William Matheson (nova_one) wrote,
William Matheson

Chicago change

Typed very, very early this morning:

At O'Hare. We got in at 5am, but this place is far from dead. I, on the other hand, may be. I am presently nursing a very hot McDonald's coffee. There's no free wi-fi here (not even ad-supported), which is complete lamesauce. That's a first for airports in this trip, luckily.

I'd give the United A320 an "acceptable" rating (as opposed to their archaic 757). The video screens (LCD) drop down in a civilized manner - they are small, but at least you can see a complete image from almost any seat. Sometimes you need to look at the second-closest screen instead of the closest because otherwise you might give yourself neck strain.

I judge that the aircraft has a few extra safety bells-and-whistles, like two-stage life jackets that inflate and inflate more with pull of their red cords. The safety video for the A320 seemed a lot longer than for the 757. There are an awful lot of details and I couldn't recite them flawlessly if I was paid to. I expect that in a real emergency I might be able to put two and two together with mechanical things like opening the exit doors. They must have labels.

I conjecture that they're more of a widebody long-haul staple, but the planes I've been on so far don't have "airshow", where you see where you are over the Earth along with a bunch of readings (like speed). Provided the captain is willing, United offers the opportunity to tune in to the cockpit radio on flights where the plane's entertainment system supports it. It's not as much fun as you'd think it would be. The skies aren't exactly aflame with chatter, and the jargon in the messages makes them incomprehensible to the layperson. You do sometimes hear messages relating to control towers at airports along the way, and so through that you can figure out roughly where you are. Still, it's no airshow.

Specific things for this flight: Having the "departure management card" and no seat wasn't so bad in the end because the seat they did give me was an Economy Plus seat. It was nice to have the extra legroom.

On the other hand, if I had had a week moment at check-in, I could have purchased both the Economy Plus seat and the right privilege to check a bag. All told it would have set me back about $75, but I got those things for free in the end anyway. Now if someone pays for a first-class fare and sees lesser fares get upgraded, I don't think that's so bad because you paid for the privilege of guaranteeing first-class. The others were just lucky, and you can't count on being lucky.

But I don't think you should have to be lucky to get to be able to check a bag or two and get humane legroom. Several airlines I could name offer those things to all of their passengers (hello, Porter!).

I was in a middle seat, but I got to see a bit - there was a fantastic lightning storm, and Chicago's downtown looked really cool: it was an isolated island of towers in a sea of low-lying amber streetlamps.

Finally, this was a really easy transfer: Just a few gates apart, and on the same concourse! Loving that. Sun's up now, too - and the sky is a rosy pink. Off to Canada now!
Tags: air travel, travel

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