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    Second Trip To DC in a Month
    My second trip to D.C. this month was last Thursday, when I flew United Airlines from Los Angeles to Dulles Airport. Here are some of my observations and tips from that trip.

    -When the ticket was booked for me a week before the trip, I immediately went to assign myself a seat, but everything was taken except the dreaded middle (FYI: The plane was a 757 aircraft, so the configuration is 3x3). Here's how I was able to get a better seat: every day for seven days I kept logging on to until an aisle seat opened up. One eventually did become available, as it almost always does--those with high frequent flier status tend to get upgraded, and their plush economy seat opens up.

    -I have Premier status (which means I fly at least 25,000 actual air miles on United or its partners), their lowest elite level, so I don't have a lot of pull, but I was able to get a seat in Premium Economy (5 extra inches of legroom) for free.

    -Security at LAX's Terminal 7 (T7) on Thursday at 11 a.m. took me 15 minutes in the Premier line. The regular line took about double.

    -Inside T7 was packed with summer travelers but there weren't long lines at La Brea Bakery or Baja Fresh (my two favorite places to eat in the United terminal).

    -I grabbed a tasty but expensive mozzarella sandwich with pesto and roasted peppers from La Brea Bakery for $9.98 (with tax).

    -Boarding was pretty chaotic--everyone was hovering around the gate (airline workers call these people gate lice)--and since I was one of the first economy passengers on the plane I saw 99.9 percent of the people boarding. Most of them were clueless, banging into me with their bags and taking their time in the aisle. We ended up being delayed 20 minutes thanks to the slow pokes who can't stow bags quickly, and we missed our departure slot.

    - Before takeoff I told the flight attendant (FA) that the window casing on the Emergency Exit door wasn't looking too good since it was sticking out. He said, I know but it's OK. I felt uncomfortable until a follower of mine (@Sluggoaafa) on Twitter replied with a better answer: "That part of window does nothing anyway, it's just velcro'd to interior of door frame."

    -United doesn't have Internet (except on their P.S. flights to and from LAX/SFO and JFK), so the only entertainment were some audio channels and the dated overhead monitors playing shows and a movie.

    -One thing United has that the others don't is Channel 8. They allow passengers to listen to air traffic control, so I knew exactly when we were taking off and landing as well as our speeds and altitude. I didn't know air traffic tells planes to slow their speed to 170 mph on the final descent, did you?

    -Flight time was 4 hours and 35 minutes.


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