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dulles to paris on united: any bad experiences?

I'm a fearful flyer and have just booked a flight from Dulles to CDG for next summer on United using our air miles. I know that Chicago is usually United's hub for flights to Paris and I'm wondering/worried if anyone has ever had the experience of having their non-stop flight from Dulles to CDG re-routed from Dulles to Chicago to Paris? I really don't think that I would survive that kind of itinerary, even with Ativan. Many thanks, Adrienne

Posted by
1356 posts

I think you are being overly fearful. This situation would apply to almost any airline that has multiple hubs. If something goes wrong with your flight = say it gets canceled, then you normally end up with 2-3 choices. 1) get a later flight that day providing there are seats available 2) get moved to the next day or 3) get rerouted

Your scenario has a very small probability of happening - however, mechanicals, crew scheduling, weather can all impact a flight. In the rare instance you get caught up in it, you may have to decide whether you are willing to give up a day or two or vacation rather than get rerouted.

Posted by
3580 posts

If I have to make a connection in the US on my way to CDG, I prefer making it at Dulles. I went that way a few years ago and the trip went smoothly. At that time, the two gates I used at Dulles were fairly close together, so there was very little travel thru the airport to make my connection. I returned thru Chicago on that same trip and found that airport to be larger and more of a challenge--interesting tho. If your flight should be diverted to Chicago, it would be for a good reason (such as weather) and you probably would appreciate the concern for safety. Air travel is sometimes uncertain, because of weather or mechanical difficulties, but very safe. I have found that the more I fly the less anxious I am.

Posted by
9794 posts

Dulles is a major hub for United and it has a few daily flights to Europe from there. I'd rather go through Dulles than O'hare.

Posted by
4546 posts

Dulles is one of United's hubs. They have many international flights including at least 3 daily non-stop flights to London and other non-stops to Paris, Rome, Brussels, Amsterdam, Geneva, Munich, Frankfurt, etc.

I almost always fly from Dulles to Europe on United. I have never been rerouted by United. I can't imagine being rerouted through Chicago. In the last 20 years, I have only been rerouted one-time flying out of Dulles. I was scheduled for an Austrian Air flight which was cancelled due to equipment problems. Austrian put me on a United flight via London that same evening.

Posted by
843 posts

Given that I live in DC, all of my international flights have been out of Dulles, and the last two to London and Paris have been United. Barring some major and highly rare situation, your flight will not end up in Chicago. I actually cannot think of any reason why they would send a flight full of passengers to Chicago to then cross the pond. As previously stated, United maintains its East Coast hub at Dulles and handles 62% of passengers at the airport, so I think you are in good shape. Have fun on your trip!

Posted by
220 posts

Many thanks, everyone. I feel a lot more reassured that the chances of being re-routed to Chicago is very slim. I think I became concerned when I saw it listed as one of the itineraries to choose from on the United Mileage plus website: Dulles to O'Hare to CDG. It made me wonder if that routing would become a possibility as a cost cutting measure if the non-stop flight from Dulles to CDG wasn't fully booked. New mantra: keep it simple. Grazie mille.

Posted by
6 posts

I assume you are connecting in Dulles to your Paris flight? If not, and you are initiating your flight from IAD, you may want to allow about 30 minutes extra to get from the main terminal to the midfield terminal, where your international UA flight will depart from. UA's site has links to maps of IAD and general recommendations. (If you are connecting from SFO, you should have no problems.) While I think the possibility of being routed to Chicago is very very slim, the last time a friend of mine flew through Chicago via United, they had no problems at all connecting there. Have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
21200 posts

We did that route a few years ago with no problem. Personally I try to avoid Dulles if at all possible simply because of the additional security hoops that they put you through. But the flight itself will be fine and something extremely unusual would have to happen for United to route through Chicago. United would be back tracking two or three hours to get to Chicago from Washington.

Posted by
281 posts

Although I have never flown IAD to CDG, several non-stop flights between Europe and IAD I was on have now been removed from the schedule. This required routing through JFK to get back to the DC area.

In todays environment, the schedule could change anytime by adding a connect or removing a connection.

Just periodically check your schedule and try to worry too much.

Edwin

Posted by
220 posts

Thanks for all the advice. I'll be flying in from SFO a few days before the long flight to Paris. The layover will give me a chance to rest and relax a bit, get a glimpse of the White House and maybe even go and see Julia Child's kitchen at the Smithsonian. I'll get to Dulles early, be prepared for some serious security hoop-jumping and try not to think too much! :)

Posted by
4546 posts

What additional security hoops are people referring to? I have not found Dulles to be any more challenging security wise than any other airport.

Posted by
6 posts

I agree that the security at Dulles is not any more stringent than any other international airport I have flown through since 9/11. The UA/TSA link recommends allowing extra time during peak times (this flight departs 5:30ish PM) I like to allow extra time because of the motorized trams connecting the main terminal to the midfield terminals. Other than that, I find Dulles fairly easy to navigate.

Adrienne, enjoy your visits to DC and Paris. You may want to visit the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum (Udvar-Hazy)near Dulles if you have time. Allow at least 3 hours to do it justice.

Posted by
220 posts

Thanks for the advice. I'll be sure to get to Dulles early and be prepared for anything. I too have heard that the Air and Space Museum is terrific. I'll see how I do on the flight over from San Francisco first! Grazie.

Posted by
21200 posts

It is the flying into Dulles that has the additional security hoops or at least it used to. Since I have made a point of avoiding Dulles over the past few years, it may have changed. But when I have previously flown into Dulles we went thought a separate and more detailed screening at the boarding area and the boarding was physically separated and secured. In Frankfort there was actually a chain link fence around the boarding area. Once inside you were not permitted to leave and if you left to use the restroom (only permitted activity) you had to be rescreened prior to reentering the board area. The same thing, minus the chain link fence, occurs in the Denver airport when traveling to Dulles.

Posted by
4546 posts

Frank,

You are correct that there used to be special screenings for flights to DC airports, but these no longer routinely happen.

When I flew for business in the year or so after 9/11, at some airports we used to have to leave the gate area for a security sweep before boarding and then re-enter. At other airports we were physically segregated. I have not had this happen at a U.S. airport for a flight into either National or Dulles in the last several years. They used to also make an announcement about staying in your seat with seatbelt fastened for the last 30 minutes of the flight. They no longer make this announcement (although it does sometimes seem like the seatbelt sign comes on early on my flights back home).

I am currently fly into National at least 2-3 times a month and into Dulles 3-4 times a year; nothing different is happening with regards to security.

From Europe, I usually fly back from Heathrow and I have always gone through a second check of passport at the gate. I had assumed that was for all flights to the U.S. but perhaps I am wrong. I've sometimes gone through secondary security checks at Heathrow for intra-European flights (e.g. my last flight from London to Milan we had a second baggage screening at the gate) so I just assumed that was specific to Heathrow.

Posted by
21200 posts

That is good to know especially since we have avoid Dulles like it had the plague. On our last trip through Dulles from Frankfurt, my wife was taken to a small room and stripped to her underwear because she was wearing a money belt. Cannot be too careful with 60 year old school librarian.

Posted by
220 posts

Oh dear. I'm a 60-year-old school teacher. What, do we look like know-it-alls? I'll be sure to skip the tell-tale money belt and stick to the Timbuk2 shoulder bag like the ones that my husband and daughter both used on their trip to Rome last summer. Ativan works wonders for the claustrophobia but I don't think it will be effective in diminishing the stress of being singled out by security at the airport.

I'm really glad that details about the airport experience from a major international hub like Dulles are being shared. I haven't flown in 4 years since a family reunion in Hawaii so all of this info is preparing me to get into a better frame of mind about flying across the big pond. Many thanks.

Posted by
21200 posts

Adrienne, I would not worry too much about it. Most of the "security" is for show only. If you get singled out, just think of yourself as part of the act. They want you to think they are doing a terrific job of protecting you from other teachers. While my wife was being stripped searched, I was taken aside (after all we were together) and the three loose credit cards in my shirt pocket were carefully examined under a strong light by dragging a piece of paper across all edges to see,I assume, if the edges had been sharpened. Only James Bond could use a credit card as a weapon.

Posted by
220 posts

Frank, what a great story. Honestly, if I get pulled over for a security check at Dulles, it's going to take a lot of personal restraint to keep from laughing. I hope that doesn't get me into even more trouble. James Bond, indeed. Thank you for helping me get my mind around the fear of flying experience, which always begins at the airport.

Posted by
9794 posts

TSA does not want you to have anything on your person except your clothes. No money belts, no credit cards, no wallets, no nothing.

If you do, you make their job harder. And they don't like that. They will retaliate. Strip searches, being sent into the virtual strip machine, going through every item in your suitcase slow enough to make you miss your flight, grope you all over, and so on.

TSA makes up their own rules and doesn't really care what you think. You can complain left and right, and all you'll hear from them is....we're protecting the country.

So, if you want to have an easy TSA experience, have nothing on your person but your basic clothes. No metal, no keys, no wallets,no cards, no money belts, nothing. Put all of that in your carry on luggage and keep your eyes on it. They usually wont' give you a hard time if you let them know you've lost sight of your bag--but say it nicely.

People here think I'm kidding, but I'm not. TSA breaks the law daily and no one in power says anything.

Posted by
2193 posts

Frank II is spot on…just go with the ridiculous flow. And, don’t complain, question, or do anything to ruffle up the TSA worker’s collective feathers…you may end up missing your flight altogether. Better stated, the TSA may end up ensuring you miss your flight. I have to share this somewhat related story, because it’s so gosh darn funny. A co-worker and frequent business traveler friend of mine was actually arrested at MCI for inadvertently packing a letter opener (yeah…I didn’t know anyone still used those either…turned out it was a company logo giveaway thing) in his briefcase. TSA kept referring to it as a steak knife. Anyway, the airport police arrested him and held him in the “clink” at the airport several hours for questioning (didn’t even know airports had lock-up facilities). They eventually released him that night without charge, but it took months to determine that charges weren’t going to be filed. He missed his flight by hours. And, he never got the steak knife back. This poor guy never heard the end of it…all the way up to the Sr. VP…we had a lot of fun with it.