced at the departures board and saw that our flight was now delayed by over two hours and wouldn't be leaving until 12:15 AM
! A lot of people had booked hotel rooms near IAH
to get some sleep before the flight to TGU
, but this delay pretty much squashed those ideas. We'd now be getting into IAH
after 3 AM
, and since the flight to TGU
was at 9 it didn't make any sense for anyone to head over to a hotel for only a few hours. It didn't affect me though since I hadn't booked a room anyways, I figured all along I'd just hang around the airport and explore. So, with a pretty hefty delay ahead of us I whipped out my laptop and took advantage of the free airport Wi-Fi for a bit. After about thirty minutes of that I decided to walk around a little more and check things out, and when I noticed a bunch of people from our group crowding around the podium at another gate I figured something was up. And yep, a quick glance at the departures board showed that our flight was now cancelled
...great...(should say UA
For about the next hour there was quite a bit of confusion in terms of the UA
people trying to come up with a solution for us. At one point it looked like we were all going to be put on different flights to IAH
the next day, but with that we still wouldn't be able to continue onto TGU
until the day after that because there's only one daily flight. Eventually they managed to secure a spare A319 and created a second 6 AM IAH
flight just for us and the other handful of travelers that was stranded. For the most part, I was just glad we weren't going to be stuck on a dinky 50 seater anymore.
Anyways, things started to die down after that and after the last flights of the night left the whole terminal became deserted pretty quick. As far as I can remember, this was going to be my first time spending the night at the airport.
I wasn't tired enough to go to bed yet, so I walked the whole length of the terminal one more time and then at about 1 AM
I headed down to our departure gate B28. I found a nice spot on the floor next to this UA
757 and tried to get a few hours of sleep.
Well, in the end the sleeping in the floor idea didn't work out too well. I was out maybe for a few thirty minute intervals and that was it. Towards the end I pulled two sets of chairs together to make sort of a makeshift bed and managed to get maybe another hour or so of sleep out of that before my alarm woke me up at 5 AM
. I was still dead tired, so I headed straight to McDonalds and got a large coffee to get me going. Now, the only bad thing about getting the new flight on the A319 was that everyone got issued new boarding passes, and that meant new seat assignments for the two flights. My assigned seat for DEN
didn't matter since there was going to be a bunch of empty seats anyways, but for IAH
I was now switched from a window to a middle seat. When I got back to the gate I checked to see if there were any open window seats for the TGU
flight, and I wasn't too surprised when I found out there wasn't. The large group of us 32 pretty much caused every flight to be full and a result, not many empty seats. I was pretty bummed out that I wasn't going to be able to "fully" experience the crazy landing into TGU
, but oh well. Soon afterwards they started boarding our flight and we went aboard.
Due to the extremely light load on this flight I didn't even bother to check my assigned seat, I just randomly picked out a seat behind the wing that looked good. Aside from our group there was a few other people on the flight as well, mostly standbys and then some other people from our cancelled flight the previous night. After we all got settled the flight attendant made her announcements and gave a shout-out to us "high schoolers", which caused everyone to groan a little. Then the captain came on and mentioned that channel 9 would be available during the flight, something I had completely forgotten about since this was my first time flying UA
! For some reason it didn't start working until after we took off, but once it was on I listened to it for the whole flight. It was definitely cool for a guy like me who likes listening to ATC. The climb out from DEN
was a little bumpy but things eventually smoothened out and then the sun started coming up.
I probably should've tried to get some sleep at this point, but I always struggle with falling asleep in a car or airplane so I just went with more coffee to help keep me awake. It was a pretty uneventful flight and after about an hour and a half of flight we started descending into IAH
We flew past the airport and then turned back around to line up with runway 26L. At the top of this photo is IAH
if you can make it out.
It was a smooth landing and I was now at IAH
for the first time. Right before touching down we flew over a bunch of grounded 787s and I regret not getting a picture!
It was a bit of a long taxi but we parked just a few gates from E24, the gate where our flight to TGU
was leaving from. It was already past the scheduled departure time but since there was 32 of us they agreed to hold the plane until we arrived. Once we got off we hustled over there and boarded.
It was already bad enough that I was stuck in an aisle seat 10B, but to make matters worse that particular row didn't even have window at all!
I was hoping I would at least get to see a little bit from sitting in the middle, but obviously that wasn't going to happen now. Anyways, after pushing back we made a bit of a long taxi out to runway 15L, and after taking off we headed straight out over the Gulf of Mexico. Not long after departure the flight attendants came through the aisle and passed out immigration forms. I also got some more coffee during the drink service to help keep me awake. Then I pretty much just sat there the whole flight. There was no window view, no channel 9 (why don't the 737s have it?), and even though this particular 737 had PTVs none of the channels worked since practically the whole flight took place outside of US airspace. The only good thing was that the row I was sitting in happened to be Economy Plus, so at least I had a little bit more room to stretch out. When we started our descent into TGU
, I asked my seatmate if she could lean forward a little so I could somewhat look out the window from the row behind us, and fortunately she kindly obliged.
It was definitely and awesome and intense approach/landing. I love the landing at MDW
because of how low you go and then the full reverse thrust, and this was even better! And at least I got to out the window a little bit, so all in all it wasn't too bad. After parking at the terminal we disembarked through the airstairs onto the tarmac. Here's the 737 from our flight.
flight from ATL
taxiing in after landing.
When we got inside the terminal the line for immigration/customs built up pretty quick. Even though I was at the front it still moved at a pretty slow pace. After getting my passport stamped and then picking up my bags I was one of the first ones the exit into the arrivals hall where our guides were waiting for us. We had to wait quite a bit for everyone to come out and then also for the small group coming in from MIA
Once everyone was set to go we headed outside to the bus and then started the drive to our hotel.
To give you a little more background information on the trip, the organization we were working with was called Global Brigades. It’s a student-led, nonprofit health and sustainable development organization that has clubs at over 70 universities in the US. Aside from medical/dental brigades, they also organize trips that focus on architecture/construction and the delivery of clean water. Most of the brigades go to either Honduras, Panama, or Ghana. We stayed at a hotel in the coastal town of San Lorenzo which was about a two hour drive from TGU
. The day after we arrived we went to this nature preserve where they had deer, emus, iguanas, and other animals that were once plentiful across Honduras. Here's a wild pair of scarlet macaws, the national bird of Honduras.
Then we went to the beach they had there, and even though it might not look too impressive it was actually the best beach we saw on the whole trip. There definitely wasn't anything on this side of the country that resembled Roatan or the other Bay Islands, that's for sure.
That night back at the hotel we sorted the medications and then the next day we went to the first of two villages that we'd be visiting.
We set up our clinic at the village school and the way it was set up was that there were several different stations that everyone got to work at. This included triage, shadowing the doctors, pharmacy, and pap smears (girls only). In triage the patients would come in and tell us what sort of medical problems they were having. We'd then take their blood pressure, temperature, weight, etc. and then send them off to see the doctor. In addition to the two American doctors that came with us, there were also three Honduran doctors from Tegucigalpa who decided to volunteer as well. Most of us there were part of the medical brigade, but there was also a small group of dental people and they worked with two Honduran dentists.
Here we are arriving at the village the second day. As you can see there was a lot of people who showed up, and it stayed pretty busy throughout the day.
During the second day at the village we all split up into smaller groups and went to take tours of some of the local homes.
Here's the living room of the home that my group toured.
And then here's the family that lives there. Even though I knew that the living conditions around there were pretty bad, it was even more depressing to see it first hand and what we saw was pretty indicative of most of the other homes in the village as well. No air conditioning, no electricity, and a minimal supply of clean water.
As we were getting ready to leave the village we took a group photo of all 40 of us.
For the last two days we went to the second village, and unfortunately the experience there just wasn't as good. Whereas in the first village there was a long line of people waiting for us when we showed up, almost nobody was there when we arrived at the second place. At the first village we worked until about 4 PM
, but here we packed up at around 1 PM
both days because barely anyone came. The people there just seemed to be way less appreciative, and even our guides got kind of fed up with it. Some of the little kids were even cussing at some of the girls from our group. I don't know if it was some kind of negative American stereotype or what, but the vibe just wasn't too good over there. Anyways, here's me working in the triage area.
Me and our head coordinator Moises.
The hotel we stayed at.
On the last day before heading back to the hotel we stopped at a coastal area near downtown San Lorenzo.
And so after an exciting but tiring week in Honduras, it was time to head back to Arizona.
Our flight back to IAH
was before noon, so we had to get up bright and early at 6 AM
to eat breakfast and then drive back up to TGU
When we got to the airport and went inside the terminal to check in it was actually somewhat busy. Right after we walked up to the UA
ticket counter one of the employees came around and passed out everyone's boarding passes. I checked my seat assignments and once again I was screwed over into having two middle seats, and even worse I was stuck in the same window-less row as last time for the TGU
When I got up to the counter to drop my bag off I asked if there were any open window seats for either of the two flights, but unfortunately for me there weren't any. Then after checking in we all had to go over to this booth and pay a $40 departure tax, which was kind of ridiculous if you ask me. We then said goodbye to our guides, thanked them for working with us, and headed to the security checkpoint. They were pretty crafty with the layout here at TGU
because once you clear the security check you have to walk straight through the duty free shop in order to get to the gates area. I was hoping to get a good view of our plane coming in for landing but there weren't really any windows facing that way. Eventually our flight landed and then unlike when we came in a week ago, it parked at the jetway this time.
There wasn't much else going on in terms of aircraft movement so I just hung around the gate and waited for boarding to start. The gate agent announced that due to the full load people would be allowed to check their bags for free, so I had them tag my bag and then I dropped it off at the bottom of the jetway.
As everyone was getting seated one of the flight attendants brought my bag in and asked who's it was. When I told her it was mine she said she was going to put it in the overhead bin to save me some trouble because I'd need to reclaim it at IAH
anyways. I guess that was kind of new to me, because almost all of my previous international flights had been nonstop and I had never had to make any connections. After pushing back from the gate we taxied down the end of the runway and then turned around for a quick takeoff due to the short runway. Once again the girl sitting next to me was kind enough to lean forward so I could snap a few pictures through the window from the row behind us.
It was a smooth climb-out and not too long after takeoff the flight attendants came through the aisle and distributed the US customs forms. During the food service I got coffee, apple cranberry juice, and then I also decided to purchase a ham sandwich. I wasn't really that hungry, just curious for the most part to see how it tasted. It was ok I guess, though apparently it was a substitute for the hamburger that they normally offer. That probably would've been much more interesting to try. Anyways, with no window there was no view and since the TVs weren't working again I pretty much just sat back and listened to music. At least it was nice to have the few extra inches of leg room again from the Economy Plus seating.
The girl sitting next to me on the window side wasn't part of our group, but after talking with her for a little bit I found out that she was also a college student heading back Lubbock. She had been working at an orphanage in Tegucigalpa and was planning on going back for a six month stay! I guess that kind of made me raise my eyebrows a bit because even though we never had any problems where we were (if you saw in the picture above we had to have armed soldiers with us at all times) our guides told us that Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula are pretty bad when it comes to crime. Not sure I'd want to stay in one of those cities. Anyways, eventually we started our descent into IAH
and after landing on runway 27 we made a short taxi to gate E24, the same gate we had left from a week ago.
A couple people on the trip were also part of the group that went to Honduras last year, and earlier that day a few of them had mentioned that they were not looking forward to having to go through customs at IAH
. From when we arrived at IAH
we had about two hours until our flight to PHX
, and a few of them had mentioned that last year they almost ended up missing their flight because of how long it took. I'm not sure why they had any problems because once we got down to the passport check it was a breeze with all the booths they had open. We proceeded into the baggage claim to retrieve our luggage and even though it was supposed be coming off carousel eight, after a few minutes some people started noticing their bags coming off carousel nine. Everyone's bags eventually came off, except mine that is. I waited and waited until eventually there were no more new bags coming onto the belt and I was the only one from the group without their checked bag...Maybe I should've have seen this coming though, because on our way down to TGU
four people had their bags misplaced and it took over a day for them to arrive at the hotel. It looks like I was the unlucky one this time
...I asked one of the airport employees walking around what to do about my missing bag and he said I should talk to the UA
people about it after exiting the internationals arrivals area. When I cleared customs and entered the main terminal they had a couple stations set up for people to drop off their checked bags for connecting flights. My carry-on had already been tagged to PHX
, and even though one of my bags had just gone missing I didn't feeling like hauling it through the airport so I dropped it off.
I then walked over to the nearby UA
customer service desk and explained my luggage situation to them. Their conclusion was that I should wait and see if my bag shows up in PHX
, and if not, consult with the lost baggage office there. That didn't really sound too optimistic, but oh well. With that taken care of I proceeded through the nearby security checkpoint and was now back in the gates area. I walked over to our departure gate E8
to see if any window seats had opened up, but I was told to check back during boarding. In the meantime I got a little snack at the food court and then did a little spotting. This 737 was going to MEX
A319 to San Salvador. Is there anyone else here besides me who thinks that the "United" would look much better in the CO
It was getting close to boarding time so I didn't wander off and just stayed in the gate area. As I was boarding I asked the gate agent that I had talked to earlier "Any luck?" and he replied by saying "Here you go" and gave me a new boarding pass. It looks like my luck was finally changing...that is until I got halfway down the jetway and noticed that for some reason I had been switched to an aisle seat, not a window.
I headed back to row 32 and noticed two younger kids were sitting there so I asked the one sitting in the middle if he'd like to switch with me, because I figured sitting in the middle would give me a somewhat decent view during takeoff and landing. Much to my surprise they said "Sure, you can even have the window if you want." Yes, I know I'm probably too much like a little kid when it comes to wanting a window seat.
Anyways, after pushing back we taxied out to runway 15R and did a parallel takeoff with a company 757.
During the drink service I once again got coffee and cranberry apple juice. There were a few points where we encountered some light turbulence but otherwise it was pretty smooth. Soon it started to get dark out and we started our descent into PHX
. We came in from the south and flew right over IWA.
It was a smooth landing and then we taxied over to the same gate that we had left from a week ago.
As soon as we walked into the baggage claim area I heard the following announcement over the PA system: "Houston passenger Kolanowski please report to the United Airlines lost baggage office." Well, I guess that pretty much answered the question of whether or not my bag would be here. I headed over to the office and they told me that my bag wasn't lost, but that it'd be coming on the later flight from IAH
and then they'd drive it down to my apartment in Tucson the next day. Thankfully, the bag that I dropped off at IAH
did show up on the carousel. After everyone had their luggage, we all said our goodbyes and then headed out to the parking lot to start the drive back to Tucson. With that the trip was over, and the next day it was back to school.
This is my 26th trip report and I hope you enjoyed reading it! It was my first time flying UA
, and obviously things didn't go too smoothly with the cancelled flight and then my misplaced luggage, but I did end up receiving it the next day. I'm pretty forgiving when it comes to air travel, so in the future I might give them a tryout of ORD
. The trip to Honduras itself was a great experience, and while I was initially hesitant about going, I'm glad I did. They're already planning on having next year's trip be to Panama, so I guess in the next few months I'll have to see if I'm up for something like that again. Thanks again for reading!!!
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