A Last Star Alliance Fling? To Chicago with United Airlines and Air Canada
United First - Chicago O’Hare to Toronto Pearson (Including fun at O’Hare and United Club B7)
- An Apology and The Introduction
- To London Heathrow, BMI Lounge, Star Alliance Lounge
- United UA923 London Heathrow – Washington Dulles International
- TSA Shenanigans, United UA221 Washington Dulles to Chicago O’Hare
- InterContinental Chicago, North Michigan Avenue
- One Time Exception: Chicago Water Taxi
- Hyatt Regency O’Hare
- United UA474, Chicago O’Hare to Toronto Pearson International in United First (this entry)
- Maple Leaf Lounge, Air Canada AC856 Toronto Pearson International to London Heathrow
- Homeward bound
- No more Star Alliance?
Back to O’Hare
Soon enough, it was time to start the journey home. This time, my flights were in the afternoon, so I could sleep in for once – as opposed to the 6am rush to the airport that I seem get stuck with most of the time.
However once I got into the terminal, there seemed to be the almighty mess from hell. Allow me to explain – this is was when United was switching entirely to the Continental booking system. And we all know what an omnishambles that turned into.
Well I got into the omnishambles as my booking wasn’t exactly how it turned out as United had me going as far as Toronto.
I played with Mr Chicken for a bit before going over to an employee for a prodding, before my reservation in its completeness was found, and both of my boarding passes were spat out for London. The agents then tried the “Are you going to pay extra for your luggage” game. And I gave them a choice of Star Alliance Gold Cards to choose from. More mumbling my bags were tagged, and I was sent to the next omnishambles: the security lines, which seemed to stretch around the terminal.
I managed to clear security without going through a nude-o-scope, and hunted for a lounge. For a change, my flight would be departing from the B terminal block, so I decided to try out the “other” B lounge at ORD at B7.
There was a queue to get into the lounge, but I was seen to after my BMI Gold Card was swiped, and my passport checked so I met age requirements.
I headed upstairs to a very nice lounge environment - whilst it was busy, there was plenty of space to relax in.
As usual there was the bar, the usual pitiful snack selection that exists in United Clubs. I just took it as somewhere to relax for a bit before the next leg home.
You wonder why I say “pitiful”. Wait till you get to the next lounge stop on this trip. Makes United Clubs look a joke… and not a funny one at that…
Boarding time came around soon enough, so I packed up my stuff and headed for the gate.
Thankfully, whilst the queues were long, the United First queue was short, and I was quickly allowed through.
UA474 Chicago O’Hare International – Toronto Pearson International
United Airline, A319, Seat 1A, Domestic First Class
437 miles flown, 600 miles earned
I boarded a bit late, so luggage space was already at a premium. Thankfully, I found a small space in an overhead locker that fitted my rucksack, and I sat down in 1A.
1A isn’t that bad a seat – it’s a very tradition US style Domestic First Class – 2 by 2 across with a bit more leg room than economy, with a bit of a cut-out for the feet in Row 1. Oh yes, the seat has a recline button.
Pre-take off beverages were offered - I just went with a coke to start with.
Soon enough, Jeff and his safety video played and the plane begun a long taxi around O’Hare, finally lining up for a runway with a queue of 5 aircraft – not a long queue, but still a queue.
And here’s the take off video:
Crossing Lake Michigan
Shortly after 10,000ft passed, the crew began the service. As this leg was short – very short this was a drink and snack service.
Ok, I’m not expecting haut cuisine, but how much effort would be to load sandwiches or wraps for a sub 600 miles sector? Still, it’s better than nothing, and refills were happily offered.
IFE was the usual small screens with audio delivered. Sadly, the pilot didn’t switch on Channel 9 (That’s 3 for 3 this trip :() so I resorted to watching Terra Nova on the small screen instead.
To be honest, the best IFE came from the outside views – which were nice and clear on the day of flight.
The crew were friendly and talkative – as was my seatmate. As this is a daytime flight, I enjoy that. You never know whom you’re going to run into, their stories and how small a world the place is when you really look at it.
Clear down was done as the plane begun its decent into the Greater Toronto Area, with the cabin cleared and tidy
Soon enough, we had lined up for Toronto Airport, with a nice thump on the ground and the thrust reversers having a party at the same time.
A short taxi back to the Toronto T1 complex, and soon enough the airbridge was docked. I thanked the crew and made my way off the plane.
Overall: The flight itself was fine. Nothing outstandingly bad (except the omnishambles on the ground), but there is some serious room to improve some of the soft product on Domestic flights. Whilst I appreciate catering for a 1 hour flight isn’t easy, for 8 passengers it should be ok – other airlines seem to manage something more than a nibbles service for this length of flights – heck Hot nuts would be an upgrade in my book.
Would I intentionally buy United Domestic F Tickets? Hell no – I can’t see the value proposition any more for shorter segments. At $75 for an upgrade… did I get value? I’m still ambivalent about that. On the ground, it just didn’t work with long queues, lost data and long security queues. In the air, I see it as an upgrade to get on the plane early and off the plane very early. The fact I’m in a bigger seat with glassware is really here or there.
Next: Canada. Still A Real Country, Air Canada’s Toronto International Lounge and AC856 to London.