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
Sunday, November 4, 2012

I flew this morning from IAH to ORD aboard the inaugural flight of United's Boeing 787 Dreamliner, but just watched the second flight depart back to IAH without me. The plane was full and I wasn’t able to get a seat as a standby passenger. Now what?

My hope had been to fly back to IAH on the Dreamliner, then on to LAX and finally the return to IAH to complete all four first-day 787 flights. It was an ambitious plan – most of the flights were booked almost full. I did get a miracle, however, of receiving a seat on the maiden flight. That did not repeat for the second voyage, leaving me watching the 787 taxi out of sight at 11:40 a.m. from the food court adjacent to Gate C20 at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Now I must figure out my next plan. But first, I need lunch.

I chowed down on some Chinese food, then went to the nearby United Club at 12:09 p.m. I got online and looked at my options. Should I go back to Houston and try for another Dreamliner flight tomorrow? What about flying to Los Angeles to take the fourth flight from LAX to IAH tonight? Or I could just be satisfied with having done one 787 flight and jump on a plane home to DCA, IAD, or BWI. The only complication with the third option is I rented out my apartment until Friday – meaning I’d have to crash at my mom’s place for five nights until I could get back into my own home.

The 4:06 p.m. flight from IAH to LAX, the third UA 787 flight, is currently oversold by one. I’m #7 on the standby list. But there’s no way to get down to Houston in time to make that departure. The 11:59 a.m. ORD-IAH flight went out full at 11:59 and only four SAs got on. I would not have made it even if I had run to the gate and tried.

The fourth 787 flight leaves LAX at 7:47 tonight for IAH. There’s 10 seats open and I’m #8 on the standby list – so that might work out if I could get from ORD to LAX. I listed for the next ORD-LAX flight at 1:05 and dashed to the gate to check in. The departure is delayed until 1:43 and there’s a mass of people standing around. I’m #12 on the SA list and the flight is oversold by eight. No sense hanging out in the zoo of the gate area with such slim odds, so I returned to the lounge about 12:55.

The second next flight to LAX leaves at 2:28 but oh shoot, it’s delayed until 5:50. Arrival is listed now at 7:57 – too late to catch the 787 to IAH at 7:47. Third next scheduled flight to LAX departs ORD at 3:29 and arrives at 6:01. That would work perfectly – except the flight is oversold by 15. Darnit.

What about going home? The 2:06 to DCA is delayed to 2:12. It’s oversold by seven and I’m 21 on the SA list. Oops, that’s not going to work. The 1:54 to BWI has one seat open and I’m #3. Okay, much better prospects there – although it’d be a pain to travel from BWI to IAD to meet up with Mom so that’s not ideal. There was a 1:08 to IAD but that departed full; only 5 SAs got on. I would not have made that flight.

I headed to the gate for the BWI flight, which looked the best. But everybody showed up! Only one SA was cleared and I ended up #2 on the small list of standbys who could not be accommodated. I ran over to the DCA flight, but that also went out full. Geez, why is everything so crazy full out of Chicago today? It’s a Sunday in early November. This is supposed to be a slow travel time. (A friend would later point out the airline system is still likely recovering from Hurricane Sandy, which shut down numerous East Coast airports for days last week.)

Returned to the United Club at 2:42 to review the next bank of options. There’s a 3:26 departure to IAH, which would put me in position to take another Dreamliner trip tomorrow. I’m going to try for that one.

Finally I caught a break. I got the last seat on United Flight 691, an Airbus 320 from ORD to IAH. Two passengers who had checked in were not present for boarding. Another SA ahead of me and then myself were called to stand in front of the door and be ready to board if those customers did not show up in the next few minutes. Right before flight closing time, the gate agent opened the door and walked us down the jetway, verbally giving us our seat assignments. We did not receive a printed boarding pass. I was instructed to take Economy Class Seat 30B, a middle seat on the left side.

Whew! Glad to be on my way somewhere. Flight 691 departed ORD one minute early at 3:25. A flight time of 2:16 to Houston was announced. We had a very short taxi and took off at 3:33 from Runway 9R.

During the flight, I sorted photos I had taken this morning at the Boeing 787 pre-departure ceremony at IAH. OMG I have so many photos and videos to go through. It’s going to take a lot of time to process all of this!

We landed on IAH Runway 26L at 5:40 and arrived into Gate C17 34 minutes early at 5:45. I went to the United Club to review my options for the next flight. First I checked to see what happened with the Dreamliner’s third flight from IAH to LAX, which departed about two hours ago. The 787 went out full; nine SAs were seated. I had been #7 on the SA list the last time I checked. Assuming that priority held, I would have made it on board the third Dreamliner flight if I had been able to make it to Houston earlier.

But that’s in the past. What’s in the future for me? First I checked tomorrow’s 787 loads. IAH-ORD has 20 seats open and 20 SAs listed; ORD-IAH has 26 open and 20 SAs listed; IAH-LAX has 41 open and I’d be #9 on the SA list; and LAX-IAH has 125 open and I’d be #7. The LAX flights look good, so I listed for the flight there and the return.

Then I figured out my plan for the next few days: After flying IAH-LAX-IAH on the Dreamliner tomorrow, I’ll overnight in Houston. I’ll fly IAH-CCS Tuesday night to check Venezuela off my list of countries visited. The return flights later in the week are full, however, so I’ll have to turn around and immediately fly back to Houston on Wednesday morning, never leaving the Caracas airport. Not an ideal way to visit a new country, but considering Caracas is extremely expensive and dangerous, it’s one place I wouldn’t mind just popping into the airport and leaving again. After returning from CCS Wednesday, I’ll continue on to IAD and spend two nights at Mom’s before returning to my place in Washington on Friday.

Okay, the plan is in place. I left the United Club at 7:40 and grabbed dinner at the Popeye’s near Gate C24. I left Popeyes at 8:12 and called for the Holiday Inn hotel shuttle to pick me up at Terminal C baggage claim. The shuttle left at 8:27 for the 10-minute ride to the Holiday Inn Intercontinental Airport. I checked into Room 242 and got ready for bed.

I put up a blog posting, sorted photos for my blog, and did some writing. I checked the final load for UA 1694, the Boeing 787 in flight now from LAX to IAH (the fourth flight). I would have made it aboard – an SA who was listed behind me got a seat. The seat map shows the 787 departed with five empty seats so it appears all 13 SAs made it on. So at the end of 787 Day #1, I made the inaugural flight IAH-ORD, did not get on the return flight ORD-IAH, and because of that missed my chance to get available seats on the third and fourth flights IAH-LAX-IAH.

All in all, it was a fantastic day. I hadn’t expected to get on the inaugural flight this morning so it was a pleasant surprise when I was issued a boarding pass. That was for sure the best flight to be on, so even though I only made one out of four, I hit the jackpot by being among the small group to experience the very first Dreamliner passenger flight in North America. It would have been icing on the cake to make the other three first-day flights.

I cropped photos and uploaded the pre-departure pics to Facebook and Travel Pod. Bed at 12:55 a.m.
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