20 May 2002
Hi guys. I'm now in Los Angeles after a nice 10 day holiday in Northern California. Hopefully Southern California and Nevada will have just as much to offer as Northern CA!
Frankly speaking, the flight itself wasn't that bad. It was what happened BEFORE the flight that really spoiled my day.
My American friends had booked me a one way ticket San Jose (SJC) - LAX on Southwest which was (at the very least) half the price of any airline flying out of SFO. Anyway I knew that being dark skinned, (as I have said before, I am ethnically part Indian and part Chinese, and I travel on a Singapore passport) travelling alone and on a one way ticket was not to my advantage while travelling on US domestic services. I was mentally prepared for any questions/extra security procedures that might be carried out on me.
Got to San Jose International airport after a 1 hour drive from San Francisco city centre. I wanted to try curb-side check-in but my American friend suggested that I just go straight up as they would almost certainly want to inspect my bags manually due to my one way ticket. 'Even my 87 year old dad had to go through the same stringent security procedures when he had a one way ticket last month', she said.
Fine. Went up the departure area which was very small. The terminal only housed two airlines-Southwest and AA. Anyway got in line, which moved quickly and finally got to a check-in clerk. In addition to presenting my E-ticket print-out, I also presented my LAX-SIN ticket (departure 30th May) and told her that's the reason I had a one-way ticket. She was a cheerful lady, and acknowledged what I told her and tagged my bag straight through to LAX.
A Chinese family in front of me had to move to the side and have their bags inspected manually. I was relieved, as well as surprised, that I did not have to go through that procedure.
After which I joined the queue for the security check into the restricted boarding area. It was a pretty long queue but I got through it in 5 minutes. Said my goodbyes and hugs and kisses and all that..... and put my bag pack and wallet through the X-ray screening thingy and walked through the metal detactor. The detactor didn't beep, and neither than any security agent (All of them incidently Filipino) stop me for further checks.
I was surprised and relieved again, and took my stuff and proceeded to Gate A5 and stood in line again, to get my boarding pass. I was asked the standard "Did you pack your bags yourself... Did you have full control over what went into your bags" questions and was given a printed boarding pass, together with a boarding card which said "46" on it. 'Thank you very much, Anthony!' the gate agent said.
By which it was 1840 and the flight was due to depart at 1910. Bought a Nelson Demille book at the bookshop and proceeded to the waiting area.
At 1905, there was still no plane at our gate. Had a hunch the flight would be delayed. True enough, a few mins later "Flight 1424 to Los Angeles and Phoenix will be delayed to 1935."
1925, a 737-400 parked at our gate and at 1935 boarding commenced. When it got to my turn, I showed the gate agent my passport and he was like "Sir can you please step aside" (I have Christian first and middle names)
OK fine, I stepped aside. From then on, boarding STOPPED completely. The Filipino security guy asked me to spread my hands out and take everything from my pocket out. He was very VERY rude and did not accord me the slightest bit of respect. Now, this was in FULL VIEW of everyone and bear in mind that boarding had stopped. So naturally I had over a hundred pairs of eyes staring at me and me alone. After which I was asked to take off my shoes. He sent that wand which scanned my entire body (and it beeped when it scanned my cross..... he demanded to see what was under my shirt and surprise surprise, a CROSS.
THe entire thing took about 5 minutes but it felt like 5 hours because of the humiliation I was going through. Of course at the same time another guard was going through my bag pack. Taking things out and putting them back. So anyway now everyone knows the CDs I'm carrying, the magazines I'm reading the the kind of camera I use. Not that they care, but well.......
At the end of it all, he asked me to put my shoes on and take my stuff and board the plane. I looked behind and true enough, everyone was kinda starring at me. I picked up my bag, and walked down the aerobridge.
After which I heard 'We shall now re commence boarding for flight 1424... Could passengers on rows 1 to..........."
Got to the entrance of the 737-400. A female FA was digging into some compartment below and thus didn't greet me. Walked straight to the back of the aircraft and got the second last row.
There was this female FA who looked almost 50 and had lost her voice. One could barely hear what she was saying. She tried to shout out to a man who tried to open a faulty overhead compartment but hardly any voice came out.....
There as this particular young FA who was.... well.....quite cute, but that didn't quite make up for what happened to me minutes before!
At 1950, pushback began. The sound system was terrible so I could barely hear what the Captain nor the FAs were saying over the sound system. However I did catch that our cruising speed was 33 000 feet and flight time to LAX was 1h 20 mins.
At 2000, we took off into the evening sunset. I'm not familiar with the geography of this part of the world so I really can't tell you the landmarks we flew over.
One thing interesting about Southwest is that they don't have a cart service. Their FAs come down the aisles taking orders for drinks, after which they bring them out on trays, just as one would expect in a restaurant.
It was a full flight and they were really busy. I asked for coffee. 10 mins later, the young cute FA came out and served the drinks my section of the plane ordered. By which we had some moderate turbulence and some of the coffee spilled on me. Oh well, just not my day.
Night had completely fallen by now. After the drinks service, the FAs came round serving us peanuts. I notice we reached the city of Los Angeles by about 2045. However we had to circle the airport for a good 20 minutes before we began our final approach! Must be a busy time of the day (or night, rather) for the airport.
I must say the cabin crew look real happy and cheerful and seem to like what they're doing. Very different from the main carriers I usually take in the US, like DL and UA. Not that you get anything much to eat on these carriers anyway, so I can't understand how they charge you nearly double what Southwest charges and still don't serve full meals.
At 2050, the FAs came round collecting our cups and what not, and at 2110, we began our final approach into LAX. Landed at 2115. Sorry can't give you the name of the runway and all that! I'm completely unfamiliar with that airport.
Passed the International terminal where I saw a Qantas 744, Singapore Airlines 744, EVA Air 744, 2 Mexicana A320s, 2 Air New Zealand 744s(one just about to depart) and an Alaskan Airlines MD80(I think.... )
Reached our gate at 2120, and most of the passengers disembarked at LAX. Only a handful were continuning on to Phoenix.
Got to the baggage claims area, and it came out after half an hour. Perhaps it's fast by American standards but slow compared to Singapore and Hong Kong standards.
I certainly have a better impression of Southwest than the other main US airlines I've flown on domestic routes. I WILL fly them again, since they're much cheaper. Most main airlines don't even serve hot meals on board so why pay double the price??
Southwest cabin crew certainly look that they enjoy their jobs and they probably really DO! It's refreshing to see crew in bermudas and just looking plain happy! It's a big change from the formal approach of SIA and Cathay and most other airlines for that matter.
I have no problems with stringent security checks. It's for the common good of everyone. But PLEASE, could they do it in rooms away from the full view of everyone? Like, cos of me, the flight was delayed by an additional 5 minutes. Passengers are NOT zoo exhibits.
Of course it was a very short flight so well, as with my KUL-SIN flight, I have hardly any recollection of it now!
Thanks everyone for reading. Next report will be SQ 29 LAX-TPE-SIN on 30 May.