So, it was October. It was getting cold in Washington DC. A friend from NY I’ve been trying to hang out recently messaged me that he’d be in Germany for work, and would have a free long weekend. I was about 10,000 miles short of hitting 100,000 on United for the year…I started to play around. Things got ugly. Naturally, DC and NY are so far apart that you can’t manage the trip up I-95 to visit each other because you travel so much that you should meet in Europe…right?
He told me to pick anywhere in Europe I hadn’t been yet. New countries are getting difficult to come by for me in Europe, especially taking into account the friend travels on a South African passport and wouldn’t have time to get visas. Kosovo? They seem to be nice to just about anyone who is nice to them…but can I count it as a country? More than half of UN members recognize them, and I justified it as “even if I can’t…I can count it as Serbia which I haven’t been to!”
Then…I found out MYR Macedonia was next door, an easy train or bus ride away, and as long as you had a valid Schengen Visa, you were in. Score! Two countries…done! Now, how to milk this for 10,000 miles. United had some great B/Z fares to Istanbul, and I had one Systemwide Upgrade left for the year, so the choice was easy. Book Z one direction, and the direction that had confirmable upgrade space…book B. It would get me just over the top…100,606 elite miles for the year! DONE!
I’m going to break this report into roughly three parts:
1) Washington to Pristina, Kosovo on United, Lufthansa, and Turkish
2) Evening and Day in Pristina, and travel to Skopje, FYR Macedonia
3) Evening and Day in Skopje, Macedonia
4) Skopje, FYR Macedonia to Washington on Turkish, Lufthansa, and United
With that said, time to get off and running on part one!
United Express (Operated by ExpressJet) flight 4129
Washington DC, National (DCA) to Newark, NJ (EWR)
Depart 14:36, Arrive 15:49, Flight Time 1:13
Embraer ERJ-145, Registration N11551, Manufactured 2000, Seat 12A
Check-in at DCA was completely uneventful, there wasn’t a single person in line to get groped by the TSA, and I think I was metrorail to Presidents Club…I mean United Club…in 10 minutes tops. This is how an airport should function. I think one of the best things to come from this merger is that it reminded me how much I love DCA. I’d grown resigned to the fact I could go nonstop to just about anywhere from Dulles on United, and had just gotten in the habit. No more…I’ll even risk Newark connections to Europe now to leave from DCA – it’s just that much superior.
A few bricks of pre-packaged pepperjack cheese, a few glasses of Two Buck Jeff (aka Chateau le Plonk) red wine, and it was time to board. The club was empty this afternoon, and I had amusing conversations with both of the folks working this afternoon – both who came up to me, sat down, and just started chatting. The ex-United agent telling me all the stupid things Continental was doing to ruin United, and the ex-Continental agent, well, you guessed it, complaining about all things United. It was lighthearted, not really complaining, and since I’d met both of them several times it was nice to hear their perspectives on what was working and what wasn’t. It seems one of the biggest issue is United cabbing crews back and forth from National to Dulles when irrops happen, causing enormous delays. Hopefully that’s in the past now.
Can’t say anything about this flight. Took off on time, landed on time, had the solo seat in the exit row, and life was good. Only complaint is the usual about Newark…landing in Terminal A and having to take the shuttle bus to Terminal C. Even that wasn’t too bad. Hit up the central United Club, more pepperjack, more Chateau le Jeff, and lots of news watching. Sandy was about to strike the east coast, and it was really interesting sitting at the bar listening to folks from up and down the coast discuss what they thought would happen.
Got to the gate about 45 minutes prior to departure, and they were just about to board. First one on the plane, and based on the seatmap it was a very light load today, so it really wouldn’t matter.
United flight 956
Newark, NJ (EWR) to Geneva, Switzerland (GVA)
Depart 17:40, Arrive 7:25, Flight Time 7:45
Boeing 767-300 Registration N674UA, Manufactured 2010, Seat 6L
Originally I had picked seat 2D on this plane, but there were several empty seats in business, including 6K and 6L by the window. I asked the flight attendant about it, and she went to check with someone, and then told me I could have it…so I moved. A few minutes later, the purser stormed up to me and demanded to know who gave me permission to sit there. “These are OUR seats – you can’t sit here.” Well ok then…but your colleague told me I could. I could see her arguing with the other crew in the galley, and eventually came back, apologized, and told me it was ok. Very random…but fortunately the tension was diffused pretty quickly and service was great the rest of the flight. Very random!
This plane was a former United “domestic” 767, which had recently been converted for international service. Standard old Continental interior, which was very comfortable having two seats to myself. Easy to sleep in as I learnt earlier in the year on the way to India, and that held true again. I always hate 5pm transatlantic departures, because they leave me wondering if I’ll be able to sleep since we arrive at like 2am body clock time in Europe. This was a good flight, and I was out cold after dinner and wine.