Flying ORD-IAH

Trip Start Nov 03, 2012
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Trip End Nov 06, 2012


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Flag of United States  , Texas
Saturday, November 3, 2012

After arriving into ORD from MIA, I headed to the United Club to await the 6:45 p.m. connection to IAH. I gasped when I saw on the departures board that the 7:20 p.m. flight to Houston was canceled. Oh no.

I got online in the United Club and saw there's still 46 seats open on the 6:45 p.m. Boeing 767-300 to IAH. I’m #22 on the standby list, so hopefully I’ll make it on. When I saw that the second flight to IAH canceled, I was worried that many of the passengers would have been rebooked on the 6:45 departure. But the load must have been light and/or there are connecting passengers who won’t arrive in time to take the earlier flight.

With a little time to kill before the next flight, I listed myself for all four inaugural Boeing 787 flights tomorrow. United launches its first Dreamliner into domestic service tomorrow with flights from IAH to ORD, back to IAH, then to LAX and back. It’s very unlikely I’ll make it on board any of the first-day flights – they are booked pretty full and there’s lots of other standbys listed with higher boarder priority. United was originally supposed to launch two Dreamliners into service tomorrow, but the second 787 was delivered three weeks late by Boeing just a few days ago, so it’s not ready for commercial service yet.

My plan is to attend the inaugural ceremony early tomorrow morning at IAH prior to the first Dreamliner flight to Chicago. That will be really neat to observe even though it’d take a miracle for me to get a seat on the first flight. I will probably then spend the day at IAH and then watch the 787 depart for LAX in the afternoon after it returns from ORD. I’ll then spend another night in Houston and hopefully be able to get on board a Dreamliner during the second day of flights Monday. Last I checked, there’s still a good number of seats open on some of Monday’s departures.

It’s really exciting that this new aircraft is finally going to be put into revenue service after four years of delays by Boeing! As I recall, Continental Airlines was supposed to receive its first 787s in 2008. Continental merged with United in 2010, so its 787s orders were taken over by United.

After listing for the 787 flights, I searched for a hotel room near IAH tonight. After seeing online that I had been cleared onto the 6:45 flight, I reserved a room at a 3.5-star hotel on Hotwire for $55 plus taxes and fees. I got the Doubletree IAH.

Hotel room booked, I headed to Gate C9. The gate agent at first offered me a seat in regular Economy Class; but I had the seat map up on my smartphone and asked if Economy Plus Seat 23B was still open. She changed my seat to 23B.

When I boarded the flight, the agent said the overhead bins were full, so she needed to check my carry-on bag. But when I walked through Business Class, there were several empty bins and it appeared all the passengers were settled into their seats, so I returned to the jetway and asked to carry my suitcase on board. A flight attendant came out and said it’s no problem, there’s plenty of space. That will save me some time at IAH not having to wait to claim the luggage. This way I can proceed directly to the hotel shuttle bus.

United Flight 576 departed on-time at 6:45. A flight time of 2:19 was announced. We took off at 7:01 from Runway 9R.

It’s presently 8:36. The map on my little TV screen shows we are over north-central Louisiana, west of Monroe. We are at 36,000 feet and have 42 minutes and 228 miles remaining before touchdown at IAH. Although I hate standard time, I am grateful tonight is the night we make the change from daylight savings time – this will mean an extra hour of sleep, which is well appreciated since I’m arriving into Houston much later than originally planned and I’ll need to be up before dawn to attend the 787 inaugural ceremony tomorrow morning.

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The flight landed at 9:15 at IAH and we arrived into Gate C16 nine minutes early at 9:22.

As I walked into the terminal, I was surprised to see United President & CEO Jeff Smisek right in front of me having his photo taken with a passenger. Apparently Smisek was on my flight from Chicago – no doubt to attend the Boeing 787 ribbon-cutting tomorrow morning and then fly on the inaugural flight up to Chicago. I’m shocked that he flew down to Houston so late – the first Dreamliner departs at 7:20 tomorrow morning; I’m guessing the festivities will take place starting about 6 a.m. Smisek is not going to get a full night’s sleep tonight! (Nor am I.)

I approached Smisek and asked if I could also get a quick photo. He was agreeable. He asked my name and I mentioned my mom works for United in Washington and I flew down for the inaugural Dreamliner flight.

I walked over to Gate E5, where tomorrow’s 787 launch flight will depart from. The Dreamliner was not at the gate; a Boeing 767-200 was departing for Sao Paulo, Brazil. A few United employees were blowing up blue and white balloons. Numerous cases of equipment was staged in the gate area, presumably to build a stage, camera lights, etc. for the ceremony prior to the Dreamliner’s first passenger departure. A few workers began unpacking the cases to start setting things up.

After snapping a few photos of the prep work, I headed to Terminal C and boarded the Doubletree shuttle van at 10:07 for the seven-minute ride to the hotel. I received a chocolate-chip cookies upon check in, which I devoured upon entering my room (475) at 10:28. The first key card I was given did not work, so I had to walk all the way down the front desk to get another one – a royal pain when I’m already super late.

Showered and got ready for bed. I checked the Boeing 787 flight loads for tomorrow. Here’s the current status:
  • Depart IAH 7:20 a.m. on United Flight 1116; arrive ORD 9:51 a.m. 15 seats open; 60 SAs are listed; I’m #23 checked in.
  • Depart ORD 11:21 a.m. on United Flight 1510; arrive IAH 2:06 p.m. 18 seats open; I’m #55 of 68 SAs listed.
  • Depart IAH 4:06 p.m. on United Flight 1209; arrive LAX 5:47 p.m. Sold out; I am #7 of 14 SAs listed.
  • Depart LAX 7:47 p.m. on United Flight 1694; arrive IAH 12:48 a.m. 15 seats open; I am #9 of 15 SAs listed.
I also checked to see if I could buy a confirmed seat on a first-day Dreamliner flight using MileagePlus miles. Amazingly, yes I could – there are some award seats available at the last minute! I could have bought a confirmed First Class ticket on the LAX-IAH flight for 25,000 miles, but opted against it. The loads look promising for getting aboard a 787 on Monday, so I’ll just wait a day. I want to save my miles for a future trip.

Bed at 1:20 a.m. Time change one hour backward due to the end of daylight savings time. It’s now 12:20 a.m. Central Standard Time. Very grateful for the extra hour of sleep tonight considering I have my alarm set for 4:40 a.m.! Thanks for the time change, I can sleep for 4:20 instead of 3:20.
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