Famous last words were mentioned in the first part of my last spring break series. ‘Ah, spring break. A holiday that’s longer than Thanksgiving to actually go somewhere and have some fun, but not long enough worth it to go all the way back to India, be jet lagged and miserable. Fares for the latter are quite cheap, however.’
….wrong. Completely wrong! The wheels were turning as the desire to log the yearly 747 flight kept me going. In addition, so was the desire to log in the A350, once again.
A350 OR 747?
I looked up the usual: a SQ SFO-SIN-CCU A359/A333, AI B788 CCU-DEL and QR A359/A35K DEL-DOH-JFK looked good on paper but made zero practical sense with the one way tickets. I looked at a couple of Korean B747s to the Philippines. Asiana looked good with the A350, B747-400, Pratt & Whitney A330-300 (a sub type yet to be logged) and a 777-200ER. Great, A350 & B747!
I also quite liked the Korean Air options: all quad jets, including the A380, B747-8i and the B747-400. Perfect, just what I was looking for!
WHY NOT HOME?
That’s when I thought to myself: why not look at west coast TPAC options to India, regardless of aircraft type? Since I wasn’t going home for the winter as I usually do, and the fares were unbelievably cheap, maybe the jet lag would be worth it?
Looking at the dates & class schedules, all there was an exam on Tuesday in the week before spring break, meaning I could start my spring break a little earlier…. and so I did!
With the internationals booked as per my usual trick of multi-city flights to pull prices down just the little bit, I needed a flight to get to San Francisco, and a flight back from New York. As always, with Delta being the only carrier operating out of Grand Forks, I checked the fares out there and predictably, it was steep, really steep.
UNITED TO THE RESCUE!
United out of Fargo almost always stands out to me. Not only do they have the flights to Chicago O’Hare, but quite a few to Denver too. Out of Denver, there is the 777-200A service to San Francisco, and there were some connections on FAR-SFO that would let me log in this sub type. However, looking at what was cheapest it turned out that a morning departure from Fargo, followed by a long layover in Denver, and then on to a weekly 787 flight they had…. I was sold!
My itinerary, a one way ticket, looked like this:
MAR6 OO5244 FAR DEN 1115 1230 CR2
MAR6 UA428 DEN SFO 1545 1721 788
Notice that there are 2 flights in close proximity between DEN & SFO?
With the decent fare, and being able to select 8A on the CRJ-200, I was feeling quite good about this one!
During the end of the W18 schedules SkyWest operated a CRJ-200 between Chicago O’Hare and Fargo, before heading to Denver, while another CRJ-200 would mirror this rotation.
ONLINE CHECK IN - A BID TO CHANGE FLIGHTS?
There was an offer to change flights, I didn't want to because of a tight schedule and why give up the domestic 787?! Web check in happened just fine, my seats were confirmed on both flights. I was a little concerned with the weather in SFO: there would be rain & high winds. Reading about how a minor blip in weather conditions leads to severe delays, I was bracing for a delay on UA428, hopefully nothing terrible.
The day before the trip I did a quick flight as a passenger onboard a Piper Seminole. Here's two pictures, one of GFK after departing from Runway 27R, and the 2nd an hour later on approach, RNAV GPS 27R.
Keeping an eye on the rotation, no less than 3 CRJ-200s were assigned to UA5244 before they’d get delayed for whatever reason, not long before N973SW was assigned.
Her rotation for the day:
Muskegon - O’Hare UA5021 0635 0644
O’Hare - Fargo UA5284 0815 1025
Fargo - Denver UA5244 1115 1230
Denver - St. Louis UA5226 1330 1638
St. Louis - O’Hare UA5426 1715 1842
O’Hare - Chattanooga UA5946 1930 2214
As you can see, most certainly a Chicago O’Hare based bird despite hitting Denver during the course of the day. I left Grand Forks around 0845, and made it to Hector Intl just before 10am. I for once was not going to pay the $30 for checked baggage: hey it’s just a week long trip, I don’t need the big suitcase! I did pay a little extra to not be in Basic Economy. Sure, math wise it all adds up to the same but more on this later.
With 3 flights leaving within close proximity to each other I knew security would be quite busy. I joined the line at 1003 hours, but TSA in Fargo are usually quite friendly. Took about 20 minutes to get through, and on to planespotting real quick. The Endeavor Air CRJ-900LR to Minneapolis, a quick short flight for that one.
Meanwhile, there was also an Allegiant A320 that flew in from Phoenix/Mesa. A fairly new A320 at that! And yes, the A320 being as big as a Boeing 747 for me because the airplanes I’d see pretty much every day is a Piper Archer or a Piper Seminole, whoops!
N973SW pulled in just fine, a few minutes behind schedule. They made quick work of turning around the CRJ-200ER.
Pre boarding announcements were made 30 minutes before departure, and boarding started not too long after. It would be a full flight over to Denver, barring a seat or two empty. Dropped off the gate checked bag by the door and hopped onboard.
Took my seat 8A, a favorite for me and a few others at work: we appreciate United letting us select these for free! Boarding was completed within 15 minutes, and the jet bridge was pulled back 14 minutes before time.
Pushed back at 1106 hours, 9 minutes before time. The wing walker waved at me which was nice! Fired up both engines just fine and taxied to runway 36.
Lined up and took off just fine at 1119 hours, 4 minutes after the scheduled departure time. We were looking good for a before time arrival in to Denver! Turned southwest after take off. Unfortunately the windows of the 14.9 years old CRJ-200ER was quite badly scratched, but oh well.
See you in 12 days, Fargo!
Service started just fine, but I was left a little disappointed because they did not have stroopwaffels at this time. Pretzels and coke it would be… we were just under 30 minutes in to the flight.
Dozed in and out of sleep for most of the flight, and the same could be said for most others onboard too. It was a little bumpy along the way too, which was fun. Just the one round of service for this flight.
Another airplane enroute
DESCENT & ARRIVAL
Descent started just fine, we’d be arriving via the ANCHR4 STAR (standard terminal arrival route) in to Denver. We’d be landing on Runway 35L. It’s a bit of a strange approach in to Denver given that the airport is located far away from the city itself. We were parallel with an ERJ-145 as well!Touched down at 1203 hours MST, a flying time of 1hr45min.
Denver’s airport layout meant that it was a slightly long taxi over to the gate, we’d be docking at gate B59 however seeing as were early we had to wait before being marshaled in.
An ex-Comair CRJ-200
To my surprise these few gates did not have a jet bridge so to speak!! It would be my first time in the USA getting off on to the ramp. And, I had to line up for my luggage anyway, even better!
Engines off at 1212 hours, 18 minutes before time and 9 minutes since landing. quite alright. It was a nice & warm 3C out (yes, I call that warm…). I noticed several CRJ-200s here, most of them bearing the ‘SW’ registrations, this being the SkyWest end of things.
Gates B57 and B59 shared the same door to head out to the airplane I foresee some issues here but I’m sure they have their operations figured out.
So yeah, there I was in Denver’s massive United only Concourse B! A quick check of flight status’ for SFO bound flights painted a bleak picture of delays over 1.5 hours. I was expecting to spend over 5 hours at Denver, and with that, I found a place to relax a little bit.
Praise United for letting us select seat 8A on the CRJ-200. Fantastic legroom there making a flight on this bird a little bit more tolerable. This flight had no issues whatsoever, very much before time, crew was fine (I forget her name, unfortunately), and I slept for most of it anyway. Onwards, to the B787-8!!