Intro: Hello and welcome to another flight report! This report will document a recent trip I took to St. Paul, Minnesota and the troubles I went through trying to get there.
The best laid plans… Having just relocated to the Washington, DC area, I booked my flights a few weeks prior out of DCA, routing DCA-MSP-ORD-DCA. I specifically chose to fly out on the latest flight possible on Thursday night, so that I could both take full advantage of a vacation day from work Friday and also avoid some traffic getting to the airport.
…often go awry: I arrived at DCA around 7:30pm, plenty early for flight 4746's 10:15pm scheduled departure. I made my way through the Terminal C checkpoint in about 10 minutes, and entered the incredibly busy terminal. I suppose that lots of other people had the same thinking as I over the holiday weekend. I got a coffee from the barebones Dunkin Donuts and found a seat near gate 45. Three minutes after sitting down, I get a notification from my phone saying that flight 4746 had been cancelled. Great. I went and stood on line for the customer service desk nearby while simultaneously calling AA's customer service number. The physical line moved much faster than the phone version, and I soon was speaking with the very helpful agent. The best option he could offer was a 6:00am departure out of Baltimore, which I took. What I didn't realize at that moment was that I would be connecting in Philadelphia. The BWI-PHL leg is 90 miles, one of the shortest flights that American operates, so I guess that's interesting. I found a hotel near BWI and set off back to the parking garage. The parking garage apparently has a minimum charge, so for the hour and 10 minutes I was there I payed $12. Oh well. I set off on the hour drive up to BWI, checking in to my hotel at 9:30pm.
I then found through the American app that I had been rebooked on a full-fare ticket, and had access to $0 upgrades to the Main Class Extra section on my flights the next morning. I was able to select seat 1D on the CRJ-200 in the morning, but the app did not want to let me select a seat on the flight to MSP. I then called the customer service line for two things: to get rebooked back into BWI since my car would now be there, and to see if the agent could put me into a MCE seat. The agent could help with the first, rebooking me slightly early out of MSP connecting in CLT, but was unable to assign me the seats either. I told myself I'd try again at the check in kiosks then went to sleep for three hours.
The next morning I parked in the Daily Garage at BWI then took the shuttle to the terminal. When I reached American's check in kiosks, I tried again to change my seat on the PHL-MSP leg, but was again unable to change it. I asked an agent for help, and she checked, saying that I'd have to ask a gate agent to change it. I made my way through security and over the the C concourse. Once the two gate agents had appeared at gate C1 to prepare for our flight, I approached them with the same question. The agent asked me to come around and look at his screen which was showing the seat map of the PHL-MSP flight. Seat 8F was open, but was showing $50 to select it. He then explained that sometimes the system just won't ask for a payment method, after which I explained that the only reason I was asking was because the system had been telling me all through this process that it would be a zero-dollar seat selection. Sure enough, the selection went through without requesting payment, and the agent printed me a new boarding pass for the MSP flight. A bit happier now that something had gone right on the journey, I struggled through the 23-minute CRJ-200 flight up to PHL without complaining.
My connection in Philadelphia was tight. Really tight. Scheduled at just 43 minutes to get from Terminal F to Terminal C. Once you factor in time to get the valet-tagged bags, get to the shuttle bus, drive to Terminal C, then get to the gate, it looked pretty impossible. Especially after I had been burned the last time I had to ride the transfer bus in PHL (link here) I dreaded missing my flight.
Luckily for me, however, my flight from BWI would arrive into gate F1, and my flight to MSP would depart from C17, both the closest gates to the walking pathway in their respective terminals. I therefore decided I'd forgo the bus transfer and hoof it over. I also told another gentleman who had been rebooked on the same flights that his best option would be to do the same.
I entered Terminal F at 7:00am and immediately headed to the escalators that go upstairs to the walkway connecting E and F. I walked quickly, but nothing heroic all the way over to Terminal C, where I approached C17 as Group 1 was being called for boarding. Excellent, considering that my seat change into MCE had also come with Group 1 boarding. I did not stop walking from getting my valet bag in the F1 jetway until my seat inside of N710UW, spending just 10 minutes inside of PHL. I could finally relax a bit and settle into my MCE seat.
My first impression of the seat was nothing special. Because of the full floor-to-bin bulkhead, I needed to stow my carry on and backpack in the overhead bin. The full bulkhead also eliminated the opportunity to stretch my legs beneath the first-class seat in front of me. I flew in this exact same seat on United's A319 (first row of the E+ cabin) and UA's half-length bulkhead made a huge difference in comfort for me being rather tall.
Wing/engine view, along with a view of the Terminal C shuttle bus stop.
We pushed back five minutes early at 7:30am, along with an old-paint E175 bound for RDU.
Looking back towards C19 / C21 with a LAS-bound A321 at C23.
An A321 bound for CLT at C29.
As we began our taxi, the captain came on and announced our flying time as 2:10, routing over Cleveland, Detroit, just north of Milwaukee then on into MSP. He also announced that the flight should be smooth the whole way. We taxied out towards Terminal F before turning around to head out to runway 27L.
We taxied straight past a DL MD-88 and WN 73G which appeared to be waiting for en-route weather to clear. This was when Hurricane Hermine was causing trouble in the Southeast, so these two were probably heading that way.
Crossing runway 27R.
Lots of construction between the 27s. It looks like a new taxiway is being put in to shorten the distance to 27L. I believe this is also the start of the project which will lengthen 9R/27L by 1,500 or so feet at its eastern end.
Please excuse the horribly zoomed in photo but I had to share this cool sight. Three A321s parked at Terminal B, three different liveries. One old US Airways colors, one new American colors, and the US Airways heritage plane.
Enterring 27L as a wingletted FedEx 767 looks on.
Take off roll.
Looks like some work is being done on the western deicing pad.
Looking back towards PHL and downtown Philadelphia.
Climbing over central Pennsylvania.
Another legroom shot. The only real space benefit of the bulkhead row is that there isn't another seat in front. There isn't all that much additional legroom, definitely not $50 worth.
The ad campaign that's gotten American into some hot water recently.
Approaching Lake Erie. The flight started to get pretty turbulent around here, with the cabin crew remaining seated.
Overflying Cleveland and BKL.
Flying past Detroit and DTW; the turbulence remains.
Flying past Grand Rapids, MI (and GRR), still turbulent.
Crossing over Lake Michigan. At this point the turbulence had been continuous for 45 minutes. The captain had come on and announced that the seatbelt sign would remain on as we were passing through moderate turbulence. That's the first time I've had a captain describe turbulence as "moderate," and it was definitely warranted. Had a nice reflection on the engine cowling though.
The turbulence finally subsided as we neared the coast of Wisconsin.
The cabin crew finally reached my row, and I asked for a black coffee as I was getting quite tired. After all, I had only slept about three hours after a full day the day before. It was clear that the coffee I received had been in the plastic coffee pot on the cart for a while, as it was luke warm. Not cold or even cool, but definitely not hot. That was fine with me as we were quickly approaching MSP.
The coast of Wisconsin.
Beginning our descent over central Wisconsin.
Passing by Eau Claire, Wisconsin, with EAU visible.
Passing over Lake St. Croix, which separates Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Over the 94 - 494/694 interchange just east of St. Paul.
The headquarters of 3M.
On the downwind for runway 12L.
On final for 12L.
A DL 757 holding short.
Rolling out. Visible here is the excellent Concourse D observation deck at MSP.
Looking at Concourse C as we turn off runway 12L.
Remember that DL 757?
Taxiing into gate E11.
On stand at E11. E11 has a very long jet bridge, putting our neighboring United 737 out of view at E9.
The one good part about MCE is that you are seated at the very front of the plane. In my case, even though I was seated in 8F I was in the third row, meaning I was into the terminal extremely quickly.
Concourse E at MSP. The bathrooms have been remodeled, but the rest of the concourse is showing its age.
Philadelphia - PHL
Minneapolis - MSP
Cabin: I was dissapointed in the MCE product. The slight improvement in knee room was cancelled out by the absence of any room to stretch my legs under the seat in front. Also, I'm not sure if the MCE product is supposed to feature more premium snack and drink options (like Delta's product does) or not, but I received the standard Main Cabin options. Lets just leave it at "I'm glad I didn't actually pay for the seat."
Cabin Crew: The crew was in their seats most of the flight due to the turbulence, but other than that they were friendly and professional.
Entertainment: I spent the entire flight looking out the window because I forgot to get a book. The plane offered streaming entertainment, but I did not download the appropriate app beforehand.
Food: Biscoff cookies and warm (not hot) coffee. It was clear the coffee sat on the cart during the long turbulent period and cooled significantly.
Departure Airport: Philly airport is Philly airport. Not much more to say other than I will definitely be walking my connections at PHL now. I've been burned by the bus too many times. Walikng was the only reason I made this flight.
Arrival airport: MSP is a nice airport, with lots of food options and shops to kill time. The concourses are older, but the main terminal is new and feels spacious.
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