A few days ago (April 11, 2014), I traveled back to Boston Logan (BOS) from Denver International Airport (DEN) after two successful weeks with my product team in Denver. Besides spending time in Denver, I escaped to Colorado Springs for the weekend to attend the Broadmoor Jazz Festival, hosted by legendary guitarist Earl Klugh. So you could say it was a “bleisure” trip.
I bought my tickets in mid-March, about 3 weeks before flying, for around $450. I booked through our corporate travel booking tool, which is not known for getting particularly good deals or convenient flight times (this one was just barely in policy). Of course I knew that I wanted to get a non-stop to and from Denver International Airport, and United offered the most convenient flights times, with an arriving flight in Denver on a Wednesday night, April 2, departing Boston at 4PM (Flight UA 5930, and this return leg Friday morning at 10:02AM, April 11. I like these flight times because I’m able to put in nearly a full day of work going, and can work on the plane coming back, returning to Boston in time for Friday night festivities.
This is my second time now flying this exact route from Boston Logan to Denver International Airport. The other factor for choosing United was of course the frequent flyer program. With 80,000 miles built up (and over 1,000,000 United miles flown and redeemed) I’m hoping to get my mileage balance up again to get back my premier status this year and redeem award mileage to somewhere cool (or warm). Little trips of 1,749 miles each way times two start to add up – I clocked a total of 3,498 miles for this round-trip. Nothing will compared to the days past where I was a Global Services member on United and was actually greeted by name each time I boarded.
I also chose this flight knowing that wi-fi would be offered on the return flight, such that I’d be able to put in a productive work day. The in-flight entertainment screens are a nice touch, too, if you didn’t bring your own laptop to keep you entertained, or if you’re traveling with kids (to keep them entertained).
Denver International Airport, Check-In, and Boarding
It’s easy to forget how far out of the way everything at Denver International Airport is (and how far out of the way the airport is itself from the city). It look about an hour for me to cruise the typical 30 minute distance from Centennial (where I stayed again at the Embassy Suites Denver Tech Center) to the Denver International Airport, which is located quite a ways out East from civilization in any case, due to construction and heavy traffic on I-25 and I-225. This ate in to my normally leisurely airport visits, where I typically allow ample time to explore, shop, and dine. Not this time Denver International Airport – I was cutting it close.
I had also forgotten about the exceedingly long shuttle ride from the rental car lots, which are similarly out in the boondocks, away from the main terminal buildings of Denver International Airport – this whole process shaved off another 20 minutes. I checked-in curbside to not only save time but also energy. Since I’m in my final days on crutches (and this time with a scooter) it was impossible enough maneuvering by heavy backpack with laptop, plus carry-on sized roller suitcase, plus my crutches, PLUS my mini knee walker scooter from the rental car shuttle area to the curb (several hundred feet away) – not to mention having to get them all inside as I had to do last time I traveled. I learned my lesson from last time and curb-checked both my suitcase AND my crutches so that I could manage totally independently on the inside with my backpack and knee walker. I had purchased the bag check for $25 in advance on United’s website, which also saved some time, and of course tipped the attendants.
While I typically like the look and feel of the spacious Denver International Airport, I must say that it is not easy to maneuver for a disabled person because everything is just so spread out. When every step takes effort, you are certainly less inclined to go out of your way to explore Denver International Airport and enjoy your time there. You are far more likely to go straight to your gate, and wait for your flight to board while you recover from the long-haul journey from your rental car drop-off to your gate (especially when you’re unassisted). No matter what, you still obviously have to take a detour through security. Luckily I’m TSA Pre-Check (which is not only a time saver but an *effort* saver if you’re disabled), but I still had to get the whole pat-down rub-down since my ankle boot is solid metal. There’s really no way around that unfortunately – this process took another 15 minutes – had I not had the pre-check, it would have taken around 45 minutes because the lines were fairly long.
Then I had to get to Terminal B, by using the Denver International Airport train. Usually this isn’t a big deal, but again, when you’re disabled trying to balance and maneuver your stuff and yourself in a moving vehicle isn’t the most fun. It was also quite busy so I had to wait for a few trains to go by just so that I could get on and get a seat. Another 15 minutes down the tubes. At least Denver International Airport beats having to take a people-mover style bus like they used to have at Washington Dulles (IAD).
Since I’m the CEO of tripchi, I forced myself to peruse the shopping and dining options. When finally arriving at B, the next obstacle was figuring out which floor to get off at in the elevator, since the shopping and dining is spread across two levels in this airport, very much like a mall. I stepped off at Floor 2, then scooted myself to the directory which was quite far from the elevator, only to find that my intended target (I had a hankering for a fruit smoothie since I skipped breakfast), was in the mezzanine level, one flight up. Boy, I wish I had an app to tell me where the Jamba Juice was off the bat so I didn’t have to waste so much time and energy locating what I wanted! Note to the Denver International Airport – put your Directory information by the elevator also!
After finding Jamba Juice, ordering, and getting my smoothie to-go, I again had to engage the elevator to go down to the gate level, and then had to scoot to my gate, B32. Luckily it was located only a few gates from the central area.
I immediately went up to the United gate agent and told her I would need to gate check my knee walker scooter, and also notify her that I would need some extra time boarding. She tagged my scooter and thanked me for coming up in advance to get everything situated. Here’s me enjoying my final moments of my smoothie prior to boarding, while reposing my foot on my knee walker scooter:
Boarding began momentarily (I barely had time to finish my smoothie) since my timing was so tight, and I was able to go on first. The hardest part was hopping with my heavy backpack from the end of the gate where I checked my knee walker to my seat, which was towards the back (23A). The flight attendants were cordial and helpful, but not overly so.
The flight was largely uneventful, and I will follow-up this post with a detailed review of the flight itself, including airplane features of this Boeing 737-800, such as wi-fi and personal in-flight entertainment.
Arrival Airport (Boston Logan)
Coming in to Boston Logan Terminal A and finding baggage claim was a little confusing and quite a long distance. Also, since all of the United flights were relegated to one baggage claim belt (A2), it was quite crowded and took about 30 minutes for the bags to arrive, since other flights had to be serviced first. My crutches had to be picked up separately at the Oversized Luggage counter nearby. During my wait, I went to Au Bon Pain to pick up a salad since I slept through the beverage and meal service in-flight.
I noticed some awesome airport art near the Au Bon Pain, next to the elevators. Gorgeous! This is part of Boston Logan’s Public Art Program – you can learn more next time you’re at the airport. These are just the types of exhibits that you would normally miss if you didn’t have the tripchi app. Be sure to sign up for our Beta which launches soon in Boston Logan as well as several other airports.
A good Samaritan offered to grab my roller bag from the luggage belt for me and luckily I was able to find an available airport employee to help me with my bags out to a taxi.
And, all in all, that’s the story of my two trips now with a useless foot – I wouldn’t have survived in the world, much less at the airport, without depending on the kindness of strangers.