After millions of miles, I encountered a rare day filled with first-time experiences and lived to tell about it.
First Time on a Charter Flight… Almost
I had a chance to participate in an Honor Flight, something I will cover soon but not now. This flight was initially slated to be a charter flight, nonstop from Omaha to Washington DC. We had 54 passengers as part of our group and I was hoping for an E-170 with 9-12 seats in F and every row in coach two seats on either side.
More than anything else, I liked the idea of boarding from the private side of the airport, driving right onto the tarmac, I liked the idea of getting there quickly, and I really liked the idea of the smooth arrival we would have in Washington DC as well.
Unfortunately, due to some equipment swaps, the flight was switched to a connection in O’Hare in both directions (though I only flew the outbound) on regularly scheduled flights. One upside, I was able to add my United Premier 1K number and earn for the flight. I was also able to get upgraded as a result, though I gave it to someone else.
First Time I’ve Seen Plastic Airplane Wings in Decades
I haven’t seen plastic airplane wings in the longest time and I miss that little touch. The crew on both flights was amazing and happened to have a few of these to hand out. The purser gave me a few to hand out throughout the group as well, which I was happy to do.
Some of the passengers hadn’t flown since they returned from war in 1973.
It was a nice touch by United Airlines and I respect and appreciate that they are still putting those touches out for at least some passengers, this was a group worthy of that additional consideration.
First Time I’ve Considered Paying $59 for Cereal
I don’t fly with my parents anymore, we don’t live in the same city. In fact, I have flown with them less than a dozen flights in nearly 20 years, despite joining them on many trips. This was a rare occasion with just my parents and myself whereby I could take them to a lounge to relax a little and give them a taste of what readers of this blog enjoy about flying.
I have an AMEX Platinum with Priority Pass, but Chicago O’Hare is part of an increasingly small void where no AMEX Centurion lounge is available, and sadly, extremely limited options for Priority Pass (just one in T5.)
However, I held three United Club passes and never really use them. What a perfect time to do so. I walked to Matthew’s recommended United Club near gate B5 in O’Hare and proceeded to check in. When I opened the app I found that one of the lounge passes had expired leaving me with three people and two passes.
The agent explained that I could buy a day pass for $59 and I considered it until I asked a key question:
“Is hot food available?” – me
“We have cereal and yogurt.” – agent
I thought about it for a moment and actually considered paying $59 for cereal, but none of us thought that was worthwhile. It didn’t occur to any of us at the time that I should have just sent the two of them upstairs and called it a day.
First Chili’s In The World Without Chips and Salsa on the Menu
After walking by a closed Tortas Frontera (it was too early), a disappointing and crowded Wolfgang Puck option, we settled on a Chili’s Too which had plenty of seating available.
“Can we please start with some chips and salsa?” – me
“We don’t have chips and salsa.” – Server
“You’re out?” – I mean, it was early, maybe it wasn’t offered yet. Maybe they hadn’t made the chips yet, what level of a problem are we looking at?
“We don’t offer it here.” – Server. He said so and walked away sidestepping my jaw planted firmly on the floor.
I looked at the menu and found the items weren’t even mentioned. They hadn’t run out, they just don’t offer it. It’s been two years since I have been to O’Hare so I asked some other frequent flyers and they were all stunned. How can you have a Chili’s without chips and salsa? Isn’t that like having a McDonald’s that doesn’t offer fries?
When given the choice of a Grilled Chicken Sandwich or a Big Mouth burger, I chose the burger. I have been to other Chilis Ohare locations, but this was the first I have ever seen with such a limited menu and without a key item. This was the Chili’s Too in Terminal 2 – Concourse B.
On a day of firsts, this was nearly the most shocking… nearly.
First Time I Have Stuck My Hand in An Airplane Toilet
You read that right, no tricks here, though there was some safety. Approaching the end of my flight to Reagan National in Washington DC, I decided to attend the lavatory. I had just entered the restroom at the back of a tight 737 when I heard a clink and something had fallen into the toilet.
In my pocket, I have an iPhone, Apple Airpods, and usually keys. My eyes closed so hard wincing before I could look down that I saw stars. Not my phone, phew; my Airpods were safe too. I had removed my keys before the flight and then I realized what it was.
Remember those plastic airplane wings? There, in the discolored “water” was a pair of tan and silver wings that had been given to me earlier in the day but had been put into my jacket pocket and not my pants pocket.
Due to my flying experience, I knew it wouldn’t be safe to just flush it down and it needed to be retrieved. I found an FA who was in the rear galley and alerted her to the issue. She offered -no, she insisted – but I felt terrible about it and that it was my responsibility to remove it. I took a blue plastic glove and retrieved it myself, threw it away, safely removed the glove without touching the outside.
All the same, there are some firsts that I never wanted to experience in my life. This is one of them. For fans of The League, the phrase “forever unclean” comes to mind, though I couldn’t find a family-friendly clip to include here.
For a traveler like me who has been flying for decades, there were a lot of firsts (and near) on this one trip. In the words of Bill Maher, “New Rules”: I’ll never take an airport Chili’s chips and salsa appetizer for granted, I’ll be more careful of what’s in my pocket, and; when I only have two lounge passes for three people, I’m giving those lounge passes away and eating on my own elsewhere.
What do you think? Have you flown on a charter flight? Can you imagine a Chili’s without chips and salsa? Would you reach into an airplane toilet even with a glove?