Recently, I was asked to head to Dakar, Senegal for the better part of two months for work. Due to prior commitments, I arranged to do it in two blocks, with two weeks off in between. I won’t bore you with the flights in between (standard DCA-YOW runs on Air Canada) but thought I’d fill in some of the details on Dakar, Senegal including the hotels, restaurants, a few sights, and the flights to get there. I’ll go be going back again shortly, and taking pretty much the same route.
There’s actually a non-stop flight on South African between DC and Dakar, which is a bit odd to most people. Even stranger, is that all but the highest business fares are often sold out months in advance, requiring a full J fare if you want to take it. Forget D/I/Z/etc. Just couldn’t justify that, plus, I actually wanted to rack up some extra miles, so settled on this route. I was going to fly United to Brussels, then Brussels Airlines to Dakar, but wanted to go out of Washington National if possible. United doesn’t allow this – transatlantic fares almost always require nonstops out of Dulles, however, Lufthansa is cool with it. However, they only codeshare on the Newark to Brussels flight, thus I ended up going Washington National (DCA) to Chicago (ORD) to Newark (EWR) to Brussels (BRU) on United, connecting to Dakar on Brussels Airlines. The flight back would be much simpler – nonstop on South African. I’ll explain why I chose this below in the detailed flight sections.
Later, I’ll make a couple posts about hotels, sights, and restaurants, before I head back for the next trip where I’m hoping to hop around to a couple more countries in the region on weekends if possible. Fair warning, this post will be very very full of flight geekery.
Got to the airport about 90 minutes before the first flight to check bags, and encountered the typical surly DCA United agents. I don’t know why, but the United staff here (with the exception of those working the lounge) are always surly. Dulles can be marginally better, but every time at DCA I have a pretty negative experience. Once again denied pre-check by TSA (which I understand doesn’t work with international itineraries anyways) and had a little time to kill in the “United Club” aka former Presidents Club. The agent was very chatty, sharing every thought she had on the merger, how staff were integrating, and basically how senior management wasn’t thinking. Basic stuff like shuffling flight attendants between DCA and IAD in taxis to fill gaps causing long delays, etc. It was an interesting chat, and time to board soon!
United Airlines Flight 833
Washington, DC National (DCA) to Chicago (ORD)
Depart 10:23, Arrive 11:20, Flight Time 1:57
Airbus A319, Registration N822UA, Manufactured 1999, Seat 1E
Nothing exciting to say about this flight. Snack mix, diet coke, and on-time landing. The fun started in Chicago, with the United International First lounge. Always good to get filled up on shrimp cocktail and champagne before continuing on. Pretty standard day, and didn’t have too far to walk to the flight to Newark.
United Airlines Flight 1720
Chicago (ORD) to Newark (EWR)
Depart 13:00, Arrive 16:17, Flight Time 2:17
Boeing 737-800, Registration N77530, Manufactured 2011, Seat 3F
Small snack on this flight, and started off right with a margarita on-board, definitely one of the things from the Continental side of the house that I’m really glad came over to the new United. Small lunch which is no longer memorable, but was some sort of a deli plate with a few decent things on it. I wasn’t hungry after the shrimp so just picked at it, and soon we landed. Boring domestic flights, I know…let’s move onto the prime attraction. Some slightly less common international segments.
United Airlines Flight 960
Newark (EWR) to Brussels, Belgium (BRU)
Depart 18:12, Arrive 7:45 next day , Flight Time 8:33
Boeing 777-200, Registration N775UA, Manufactured 1996, Seat 1A
Lounge…ug. Really, you make international first passengers use the dump that is the “United Club” at Newark. Completely packed with the cattle, it’s hard to get a drink or find somewhere to plug in your computer. Boarding was at least relatively efficient, and the former Continental gate crew at least seem to know there are three classes finally. Then, we boarded, and things got a bit exciting. Earlier in the day, there were only 3 of us in first, with five empty seats. Of course, all eight ended up being taken. The crew (ex-United) seemed to know the party of five (all together) who boarded (surprising since they were boarding in EWR, but who knows), and they rather loudly complained that there were six of them, but one “got stuck in the back because SOMEONE took their seat at the last minute.” Honey, that would be me….on a full business fare upgraded with a global upgrade. If you want your company to stay in business, please don’t complain when full revenue passengers “stick” #6 in your party in business. Very unprofessional. The purser must have seen me make a bit of a pained face, as she actually came over and apologized, and was wonderful the whole flight.
Standard new 777 united first suites, with the standard broken buttons on a couple of the storage compartments. Nothing a makeshift lever wouldn’t take care of. People always seem to ask the latest of the meals, so I’ll post with a few pics here. Started of course with the mixed warm nuts. Nothing special, but way too many almonds for my liking.
To Begin: Warm Appetizer – Vegetable and mushroom-filled pastry and beef empanada with Amazon sauce.
I’ll admit, I have no idea what “Amazon sauce” is supposed to be, and even after eating it I wasn’t sure. Tasty enough, but certainly not what I’d expect in international first. You’ll also notice some coconut-breaded chicken thing. Guess the veggie and shroom pastry was a tease as well. At least there was wine!
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