Route: Seattle / Tacoma Int. Airport - San Francisco Int.
Airline: Alaska Airlines
Flight number: AS226
Aircraft: Boeing 737-4Q8
Seat: 01A (First Class)
Distance: 679 miles
Duration: 1hr 35mins
Date: Monday 10th July
Photo © Phil Gilston
Photo © Jurgen Radier
I was staying at the Hampton Inn just a mile or so south of the airport on International Boulevard and as one would expect with a 6.05am departure time I didn't exactly get my eight hours of sleep! Following a long shower I jumped in the shuttle van down to the airport arriving just after 5am. The last couple of hundred feet proved the most problematic as the elevators were jammed full and the nearby escalators had been roped off. Despite risk of being shouted at by someone in a fluorescent vest I decided it'd be better to go up the roped off escalator than find another busy elevator.
I joined the First Class and MVP Gold line with a few others and the line did move rather slowly but when I got to an agent she was friendly and welcoming, even for 5am! She asked where I was travelling to which I replied Los Angeles, a period of typing ensued interrupted by rubbing of a furrowed brow every few seconds. Then it clicked I was actually flying to San Francisco Within a few seconds both my SEA-SFO and SFO-BOS boarding passes were printed and I was off to the security checkpoint. This was when having a few shiny coloured airline FF cards and/or being in First Class really pays off. The regular line looked at a stand still whilst the priority lane was quick and efficient.
I headed for the Alaska Airlines Boardroom besides gate D1 and although downstairs was jam packed upstairs was pretty much empty so up I went.
Alaska Airlines Boardroom at Seattle
I had a couple of glasses of orange juice and got a pack of chips in case I got hungry somewhere on the east coast later in the day. Outside was a sea of AS aircraft with a few UA ones tossed in for good measure.
Priority boarding was noted as commencing at 5.35am so I went down to Gate D2 a few minutes early. just as had happened in Los Angeles five days previous, general boarding had just been announced and so I went right to the front of the entire aircraft and stood on the green carpet. The gate agent took my boarding pass, was about to put it under the scanner and shouted, 'Your line is back there sir, please join the back of it'. Seemed a bit odd to me, maybe some different procedure was in operation and if I missed First Class boarding I was SOL. I turned back and went to her and asking, 'What about those in First Class?'. Her reply was,' They've already boarded' so I asked, 'May I go join them then?' She looked a bit confused and then scanned the boarding pass, she looked back at me remarking, 'I didn't see that it said First Class on it' Maybe the 1A and F bit were a clue....
First Class was full with the exception of 1D and whilst the others boarded a few announcements were made. Since this flight was continuing to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico it was going to pull up at the international terminal at SFO, this was good news for me as there was a remote possibility that the British Airways Lounge may be open for my layover The FAs were hanging around the front galley and remarked that 'A couple of fools appear to be continuing on to Boston and New York City. Pretty stupid they aren't flying direct?'. Actually I was one of those 'fools' flying on to Boston and it's no surprise I'm connecting onto AA if their tone is going to be like that!
The second male FA, handed out bottles of water as the rest of the main cabin boarded but decided it was easier for him to just plonk them down with a big frown and without a word. Judging by his behaviour and the things he was saying behind the scenes he was having a bit of queeny bad mood The safety demo took place as we pushed back and it was clearly rushed and done without care. In customer service industry when a smile goes a long way and costs nothing then why put the effort into pouting?
As boarding came to an end 1D remained free and so a guy who looked like he had walked right off the set of 'Wall Street' was brought forward, braces with thick 80s glasses and all! I was asked what drink I'd like after takeoff and we then taxied round to the north end of the field and took off on a southerly path, banking round towards the state capital, Olympia. This offered great views of Mount Rainier, with Mount Adams in the middle and the stump of Mount St. Helens just poking above the cloud. The cabin was well chilled once we were in the air, it even felt like the window was open and so I pulled the blue fleece blanket over me!
From left to right: Mount Rainier, Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens
The pilot gave us a bit of commentary of each peak as we flew past it. Probably intensely annoying for the regulars but it was good for the out of towners like me and if you give me a few minutes I can name half a dozen or so large mountains between Seattle and San Francisco After about thirty minutes of watching the various peaks pass by it was time for 'breakfast'.
Well this was fine for those who like fruit plates but I'm not a massive fan, this just seemed a lame attempt at getting a breakfast in front of those in First. I did nibble on the bread and had a top up on my apple juice.
The rest of the flight was uneventful, my seatmate worked on his laptop and I tried to keep warm. We flew just west of Mount Shasta and then over Oakland. A quick loop around the Bay and we touched down on 28R and the long taxi to the International Terminal ensued.
As we waited to get off the plane my seatmate decided to strike up conversation, funny how strangers I sit next to always are too scared to talk until the very last minute!
As I entered the main concourse at SFO I tried my hand at getting into the British Airways Lounge hoping some airline would be borrowing it for a trip across the Pacific, alas it was locked down and seemed my only option was the Admirals Club.
Route: San Francisco Int. - Boston Logan Intl. Airport
Airline: American Airlines
Flight number: AA196
Aircraft: Boeing 757-223
Seat: 02F (First Class)
Distance: 2704 miles
Route: SFO8 SFO SAC J32 BAM J32 CZI J82 RAP
J158 ABR CESNA JUVAG JAKEY VIXIS PENDO
SIBKI TULEG ENE SCUPP SCUPP3
Duration: 5hrs 23mins
Date: Monday 10th July
Photo © Jerry Search
Photo © Jid Webb
I exitted the International Terminal with ease and walked the various passageways until the United desks began to turn into the blue and white of American. With boarding pass and ID in hand I passed through priority security once again and went down the concourse besides my awaiting 757 at gate 60A and to the Admirals Club.
American Airlines Admirals Club at SFO
I grabbed a cup of coffee and people watched for about half an hour. It was surprising to me how many people were either chancing their access to the lounge or genuinely believed they had access. It does surprise me when people pay a few thousand dollars for a First Class ticket and aren't given access to the lounge. Besides this the only interruptions were the odd rumble of an MD-80 or widebody taking off just outside.
At about 8.30am I went across to the Admirals Club Business Center, just across the hallway. It was a windowless affair and reminded me a little of a bunker! I grabbed the one remaining PC and was then asked how long I was going to be as this gentleman, 'had some important work to take care of'. Well I was only killing time but feel some people's egos are certainly bigger than their
At 9.30am I went to the gate and as per routine for this trip I'd missed First Class boarding but fortunately some people were still getting their things together so I wasn't standing around for more than a minute or so I got a few things out that I was hoping to use for the next hour and stowed my bag above me. A woman appeared and sat in 2D with her children in 3A and 3C. She picked up a necklace off the floor and asked if it was mine. I remarked it must have been a horrible quality necklace for the cleaners to leave it behind only for her to then offer it to the woman in 1F and she accept it as hers
During boarding it was announced that the flight was full (when aren't they these days?) and that for those carrying roll-aboards to put them in wheels first. My seatmate had her blankets pinched by some light fingered types which was pretty cheeky. They saw them in the overhead bin and just took them without asking!
A pre-flight drink was offered; orange juice, champagne or water to which I took the former and menus were passed round. We pushed back from Gate 60 at 10am and taxied around to runway 1R. We waited for a few moments as some aricraft coming in on the 28s landed and then began our takeoff roll just in time to avoid being mown down by a United 747
We climbed right out over Oakland Airport and Alameda which offered good view of San Leandro and the development down the east side of the bay.
Top photo: Oakland International Airport, CA
Second photo: McAfee Coliseum, home of the Oakland Raiders and I-880
We flew up the Sacramento Valley and over some interesting looking developments.
Somewhere over Eastern California near Sacromento. Los Banos perhaps?
The FA came round and took our orders for lunch and the menu read as follows:
Warm mixed nuts
Seasonal mixed greens
with creamy Cilantro Dressing
or Olive Oil Vinaigrette
A grilled Miso-flavoured Chicken Breast served cold and accompanied by a Tomato-Basil Potato Salad
ROAST BEEF SANDWICH
Warm Roast Beef Sandwich topped with Provolone Cheese served with a Salad and Dressing of your choice.
DINE UPON REQUEST
In an effort to accommodate your individual preferences, American Airlines is pleased to offer any o the entrees listed below for your Dine Upon Request selection, presented all at once at any time you wish during the flight.
Roast Beef Sandwich
THE DESSERT CART
Breyers Chocolate Ice Cream with Blackberry Sauce topped with White Chocolate and Raspberry Brulee Squares
FRUIT AND CHEESE
A selection of seasonal Fruit and fine cheese'
The accompanying wine list was as follows:
Domaine Ste.-Michelle Columbia Valley Brut
Buena Vista Carneros Reserve Chardonnay
Clos du Bois Sonoma County Pinot Grigio
Lambert Bridge Sonoma County Merlot
Geyser Peak Sonoma County Shiraz
SKYY Vodka, Tanqueray Gin, Bacardi Rum, Glenlivet Single Malt Scotch, Maker's Mark Bourbon, Crown Royal Canadian Whisky, Dewar's White Label Scotch Whisky, Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whisky
Heineken, Amstel Light and select U.S. Beers
Brandy and Liqueurs
Di Saronno Amaretto, Baileys Irish Cream, Kahlua, Courvoisier V.S.O.P. Fine Champagne Cognac
Carbonated Beverages, American Airlines Premium Blend Regular and Decaffeinated Coffee, Tea, Fruit Juices, Milk'
The pilot informed us that the route today was to take us out towards Reno then on across Wyoming, Milwaukee, Syracuse, NY and then into Maine where we'd fly south to Boston.
Champagne and hot nuts were brought round and it was announced that the film would be 'Ice Age 2: The Meltdown', I'd seen the first Ice Age movie and wasn't so keen so fired up the mp3 player to listen to the end of Global Underground #13 from my JFK-LAX flight. My hot nuts were topped up (oo err ) as was my champagne and it became apparent that the meal service was being sorted out behind the scenes. Hot towels were handed out before the salad and I changed my mp3 player to the classic Tangerine Dream album Livemiles.
Domaine Ste.-Michelle Columbia Valley Brut and hot nuts
Unlike the Flagship Service on the JFK-LAX leg both the salad and the sandwich were on the same tray. This meant by the time I got round to the sandwich it was a bit on the cold side. Then again I wasn't going to have a sandwich first and then salad was I?
Seasonal mixed greens with creamy Cilantro Dressing and Warm Roast Beef Sandwich topped with Provolone Cheese
The sandwich itself would have been fine had it been warm but once again, First Class on a 5hr or more flight across the country should certainly warrant something better than this!
About fifteen minutes after finishing the sandwich and salad the dessert was brought round. Obviously ice cream wins over fruit and cheese It was served with a mug of coffee.
Breyers Chocolate Ice Cream with Blackberry Sauce topped with White Chocolate and Raspberry Brulee Squares
Have to say I thought this was really delicious The blackberry sauce, whether intentionally or not, was frozen to the glass and tasted great
The rest of the meal service was cleared away giving me some time to spread out and relax a little more. Also gave me some time to watch what was going on in the cabin, my seatmate was reading and quite a few were watching the movie, all on their crappy AA $2 earbuds . It surprises me that people paying into four figures for a First Class ticket don't bother with the Bose headphones, they really make the flight more pleasant.
What was interesting was that over the space of the flight maybe a dozen people, if not more, came up from coach to use the First Class bathroom. It's not that the bathroom is any nicer, it is that much like priority security it is there for convenience, less waiting for those in First Class and on several occasions the bathroom was being used when passengers in the forward cabin were hoping to go. The fact is it is against FAA rules (or is it?) maybe I'm getting confused and it is just AA policy but I've heard it on United too.
The Midwest at it's most uniform
As I relaxed with my head out the window I realised how uniform the Midwest looks. Maybe uniform is the wrong word, perhaps clone is more appropriate. At one stage we turned slightly north and you could see perhaps thirty roads all parallel and perfectly equidistant from each other all converging on the same patch of horizon!
Approaching the middle of the country more aircraft became visible, one was clearly an AA 777 and flew very close by, within just a few thousand feet, and appeared to be at the end of a northerly routing from London to Chicago.
As Ice Age ended, 'Madagascar' began, another movie I wasn't bothered about so let the mp3 player roll on. The sky clouded over a little more and mild turbulence broke up the monotony of the flight although the seatbelt sign was never switched off so people decided when they thought it was safe to run for the bathroom.
Legroom on the 757 in First Class
As the descent into Boston began I gathered all my belongings and got my bag from the overhead locker, deciding sacrificing a few inches of legroom for twenty minutes was better than blocking the aisle for a period of time. Madagascar came to an end we were just a few minutes out of Boston. Good timing! We touched down on 22L and parked up just down from the Admirals Club.
Route: Boston Logan Intl. Airport - New York La Guardia
Airline: US Airways Shuttle
Flight number: US2143
Aircraft: Airbus A319-112
Seat: 12C (Economy)
Distance: 184 miles
Route: BOSOX BDL BDL255 VALRE V157 HAARP
Duration: 47 mins
Date: Monday 10th July
Photo © Ron Peel
Photo © Jay Selman
I left the secure area and walked across to the US Airways part of Terminal B and approached the completely empty US Airways check-in area dodging the temporary barriers as I got nearer the desks. Was informed that if I'd made it a few minutes earlier I'd be able to make the direct flight to Richmond. I wasn't too disheartened as my wife probably was glad to be rid of me for a few hours.
I used the priority security lane again (thanks to Star Alliance Gold status) and went to the US Airways Club I had spied on the my flight up from Richmond the previous week. I was surprised to find myself completely alone, with the exception of the bartender so grabbed a glass of water or two and set up camp, allowing my mp3 player to charge.
US Airways Club at Boston and grooving to Nick Warren Live @ Popkomm
I took care of a few voicemails and watched the time tick past. The Club itself was very large and nicely furnished although despite a few peeks into various nooks and crannies I couldn't see any PCs to access the net
At 7.30pm in preparation for an 8pm departure I left the Club and went to Gate 31B. As I approached the Shuttle terminal I noticed an unusual livery on an aircraft and it turned out to be the Allegheny logojet taking us down to La Guardia today.
I took a seat for a few minutes amongst a crowd of suits and a TSA agent approached me and asked if I'd lost an Omega watch. After checking I had mine on still I said I hadn't but found it amazing that they'd be so care free about returning it to it's owner. Surely it makes sense to announce a watch has been lost and summon the owner to the checkpoint and get them to describe it first, rather than just handing it out. Maybe the TSA guy didn't know it was valuable! Either way I thought it was odd that I'd been offered jewelry twice today I hope the person got it back...
A boarding call was made for all rows all groups but then most amusing was that First Class could board at their leisure. I thought the gate agent was joking! Indeed as we boarded all of First Class was full and I was one of the few seated in the back. The load today was only 23 passengers and I had a whole row (and the three behind me!) to myself, not that you need loads of room on a 45min flight though.
I was still chuckling about First Class on such a short flight and with the state of US carriers today wondered what First got that we didn't, besides a slightly bigger seat and getting your coat hung up!
The cabin aboard N745VJ
The sun was setting out of the window which offered a nice backdrop
A variety of US aircraft on show at Boston this evening
After a quick run of the safety demonstration we were pushed back and heading for runway 22R. Takeoff roll was very short and as per standard Boston departures we banked round to a heading of 140 degrees. One thing I noticed that I hadn't seen before was one of the overhead signs showed when electronic devices could be used. A pretty good idea with smoking aloft now belonging to a bygone era. My seat also had inseat power which was activated and there were two outlets for my three seats so plenty to go round on a full flight.
Cruising at 16,000ft en-route to La Guardia
A drinks round took place and I opted for a glass of water, although I noticed the guy in 11F had a small bottle of wine which wasn't paid for so maybe the Shuttle branded flights carrying all the suits have free booze
My water and pretzels were delivered and apparently the smallest stocked was a 40oz one! I filled my plastic glass about four times and couldn't make much of a dent in it during the flight. I felt bad tossing it when the service items were cleared away but as I said to the flight attendant, 'I think even a racehorse would have struggled to drink all that in twenty five minutes' to which he had a good laugh.
The aircraft descended pretty quickly as we neared New York City, and from where I was you could see the flaps moving and certainly feel the aircraft almost 'rear up' as they were deployed.
The approach was fairly hazy but it was possible to make out the East River and presume we were going to land on runway 22.
The aircraft pulled up at the US Airways Shuttle pier and it was a short walk up to the food court where the US Airways Club was.
Route: New York La Guardia - Richmond (Byrd Field)
Airline: US Airways Express Operated by Chautauqua Airlines
Flight number: US3299
Aircraft: Embraer EMB-145LR
Seat: 04D (Domestic Single Class)
Distance: 292 miles
Route: WHITE J209 SBY V1 CCV HPW
Duration: 43 mins
Date: Monday 10th July
Photo © Del Laughery
Photo © Daniel Wojdylo
Despite it being 9pm on the dot when I arrived and technically closing time I managed to quickly grab a cup of coffee in the club and snap a quick photo for the www.baconnect.org.uk calendar.
US Airways Club at La Guardia
I then walked down to Gate 2 where my flight to Richmond was scheduled to depart at 9.45pm. This was pushed back to 10.15pm without any announcement, I was just fortunate enough to see the screen. I phoned my wife to tell her that I'd be in later than planned and sat watching and listening to Glenn Beck.
At about 9.40pm a gate agent appeared and announced boarding would commence soon. A couple of aircraft were parked by Gate 2, A Dash 8 and an ERJ-145. Since I was in row 16 I presumed it was the ERJ we were on and at this point I decided to swap seats for something nearer the front of the plane, preferably a D or and F seat.
We boarded N370SK as an all rows, all groups affair and I was amongst the first onboard. There were a couple of deadheading crew seated behind me. Safety demonstration was completed and we taxied to runway 13 and before long we were on our way up to cruising altitude of 22,000ft.
Looking over towards Manhattan. You can just make out the lights of the Empire State Building
As per usual I kept my head craned out of the window and noticed an unusual thunderstorm off to the west. Although it was completely dark a cloud was being illuminated every few seconds and it was a yellow colour! I looked out to the east and the same thing was occurring.
The token drinks round with pretzels was made which I devoured quickly and so sat for the rest of the flight trying to make out the lights of the cities of Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington DC. Unsurprisingly I had little success.
Water and pretzels
The flight attendant sat down in seat 2A and was flicking through a copy of People which was probably unprofessional yet amusing. Richmond approached pretty fast and within a few minutes our approach to runway 20 began....
3860 miles, fourteen hours, five airports, four airlines
SEA-SFO: A real disappointment compared to the LAX-SEA flight. Surly service, especially from the gate agent and a rubbish breakfast. Left a bad taste in my mouth
SFO-BOS: Hard to look at this flight without comparing it to the Flagship Service on my outbound....the seat was ok but a bit more legroom and recline wouldn't go amiss. Food with the exception of the ice cream was once again disappointing. Sandwiches in First Class is a no go. Service was delivered in a professional manner though.
BOS-LGA: Very nice lounge at BOS, could do with a few more drinks on offer and internet access. Flight was very comfortable and to be honest a drinks round and bag of pretzels was all I was expecting. Would be interested to know what First Class offers on this route
LGA-RIC: Lounge looked fine, shame about the delay but these things happen and the service was about what one would expect on a 45min ERJ flight