Around mid September, I started looking for flights into SFO or OAK from either SJU or BQN. JetBlue had been my first choice, but their departure time from BQN was difficult, so I continued to search. I finally settled on Cape Air from Mayagüez to San Juan and American from then on. So, I went ahead and booked at AA.com and Travelocity respectively and after some minor mishaps, I was all set to go. Cape Air's reservation required paper tickets, so it my first time ever using the things. Soon enough, the day of my birthday rolled around and it was time to go.
Wednesday, October 26th, 2005
Eugenio María de Hostos Airport - MAZ
9K Flight 32
Cessna 402C - N161TA
Scheduled departure: 8:00 AM AST
Actual departure: (by my watch) 7:50 AM
Scheduled arrival: 8:44 AM AST
Actual arrival: (by my watch) 8:22 AM
Departure gate: 6 (baggage claim)
Arrival gate: Baggage claim
Seat: 4th row, window
Photo © Terry Wade
The night before the trip, I decided not to go to bed and just sleep on the flight from San Juan to DFW. I'd only really get 2 hours at most. Anyway, I was picked up to go to the airport way, way, WAY too early at the ungodly hour of 4:30 AM. What's a good sign you're at the airport too early? When you get there at 5AM and the terminal's not even open yet. Next time, I'm not getting picked up before 6. The terminal opened eventually and I immediately noticed how much bigger it looked than last year. I soon realized it was because the TSA had left along with American Eagle. The old holdroom was closed off and Cape Air now uses baggage claim for both departures and arrivals.
Cape Air's ticket counter is where American Eagle used to have theirs.
The old holdroom with gates 7, 8 and 9, now unused.
Looking down at the MAZ passenger terminal from in front of the ticket counters.
After an hour or so of being completely alone inside the terminal, two other passengers, a couple, showed up and that would be the last of them. The people from Cape Air arrived about a half hour after (about 6:30 AM). The couple rushed to check in, because the plane would leave without them if they weren't first. Whatever. I shook my head and waited to check in after them. Now, contrary to the attitude I received from American Eagle last year, Cape Air's counter agent was nice, friendly, polite and courteous which really made me feel glad I chose to fly them.
After asking my weight and weighing my bags, she handed me my boarding pass and my bags back as they had to go through the USDA, but they hadn't opened yet. I took a picture of the boarding pass, but it didn't come out. As soon as the USDA checkpoint opened (around 7 AM), I sent by bags through and handed them back to the Cape Air agent. Then there was nothing more to do, but wait. Wait and sing along to the 80s music playing over the sound system. I did get some strange looks, though. Honestly, like they've never heard anyone butcher “The Reflex” before.
Around 7:20 AM or so, the flight from SJU came in without any passengers. Oy. The pilot came into the terminal for a drink of water and use of the facilities and I noticed that I was going to be flying with a female pilot for the first time. Cool. So, after a bit more waiting, it was finally time to board. The counter agent called everyone over to the baggage claim door and shooed all three of us in. She closed the door behind her and opened gate 6 which lead to the apron.
Flight 32 to San Juan
The ticket counter agent collected my boarding pass as I climbed aboard last and took the nearest window seat. They're all window seats, really. After a brief safety announcement and a “welcome aboard” we were taxiing to MAZ's only runway (9/27) and we were quickly in the air. The noise was a bit deafening, but it didn't take away from how damn fun that ride was. The view was rather incredible, as we went over the mountains before threading just south of Puerto Rico's north coast.
Cessna 402C cabin... The lens cover on my camera didn't open all the way, apparently.
The flight being only 76 miles was rather short, so we were soon nearing the San Juan area. We went just south of the Golden Mile financial district and over the Teodoro Moscoso Bridge before landing on runway 10/28 and taxiing to Cape Air's ramp.
The Golden Mile...
Taxiing to the ramp...
Soon we came to a stop and I was the first one off the plane. We were directed to a door that went directly into the baggage claim area for US Airways and Cape Air. The couple on the plane had checked their things to their last destination, so it was just my bags on the large baggage belt.
Big-ass belt for just two bags...
I got my bags and walked outside looking for stairs up to the departure level. Why you can't get from baggage claim to the ticket counters without going outside is beyond me. It took me a while to find some stairs, too, but I did and I made it to American's ticket counters.
Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport - SJU
AA Flight 633
Scheduled departure: 12:25 PM AST
Actual departure: --
Scheduled arrival: 4:27 PM CDT
Actual arrival: --
Departure gate: 18
Arrival gate: --
There were only a few counters open, so there was a bit of a line for check-in. I thought about using the check-in machines instead, but I didn't want one of the flimsy boarding passes the machine spits out. The line moved slowly, but eventually I made it through after a good half hour. The guy at the counter checked me in quickly and seemed friendly enough. After checking in and getting rid of my pullman, I walked over to Subway for some breakfast.
After breakfast was done I was feeling dead tired and I just wanted to crash for a while, so I went ahead and went through security. Before I did, though, I took the last picture for this part of the report and got in line.
American Airlines' ticket counters near one the security checkpoints.
After going through security (for which my shoes remained on my feet), I walked through the connector to concourse C for some Starbucks. The guy looked at me like I was some alien for ordering an iced mocha. Whatever, dude. They totally screwed it up, too, which I can either blame on their inexperience at making it or the fact that the guys there seemed so much more interested in some blond chicks than making coffee drinks. Lovely.
I got to my gate with my mocha that had way too much chocolate and not enough coffee or milk and basically people watched until boarding came. I noticed that people like cell phones a lot. Seriously, you'd think their world would fall apart if they put down the damn thing for two minutes.
Anyway, after a very long wait, boarding was announced and I made it inside with group 2. The flight was completely full, so it took a while for boarding to finish. After the doors were closed, the safety video played and we taxied to runway 10/28 where we were 10th for departure. It was really, really hot. Mercifully, the wait didn't last for more than 10-15 minutes and soon we were in the air.
I tried very hard to sleep on this flight, but I think the most I managed was a couple half hour naps before I gave up. The cabin was too bright and the people too loud. Oh, well, live and learn. There was a meal service on the flight as well as three drink ones. For lunch the choices were either teriyaki chicken or pasta. I chose the pasta. The people next to me chose the chicken and left most of it. My pasta was fine for being completely devoid of flavor, but I was hungry, so I ate it all. The movie on the IFE was March of the Penguins. I didn't feel like paying two bucks for the headphones, so I didn't watch it. It looked cute, though. After the movie was done, Eye on American played, but I have no idea what was on it. Soon enough, we started to descend and I got a nice view of DAL before landing. After a very long taxi we were at the gate.
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport - DFW
AA Flight 1023
Scheduled departure: 5:30 PM CDT
Actual departure: --
Scheduled arrival: 7:11 PM PDT
Actual arrival: --
Departure gate: C39
Arrival gate: --
I had a tight connection in DFW, so once I got off the plane and got the gate information, I walked and ran to the end of Terminal C as fast as I could. By the time I got there I was getting a bit sweaty and really should've just taken the train. Oh, well. I made it just before they called for boarding. I was in group 4 this time around, so I had to wait a bit. Boarding went smoothly and after the doors closed, I was glad to see that the middle seat remained empty.
Soon enough we were in there air and it turned out to be a smooth ride all the way to San Francisco. There were a couple beverage services as well as the snack box sale. I didn't buy one, but they seemed well received by others and they sold well enough. Sometime during the flight, I had to use bathroom and I honestly had no idea how loud it could be back there. I mean, I knew it was loud, but I'd never been to the back of an MD-80 before, so I was really glad to be where I was.
Eventually we descended into San Francisco and had a smooth landing. Down in baggage claim, I met my friends and waited a few minutes for my bag to come. All was well.
Monday, October 31st, 2005
San Francisco International Airport - SFO
AA Flight 1490
Scheduled departure: 4:15 PM PST
Actual departure: 4:07 PM
Scheduled arrival: 5:28 PM PST
Actual arrival: 5:21 PM
Departure gate: 62B
Arrival gate: 43
The few days I had in San Francisco flew by, and soon it was time to go back to reality. After checking out of my hotel just before noon, I took its shuttle to the airport and it dropped me off just a few minutes past noon. I found a place to sit for the next couple hours and basically vegged out people watching till around two. After that I decided to check in and find something to eat. I was directed to use the check in machines (read: made to) and soon had my flimsy boarding passes in had. Meh.
Security went alright, though I had to take off my shoes this time. The guy checking IDs seemed a bit confused about my Spanish one, which amused me a bit. Past security, I wondered around for a good place to eat, but nothing really interested me. I settled on a smoothie and walked around United's concourse for a bit. Much nicer than American's, I must say. After a while, I returned back to the American concourse and crashed in the waiting area until boarding was called.
American's concourse in SFO
Boarding was called at about a quarter to 4:00 and it went quickly enough. I took my seat and a few moments later someone took the seat next to me. The load was pretty light, though, and since seats DEF were empty, my would-be seat mate moved over to the other side and I had seats A and B to myself. Take off was pretty smooth and we climbed taking a U-turn above San Francisco and then heading southward. Beverages and chips were served, trash collected, decent, and I caught a good look at the Hollywood sign. We landed and slowly taxied up to the gate.
Los Angeles International Airport - LAX
AA Flight 10
Scheduled departure: 10:30 PM PST
Actual departure: 10:31 PM
Scheduled arrival: 6:38 AM EST
Actual arrival: 7:18 AM
Departure gate: 47B
Arrival gate: 42
After getting off the plane in LAX, I basically wondered T4 for the next 5 hours. Originally, my connection had been an hour and 15 minutes less, but there was a schedule change and things happen. I looked around the stores and had something to eat at Chili's Too, but for the most part I was bored out of my skull. And sometime during the end of the wait, I happen to notice there were around 10 rabbis seating around me. Not that it has anything to do with this report, but I thought it a bit bizarre. Maybe I was just really tired.
Boarding time came around eventually and it was a completely full flight. I prayed to whatever god was listening that I'd get some sleep. I was in group 2 again, so I settled in my window seat on the last row with windows and promptly fell asleep. When I awoke, I looked at my watch and we still had a ways to go, so I fell back to sleep. When I woke up again, we were about an hour from arrival and a orange juice/water service was being done. I stayed awake and got a cup of juice. I noticed there were no air nozzles overhead and looked out the window of the rest of the flight.
The FO came over the PA at some point and said that because of some delay in LAX (what the delay was, I have no idea as I was asleep) we would be arriving a bit late to JFK. I was so glad I'd called AA about my connection when the schedule change was made. If I hadn't, I would not have made the connection I was originally on. Soon we had a smooth landing while connections were read, including for flight 815 to San Juan which was the one I had been originally on and called about. Whoever was on that flight was definitely going to miss it.
John F Kennedy International Airport - JFK
AA Flight 1635
Scheduled departure: 9:00 AM EST
Actual departure: 8:55 AM
Scheduled arrival: 1:44 PM AST
Actual arrival: 1:47 PM
Departure gate: 46
Arrival gate: 6
As soon as I got out, I was impressed at how beautiful the new Terminal 9 is. It sure puts AA's SJU terminal to shame. Hell, AA's concourse at SFO puts SJU's to shame. I mean, at least SFO doesn't have mirrored columns. Anyway, since I had plenty of time I walked around the terminal and took use of its bathroom facilities. I was feeling a bit hungry, so I stopped for a bite to eat at a bistro. A group that was on my flight from LAX sat near me and I overheard they were scheduled on 815 and had indeed missed their flight. Now they were scheduled for an afternoon flight. Again, I was glad I had called AA beforehand. After I finished I found my gate and sat down to wait.
Or had I? When I looked at my watch and it was 20 to nine and boarding hadn't started yet, I went up to the gate desk and asked the agent what was happening. It turns out that while the screen behind her said flight 1635 to San Juan, that gate was for Miami. Oops. So after getting the right gate info, I ran to the gate where boarding had started already. I asked what group was boarding, “Yours!” was the agent's reply. I blushed and shuffled down the jetway.
I made it to my seat and took a quick, flash-less picture of the cabin while people finished boarding. Soon enough the doors were closed and we were in the air.
Crappy picture of people boarding.
This was my first time on a 767-300 and apart from not having air nozzles like the 762, I found it to be quite nice. I did think it weird, however, that the 10,000 feet bong sound kept bonging throughout the flight for no apparent reason. Bong. Bong. Bong. Bong. Shut up! Bong. I heard one of the FAs exclaim after a few bongs: “Ugh! That's why I hate working this plane!” So it was nice to know I wasn't the only one irritated by it. Bong.
Eventually breakfast was served which a choice of an omelet or cereal. Since I ate at the terminal, I had neither. Stupid me had forgotten there was going to be food on the flight. Oh, well. There were a couple drink services throughout the flight for which I had Coke both times. Yay, Coke.
Soon enough, we were descending into San Juan and landed on runway 8/26 smoothly. We came to a stop while we were taxiing as another plane was using our gate. As soon as it was gone, we moved again only to stop for a couple minutes more for no apparent reason and then moved again. I looked out the window and saw an iguana clearing the runway for a patch of grass. Well, that explained the second stop then. I tried to get a picture, but it went into the grass before I could. Oh, well. We soon parked at the gate and onwards the people walked to baggage claim.
Pulling up to the gate. No iguanas here.
Walking to baggage claim.
Down in baggage claim, my bag came out quicker than I thought it would and I made my way out of there. My bag's tags were checked against my boarding pass before I could exit and then torn off by bag and thrown in the trash. I wanted to argue, but there was a very slight chance I might make my 2:30 flight on Cape Air, so I just left.
Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport - SJU
9K Flight 39
Cessna 402C - N618CA
Scheduled departure: 2:30 PM AST
Actual departure: --
Scheduled arrival: 3:14 PM AST
Actual arrival: --
Departure gate: 31B
Arrival gate: 6 (baggage claim)
Seat: 4th row, door side
Photo © Suresh A. Atapattu
Outside I found the nearest stairs and climbed back to the terminal level and ran all the way to Cape Air's check in counter. It was 2:20 by the time I got there, so I just asked the counter agent if he could put me on the 6:15 flight to Mayagüez. He was going to do just that, but he radioed the gate to see if my flight had left yet and it hadn't, so he quickly weighed by bags and checked me in. I quickly got my carry on from the scale and walked to the security checkpoint where the Cape Air agent got the TSA person there to cut me in and I quickly went through it and downstairs to the commuter gates. I had to take off my shoes this time.
I got to Cape Air's gate (31A) and went up to the agent where she asked my weight and told me that boarding would be starting soon. I looked out the windows. After a flight to Tortola and another to St. Thomas were called, it was time for Mayagüez to board. Our boarding passes were collected and we were walked through gate 31B and outside around the terminal before getting to our plane. Carry ons were put into the wing lockers and people slowly climbed aboard. The load was 8 out of 9 this time.
Walking to the plane.
I was the second to last to board, so I took the seat next to the door and the last person on took one of the last two seats behind me. The door was closed and the same pilot from the Wednesday before welcomed us aboard and did a brief safety announcement. She turned the left engine over, then the right engine and soon we were taxiing to runway 10/28. After takeoff, she turned due north for a few minutes before turning west towards Mayagüez. The flight was as awesome as the first. Even better, I noticed that the noise seemed not as loud this time around. The view is really amazing and I even took sight of the Arecibo Observatory. I took a quick picture, but it was a bit too far away.
The Arecibo Observatory. Sort of.
Anyway, we soon descended and landed on MAZ's runway in some drizzle. The plane taxied quickly to the front of the gate. I was the first one off the plane and after getting my carry-on, waited at the doors to baggage claim while everyone else exited. Once everyone was off the plane, the doors were open to the terminal and we waited for our bags. From the glass doors I could see the ramper and the pilot taking the bags out and I was quite impressed that so much baggage could fit into the Cessna's hold. Anyway, my bag eventually made its way unto the baggage belt and outside I called for a cab home.
Well, that was my trip to San Francisco and back. I didn't mention it in the report itself, but all the people I came in contact with both American and Cape Air were absolutely wonderful. Cape Air is a great little airline that I will absolutely be taking again in the future. I truly had a fantastic trip and I'll definitely be flying with American next time around.