I had the chance to attend the celebration of United Airlines uber frequent flyer Tom Stuker, who hit the 10 million mile Mileage Plus mark in July 2011. As part of that event, the nice folks at the airline took us on a great tour of its flagship Chicago O’Hare hub. I’m a huge fan of the lights that spark up the escalator tubes that connect the airport’s terminals. I snapped this as we took our walk. Enjoy!
Back in November 2007, I took a trip to Chicago O’Hare to take an up-close-and-personal tour of the O’Hare Modernization Project, which included the construction of the Runway 9L/27R. s part of that, I got to go into areas usually not open to the public. In the shot below, we were over near the old cargo area, which was going to be moved to accommodate the new runway. Enjoy!
In May 2010, I spent the day at the American Airlines Admiral’s Club at Chicago O’Hare to test out the new first class seat being installed on the carrier’s American Eagle regional jets. I also got to sample a new food menu for those passengers. I had some time to kill, and the club had killer views of the airport. I love this picture of a Mexicana jet with the Chicago skyline in the background. Enjoy!
In July 2011, I got to attend the celebration of United’s first 10 million mile flyer. My Aviation Week Things With Wings blog post on that event is here. The event was held in a Red Carpet Club lounge at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, but we had time to wander around. Sitting at the gate right across from the party was an Airbus A320 painted in United’s Friendship livery. I just happened to catch the pilot giving the windshield a pre-flight cleaning. Enjoy!
My friend Aileen Cho of Engineering News Record did a great story on Chicago’s $6.6-billion O’Hare International Airport modernization program. Check out my Aviation Week Things With Wings blog post on the history of the project as of February.
- On the one hand, I like the fact that I can buy into Delta Air Lines’ Sky Clubs (my favorite U.S. airline lounge) for $50. And the airline did a deal on Groupon where it offered half-price day passes or five passes for $89. On the other, if I were a Diamond Medallion member or someone who had paid $450 for a year of access, I’d be a bit cranky (like Brett Snyder) too, as outlined in the Star-Tribune.
- @davesniadak of the HDHubby blog says: Gogo inflight Wi-Fi has absolutely revolutionized travel. I find I’m now extremely productive when I fly, even when I’m jammed in the middle seat between two other people (mind you, I’m 6’5″ and try my best to stay within my seat). Seeing as how I’ve never been good at sleeping on planes, airborne wi-fi helps the long legs go by faster.
- Smarter Travel has released its list of 10 destinations to watch in 2012. I’ve been to six of them, and most I’d return to in a heartbeat. One I haven’t been to is Cuba, and that’s near the top of my list of places I really want to visit. My frienemy Brett “Cranky Flier” Snyder has been. He let me sip the rum, which was divine! Also check out Budget Travel’s top budget travel destinations in 2012.
- Back during the Christmas holidays in 1998, I went to Oberpfafenhofen, Germany, to work on a story about the now-defunct aircraft manufacturer Fairchild Dornier. As part of that trip, we got to go to Munich and visit the Christmas market on the Marienplotz. Some advice: when they ask if you want peppermint schnapps in your Glühwein, JUST SAY NO!! Lonely Planet offers five more great Christmas markets in Europe.
- I love airports almost as much as the writer of this blog post in the Irish Times. And my heart was warmed by one of my favorite travel writers, Christopher Elliott, who writes in the Washington Post about holiday travel kindnesses.
- I’m proud – but also kind of sad – that my six-year-old daughter goes through the airport security checkpoint better than most adults.
In July, I was given a great tour of Chicago O’Hare International Airport — the part usually not open to the traveling public. As we jumped from terminal to terminal, we used the airport’s world famous lighted tunnels. For the uninitiated, there are moving walkways whose ceilings are covered with neon tubes that change colors. Enjoy!
First, an apology. For some reason, Friday’s Strange But True Aviation News didn’t post (despite me writing it) thanks to some glitch I’m still trying to figure out. I’ll work out the kinks, and we’ll have it on Friday. Now, onto the news!
- Guy Norris of Aviation Week blogged about an uncontained engine failure on a Delta Air Lines Boeing 747 flying from Detroit to Tokyo. His Things with Wings post contains some dramatic pictures of the engine after the failure.
- I really enjoyed this CNN story — Nerve-racking ‘go-arounds’ routine for pilots — for two reasons. One, it’s a great primer on what happens when a plane has to do a go-around. Two, it was written by Brett “Cranky Flier” Snyder, and quotes my friend Mark Rogers.
- Speaking of Mark, I thought of him when I read this story — O’Hare Worker Hurt in Baggage Incident — on the NBC Chicago website. The story is about how an industrial battery packed in checked luggage on a United Airlines flight from Lafayette, La., that stopped at Chicago O’Hare where the accident happened. Mark has done a lot of work on this particular issue.
- When Airbus announced back in December 2000 that it was launching the A380 double-decker jumbo jet, I remember hearing all kinds of possibilities for the plane, from bowling alleys (not yet) to showers (see Emirates). The Airbus website says the jumbo jet can “seat 525 passengers in a comfortable three-class configuration, and up to 853 in a single-class configuration.” Transero isn’t quite at 853 seats, but says it will put in 700 seats on its recently ordered A380s, reports Reuters.
- We’ve all done it (unless we fly Southwest Airlines) — start flocking toward the jetway when the gate agent announces boarding for a flight. We wait anxiously as they call the premium passengers, folks needed assistance, families with small children and travelers seated in exit rows. Then we make the mad dash onto the plane to get that valuable overhead bin space. The New York Times has an article about what airlines are doing to tame the boarding process. I, for one, am happy to pay a fee that allows me to board early in the process.
In other news, I’m now doing freelance work for Aviation International News, so please go over and check out what I’m doing. Again, I’m still trying to catch up on my Airplane Geek podcast episodes, and I really enjoyed Episode 170 – GE Aviation Looks to the Future.
Finally, I’ll leave you with a question. JetBlue recently got a rare PR black eye after stranding passengers for seven hours on a plane parked at Hartford, Conn.’s Bradley International Airport. Below is a 1:18-minute video from COO Rob Maruster on the incident. Was it enough or should the airline have done more? See my poll, below.
So, kids, let’s talk toilets — airport toilets. To be real, I’m one of those folks that hates using public restrooms. But sometimes, you just have to go, and I know what I like in a good bathroom.
Larger stalls. When I’m traveling, I usually have my backpack and a rollerboard, and I don’t want them out of my sight. Or I’m traveling with my daughter, and I REALLY don’t want her out of my sight. So I appreciate the larger stalls that accommodate my stuff, at airports including Terminal A at Boston-Logan International Airport or Terminal D at DFW Airport.
- Purse shelf above the toilet. We’ve all heard the stories about people reaching over and taking purses when you’re at your most vulnerable, so you want that shelf that is way out of reach, like those at New Orleans’ Louis Armstrong International Airport.
- A sani-seat. I’m one of those people who carry their own paper toilet seat covers and a purse-sized can of Lysol just in case they’re not available. But I love the toilet seats at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, because they have the automatic plastic sleeve that covers the seat — the ultimate in cleanliness and sanitation.
- The Dyson Airblade hand dryer. Paper towels are messy and wasteful. The old-school hot air hand dryers take too long and leave your hands dry. I tested this hand dryer on the exhibit floor of an airports conference and was sold. It dries quickly and leaves your hands soft, so I’m glad to see airports like Los Angeles International installing them in restrooms.
I can’t end this post without mentioning the bathroom attendants at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. I had come off a US Airways red-eye and was desperate for a bathroom. I go in and I’m startled by a bathroom attendant in NASCAR clothing. But she turned out to be a lifesaver, since she had some mouthwash, among other necessities, on her tray. And yes, I did leave a tip.
So what do you like to see in your airport restroom?
On Saturday, July 9, I had the pleasure of spending a day at Chicago O’Hare International Airport for a great party to congratulate United Airlines Tom Stuker on reaching 10 million (yes, million) Mileage Plus miles. You can see my blog post on the event at Aviation Week’s Things With Wings blog.
We got a special treat when a United Airlines Airbus A320 with the retro Friendship livery parked at the gate across from the Red Carpet Club where the festivities were being held. I just love this livery. When I tweeted about it, I called it the livery of my childhood. Enjoy!
Last May, I was invited to Chicago O’Hare for the unveiling of new first class seats and meals on American Eagle’s fleet of larger regional jets. We boarded this Eagle Bombardier CRJ700, which had a small metal bridge between the aircraft and the jetbridge. As I was going aboard, I saw this shot and took the picture. Enjoy!!