Friday, September 7, 2012

14 Hour Layover in London and 6 Hours in Moline, IL

As the final part of my trip, I scheduled a 14 hour layover in London (stops less than 24 hours don’t count as your free stopover), 2 hour stop at O’Hare, and a 32 minute layover in Moline, IL (MLI).  The London layover was great because I could leave the airport, see a friend, and enjoy London just before the Olympic games started.  The Moline layover was the only way to fly to Denver.  It wasn’t the same aircraft for both segments, so there was a serious chance I would miss my connection (I’ve flown tight connections before on the same plane, making it impossible to miss your next flight).
Olympics Greater
London was great! After reading The Economist, I was expecting long lines at every point in the airport. There was no line at customs and LHR was packed with friendly volunteers to point you on your way. 
What is it?
London was putting on their best for the world.  Everything was lit up, there was a large public art display, and most people were exceptionally friendly.  I really enjoyed walking along the river at night.  There was some much happening, great places to eat, and brilliant sights.  There were also dozens of the Olympic statues painted in different ways scattered about town.  The mascot was ugly, but some artists did great work despite the handicap.
Sunset by Arsenal's Emirates Stadium
Lottery Fund Public Art
The blue Tube line doesn’t run 24 hours, so don’t plan on taking the Tube for a very early departure. We decided to play it safe and take a cab; all the horrors of LHR were supposedly in full effect and a minimum of 2 hours was needed. The check in and security line the next morning was miniscule.  We made it from to cab to the Star Alliance lounge (showers, wifi, and a decent breakfast spread) in less than 20 minutes.  This might be the first time The Economist was wrong. I doubt the speedy LHR experience or The Economist being wrong will be repeated soon.
Star Alliance Lounge at LHR
The flight from LHR to ORD on a United Airlines 767 was pleasant.  We booked (yes, my friend still wanted to sit next to me after a week of travelling together) the second exit row on the plane and had plenty of space.  Breakfast was a tasty waffle (adding a pound of sugar to it helped) and I settled in attempting to watch a movie and fall asleep.  Neither activity went well.  After a quick sandwich before landing, we were at O’Hare.  My friend was heading into Chicago and we parted ways.  
Seat 21A on a United Airlines 767 from London
United Airlines Coach 767 Breakfast From London
I saw a departures board and it seemed like every United Express flight was delayed.  I went to the United Club to get some help going to Denver, but a direct flight was cancelled and there were no seats through connection points.  I was left to cross my fingers that my ORD-MLI would arrive in time to catch the MLI-DEN flight.  I missed it by 15 minutes.  After 6 hours of killing time (free wifi, walking the terminal, starting a fire, etc.) the last flight out started boarding and I was heading home. A fast trip that felt interminable at times had come to a close.
Empty Terminal at Moline, IL
My E170 to Denver

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