I wasn't really planning on doing a trip report from this flight, mainly because I sat next to my boss and didn't want to freak him out with me taking pictures and video of the flight and also writing down details and registrations like I usually do. I'm sure you understand. He, as well as most with whom I work, know that I'm an airline geek, but they don't know quite to what extent (except those who read my trip reports here!). So this is definitely different from my standard report. I think my Canada ones had like 70 pictures total. This will have 6 pictures and 2 videos. The takeoff video is definitely worth watching.
Anyhoo, for work I went to SJU for 24 hours, arriving Tuesday March 11th at 3:00pm and returning Wednesday March 12th at 4:20pm. You'll see some pictures and a very good takeoff video, if I may boast, but all the pictures and video are at the bottom of the report, because they are from the return flight.
AA 2058 DFW-SJU 757-200 N639AA no winglets Seat 3F. J 100% Y 90%
9:35am-3:00pm scheduled. Was exactly on time. Flight time 3hrs 59mins.
As I was walking into Terminal D on this very foggy morning, I coincidentally ran into my boss and another person who was going on this trip. I thought it strange because I had gotten an automated call on my cell phone an hour earlier that we had a gate change from D16 to C17. I was going to Terminal D to hang out in my favorite place..the DFW Club and also grab some breakfast snacks and a bottle of water to take with me in case I got coach. I was on company business, which puts me confirmed in coach, but high priority for an upgrade to business class (it's not actually first class on flights to the Caribbean), but I wasn't sure as there were only about 3-4 seats left and I was #2 on the list.
I met up with my boss (a VP) and decided it would have been rude to leave him and a coworker to go to my club. That all worked out because he invited us to the Admiral's Club, which is a rare treat for me. We went to the Terminal C one, which I guess is older, but still nice and rather large. It wasn't crowded. I had coffee and didn't see much in the way of breakfast snacks available, so coffee is all I had while we were in there. A few minutes after we had sat down the 4th person we were traveling with called us asking where we were. She said they had called my name and the coworker I was with. We told her to tell the agent we would be there in a few minutes.
A few minutes later we made our way to C17 where our 757 was waiting. We were lucky it had arrived the previous night, because there was very heavy fog, and I don't know about AA, but Eagle had already diverted 31 flights that were bound for DFW!! Fortunately for me, and only for me, as it was unfortunate for the others, these diversions opened up some seats on the flight (since the people weren't going to be in DFW on time) and I got a business class seat as a consequence of the weather. Once seated, we were offered mimosas or orange juice. I was impressed with that, as I only expect those on international flights.
We pushed out and taxied briskly for 17R. The Rolls Royce engines buzzed to life and we had a longish takeoff roll for a 757, I guess due to the load of probably 5 hours worth of fuel and a rather full flight, and then we climbed into the air with a vigorous angle. The fog was so low that we were instantly above it. I noticed that the buildings of downtown Fort Worth were visable above the fog. Some antenna towers were visable above the fog as well. It was rather strange!
We climbed up to our cruising altitude of 35,000 and turned toward my hometown of Shreveport. We flew just south of SHV before turning toward New Orleans, but I couldn't see Shreveport due to the clouds. At about Shreveport, 25 minutes into the flight, the breakfast service began. The choice was a cheese omelet or pancakes. I took the omelet. I didn't want to be sticky for the rest of the flight! It was accompanied by potatoes, and we were also offered the choice of a bagel or biscuit, both warmed. I took the biscuit, but turned down a second one later. After breakfast I had some black coffee in the big plastic mug.
Even though they don't look very modern or nice, the 757 first class seats are comfortable. I flew in one of those from SNN to BOS once and was comfortable, just as I was DFW SJU. Obviously these were the brown leather seats, as the TWA ones are long gone now. Two weeks ago I spotted N727TW in LAS with DL colors and winglets.
The entertainment was 90 minutes of CBS Eye On American and then a movie that I didn't watch, so I don't remember what it was, and then more CBS Eye On American. I read some newpapers and then a book the whole way, not watching the TV, but listening to classical music on my Bose QC2 headsets while I read.
We entered the Gulf at the Mississippi Delta and turned toward Sarasota, Florida. An hour later, as we approached the Florida coast, the Gulf turned Emerald Green. About 45 minutes after SRQ we flew between FLL and MIA and entered the Atlantic. From that point, we were constantly in sight of some type of island for virtually the entire remaining two hours to SJU. First it was The Bahamas, with islands so small that most were uninhabited. Some were simply sand flats, and some places had the water so shallow that you could see patterns in the sand just beneath the surface. Then at some point The Bahamas stop and the Turks and Caicos islands begin. Sorry but my geography is rather weak here, so I speak mostly from ignorance, but my experience was that there was always at least one island to look at.
Finally those islands came to an end after a long time, but then way off to my right I could distinguish a big island starting with a large beach surround it. That was the island of Hispanola, staring with Haiti, and it remained in sight something like 50-100 miles south of us, and could see it until we were east of the Dominican Republic. But as it faded away behind us and to the right, the island of Puerto Rico came into view up ahead. Not long after we began to approach Puerto Rico, the throttles were pulled back and we began our descent into San Juan. As we were descending, the flight attendant announced the connecting gate information, and it was amazing! All flights were on American Eagle, and they were all very nice places to visit! Punta Cana, St Thomas, St Martin, Tortola, Aruba, Bonaire, Grenada, Barbados, and I could go on. I was thinking...ok I'll take any of them.
We landed on runway 10, with gusty winds. The approach was exciting because we come in at an angle. I would estimate it to be 120 degrees if the runway is 100 degrees. Then we turn just shortly before touching down, which was exciting. This is done, I assume, to keep noise over the water rather than over the big city of San Juan.
The line of trees that I hadn't seen in over 10 years was to our left while the AA/AE terminal was to our right as we rolled out and turned off. The biggest surprise? The Iron Maiden 757 was parked next to the Eagle hangar! I didn't write down the registration, but it was G-O(XXX). We parked at gate 19 and we were met by some familiar faces, and then I went to work.
I stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott, which is just behind the row of trees next to the runway. In fact the hotel can be seen from the terminal building. I really liked the hotel, because it had it all. A Casino (where I won $20), three restaurants, one of which was on the beach, a huge swimming pool area, a nice beach, and then the big stuff. Airplane noise! A deafening roar every 15 minutes or so as an AA A300 lands or someting cool like Iberia or Martinair. Then the buzz of an ATR or a Cape Air!
From my balcony, I had a restricted view of the beach, a rather undesirable view of some condominiums in a tower that were in disrepair, but while looking at the beach I could hear planes and even actually smell jet fuel. What else can a person want. Well...the hotel also gave $25 in casino match play and a coupon for a free rum cocktail.
The next day I worked in some offices at the airport until it was time to go to the gates. The terminal is functional, with nice view of palm trees and the airport, but there is not much in the way of restaurants or shopping, other than duty free shopping. They allow everyone into the duty free shops and rum is allowed to be purchased if you are flying to the US, but nothing else. The fast food restaurants were located outside of security, which I thought was strange. I had lunch at a grill inside security where I had an "Island Mango Chicken Wrap" which was pretty good. They gave a generous airline employee discount too.
AA1269 SJU DFW 757 Registration (I still don't have it yet, but will post a comment on what it was when I figure it out)
My seat 11A with an empty middle seat on my row.
4:20pm-8:45pm. Departed on time. Arrived 15 mins early at D29 at DFW.
Flight time 4hrs 57mins!
This time I got coach, so I had to see what the real world is like. One of my friends at the airport hooked me up by giving me seat 11A. The row is permanently blocked for airport control, but she took care of me. It was a very good seat just in front of the engine, and due to its blocked state, the middle seat remained empty.
Here we are as we pushed out. See all the AA tails!
And here we are getting a wave off to taxi to runway 10.
ATR72s to all the exciting island destinations. I really changed my mind on this trip about my strategy for my trip to Maho Beach at SXM, which I still haven't taken. Rather than doing a 757 from MIA, I'm going to connect at SJU if all things are equal. AA runs a 757 SJU-SXM in addition to all the ATRs on that route anyway. This is still and unplanned trip, but I'll do it at some point.
There was no traffic of note, and we taxied out and were number one for takeoff when it was our turn. Here's the video:
After we turned to the northwest, we flew over a very large Carnival Cruise Ship, also headed northwest:
I barely got a few moments to see the Dominican Republic, but we were too far north to see Haiti. Then we entered the Turks and Caicos islands and followed by The Bahamas. Much like the way to SJU, we were in sight of islands nearly the whole way. It got partly cloudy near Florida, so I was surprised when the captain mentioned all the sudden that we were making landfall in Florida and MIA was visible off the left side. I looked down and had a clear view of the airport. I was so stunned and unprepared that I didn't take a picture, but had a great view!
Later we saw SRQ and entered the Gulf of Mexico as the sun got lower in the sky. At this point I was actually watching the mainscreen movie, which was a psychological drama about a kid who thought he was from Mars. I like movies and books about psychology, so it was interesting, though they tried to force some emotions at the end, typical of Hollywood, but what do you do?
As far as food...well, this was a domestic flight and I was in coach, so I was prepared with my protein bars. I had forgotten to buy a bottle of water back at the airport until it was time to board, and then I looked and there were only duty free shops within a reasonable walking distance, so I walked on the plane dehydrated. I remembered they used to sell bottles of water onboard, but it looks like that was discontinued. Instead there's now a monthly "bottled beverage of the month" AA is trying out to see how they sell. Each month will have a different one. This month it was Lipton Citrus Green Tea, which I had actually previously become acquainted with in my private stock back home, so I decided I would have one. I'm not sure how popular they are as there only appeared to be one on the cart, but the flight attendant began with the first row of coach and I was on the third row, so my choice remained available. I bought the green tea $3 plus a bag of trail mix $3 and handed the flight attendant my AA employees credit union debit card, kind of wondering if he might recognize it and hook me up with a deal. He mouthed the words to me, "Do you work for AA" I responded that I did. He handed me back my card and said, here's your raise! The funny thing was that I was in 11A. A person I didn't know was in 11C. But in 11D and 11F were coworkers, and they paid in cash--and didn't get a "raise." I think I have tried that a time or two before and maybe lucked out once by a flight attendant not charging me.
Well the sun was getting lower as we approached, or at least I thought we should be approaching, the Mississippi Delta. Indeed we were, because I shortly made out the Southwest and the Southeast entrances to the Mississippi River. Want to see?
That's the Southwest entrance.
From that point, being a VFR-only pilot (never getting my instrument rating) and since there was not one cloud in the sky the whole way to DFW, I knew where we were most of the time. As we neared my home area, I easily made out some landmarks. I saw highway 171 running Shreveport to Lake Charles somewhere south of Zwolle (pronouced Zuh-Wa-Lee) rhymes with tamale, and is home of the Zwolle Tamale.
But then I saw two major lakes just past the Zwolle/Many, Louisiana area. I was thinking that most people just saw two lakes. I recognized one as the Toledo Bend Reservoir, which signifies the Texas state line. The other was the Sam Rayburn Reservoir. They were created when two of the three most powerful men in US government came from Texas, and they joked that if they remained in office much longer, the entire state would be underwater. Sam Rayburn was the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and he was in office (#3 in power, just beneath the Vice President) while Lyndon Johnson, from Texas, was a Senator, then VP, then President. These lakes are their legacy, or I suppose part of it.
OK I'll dismiss with Texas history for now. After we passed the north-south Toledo Bend, I noticed the cities of Nacogdoches and Lufkin, and highway 59, which will one day be the last Interstate to be constructed in the United States, Interstate 69, which now stops in Indianapolis, but will go all the way to Mexico via Memphis, Shreveport, Houston, and Laredo. To the south I could make out the Beaumont and Houston areas, but they were way off in the distance.
And shortly we approached DFW and began our descent. I should have mentioned that somewhere about 90 minutes before landing there was a second beverage service, where I had coffee.
The crew seemed fine, though a bit geriatric up front if I can be so bold. Both flights were staffed with 5 flight attendants rather than the regular 4 on normal domestic flights. In both cases, there were usually 2 flight attendants working business class and 3 in the back. They weren't rude or anything.
The 757 is not AA's most comfortable plane as it doesn't have headrests and has noticably less legroom in coach than the very generous S80 and rather generous 738. Having an empty middle seat really helped. I recenlty flew on a 757 LAS-DFW with a large man in the middle seat. I'm not so small myself, so that was a bit uncomfortable. This flight, however was very comfortable, and for me, very interesting because of the unusual amount of sightseeing that I did.
As we approached DFW, I saw that we flew over the airport from southwest to northeast and crossed over to the west side. We landed on 18R, which meant we had about a 3 minute taxi-in to gate D29 in the new terminal. Here's the landing video:
It's a night landing, so the video didn't come out so well.
I suppose that wraps up my very long text trip report!
Thanks for reading, if you made it all the way through!
[Edited 2008-03-13 23:20:14]
See, I knew American Eagle was first class all along!