Having had enough of Delta (nothing against them, I just wanted to try out something else), I decided to narrow down my choices to Spirit Airlines, Frontier Airlines or American Airlines. Having established earlier in this series that the add ons meant that Spirit and Frontier were more expensive than American Airlines, and having tried United on MSP-ORD, it came down to the end of day flights on American. I needed a flight after 7pm out of Chicago, taking in to account for the 3pm arrival on the United flight from Munich and immigration. There was a very late B737 departure (10pm), and a 8.25pm departure on the MD80…. The answer was clear: MD80, no second thought!
I confirmed for: AA2580 19AUG dep ORD 2020 CDT, arr MSP 2154 CDT MD80 But it (insignificantly) changed to… AA2185 19AUG dep ORD 2025 CDT, arr MSP 2152 CDT MD80 (I also love how they showed the equipment as S80 - the Super 80!!)
Now, for the crappy reality that struck me and I prepared for it accordingly: AA2185 was a Detroit - Chicago O’Hare - Minneapolis/St. Paul rotation. It could go either way, DTW-ORD on one plane and ORD-MSP on another, or both flights on the same aircraft. But ORD-MSP would often get delayed by over 30 minutes (‘over 67% of the flights have been delayed by over 30 minutes’ said the AA website. Wow). But more often than not it would be a delay of 1-2 hours, very rarely would it be delayed over 2 hours and ironically, it was even more rare to see this flight be on time! With 41 MD83s and 20 MD82s, I was hoping I’d at least get the rarer MD82 before they are taken out of the fleet… I was prepared to stay in Chicago for longer than planned.
MOBILE CHECK IN
Some screenshots of the mobile check in procedure, as completed at Munich Airport -
Notice that AA2535 was coming in from Dallas/Ft. Worth which would later head to Minneapolis as AA2185. This meant AA2185 would be completed by two aircraft. My flight was to be done on N7548A.
Now, back to the day of. American Airlines uses Terminal 3 for their departures. I stepped out of T5 to catch the train that would take me to T3. A very crowded train, as people completely ignored the ‘no trolleys on the train’ signs every where. Many passengers onboard were actually connecting from American Airlines flights from international destinations towards a domestic leg out of their hub in Chicago O’Hare. I was at Terminal 3, checking in at 1729 hours. Just under 3 hours to scheduled departure.
CHECK IN, SECURITY
As has been the custom in the United States so far, passengers have to do their own check in on the kiosk. Easy peasy, confirmed my very close to the engine seat 29F, paid for my checked luggage (which was a relief since I was worried my debit card would not work LOL), and waited in line for the baggage drop. My name was called out and tag attached to my bag - similar to Delta Air Lines. Security was next but this was not too much of a hassle thankfully, I cleared it despite the long amounts of time that it took (about 20 minutes).
Check in area & post security.
There I was, airside. After seeing all those Delta planes in Minneapolis and United planes in Chicago/Frankfurt/Munich, seeing the American Aircraft was a welcome change. Be it the old bare metal livery or the new silver livery, it felt better seeing this as opposed to the mostly white colors of DL and UA. The planes standing out were the ERJ145, some Mad Dogs in the middle, and the larger Boeings: 737, 787 and 777.
I had half a decent view of the international Terminal 5, where the Turkish Airlines, Emirates and Air France birdies were present. T3 houses the departures of many airlines including oneworld members such as Air Berlin, Iberia, Japan Air Lines.
Icelandair B767-300ER from Reykjavik.
The terminal itself reminded me of the movie Home Alone 2. The one where Kevin McCallister’s parents headed for Florida, while Kevin took a 767 to New York City. Their epic running scene was captured in the area I walked: my assumption is that the Mcallister family ran towards the further gates of concourse K, while Kevin followed a person who looked like his father (from the back at least…) towards concourse H.
The Mad Dog 'Super 80' end of Business
One thing I love about Chicago as I have mentioned before, is how close one can get to an aircraft…especially the wide bodies! (I say that, I’ve had the worst luck photographing my KLM bird and Lufthansa bird :P) I was standing quite close to AA187, a Dream)liner service to Beijing…oh man that was gonna be a long flight!
Quite a few United Boeing 777s taxied by too…it doesn’t have a very pretty image in my mind anymore after the 9.5 hours I had just spent onboard…!
(This is a B764..)
I took a picture of the B777-300ER heading for London. It gives you a perspective of how close people can get to an aircraft, while also giving you an idea of how huge the B777-300ER is!
Some blinds had to be pulled up (or sneaked under) to get half decent images. Here is a B777-200ER:
Old livery B737-800 vs a new livery B787-8. What livery do you prefer more?
Concourse K -
I sat down to get a meal. It was a pretty decent personalized pizza that I relished: finally, a decent meal after over….God only knows how many hours after Munich!!
Now, with the flight being delayed by three hours the night before, I was anticipating a shortish delay of about an hour. Everything looked good and on time while we I was there. My flight would depart from K4, however passengers on the flight to Tulsa Oklahoma were still waiting there. This flight was delayed by 4.5 hours.
AND THE DELAYS BEGIN!
The aircraft scheduled to operate my flight changed to N7520A, a 26.4 years old McDonnell Douglas MD82 (SCORE!) manufactured in Long Beach, California. She had a 30+ minute delayed arrival into Detroit, Michigan. The first indication of a delay showed up when the gate changed from K4 to K5. No biggie.
And then, slowly but surely, it all started to trickle down. My flight was not rescheduled to depart at 2105 hours, a delay of 40 minutes. It was only 1945 hours. The Tulsa flight was finally boarding, so a loud cheer was heard from Gate K4! The next announcement was made that the flight to Dallas Fort Worth had not been cancelled, but in fact would operate on the night. An aircraft docked at Gate K4, that was not N7520A (my plane), but it was another MD80 of sorts, this one would head to DFW. The ground staff shunned down rumors of the flight being canceled… Oh well.
But anyway, with the DFW flight parked at gate K4 - I knew what this meant… Another gate change for me! Sure enough, my flight AA2185 to MSP would depart K3. If my long wait at Munich wasn’t bad enough, this was just starting to get to me, bit by bit. I was very tired, jet lagged, unhappy and a little annoyed… I had no concept of time whatsoever….
While all this unfolded, I kept following FlightRadar24 for N7520A’s progress from Detroit. Being a very short flight between DTW and O’Hare, there was a lot of congested airspace in between. AA2185 had departed Detroit twenty minutes after its already delayed rescheduled departure, a 45 minute delay. I headed to gate K3 and waited for my MD82’s imminent arrival. I saw the MD82 arrive in the distance, but an ERJ145’s departure from Chicago blocked the taxi of the aircraft…as a consequence, the rescheduled departure time for my flight changed to 2120 hours. Still less than an hour, but a delay nonetheless.
A relief see this plane! My first flight on the Super 80.
BOARDING - THE FINAL FLIGHT OF THE DAY!
We were welcomed to the flight at the gate, and the usual stuff…apologize for the delay, will begin boarding as soon as the aircraft is cleaned and ready to go…etc etc etc It was only a matter of time now, I felt. And voila! Boarding started at 2050 hours with the usual elites and whatever… I made my way towards the aircraft at 2102 hours.
While the crew member was there at the door, no one was really greeted onboard. It was a fairly dark cabin, most of the lights had been turned off, but there probably was just enough light to see the seat numbers and stuff.
First class recliner
This flight wasn’t very full (not a surprise), so there was just the gentleman on the aisle seat, and me in my window seat 29F. And holy smokes what a view of the engine I had!! Pity that this was a night flight, else it would’ve been awesome to see the blades move!
We pushed back 2118 hours, two minutes before the rescheduled time of departure and 53 minutes after the scheduled time.
And then it happened. Slowly both Pratt & Whitney JT8D-217C engines were fired up, all set for departure. The safety briefing was done as always - we were informed of a bumpy 57 minute flight. The weather in MSP was cloudy and rainy.
AA ERJ175 - a type that is slowly replacing the MD-80s, as well as the B737s and A320s.
Waiting for taxiing clearance…
Taxiing began towards the end of the concourse, where we had to wait quite a while for two planes arriving in to Terminal 3. It was 2126 hours before we resumed taxiing towards the runway. Passed by the other terminals (T2 and T1). I saw the many United aircraft at T1.. but what stood out were the two Lufthansa biggies - the second B747-8i flight from Frankfurt, and the A340-600 from Munich!
We taxied on to one taxiway and waited there…what seemed like forever! We were taxiing towards runway 10L before we waited on some taxiway for a good long while, almost twenty minutes! The Captain came on the PA system and apologized for the delay…ATC were trying to figure out a better route for us (and other aircraft), so the runway direction had changed… Wow. It wasn’t until 2154 hours (36 minutes after pushback!!!) that we lined up with 28R. And then it happened…. perhaps the best sounding engines in a while!! A loud screech as we thundered down the runway and up in to the night skies of Chicago!
Cabin shot -
Until December, Chicago!
Lovely light on the JT8D!
We reached our cruising altitude, and I started dozing off. It had been a long day for me…the longest 19th August for me! Usual old service began… nothing much to choose from on the American domestic flights because of the usual tiny snacks they give. I got my apple juice and Biscoff cookies (the same as used onboard Delta!) and dozed off again. The cabin crew did go around doing a second round service even when descent started.
ARRIVAL AND DESCENT
A bumpy descent into Minneapolis/St. Paul, thanks to the clouds and rain around.
Just before touching down on to runway 30L, a short burst of power was applied… wow, would we be going around?! Alas, it wasn’t to be. We made a smooth touchdown at 2252 hours, exactly an hour after hour scheduled time. I was happy to have made it. Just one more flight lay between me and the sophomore year of college.
We docked at gate E12, but not before another unfortunate wait in front of the jet bridge with one engine on. once we docked, everyone rushed out.
It had been a long day for me, and I was glad that it had come to an end. Collected bags after a long walk (that included walking in to the check in area and then walking down from there, strangely). I called a taxi and I headed for the AirBnB… A good night’s sleep after what was the longest 19th of August I have ever experienced! Starting at 0000 hours IST at Delhi Airport's T3, it was 2359 hours CDT in the AirBnB just outside Minneapolis/St. Paul Intl. Taking in to consideration of time zones, this day was basically 34.5 hours long. Had it been for a shorter connection at Munich, I maybe would've squeezed in a MSP-GFK regional as well, taking me up to 4 flights of the day (and a cumulative total flying of about 17hr45min!). Such was the case however, I was laying down in a bed after so so long, and I was loving it! My gracious AirBnB host was kind enough to serve me a light night snack, too!
Just by chance I started to track N7520A's movement over the next few days - it was flown to Roswell for storage, marking the end of its American Airlines career that lasted 26.4 years! The final flights were - August 20th: MSP - ORD AA1141 0500 0627 ORD - MCO AA1096 0725 1103 MCO - ORD AA1096 1143 1335 (delayed by 55 minutes) ORD - DEN AA2279 1430 1600 (delayed by 1hr4min) DEN - ORD AA1577 1710 2043 (delayed by 17 minutes)
August 21st: ORD - DEN AA1428 0720 0852 (cancelled) DEN - ORD AA1150 0945 1313 (cancelled) ORD - TUS AA2514 2015 2151 (delayed by 31 minutes)
August 22nd: TUS - DFW AA302 0503 0926 DFW - STL AA326 1025 1206 STL - DFW AA358 1248 1433 DFW - JAX AA386 1520 1843 (delayed by 34 minutes) JAX - DFW AA386 1923 2058 (delayed by 39 minutes) DFW - RDU AA1606 2035 0021 (the final commercial flight, delayed by 2hr25min)
August 23rd RDU - ROW AA9645, to storage.
Chicago - ORD
Minneapolis - MSP
I can’t say much about American Airlines, and whether or not they were better than United or Delta in the domestic front. What I can say for sure however, is the fact that this flight was delayed. Why didn’t American Airlines rescheduled this flight when only 30% of them went out on time. And that wasn't just my flight - the flights to Tulsa and Dallas are significantly delayed too, all of them on MD-82s. I loved the MD82 however.
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