Posts Tagged ‘United’

Albany to Pittsburgh via Dulles on United, 12/6, early morning

December 7, 2009

First flight at 6:00am from Albany to Dulles was uneventful. I was upgraded to seat 2D and the gentleman next to me in 2F was a riot – as a fellow road warrior he had great stories to share. He really needs to write a book. I didn’t catch his name, but if you read a travel diary at some point about a guy thinking you could get dropped into any city in the south and not know the difference, that was him.

I’ve had quite a few travel hiccups lately and after the first flight i was hopeful that this trip would be incident free. I boarded for my second flight, this time upgraded to seat 2F. I got on board and noticed that seat 1F had a band that said, “do not occupy,” and that someone was sitting in my seat. Someone? Not exactly. More like a horrific beast of a woman that was eating small children for breakfast and breathing fire.

Me: Hi. I’m sorry. I have seat 2F.
Beast: My seat is broken so i’m sitting here.
Me: I’m sorry that your seat is broken, but I have seat 2F. Would you mind finding another seat please?
Beast crosses arms, whole plane shakes, and then: I said i’m not moving. I’m going to the Steelers game and i’m sitting with my family and there is nothing you can do about it.”

At this point I decided to root against the Steelers, if for no other reason that to upset the beast. (Changed my mind when I got to the game which was awesome – thanks Connie and Pat!)

Flight attendant comes over and tells us we’ll have to wait for the gate agent.

Me: Do you mind getting up while we wait for the gate agent?
Beast: This is my husband. No way am i not sitting with him. I told you i’m not moving and there is nothing you can do to make me.

Now I’m getting angry.

Me: Ma’am, i assure you i have no interest in your husband. Please get out of my seat.
Beast: I’m not moving.

Gate agent comes and tells beast to vacate the seat. She refuses. Gate agent says, “Ma’am, we can’t close the doors and depart until you take your seat in coach.” Beast doesn’t budge. I wonder if she even realizes it is a 35 minute flight. Poor husband looked like he wanted to sit in the baggage bin!

At this point all i really care about is getting to Pittsburgh, well to brunch, actually to the mimosas at brunch, so i decide to be the grownup on the plane and just take the first available seat in coach, seat 1B. The crew, which as awesome by the way, thanked me profusely and credited an upgrade to my account. As I took my seat the best (who was literally a foot and a half away) loudly exclaims, “Can you believe that woman? Who does she think she is?” I let her know that I thought i was someone with more manners and class in my pinky than she’ll ever have and left it at that.

Just goes to show that class is most definitely not defined by where you sit on the plane.

Oh yeah, the plane was on time, the flight attendants offered by a complimentary drink in coach, and when i landed 35 minutes later they had already credited my account. Nice job United. Although i do think you need to revisit your animal transport policy. 🙂

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Tampa to Dulles | United #312 | Seat 5A connecting to Dulles to Albany | United #7472 | Seat 8A on 11/6/09

November 8, 2009

It was a pleasant surprise that I got out of town in time to get home by dinner. Until the pleasant surprise became a flight delay due to mechanical trouble. Upgraded to first class on the way to Dulles but I have to say, first class sure isn’t what it used to be. The snack up front? The same one in the back – snack mix. I mean, seriously. Can you spare a cookie or something? Anyway, got in, got to my connecting gate, and then sat. At least I cribbed a seat by the charger station and got some work done. We were a little over an hour late but I appreciated United’s very frequent and very accurate updates.

Miami, FL – Washington, DC (IAD) | United 7506 | #8A connecting to IAD – Albany, NY | United 7950 | #18B

May 9, 2008

Felix was nice enough to run my last two sessions at WOMM-U today so I could leave early and get home before Maddie was out of school for the weekend. I’m glad I could do this given I’ve been on the road for 12 days.

The day started uneventfully enough, I got up, showered, and got myself to the airport without incident. Then the fun started when I learned that my changed ticket hadn’t actually been ticketed. So, between negotiating with the ticketing agent and the corporate travel office, I lost about 45 minutes. Luckily the flight was delayed by 45 minutes or I wouldn’t have made it. I have to give a special thanks to Jorge Maldonado, the Miami-based gate agent who was very helpful, had a great sense of humor, and went above and beyond the call of duty.

I wish the airlines realized how much the experience in the airport influences a consumer’s choice of airline (at least this consumer anyway.) United is in the new J terminal at the Miami airport and let me tell you, it is a ghost town over there. There is a randomly placed food court with crappy coffee that took a while to find. And, don’t even try to find a healthy option for breakfast. Does anyone really eat those greasy pre-packaged muffins? I couldn’t find cereal other than Apple Jacks, and there wasn’t a piece of fresh fruit to be found. Of course, had I wanted a tuna on rye at 8am I would have been good to go.

The flight itself was fine. I like the Embraer 170 regional aircraft as there are no middle seats and there is more legroom than on a 737, for example. They even have 6 seats in first, but they aren’t worth the cost / miles for an upgrade. Five thousand miles for an extra package of pretzels, and coffee before we take off.  No thanks. The landing was interesting on this flight – DC was highly cloudy with a lot of rain. It was one of those landings that you are in the middle of the clouds one moment, and then because of how low the clouds are, you are practically on the ground as soon as you come out of them. I always find that jarring, but the pilots did a great job of landing the plan safely.

I landed in the D terminal and had to cut across to the C terminal at Dulles which is an easy trek. Despite my plane being late I had time for a cup of java at Starbucks and a magazine at Borders. The airport experience in Dulles was much better than Miami.

The connecting flight from Dulles to Albany was fine. I got in on time, baggage claim was quick, and I was on my way.

San Francisco – DC (Dulles) | United #0224 | 2A

May 7, 2008

I really hate the redeye but this one was as uneventful as they come. Flight left on time, landed on time, there were no annoying people within range, and the pilot kept quiet so I could sleep. There were no problems with baggage either, and i was able to make a quick change from jeans to a suit and only got to my meeting about 20 minutes late. Let’s hope i have good luck again tonight from DC to Miami.

NY, NY – San Francisco, CA | United #19 | 11A

May 6, 2008

I’m a little late in posting, but last Thursday I flew from LaGuardia to San Francisco, and what an exciting trip it was. It started with a goosebump-raising ride to the airport with a car service driver that was going to get us to the airport on time no matter what. I will remain forever grateful that I didn’t fly through the windshield of the car.

When we got to the airport we learned that our flight was delayed by two hours. Fortunately there was a Red Carpet Club and decent food options to help kill time. Good news – when I got to the gate I got upgraded which was awesome since I definitely planned to sleep. While waiting to board the plane we got a good chuckle from a guy across the row who was dousing himself with cologne. Interestingly, he also had a bottle opener around his neck. Clearly he had big plans for the night!

The flight itself was uneventful. A nice fruit and cheese snack, a glass of decent (for an airline) French wine, and then a long cross-country nap. Announcements were kept to a minimum, and there was no noticeable snoring from my seatmate.

The real adventure started when we landed. Kevin went to get the rental car, and I went to get the bags. Of course, his bags popped off the belt right away. And then I waited. And waited. And waited. And the belt stopped. No bag for me. So I went to the baggage desk and the very helpful United attendant told me that my bag had to be there as it was scanned just five minutes earlier as it was put on the belt. I looked again. I rubbed my eyes. Snapped my fingers. Said a prayer and did a rain dance. Still no bag. Bag to the baggage clerk.

Long story short, we realized that the last bag standing was a black bag that looked somewhat like mine – somewhat if you don’t pay attention to the fact that mine was bigger, heavier, a different brand, had two permanent tags and a bright orange priority flag. Other than that they were close. Anyway, after five frantic phone calls to the owner of the last bag standing she raced back to the airport and we made the switch. Hey, at least I got a United overnight kit out of it.

Washington, DC (IAD) – Albany, NY | Flight #7902 | Seat 11B

April 4, 2008

I was connecting through IAD on my way from DFW to Albany. I had about an hour and 20 minutes to kill, and made the critical mistake of not plotting my path through the airport before setting off from my arrival gate to my departure gate.  My flight came in to the new United terminal at IAD where they have nice shops and nice restaurants. My flight was leaving from the old terminal B where they have no shops and crappy restaurants.

Yet, i got to terminal B full of optimism for my trip home. With 40 minutes to spare I went to find something to eat. There were lots of pizza places, but I decided on Cosi as I was in the mode for soup and their pannini can be tasty. Never did I expect it to be so difficult, or take so long to order soup and a sandwich. It went something like this:

I said, “Hi. Can I have a cup of soup?”

“Soup?” questioned the attendant. “Yes, soup,” I said, to which I was greeted with a blank stare as though I were ordering a foreign delicacy.

“You know, broth with vegetables or other stuff floating around? Soup!” I shared, trying to be helpful.

The clerk answered, “what kind of soup?”  “The soup on the sign,” I answered, referring to the tomato basil soup listed.

He answered, “We don’t have that soup.” “Ok, what do you have?” “I don’t know.” “Can you check?” “Can you just order a sandwich?” was his closing remark.

I was so stunned that I ordered a sandwich. Which, incidentally, he got wrong.  And served cold, despite it being a grilled sandwich that I asked for. Man, I am picky.

Anyway, back to the flying part of the adventure, gates B3 and B4 at IAD are run kind of like bus stations for regional and/or shuttle service between Dulles and other locations. They were boarding flights to LaGuardia, Newark, White Plains, Albany, and a few other places all at once. It was quite impressive. Those guys are on a schedule. Don’t you dare even sneeze unless you ask first. Due to my soup dilemma I was still eating my mystery sandwich when they boarded my flight. “If you are traveling to Albany, please get ready. We will board and close this flight in 7 minutes.” So, I started chewing faster. After about three minutes they announce, “Final boarding call for Albany. At the conclusion of this announcement we will close the flight in one minute and twenty-three seconds.” Not one minute. Not two minutes. One minute and 23 seconds.  I believed them, chucked the sandwich and boarded my flight.

The flight itself was uneventful. We left a few minutes late but landed right on time. Baggage claim in Albany delivered the bags in about 10 minutes – that is a great performance for an 11:30pm landing at a small airport. Over and out for me until Monday when I head to Chicago…

Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX – Washington, DC (IAD) | United #7726 | Seat 13D

April 4, 2008

I’m a pretty grateful traveler right now. I spoke at an airport conference in Dallas/Fort Worth today, and there was a lot of talk about “famous Dallas thunderstorms” moving in. The kind folks at United boarded our plane like it were a school bus and got us out of dodge well before a drop of rain ever fell. Took off on time, landed on time, and I have time to grab a cheeseburger before my connection. Everyone wins.

A few interesting tidbits from my flight. I’ve been awoken from a deep sleep many times on planes from the guy next to me snoring. This flight, the guy three rows back woke me with his snoring. Let me repeat a key phrase – three rows back. Wow. He was sawing some serious zzzzz’s. Another tidbit from this flight was quite heartwarming. An American soldier home from Iraq had a friendly and extended conversation with six or so strangers sitting around him. The conversation wasn’t about the war, or the President, or politics, but just about him and his immense service to our country. Everyone was grateful for his contribution, as am I, and it was really nice to see people share that sentiment with him.

Also, I forgot something funny from my flight yesterday (I was in a rush because I was afraid Felix would yell at me for not posting enough!) Normally when the plane takes off, the flight attendant makes the standard announcement about “being happy to serve you the beverage of your choice when we reach cruising altitude.” Note to self, you are traveling way too much when you can recite their speech without notes. Anyway, back to my story, the flight attendant between San Francisco and Dallas-Fort Worth yesterday announced that she’d “be happy to serve you the beverage of your choice when we reached a workable angle.” A workable angle? That implies to me that the entire flight will be experienced at an angle. Ummm, not the best choice of words…

San Fran, CA – Dallas, TX | United #478 | Seat 9D

April 3, 2008

I flew from San Francisco to Dallas yesterday to speak at the Airports International Council meeting on social media and blogging. The flight was great – departed and arrived on time. I didn’t get upgraded, so I asked to purchase an Economy Plus ticket. The attendant who helped me was very impressive – he only had middle seats (which I took since I was originally a middle seat in row 36) and then about 20 minutes later he paged me as an aisle seat had opened up. It was impressive that he remembered me and made the extra effort.

I landed in the beautiful Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW). I remarked at dinner last night how comfortable an airport it is for being the 3rd busiest airport in the US. It is a huge airport, 18,000 acres, and that certainly contributes to the sense of comfort. The people there are pretty great too, but I’ll be posting about that on my work blog later.

Albany, NY – Chicago, IL | United #421 | seat 2D connecting to Chicago, IL – San Fran, CA | United # 139 | seat 2D

April 2, 2008

This past Monday, 3/31, was a great day for flying, at least from Albany. We had springlike weather, no rain, and no wind. Took off and landed on time, and my seat-mate up front left me to my own devices.

Taking off from Chicago was a little frustrating. There was a storm moving in so they boarded us to try to sneak us out before they had to hold flights on the ground. That didn’t work, and we end up stuck for more than an hour out on the runway. I understand the logic in trying to get us boarded and in the air quickly, but it rarely works, and on such a long flight I really didn’t need an extra hour+ in my seat.

Interestingly I learned that delays can sometimes get passengers to lighten up. The guy next to me was quite cranky when I first sat down – he wasn’t amused watching me try to juggle my bag, my briefcase, a newspaper, my scarf (gotta have a scarf) and a giant coffee. He glared at me as I got settled, popped a few Advil like they were M&Ms and proceeded to mumble himself into a nap.  The announcement of a delay actually woke him up, and while he was still cranky he tried to create conversation. “Damn airlines. Always delayed.” I replied, “well, as much as I travel, I have to say that they actually do a pretty good job.” “Really,” said cranky-pants, “that’s good to hear.  Oh well, we’ll get there when we get there. Have a great flight, I’m gonna nap now.”

Speaking of naps…lights out.

Albany, NY – Philadelphia, PA | USAirways #1833 | 3C …connecting to… PHI – Miami, FL | USAirways #763 | 2C

March 17, 2008

Flew yesterday from Albany to Miami via Philadelphia and had a perfectly pleasant trip. I had the whole first class row to myself on the 50 minute flight from Albany to Philly which made it easier to read the times. I sat next to a delightful woman from Philly to Miami who was taking her two kids to Key West for a week’s vacation. Interestingly when folks were boarding a woman went by wearing a tiara. Yes, a tiara, and at 10:00 in the morning no less. She didn’t particularly seen like beauty queen material, and was too young to be so dramatic, but I got a kick out of it nonetheless. Thanks USAir for a safe and pleasant trip.

I’ve been meaning to post some information about what it takes to fly a plane. On my United flight from Denver to LaGuardia a week ago, the captain came on and share a lot of information about fuel usage on the flight. I don’t remember all the facts and figures he rattled off, but one that stayed with me was that we use 2.5 gallons of jet fuel per person per minute to fly in that 737. The net result of all that fuel was that the plane was 17,000 pounds lighter when it landed. I think that people should consider all the expenses that an airline incurs before complaining about ticket prices…