Traveling Domestic in the US: Columbus to Rochester, via Washington - Part 1

This was supposed to be a trip from Detroit to Rochester, and was originally supposed to be part of a round trip booking ex-Bengaluru. A lot of circumstances changed, and I ended up having to book a Bengaluru-Detroit-Bengaluru ticket, and then book my trip to Rochester, which was my final destination, seperately. I thought to booking a Detroit-Rochester round trip ticket, saving some money in the process - but then the only airline that flew direct turned expensive even as a round trip, and it appeared economical to book them seperately. I finalised my plans and was all set to book, when my host in Findlay, OH calls one morning, and informs that I should be booking out of Columbus and not Detroit!
N508MJ - the first CRJ-701ER that I flew in.. as she arrived at CMH

It took a while to identify where Columbus was, since its normal to have multiple cities by the same name in the US. After a little bit of searching around, I found there is a Columbus in Ohio state, which had an airport by the name John Glenn Columbus International Airport. Next stop were the online travel agencies. It turned out that flights out of Columbus were much cheaper than the ones out of Detroit - plus the fun of adding a new airport! Cheapest fares were offered by United, American and Delta - all the three! Delta was too early in the morning, narrowing down my choices to United and American. Although they offered identical departure time out of Columbus at identical fares, United seemed to have a lower travel time, plus the fun of being able to fly a CRJ-700 and an ERJ145! Yes, neither of them offered a non-stop to Rochester - both were one stops. I finally opted for United for the different aircraft types, and my final itinerary looked like this:

CMH IAD 1010 1118 UA6155 CRJ700 Optd by Mesa Airlines
IAD ROC 1240 1401 UA4669 ERJ145 Optd by Trans States Airlines

Check-in for my flight began 24 hours before the flight, but the website wouldn't accept my cards for some reason. I had to pay for checking in my bags - I, somehow, felt this was actually backfiring. More people came in with bigger carryons, and they end up having to check-in those bags at the gate for free! Why not offer a free check-in bag with some tight weight restriction instead of making people go around and get it done for free!

April 15, 2017:
I had my alarm going off at 4 in the morning. I had to leave home around 6am, and it was a little over 100 mile to Columbus, from Findlay, where I was put up. It was a lovely drive through US Route 23, with a breakfast stop at Panera Breads, Marion. Awesome Bagels with some equally good coffee to go along - great food there. We got to Columbus Airport by 0830hrs. The airport was quite deserted, and I couldn't find proper signage to get to the United counters. I walked in through the departure gate, and found the United counters around the middle of a long array of counters. The check-in counters weren't manned, and the agents around directed people to the self check-in kiosks instead. Thankfully, my card worked at the kiosk, and I could check-in my bag. An agent assisted with tagging the bag and accepting it for check-in.
Check-in counters at Columbus, OH

Welcome to John Glenn Columbus International Airport!

Security screening, as it appeared to be usual, was a slow process. There was just one scanner and one body-scan booth - it moved slowly and took a good thirty minutes to get past. It was a long walk once past security screening. My flight was to board from Gate #B31, located at the farthest end from the entry to the terminal. John Glenn Columbus International Airport seemed to have a very unique design - there were three concourses - A, B and C. The airport was all spread out, and the gates seemed terribly underused. Being used to the Indian airports where airlines jostle for gates, the gates seem to be dedicated to airlines out in the US. The gates handle only those airlines, and they are pretty much kept unused when the airline doesn't have a flight there. The part of the B concourse that I was in seemed to be used only by United (and their Star Alliance partner, Air Canada).
Waiting area at the fag end of Concourse B

The gate - B31. The aircraft for my flight can be seen waiting on the apron, in the background..

Departure display. Look at the level of information provided, including the aircraft registration!

Come in dear. The Aircraft being marshalled to the gate..

A closer look at N508MJ..

I spent some time clicking the four Embraer 175s that roamed around. There were two from United Express and one each from Delta Connection and American Eagle. The aircraft for my flight was flying in from Washington, and it seemed to be on its finals as I checked FlightRadar24. The aircraft, N508MJ, landed a little past 0900hrs, but had to wait for no less than 10 minutes to be marshalled to the gate, and let passengers of the incoming sector disembark. United Express is an umbrella airline that utilises the services of a lot of smaller airlines, all doing business as United Express. United Express is a regional service brand of United Airlines. My fight was being operated by Mesa Airlines, a Phoenix, Arizona, based regional airline. N508MJ is a Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ) 700ER delivered originally to Freedom Airlines in January 2003, and later changing hands to Mesa Airlines in January 2004.

Date of Journey: April 15, 2017
Airline: MESA Airlines doing business as United Express
Flight No: UA6155 || Seat: 14A
Aircraft type: Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ) 701ER || MSN: 10087 || Regn: N508MJ
Sector: CMH-IAD
STD: 1010hrs, ATD: 1004hrs
STA: 1118hrs, ATA: 1113hrs
All times local.
Segregated boarding at the gate..

Getting on board N508MJ..

Boarding was called at 0944hrs. The usual sequence of pre-boarding, followed by boarding groups 1 and 2, and later the common public in Group 3 happened. At the gate, the agent informed me that my carry-on would be a little too big for the overhead bins and that I had to gate check-in the bag. He put on a tag and handed over a counterfoil, while informing that I should leave it on the jetway just before entering the aircraft. I left my bag among a few other gate checked bags, and walked into the aircraft by 0950hrs. Boarding was completed by 0956hrs. The aisle seat next to me was empty - lending me two seats all for myself. The doors were armed by 1000hrs, and the safety demonstration was conducted. Pushback commenced at 1004hrs. We had a long time before we commenced taxi. The fuselage mounted General Electric CF-34 Turbofan engines came alive a little after we were pushed back. I was quite excited about my first flight on board the CRJ aircraft. We commenced taxi at 1011hrs, and slowly moved towards Runway two eight right. We had a rolling take off, and we lifted off by 1014hrs. We took off straight to the west, did a sharp turnaround, flew over the airport and headed east to Washington Dulles International. We climbed up soon, and the seatbelt sign was turned off by 1029hrs.
The seat pocket contents, my boarding pass, and the gate checked in bag tag.

Entering Runway 28R for takeoff..

As we turn around after taking off from CMH. Notice the airport far away..

Snack mix packets were handed over to all passengers. There was no beverage service - the FA did come around with a tray containing glasses of water. The FAs came around for a quick round of thrash clearance, and they disappeared to the front galley, never to be seen till the seatbelt sign was back on. The aircraft was equipped with United WiFi, and their personal entertainment system, United Private Screening. I tried spending some time on the App, and nothing other than the live tracking actually worked. The seatbelt sign was back on at 1045hrs. The FAs came around to quickly check if all passengers had their seatbelts on, and they disappeared to the galley again. We came out of the cloud cover that we were flying through - we passed over fields, freeways and a river as we lined up for landing. I could see another United Express CRJ giving us some parallel action as well. We finally touched down on Runway 19C at 1107hrs. Soon after landing, the FA announced that we'd be having a fairly long taxi and requested all passengers to remain seated. The taxi wasn't that long, and we docked at Gate D10 by 1113hrs.
Savory Snack Mix - the sole item served on board..

Somewhere enroute..

Being marshalled to D10 at IAD...
While waiting for the gate checked bags to arrive..
Some screenshots from the United app..

Disembarking took a little while. I was out of the aircraft by 1119hrs, and began the long wait to receive my gate checked carry-on. It was very long wait to get the bags. The pilot who flew us in to Washington appeared a little confused about the delay, and personally went to check what was happening. A little later, the bags appeared, and he personally helped the loaders to get the bags to the jetway. I got my bag by 1127hrs, and walked up the jetway to get to the terminal. Once at the terminal - D Concourse, to be specific - I had my task cut to find out where the shuttle for Concourse A departs from, and get on to the shuttle! To be continued..

Ratings:
Check-in: 4/5 (Used the kiosk. Would've been happy to use a manned counter though)
Boarding: 5/5 (Very organised and orderly)
Cleanliness: 5/5 (Very Clean)
Punctuality: 5/5 (Perfectly on time)
Crew: 2/5 (They did their job - but then disappeared after a quick service)
Catering: Irrelevant - its just a glass of water and a snack packet!
Overall: 3/5 (Would be 5/5 for just taking me from CMH to IAD safely. Loses the points for service.)
Flight tracking from FlightRadar24..


Summary:
The first flight on United Express, Third on United group, second domestic flight in the US, first on a CRJ family aircraft and first on the CRJ-700. Thats a lot of firsts I see! I loved my experience flying the CRJ - its a comparitively quieter aircraft, and a better option than the Turboprops, which I absolutely love flying in! While the airline took me from CMH to IAD safely in fair comfort, I really do not appreciate the lack of service on board. Some options for juice would've been great. The crew weren't available in the cabin for most part of the flight - they just vanished after service water, and later clearing the thrash. I would call it a mixed bag - exciting to be on a CRJ, disappointed due to the lack of service. So a "so-so" flight - average at the best. 

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