Hello and welcome to another trip report to Minneapolis! This time, instead of my more usual American routing out of Reagan National (DCA), I booked United out of Dulles (IAD) – the difference in price was significant enough that, even including parking costs at IAD, I'd be saving nearly $150. So, lets see how United has changed from the last time I flew with them, nearly two years ago.
With a departure time of 08:25, I parked in the Green Economy lot at about 06:15, catching a shuttle bus a few minutes later. After the short ride to the main terminal, I was surprised at how many people were waiting curbside to head back to the parking lot – I guess that's what happens when there are quite a few red-eye arrivals at an airport.
With this also being my first time using Dulles Airport, connecting or otherwise, I was excited to see the terminal in person. Since the airport parking buses arrive at the lowest level of the terminal, after entering I made my way up the ramp to the Arrivals level, then up an escalator into the chaos that was the United check-in area. There was such a huge crown of people, all of whom seemed to have full luggage carts, that I skipped my usual step of getting a physical boarding pass, deciding instead to try out United's Android app for everything boarding pass related.
Even with the large crowds at check-in, the security lines were very short. I quickly emerged into the beautiful main terminal train station.
Even though my flight to MSP was scheduled to leave from D18, I boarded the next train heading towards gates A and C. Arriving into the Concourse C train station, my impression of Dulles was very positive. However, that quickly changed leaving the station. A ramp led down to the tunnel leading back towards the "temporary" concourses that have been in use since 1983. For those unfamiliar with the story of the tunnel situation, Concourses C and D were initially intended to be replaced by another concourse located farther south. However, when putting in the train system, the station for Concourse C was built where the future concourse would go, much further south than the current concourse – it's connected back to the current Concourse C by a long, bleak tunnel. Even though I knew about the tunnel and had seen pictures of it before hand, I still was surprised at just how long it is in person.
After maneuvering through dark, low-ceilinged Concourses C and D, I made it to my gate about 25 minutes prior to boarding.
A wonderful sunrise this morning. Some snow left over from the nor'easter that came through earlier in the week. Our neighbor at D20 was off to DFW.
Sitting at one of the few windows in the gate area, I then got to see something I've never seen before. A United van pulled up to the CRJ-700 (still unloading from its inbound flight up from Norfolk), retrieved a dog crate from the ground handlers, then drove off. Good on United for being more proactive about pets in the cargo hold.
Boarding began 20 minutes prior to departure time and was quickly completed. I was initially very surprised at how rigid the slimline seats were, but they ended up being reasonably comfortable all things considered.
Boarding was quickly completed, and we pushed back from the gate right on time at 8:25. Interestingly, the E175 headed for DFW pushed back at the exact same moment. I've only had that happen once before, on a CRJ-200 departing from DTW. In that case, the tugs had put the two planes too close together, needing to move my flight back and forth to create horizontal space. No such drama this morning, however.
The DFW-bound E175 headed for runway 30, while our CRJ-700 headed for runway 01C, behind a 737.
A very smooth takeoff into the skies above Northern Virginia.
Passing Martinsburg, WV, with KMRB visible just above the winglet.
I was excited to try out United's in flight streaming service, as well as finally try one of the Stroopwafel snacks they're always raving about. United has implemented the streaming entertainment right into their own app – way better than American's offering which requires a separate Go-Go specific app. The process is simple: connect to the WiFi, open a broswer, click entertainment, then browse the selection. After buffering for about 15 seconds, you're good to go.
The first page of the selection screen. I was very, very happy to see The Blues Brothers added, as it's one of my favorite movies.
You might run into a bit of difficulty jumping from your streaming content to your camera, then back to the content, as I did.
Since I was seated in the second to last row of the cabin, it took quite a while for the flight attendant to reach my row. I asked for a coffee, which would have to be brought back on a tray since her coffee pot had run out. I had to ask specifically to get a Stroopwafel, which I thought was the default snack on morning flights. She might've just missed it, no big deal. She returned a few minutes later with a (disappointingly) lukewarm cup of coffee for me and several others in the rear of the cabin. It was no where near hot enough to warm my Stroopwafel over the cup. Oh well, it was still a very tasty snack.
After an almost two-hour cruise, we began our descent into an overcast Minneapolis.
Landing flaps set before descending into the cloud layer.
Final for runway 30R at MSP.
Floating past a Skywest-liveried CRJ-200 and a Delta A319.
Heading for gate E5.
The very long E11 jetbridge at MSP. I deplaned at that gate after arrival from PHL in September 2016 (report here). A bit unrelated: I also boarded a Great Lakes B1900 right where the AA MD80 is parked back in 2013 (report here).
On stand at gate E5, with another view of the long jetbridge at E11. We were quickly joined by a company E175 arriving from IAH at E7.
Quickly landside, I waited in a heated curbside enclosure on the departures level to get picked up.
Washington - IAD
Minneapolis - MSP
United (well, United Express operated by Mesa Airlines) made a good impression on this flight. The cabin was comfortable, the streaming IFE had lots of choice and worked very well, and the snack was better than I've had with Delta or American recently. I'll leave my United comments with this: I booked away from United for a few years because they really blew it the last time I flew with them (an entire day stuck in Newark due to mechanical delays), but I will no longer actively avoid them (unless it involves a connection in Newark...).
Dulles airport was more of a mixed bag. I was really struck by the iconic architecture of the main terminal, but was pretty let down by the United concourses -- it's very obvious that they were built as temporary structures in the early 80s.
Minneapolis airport, still one of my favorites.
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