Crosswinds21 From Netherlands, joined Jun 2009, 688 posts, RR: 0 Posted (4 years 6 months 1 week 2 days 23 hours ago) and read 9782 times:
This is going to be my first TR as well as my first post on this site. Before I get into the actual trip, let me preface by saying that there is a good chance that this trip (as well as some others I've done) may not have been possible had I not stumbled upon this site a while ago. It's a long story, but reading posts on this site so much led me to eventually take some steps to put me in the position that I am in now (for now): Being able to travel around the world both as a non-rev and as an elite member on AA. So, thank you a.net!
Easter Island is a place that I've been wanting to visit for a very long time. There is something extremely intriguing and mystical about the Moai statues that populate the island; perhaps it's the fact that no one truly knows why/when they were built or how they got there. It is also the most isolated civilization on this planet and, as a result, not easy to get to. The island is part of Chile and is served only by LAN Chile - twice a week from PPT and (I think) daily from SCL.
My trip took place in May, which is not the peak season there. Nevertheless, I have read in many places that the LA flights to IPC are quite often full, if not oversold and thus, I did not want to non-rev and risk getting stuck there. After looking at many options, I finally decided that the best option to use some AA miles to travel via the South Pacific Zone and non-rev on some other airlines the remainder of the way. This TR represents the first part of my journey, which would take me from TUS via LAX and PPT to IPC.
Tucson - Los Angeles
Southwest Airlines Boeing 737
Load Factor - App. 95%
If you live in TUS, even the longest trips must begin with a short flight to get to an international gateway. In order to get to LAX, my two options were to fly WN to UA nonstop. But my only REAL option was to fly WN. Not only do they have more capacity on this route, but they are much easier to deal with in terms of listing for flights and checking in at the airport. I arrived to TUS about two hours before my flight and went straight to the AA counter to purchase my paper non-rev tickets for all the flights/airlines I had listed for, as well as a couple of backup options. Luckily, I arrived in between batches of flights and didn't have to wait very long. The whole process took about 20 minutes and I had all my paper tickets ready to go. I then proceeded to the WN counter to check in, which took no more than 2 minutes and I had my security pass to go through the gate. All of this was standard procedure, as I had non-revved this route several times before and soon, I had my boarding pass with the boarding position B51 (this plane was going to be very close to full). After grabbing a burger and a beer at the bar, it was time to board.
The scene at TUS:
There was a slight delay of the inbound plane and we'd wind up boarding about 15 minute late, but that would be more than made up in-flight. I was one of the last people to board, but was lucky to grab a window seat towards to very back of the plane of the right side.
View out of the window:
We took off towards the southeast and the climb was extremely rough. This isn't anything unusual though, as I've learned from experience. Flying in low altitudes in the desert during the middle of the day in the summer isn't exactly pleasant as the ground gets super-heated and as the heat is given off, it creates all that rough air (or, at least, that's the explanation I've heard). After a quick U-turn, we reached 10,000 feet and the FAs began their usual services of peanuts and beverages.
TUS with DMAFB in the background:
This was a very typical flight and after a LONG flight over the entire inland empire, we finally descended towards LAX and landed towards the west. After disembarking, I made my way over to T3 to catch my AF flight to PPT.
A random shot from the runway:
Los Angeles - Papeete
Air France Boeing 777
Load Factor - App. 75% in Y
AF seldom flies this route - just once or twice a week. I could have taken TN on the same route the following day and have a layover in PPT of only a few hours versus the 20 hours I was slated for with this flight. However, I have never flown AF and I would fly TN later in my journey anyway, so I figured "what the hell." Besides, this would be a very unique route that not many people take. The only problem now was that I arrived in LAX at around 4PM and my flight wasn't until 10:30PM. However, I had no choice as this was a Saturday and there were not as many flights from TUS to LAX. My option was the WN flight that I took, or another flight that wouldn't arrive at LAX until almost 9:30PM; this would have been too risky.
After waiting 15 minutes for the inter-terminal shuttle (I hate that shuttle...I could have walked faster) I made my way to the AF check in at T3. Like most other check in areas of this airport, this one was small, crowded, poorly-lit, and inefficient. The first thing I saw was that there was a line of close to 100 people that have already checked in that had to stand in this other line to drop their checked bags with with TSA. Luckily, the actual check in line wasn't too bad and it took around 15-20 minutes for me to reach the agent. I was about 6 hours early, but (since I had no bags to check) she was kind enough to check me in anyway and give me a security pass so that I could at least spend my 6 hours inside the secure area. After going through TSA and the (typical) obnoxious and rude TSA agents, I was inside this very shoddy terminal. It's quite small and is shared by some random airlines: NW, NZ, KL, AF, HA, and VS are the ones that come to mind. I spent an hour or so just walking around and looking at planes. Then I spent a while doing things such as car rental arrangements and other flight listings that I hadn't had a chance to do. Then I just sat there and read a book. Somehow, the time finally passed and the boarding area for our AF flight started to fill up and it was soon almost 9:30 and boarding time.
One of several AF flights that arrived from CDG (none would be our aircraft):
NW 757 near our gate and VA 777 in the background:
The boarding area was very crowded due to the NW757 departing for DTW in the same area. While the NW plane had a jet bridge right there, we had to be bussed literally all the way to the other side of the airport, where our plane was waiting. Right before boarding started, my name was paged and, after handing in my paper ticket, I was given a boarding pass. At this point, the pax were put onto a bus and driven over to the plane. The ride took about 10 minutes. I typically would enjoy this. However, it was dark and one couldn't really see much anyway. After we were greeted by some very nice and professional FAs, I finally settled into my aisle seat for the 9+ hour flight. The middle seat next to me was empty, which was a huge relief. One interesting thing to point out is that I'm pretty sure I didn't hear a single word of English spoken either in the AF boarding area or on the flight. It seemed as if everyone else on this flight was coming from CDG.
We pushed back exactly at 10:30PM (impressive) and had to taxi all the way to the east to get to the runway. There were no aircraft ahead of us and so the powerful engines immediately blasted us off towards the west into the dark Pacific Ocean night. Shortly after, menus were handed out and about 45-60 minutes later, the FAs came around with meal orders. I can't recall everything that was on the menu but I went with the chicken, which tasted OK. It was served with a standard small salad, fresh bread, and a small cheesecake for dessert. I was offered some wine too, and I tried the white wine. It was pretty good, but I'm becoming less and less of a fan of alcohol these days so after drinking half of the small bottle, I just west with an apple juice to finish the meal. All in all, not too bad.
I then started to doze off for a while. A few hours later I was awoken by some very strong turbulence at around the time that we were crossing the equator. The captain eventually came on and only said "we are entering an area of turbulence...please fasten your seat belts." I'm pretty sure that this was the only announcement from the cockpit during the entire flight, other than telling everyone to prepare for landing. Anyway, this turbulence lasted for a while and didn't subside until we were pretty close to PPT. That was crappy, because I was hoping to get some more sleep. Soon, we started the descent to PPT and smoothly landed about half an hour early.
Upon leaving the plane, this huge force of heat and humidity hit me right in the face. It was surreal! Perhaps I'm saying this because I've lived in the desert lately where we don't get much humidity and everything is air conditioned. Not to worry, I thought, as I'd soon be in the terminal. What a fallacy this thought would turn out to be. Upon walking into the terminal, we were greeting by 3 men dressed in native clothing playing some native music. That was a nice touch. I would see them again later on a future flight through PPT so I'm pretty sure they're there to greet every international flight. After this, the first order of business was for all pax to pass through some heat-seeking device. This was to detect any unusually high body temperatures due to the swine flu - a bit overkill if you ask me, but as I would find out, I would encounter similar things in other countries throughout the rest of this trip. Then, I quickly passed through immigration and customs and was done. Now, here's where the crappy part of my trip began.
I cleared customs after 4 AM and I had around 20 hours to kill until my flight to IPC, which would be departing slightly after midnight. My original plan was to hang out at the airport for a bit, sleep a little, then maybe walk around the island as much as I could and take photos (I had my good camera with me). This was not going to be the case. First of all, the entire airport was so freaking hot and sticky that it was unbearable to me. There was nowhere to sleep other than a couple of flat wood benches. It was probably foolish on my part to assume that there would be air conditioning (after all, I thought, this was a French island in the tropics that gets many wealthy tourists...surely there would be AC?). At first, I tried to doze off on the wood bench, but was unable to do so. Then I went to the bathroom to wash my face...then I went to do the same thing again. Then I just sat there for a while listening to my iPod. Then I grabbed a sandwich at the cafe. Then I tried to doze off some more and did for a little while. Somehow, I made it to 10AM. At that point, I was so hot, that I realized I wouldn't be leaving the airport to go walk around and I figured I'd just try and pass the remaining 12+ hours there by reading and listening to music.
This was not to be. I became really hot and, seemingly, dehydrated. My stomach started to give some negative feedback. I really just needed to lie down in a cool place so I went over across the street to the motel and was told that a room would be $165...great. I wasn't going to pay that and asked if there was anything else in the vicinity available. Luckily, after about 10 minutes, the gentleman told me that someone just left and that I could have their "used" room for around $60 until the late evening. I looked at the room and it was in good shape (with AC) with one of the beds being unused and so I took him up on the $60 offer. It was a good thing that I did, because shortly after I settled in, I got even sicker. Eventually I vomited EVERYTHING, which actually made me feel a lot better. I then ate a little yogurt and drink some ice tea...which I shortly thereafter vomited too. This wasn't looking good at all. I then decided that I'd just head back to the States and postpone the trip as I didn't want to take the chance of being really ill on some island in the middle of the Pacific. Based on the departure board at the airport, I was under the impression that TN had a flight to LAX that evening and so I went to the check in area waiting for the TN counter to open. By around 8PM, it still hadn't opened. After asking around, I found out that the flight was until the next day. Great...how convenient of the airport to post that flight on the departure board for the PREVIOUS DAY.
So now I was in a dilemma...to wait one more day and take the flight to LAX (assuming I could non-rev on it) or just go to IPC right there and then since I already had a confirmed ticket. I decided to go to IPC. My thinking was that if I didn't get better, I'd just try and make my way to SCL from there and then head home on AA. Thus, I went back to the motel, slept some more, and checked out 2 hours before my flight and walked over back tot he terminal.
View from the room (note the TN A340 in the back):
Papeete - Easter Island
LAN Chile Boeing 767
Load Factor - App. 70% in Y
Since this was a confirmed ticket and I have One World Sapphire standing, I went through the business class line to check in, which was a good thing, because the Economy queue was surprisingly long. It took me around 15 minutes to be seen by an agent (even though I was first in line) because there was a couple ahead of me and they were yelling endlessly at the agent that was handling J. I'm not really sure what the issue was but from what I heard, I suspect that it had something to do with seating.
The agent for whatever reason asked me for a copy of my itinerary. I have no idea why because this was an E-ticket and I would think that everything would be visible to him. Fortunately, I did have a printout which I handed to him and after examining it for a long time, he finally handed me a boarding pass. I asked him if there was any way I would get 3 seats in the middle (I REALLY needed this because I was still feeling like crap and I absolutely needed to lie down). Fortunately, there was one such empty row and I had my 3 seats.
Boarding Pass (note the "Preferente"):
I proceeded through security, which was quick and effortless. I didn't have to take off my shoes, remove liquids, or any of that stuff. The departure area was actually surprisingly nice, with big couches and a decent looking bar area. It wasn't long before we boarded.
I immediately sat in the middle of the 3 seats, fastened my seat belt and almost immediately passed out. I half-awoke after we had taken off, lay down on the 3 adjacent seats, and feel asleep. I slept through the snack service and through most of the breakfast. I wasn't going to eat much anyway (didn't want to vomit again). I can't overstate how great it was that I had the 3 seats to myself. When I awoke, I was actually feeling much better and felt like I would walk around without my stomach turning knots again. I had a tray with breakfast placed in front of me. It consisted of a warm omelet, cereal with milk, yogurt, orange juice, and fresh fruit. This was a hell of a breakfast for Y! Now, on any other day, I would have eaten everything without a second though but given the circumstance, I just ate the fruit, drank a little OJ, and went back to sleep. Not too long after, we quickly descended to IPC and made a very nice landing.
Leaving the plane at IPC:
All the pax had to leave the plane and clear customs, even if they were continuing to SCL because the IPC-SCL flight was solely domestic. The wait wasn't very long and soon I had my passport stamp and was on the way to my hostel. One interesting thing to point out is that Chile charges citizens of some countries (USA being one of them) a reciprocity fee to enter the country. I wasn't sure if I'd had to pay it given my routing. Everything I've read indicated that it is only paid if entering the country at SCL. This turned out to be true, and I thus saved myself ~$130.
This concludes my first trip report! Thank you for reading and comments/feedback are always appreciated. I will post the second portion of my trip (IPC to Oz) later on when I get the chance. In the meantime, here are a few photos that I took at IPC (it's a truly amazing place by the way, and I would recommend to everyone to visit it). Feel free to click on the images, which will take you to my Flickr page and you can see more photos there.
Crosswinds21 From Netherlands, joined Jun 2009, 688 posts, RR: 0 Reply 4, posted (4 years 6 months 1 week 2 days 5 hours ago) and read 9065 times:
Thanks guys...I appreciate the remarks about the photos. I'm trying to get into photography more and more now and a big part of going to IPC was the unique photo opportunities there. I'm glad they came out nice!
I'm feeling better by the way. I think it was a good thing that there was no flight back to LAX that day. I'm sure that I would have regretted it had I gone back.
Crosswinds21 From Netherlands, joined Jun 2009, 688 posts, RR: 0 Reply 9, posted (4 years 5 months 4 weeks 1 day 18 hours ago) and read 7704 times:
Quoting DAL763ER (Reply 8): Great report and AWESOME AWESOME pics!!! What camera do you have? I am thinking of buying a DSLR but don't know what model is best.
Can't wait to read the other parts.
Actually all these (well, the Easter Island ones anyway) were taken with a Nikon D40, which is probably one of the most entry level DSLRs out there. However, I shoot in RAW, use a sturdy tripod, sometimes take the same shot several times a different exposures, and then process with Photomatix and/or Photoshop. I think the key is the Photomatix part...I think the results are striking.
Now that I know a little more about photography (I knew next to nothing when I bought this camera) I now know the features that it is missing and can more appreciate what the better cameras have. However, the key for me is that it has the ability to shoot in RAW format, which I can then process to get the photo to look (in my opinion) as close as possible to what I actually saw with my own eyes when taking the photo.
You were actually in T2. T3 used to be even worse, but now that Virgin America and V Australia are there, it is MUCH better. Still though, LAX is pretty much a dump overall. T4 is supposedly the nicest terminal, and that is certainly saying something!
Crosswinds21 From Netherlands, joined Jun 2009, 688 posts, RR: 0 Reply 14, posted (4 years 5 months 2 weeks 5 days 22 hours ago) and read 6765 times:
Quoting Cytz_pilot (Reply 13): Aha! I was going to ask you if that first shot of the crater was a generated HDR shot. I just started playing with the Photomatix plug-in a few days ago and wow...you can sure create some cool stuff!
I'm trying to get better with HDR and it should be noted that not all of my photos from this trip are HDR. In fact, out of the ones that are, I'm probably least satisfied (relatively speaking) with the crater shot because in retrospect, it could have been done better. When I now shoot, I still try to optimize the camera settings as best as I can and the key for me is to have the ultimate photo wind up looking as close as possible to the way I saw the real thing when I was there. In many cases, this is impossible to do unless HDR is used because of the high range of lighting in the scene (the crater is a good example because it was sunny yet overcast at the same time and the reflections in the little lakes very greatly in contrast).
Quoting AlexEU (Reply 12): How come domestic and international flight departed from the same area?
This isn't unusual for airports in the US. I'm not sure why they have DTW and PPT departing from the same area but my guess is because LAX is very crowded and there isn't much room for anything.
Quoting SurfandSnow (Reply 10): Interesting. I would have guessed that you would mostly have American pax on this sector. I guess more French people make it down to their far-flung territory than I thought.
That's what I would have thought too. But the again, AF only flies this route once or twice a week (TN flies it once a week) so maybe it's not that surprising now that I think about it given that people have to commute between PPT and CDG somehow and there aren't that many flights.
Quoting SurfandSnow (Reply 10): Ah. You need only visit the likes of Florida New Orleans, or Houston in the summer, my friend.
Ah yes...been there, done that. It's expected when you go to LA, AL, or MS in the summer but this was SUPPOSED to be winter in the southern hemisphere and it certainly didn't feel like it!
Cytz_pilot From United States of America, joined Dec 1999, 565 posts, RR: 1 Reply 15, posted (4 years 5 months 2 weeks 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 6715 times:
Quoting Crosswinds21 (Reply 14): In many cases, this is impossible to do unless HDR is used because of the high range of lighting in the scene (the crater is a good example because it was sunny yet overcast at the same time and the reflections in the little lakes very greatly in contrast).
The coolest part is that while HDR techniques were developed as a way of allowing cameras to capture images in the same range of tones that the human eye does, the final results always end up looking very dramatic and eerily surreal. Sorry you weren't too satisfied with the crater shot, I think it's spectacular!
Now with HDR, I think us photographers can't hide behind the excuse that it's a crappy photo day any more. Keep up the good work!!!!!
AlexEU From Serbia, joined Oct 2007, 1797 posts, RR: 2 Reply 17, posted (4 years 5 months 2 weeks 5 days 3 hours ago) and read 6533 times:
Quoting Crosswinds21 (Reply 14): This isn't unusual for airports in the US. I'm not sure why they have DTW and PPT departing from the same area but my guess is because LAX is very crowded and there isn't much room for anything.