Chicago Day 3 - Mileage Running (or why are you jetting round for no purpose?)

by Kevin Marshall October. 31, 2007 7178 views

Cross posted at FlyerTalk Trip Reports []

Ethics first:

Mileage Running is the procces people take to either achive or gain status when flying. Mileage runners take the empty seats on the planes, and fill them (either at full price, discount or mistakes).

I'm doing my mileage run to achive status for the first time ever, to become Star Alliance Silver (BMI)

The enviromental arguments are ones i'm not touching on - suffice to say a donation has been made to the carbon trust for this run.

THe version thats on photoblog has 1) Pictures and 2) things translated into english!

The beginnings of this Mileage Run

I like the space shuttle. I like flying. Therefore it seemed like a good idea to add a day trip to Washington DC to see the Shuttle on my next Chicago run as there’s one in the Smithsonian near Washington DC Dulles International Airport .

Unfortunately… All the good fares had long gone (trying to get a flight on United Airlines for a morning out, evening back for under £100 was getting nigh on impossible.

So at work, I started chucking in some random routes into the United booking engine until the one below appeared

Chicago O'Hare - Buffalo - Washington DC - Newark (for NY) - Chicago.

Of course, as the planning went on, I realised that something wasn't right when I looked at the upgrades on the flight (the only way to check a flight since United don't use one of the major booking systems and that instead I had been rerouted… without any warning…

One quick call to United, and switching from Diamond Club to Mileage plus, I was now actually able to look at my record and see my reroute.

Was: Chicago - Buffalo - Washington Dulles - Newark - Chicago
Now: Chicago - Port Columbus - Washington Dulles - Newark - Chicago

Hmmmmmmmmm.. NOT impressed. Although the net mileage is the same, I've been re-routed without cause, and given longer layover at Newark…

And after another check… guess what… ANOTHER Schedule change (with 3 1/2 hours now in Newark) and on top of that.. Equipment change (from a CRJ-200 to an Embraer 145… not a Bad switch at all - better than a CRJ!)

So the run is not the greatest value in the world, but pretty passable for a first time runner (I know I should be aiming for 1.25p/2.5c a mile - I’m still learning how to run!). As a result, I’m crediting everything to BMI, and thus build up enough status to push me to silver.

Downtown to ORD

I like to give myself plenty of check in time. The last thing I want is to spend time panicking around. So up and out 5am and a cab to O’Hare… (With my friends still wondering why I’m doing this). At 5am, I’m still questioning my own sanity. 30 minutes later, I was arguing with the chicken machines, and checked all the way through, and after another little discussion at security, I was through.

At this point, I had found a wireless network that didn’t fall over when I breathed on it, so it was time to post a couple of blogs, and posted a trip report. For $7…. Needs must. I wasn’t objecting. Suffice to say it’s valid for when I get back, so I’m going hang around the gate areas and finish this report.

ORD – CHM (Chicago O'Hare - Port Columbus)
UA1186 – Airbus A319

Boarded the plane near enough last because I was finishing up a blog entry. The plane itself was in good condition, and clean (it being the first turn of the day) and the crew was bright and cheery.

The plane did a little tour of O’Hare, going past the international terminal, turned and took off.

There was a full drinks service, but no snacks or cookies or such distributed. Still. Coffee is good to me.

As a big plus, Channel 9 was switched on. For the uninitiated, Channel 9 is plane to Air Traffic Control, so you can listen in on what the pilots are up to. Very interesting (also the fact that there’s entertainment on A319 is amazing to me).

Touchdown and taxi was quick to the gate, and a quick deplane later, everyone was off.

At Port Columbus

Its an small airport, but one that plays an important role today for me (primarily because its my first transit point of the day)… Much like Birmingham Airport… except it hasn’t got the standard British airport shopping centre. Not that I’m objecting for once! Also a big big plus is FREE Wifi!, so big thumbs up for Port Columbus airport!

CHM-IAD (Port Columbus - Washington Dulles)
UA7845 Embraer ERJ145

Onto the regional jets. Today I’m on Embraer 145’s. Imagine a tube of toothpaste, 3 seats across, (1/2 with wings and engines stuck on. You get the drift.

A quick take off, and we were away. No drink service due to the shortness of the flight (this annoyed me as you’ll discover later). 50 minutes later, we were on the tarmac at IAD.

Not an eventful flight, but for 40 minutes, I wasn’t objecting. I do like the singe seats on these planes.

Washington Dulles

Dulles is an odd airport. With “Futuristic” Moon buggies to take passengers from on side of the airport to another, and concourses in the midfield, it’s an interesting place. Shopping was interesting – the gift shops were ding a good trade on Anti-Bush materials as well as 101 bits of White House stuff (including the official memento for this year). I mealy picked up some tat for my Christmas tree and my parents….

I made it back to the gate and got talking to some seniors who were in their final semester doing IT. Oh how I DON’T Envy them. Not one sausage. Not an inch. (Well, except the student discount)

IAD-EWR (Washington Dulles - Newark International)
UA7981 EJ145LR

Firstly, I had managed to nab 1A, the prize seat in the plane. Due to an imbalance of weight (that or a senior person was pissed I got a seat before them), I was unceremoniously dumped into 15A… or from the best seat in the house to the worst seat.


After a long wait, we pushed back, I noticed we were going pretty slowly on the tarmac, and then we veered off into the “Penalty box” as Newark/New York control had requested we wait for another 30 minutes before taking off.

After the wait, we took off, and did lots of circles to kill time as we flew. A drinks service was provided, but is the TED effect rubbing off on UAX (Trans-State) I wonder. It was a cup and lots of ice for a lot of people on the plane (by the time the FA got to me, I requested a coke… and got a full can.

This is laughable cost cutting measure to put it blunt.

What can I say except CONSITANCY PLEASE UAL. SET A POLICY AND ACT ON IT. 3 planes, 3 different level of services so far…

The flight itself was not bad flight, with some great views of downtown Manhattan on final approach (that’s memorized for the future if I come back).

At EWR (for all of 3 minutes)

As the plane pulled in I noticed a 737 parked next door. After fighting my way off the E-Jet, it was the earlier Chicago flight that was ready to close. A quick request of “any room and any chance I can get on it?” and I had in my hands a BP for that flight. 3 hour wait at Newark, Nuked

EWR-ORD UA649 (Newark - Chicago O'Hare)
Boeing 737-300

As this was a last minute jump on, I knew I had no chance of a window seat, so I ran to the plane, grinned manically and used my British accent to its proper effect to get 15B. It’s a seat of 2 hours and 1 minute, and by this point, my camera was getting annoyed with me. The doors were then sealed behind me (and yes, I ducked through on the red carpet. RCC’s/1K’s/GS members can growl at me later)

But dear oh dear. If I had worked out it was a 737-300… I would have had second thoughts and maybe took the 3-hour wait. The plane itself is very 80s (old multicolored UA interior, and some seats were worse for wear. But at this juncture… it was a quick way back to Chicago base.

The standard drinks service then followed – but not done with trollies but by hand. Interesting wrinkle there.

The flight itself was a bit turbulent, but we made it to O’Hare early, so a thumbs up at least.
After sitting and posting this, it was time to head back to the hotel.

In review: - I'm NOT impressed. Lack of updates, and no warning of rerouting is a very very poor show.

I'd expect a change like that to be emailed as soon as it was made, rather than me finding out by accident! I’m happier now the site shows reservations based on PNR as opposed to Mileage plus (I object to the fact I had to join MP to view my itinerary – the moment I found out you could, I switched back all my FF information to BMI). I suppose that’s the reason why United.bomb has its name…

A319’s – Still a very nice plane even on this side of the water. Look after them, and they’ll look after you. The plane was clean, although with went tech for 10 minutes as we boarded (the hot water tap didn’t want to switch off in the toilet), the service was good for a 40 minute flight.

ERJ-145 – I honestly was expecting the worst from these E-Jets. In many respects (even if the headroom is a little low) these are VERY good little planes. I would happily spend 1-2 hours in those jetting around. Being stuck on the tarmac on one isn’t as much fun, but the single seats come into play. A big thumbs up for these little jets

B737-300 – Shiny paint on the outside does NOT make for new plane on the inside. I’m sure these units are mechanically well maintained. I’m sure they do turn after turn without a blink. Please update the interiors please, or consider replacing them with fuel efficient versions sometime in the future (Upscaled CRJ’s are not the answer – proper 737’s or A319/320’s, with appropriate facilities are, to provide customer comfort and satisfaction).

And my mileage run… was it successful… when the miles post – yes it will be. However, I think I’m 475 miles short of silver at the moment. Better start plugging in some new routes when I get back to the UK.

Maybe that LHR-BRU-IAD-AMS-LHR run should be moved from the “consider” bucket to the “book” bucket….

ORD (Chicago) - CMH (Port Columbus) - IAD (Washington Dulles) - EWR (Newark Liberty International) - ORD

The main depature hall

Crosslink from B to C concourse

Anohter crosslink

Lit up and lighting up. A fine day of flying ahead

Leaving chicago!

High wing!

My first plane of the day at Port columbus

Corssing to IAD


Crossing from IAD to EWR

New York!

High wing and engine shot

New York and Manhatten Skyline

Manhatten Island and Liberty

Anohter high wing

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