Unfortunately, United doesn’t fly between Zurich and Chicago – so we had to stop over at IAD. I haven’t had a domestic layover in years! I’m use to connecting (if necessary) in Europe then landing at ORD and heading straight home. It is good to try new things, right?
We arrived at the airport earlier than expected — traffic in Zurich was non-existent on a Saturday morning. Even after forgetting to fill up the rental car, leaving the airport to find a petrol station and backtracking to the airport we still arrived with about 90 minutes to spare. We quickly checked-in (and checked our bags, because they were full of shoes, cheese curlers, books and chocolates). I had the nicest and most efficient contract worker checking me in. He was funny and like me, he really doesn’t like obese, entitled Americans. There was this woman, who ended up being on our flight, checking in next to me. She wasn’t going to pay for her checked extra and over-sized bags, she wanted an upgrade the first class and she demanded a chair (during check-in) because she just couldn’t stand any more. All of these things are unreasonable. 1) Everyone knows you pay for luggage 2) Why would you get a double upgrade to First? 3) A chair? C’mon!
She had enough, so she sat down on the luggage belt. To be fair, I didn’t hear the conversation, but the funny contact employee told me all about it. But I know she did plop down shortly after I left.
We made it through security and immigration without a delay or even a question. We debated on buying a fancy Swiss watch or some more chocolates, but decided it was best just to go to the lounge and have a drink. We spent about 50 minutes in the Swiss Lounge, drinking prosecco (no champagne when we were there) and eating pastries. The trip from the lounge to the gate was pretty quick and we soon boarded our flight to IAD.
Flight: United Airlines 937 / 751
Aircraft: Boeing 767-300 / Airbus A320
Seat: 20 A&B / 21 C&D
Departure: 11h45 (11h44)
Arrival: 18h05 (17h55)
This was a pretty standard set of flights, so I will offer a bit of guidance for folks who are flying coach on United to/from Europe
1) Meals are free on these flights, but as expected they are pretty mediocre. I always request the vegetarian option, which is usually a chickpea/lentil curry and is quite tasty. If I ordered it in a restaurant, I’d never return to that restaurant, but or a “free” meal in the air on United, it is definitely the best option, I think. They don’t bring too many of these meals on board, so unless you are sitting very close to the front, you won’t be getting this option.
2) Always bring your own water, these are long flights and if you don’t drink enough water you’ll be dehydrated by the time you land. This can be tricky though, depending on the airport, you may get searched again at boarding and your water confiscated (even if purchased inside security). I always take the risk – worst case scenario, I’m out a few bucks on water. Dehydration is a key cause of jet lag.
3) Get up and walk during the flight. If you are young and healthy/fit you are less likely to have blood clot issues (deep vein thrombosis), but you shouldn’t sit in a pressurized cabin for 8+ hours without taking a bit of a walk. If you drink enough water, the getting up to walk will take care of itself.
We had a 90 minute layover at Dulles (IAD) which we thought would allow us ample time to get through customs and immigration, grab and re-check our luggage and even grab a glass of wine before boarding our flight to Chicago. No, not so much. Even with Global Entry we had a long wait at Border Patrol and Baggage Claim. By the time we got to our domestic gate, they were already boarding Group 3 (and we are Group 2) — so we walked straight onto the plane. Cutting it a little close for my taste, that’s or sure.
The other thing of note, was that this domestic flight was on a newly retrofitted A320 with the Personal Device Entertainment System. This is United’s new BYOD (bring your own device) in flight entertainment system. At the time it was only available for Apple devices, so I used my iPad mini and was very pleasantly surprised. The selection was good (as good as you’d get from an International United BusinessFirst seat) and the speed was perfect – I noticed no slowdown during videos at all.
All in all the trip home was easy and since we returned on a Saturday we had an extra day to relax at home and since it was the end of Thanksgiving weekend and we had a domestic connection, we missed the mayhem that travel day would have inevitably brought.
Our week in France and Switzerland came to a close and we returned to our real world jobs. So sad to return, but feel very fortunate that we were able to have this experience. What did you do for Thanksgiving?