Welcome, dear reader, to still another Aeroplan Adventure, a little excercise in silliness I’m calling “The 1A RTW”. It consists of five flights, taking me around the world in first class, in about 36 hours. Crazy, but should be a lot of fun.
Like last time, I’ll try to “keep you guessing” about my routing, and I’ll be trying to do as much of this trip as I can in as close to “real-time” as possible, to avoid trips later in the report coming off as a bit “stale.” Here’s what I can tell you about the rundown, for now….
UA6127 YYZ-IAD 3/28/2016 - You are here ???? - Coming Soon
As this will be the shortest, and doubtless least-interesting, trip in this report, I’ll use it to tell the backstory a little bit.
This trip came together fairly last minute. I had a quiet week coming off the Easter long weekend, and having been inspired by 3feetsnow’s wonderful flight-report on his BR35 trip (http://flight-report.com/en/report-13638.html), I started searching Aeroplan just for laughs.
Unfortunately, while BR had outbound availability, there was nothing in the way of a return that really turned my crank. But in the course of a few hours of messing around on Aeroplan, I found a few available segments that did catch my interest. Having taken a few notes, I started to piece it together, and eventually had a lightbulb moment that what I had come up with was not only the fastest RTW I’ve seen on Aeroplan to date, but the closest one can come at this point to a true door-to-door first class RTW out of YYZ. I was hooked. Time to go on a joyride! Fuel surcharges hurt a bit (UA is the only Star Alliance carrier with an international First cabin on which there’s no YQ with Aeroplan) but I decided it was worth it.
Unfortunately, this schedule required me to make it to Pearson for this 06:00 flight to Dulles. I showed up about 04:30, since UA wouldn’t let me check in online or with the United app on my phone. I suspect this is because of the connections on non-UA flights that were to follow. But still, I wanted to be sure to allow enough time for error should there be challenges with check-in.
U.S. CBP at Pearson T1 opens at 04:30, and there’s always a massive queue to get in, due to a combination of them understaffing the customs area, ongoing renovations in T1, a confusing new kiosk system, and a glut of departures to the U.S. between 06:00 and 09:00. It’s times like this that one is really glad to have a Nexus card, which effectively lets me bypass this mess.
Over at the United desks, there’s no one waiting to check in, and I quickly have my boarding pass for this flight and for my connection out of IAD in about two minutes. My paranoia about arriving early due to anticipated problems proves to be just that, paranoia. A flash of my Nexus card, and I’m through into the Global Entry kiosk area, which is not quite as hectic as the “main” side of CBP.
There are a few people in line for Nexus security, but inexplicably, they’re all in two lineups, while a third lane is open but idle. The agents at that lane do nothing to inform people in line that they’re just standing there waiting to help someone, but they do welcome me over with a smile. Security takes about as long as check-in and customs did, which is to say, not very long at all.
And with that, I’m down the escalator and airside at T1, at about 4:45 — 15 minutes before any lounges open in the T1 transborder zone.
So I go for a short walk to kill the time, and return around 5:00 to find the tansborder Plaza Premium Lounge just opening.
I decided to hit this lounge both because I don’t really use my Priority Pass card frequently enough, and because it’s closer than the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge to the part of the terminal from which regional jets depart. And I’m on an RJ this morning.
My boarding pass and card I taken, I sign my life away, and I’m inside. I’m in the mood for some bacon, and this little louge doesn’t have a lot. But it has bacon. This much I know.
The lounge is a small room nestled against windows for good airside views.
Seating is basic, but comfortable, and electrical outlets abound, which is always important to me.
There is this wall with a couple of TVs and some reading material for those who are so inclined.
And a couple of computers in a “business center” type of arrangement for those who need them.
Otherwise, WiFi is just the generic free Toronto Pearson-provided WiFi, but that’s actually been quite decent for a few years now, so no complains about that.
The buffet isn’t extensive, but isn’t bad. There’s some (pre-wrapped!) bread and other bread products, along with a toaster.
A variety of drinks, including a very nice premium coffee machine.
A couple of hot dishes this morning.
Baked beans and the aforementioned bacon.
And these… eggs. I’m not really sure how to describe them, but if airline omelettes are “egg loaf,” this is quite clearly “egg muffin” or something like that.
There are also some salads and veggies, as well as a few more baked goods including cookies.
I retreat to my seat with my snack and a mean moccachino that really hits the spot. The egg thing is not good — the yolk is cooked until hard and completely dried out. But the bacon is delicious.
After puttering for a few minutes, it’s coming up on 5:25, with boarding slated for 5:35. And it’s a bit of a hike to Regional Row, so I bid the lounge adieu, and start to make my way.
Regional Row at T1 feels like such an afterthought, I just assume that in the middle of a planning meeting about a month before T1 was slated to open, some engineer said “Hey guys… where are we gonna park the regionals?,” leading to a variety of stunned and embarrassed faces around the table, and a quickly devised pan to put up a cheap, crappy temporary home for regional flights that feels nothing like the rest of T1. Only it seems now to be a cheap, crappy permanent home for regional flights, at least until they decide to add another phase to T1.
Protip: If you’re leaving T1 from a gate higher than 83, bring comfy shoes. It’s a bit of a hike. Here, we start our departure of the main terminal, into the ramshackle Regional Row complex.
And here, we leave the main building formally.
On our way.
Oh look! Here it is! A cluster of gates with inadequate seating and basically no fun at all. Fortunately, I’m not left much time to ruminate on it, as I notice a short of line of people at the gate for my flight, down the end of the building. They’re jus calling uniformed U.S. service members (shockingly, there are none departing Toronto this morning…) as I approach, and Group 1 quickly follows.
Flight: UA6127 From: Toronto Pearson (YYZ) To: Washington Dulles (IAD) Date: 3/28/2016 Aircraft: Bombardier CRJ700 Registration: N518LR Seat: 1A ATD (STD): 06:09 (06:00) ATA (STA): 07:32 (07:30)
Boarding pass scanned, and we’re let out of the building and into the lovely, lovely Toronto morning, where it is pouring rain. Fortunately, there’s some cover as we walk down to the end of the outside part of Regional Row, where my CRJ would be waiting.
One of the good parts of Regional Row is that you do get to walk out onto the apron, which can mean some good spotting. But it can also mean one can get pretty wet on a morning like this morning.
I toss my carry-on in the gate-check cart, and climb aboard. I’m greeted with a friendly smile and a hello by the flight attendant working the front of this regional jet this morning.
My seat for this flight, as it will be for all the flights in this series, is 1A, a window seat by itself in the first of six seats UA puts on its CRJ700 fleet, in the usual 1-2 configuration.
I don’t fly UA up front very often, and this is a new hard product for me, nothing like what I usually see on the Embraers that are most frequently used for Toronto flights. All in all, I’m more than pleasantly surprised by this seat. It’s soft and comfy, and better than anything I’ve sat on in a regional jet to date — arguably better than most UA and AC narrowbody premium cabin seats. Aside from the lack of seatback IFE, I think I would find this seat quite comfortable for a transcon flight, much less the short jaunt down to Washington.
Legroom is quite adequate.
A look out the window as boarding continues. That last distance between the covered walkway and the plane doesn’t feel that long, but when it’s pouring on you, it feels quite a distance.
I’m not in my seat more than a minute when the friendly flight attendant asks my drink preference. I just got for water at this point, and it’s brought by in no time.
We board quickly enough with just 50-odd on board, including all six in First full, naturally. The pilot, who seems a bit of a character, tells us that we’ll be pushing back on time or a little early, but that because of Toronto noise abatement laws , we have to wait until 6:30 to actually take off, so we’ll just taxi out to the runway and hang out there for about 20 minutes. He goes on to add that this is normal, and that United plans the schedule to include it, and we’ll be into Dulles right on time.
Which in effect means that United scheduled a flight for 6:00 knowing it wouldn’t take off until 6:30. I could have slept in another 30 minutes if you’d made it a 6:30 flight, United. Not cool, man.
We taxi, and end up second in line after this Delta RJ for whenever we’re allowed to take off.
Which proves to be a few minutes before 6:30, and we’re off and into the air over a very rainy Toronto.
Things start to clear up a bit over Lake Ontario. The seatbelt sign is kept on throughout this flight, which is less than an hour wheels up to wheels down, but service begins on climb-out, as the FA working first asks my drink requests. I believe I’m the only one of the six First-cabin passengers who’s awake at this time, so service is quick and responsive. I request a coffee, and it’s accompanied by a pick from the dreaded “snack basket” of muffins, fig bars, and bananas.
The muffin is a pre-packaged muffin. Nothing special. And United’s coffee up front tastes like coffee in the back — nothing special about it except the mug. Didn’t they just announce Illy coffee coming soon? Yeah, they can’t get that done fast enough, because this is bad coffee.
The catering seems a bit weak — AC manages to serve a hot (light) breakfast or hot snack in J on flights of similar length on most narrowbodies, and something like a cold cuts plate or cheese plate on RJ flights of similar length.
Meanwhile, outside the window, we break through the clouds, and are treated to a view of the beginning of a sunrise out the window.
My napkin reminds me that United is installing BYOD IFE throughout the fleet.
“On select flights.” Our flight is not select, as I don’t detect any kind of WiFi network for the streaming system on-board.
When my coffee is done, I’m quickly asked if I’d like another. I pass, but ask for an orange juice. It’s quickly and cheerfully poured. Again, no surprise when I’m the only passenger up front who’s not snoring.
This short hop begins its descent shortly after, as the sun continues to rise.
Soon, we’re back into the clouds.
And then through them, into a Washington DC morning that looks about as lovely as the morning we left behind in Toronto.
We land and quickly are brake.
It’s a short taxi around the airport before we find our way into Dulles’ own version of Regional Row.
And finally, we come to a stop near our twin.
The seatbelt sign is extinguished, but the captain comes out and grabs the PA, telling us that it’ll be a few minutes before gate-checked bags are ready, so we can keep our seats if we’d like, since it’s raining a bit outside. Or, we’re welcome to get off, whether we have gate-checked bags or not. Entirely up to us. He then proceeds to head outside, where he chats up passengers who decide to wait for their bags outside.
Here’s a thoughtful gesture I’ve not seen before — UA Express has a “customer service ambassador” stationed by the jet stairs for those who’d like some cover on the short walk over to the ramp up to the terminal. No one took him up on the offer, I don’t think, but it’s a nice touch.
Eventually, the cart with gate-checks is brought around, and we last few stragglers who are made of sugar and don’t want to melt head outside to grab our bags and continue on our way. One last view of our ride on the way out.
Up the ramp, and we’re upstairs in the bustling corridors of Dulles in search of my next destination.
We’ll pick this trip up from there next time.
Thanks for reading!
Plaza Premium Lounge Management Limited Plaza Premium Lounge (US Transborder)
Toronto - YYZ
Washington - IAD
Basically, I hoped for this flight to get me to Dulles in time for my connection onwards. So mission accomplished. But actually, it accomplished more than that. With a friendly crew and a very good (especially for an RJ) hard product, I had a much more positive impression of this flight than I had expected. Catering was, as expected, pretty pathetic, so there remains some room for improvement here.
1 LIKESLIKE TO THANK THE AUTHORTHANKS ! FLIGHT-REPORT LIKED
Flight-Report is a free website hosting more than 500 000 pictures and 17 000 reviews, without ads, this website can't exist. We understand that ads can be annoying, this is why we only display a maximum of 2 non-invasive ads per page.
To continue using Flight-Report, we invite you to add Flight-Report to your blocker's "white list".