Flying to Moscow

Trip Start Sep 24, 2010
Trip End Sep 28, 2010

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Where I stayed
Hotel Bulvar

Flag of Russia  , Central Russia,
Saturday, September 25, 2010

Greetings from Russia!

Everything went smoothly on my trip here. I had been anxious because United's flight from IAD to DME had been oversold by 15 seats. But my research during the previous week had revealed a no-show average of more than 20 customers per flight. So I was optimistic the odds were in my favor, and indeed they were!

After arriving at Washington Dulles International Airport at 3:39 p.m., I stopped by the D8 Red Carpet Club to say hi to Mom. The lounge was incredibly busy – I’ve never seen so many passengers in there before! I didn’t have much chance to talk to Mom since she was occupied checking customers into the lounge. But she did tell me it looked like I would get Business Class. There was one First Class Suite open, but a Global Services passenger was on the list to upgrade from Business into First, taking that last available suite up front. Business had been booked full, but there ended up being five available seats (four no-shows plus the one upgrade to First).

When I arrived at Gate C5, a gate agent was dealing with a female passenger who wanted to upgrade from Economy into Business. There was some problem with her upgrade request that required several phone calls to resolve, but eventually she did get a Business Class seat. That left four remaining. Then I was called and received Business Class Seat 7C. :-) So my 23-month streak of getting only premium seating on United long-haul international flights continues! Fabulous. (There was only one other standby on the list and she got Business as well.)

After all my anxiety about whether I’d get on the flight, it turned out to be a nonissue. The departed load count for revenue passengers shows full in First, 22 of 26 in Business, and 137 of 147 in Economy Class. So there ended up being 14 seats unused by revenue customers. The flight had been oversold by 15, which means there was a total of 29 no-shows and misconnects.

There was some drama at the gate after I received my boarding pass. The gate agent was denying boarding to a man whose visa validity date was Sept. 26. This flight was arriving Sept. 25, so he would be denied entry into Russia. Therefore United could not take him as a passenger for it would be responsible for deporting him. The agent was explaining all this to the gentleman, who looked understandably frustrated but kept his cool. The agent called to have the passenger’s luggage removed from the plane and rebooked him on the United flight to Moscow for the next day. Doh, what a goof! How could you get the date on your visa wrong?

The flight was eventless aboard the Boeing 767. We departed at 5:18 p.m., 14 minutes behind schedule. It took a long time for the meal service to begin in Business Class, and the service was mediocre. Perhaps I am just spoiled from so many flights in First Class Suite!

My appetizer was grilled shrimp brochette with sugar cane skewer over mango and tomato relish. Delicious! There was a small salad with fresh seasonal greens and creamy garlic dressing. For the main course, I had sate-spiced chicken accompanied with jasmine rice with chives and herbed asparagus and carrot sauté. That was also tasty. And for dessert, I had coffee-tasting ice cream covered with a chocolate shell as well as some grapes.

Stuffed, I paused the movie I was watching, "Sex and the City 2," to get ready for bed. Then I finished watching the movie, reclined my seat into flat-bed position, and went to sleep at 4:55 a.m. Moscow time (8:55 p.m. EDT). I slept well for about six hours, as the next thing I remember is hearing announcements at 10:53 a.m. Moscow that it’s time to prepare for landing.

We arrived DME at 11:10 (15 minutes tardy). Getting through Russian Immigration and Customs was simple. I found an ATM to withdraw rubles, and then walked to the airport train station to board the noon AeroExpress train to central Moscow.

It is presently 12:25 p.m. There’s 20 minutes left until our scheduled 12:45 arrival into Moscow’s Paveletsky Station. From there I will have to take two subway lines to my hotel, Bulvar, which I booked last night at IAD immediately after receiving my boarding pass. It’s a small hotel (30 rooms) but the location looks great – right on the inner ring road about a mile’s walk to Red Square and the Kremlin.

These transoceanic flights sure go by quickly when you watch a movie, eat dinner, and then sleep in the comfort of a flat-bed seat. It’s hard to believe I am sitting on a train looking out at the Moscow suburbs. The weather is beautiful – bright blue skies and sunshine with a forecast high of 65 today.

I don’t have a sightseeing agenda for today. This is my “take it easy” day to recuperate from jet lag. Once I get to my hotel, I will probably just walk to Red Square and get my bearings. My two full sightseeing days are Sunday and Monday, then I fly home Tuesday.
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