To the US: ORD to DTW on United 474, Airbus 320

April 11, 2017:

At the first sight, I did not quite recognize my bag! I had always thought it was blue, but it turned to be black! May be I was too excited, or I was hallucinated by the lack of sleep. It was almost 0100hrs back in India and I hadn't slept much in the last 40 hours! There was a helluva long queue to get past Customs - and crew of an incoming flight from the middle east were allowed to cut the line as well. Customs officials just collected the declaration form and let me go. As I walked towards the exit, United agents, who were everywhere, asked if I was taking a United flight, and took my check-in baggage.
A United A319.. one of the many Uniteds I spotted at ORD..

Back to my carry-on baggage alone, I walked out of the airport in search of the inter-terminal tram. The signage helped me reach the tram station, from where I could take a tram to Terminal 1, from where my flight to DTW aka Detroit would depart. I had cross checked this information from the United agent who had accepted my bag at Terminal 5. There was fairly good crowd for the tram - afterall, we had like 4 international arrivals around the time. The driverless tram runs very frequently, and stops by at every terminal before terminating at Terminal 1. I got to Terminal 1 by around 1630hrs.

Soon after entering the terminal, I walked into a United ticketing counter. An agent saw me enter the queue and asked what I wanted. I informed I was scheduled to fly a flight later in the night and I wanted to know the possibility of being able to take a previous flight. She took my boarding pass, and checked availability for flights to Detroit - she expressed her inability since all the flights that evening was sold out. She said I could sign up as a standby for the previous flight at the gate. Meanwhile, she printed out a fresh boarding pass for me, since I had updated my seat number. I now had a United boarding pass.
The United boarding pass I received at ORD..

I had over 5 hours to kill at the airport, and walked slowly towards the TSA Screening area. The boarding pass was first checked along with an identity proof. The queues for TSA check was quite long - large airport things! It took about 20 minutes to clear security - not that I was in a hurry, but I was too sleepy to understand what was happening. Once past security, my first priority was to find a place to rest and charge my phone. My next flight was to depart from C22 - in Concourse "C". This concourse is like a "satellite" - located away from the main building. This part is connected to the main terminal building by means of an underground walkway - with two long and slow walkators. The walkway was tastefully lighted - colourful lights with flashing LEDs, that flashed to the tune of the music that was playing.
The walkway to Concourse C..

It took about 10 minutes to get to Concourse C, from the main terminal building. Of course, I had no hurry. On entering the concourse, I saw a food court and marked the place to comeback later. My first priority was to sit down, and charge my phones for a while. I found a "business desk" nearby, and had to test all the plugs there - finally found one working plug point. I left my phone to charge and sat down wondering what to do next. It didn't take a lot of time to understand that the place had only United planes! I saw them in different sizes - the large 777 to the puny CRJs! The highlight was a Boeing 757 that docked right in front of me, the split Scimitar winglets on the Boeing 737s and the United Express of different sizes!
My first catch of a Split Scimitar winglet..

I spent the rest of my time tracking the inbound aircraft, browsing on the phone and just watching planes as they went by. Interestingly, the free WiFi wouldn't work - it connects, but no website opens. I understood it gets dark quite late, and it actually made me underestimate the time. I remained seated there until about 1930hrs. The next stop was the food court, from where I picked up a vegetarian sandwich (that was the only option) and a drink to go with. After finishing my meal, I headed straight towards gate C22 - which was right behind the desk I was sitting at.
Concourse C @ ORD..

The departures FIDS..

A gate agent was already there, and the incoming aircraft had already arrived from New York LaGuardia, and deplaning was in progress. It was a bit of a cultural difference here - the arrival passengers arrive into the same area as the waiting passengers - unlike in India where the passengers are separated. My flight, UA474, didn't seem to be a regular service - it did not list on most tracking websites. On duty today was N478UA, an Airbus A320-232 delivered to United way back in June 2001. Interestingly. UA474 is regularly used by a Mexico City-Chicago flight of United. This "spur" to Detroit seemed like a "seasonal" add-on.
The boarding gates.. passengers from the incoming sector still deplaning..

Thats the aircraft, N478UA, that would take me to Detroit..

After the passengers from the incoming sector had deplaned, an army of housekeeping staff barged in, followed by some United staff. A little later, Flight attendants for the sector went in. The gate agents made welcome announcements a little later, and updated that the flight is overbooked, and they needed volunteers to give up their seats! With the crazy baggage policies among domestic airlines in the US, most fliers turn up with fairly big carry ons. Overbooked flight equates to overfilled overhead bins, and the gate agents did request passengers to voluntarily check-in their bags. Since none turned up, the agents called up for all passengers in boarding group 4 to check-in their bags, free of cost.

Date of Journey: April 11, 2017
Airline: United Airlines
Flight No: UA474 also LH7474 || Seat: 29F (Originally 36B)
Aircraft type: Airbus A320-232 || MSN: 1533 || Regn: N478UA || Fleet Number: 4278
Sector: ORD-DTW
STD: 2105hrs, ATD: 2059hrs
STA: 2326hrs, ATA: 2304hrs
All times local.

The first boarding call was made at 2029hrs, starting with Preboarding, then group 1, 2 and finally Group 3. I walked into the aircraft by 2035hrs. The seats seemed quite comfortable. The seats were the newer Recaro slimline ones with leather upholstery. The aircraft was equipped with United WiFi and offered personal entertainment. I was terribly tired and badly wanted to sleep for a while. Boarding happened very slowly, and it seemed to take a long time to get going. Boarding was finally completed by 2051hrs. The doors were armed by 2052hrs. This was followed by a flurry of announcements, and the safety demonstration.

Pushback commenced by 2059hrs. Our side of the terminal seemed quite deserted by then - hardlysh any aircrafts around. Taxi commenced by 2105hrs. I was very tired, and I dozed off even before the aircraft reached the runway holding point. I couldn't note which runway did we use. The aircraft was on its take off roll as I woke up from a brief sleep - we took off at 2116hrs. We took off straight to the north (so that should've been from Runway 32L), straight into clouds, then went above the clouds. It was surreal - a sea of white clouds, illuminated by a full moon right above. I was half-asleep, and I was seeing strange things. The seatbelt sign was turned off at 2127hrs, but the lights remained off.
The surreal clouds and the full moon..

The trolleys came out. One FA came around with a plastic basket containing the Snack mix, and distributed to all souls who were awake and wanted to munch on something. The trolley came a little later and served drinks. I opted for an apple juice, again - the third one in the day, I guess! Halfway through my snack and drink, the seatbelt sign was back on (2147hrs) - it was such a short segment you see. We finally touched down on Runway 22R of Detroit by 2259hrs local time (2159 Central Daylight Time). It was a long run from there to our gate - D1, where we docked by 2304hrs local time. I was out of the aircraft by 2311hrs. It was a long walk to the baggage claim, and a very long wait to get my bags. It was terrible waiting for the bags. The bags took quite a while to come out. Getting out of the airport was a little confusing - I had to go up two levels, then get on a bridge, come down a level to get to the shuttle pick-up zone. The hotel's shuttle took me to the warm room, that I badly wanted to get into. I crashed on to a bed, some 30 minutes after landing in Detroit!
The snack mix with my apple juice..

Detroit North Terminal..

Ratings:
Boarding: 5/5 (Very organised and orderly)
Cleanliness: 5/5 (Very Clean)
Punctuality: 5/5 (Perfectly on time)
Crew: 5/5 (Awesome crew)
Catering: Irrelevant - its just a juice and a snack packet!
Overall: 5/5 (Good one)
Tracking from FlightRadar24..

Summary:
The Second flight on the United, and first flight on United's Airbus A320. It was just a no-nonsense flight - overbooked, and they got a passenger off voluntarily. The crew did their job perfectly, and with a smile. Overall, a great flight that took me from Chicago to Detroit, fast and safe. I was too sleepy to note down anything. 

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