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Connecting at ORD - A guide for connecting from BD705/With BD706

Connecting at ORD - A guide for connecting from BD705/With BD706

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Old Apr 8, 08, 9:36 am
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Arrow Connecting at ORD - A guide for connecting from BD705/With BD706

Chicago O'Hare International (ORD) - Connecting from BD705 and Connecting with BD706

Preamble:

As this has been asked a few times (see here and here - or I see it first and wind up answering it anyway), here's a guide for getting through Chicago O'Hare International Airport.

This guide is written from the perspective of coming in on BMI BD705 or going out on BD706.

NOTE: As the route is being dropped by BMI after 15th Jan 2009 , I will no longer maintain this post. Alternatively, I might make it more user friendly. I haven't had the heart to look into this yet

Although a lot of this information applies to other carriers (UA, BA, IB, NH, VS, AA, KL, AF, LH to name a few) your connection and departure information maybe different. If in doubt, check with your airline or with the alliance you fly with.

Please note, these are my collected experiences going through ORD. Although I've written this to the best of my ability, I'm sure I've missed out a few things along the way (including the McDonald's near ORD T5 Arrivals). Comment if needed in my PM box or in the public forum!

In addition, I'd like thank RAPC, Oxon Flyer,Capricorn, dliesse as well as my guinea pig Dad for trying out the basics of these instructions for me when he was last in the states

Oh, and although I've written this to the best of my knowledge, things do change and I do advise to keep your eyes open. Don't blame if you're stuck in the customs hall because of some change and miss your connection!


Coming into and Connecting at ORD

If at all possible please make sure your connection is on the same ticket as your as your BMI flight. If you do, your onward flight is protected. IF NOT, it could end up in a lot of begging or possible ticket repurchase!!

Chicago Weather (HINT: Its variable)

It's well known that Chicago's weather can impact on services. Make sure you know before you go what the weather may be like (for example, a 2 hour delay departing EWR onto ORD onto SEA can add an extra 3 hours plus onto your journey. Check before you go and when you arrive at O'Hare.

Its worth noting where weather is an issue United and some of the American carriers are willing to move people to earlier connecting flights from ORD (if there is room), especially where weather is an issue. They will do this at no cost on the day subject to availability. If you have status too, this will help. Alternatively, you can a get a confirmed standby for $75 on UA (subject to space). Other carriers have different rules.

How much time do you need to connect?

At an absolute minimum, you need 1 hour 30 minutes to connect from gate to gate (make sure you're fit in that case as you'll need to run). 2 Hours plus will be adequate, but don't dawdle doing your connection. Anything more than two hours will allow you relax a bit. If your connection is under an hour, there's a chance you might make it if you run, however your luggage may choose to take the scenic route. It's better to get a new connection if at all possible.

Bear in mind you can be through Passport control/Customs in 10 minutes, or through in an hour and 30 minutes. It depends on the load, and other flights that day.

Before you land...

Make sure your seat is in an upright position, your monitors and tray tables stowed. Also filling in your IW94(I)/IW94 and your Blue Customs Declaration (as a force of habit, I take 2 of each normally in case I make a mistake). It will SAVE TIME at the other end (and yes I have seen people suddenly remembering to fill them in at the Border ) !

At the gate

BD705 normally trundles into Gate M15 at O'Hare. Disembarkation order is
- Business Cabin
- Premium Economy Cabin
- Economy

From gate M15, it is a 5 minute walk to the customs hall. Those who hate queues are advised to walk quickly, or if your legs are good after an 8 and a half hour flight, run.

The Immigration hall

There are actually two immigration halls (which mirror each other), but unless there is a major blockage, you will be directed to the first one. The hall itself is roughly split in half - US Citizens on the left, everyone else on the right. If the US Citizens queue is short, they will normally open up the US Citizens queues to outsiders (although this can alternate subject to loads or what gate the plane lands at) .

Immigration is a big factor at this airport, with BD705 arriving before the rush (IF it's on time). If multiple flights arrive, expect to spend over an hour to 1 1/2 hours stuck waiting to be processed. There is no Fast-Track for Business Class Passengers or Transfer Passengers.

Passengers who miss their connections here are advised to pick up their luggage and head straight to the connection counters to sort out their onward connections. This means heading to the United desks at T5, not T1. Don't bother to make phone calls to try and replan your journey as our friends at INS will bawl at you to switch your phone off.

Assuming you've been fingerprinted OK, and that you have complied with the Customs and Borders Patrol rules, you will then enter the baggage claim hall.

Baggage Claim Hall

It doesn't matter if you are ending your journey at O'Hare or continuing onto other destinations. YOU MUST PICK UP YOUR LUGGAGE HERE. Luggage comes off in the following order (if MAN crew have loaded it right and ORD handlers are not feeling overly destructive)
- *A Priority
- *A Transfer
- Everyone else.

This is how it's meant to work. Of course, a lot of the time it can happen the other way round (You've got to love those Chicago Luggage handlers). Alas all you can do is complain, where the compliant will be filed in the round storage cabinet...

BD705 normally unloads onto Belt 7, with SAS Ground staff there to help you if needed. Over-sized luggage (such as skis) can sometimes wind up on the Over sized claim (Belt 11). Luggage trolleys are free within the lower part of this terminal (about the only place in the airport that they are free!)

Proceed to Customs and Borders Patrol (US Customs) check (EXIT B).

This is where your Blue Customs form will be examined. Providing you have complied or not needing to be stopped for further inspection, you can proceed past the guards.

Onward Checking

For American Airlines, you'll see their desks on your left.
For United and TED, you'll see their desks on your right.

Note: As we're all Star Alliance friends here, I'm talking about Star Alliance. OneWorld and SkyTeam should have similar arrangement - YMMV

At this point you can hand over your luggage to the agents (remembering if you've stocked up on liquid duty free at MAN or on the plane, you'll need to pack them into your suitcase). For people with onward connections on UA/TED, remember that you can try and upgrade to E+ (extra legroom seats) for a nominal fee ( eg ORD-SEA is $44 or so/per person/per leg). Also remember the routes ORD - LAS/FLL/MCO/PHX/TPA/CUN/PBI are all TED routes (So no dreams of first class there.. E+ is the best you'll get for now).

Also note that with the imminent demise of TED, there will be changes. Don't expect these to come into effect until Spring 09 (and the conversions finished in Winter 09) , but you can fully expect TED for some time to come. Keep an eye on the UA forum to keep you up to date with their changes.

Star Alliance Golds will find it worth asking about seating and not offering to pay as they will often upgrade for free. It is not an official benefit, but the ORD T5 agents are amongst the more generous at dishing out E+ to *G for free (where technically, anyone who is not a UA Elite (3P, 2P, 1P, 1K, GS or E+ Sub) has to pay).

Standby for an earlier flight is possible (with the near $0 charges if the staff are in a good mode), but I'd recommend this only if you know you can cross O'Hare in under 30 minutes (possible with short security queues) and if you're travelling with hand luggage only.

Ensure your onward boarding pass is correct at this point, and make sure you're told where your onward flight is departing from.

One your luggage is placed back into the caring arms of the ORD luggage handlers, proceed to the public arrivals area. Note that when rechecking your luggage with UA, your luggage tag can be "beeped" to advise you what gate your connection will be departing from.

Congratulations, you've made it into the USA.

Onward Connections from here
(For *A users, this boils down to the T1 or T2. United flights depart from both T1 and T2. US Airways and Air Canada fly from T2. AA, DL fly from T3. There are other airlines - check the Chicago O'Hare website). Check with the onward agent what terminal you are departing from.

Follow the signs to the ATS. (Airport Transit System)

These are free trains that take you round the O'Hare Complex. You need one that goes to T1, T2 and T3, not the ones that head to the long stay car park.

Note that as there is some construction work at O'Hare, it may be quicker to get off at T2 and walk through if you have no luggage (about a 5 minute walk)

T1 Passengers

Welcome to Fortress United. Have a nice day .

Proceed from the ATS one level down to the main departures level.

Assuming you have your onward boarding passes, head straight through security (You can't miss it). *A Gold and Silver status passengers can use the fast track security queue which is signposted about 10 yards to your right as you come out of the lift / escalator from the ATS.

After clearing security, check what gate your plane has been assigned to.

B Gate departures - you're in the right building. Have a wander to see where your gate it is. There are numerous food and retail outlets to help you stimulate the US Economy.

C Gate departures - Follow the signs to Concourse C. (or even easier - look for the Dinosaur - and then look for access-way is that way. You'll pass through the psychedelic tunnel (it's art allegedly), and then up into the actual C Gates. Again, plenty of opportunities to stimulate the US Economy.

There are 3 Red Carpet Clubs in this terminal - 2 in Concourse B (which include the "Incomparable" RCC) and 1 in Concourse C building - if you are a *G card holder (Not UA/US), you can utilise these lounges.

In comparison to some European lounges, the RCCs are pretty poor, but offer a seat and very basic drinks (tea, coffee, maybe juice on the day) as well as limited food options. However, the RCCs lounge staff can also be a useful help when it comes to upgrades to E+ for *G cardholders if you do not have a seat there already.

T2 Passengers.

Disembark at T2, go over the bridge and down to T2 departures. Assuming you have your onward boarding passes, head straight through security (the main security checkpoint is in the centre of the terminal, and should be in front of you if you took the escalator - lift users, may have to swivel left or right) and then proceed to your gate from there. Follow the signs to your gate (either in Concourse E or F). There is a Fastrack queue, but you'll have to check if its manned or not.

If the main queue is congested, there is there is another at the far right end of the lobby, which could be, but may involve a walk (which could be welcome after the run to Immigration).

There are Red Carpet Clubs in this building - if you are a *G card holder (Not UA/US), you can utilise these lounges. There's is also a NorthWest World Club and a Continental Presidents Room too if you hold appropriate membership/access.

-----

CONNECTING BACK TO BD706

Note: If you're flying UA, NH, LH, your flights depart from T1. IB flies from T3

I'd recommend 2 and half to 3 hours, depending how fast you can run or if you're intending to use a GUV (Gold Upgrade Voucher for those who hold BMI Diamond Club Gold Cards). If you mis-connect here, it gets sticky, so give yourself time and make sure your tickets are issued on one ticket ideally

If you're starting at ORD, 2 hours to check in is plenty, especially if you intent to use a GUV.

Again, its worth noting where weather is an issue, United and some of the American carriers are willing to move people to earlier connecting flights to ORD (if there is room), especially where weather is an issue. They will do this at no cost on the day subject to availability. If you have status too, this will help. Alternatively, you can a get a confirmed standby for $50 on UA (subject to space). Other carriers have different rules.

I'd highly recommend checking Seatcounter (etc) for load factors and see if you can standby for an earlier flight. Providing there is room, you should be able to jump and earlier flight. Remember, if it can go wrong, it will and it'll probably be at O'Hare.

For those of you who wish to use a GUV on this route (from Y to PE), its a good idea to keep an eye on the load factors (www.seatcounter.com, ExpertFlyer, KVS are your friends as normal).

You cannot use your GUV at your starting airport - only ORD (for example, you're departing EWR, going to ORD and then the MAN, the only point your GUV is good for is the ORD-MAN segment). Its therefore essential to see a member of the ground handling team ASAP.

Before leaving your arriving terminal, check if you're flying actually flying with BMI. If your flight number is within the BD4xxx range (eg BD4478, BD4472, BD4480), you are on a code share flight with United. You therefore need to stay within the T1 complex to catch your connecting flight (Obviously GUV's aren't valid on UA metal - I would suggest paying/obtaining an E+ upgrade as soon as possible to make the flight a bit more bearable)

Depending how early you arrive, you might want to give T5 a miss until about T-2 to T-1.5 hours before pushback (as T5 with due respect is a complete and utter non-space). *G's and Business ticket holders can access the RCC's as they are on international itinerary (and have your boarding pass just to wave in their face).

If you've got more than 5 hours connection, go into Chicago itself - it's a great city!

Follow the signs to EXIT, then follow the signs to the ATS

From T1, follow the signs to T2 and then take the ATS (due to construction work). From T2 follow the signs to the ATS (go up to departures, then up further to the ATS levels) and take a train heading to T5.

When you arrive at T5, head UP to departures.

Luggage

Your luggage may have been checked through. Check with your originating carrier. If not or if you're starting here, you need to present yourself for check in with the "wonderful" SAS ground handling team. These are towards the left hand side of the terminal from the Hall of flags.

You can try to use your GUVs's these at the check-in desks in T5 . They usually will not process the vouchers here though, but occasionally they will.

If you wish to exchange hard cash for a seat, it is possible. Currently a Y to PE seat is $400. Y to C buyups are possible as well. Please note these do depend on capacity, and if PE is loaded, they don't tend of be offered (remembering there are 30 PE seats, and 18 C seats). Still, no ask = no get

Mileage collectors note: You only get mileage on your original purchase seat, NOT your upgraded seat. (eg, a ticket originally brought on W upgraded to U will only earn the 3814 standard miles) It's your call on seat vs comfort vs miles.

Before going down the hall of flags and pass security check

- you have your personal possessions
- you've eaten, or not that hungry, or can wait until the flight is underway for the pretzels.
- you are leaving yourself enough time to get through the queue
- you are not leaving enough time to be bored senseless at O'Hare unless you're a *G.

As you go down the hall of flags, you'll notice On your left, the last hot food stop (McDonald's; Pizzeria Uno and a bar), and on your right, a currency exchange, kids gift shop and the wonderfully overpriced duty free.

Make sure you have an at least an hour by this point - more if you're intending to use a GUV - the security queue can get very long with DYKWIA's clogging up the place. BMI's 18:30 departure is towards the end of the west-east rush of flights, so there lots of people around normally (and no priority line as well).

Once you've passed through security, you'll be presented with... not a lot to be blunt. There are a few little duty free kiosks and newsagents (and porta-bars charging overpriced amounts for drinks), but little else to do (unless you like watching a parade of planes go past).

APIS/IW94's

If you are connecting in, you'll need to submit your passport for an APIS check, as well as surrendering your IW94(I) form. You can do this at the podium at Gate M15.

Gold Upgrade Vouchers - GUV's (with thanks to RAPC and Oxon Flyer)

See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KC9FtLQJoGM for updated information on GUVs and general use of them. This covers the use of GUV's for ORD-MAN route ONLY

The usual practice is to go to the gate as soon as it is open (as GUV holders are also normally *G holders, at least you can go to the lounge afterwards).

SAS staff will often be here 2 hours before departure to start to take visa waivers from passengers. Ask to use a GUV and if there is plenty of availability they will process it then. If there is limited availability they will take the GUVs and your existing boarding card and will invite you to return to the SAS lounge. If the GUV clears before boarding, they will inform you via the lounge. Otherwise they will confirm at boarding and give you a new boarding card. If they cannot process the GUV you will get it back along with your original BP.

Lounges

Business passengers can head to the SAS lounge, *G's can head to either the SAS or SWISS lounge until the flight is called (which departs from gate M15 - the SAS lounge is closer. If you also are waiting for a GUV to clear, stay in the SAS lounge). BA Gold holders can also use the Terraces lounge in ORD under the "Open Doors" rules.

BD *S's of course, get nothing other than a smile and directions to the gate.

Boarding

Typically, boarding procedure is pax with special needs, Business, *G and BMI Silver, PE, then everyone else. Then after a trundle around O'Hare, its up into the big black and onwards.

----

I hope I've covered a lot of the questions that people have about connecting through O'Hare. Any more questions, feel free to ask.

--- Changelog ----
05/11/08 - Added Route Shutdown notice
10/09/08 - Updated GUV info thanks to Oxon Flyer
25/06/08 - Tweeked and updated with some minor clarifications, the TED matter and some spelling.
09/04/08 - Added Luggage note, attempted to clarify customs (although this seems to be as changeable as BD705's arrival time...)
08/04/08 - Added Customs info, Added standby info, kt74's stuff, RAPC's comments.
08/04/08 - T2 alternate security and different approach to/from T1 from dliesse . Also added a word or two.

Last edited by Kevincm; Nov 5, 08 at 7:19 am Reason: Updated: Route Shutdown :(
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Old Apr 8, 08, 9:58 am
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Top stuff Kevin

Definitely a very useful guide indeed for anyone travelling through ORD via the bmi flights.

One section to consider is 'What to do when BD705 / 706 goes tech' but it has been behaving recently, so maybe not. Fingers crossed!

Cheers again.
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Old Apr 8, 08, 10:17 am
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Thanks very much Kevin

This will come in handy for the lounge family who will be losing their ORD cherry this summer, when connecting to MCO. Very handy to read your comments.
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Old Apr 8, 08, 11:38 am
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Just one additional word for those on flights departing from T2. If the main security checkpoint is congested beyond belief, there is another at the far right end of the lobby. It means significant extra walking (which might be welcome after 8 hours in the air), but could be faster. I've also seen times when the main checkpoint is inexplicably closed.

For those flying out of T1 and not needing to recheck luggage, you might want to consider getting off the ATS at T2, using that checkpoint I just mentioned at the far right, and walk through the connector to T1 (concourses B and C). One of the escalators between the ATS and the terminal is under renovation (have to keep the mayor's cronies employed, after all), and the remaining one is available in stairway mode (i.e., it's not moving, but it's open). The lineup for the elevator can be ridiculous

At present, to leave T1 and head for T5 (ATS required), if you're not claiming luggage you'll need to walk all the way to the T1-T2 connector just to get out to the lobby (yep, more construction). You might as well go on to the T2 ATS stop, rather than have to deal with that motionless escalator.
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Old Apr 8, 08, 12:03 pm
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Well done Kevin. Very comprehensive.
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Old Apr 8, 08, 12:27 pm
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Another here ... and an instant entry in the Master Sticky.

Thanks Kevin.
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Old Apr 8, 08, 12:31 pm
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Thanks all

I'll make an attempt to keep this up to date as much as I can.

Who wants to spot me the fare to LAS so I can write about connections there?
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Old Apr 8, 08, 12:52 pm
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What a fantastic guide.

I have a query relating to the immigration hall set up. Entering the US through ORD, my recollection of the set up is slightly different to what is described in this guide.

As you approach immigration, descending by staircase or escalator there are two halls. One straight ahead and to the right; the other behind and to the left. Each hall is a mirror set up of the other, such that Visitors in both cases are directed to the desks farthest away from the foot of the entrance stairs. Perhaps this has changed in the last few months and apologies if so. I have been caught out by this before and faced the indignity of being turned away at the INS desk. I blamed that one on a false sense of familiarity and the last minute glass of pinot on approach.
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Old Apr 8, 08, 1:17 pm
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Top banana, Kevincm

My tips to add...

On arrival
If 705 is on time or early, you are normally before the rush, and it's relatively painless, but any delay will put you behind flights from the rest of Europe and Mexico - it has taken me 3 hours to get past immigration before. Don't even bother trying to call to reschedule your connecting flight, the immigration folks will shout you down (for use of mobiles in the passport queue...). However, the United peeps at T5, as you rightly mention, are amongst the most helpful in the network. For heaven's sake resist the temptation to go to T1 though, even if there is a queue at T5 - no special treatment once you get there, not even in the RCC

Connecting
The thing to remember with United and most US airlines is that the "standby for an earlier flight" ruse is commonly accepted and approved of. Anyone (esp travelling with hand luggage only) who thinks they are early and can hotfoot it to a T1 B gate should definitely do so, as delays tend to mount up during the day. e.g. I once passed up the opportunity to run to catch an earlier-than-planned EWR connection, only to find both later flights delayed by over 3 hours

Returning
Knowing that T5 is a bit of a non-terminal, remember that *Gs arriving on an earlier connection have access to all the RCCs in T1 (even without an onward boarding pass, IME). The Swiss lounge may not always be an option, as its opening hours are not great, that I remember. The SAS lounge is fine though - very Ikea - plentiful beer, wine and, errr, crudites

GUVs etc
Your GUV tips are spot on! For non-GUV holders, and I'm not an expert in buy-ups, but these are often openly offered for sale at ORD (both Y->Y+ and Y->C), both at check in and the gate. There have been a couple of threads about them somewhere here...
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Old Apr 8, 08, 1:27 pm
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Keep the tips coming in - I'll play editor tommorow and assemble some more tips (such as buy up ORD-MAN is $400 which SAS ground services are happy to relive you of and when you can start checking in (HINT: Its earlier than 3pm!)

Prospero: I'll need some thinking time on that. I remember 2 halls (and using both on my first flight into ORD) and i can't remember the setup of the other one. Probably a pen and paper job to work out. That or you came in via Gates M1 - M8... (rare but possible. They drag the A330 away after everyone has been chucked off ad the aircraft is clean, only to tow it back to M15 later)

kt74: I'll do some more integration tomorrow. Only once have I arrived on 705 with a full queue (and both halls were packed). The other times we were on time... or 6 hours late!

dliesse Thanks for the update on Mayor Daley's lovely workers stuffing up ORD T1/T2 (I always seem to pass T2 and see it in more of a tip than it was each time - Probably just to get more work. My long standing comments about T5 Departures stand though
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Old Apr 8, 08, 1:31 pm
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Originally Posted by kt74 View Post
GUVs etc
Your GUV tips are spot on! For non-GUV holders, and I'm not an expert in buy-ups, but these are often openly offered for sale at ORD (both Y->Y+ and Y->C), both at check in and the gate. There have been a couple of threads about them somewhere here...
Yep, good tips Kevin

One thing to say here, which probably reads very much as a case of stating the flaming obvious is that the buy-ups often need to be requested. From past experience they tend to push them when there are a lot of seats available in PE or Business. When there are only a few, then they usually don't push them. If you want a buy-up then ask and they will often be made available there and then, unlike the usage of GUVs that may be processed at the last minute.
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Old Apr 8, 08, 6:09 pm
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Top job.

A couple of nuglets from me to add :

My immigration hall had US on the right and others on the left, (with others being the closest to the direction from which we entered) so either the left/right thing is dynamic, or I was in the "other" hall, which is a mirror image.

When rechecking (aka kissing goodbye to) your luggage with UA, there was a nice lady with a barcode scanner who beeped your luggage tag and advised the gate of your connection. Nice touch.
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Old Apr 9, 08, 3:42 am
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Thanks for your all your positive feedback all... it means a lot (and that I mostly nailed it right bar the Immigration hall means I can pay attention to detail if I can be bothered.)

Base on RAPC's suggestion, I'm paging[/ those who have had experiences with BD705/706 going tech/gone tech.

If you have any experiences, I'd welcome them, and I'll try and assemble them by class of service and what rules apply, including service recovery.

(PM if you don't want to reveal yourselves - I'll do some searches too before the great leaders prod me. )
Thanks all again
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Old Apr 9, 08, 2:12 pm
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Originally Posted by kt74 View Post
Connecting
The thing to remember with United and most US airlines is that the "standby for an earlier flight" ruse is commonly accepted and approved of. Anyone (esp travelling with hand luggage only) who thinks they are early and can hotfoot it to a T1 B gate should definitely do so, as delays tend to mount up during the day. e.g. I once passed up the opportunity to run to catch an earlier-than-planned EWR connection, only to find both later flights delayed by over 3 hours
Good tip! Remember however that if you are flying in F, the earlier flight will very likely be filled up in F at the time you arrive at the gate. A consequence of the easy availability of upgrades to UA Mileage Plus members through vouchers etc. Happened to me 2 weeks ago.
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Old Apr 9, 08, 7:09 pm
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Note that the SK lounge in T5 may be closed for renovations this spring, making the LX lounge standing room only at times.
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