Hello and welcome to my latest trip report! Less than two weeks after returning from my Asia trip
I was heading abroad once again, this time to visit my family in Poland. I'm a first generation American and my whole family is from there. Most of my mom's relatives live near Poznan while my dad's side is from Torun. This would be my fifth visit to Poland, and in addition, we would also first be stopping in Scotland for a few days. One of my dad's friends from high school lives there, so by visiting him we'd also get the chance to see/explore a country that none of us had been to before. We booked the flights on Vayama and it ended up being around $1350 per person. That might not have been the greatest deal but at least we managed to get a nonstop flight for the outbound leg. (June 20-July 7)
There was five of us going on this trip: myself, my parents, and my brother and sister. Instead of cramming into one car we had my grandpa and uncle drive us down to ORD in two cars. When we got dropped off at Terminal 1 there was still three hours to go until our flight. My parents are somewhat paranoid when it comes to getting to the airport on time. You know how they say you should be at the airport two hours before a domestic flight and three for international? Well, they really take that to heart, even though in my mind following those guidelines usually results in quite a bit of waiting around. After all, the only difference between a domestic and international flight in this case was that we had to present passports during check-in.
As for the check-in process itself, we used the kiosks and it was quick and mostly hassle-free. I initially had some minor trouble trying to print out a bag tag since I had previously checked in on the United app and didn't mention that I'd be checking a bag. Somewhat surprisingly, all five of us ended up getting TSA Pre on our boarding passes, even though I'm the only one that's signed up for it. Do they do this to keep families together or was it more likely that they were just randomly fortunate to get it? Regardless, we were able to clear the security checkpoint in a few short minutes and then proceeded through the underground tunnel to the C gates. The aircraft for our flight was already at the gate - a 757 in the Star Alliance livery. For some reason, the monitor at the gate indicated that there was still going to be a departure to EWR beforehand, but that must've been some sort of error because this ended up being our aircraft.
At that point there was still a ton of time until boarding, so I set off to check out the rest of the terminal and all of the other flights.
Lufthansa 748 to FRA. Sidenote: does anyone know why Lufthansa 437 to MUC departs from Terminal 5 while the rest of their flights leave from Terminal 1?
United 763 going to LHR.
United 772 to BRU.
Before heading back to the gate to wait for boarding to start I stopped and got two Chicago-style hot dogs. Once the time finally rolled around I proceeded down the jetbridge and boarded what would be my first-ever TATL flight on a narrow-body aircraft.
Similarly, it was also my family's first narrow-body TATL flight, and I could they were all a little surprised when they stepped aboard the aircraft. My mom would go on to bemoan the level of comfort on the flight to family members, calling the aircraft for this flight "very small." She even thought that the Ryanair flight we took later on in the trip was MORE comfortable.
Once the steady stream of passengers coming aboard the aircraft petered out there was still a substantial amount of open seats left. As our departure time crept closer, one of the flight attendants announced that we were still waiting on roughly 50 connecting passengers and that the flight would be held back so they could make it. I'm not sure how often airlines delay flights so that passengers can make their connections, but I'm guessing the large number of missing passengers in this case played a factor in the decision. During the wait, the flight attendants passed out small packs of pretzels.
A few people trickled aboard every so often, but it wasn't until later that a group of around 30 people showed up all at once and finally got us on our way. I'm guessing it must've been some sort of organized group/trip that arrived together on the same flight. By the time we pushed back we were running 45 minutes late. Due to the typical congestion at ORD it ended up being another 20 minutes before we made it into the air. We took off from runway 9R, turned to the northeast, and climbed out along the Lake Michigan shoreline.
The PTVs themselves seemed to be a bit on the older side, but still sufficient. I watched Blade Runner 2049. When dinner came around the food options were identical to both of my United flights to/from Europe the previous summer: chicken or pasta with vegetables. I went with the former, and it was ok. My mom, on the other hand, thought the pasta was terrible. I've always kind of been indifferent towards all airplane food, mostly because I never expect anything glamorous. However, after traveling with Cathay Pacific and JAL that summer (and subsequently Lufthansa on the return trip), it's obvious that United's meals are a step below.
Somewhat amusingly, the flight attendant asked me how old I was when I chose to have some wine (I'm 26 and could pass for 21 when I was 18), but then she didn't even ask to see my ID afterward.
Following the meal, the flight attendants passed out cups of vanilla bean ice cream and small plastic bottles of water.
As the flight dragged on I decided to see if I could try and get some sleep, but as usual that turned into a hopeless situation. I rarely fall asleep on planes, and this time was no different. It's just difficult for me to get comfortable. Despite the fact that this flight was on a 757, I'm not sure if it felt substantially more cramped than a regular widebody flight.
Just as the captain had previously advised us, turbulence picked up a little over four hours into the flight and it lasted long enough that it actually cut into the breakfast service a bit. The "light breakfast" was simple, but it was actually somewhat more satisfying than the dinner.
After eating, when I returned from using the bathroom we were already cutting across the western part of Scotland and closing in on Edinburgh.
We flew out over the North Sea and then turned back around for a smooth landing on runway 24, getting a good view of the city of Edinburgh in the process.
Following deplaning, we were led downstairs to the somewhat small and cramped passport checkpoint area. It took about twenty minutes to get through that and by the time we got into the baggage claim most of our luggage had already come out onto the carousel. From there, we proceeded to the rental car lot to pick up our van and then we were off.
My dad's friend lives roughly between Edinburgh and Glasgow. That first day I really had to fight the jet lag because when we got to his place we only spent a short time unpacking before going out and catching a train to Old Town Edinburgh. We spent the whole day there and I was in for a bit of a rude awakening because even though it was the middle of summer the temperature still didn't crack 60 degrees F!
We utilized the Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour to explore the city.
We stopped in at The Last Drop for a cold pint and I also got my first taste of haggis (very good!). The FIFA World Cup was going on during this time so naturally all of the pubs had even more of a festive atmosphere than usual. And of course, a trip to Edinburgh wouldn't be complete without visiting the famous castle, right?
On day 2 we drove north into the Scottish Highlands all the way up to Loch Ness, and the following day we visited the picturesque seaside town of St Andrews. Golf is one of the sports that I'm least into, so without almost realizing it, while we were walking around I suddenly found myself in front of the famous Old Course where The Open Championship is frequently contested.
Our last day in Scotland was spent back in Edinburgh. My brother is a big scotch connoisseur so I tagged along with him to The Scotch Whisky Experience. Afterward, we trekked to the top of the hill known as Arthur's Seat where one can get a good view of the city. Unlike the hike in Vietnam that almost killed me due to heat exhaustion, this one was much more pleasant!
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Scotland. Up in the Highlands, the lochs and mountains make for an impressive landscape and it was neat how the cities had a "medieval" feel to them. To get to Poland we flew Ryanair from Glasgow to Bydgoszcz. The flight only operated twice per week, but it was the easiest way to get to Torun. Of course, since this time Ryanair has axed most of their flights from GLA, but a few routes are set to return in April. We did have a small problem with the online check-in the night before. For some reason I was the one listed as a "teen" instead of my sister, so upon entering my birthdate it came back with an error message because it said I had to be under 16 years of age. I'm not sure if this was caused by a glitch or if my dad had simply made some kind of a mistake by when he originally booked the flights, but fortunately they didn't charge me the check-in fee when we got to the airport. Frankly, its a good thing I was on the trip because I don't think anyone in my family even knew that you had to check-in online ahead of time in order to avoid being charged a hefty fee at the airport.
Our aircraft was late arriving from STN due to "lack of ground staff", and as a result we departed 45 minutes behind schedule.
This was my first time flying Ryanair, but it was pretty routine. The flight was full, and not surprisingly it seemed like an overwhelming majority of the passengers were Polish folks (the traditional clapping even broke out upon landing). I didn't partake in any of the BOB, and perhaps the only thing I found noteworthy were the non-reclining seats, another first for me. It was bearable considering the duration of the flight. It was also my first time flying to BZG and from the looks of it, it must've been an old air base. There were several empty camouflaged hangars.
Like I mentioned before, our first stop was Torun, a 45-minute drive from BZG. My dad grew up there and most of his family still lives there. It's a smaller-sized city and perhaps I was somewhat dismissive of the place when I was younger, but the Old Town is quite beautiful. It has a lot of architectural heritage and sits right on the Vistula river.
While we were in Torun we also did a daytrip to Łódź to visit my cousin.
A few days later we took the train down to Poznan to visit my mom's side of the family.
From there, we did a 2-day road trip through southwestern Poland, a region known as Silesia. You might be surprised to know that a different dialect of Polish exists in this area, and some people even consider it a separate language altogether. Highlights of the road trip included visits to the historic silver mine in Tarnowskie Góry, Pszczyna Castle (residence of the German Emperor during World War I), the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, and the city of Wrocław. Considering all of the death that occurred there it might not be best to say it was "cool" visiting the old concentration camp, but I do have an appreciation for history so from that perspective it was quite interesting. The only downside is that you have to reserve your tickets ahead of time, and even though we originally chose a Polish tour they wouldn't let me switch into an English one. My Polish is fine when it comes to normal conversations, but at times I had some trouble understanding our guide when she went into detail about some stuff. I felt like I could've gotten more out of the experience so I wouldn't mind visiting again.
The road trip concluded back in Poznan and then we departed back to the US the following day.
It took about 15 minutes to drive to POZ from my aunt and uncle's house and we got there about two hours before our flight. One of my younger cousins was also coming back to the US with us for a two-week visit. The terminal at POZ is rather new as it was built ahead of UEFA Euro 2012.
The line for check-in was short and thus the process was brisk. Going through security didn't take longer than a few minutes either. We still had a lot of time to kill and obviously the concourse is rather small so there wasn't a whole lot to see or do. I mainly passed the time by looking out onto the tarmac. Despite the small size of the airport there were actually quite a few flights going in and out at the time. Wizz Air, Ryanair, Smartwings, and a couple of other charter flights. Eventually, our flight arrived from MUC and boarding started shortly thereafter.
There are no jet bridges at POZ so we boarded by walking out onto the tarmac. Once everyone had taken their seats we pushed back and made the short taxi over to runway 28 for takeoff.
The flight was smooth and quick. I got a cup of Coke during the in-flight service and we also got complimentary cheese sandwiches. Normally I wouldn't find a cheese sandwich too appetizing, but on a similar flight in the US the best thing you could probably hope for is a cup of water, and that's if the flight attendants actually go out of their way to get up and offer it. Personally, I enjoy flying on the CR9. I've always been a fan of the T-tails and since the MD-80s are steadily disappearing there won't be too many of those types around. As I said, it was a short flight and before long we were descending into MUC. The final approach was actually pretty rocky compared to the rest of the flight. We landed on runway 26R and then parked at a remote stand across from the terminal.
This was my first time at MUC. The previous time that we took Lufthansa for our TATL flight from Poland we flew through FRA. The flights departing for the US were in a cordoned off area and we had to go through a checkpoint to get to our gate. I contemplated going back to get something to eat first because I wasn't sure if there were any food options in there, but in the end I decided to trek onward. Sure enough, there were three vending machines and that was it.
When we got to the gate the monitor showed a departure delay of thirty minutes, but shortly afterward there was an announcement indicating that we would still arrive on time due to a shorter flight time. Moments later the aircraft for our flight arrived at the gate - an A350 in the (at the time) newly minted livery.
Even now I still haven't warmed up to Lufthansa's new colors. Its extremely bland, and they should have at least made the crane on the tail yellow. This was my first flight aboard an A350, and it was only about a month prior to this that my first 787 flight occurred. A few gates over this A330 was getting ready to go to IAD.
During boarding, as I put my phone down to scan the electronic boarding pass, a small receipt printed out. The slip of paper showed that I had a new seat assignment, a middle spot instead of the window view I had selected.
I was a little annoyed and perplexed, but when I got to my new seat it turned that I was now slotted in between my mom and my sister. Thankfully one of them moved over, I still had a window seat (albeit a few rows further back), and all was good in the world. I had checked myself in on my phone the night before and selected my own seat, and then afterward my dad completed the check-in for everybody else on the computer. He claimed not to have altered my seat, but since we were on the same reservation I'm guessing the subsequent check-in had something to do with what happened.
I started playing around with the IFE and much to my surprise there was live TV. It was only 3 channels, but one of them was showing the World Cup quarterfinal match between Sweden and England.
My cousin who was traveling with us had actually asked me beforehand if I thought we'd be able to watch that day's matches during the flight, and of course I had told him it was very unlikely. I can't remember any other international flight I've been on where live TV was built into the PTV.
Once everyone was aboard and settled into their seats we pushed back and taxied back out to runway 26R for takeoff.
Not too long after departure the flight attendants started the inflight service. First up was the initial drink run and they also passed out small packs of "snack mix" and hot napkins. Next was another round of drinks followed shortly thereafter with the meal. I chose the chicken option, and as you can probably tell from the photo it was miles ahead of what United had served us. My mom got the cheese pasta and it also looked very tasty. For good measure, the flight attendants came through the aisle for a third time with drinks after distributing the meals.
Once the England-Sweden match ended I watched The Commuter. For some reason the flight information and moving map didn't properly display, an issue that I had also encountered on my recent JAL 787 flight. Throughout the flight the cabin crew occasionally passed through the aisle with cups of water and juice. Unfortunately, it was cloudy over the North Atlantic that day so I wasn't able to see any of Greenland's picturesque terrain. The skies cleared up once we got closer to Canada.
I turned my attention to the second match of the day, Russia-Croatia, and for those of you that follow sports, I don't have to remind you how exciting of a match it was. The cheers throughout the cabin were much louder whenever Croatia scored, so take that for what its worth.
As the flight neared its conclusion the pre-arrival snack was served. The options were a cheese pizza or chicken roll, and I went with the latter.
Whenever I'm flying into ORD from the east I always make sure to get a seat on the left side of the plane because you get a great view of downtown Chicago. We flew past ORD and then turned back around for landing on runway 10C.
Nowadays at ORD, instead of cutting right cross the adjacent runway 10L after landing, aircraft backtrack to the end of the runway before crossing over and heading back to the terminal. I'm guessing this helps speed up the departure flow on runway 10L, but it does make for quite a long taxi back to the gate.
After deplaning at terminal 5 we joined the mass of people already down in the immigration and baggage claim area. Coupled with the long taxi time, by the time we exited the terminal building with our luggage and walked out to the car it had been about an hour and fifteen minutes since landing.
This is my 38th trip report and I hope you enjoyed reading it! I know these flights occurred nearly a year ago now, but hopefully you guys still find it interesting. I've been a little lazy putting this report together, and I do find writing a little exhaustive.
In summary, the flight on United was sort of mediocre compared to Lufthansa, but the fact that it was a nonstop flight made it pretty convenient. It was awesome that I got to watch the World Cup matches during the flight back to ORD and it really helped the time go by. We're heading back to Poland again this June for my cousin's wedding and we will be taking Lufthansa again (my first flight on the 748).
Will you watch the Cleveland Browns and the Detroit Lions on Sunday? Only if coach Eric Mangini resigned after a loss.