Widebodyroga From United States of America, joined Sep 2008, 611 posts, RR: 17 Posted (3 years 1 week 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 5811 times:
This is a TR about a trip to San Diego that took place last November.
The purpose of the trip was for my wife and I to attend a scientific conference taking place in San Diego. Our choices out of Chicago were plentiful. Logic would have suggested to fly with DL (in order to pack up the miles on my SkyMiles account) but their prices were steep and their itineraries were either too boring or too complicated (I wouldn't mind the latter; for example an ORD-CVG-MSP-SAN itinerary would have been superb, but I felt sorry for my poor wife). Eventually, I found a deal with UA which would take us directly to SAN from ORD (and thus make my wife happy) but would involve a stopover at LAX on the way back. This made me particularly happy, as I had never been to LAX before, and in addition I was going to experience a short commuter hop (which I love). This segment was also going to break my previous record for shortest flight (EDI-BHD and JTR-ATH being the shortest flights until then).
The flights were to be operated by UA but they were booked through CO's website in early July. I tried to choose our seats through both CO's and UA's online systems but, even though seat allocation seemed to work at first, every time I went back to check, the seats had been defaulted. After 3 or 4 tries, over a number of days, I gave up. I still have no idea why this didn't work.
The day before the flight (exactly 1 minute after on-line check-in had became available) I tried to get our boarding passes but I was met with a surprise when I found out that instead of boarding passes, we were issued a thing called "Departure Management Card". I tried to look it up at United's website but surprisingly no results came up. Then I tried to look it up on google and I was met with a variety of answers ranging from "it's nothing, you'll get your guaranteed boarding card at the gate" to "you have been put on standby so you can only pray to get on the plane". I knew that the truth probably lied somewhere in between but I thought I should call United for clarification. The guy I spoke to on the phone, however, told me to just go to the gate (the DMC allows you to go through security, just like a boarding card does) and that I was going to get a boarding pass there. When I asked him whether we had guaranteed seats, he did not answer directly but told me something along the lines of "a certain percentage of passengers have to be issued DMC for such and such reasons". My inability to understand what he was saying through his thick south asian accent did not allow me to get a full grasp of the situation.
Once at ORD my wife and I headed to a United counter (just in case) in hope that we would perhaps manage to get a boarding pass there. We were concerned that if we were to get our seats at the very last minute at the gate it was very likely that we would be seating separately. Once we reached the check-in desk the guy at the counter said that he could not issue us boarding passes and that we had to be patient and get them at the gate.
We had no luggage to check in so we went ahead and passed through security. Our gate was still largely empty so we sat next to the counter. On a video display above the gate one could see info about our flight and also the names of those under DMC-status, standby status and those waiting for upgrades. 45 mins before scheduled departure no one from United had shown up yet. I decided to leave the gate to buy some food and when I got back I saw my wife talking to one of the United guys who were now at the gate. She managed to get us seats together (bulkhead seats even!) which made us happy.
Our 757 aircraft at ORD
Then, soon before we were about to board, we were announced that we should look at our boarding passes and find a number (1-4) which was to determine not only the order in which we will enter the aircraft but also the number of hand-luggage items we would be allowed to take with us. More specifically those with number 4 (i.e. those boarding last) HAD to surrender their carry-ons, which I thought was ridiculous. I saw people with priority numbers 1, 2 and 3 taking as many as 3 items with them, or sometimes 2 clearly oversize ones, yet I (having been assigned a boarding card with number 4) had to surrender my relatively small carry-on which contained items that I could not separate from. I had bought my ticket 5 months in advance, I was one of the very first to try check in online the day before, yet I end up with a No4 boarding pass and a crappy deal. Not the end of the world, but sure kind of annoying. As everyone here is aware, the decision by most airlines to charge for checked-in luggage has created this new culture of cut-throat passengers who can single-handedly take up huge amounts of space in overhead compartments and thus cause stress and discomfort to all the rest who are considerate and pack according to the rules. I gave my wife some of the important items to put in her bag (she had a No3 boarding pass and could therefore take them with her) and I surrendered my carry on at the gate.
The flight was nothing to write home about, I would not have included it in the TR if it wasn't for the DMC and the peculiar carry-on situation. Snacks and drinks were served shortly after take off and a movie was shown on the overhead monitors but I decided to not watch it. Instead, and due to the lack of a normal-sized window, I spent most of the time reading my book or talking to my wife.
Plenty of room
My tiny window
The overhead monitor
Once at SAN we waited to pick up the luggage that I had to surrender at ORD and then headed out to grab a taxi. We stayed at the Gaslamp District Marriott in the historic Gaslamp area of downtown.
Views from our hotel room:
on one side the PETCO Park, home of the San Diego Padres
and on the other side, the east part of the Gaslamp District
The 5 days at San Diego went by pretty fast. In our time away from the conference (which was taking place at the San Diego Convention Center) we explored the town (Gaslamp, Balboa Park, the harbor) and on one occasion decided to take the boat and go across the bay to Coronado. To go there we used the water taxi that leaves right in front of the Convention Center but on the way back we hoped onto the bigger boat that arrives at W.Braodway street downtown.
Some photos of San Diego and Coronado.
View of downtown from inside the water taxi en-route to Coronado
Downtown as seen from Coronado
Arriving at Coronado
The famous Hotel Del Coronado as seen from the beach
...and from up and close
Inside the boat taking us back to San Diego
An interesting thing about San Diego is the very low final approaches that incoming aircraft have to make over downtown before landing at SAN. Because of this, SAN is often included in the list of the top 10 most challenging airports for pilots alongside the likes of SXM, SBH, TGU and GIB.
A spectacular approach over Balboa Park
Another spectacular low approach over downtown
An interesting aviation-related graffiti next to my seat at a sushi restaurant. It is no doubt inspired by SAN's reputation for low approaches over downtown.
As I mentioned earlier, the return leg involved a short stopover at LAX. My wife and I grabbed a cab and asked the driver to take us to the airport. Just before we were about to get there the taxi driver suddenly asks us whether we were flying to LA or not. When we said yes, the guy took a sharp turn and took us to a building right next to the main terminal, which I was informed was the commuter terminal where all the flights to LA were departing from. The building is rather small and has the feel of a small regional airport.
Once there we headed for the check-in counters where we were issued (yet again) a DMC, even though it was only 2 hours before departure time. I understand that airlines have to take measures such as these in order to deal with overbooked flights but I don't understand the need for DMCs when the passengers are clearly present at the airport and there's only a couple of hours left before departure. In any case, we took our DMCs, passed through security and waited at the gate. 10 mins before departure, our names were finally called and we were issued seats for both the SAN-LAX and the LAX-ORD segment. Unfortunately (and not surprisingly) we were not to seat together for the LAX-ORD flight.
The flight was to be operated by a CRJ-200, which arrived approximately 35 mins before our scheduled departure. Given the small size of the aircraft's overhead compartments, pax had to leave their carry-ons on a large luggage trolley waiting by the side of the aircraft (we had to walk to the aircraft in order to board). Given the small size of my bag, I held on to it as I knew it could fit under my seat. We sat on the right side of the aircraft which upon take-off gave us great views of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Mission Bay, La Jolla and all the coast of SoCal. Within a few minutes we were already above the greater LA area and started the maneuvering that would get us to LAX. This allowed to get a nice (yet smoggy) view of downtown LA and even the Hollywood sign up on the hills. Due to the extremely short duration of the flight, no service was provided.
Looking at the tiny apron in front of the commuter terminal
Our aircraft waiting
Walking up to the aircraft for boarding
Up the stairs
View of the cabin during boarding
Views of Mission Bay during take-off
Downtown LA with Hollywood in the far distance
Landing at LAX:
Our layover at LAX was meant to be only 40mins and this was reduced even further by the slight delay of our arrival from SAN. As a result we had to rush to make it to our gate and I did not manage to shoot any photos. The flight was unremarkable, other than the guy I sat next to. The aircraft was an A319 and therefore had three seats on each side of the isle. I arrived first and sat in the middle seat, while my wife sat a couple of rows behind me. Then, my first seat-mate shows up; a somewhat sleazy guy in his late 40's. As he took his seat, he turned to me and said "Darn, I was hoping I would be sitting next to some hot blonde chic". I laughed and said that I was sorry to disappoint him. Then, a couple of minutes later, my next seat-mate shows up, and sure enough is a young blonde female. So here I am, sitting between the girl and the guy who at frequent intervals would lean over and completely shamelessly check out the girl. Lovely, I thought, but I tried to ignore him. The girl was not even that attractive in my opinion (and no, I'm not saying this because my wife is next to me watching me write this TR) . It made the flight a bit awkward but I focused on my book, which thankfully was interesting enough to distract me from the guy.
It's rare that I would have something to say about a US domestic service and this is no exception, save for the DMC and the carry-on situation. I'm not sure what is the purpose of the DMC (I am suspecting that it is a means of dealing with overbooked flights and/or a precaution for pax with missed connection etc) but it is one of those little things that can make flying more stressful of an experience that it needs to be. As for the carry-on situation, I found it unacceptable to assign pax (in what appeared to be a random fashion) a number, and then expect from those unfortunate enough to get No.4 to give their bags away when at the same time you allow other passengers multiple and oversize items. The airline has to either get stricter and ask from everyone to stick to the rules or go back to the old ways of free checked-in luggage. What I saw in my flight out of ORD was irrational and unacceptable in my opinion.
Thank you so much for reading. Any comments would be greatly appreciated.
FlyingFinn76 From Finland, joined Jun 2009, 1706 posts, RR: 31
Reply 1, posted (3 years 1 week 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 5645 times:
What a great report. Not that much for the flight part (for once!) but for the gorgeous pictures of San Diego! I did a daytrip there back in 2009 - was staying in SFO where the weather was simply put utter crap, but just an hour in the plane and the February weather in SAN was gorgeous! I really love the city, I should go back there sometime. I was planning to go to TJ just to be able to say that I've been to Mexico, but I made the mistake of going to USS Midway, and that took around four hours of my day, so in the end I hadn't enough time. Just walked around the Gaslight district and the marina for the rest of the time... Flew down from SFO with Southwest and back up with Virgin America - my first (and so far only) flights with both carriers and very enjoyable.
Agree with you about the ridiculousness of the DMC and especially the boarding procedures. I think they should just enforce the "1 cabin bag" limit a bit more diligently instead of this madness!
Quoting Widebodyroga (Thread starter): It made the flight a bit awkward but I focused on my book, which thankfully was interesting enough to distract me from the guy.
Did you offer to switch places with him? That would've been a win-win situation, you out of the middle seat, he next to the (allegedly) hot blonde?
AlwaysOnAPlane From United Kingdom, joined Sep 2010, 305 posts, RR: 2
Reply 2, posted (3 years 1 week 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 5547 times:
Lovely to see some amazing pictures of San Diego. I have only spent 4 nights there but that was enough to see this place move into my top spot in the US. After spending a few days/nights previous in LA it was so nice to wind down in such a laid back place. Love the atmosphere in the evening with non of the pretentiousness of LA and the music scene was just perfect for my taste. Add to that the low approaches over the Pacific Highway onto 27 and its a dream (just need to build an In-N-Out there )
Interesting to read about your DMC experience. I was unfamiliar with this also. The last few times i have flown Domestic US i have had *Silver Status so was granted Zone 2 boarding from that. The situation with carry on is just getting crazy out there. I think the Airlines have created a monster in charging for hold bags and to not police the amounts/size of some peoples carry on is just making the situation in the cabin crazy on some flights. I usually travel with a small roller on my trips of +24hrs but have now "downsized" to a messenger bag so i could get that under my seat if the bins are full being that i'm now a non-status pleb.......
Thanks for posting your report and sharing those amazing photos of an amazing city.
rwSEA From Netherlands, joined Jan 2005, 3062 posts, RR: 2
Reply 3, posted (3 years 1 week 4 days 7 hours ago) and read 5230 times:
Interesting report, thanks for sharing.
In my experience you are issued a DMC when all seats in your cabin are assigned. However, with UA this is sometimes a benefit as you will often get E+ seats at the gate. UA won't let you select an E+ seat if Economy is full but E+ still has open seats; they only do it at the gate.
In July 2008, I flew United SFO-LHR and back and had a similar DMC experience. I don't remember trying to choose my seat online, but when I checked in and checked a bag at SFO (also on the return trip at LHR), the agent similarly told me that I'd get my boarding pass/seat assignment at the gate and handed me what I now surmise was a DMC. She told me to present myself to the agents at the podium at the gate to get my boarding pass. So, when the agents showed up about an hour before the flight, I presented myself and they found my name on a list (which had maybe 5 or so names on it) and handed me a boarding pass.
It was the same story on the way back except I got put in UA's Y+. But I've been puzzled about it ever since.
Quoting Widebodyroga (Thread starter): The flights were to be operated by UA but they were booked through CO's website in early July.
Similar to you, my flight was operated by UA but I purchased the tickets through bmi's website. I thought that maybe it had something to do with getting tickets on an airline from another airline. But maybe not.
BOACCunard From United States of America, joined Dec 2009, 846 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (3 years 1 week 3 days 14 hours ago) and read 4566 times:
Quoting Widebodyroga (Thread starter): Then, soon before we were about to board, we were announced that we should look at our boarding passes and find a number (1-4) which was to determine not only the order in which we will enter the aircraft but also the number of hand-luggage items we would be allowed to take with us. More specifically those with number 4 (i.e. those boarding last) HAD to surrender their carry-ons, which I thought was ridiculous.
That is truly bizarre. Is this some kind of standard procedure on UA?
Quoting Widebodyroga (Thread starter): I gave my wife some of the important items to put in her bag (she had a No3 boarding pass and could therefore take them with her) and I surrendered my carry on at the gate.
If you and your wife were seated next to each other why did you have different numbers? If they determined your order of boarding, they sound like boarding zone numbers ... aren't those generally determined by row?
andyinpit From United States of America, joined Sep 2007, 320 posts, RR: 0
Reply 7, posted (3 years 1 week 3 days 1 hour ago) and read 4321 times:
Nice report. Love San Diego and can't wait to go back. How was the Marriott? It's usually my hotel chain of choice because they give great government rates.
As far as your issues with United. The DMC is used for 2 reasons. The first, as you mentioned, being oversold flights. It orders the people on said list by Elite status, fare type, things like that. The 2nd reason is to protect seats in UA's economy plus. As you know it's a paid "upgrade" to a seat with more legroom. This annoyed me when i worked for UA because you would have a full flight, with 40 people on the DM list, and 40 open seats in economy plus. So you would just assign everyone on the DM list a E+ seat.
United issues boarding zones based on seat locations. 1 is reserved for the Elites. 2 is window seats. 3 is middle. 4 is aisle. Over the last few years United has worked very hard to obtain their #1 for on-time performance, and with a full flight, your #1 cause for delay is gate checked bags. So they just started doing what you experienced and made everyone in the last zone (the last to get on the plane) check their bags.
andyinpit From United States of America, joined Sep 2007, 320 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (3 years 1 week 2 days 20 hours ago) and read 4191 times:
Quoting BOACCunard (Reply 8): So on UA all non-elites who are in aisle seats can no longer bring aboard carry-ons?
I guess I should have phrased this better. If the flight is full they use this practice. There's no reason to do it on a 50% full fight. You have to figure with everyone traveling lighter and not checking bags, there's a lot more carry ons.
gabrielchew From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2005, 2963 posts, RR: 12
Reply 10, posted (3 years 1 week 2 days 19 hours ago) and read 4165 times:
That's outrageous that some pax are boarding with 3 bags, and you weren't allowed ANYTHING. I remember my few flights in the USA with US in Dec 09, and despite the gate agents saying that there was a maximum 2(?) bags allowed on, they did NOTHING to stop people from boarding with too many bags. The system is completely broken. If the rules were enforced, I'm sure the majority of pax (and staff) would be a lot happier. Also, it's quite strange that you and your wife had different allowances given you were on the same PNR.
Shame you didn't get a service on the SAN-LAX leg. How long was the flight? I flew TFN-LPA last week (22 mins tarmac to tarmac) and the crew handed out newspapers, a glass of water, a chocolate bar, wet towels and boiled sweets to a full ATR72 - not bad! And TFN-LPA is only 70 miles, compared to your 109. http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=san-lax,tfn-lpa
Your photos of San Diego look really nice - should head over there some day, although maybe not on UA!
Widebodyroga From United States of America, joined Sep 2008, 611 posts, RR: 17
Reply 11, posted (3 years 1 week 1 day 9 hours ago) and read 3882 times:
Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Reply 1): What a great report. Not that much for the flight part (for once!) but for the gorgeous pictures of San Diego! I did a daytrip there back in 2009 - was staying in SFO where the weather was simply put utter crap, but just an hour in the plane and the February weather in SAN was gorgeous! I really love the city, I should go back there sometime. I was planning to go to TJ just to be able to say that I've been to Mexico
Thanks FF! Glad you liked the photos. I really wanted to go to TJ as well, for the exact same reasons, but I didn't know how long it would take us at the border so I opted for the more relaxed hop to Coronado.
Quoting FlyingFinn76 (Reply 1): Did you offer to switch places with him? That would've been a win-win situation, you out of the middle seat, he next to the (allegedly) hot blonde?
It would have been hard to justify such a switch and besides I wouldn't do that to the girl, even though it did cross my mind.
Quoting AlwaysOnAPlane (Reply 2): I have only spent 4 nights there but that was enough to see this place move into my top spot in the US. After spending a few days/nights previous in LA it was so nice to wind down in such a laid back place.
I totally agree. I would put San Diego on my top 2 cities in the US. It felt relaxed, pleasant and easygoing, despite the fact that it was swarmed with 35.000 neuroscientists from all around the world.
Quoting rwSEA (Reply 3): However, with UA this is sometimes a benefit as you will often get E+ seats at the gate.
Indeed. On our way to SAN we got such seats, but not on the way back from LAX.
Quoting Loubert (Reply 4): How long was the flight from SAN to LAX? Did boarding, getting to the runway, getting to the terminal and deplaning take longer than the time in the air?
Pretty much. We were told that the flight itself was 18mins. I didn't time it myself but I thought it was about 20mins at most. Just like you said, this must have been less than the duration we spent on the ground.
Quoting LAXintl (Reply 5): Too bad you did not get a EMB-120 flight. Those not only are more comfortable, but afford even better views.
Maybe next time!
Quoting BOACCunard (Reply 6): If you and your wife were seated next to each other why did you have different numbers? If they determined your order of boarding, they sound like boarding zone numbers ... aren't those generally determined by row?
I was wondering the same thing at the time. But as andyinpit said above, depending on whether you are in a middle or isle seat you may get no3 or no4 respectively, even if you are on the same row.
Quoting andyinpit (Reply 7): How was the Marriott? It's usually my hotel chain of choice because they give great government rates.
The Marriott was actually pretty nice. The room was quite big for its price and the service was nothing to complain about. The location was great too. The bar on the roof is really pleasant. Some colleagues/friends stayed at the other Marriott, by the water, and they liked it too.
Quoting andyinpit (Reply 7): United issues boarding zones based on seat locations. 1 is reserved for the Elites. 2 is window seats. 3 is middle. 4 is aisle. Over the last few years United has worked very hard to obtain their #1 for on-time performance, and with a full flight, your #1 cause for delay is gate checked bags. So they just started doing what you experienced and made everyone in the last zone (the last to get on the plane) check their bags.
Thank you for clarifying this andyinpit.
Quoting gabrielchew (Reply 10): That's outrageous that some pax are boarding with 3 bags, and you weren't allowed ANYTHING. I remember my few flights in the USA with US in Dec 09, and despite the gate agents saying that there was a maximum 2(?) bags allowed on, they did NOTHING to stop people from boarding with too many bags. The system is completely broken. If the rules were enforced, I'm sure the majority of pax (and staff) would be a lot happier
I agree. They need to start enforcing the rules. Because of this lack of consistency, boarding a domestic US flight has become much more stressful than it used to be.
Quoting gabrielchew (Reply 10): Shame you didn't get a service on the SAN-LAX leg. How long was the flight? I flew TFN-LPA last week (22 mins tarmac to tarmac) and the crew handed out newspapers, a glass of water, a chocolate bar, wet towels and boiled sweets to a full ATR72 - not bad! And TFN-LPA is only 70 miles, compared to your 109. http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=san-lax...n-lpa
The flight was no longer that 20 mins. For flights of such duration one should not expect any kind of service in the US but I know that in Europe things are different. The service I enjoyed on a 30-35min hop from JTR to ATH with OA was abysmally more generous than what I got on a 5-6h flight from SEA to HNL with NW. It's very impressive that you got such a generous service (relatively speaking of course) for such a short hop. Was it with Binter?
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