Another Thanksgiving trek to Medford, Oregon. These were also my first
flights after 9/11.
SAN = San Diego, California
SFO = San Francisco, California
MFR = Medford, Oregon
UA = United Airlines
Thursday, November 22
UA 930 SAN-SFO 737-322 N306UA seat 15F
Found parking about 2.5 hours before the flight was scheduled to leave,
and then took the shuttle from the parking lot to the airport. When I
got off, I saw that there were available agents at curbside for checking
bags, so I walked right up to one and checked my suitcase. I then went
inside and saw a rather long line for United, and several self check in
machines that nobody was using. Since I had an electronic ticket I
could use them, so I walked up to one and checked myself in. Very easy
to do. It printed my boarding passes out for both flights and I headed
over to the line for the security checkpoint. It took about 15 minutes
to get through. I didn't have any problems, and they had a sign out
saying that laptop computers (I had mine with me) had to be put though
the x-ray machine outside of their cases, so I did. No problems. At
security my boarding pass and ID were checked.
Since I had given myself plenty of time, I had a long wait at gate 11.
I had been hoping to get a photo of the Hawaiian 767 as it taxied past,
but there was a DC-10-30 (N68060) there that morning instead of a 767.
Eventually boarding started. Some people had a special mark printed on
their boarding pass, they were the ones who were pulled aside and had
their bags searched. I wasn't one of them, and at the door to the gate
my ID was checked and my boarding pass fed through United's boarding
machine. The aircraft was in regular United Airlines colors and titles
and was the only one of the four I was on that had an Economy Plus
The flight was mostly full but there were a few empty seats, including
the middle seat next to me. We pushed back at 10:14pm, one minute ahead
of schedule. We departed San Diego on runway 27. Channel 9 (air
traffic control) was turned on so of course I listened to that. In
flight service consisted of our choice of beverage. The flight touched
down on SFO's runway 28L at 11:36am, three minutes ahead of schedule,
followed by taxi to gate 73A. During the taxi to the gate, the "Thank
you for flying with us" announcement was the only time Star Alliance was
mentioned during the entire flight. They also noted that for passengers
continuing on flight 930 to London, there was going to be an aircraft
While in SFO I did the only aviation photography I was able to on the
trip, without hassle. Notable aircraft I shot included: SkyWest/United
Express CRJ-200 N908SW, Vanguard MD-87 N132NJ, Asiana 747-48E (M)
HL7417, Air China 747-4J6 (M) B-2458, Singapore A340-313 (X) 9V-SJJ,
Lufthansa 747-430 (M) D-ABTE, and EVA Air 747-45E (M) B-16407. During
my layover I also grabbed a bagel for lunch; didn't want a lot since
this was Thanksgiving Day after all (for those who aren't familiar,
Thanksgiving Dinner generally involves eating too much). Even though I
was standing near where the gate-side security screenings were being
done for a departing flight, I wasn't hassled or questioned at all.
When a couple of National Guard troops showed up, I quietly put my
camera back in my backpack, and nothing interesting came by anyway.
In SFO I came to the realization that flying now was much more pleasant
than in the past. SFO was much less chaotic than in the past, and
despite the relatively small Terminal 1 in SAN it wasn't nearly as
crowded. Not having extra people around really does make a difference.
UA 342 SFO-MFR 737-522 N939UA seat 14A
Eventually I headed over to gate 77, where my flight to Medford was to
depart from. This aircraft wore the grey-top Shuttle by United colors
with script titles. Boarding was as in San Diego, with designated
passengers pulled aside to have their bags checked and be patted down.
We were all on board, ready to go... and nothing happened. The captain
announced that mechanics had just had a shift change so they were
running a little behind. We also ended up waiting for a couple of late
Ultimately we pushed back at 2:49pm, 14 minutes behind schedule and just
avoiding becoming another statistic (according to my watch anyway).
Once again Channel 9 was on. This flight had many empty seats, and the
flight attendants invited passengers to change seats if they liked. The
middle and aisle seats next to me were already empty, so I saw no
pressing reason to move. On our taxi out to 1R we were followed by
another United 737-500 heading to 1L, and our takeoffs were almost but
not quite simultaneous. 1R starts a bit behind 1L, and as we rolled
past the other jet they started their takeoff roll. Inflight service
consisted of our choice of beverage again, only this time with a small
package of a "Ranch flavored snack with Almonds". It consisted of
pretzels, almonds, and little triangles with a hint of ranch flavor on
them. It smelled better than it tasted. We flew our approach to
Medford and touched down on runway 32 at 4:04pm, 9 minutes behind
schedule. We taxied to gate 1 (the only jetway at MFR), and during this
I noticed what looked like a Curtis Commando was parked at MFR along
with the Stratocruiser-type aircraft that I'd seen there before. No
mention of Star Alliance was made at any time during the flight.
I got off the airplane, met my relatives, claimed my suitcase, and
left. There was nobody matching claim tags to suitcases.
Saturday, November 24
Time to head back to San Diego. When I woke up in Ashland (about 15
miles south of MFR) it was lightly snowing. Throughout the morning I
called United to verify that my flight was still going, it was though
there was a weather advisory out for SFO, none for MFR. At about 2:00pm
we headed out, still lightly snowing. By the time we got to the freeway
it was changing to rain.
The Medford terminal was a mess. The line for United was stretched back
next to where Horizon's line was supposed to start, and moved slowly.
As we got closer we discovered that people had started two lines that
merged right before you went to the ticket counter. Eventually I got
through and checked my bag. I stopped off at the restroom, since at
Medford there is none in the boarding lounge; you have to go back out
past security to get to it. I said goodbye to my grandfather who had
taken me to the airport, and went through security. They had no
indication that laptops were supposed to be removed from their cases, so
they had to put it through the x-ray machine again. They also opened my
backpack to confirm that I had a camera in there.
While I was waiting I had hoped to get a photo of the Horizon CRJ-700
that had started service on a Portland-Medford-Los Angeles route, but
there was a Dash 8 in need of repair in the way, not to mention poor
weather as it was still raining. It was a rather bad situation at
Medford: United Express had cancelled a couple of their flights,
another was having a mechanical problem and they didn't know when or if
it would leave, and the afore-mentioned Horizon Dash 8 was in need of a
quick repair, however they couldn't get it fixed until a mechanic
arrived on their 5:30pm arrival from Portland; departure of the delayed
flight was to be 3:00pm.
UA 1763 MFR-SFO 737-522 N920UA seat 14F
My aircraft arrived a bit late, around 4:10pm. It had the same grey-top
with script Shuttle by United titles as the previous 737-522 did, and
the final one would as well. We started boarding around 4:45pm, when we
were supposed to depart. Nobody was checking IDs or boarding passes as
passengers fed them into the machines and headed up to the jetway (gate
1). Medford is interesting. It has one jetway, but the terminal is at
ground level, so you have to take stairs (or an elevator) to get to it.
At least it keeps you dry.
The flight was full, and a few passengers volunteered to give up their
seats in exchange for a free future roundtrip. They were told they
would not be able to leave Medford until Monday. Eventually they got
everyone and their bags off and on, and we were eventually able to push
back at 5:35pm, 50 minutes late. A flight attendant made only a cryptic
remark about "circumstances beyond our control" but a pilot had already
told us about a security problem at Seattle-Tacoma that morning (see
as a probable reason for the earlier cancelled flights. I'm guessing
SFO's weather problems and the resulting flow control program were also
contributing factors to our delayed departure.
After pushback we headed out to runway 14 for departure, where I noticed
that we did a normal rolling spool-up rather than holding the brakes to
keep the plane in position until the engines were at full power which is
what I remember always having done previously when flying on 737s out of
Medford. Also MFR was operating with arrivals on runway 32 and
departures on 14 (do the math and you'll find that's opposite directions
of the same runway); the airport is quiet enough that I guess they can
get away with that. My seats audio controls were broken; I was unable
to change the channel from 6 so I wasn't able to listen to Channel 9.
Inflight service on this flight consisted of our choice of orange juice
or spring water. We touched down in rainy SFO on runway 28R at 6:41pm,
44 minutes late. Touchdown itself was smooth but the rollout was much
rougher. We taxied to gate 77A where we disembarked, with no mention of
Star Alliance made during the flight.
UA 931 SFO-SAN 737-522 N926UA seat 12A
Initially the monitors showed that the flight would be departing at
7:35pm, versus our scheduled departure at 7:30pm. However once I got to
gate 74, the departure gate, this had changed to simply "delayed". An
announcement was made that the crew due to fly this airplane was delayed
in Los Angeles and they were expecting to get into SFO at about 8:35pm.
Once again, Southwest proves its superiority to United since they keep a
crew with an airplane for the day. Our 737 was sitting at the gate with
nobody to fly it. They tried to find another crew to get the flight out
sooner but were unable to do so. Ultimately the crew got out of LAX
late and were not due in until 8:55pm. They did manage to get a
different flight crew for our flight but they did not get to the
airplane any sooner. To try and speed things up they started boarding
at 8:30pm. While we were waiting on board they took our drink orders
for the flight and later came through the cabin offering water. Despite
the lack of a cockpit crew, Channel 9 was on so I was able to listen to
San Francisco Ground while waiting.
Over an hour after we started boarding we pushed back at 9:37pm, a full
2 hours and 7 minutes late. The captain and flight attendants
apologized for the delay, and we were told that alcoholic drinks would
be free on the flight (though our beverage orders had already been
taken). Star Alliance was mentioned sometime during the taxi, I forget
when. We taxied out to 28L for takeoff; it appeared that they were
using only the 28s, the 1s seemed to be closed. Interesting sidenote
overheard on Channel 9: While we were holding in position on 28L, the
Alaska pilot on a 6 mile final told ATC he thought he saw a heavy jet
holding in position. The controller told him it was just a 737, and
cleared us for takeoff.
Once the flight was well underway, the flight attendants began serving
the beverage orders, along with the same snack package served on the
SFO-MFR flight. When his Coke was served, the guy next to me asked if
he could have the rest of the can. He was told he couldn't (they didn't
have time he was told, but I also noted that the drinks had already been
prepared), but he could have and was brought a second cup. The flight
touched down in San Diego at 10:50pm on runway 27, 1 hour and 59 minutes
late. We made the short taxi to gate 11, during which we were thanked
for flying United and the Star Alliance.
I disembarked, and headed to the baggage claim. We hadn't been told
which carousel our bags would be arriving on, and neither 2 nor 3 had
any flight information on their displays, while 1 had a Southwest and a
TWA flight. Passengers from our flight gathered around 3; so perhaps
the arrivals monitor said which one. Soon number 3 started up and bags
started coming off, mine came out pretty early. As in Medford nobody
was matching claim tags to bags, and I headed out to catch the shuttle
to the parking lot.
David / SAN