ORD-DTW-CLT on Northwest 18 Sept 2009 by Bruce

With a 4:10 pm departure, I boarded the Clinton Green line at 2:00 pm. This was a mistake. I thought it would take an hour to get out to ORD. Instead, it took 90 minutes and I spent the last 20 minutes biting my nails. It was a stupid miscalculation, but I blame a week of back-to-back 12 hour days and a mediocre hotel too far from the client’s office for my lack of proper brain function. The Chicago Metra is otherwise pretty good for reaching O’Hare (and I am told also MDW) with a dedicated stop at the end of the Blue line (which goes right in to the downtown Loop). When your reach the airport, there are clear signs and departure/arrival displays that point to underground tunnels and moving sidewalks to take you to the appropriate terminal. Chicago is bidding to host the 2016 Olympics as advertised on signs throughout the city and annoying announcements in the airport. I say “good luck” as there is no way these system could take that kind of peak load.

So I arrived at the top of the TSA queue at 3:30 pm with a 4:10 pm departure. A long and poorly executed line for the five X-ray scanners, I picked the line that suddenly was “bag check” after “bag check”, not that it mattered, as I again didn’t take my liquids and gels out of my rollaboard and it was not captured. E13 is the furthest away from the main concourse, so I was fast walking it and arrived just as the inbound pax were being deplaned. ORD does not have any passenger assist slidewalks in the terminal, which is a sign of this airport’s age. NW turned the plane around incredibly quickly and we still achieved an on time departure. All the signage in O’Hare is still NW, inside and out.

My seat was 14A (the more forward of the two exit rows) on this NW painted DC9-50, which is AB on the left and DEF on the right. My seatmate was a similarly large-sized adult, so we were sharing personal space for the 50 minute flight to Detroit. No beverage service in Y.

We arrived in Detroit 4 minutes late (despite what Flightstats says was 15 minutes early) at gate A4 after a long taxi around the perimeter. A4 is at the tip of the terminal. Idiot that I am, I accepted a 35 minute layover and had to fast walk 3/4ths of DTW’s main terminal, taking a moving sidewalk to the tram and then two moving sidewalks to A57, where I arrived out of breath as the main cabin was being boarded. If this had involved a terminal change, I’d have missed the flight. My rollaboard ended up above row 9, while I took my seat 1D in, again, a DC9-50. There was a blanket, pillow and mini-Dasani at each seat, and while pre-departure drinks were not served, the flight attendants did pick up jackets for hanging.

A ten-minute taxi and we took off into the sunset. The drink carts were deployed and I enjoyed a Mile High Mojito, that was hand shaken in the aisle and poured into a real glass. I watched it being prepared – what a hassle for the flight attendant, who has to open two different mini-bottles plus a can! I did tell her that it was “Perfect.” The fully-loaded snack basket was brought around a few minutes later with a good selection of Sun Chips, candy bars, Fishers peanuts and Biscoffs.

Landing at CLT was well after sunset on 18C and we pulled in to gate A7. There was only a cleaning crew in the A terminal. Surprising for 9:00 PM arrival, the food concessions in the B/C area were crowded with people waiting in line and sitting at tables eating. I only saw about 35 or so more departures scheduled on the boards, so I don’t quite know what these people were doing. The arrivals pick-up area was pretty quiet and I was able to get a taxi within a minute or two.

Summary: I get a new line on my @flightmemory map for ORD-DTW. I was at least upgraded one final time for one segment as CO departs SkyTeam. I’m still not a fan of the DC9/MD-90 aircraft model for narrow seats though the forward of the two exit rows is quite leggy. Clean aircraft, competent crews and a great drink. An A for Northwest.

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