Carrier: United Air Lines
United only offers one non-stop flight a day between Paris and Chicago. I wish the flight left later than 11:15 — this early departure basically means this day is not at all spent in Paris. How disappointing. I set my alarm for 07:15 with a plan on leaving no later than 08:00 as I had to get a train ticket, ride into the City, transfer to the suburb line, and schlep out to the airport and fight the crowds.
Of course my chipless card didn’t work in the machine this morning, so I had to wait in line and it appeared that everyone in line ahead of me had never 1) been on a train 2) bought anything from a person in a kiosk 3) used cash OR credit 4) realized some people might be in a hurry behind them in line. Once I reached the kiosk, my transaction took about 12 seconds to process then off to the #1 train then transferring to the RER. The trains were quite crowded, but I did get a seat on the RER. I arrived at CDG at 09:45 and my train ticket wouldn’t let me out of the turnstile. Luckily one of the turnstiles was broken, so I just sneaked out.
Since there are two United flight a day from CDG (to ORD and IAD) leaving right around the same time, the United check in area was just a mess. I stood in line for about 5 minutes then decided to cut in line and go through the First Class check in area. I was not flying first class, but since no one was there, I figured I could play dumb and try to parlay my Premier Exec status into a nice queue jump and have a bit more time sitting the lounge. That plan worked pretty well, but the check in woman was kind enough to remind me that I did not belong in the First Class line (after she took my bag and gave me my boarding pass). Such is life.
I was surprised at how much of a maze CDG felt like. I just walked around up though an M.C. Escher series of stairs/escalators to Passport Control/Immigration through Duty Free and finally made it to the gate. I stopped off at the Red Carpet Club. Since United has a club, I wasn’t allowed to visit the Star Alliance Gold Lounge, which is a bit frustrating. The RCC looked like all of the older RCCs world wide. Dark wood, dark blue fabric, limited space and limited food/beverages. I stayed in the lounge for 10 minutes and had to leave because it was a bit claustrophobic.
I was surprised that security is right at the gate — and when I got to Security, it was laid out poorly and I just walked on through without going through any scans. I didn’t make it too far though…they did stop me and make me go through the metal detectors. State of the art security, I must say. The first class seating area was blocked off from the rest of the area, so of course I worked my way to the semi-private seating area. By the time I sat down they started boarding First.
Usually I don’t want to get on early (unless I’m flying First) — why hurry to sit down early for an 8+ hour flight, in a tight seat? Today was different, I had a bigger carry on bag — my big bag of shoes from Rudy’s needed a space in the overhead bin — no alternative options would work. I sit in my regular seat, relax and look down the aisle and what do I see…
Yes, you guessed it…a big fatty came right to me and said “You are in my seat”. In my mind I said “Bull shit, fatty…this is MY SEAT on every United International Flight…back off”. But I really said “I don’t think so. Can I see your boarding pass”. He demanded that I show him my pass and that I move. “I’m already sitting in my seat sir, let me see your pass”, I replied. He acquiesced…and fatty was wrong. He was in my row, but in the middle seat of the middle section. Whew…I’m more excited that this guy didn’t sit next to me, 8 hours next to a tons-of-fun that can’t read a boarding pass would not be ideal.
Who plopped down next to me? A skinny guy, who I initially thought was French. He was American, we chatted for 40 seconds then turned to our books/magazines. Quiet and done.
After a short taxi we were airborne. When the drink cart rolled out, my seatmate order 3 bottles of wine, now that’s my kind of guy! I ordered two and hoped for the best. I chose the pasta lunch entree which was the traditional international option, which needed a bit of salt and pepper, but was pretty tasty. After lunch, I continued reading my book and was surprised at how quickly this flight was going. My seatmate pulled out his laptop and I was nosy. I see his name on an email he was reviewing — MS. Not my MS, but an MS from Chicago, who is a good friend of the people I was in Paris with. We were supposed to meet up with this MS on Saturday night. Small fucking world. We chatted for a few minutes then went back to our respective diversions.
The woman in front of me continued to order crap from Duty Free — so much the Stew took her Duty Free guide…she then asked for mine, so she could by some crappy passport holder. Why even bother with Duty Free?
The rest of the flight was uneventful. We touched down, had a short roll and taxi to the gate and we were off very quickly. MS and I chatted a bit while we waited to deplane and made our way to customs/immigration. The best part of our conversation with MS — he said he bought a few pairs of John Mac Gray shoes a several years ago and LOVED them. WHEW!