Tuesday is my dedicated airline review writing day, 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 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 hack together really dry United 737-900 economy review.
And they said writing airline reviews would be fun…
San Diego, CA (SAN) – Chicago, IL (ORD)
Tuesday, August 14, 2018
Duration: 3 hours 36 minutes
Seat: 31F (economy class)
This ticket was part of a San Diego to Vienna (via Chicago and Istanbul) itinerary purchased on the Turkish Airlines website. 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.
It's often cheaper to pay for a flight with miles than it is to pay with cash!
- I usually purchase miles to pay for long haul business class on United and Star Alliance partners. It's generally cheaper that way.
- Its a great way to top off your account balance if you're just short of the amount required for an award trip or upgrade.
- You can buy miles for yourself or another MileagePlus member.
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 review of a quick and easy jaunt to ORD! I need to keep working on that old iPhone now, so this post is officially over.
Former student pilot who has some former classmates working at United. Turns out the aircraft in question was N66814. I have also received assurance that you are officially off the hook for the chedder crackers pounded into the carpeting and tracked down the aisle.
Hahaha!! You have no idea how much of a relief that is – I thought for sure that I was gonna be banned from UA for life because of that. lol
Anyway, huge thanks for doing the detective work on that missing N-number! I’ll get this post updated today or tomorrow…
I thought I remember reading previously on your blog that the Healthwhich was no more at SAN? I guess I’m wrong about that. Glad to hear it’s not gone. Question for you…if you had to pick one, what Big 3 airline would you choose for domestic travel – Delta, American or United? I love the free in flight entertainment offered on Delta economy that is lacking on the other airlines. I think overall Delta is the best of the 3, but curious what your thoughts are. Have a good weekend, Scott.
Hey Tim – the Healthwhich is still alive and kicking, but they’ve eliminated the turkey sausage option unfortunately. Which is just as well I guess, because there’s nothing healthy about sausage (turkey or not). It tasted a lot better with it though!
Anyway, yes, I am in full agreement with you on Delta. They are my #1 US carrier as well thanks to their monstrous network and a consistently good product. The SkyMiles program is a joke and I’m bummed that we don’t see any DL widebodies in SAN much anymore these days, but otherwise they seem to get things right more often than not.
Speaking of which, I’m in JFK at the moment just about to board a DL 757 in Delta One back to SAN – it’s really nice to see Delta giving JetBlue Mint some proper competition on JFK-SAN.