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I'm i a Payphone waiting for Cheese or Sugar: 12 days, 8 Flights.

I'm i a Payphone waiting for Cheese or Sugar: 12 days, 8 Flights.

Old Sep 8, 18, 4:00 am
  #1  
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Join Date: Feb 2018
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I'm i a Payphone waiting for Cheese or Sugar: 12 days, 8 Flights.

​In November 1785 Scotland’s national bard, Robert Burns of Alloway in Ayrshire ( tenuous aviation link in that it isn’t far from Prestwick), wrote, “ The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men, Gang aft agley.”

The translation being simply that the best laid plans of mice and men often go wrong: now, for my part, in 63 years, I have never encountered a mouse, or mice, making plans.

“Ok chaps, gather round, it’s time for briefing. Time check? Watches ready?”

“Ah Major, what’s a watch?”.

“Good question, well asked Mikey”

“Squeaker, while I start, check the register”

Major Mouse turned to his easel where the drawings showed the lines of advance and potential defences.

“So today’s mission involves liberating cheese from the large cupboard next to the sink. We know that there are supplies in there as we watched them unload bags into that cupboard yesterday and our scouts, pat on the back Bruce and Dusty, good job there, report no further activity in the area”

“The aim is to liberate as much cheese as possible and return to the hole in safety”

“The first squad, led by Squeaker with 4 volunteers will sweep the area for cats and traps. Dangerous work chaps, and we are grateful that you volunteered. Take care out there”

“Once Squeaker sends us the all clear the left flanking party will head to the cupboard to open the door, as the door opens the right flanking party will rush the door and enter the cupboard.”

“Squeaker’s advance party will take the rear to cover the return to the hole”

“Any questions?”

Nope, never encountered anything that like: anyone who has must have been on seriously strong medication!

However, when you start planning a trip for leisure there has to be some motivating force driving this: be it cheese, sunshine, sea and margaritas, food and culture, or a bunch of accrued airmiles to be burnt through, there is always a root cause.

Back to May 18.

Moi :“ I would like to go to a Maroon5 concert”

Mrs 737: “Check their website and see if they are touring the UK”

Website duly checked and nada: only touring the US and Canada: but wait. They are playing St Paul 18 September ! YOLO. (Getting down and hip with the kids - only found out what it meant a month ago from a friend’s 7 year old daughter. Little madam can floss too.)

Yippee, the Maid of Honour at our wedding lives 20 minutes south of St Paul: swift phone call and she is charged with acquiring tickets, which she duly dues, I Paypal her the money and set about finding flights.

The cunning plan involves a stop in Chicago, a city we have never visited, but raved about by our American sister in law, so that’s a no brainer as there are no direct flights to MSP available.

Google Flights turns up lots of availability from LHR to ORD: but the smokin’ ace in the hole is a United codeshare from Manchester, about 100 miles from us, to ORD via ZRH with Swiss, at an astounding 1400 round trip in Business. Now, I have missed bargains like this before: a 995 LH business fare to JFK haunts me. The average C fare across the pond was running at around 2500 at this time so I had to strike, and do so quickly.

Turned to United’s website and with the details entered, there it was, same price, same routing. So AMEX in hand ( I get BA Avios for using this ) I filled in all the usual palaver and hit “Purchase”.

No response: went back, checked all the details, hit “Purchase”: nothing. Gave the mouse a severe shaking, a good talking to and a cheese bribe.

Open a new tab, check Expedia, they don’t show flight, nor does ITA.

Back to United, “Purchase”: not a sausage.

Options, fella, options: phone United call centre in the UK, except it transpires it isn’t in the UK even though it has a UK number. You’ll never in a Bombay moment guess where it is.

(A Bombay moment of course has several definitions, one of which is the time interval, following a very dodgy street vendor meal in a generic Asian country, or a lamb curry in PIA Business Class – I have been that soldier, between realising that you need to break wind and recalling that gas shouldn’t be liquid at room temperature)

I find myself talking to a very pleasant Indian lady, tell her what I found on the website and ask to make the reservation with her: when she checks for the fare she tells me it doesn’t exist, so I offer to send her the screenshot of my laptop screen.

That went down so well: I asked to speak with a Supervisor.

Supervisor was a whole different kettle of aquatic creatures: she accepted the fare and routing, but, and here’s the rub ( bit of Shakespeare after Burns ) asked if I would be interested in a more direct routing for the same price.

Forsooth fair maiden, twixt ZRH and anywhere else to ORD what fiendish wizardry cans’t thou conjure up?

Didn’t actually say that: just said “Yes please”: very gratefully and oh so humbly.

Dear lady Supervisor opened her bag of wonders, sprinkled some fairy dust and magically produced a MAN – EWR – ORD routing for the same price on United metal; Polaris Business Class. A star is born.

Card details handed over, flights booked, next is a hotel in Chicago for the first 4 days of our trip.

Now I know NYC is expensive in the hotel stakes, but from 11 Sep to 15 Sep, the prices in Chicago were eye watering: $400+ per night. Have a guess who didn’t know that Chicago is a major convention centre. Apparently between 11 Sep and 15 Sep every man and his rodent will be attending the American Society of Really Obscure Stuff Convention together with other massive conventions on equally important topics. Have these people never heard of tourists? Or Facetime? On the 15th it’s National Black McDonald's Operators Association 46th Biennial Symposium 2018. Who thought that one up? Here’s your entry identification, do you want fries with that? And ... is a Black McDonald’s?

Even trying to use employee discount, Mrs 737 works for Radisson, it was still too expensive, fries or no fries.

Then fate, in the guise of my Sister in Law in Florida stepped in. Somehow she had gotten wind of the trip: Facebook is not your friend my friend: excited wifey had spread the news that she was going to Maroon5 in St Paul!

My niece had produced child number 2 in October of last year and brother and SiL had moved in to a new house just north of Tampa: “Why don’t you come visit?” Like we are in the area; it’s 1000nm + further south! What is it with Americans having no concept of distance? My brother, who isn’t American but has lived there for 20 years, has fallen in to the mould: a 360 mile drive is a day out. Try that here and you are swimming for the last 260 east west!

Nevertheless, hotel prices in Chicago for the last 4 days of the trip were no longer stratospheric and we managed a reservation in the Radisson Aqua. Flexibility, after all, is the key to air power (NATO doctrine from the 70s).

So far so good, the plans of the rodents are falling in to place, but, we have to get to the cheese, sorry, Tampa now. Did the search and couldn’t find anything suitable so tried MCO, and lo and behold there is a United flight we can connect with in ORD. More Avios and a seamless connection with the same carrier. The seamless connection, marketing speak I like: we have 1hr10 to change terminals, if the inbound is on time!

The flight to MCO turns in around 2130 local, which is 0130 body time for us, and I don’t fancy a 2 hour drive to brother’s with the travelling so far, hence we find a Radisson close to the airport and make an overnight reservation there.

Hire car booked through AVIS Preferred to collect and return at MCO: similar to one of our UK cars, a Buick Regal – at least I know what the switches do!

Now we have to work out how to get to MSP: in the interests of equanimity, and Avios, we decided to fly American: used them before and have always been happy with the service. Found a flight to MSP via ORD, however, the snag is the early departure, 0700, so another night reserved in the hotel for the day before. That provides an opportunity to hook up with friends from Davenport and have dinner along 192 somewhere. Every cloud has a silver lining, but some also have mountains inside them: the famous Cumulo Granite.

Finally, back to Chicago, this time Delta pulled up the best fare: it’s only just over 300 miles so we put some business their way, and make the reservation.

Still with me? Chocolate mouse if you are.

Finally our return is with United via EWR back to MAN.

And breathe.

So the full itinerary:

10 Sep – Overnight Radisson Manchester Airport

11 Sep – UA80 / UA743 Polaris Business Class / First Class, Manchester – Chicago via Newark 752/739

11 Sep – UA2173 First Class, O’Hare to Orlando 753

11 Sep – Overnight Country Suites at Orlando Airport

12 Sep – Drive to the coast – stay with brother. Buick Regal

15 Sep – Back to the Country Suites for an overnight, dinner with friends in Kissimmee - Buick Regal

16 Sep – AA2721 / 3255 First Class, Orlando - O’Hare – MSP - Two shiny things with wings

18 Sep - Maroon5 at St Paul

19 Sep – DL2868 First Class, MSP to O’Hare - MD90

22 Sep – UA 230 / UA81 First Class / Polaris Business Class , O’Hare to Newark to Manchester. 737/752

All of the flights and hotels were paid with cash as we don’t have enough Avios, having splurged in March ( and that’s a story in itself ), to book anything of worth with BA.

The main thing is, that with the planning, there are multiple opportunities for things to “gang agley”. Or in more prosaic terms, for the whole thing to turn to rodent droppings.

Why, as Brits, would we choose US carriers for our transatlantic over BA or VS? We have used American and Delta for transatlantics and found the service to be fantastic: great staff, wonderful food. We have used United on US domestics and always been happy with the product. We normally pay for our tickets or use our Avios to travel with BA: our usual cabin is Business but we do occasionally travel in First, so we have some experience. And did I mention the price ?

I plan to photograph as much as I can and write things up on my iPad as we go, although when I will be able to publish them, I don’t know, all depends on how I can embed the pictures.

And remember – a mouse is a mouse for a’ that. ( For the non Scots, Google works of Robert Burns – you won’t understand a word!)

Last edited by NWIFlyer; Sep 8, 18 at 11:26 am Reason: Correct multiple formatting tags to improve readability
737Av8tor is offline  
Old Sep 9, 18, 1:04 am
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I get a chocolate mouse looking forward to next update.
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Old Sep 9, 18, 5:10 am
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The only issue with the MAN-EWR-MAN flights is that the "Polaris Business" seating on the 757-200 is not Polaris seating. It's the lie flat CO Business seating with no aisle access for the window seats

Thankfully those are short flights and I have succeeded in sleeping in them (side sleeper).
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Old Sep 9, 18, 6:57 am
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Speedy travels and enjoy the concert. I once went from Johannesburg to Prague to attend a Rolling Stones concert - so know how it feels......
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Old Sep 10, 18, 7:13 pm
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757
 
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Looking forward to this report - and hope you have a great visit to Minneapolis. (I live about 10 minutes from the airport).
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Old Sep 25, 18, 8:03 am
  #6  
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I apologise for the short posts: the board doesn't allow posting URLs until I have at least 5 posts under my belt.
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Old Sep 25, 18, 8:04 am
  #7  
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Time to leave home arrived: loaded the suitcases into the SUV and set off for Manchester Airport, about 1 hr 45 min drive from us. The unfortunate side of this is that the drive is across the moors on a narrow, twisty and winding road, which is single carriageway: cue the Long and Winding Road background muzak.
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Old Sep 25, 18, 8:05 am
  #8  
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The real issue, however, is that Mrs 737 isn't the happiest driver or passenger: throw in that it was dark made the trip, well, interesting.
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Old Sep 25, 18, 8:06 am
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Made it in one piece to the Radisson at Manchester Airport and settled in for the night in anticipation of an early rise for our 0925 departure.

Room was quiet and comfortable: only issue was the half empty, or full, bottle of complimentary water.
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Old Sep 25, 18, 8:11 am
  #10  
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The sharp eyed will notice that the exterior shot is in daylight but we arrived in darkness: it was taken from outside the terminal the following morning whilst Mrs 737 was indulging her habit ( sucking on a cigarette ).

Last edited by 737Av8tor; Sep 30, 18 at 5:36 am
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Old Sep 25, 18, 10:43 am
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Like it! Just booked Radisson for a trip from MAN in November, so would like to hear more - what did the management say about the water?
Tocsin is offline  
Old Sep 27, 18, 4:06 am
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When we told reception about the water bottle room service promptly pitched up with 2 litre bottles of sparkling water and 2 of still water: service recovery at its best.

We had booked a Park and Fly package, sensible when you check the rack rate for parking at the hotel !



60 for 24 hours, is at the current exchange rate to the $, around $76. Now the rental car we had in Florida was only $227 for 4 days, so parking your own car there versus taking a rental is simply not the most economic or VFM strategy.

The walkway to the terminal is a bonus, given that we were leaving around 7am and the Manchester weather is notoriously wet: in winter taking this flight the walkway really comes in to its own.





The departures area outside the terminal was pretty quiet: the lo cost carriers don't operate from T2 and the United flight is pretty much the first long haul to depart. There are some VS departures, MCO,SFO and ATL, but they leave later in the morning. I'm not exactly certain when the HKG and Beijing departures head out: what I do know is that on our return the Far East services had arrived ahead of the EWR flight and the queue ( line ) for non European passport holders at immigration was at least a 2 hour wait. That single issue would incline me, if I were a non European to balance the wait at immigration at MAN with the option of flying into somewhere else, LON, AMS,FRA,DUB and transferring to a domestic or intra European, flight. The alternative would be for United to look at the arrivals into MAN and reschedule the flight to account for that, but then that brings in slot issues at EWR: tricky balance, that and the later arrival would prejudice the business day.



Once in the terminal there was no real queue for the Business Class check in and we were sorted in minutes, bags tagged all the way to MCO, even though we would have to pick them up in EWR, clear customs and re- check them. Smoke break though for Mrs 737 at EWR.



Fast track security was a breeze and we were released into the shopping mall of T2.



I recall attending meetings with the airport management, not at MAN, but at one of the MAG airports, where the focus was on which retailers they could entice to establish stores in the terminal. All down to passenger numbers, however, the bulk of the footfall, some 70% was from March until October. That and who buys clothing for their holiday at the airport??? Mouthwash or toothpaste or some other liquid / paste that is banned by security I can understand but last minute clothes shopping?



At MAN United use the Escape lounge which, as you can see, is shared with several other carriers. It is, nevertheless, a natty little place, with a full service bar, refrigerators stocked with beer to help yourself to, and a good selection of hot food for breakfast as well as the pastry and continental selection.






The gate for the flight, 214, was in an area of the terminal undergoing construction work: no luxury of an airbridge for us!



But located conveniently adjacent to the open air cage restraining the smokers to allow Mrs 737 to join them. The cage isn't in the same league as the smoker's aquarium in Atlanta though.

The gate area was shared with a couple of intra European holiday flights but there was still plenty of seating available.



Flight was called on time and we had the luxury of a stroll across the ramp in the drizzle to our transport for the next 7 and 1/2 hours.
Tocsin likes this.

Last edited by 737Av8tor; Sep 28, 18 at 4:34 am
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Old Sep 27, 18, 12:17 pm
  #13  
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Found our seats, stowed the bags and admired the huge amount of bedding provided.



No worse than BA CW but not close to VS UC: perfectly comfortable for a daylight crossing but as I found on the return totally inadequate for a 6ft 4 inch geezer with size 10 feet. The wee space to put your feet in is about the size of a mouse's ear.



Crew came round with PDBs and the ubiquitous warm nuts: water, OJ,Champagne or anything you wanted from the bar: I elected to try a BM, but was disappointed that Tito's is no longer the vodka of choice.



The headset provided was perfectly adequate but doesn't reach the same standard as the Bose unit American use.
737Av8tor is offline  
Old Sep 28, 18, 3:44 am
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As this was a morning flight departing before 0945 the meal served was breakfast.
This came as a severe disappointment to the guy across the aisle who was moaning that he wanted lunch as he had just had breakfast: i wasn't bothered. Steak and eggs is breakfast, lunch or dinner as far as I'm concerned. The first course was a cold porridge which was surprisingly tasty.
I choose the steak and eggs, Mrs 737 had the full breakfast: considering the food was served on an airplane it was very good indeed.






The crew were proactive in keeping our drinks topped up and I managed to watch a couple of movies in between snoozing: the second meal service was a cold dish, a choice of chicken and corn or a fruit and cheese plate. I opted for the latter, Mrs 737 had the former. Both were tasty and my fruit plate was suitably refreshing.





I didn't have the opportunity to sample the chocolate as my little box was snaffled by the lady sitting next to me!
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Old Sep 28, 18, 4:12 am
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So after around 7 hrs 30 mins airborne we arrived at EWR.

The trip through CBP was painless, the guy was quite amused that the purpose of our trip was to attend the Maroon5 concert in St Paul.

Reclaimed our 2 suitcases and dragged them through to the bag drop for connecting flights, then outside for Mr 737 to have a smoke.



Back inside we had to go back through security before searching for the Polaris Lounge. Not an easy find either: very poorly signed, almost as though United don't actually want anyone to use it! We had the same issue on the return flight and in the end gave up after being turfed out of the United Club in the C concourse with instructions to find the lounge - never did find it.

View from lounge.


The lounge is lovely: like the foyer / bar / lounge of an upmarket hotel.



In my opinion it is better than the Concorde Room at LHR which has as much pazazz as the Mess on a wet Wednesday night in January.

Good selection of hot and cold food and a fine mix of beer on draft.












Last edited by 737Av8tor; Sep 28, 18 at 4:39 am
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