It is super sweet to board a Boeing 747-400 from the tarmac. Hold on...it's a long way up. Click for larger.
I have never flown on the upper deck of a Boeing 747. I have flown plenty of times on the lower level, but I have never had the opportunity to climb those stairs (photo) to the upperÂ echelonsÂ of air travel.
Ah. The upper deck of a Boeing 747-400. Great seats, total exclusivity and an amazing view. Click for larger.
The upper deck is a world of its own. Even though there were only about 30 people (invited guests, United employees and cleaning crew) it was obviously quieter up top. Speaking with a flight attendant she said she loves working the top deck since it has a more laid back atmosphere than the much longer bottom deck. All the seats on this United 747 upper deck were International Business Class — which weren’t too shabby at all. The First Class Suites were all located in the nose Â section on the bottom deck (photo). Yea, the location isn’t as cool as the upper deck, but those first class seats are crazy-big.
Anyhow, back up top, the seats and service might be pretty slick, but the coolest part is up front… the cockpit. The cockpit isn’t just for flying, there is a lot of room to invite guests and take a nice little nap. Heck, I think it might have had more square footage than my first apartment (ok not really). Part of the cockpit houses a set of bunk beds for pilots (photo) to get some rest. There is also plenty of extra seating for the relief pilots. Flights over 8 hours will require one relief pilot and flights over 12 will require two. So there needs to be plenty of room up front for everyone to be comfortable and well rested.
Heck yes. The best seat in the house! Click for larger.
The Boeing 747 is one of my favorite aircraft. Even though the Airbus A380 might be larger and carry more people, it just doesn’t have the same awesome presence that the Boeing 747 does. I am very excited for Boeing to introduce the new Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental (video), which will allow the Boeing 747 to fly well into the future.
A special thanks for United and their employees for flying me down to LAX to enjoy this and other fun adventures.
While I was hanging out with United Airlines at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) a while back, I was invited to go on top of the old FAA tower to get one of the best views of the airport. Words can’t really describe it, nor can photos, so I took a video.
United uses the top part of the tower to guide their aircraft from the gate to the taxi way and back.
Be sure to check the Qantas Airbus A380 parked off to the side.
While I was at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) a while back, hanging out with United Airlines peeps, we decided to take a walk down on the airport’s ramp. I was excited to just be down with the planes and having the ability to touch a Boeing 747-400 that just came in from Sydney. However, I got the opportunity to do something much more exciting. We stopped at a Boeing 757-200 about to push back and I was told, “hop on to this tug and take a ride.” Seriously? Um…yes please.
Most people see the push back as the beginning of their journey. Even though airliners are able to go backwards using their engines, doing so would cause damage to the terminal and provides less control. Remember, pilots can’t see what is behind them and moving around multi-million dollar machines on your own would be risky. The tug driver and other workers on the ground make sure there are not obstructions in the way of the plane.
As we were pushing back this Boeing 757, the pilots started both of their engines. What a treat. I have never been that close to engines during start up…what a glorious sound.
At most airports, the control tower will authorize when an aircraft is able to be pushed back and give them permission to taxi to a runway. At LAX, United Airlines control their own airplanes and have their own controllers housed at the old FAA tower. Their job is to authorize push back and direct them to the proper taxi way before the main control tower will take over.
That push back experience was probably one of the amazing airline-related experiences I have had. Those lucky tug drivers get to do that every day! I was so excited about this experience, I didn’t even ask where the plane was going. So challenge on!
It was aircraft N536UA N596UA leaving LAX on August 24th. Not sure about time, but it had to be somewhere around 10 to 11am. Can you figure out where the plane was heading?
Hanging out with two awesome United Airlines flight attendants on the tarmac at LAX. That's a sweet Boeing 747-400 behind us.
I am an airline advocate. There are lots of media sources and people that love to bash the airlines. If an airline does something major enough to deserve a good bashing, then I will give it to them, but mostly I try to find the positive even in a negative situation.
When I recently connected with Rahsaan Johnson with United Communications while in Chicago earlier in the month, I was dead honest with him. I told him that I feel as though many are under the impression that United Airlines is lacking spirit. Being one who always wants to find the silver-lining with airlines, I wanted him to help let me show people that there is spirit within United.
It wasnâ€™t long before Johnson thought of an idea to help me see, first hand, the energy and spirit most United employees have. I was invited for a day trip down from Seattle to Los Angelas (LAX) to see United connect with some of their best customers, experience some unique things and witness the delivery of Emmys.
United Airlines pilots talking to customers about what they do before flight.
After interacting and connecting with so many United employees and customers through out the day (on and more importantly off record), I honestly feel United is heading in the right direction.Â A lot of people I spoke with will openly admit they know that United has had their ups and downs, but everyone I spoke with feels positive with the direction United is heading and pumped about the likely merger with Continental.
Two United Airlines pilots welcome the Emmys to LAX
Things have changed a lot for United Airlines in the past forty years. From deregulation, to a few spikes in oil prices, to strong competition from low cost carriers and of course bankruptcy in 2002, United has persevered through it all.
There are a lot of hard working employees who are there to treat their customers well. During my visit to LAX, United invited important customers and showed them how they operate. This was to share what they are looking to do in the future and get feedback from customers on how they can improve their performance. They were able to get helpful feedback on schedules, and service, even down to having the proper ratio of cheese to crackers.
United Airlines Boeing 757 and Continental Airlines Boeing 737 get close at LAX. Two airlines will (most likely) become one soon!
Not only was United able to share what they are up to with special customers, they were also able to share the Emmys with everyone. Later in the afternoon, the Emmys were flown from Chicago to LAX on United Airlines. They had nice comfy seats up front and were welcomed by a crowd of people in the terminal. Being the huge airline nerd I am, when I was told the Emmys were being flown in, the first thing I asked is, “What kind of plane they will be flying in?” (It was an Airbus A320). Hey I am an airline reporter, notÂ TVÂ awards reporter! Yet it is always cool to see not only customers, but employees get really excited about an event like this. It does show there is some great spirit alive and ready to grow at United!
The people that I spoke with are very excited about the merger with Continental. Changes like this inject a feeling of motivation (for those not losing their jobs that happen in any merger) about the future. Continental and United both have interesting histories and will most likely make a solid future together.
Over the next few weeks I will share some of the very cool things I got to experience on my full day at LAX… a tour of the upper deck and cockpit of a Boeing 747-400, riding on a tug while pushing back a Boeing 757 and having an amazing view of LAX from the old FAA tower. Stay tuned!
This flight was something special for me. My first CRJ-700 flight ever and my first United Express flight in quite some time. As I just discussed recently, even though my plane might have “United” on the side, the flight is actually operated by SkyWest under the “United Express” brand.
My flight left early…7am. That meant getting up before I think people should be awake and heading to the airport. At least it was a beautiful morning and I was able to capture a few shots of my CRJ-700 on the tarmac with the moon behind it. One of the gate agents was so taken with the moon she made an unusual announcement letting passengers know they should check out the moon and many passengers flocked to the window. It was kind of cool to see that level of interaction.
United recently started being more aggressive selling upgrades to customers. I didn’t get around to checking in at home, so I did so at the airport. I was asked if I wanted to pay an extra $29 for Economy Plus, which gives you a few inches of extra leg room, you sit at the front of the plane and you get to board earlier. I didn’t feel the need to pony up the $29.00 extra for the 2.5hr flight. Since the flight was overbooked, I had to get my seat assignment at the gate. Lucky for me I got seat 6D, which was Economy Plus and I didn’t have to pay. Due to the overbooking, United was offering $400 travel vouchers which went fast. Everyone who wanted to fly was able to fly.
LA was pretty smog free on this flight...nice!
Before boarding a gate agent came on the intercom and apologized they had no jetway for the flight and we would have to board on the tarmac. Ha! No one should ever have to apologize for boarding on the tarmac. Okay, maybe the average passenger might not like going down the stairs or dealing with bad weather (United does provide umbrellas), but to me it is always worth it. Being down with the plane and boarding on the tarmac is always a welcomed experience.
The take off on the CRJ-700 was amazingly smooth. There wasn’t the big jolt you get with most other airliners. Many pilots I have talked to, see the CRJ-700 as a hotrod. Improved wings and engines over the CRJ-200 make the CRJ-700 a nimble and quick aircraft. It is able to take off quickly, while cruising at Mach 0.78.
Going to the rear of the aircraft was an interesting adventure. Unfortunately when I got up, the sign said no one was in the lavatory, but by the time I got there someone snuck in. Unlike larger aircraft there is no where to stand in the back of the CRJ-700. There is only the last row of seats and then, BAM the bathroom. So, when waiting you are standing in the aisle right next to seats with either your butt, crotch or thigh in their face. Akward for me and has to be annoying for the people in the back. When the passenger came out of the restroom, it was difficult to let them pass me without bumping into the passengers in the back row.
I love boarding on the tarmac!
The rear of the plane is also quite a bit louder. With the combination of the increased sound, not being able to recline your seats and people standing/walking past you to use the restroom, I suggest avoiding sitting in the back if you can. It would surely be worth the $29 to get Economy Plus versus having to sit in the back row.
The flight down to LAX was beautiful and clear, making the scenery a real treat. I only wish it was easier to see out my window in seat 6D. The CRJ-700 has windows pretty spaced out, as you find more with regional jets versus larger airliners. Some seats end up perfectly aligned and others, like 6D, end up in an odd position. On my flight back home I got seat 10D, which is not Economy Plus, but my window was perfect. Even at 6’1″, I would rather have a lined up window than extra leg room, but I know most passengers probably don’t feel the same way.
Even with the hindered view, having the extra leg room on the flight to LAX was nice. On both flights I worked on my laptop (actually writing up this blog) and it was much easier with the extra room (I have a gut that gets in my way, as well). Even with the person in front of me in Economy Plus reclined, I had no problems with my laptop being fully open, but it wasn’t the same in standard seating.
From my own personal experiences and reading those of others, I often have a lower expectation level for regional airlines. I was quite happy with the service, friendliness and professionalism from all four SkyWest flight attendants working the United Express flights.
Even though the plane might be a bit smaller and have a few draw backs (ie don’t sit in the back and go to the restroom before flying), the positivesÂ outweighÂ the negatives. Running smaller aircraft, like the CRJ-700, allows airlines to provide more daily flights and in more cases at a cheaper fare. Getting on and off the plane is much quicker than a larger Boeing 737 or Airbus A320 and if you are an airline nerd (which you might be reading this), you have a greater chance to board on the tarmac.