Thank you again for checking out this latest trip report. This is the final flight for this itinerary that took me to Istanbul, Zurich, and Vienna back in August 2014. This post will be rather shorter than previous ones.
For those who are joining us today and have not checked out my other reports of this trip, feel free to check among the following:
After the insane wait just to get through US CBP as a transfer passenger, and then add to the insanely long line at security, I finally made it airside around gate C8. I walked the couple meters to the Aerotrain area to take me to the main terminal as I thought the walk to take the moonbuggies to the main terminal were a bit far. I should have gone for the moonbuggies just because they’re cool. It is true it is a bit of a walk. If only they would start work on the proposed concourse for that station.
Corridor to the Aerotrain from Concourse C.
When I finally made it out to the main concourse, I exited out through the arrivals area and then went in search for the Washington Flyer bus that would take me to Wiehle-Reston East Station of the new Silver Line. I guess I had timed it right where a bus had just arrived and I was able to purchase essentially a round trip ticket (2 one-ways that could be used in either direction). I had pre-ordered and received my special SmarTrip card with some money loaded onto it. In hindsight, I should have put enough money while at the Wiehle-Reston East station.
Wiehle-Reston East station entrance.
I only had 5hrs in DC and the two things I wanted to do were go to the Hard Rock store as well as get a quick bite over at Union Station. I just love visiting Union Stations each time I’m in DC. Thus, I enjoyed that rather lengthy trip from Wiehle-Reston East to Metro Center. It sorta felt like I was still in Europe riding the train. A French couple had just arrived in their first trip to the US and made DC their first destination. A commuter headed home into the city actually struck up a conversation with them in French while the couple tried to practice their English. Now I can understand the gist of French, but my comfort level of speaking lengthy conversations is not as good as I am with Tagalog and Spanish. Maybe one day I will tackle translating one of my trip reports into French. Maybe :-)
After finally arriving at Metro Center, it was time to head to the Hard Rock to collect my growing collection of city t-shirts, both the classic and the city specific. On this trip, I picked up shirts from Istanbul and the recently-opened Wien location. Now, I just needed a city tee from DC because I already have the classic from years ago. As much as I wanted to continue walking down to the Air & Space Museum, the time I wasted at going through US CBP cut into my layover to add a third place to visit. So now it was time to head to Union Station and get something to eat. When I arrived at Union Station, I was greeted by all the renovation works being done to this place. I will look forward to in a year or two to see how those renovations turned out. While there I stumbled upon the Shake Shack and had wanted to try it, especially after seeing it in Istanbul along Istikal Cadessi. I will say, I was slightly underwhelmed and should have saved the calories and stomach space for Five Guys at IAD.
After that disappointing meal, I figured I should give myself a bit of extra time to make it back to IAD, and I was grateful that I did. Because I was still on vacation time, I did not think that I would be in DC and heading to the airport at the time most people were getting off work and headed home or out. I ended up having to wait for the third train to actually make it on the Silver Line back to Wiehle-Reston East. Because of the multitude of packed trains, we traveled at a snail’s pace and even had to wait behind a number of trains before making it to each station until reaching Rosslyn. Eventually I made it to IAD with 2hrs to go till my last flight home.
IAD - IAH 13 August 2014 UA 1148 737-800 ETD: 21:58 ATD: 22:13 ETA: 23:58 ATA: 00:07 + 1
I am glad I had plenty of time to run into the city and get back with plenty of time before my flight. I perused around the ticketing and check-in area to see which international flights were in the process of checking in passengers, however, most of the desks had started to close up shop and felt unwarranted to take pictures.
I headed down to a special area for security, which I thought would drop me off at one of the stations to pickup a moonbuggy to Concourse D. Instead I head downstairs to an area that sorta reminded me of my passport control experiences at ZRH with a hint of CDG T1. At the peak of summer, it took over an hour to get through security because TSA officials crowded around a single security desk rather than open two or three. While I blame people for making it to security late when they arrived at security at the prescribed boarding time, it was just stupid and of course many people asked if they could jump the lines. I did not mind a couple, but at some point I said NO! It made me wonder how incompetent were the TSA agents or whatever if a supervisor would not open a second or third lane as the maze to get through started filling up. I can only imagine the nasty thoughts and cursings the frequent road warriors must have thought from this exercise of patience with dealing with stupid!
Finally I made it airside and hopped onto the Aerotrain to C. I was too full from the disappointing Shake Shack experience, but a bit hungry with the hope of getting something from my favorite, Au Bon Pain. That also turned out to be futile, especially . I get there and try to order a roast beef sandwich on croissant, but they run out of roast beef for the evening and have this special chicken sandwich. However, they run out of bread and tomatoes. I said no thanks and ended up choosing a large Frosty and a small fry over at the Wendy’s that was near my gate.
Tonight’s departure would be from C17. I arrived there with the departure display saying “On Time”. However, our plane had not arrived from IAH. The concourse had quieted down considerably since all of UA’s international flights had already departed for the day.
I had hoped I could get into one of the United Clubs and save money on that rather tasty Frosty. I actually had my OS flight from VIE and this flight on the same itinerary, so I thought it would work. Yet, the UA Lounge dragon was not having any of it nor would she scan my boarding pass to verify. While it would have been nice to enjoy some water while charging up my iPhone, instead I cooled down with the tasty Frosty and charged my phone by my gate.
Nearby, I could hear people deplaning from arriving flights as the concourse got more animated. At a neighboring gate, a bunch of Chinese visitors, mostly of high school-aged students with their chaperones, had landed either from EWR or MCO and were on their way to SFO. While this group seemed lively and animated, you knew none of them would throw hot water at the face of an FA or open an over-wing exit prior to takeoff because the airplane felt stuffy in this summertime heat!
The gate agent for my flight to IAH tried to go on the PA system to let travelers know of a slight delay as our flight would be arriving just a bit late. Not much to do but wait while the gate area continued to fill up with waiting passengers. The prescribed boarding time suggested 21:23, while actual boarding started more around 21:40. Around the prescribed boarding time, I queued up among those in Group 1. No one wanted to queue up for Group 1 or no one had Group 1 other than a few people. Among them was a GS member traveling with his two sons and they joined him to pre-pre-board the plane before everyone else. Finally we were called to board the plane. Too bad I would not be on a widebody for this flight.
Headed down the jetway
A small wait before entering the plane.
DirectTV will be offered on this flight, but no WiFi, yet.
Finally boarded the plane and cozied up to 1A while boarding was on its way. I got to spend a few moments wondering who my neighbor would be on this full flight to IAH tonight. In the meantime, the lead FA welcomed us on board and asked if I would like a pre-departure drink. After that tasty Frosty, a glass of water would hit that spot. She then asked drink orders from 1E and 1F prior to returning to the galley and letting the galley person know. Shortly thereafter, my glass of ice water arrived, as well as my studly seat neighbor from YEG heading to IAH for the day. We exchanged pleasantries including why he was visiting IAH and where in the world I had gone to. By the time we had finished our conversation, boarding had just completed and the crew were ready to get back to IAH. We pushed back around 22:13; do not know which runway we took off from as I was getting sleepy.
As mentioned on a previous trip report, UA had just released their latest in-flight safety video, which you can now enjoy at your leisure: http://youtu.be/WqAAQ0ZZMyw
Again sorry for lack of photos and other videos on this flight. This flight ended up being a standard, aka “boring” flight. By then the effects of traveling and running around for the past week had gotten me tired and I was now looking forward to my own bed as well as some Whataburger and Tex-Mex food!
Speaking of food, the option offered tonight for this flight in F was just the standard cold-cut plate and crudite served outside the meal time window.
As mentioned, DirecTV was offered, and is free to all passengers in F, and with payment for those in Y. All programming is based on the eastern time zone, and by then most of the shows I would have wanted to watch had already been shown. I tried to put it on the flight map, but it was not operational on the flight.
With nothing else to watch, at the effects of all-day traveling, I fell asleep for a couple of hours until I heard the final ding indicating our final descent into IAH. Before I knew it, we landed on 27 just after midnight and quickly taxied to C41 by 00:07. I wished the guy next to me a pleasant stay in Houston and he welcomed me back home. While waiting for the door to open, the FA’s had overheard my conversation with my neighbor and asked me about my trip as they had never visited Istanbul and asked what I thought. Just under an hour later, I arrived home a bit hungry but comfortably in my bed and ready to get a bit of rest before my next trip.
Deplaning after a long journey home.
Birthday Trip 2015 Complete, map courtesy of gcmaps.com
Washington - IAD
Houston - IAH
I try not to grade or rate UA as harsh as it seems, but it is the little things that make me nostalgic for the days of CO who had employees who enjoyed working and serving.
Thank you all for reading my trip reports so far. Plenty more to write!
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