01. Introduction: “Have you ever been in a Turkish prison?”
02. United Airlines 737-900/ER economy class San Diego to Chicago (ORD)
03. Turkish Airlines 777-300/ER exit row economy class Chicago (ORD) to Istanbul
04. Turkish Airlines A321 exit row economy class Istanbul to Vienna
05. Moxy Hotel, Vienna Airport
06. Figuring out how to use the Vienna CAT train
07. Austrian Business Class Lounge, VIE
08. Austrian Airlines 777-200 business class Vienna to Los Angeles
For those of you who are curious about what goes on behind the scenes here at sanspotter.com, you might be interested to know that I typically start thinking about what I’m going to write in a post 2 to 3 days before actually sitting down and hammering it out. Whether I’m in the shower scrubbing my armpits or climbing Torrey Pines on my road bike, my brain is always at work and I’m constantly trying to think of how best to approach every review that I write.
Unfortunately, the only thoughts that I had about this particular post were anything but enthusiastic. For some reason or another I felt like I’ve done far too many San Diego to Chicago trip reports already (especially on United) and that dread bubbled up a not-so-insignificant amount of procrastination that I didn’t even know I had in me.
Case in point: Tuesday’s are my dedicated blog writing days, and at the time of this writing (1pm PST on a Tuesday afternoon), the only thing that I’ve accomplished so far was learning how to change the battery on an old iPhone 4s that has been buried in my junk drawer for years. Never mind the fact that I will likely never (ever) use that phone again, but watching ifixit videos while poking and prodding at that little bugger with tiny screwdrivers and plastic levers was a lot more compelling than trying to ooze out another dry UA SAN-ORD review.
Then, something really embarrassing happened: a deep and thorough scan of my flight log revealed that I have never once written a review about a flight from San Diego to Chicago on United. As a matter fact, the only other San Diego to Chicago review that I’ve ever written was for an American Airlines flight, and that was back in 2016. Unable to put my finger on exactly why I felt like San Diego to Chicago on United was such a familiar thing for me, I knew it was time to put that old iPhone down and get to work…
San Diego, CA (SAN) – Chicago, IL (ORD)
Tuesday, August 14, 2018
Duration: 3 hours 36 minutes
Seat: 31F (economy class)
As I mentioned in the introduction to this trip, I purchased the San Diego to Vienna (via Chicago and Istanbul) flights on the Turkish Airlines website, and I was hoping for the best as I waddled into the airport that morning to check in and catch this flight to ORD. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to check in from home online or with the app, even though I could see the reservation with the confirmation number right there on the screen. Despite seeing all that data exactly as I had booked it, it’s still gave me an uneasy feeling knowing that I was getting an error every time I tried to check in and there was a chance that this trip wasn’t even going to happen at all…
Once inside, I tried using one of the kiosks adjacent to the United Airlines check in and baggage drop area, but it was giving me the same “please see an agent because you’re basically screwed” message. Uh oh. I then raced over to the check-in counter (trying to beat the very large group of people I saw coming and heading for the same counter), and then punched in all my info once again at one of the kiosks there. I got the same error message as before, although help was nearby this time if I could only manage to wave down one of those busy roaming agents.
It’s a helpless feeling standing there next to a kiosk with a giant yellow error icon emanating from it (I swear it was mocking me), but the good news was that one of the agents saw me standing there looking like a helpless dork and came to my assistance lickety-split. He punched in a few things on the screen and then turned to me and asked “can I see your visa?” Uh oh. I was unaware that US citizens are required to have a visa to enter Turkey – but even then, I wasn’t technically going to enter so I figured that I’d be exempt. Especially since I was able to transit through China on my way to Korea four years ago without a visa either.
Long story short (and a huge sigh of relief later), it was deemed that no visa was required since I was a transit passenger, so the friendly agent typed in a few more things and I had my boarding pass in hand within 30 seconds. Disaster averted.
Despite having consumed an ungodly amount of Healthwhich’s from Camden Food Company over the years, I still felt a craving coming on as I exited security and walked out into the main terminal. I will admit that I was tempted to try something else from the menu as I was standing there waiting in line, but in the end I couldn’t do it and I had to go with the old standby. Old habits are hard to break I guess.
Now that I’m getting to the part of the review where it’s time to board the plane, I’m starting to understand why I was feeling like this San Diego to Chicago route seemed so familiar to me. A big part of the reason, no doubt, was the fact that this was yet another 737-900 – an aircraft I’ve become quite familiar with over the past few years (especially on United). Combine that with the fact that O’Hare used to be my old aviation photography stomping grounds back when I lived in Michigan from 2001 to 2004, and well…nostalgia like a mofo.
I don’t transit through ORD very often anymore these days, but back in the early 2000’s it was my home away from home. So yeah – United 737’s and good ‘ol Chicago O’Hare are two very significant things from my past. Put them together, and it’s a review I feel like I’ve written a million times before (even if it’s never happened – not even once).
Those of you out there who are sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for something really exciting and fun to happen are going to be severely disappointed. Sorry about that. You see, the boarding process for these United 737 flights are all the same, no matter whether you’re going on a 20 minute hop up to LAX or halfway across the country to Chicago. United is a perfectly fine airline and I’ve got absolutely no issues with them, but they are one of the most sterile of the bunch and nothing ever exciting happens onboard. At least they’re consistent.
It was very scenic and beautiful departure out of San Diego this morning (seriously, when are departures out of San Diego not beautiful?), and things became a total blur once we were at cruising altitude pointed directly towards Chicago. Not because I was pinned to the wall thanks to a really fat person sitting next to me, but simply because I was purposely trying to get some rest before the long overnight flight to Istanbul that was on deck. I don’t think that I managed to fall asleep completely during the flight, but sitting there for several hours with my eyes closed trying to meditate and be still was good enough.
I did open my eyes occasionally to take part in the snack service, as well as checking out the streaming data via the United app on my phone. All I was really looking for was an in-flight map so that I could track our progress across the USA this afternoon, but unfortunately that feature wasn’t working and I had to go back to the meditation.
About an hour prior to landing in Chicago, I was jolted conscious by the feeling of a load of cheesy orange crackers being dumped all over my feet. Apparently the little girl seated in front of me lost track of the open bag of snacks mother had given her a short while ago, and the entirety of its contents were now on the floor and all over my feet and being ground into the carpet every time I’ve moved them a millimeter in any direction. Sorry United!
9 times out of 10 I usually stuff my backpack under the seat in front of me no matter if there’s space in the overhead bin or not, but the aviation gods were looking down upon me today and I was feeling thankful that it was only my shoes that took the brunt of those crackers. I can only imagine how irritating it would’ve been to have been digging out little pieces of orange cheesy niblets from my bag all the way to Vienna and back.
The approach and landing into O’Hare brought back waves of memories from my time in Michigan in the early 2000‘s. I was heavily into aviation photography back then, and every sunny weekend I drove to O’Hare from southwest Michigan to sit and take pictures all day. If only I would’ve had the foresight to have started sanspotter.com back then instead of wasting entire days doing nothing – ahh, I wish I could go back in time and slap my younger self silly!
Hope you enjoyed this quick and easy jaunt to ORD! And now that I’ve reached the end of this post, I’m still having a hard time believing that this is the first time that I have ever written about a San Diego to Chicago flight on United Airlines. And no, the one time that I wrote about flying from Chicago to San Diego on UA doesn’t count because that was flying the other direction. Or does it? Dang it. This travel blogging thing is hard.
I need to keep working on that old iPhone anyway, so this post is officially over.