Kansas City to Los Angeles

After about eleven days in Kansas City, it was time to begin the return trip, a lengthy journey that would take me more than 56 hours from door to door.  The first leg was from Kansas City to Los Angeles, cashing in some credit card points I had for a one way ticket on American Airlines.

P1180909-001

It has been nearly a decade since I’ve flown American.  Now that they are in bankruptcy, the last of the major carriers (other than Southwest) to have gone through that process, I was curious to see if there was a perceptible air of distress among the employees.

P1180932

I have to say, while none of the employees were spectacularly friendly, they didn’t seem to be any worse for wear than the employees of any other major US airline.  They did their jobs, tried to smile from time to time and be pleasant, and got me safely from point A to point B.  Knowing many people in the airline industry, and being a former employee myself, my sympathy extends to them during this uncertain time.  The only thing that is certain is that they’ll not make it through bankruptcy without some amount of pain.  Most likely, this will include losing a large portion of their pensions.

P1180899

There was some holiday spirit in the air, though, despite the bankruptcy.  This gate at Kansas City was decorated for the season, ready for a charity flight they do for disadvantaged children.  I’m not sure if it is an actual flight – that’s become quite expensive to do anymore – but they board the children on the plane, let them visit the cockpit, have them sit down and enjoy snacks and a drink, etc.  All in all, a nice treat for children who may otherwise never get such an experience.

P1180934

Flying into the greater Los Angeles area, we were treated to clear skies and great visibility.  Here’s a shot of the city of Riverside and, smack in the center (to the right of the freeway), the University of California, Riverside campus.  I actually attended UCR for six months in the first half of 1990, before moving back up to Santa Clara University to finish my studies.

Video of our landing in Los Angeles.

P1180939

A shot of my plane after arrival in Los Angeles.  The construction for the expansion of the Tom Bradley International Terminal is in the background, the new saw-tooth roof clearly visible.  Also, two Boeing 747s, the one on the left from Fiji Air and the the one on the right from China Airlines.

My cousin Jackie, Alex’s younger sister, picked me up and helped me kill several hours.  We ran errands to Trader Joe’s and a few other stores.  We stopped for In-n-Out burgers, where we saw a family of three who had dragged their suitcases all the way from the airport to get a burger.  That’s about a two-mile walk, depending on which terminal they came from.

In the evening, we met Gary and William for dinner at Lukshon.  I’ll share pictures from that fantastic dinner tomorrow.

 

Winner of the United Retro Jet Contest

This year marks the 85th anniversary of United Airlines.  In a post last November, I mentioned that they were holding a contest for employees to vote for their favorite previous livery.  The winning livery would then be painted onto a “retro jet” to commemorate the anniversary.  Five previous color schemes were presented, voted on, and I recently saw that the Airbus A320 painted in the winning colors recently took to the sky:

Retro A320

Sigh…

I’m quite excited because of the five liveries, this was my favorite.  It is the one I associate with my early childhood in the 1970s.  I remember drawing airplanes when I must have been in my early elementary years and this was the color scheme I could recreate from memory.

Plane_1Plane_2Plane_3Plane_5
The other four liveries that represent the different eras of United Airlines.

While I’ve had my rough patches with United over the years, it is the company that my father, my husband, and I (not to mention countless friends) all worked for at various points in our lives.  Happy 85th anniversary to the Friendly Skies.  May the merger with Continental make the skies friendly once again!

 

Hong Kong to Guam to Honolulu

Route Map
Link to Part 1: Bangkok to Hong Kong
Link to Part 2: A Half Day in Hong Kong

I’ve reached the age where I’m willing to spend a little more money so I can be comfortable when I travel, and being able to get a few hours of good sleep in the midst of a 30+ hour journey seemed like a good investment.  This was the logic behind paying $60 apiece to rent three hours in day rooms at the Plaza Premium Lounge, a public “arrival lounge” in Hong Kong Airport’s Terminal 2.

P1110019

Unfortunately, a few things kept the investment from paying dividends.  This particular lounge is located below the train station.  While it has soundproofing, you can still hear the “whoosh” of the train arriving every twelve minutes.  If I had used earplugs, that might not have been a problem, but the coffee I had with my egg tarts earlier in the afternoon, or maybe just the rush of adrenaline brought on by travel, kept me from really relaxing and sleeping.

Nonetheless, I got more rest than I would have just wandering around the city or dozing in an airport chair, so I was thankful for that.  The lounge itself was nice and the facilities were in good shape.  The staff gave us a bit more than three hours before calling to wake us so the time to shower and change wasn’t held against the three hours we had paid for.  Maybe that’s because they weren’t busy that time of day or maybe that’s just how they do it in Hong Kong.

P1110021

Whatever the case, a little before 8:30 pm we were showered, changed, and checked out.  We collected our bags from the locker facility nearby and did some rearranging with the packing.  On the Air Asia flight, we had to prepay for our luggage, so managing the weight distribution was critical.  At least for their international flights, Continental offers free luggage check-in, so we could move things out of our carry-on and into the luggage for the rest of the trip.

P1110025

The check-in counters were deserted two hours before departure.  United does the check-in and ground handling for Continental, which operates only two flights a day (to Guam and Newark).  UA providing this services is a recent development, brought about by the merger of the two airlines.  It took a few minutes for the agent to finish our check-in as there was some confusion about the assignment of my frequent flyer number.  (Continental and Taiwan’s EVA Air have a reciprocal mileage program agreement and I was using my EVA mileage program number for these flights.)  The agents were friendly, though, and resolved the problem in short order.

P1110023

After the confusion was cleared, our bags tagged, and boarding passes issued, we headed through security and immigration.  Unlike many international airports I’ve been to, Hong Kong places security before immigration, which makes more sense to me than at airports like Singapore where you don’t go through security until you are entering the gate.  Who’s protecting the immigration officers there?

P1110032

Uncertain what food would be served aboard our four-hour redeye Continental flight to Guam, we stopped for a bite at the popular local eatery Tsui Wah, a branch of which is located in the airport.  I’ve noticed that many airports are moving from having just random restaurants or only fast food chains to having branches of popular local restaurants.  San Francisco Airport is a good example of this.  There you can eat the food from some of your favorite local restaurants inside the terminal.  Good idea, in my estimation.  At least you get something more interesting than Burger King and Starbucks, again and again, airport after bloody airport.

P1110035

I think this photo says it all.  We ate at a full branch of Tsui Wah on our two days in Hong Kong while returning, too.

P1110031

Tawn ordered this dish, which if I recall correctly is a Singapore style curried noodles.  I tried a bite and it was tasty and a bit spicy.

P1110037

I ordered the baked pork chop smothered in tomato sauce and cheese, served over rice.  It took about ten minutes for them to prepare but was worth the wait!

P1110042

Hong Kong International Airport remains one of my favorite airports.  While Singapore may offer free internet, some outdoor gardens, etc. I find HKIA a much more modern, user friendly, and well thought-out airport.  The interior also is bright and open, making the travel feel just that much more exciting.  It reminds me of a classic European train station, done up in a modern version.

P1110039

Another benefit to HKIA: it is children friendly.  There’s this good sized play area near the main food court.  It features many segments of play airplanes, allowing children to burn off energy and learn more about aviation before getting on their flights.

P1110045 P1110040

The segment about the cabin, left, has all sorts of little details like the stickers on the “overhead bins” showing row numbers.  Parents could actually use these as a learning opportunity for their children, pointing out the stickers and practicing how they’ll look for the row numbers once they get on their real airplane.  It has all sorts of educational possibilities, not to mention just being fun!

P1110046

The table in the cabin interior play area is covered with photos taken at the old Hong Kong airport, Kai Tak.  The Wikipedia entry for the airport describes it very aptly:

“With numerous skyscrapers and mountains located to the north and its only runway jutting out into Victoria Harbour, landings at the airport were dramatic to experience and technically demanding for pilots. The History Channel program Most Extreme Airports ranked it as the 6th most dangerous airport in the world.”

This minute-long video beautifully illustrates just how crazy landings into Kai Tak were.  Take a look.

P1110057

Departure time was 10:30 pm from gate 20, one of the closet gates to immigration.  HKIA is a very spread-out airport but unlike the design of Bangkok, there is a convenient train system that will shuttle you to the more distant gates in just a few minutes.  In Bangkok, nearly every gate requires a hike, most of which is through a shopping mall of duty free stores.

P1110051

Boarding started about 20 minutes before departure for our nearly full flight.  Unlike many trans-Pacific flights, this one was served by a narrow body aircraft, a Boeing 737-800.  During the boarding process all passengers were put through additional security screening, which is normal for flights heading to the US thanks to our overzealous policies.  However, unlike most airports where this screening is done before you actually enter the gate, here in Hong Kong they have the screening in the ramp leading to the jetway.

The result?  Passengers had to surrender water bottles they had purchased or filled inside the secured area of the airport, without an opportunity to get more water before the flight.  This is extremely cruddy, resulting in passengers not being able to bring their own water onto the flight.  To top it off, the United customer service agents failed to mention this procedure either at check-in or in the boarding announcements, making it all the more inconvenient and, because it was unexpected, irritating.

P1110059

On this segment of the flight we had been able to purchase exit row seats (an extra $89 per person) in order to have a little more legroom and get some rest on the overnight flight.  Again, our “book the window and aisle” strategy left us with an empty middle seat and some extra room.  Note those little “SUV back seat” screens hanging throughout the cabin.  More about those in a moment.

P1110060

View of a Pakistan International Airlines Airbus A310 next to us.  Beautiful design on the tail.  HKIA is a great place to see planes from all over the world, with the exception of Latin America which isn’t well-represented.

P1110064

The four-hour flight to Guam was uneventful.  Cabin lights were on and off – mostly on – for the first two hours as we went through lengthy announcements and then a meal service that, for a red eye, seems should have been delivered immediately after takeoff.  The “meal” was half a turkey wrap, some fruit, and some almond cookies.  About as much as you would expect for an American airline, I think.

There was no individual inflight entertainment.  This plane is equipped with those “SUV back seat” style monitors throughout the cabin so we all watched the recent Harrison Ford movie “Morning Glory”.  Well, as much as we could see it on the tiny monitor four rows away.  Headsets were distributed for free and we were encouraged to keep them for use on other flights.

I managed to doze a bit on the flight but then it was time for descent into Guam.  We touched down some twenty minutes early and taxied to gate 10.  As we arrived, I was unsure what to expect, immigration-wise.  This was our first point of entry into the US, although Guam is a territory rather than a state.  As it turned out, we ended up having to go through immigration, but didn’t have to reclaim our baggage and go through customs. 

P1120087

The process was like this: when you arrive in Guam the terminal has these flexible partitions down the middle of the hallway.  You are shunted into the “secure” side if your flight has arrived from an international destination.  Then you go into the immigration queue just like at any other international airport.  After clearing immigration you end up outside security in the ticketing and check-in lobby, so you re-clear security and head to your gate.

P1110071

Back at our gate about fifteen minutes after clearing immigration, we spotted our plane for the 7.5-hour flight to Honolulu.  As you can see, from a visual branding perspective, the CO-UA merger is also a merger of identities: Continental color scheme with the United name.  That being the case, it has been much faster to update the legacy Continental planes than the legacy United ones.

Boarding was already underway when we reached the gate, but the procedure was very strange.  Between the gate area and the jetway there was another set of immigration booths, so we had to go through immigration a second time within forty-five minutes, essentially reentering the US.  I guess the implication of this second immigration check is that there must be passengers boarding locally in Guam who entered Guam without going through formal immigration procedures.  Very odd.

P1110089

The view from my window seat.  The plane we arrived on from Hong Kong is the second plane back.  Interestingly, the Guam airport seems to be located on a graded hillside and I noticed that the arrangement of the aircraft parking areas is a bit like terraced rice paddies, albeit not at a very steep grade.  Look at the building just above the left side of the jetway.  Notice how it “steps up” about a meter?  It is hard to see in the picture but the ramp is level at the plane’s parking area but then slopes up to the next parking area.  You can see the slope where the yellow cargo pallet carts are parked just beyond the wing of our plane.

Anyhow, our flight pulled back just as the sun was rising, the same time (6:30 am locally) we had departed from Bangkok the day before, although 24 hours had not quite passed thanks to time zone changes.

P1110097

On our way to runway 6-Right we passed this Continental Boeing 737 in the Star Alliance livery.  I wonder if some day all the Star Alliance airlines will merge (once foreign ownership laws change) and simply brand the airline as “Star Alliance”?

P1110102

Our climb out of Guam on a cloudy Saturday morning.

P1110084

Our plane, a Boeing 767-400, is a twin-aisle jet with a 2-3-2 arrangement of seats in economy class.  Unlike the plane from Hong Kong, this one was equipped with individual seatback monitors with a choice of something like nine channels of movies and TV shows playing on a 2.5-hour loop.  If you happen to tune in at a random time, you will find yourself in the middle of a movie and have to wait until the loop restarts. 

It is certainly better than squinting to watch the show on a screen half a cabin away, but given the recent advances in inflight entertainment technology (not to mention things like iPods and iPads!) the quality is still pretty low.  Interestingly, though, since this flight was technically a domestic flight (although nearly twice as long as our Hong Kong to Guam flight), you had to pay for a headset or else use your own.

The seats did have pillows and blankets provided, something rare for a domestic flight.  Seat pitch (the point on your seat to the same point on the seat in front of you) is about 32 inches, typical for economy on many airlines and if you empty out the seatback pocket of magazines and the person in front of you doesn’t recline all the way, it is reasonably comfortable.

P1110105

Despite being a domestic flight, free meals were served and they weren’t that bad, either.  This was a breakfast flight and I had sausage and eggs served over fried rice.  You have to appreciate that Continental tries to appeal to the local customers with the fried rice, and it strikes me as a better choice than hash browns.

P1110106

Tawn opted for the French Toast, which was just about basic as French Toast can get! 

P1110107

About three hours into the flight, flight attendants passed out ice cream bars as a snack.  Thanks to the dry ice on which they had been stored, these ice cream sandwiches were as hard as a rock and I had to wait about ten minutes before I could manage to break off a bite without chipping a tooth!  One wonders what would happen if they offered a snack of, say, fruit or carrot sticks.  Nonetheless, I can only greet an ice cream sandwich with a smile.

P1110112

About four hours into the flight, we crossed the International Date Line, suddenly gaining back 24 hours of our lives.  In fact, this flight was so funky because of the IDL that when I tried to book it on Continental’s website, it wouldn’t let me.  I had to go to their ticketing agent in Bangkok to get it done.  The reason?  We left Hong Kong on Friday evening, arrived Guam Saturday morning, departed Guam Saturday morning, arrived Honolulu Friday afternoon, then connected to a codeshare flight to Lihue on Friday evening.  That “back and forth” with the dates confused Continental’s computers, I guess.

P1110115

About 70 minutes before landing the flight attendants passed out snack trays with turkey sandwiches every bit as dry as the ones I made for our Bangkok to Hong Kong flight!  Also included were a Twix bar and cheddar cheese flavored crackers.  Not the culinary highlight of the flight.

P1110121

The skies were beautiful as we approached Honolulu.  Sadly, I should have been sitting on the left-hand side of the plane for the best views of the island.  However, I did film our takeoff and landing and will share it here if you’d like to view it:

P1110132

Watching palm trees swaying in the breeze, we pulled into our gate next to an Air Canada jet (bet the crew is glad to be working that route!) and after about 29 hours had finally arrived in Hawai’i.  But we still had one more flight to reach our destination… stay tuned!

 

Delta BKK-IAH and MCI-BKK

The past week’s business trip to the United States was brutal.  Some helpful wag calculated that of the total trip time, 29.4% of it was spent in transit to/from the US.  The formula, for those of you looking for it, was (60 hrs / (60+(6*24))).  I’ll share a little bit about the trip over the next few posts, starting with some information about the flights themselves.

P1080157
Above, a reflection of a Delta 747 at Tokyo’s Narita Airport.

My trip was on Delta Airlines, which offered the cheapest economy class prices by far for the dates I needed to travel.  While my company’s policy is business class on flights over 8 hours, I did not qualify for this as technically my agreement with the company is that they will not pay to fly me to the US for meetings at all, since I chose to relocate outside the country.  That’s okay – I appreciate simply having a job!

I worked very hard to avoid being routed on one of the planes shown above because the economy class experience on them is very out-of-date.  (This holds true for United Airlines’ 747, too.)  Instead, I routed myself through Seattle so I would be able to fly on the more up-to-date A330, which features power ports in the front half of economy class and individual seat-back screens and on-demand audio and video throughout the cabin.

My experience on Delta was mixed.  The hard product itself – seats, food, entertainment, etc. – was fine although not amazing.  For the Bangkok to Tokyo and Tokyo to Seattle segments I was able to get an aisle seat in the front half of the economy cabin, so had about an extra inch of leg room and access to the power ports so I could work on my computer without draining the battery.  Additionally, I had an empty seat next to me on both flights.  The seats are actually pretty comfortable and the adjustable headrest does a decent job of cradling your head if you try to doze.

P1080133
Breakfast out of Bangkok – omelet, potatoes, and sausage with fruit and yogurt.

P1080136
Pre-landing snack – chicken and cheese croissant – before arriving in Tokyo.

On the flight out of Bangkok (6 hours), I traveled with one of the three guests from Kansas City who had been in town the previous two weeks.  Since he slept most of the flight, it was okay that we were a few rows apart.  While in Tokyo we had a few hours transit time so we ate some ramen at an okay snack shop.  The Narita Airport has nice facilities but the food selection within the secure area of the terminal is only okay.  There are better restaurants in the public area of the main terminal.

P1080154

Out of Tokyo for the eight-hour flight to Seattle, I purchased the above box from the noodle shop to supplement the meal served on the flight.  What was inside?

P1080164

This lovely katsu (fried pork cutlet) sandwich!  Oddly enough, the bread doesn’t get greasy or soggy at all, even though it sits in the box for a few hours.  It was really, really satisfying to eat mid-flight.

P1080163

This was the meal served out of Tokyo, beef and (reconstituted) mashed potatoes with a shrimp appetizer and mixed green salad.  The best thing about the meal was the coconut sponge cake.  Portion size is fine and the quality was decent.

P1080166

Mid-flight they served a slice of banana bread as a snack.  Pre-arrival to Seattle (which was early morning) there was a breakfast sandwich which was quite greasy.

Arriving in Seattle for immigration and customs worked very nicely.  Ours was the first flight of the day, arriving shortly after 7:30 am.  There was no line at immigration and within about twenty-five minutes of landing I had my bags, was through customs, and had dropped the bags on the through-checked belt to continue to Houston.

With about three hours between flights, I had time for a friend to meet me for breakfast at a nearby restaurant, which was a nice opportunity for a brief catch-up.  While there, she gave me a gift she had been holding for me for many months: a pair of banneton, wicker bread proofing baskets that I had talked to her about at some point in the past.  This was a funny and much-appreciated gift I will have to blog about soon.

P1080193

After a busy week in Houston, I flew Southwest Airlines up to Kansas City.  In order to construct the least-expensive ticket I could, I routed myself on an “open jaw” ticket on Delta, flying from Bangkok to Houston and then returning from Kansas City to Bangkok.  A $100 ticket on Southwest connected the open part of the jaw, resulting in about $350 savings for my employer.  This also gave me the opportunity to fly out of Houston Hobby Airport, the smaller airport on the south side of downtown that is nearly monopolized by Southwest.

P1080181

As part of a promotion with Microsoft Windows, Southwest was offering free pictures of Santa (that came with a brief demonstration of some new photo editing feature from Microsoft).  These came with a coupon for $20 off your next Southwest flight (before the end of March).  Of course, who could resist getting their picture taken with Santa?

photofuse (58)

In fact, this picture provided useful evidence the next day when I explained to my nieces how I had managed to make it to Kansas City from Thailand.  More on that tomorrow.

After just 30 hours in Kansas City and an overnight inch of snow, I headed for my return trip to Bangkok.  The 6:00 am flight out of KC to Salt Lake City was delayed for more than a half-hour thanks to a string of mishaps by Delta.  First there was the fact that the potable water in the water trucks was frozen – no coffee or tea and no water for washing hands in the lavatory.  (Thankfully they had sanitizing hand gel.)  It had been below freezing all of Saturday so why they didn’t leave the heaters on overnight is a mystery to me.

On top of it, the tow bar froze to the aircraft so it took them several minutes of dousing with antifreeze to get it unstuck.  You would think Delta has never conducted winter operations out of Kansas City!

The long and short of it is that I missed my connecting flight from Salt Lake City to Seattle.  Thankfully I was rebooked on a later flight (and upgraded to first class) that got me into Seattle in time for my connection to Tokyo.  However, my layover was no longer long enough to meet with my aunt and uncle for breakfast in Seattle, something I had intentionally scheduled.

P1080289
Above, the A330 for my flight at a drizzly Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

The flight from Seattle to Tokyo was ten hours long, delayed for more than a half-hour because of electrical problems at the check-in podium.  In fact, the Seattle operations were a disorganized mess.  On the flight itself, I was able to get a bulkhead aisle seat, ensuring that nobody would recline into my personal space, which made the flight reasonable comfortable.  I slept for about five hours, waking every so often then dozing off again.

The service was spotty with a crew that was generally unfriendly.  One flight attendant, Jamie, had a sour lemon expression the entire flight.  During the flight she handed me things (food, water, etc.) a dozen times and each time I made the effort to give her a cheery “thank you”.  You see, I think it is my responsibility as a customer to initiate the friendly service I would like to receive.  Not once did she say ‘thank you” or acknowledge me in any way, verbal or nonverbal.  Terrible, unfriendly service.

Now another flight attendant, Ann, was the complete opposite.  She was cheerful and friendly, patting me on the shoulder when I declined a mid-flight treat of an ice cream sandwich (“They taste mighty good in the middle of the flight!” she advised) and laughing with other passengers throughout the service.  I am going to write a letter to Delta and offer praise for Ann and a note of concern about Jamie.  If even half of Delta flight attendants were as friendly as Ann, I would probably fly them regularly.

The final segment, Tokyo to Bangkok, was delayed by more than an hour.  I had time in Tokyo to use the public showers ($10 for thirty minutes) which makes for a nice mid-trip refresh, and also had a chance to get a bite to eat.  Comparing the two adjacent concourses, United’s operation out of Tokyo is much more organized and professional than Delta’s, using better signage to explain the boarding process and has a generally more updated look to the gate areas.

I landed at Suvarnabhumi Airport at 12:10 Tuesday morning.  Here’s a tip to help you deal with immigration lines: there are two immigration areas at the Bangkok airport and there are monitors outside each showing what the lines at the other area look like.  It is worth the walk of about 150 meters to go to the other immigration area if the queues are shorter.  I ended up clearing immigration and customs in less than forty minutes, which for late night at Suvarnabhumi is quite good.

Tawn picked me up and I was home and in bed by 2:30, exhausted and glad to be back.  More in the next few days about the Kansas City portion of the trip. 

 

Nasty Flight Attendant

Here in New York, arriving Monday after a annoyingly long delay at Chicago O’Hare, explained by the ill-defined reason, “air traffic control.”  There were rain showers in New York and JFK Airport’s longest runway is closed for a four-month reconstruction, so this may have caused the delay – even though we were flying into LaGuardia.

The worst of it, though, was the terrible attitude of our United flight attendants.  This was their final flight to their home base so I imagine they were as eager as the rest of us to get on the flight and depart, but never have I been talked to in so martial a tone as on this flight.  They were barking at passengers about bag storage, boarding procedures, etc. 

Tawn put his larger bag in the overhead bin and folded his trench coat to place it next to the bag.  “On top of the bag, sir!  Put your coat on top of your bag!” shouted a flight attendant from several rows away, ignoring the fact that Tawn’s bag filled the bin to its ceiling.  Finally, he just put the coat in his lap rather than receive any more verbal abuse.

Eventually the overhead bins filled and bags needed to be gate checked.  Nothing unusual about this and, I would imagine, an unsurprising consequence of the airline’s policy to charge for checked baggage.  But what shocked me was the announcement another flight attendant made:

Ladies and gentlemen, we apologize for the need to gate check bags.  Despite out repeated announcements, other passengers did not store their bags in the overhead bins properly so there was not room to accommodate your bags…

I cannot believe he said that.  Is there any question as to why United no longer gets my paying business?  In all my years of flying I have never heard a flight attendant use an announcement to blame passengers.

Anyhow, we’re in New York.  It was rainy last night but we had a tasty dinner at Mama’s Food Shop.  I have some pictures of this place in the East Village but they are still on the camera.  You’ll have to wait for ’em.

Cheers!

Archive Photos – An Aviation Buff from the Start

When I mentioned in the previous entry that I grew up with air travel in my blood, I wasn’t kidding.  Here’s some documentary evidence.

000053.JPG

Dated Easter 1980, when I was nine-and-a-half years old, this picture shows my sister and me flying unaccompanied on a flight from San Francisco to Kansas City.  Traveling on employee passes, since my father worked for United, this was probably one of our earlier flights flying solo.  The plane is a Boeing 727-022.  Check out the funky wallpaper!

000027.JPG

A sneak view into First Class on the same flight.  Different wall treatment up front.  This was in the days when United operated a nonstop between SFO and MCI.  In fact, twenty years or more after discontinuing the nonstop service, a few months ago United once again resumed nonstop service on this route using United Express partner aircraft.

000028.JPG

After the nonstops went away (following deregulation) the name of the game was Denver Stapleton, one of United’s two largest hubs.  In the years leading up to the opening of the new airport in Denver, United’s operations were so overcrowded they would park a second row of airplanes behind the row pulled up to the gates, leading to domino effects of delays if one of the planes in the back couldn’t leave on time.  Here’s a Boeing 727-200 with Continental’s DC-9s behind.  This was in the days when United, Continental and Frontier (the previous version of it) all had hubs at Denver.

000225.JPG

In 1992 as United was phasing out its Boeing 727-022 aircraft, it donated this one, its first 727 (note the registration number N7001U on the engine) and in fact the first 727 ever produced, to the Boeing Museum of Flight in Seattle.  One of her sister ships (N7017U) was donated to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, where it remains on display to this day.  In preparation, mechanics repainted the plane to its original paint scheme, hand-taping all of the logos and detail work.  I had the opportunity to visit United’s Maintenance Operations Center in San Francisco and walk around taking pictures of this plane.