Just like any other day that included flying in this holiday, September 3rd started early, even though our flight was at 4.35pm. Most of the packing was performed the night before and the snowboard was “dressed” in tube insulation and duct tape to better cope with the hardships of baggage handling...
First stop was the breakfast area of the Holiday Inn Express at Fisherman’s Wharf. Breakfast was nothing like what we had in Colorado, it was just the basic HI
Express breakfast, some eggs, bacon, cereal and yoghurt, but it was free and it was something to keep us going until we got to the airport.
We wondered around the city for a few hours until around 1pm. We headed back to the hotel, picked up all the luggage and waited for the airport shuttle. The shuttle was scheduled for 1.30 and it arrived right on time. For $15 per person it wasn’t too bad of a deal but probably not worth it for parties of 3 or more. It took about an hour to get to SFO
and we did stop by a couple of other hotels before getting on the 101. We got to the airport at around 2.30 and I have to admit, it must be quite hard getting to the place if you don’t know the roads leading to the airport. Probably not as bad as Heathrow but still quite challenging.
First stop was the international terminal, then terminal 1 and finally terminal 3, where we were dropped off by the AA
curbside check-in kiosks. Once again, because of the amount of luggage being carried we decided to head inside and check in at the normal kiosks.
Inside the terminal was quiet and spacious, not quite like DEN
but pretty nice. We walked to the check-in desk and there was no one else there waiting in line. Sometimes life is much easier in the US…
The helpful but somewhat unfriendly (she wasn’t bad, I think we were just spoiled by the Frontier people) lady showed us the self service check-in monitors and asked to check-in there before taking care of our luggage. Originally we had pre-selected seats 14AB but since 9AB seemed available we picked those seats. Once again I was expecting to be charged a lot of $$$ for the checked luggage but that wasn’t the case. Our booking was made in April before all the first and second bag charge nonsense was introduced so these charges did not apply to us. Just like the previous trip, one bag was a couple of lbs overweight, but this time we didn’t have to shuffle clothes around. A “heavy” sticker was attached to the offending bag and we were good to go.
Next up was security. Almost no line to go through there either, past the little yellow airplane, shoes off, laptop out, liquids in bag and onwards airside towards boarding area E.
After security we turned left and then right and proceeded towards the gate. SFO
is a great airport for plane spotting, plenty of heavies from all over the world and really good views from the terminal. Our gate was occupied by a Midwest MD
-82 being prepared for departure, so I knew we had some time before boarding.
I decided to walk around boarding area E, maybe try and find a better spot for some pictures. There were actually plenty of good spots, for photographing the ramp action and even some departures from the 28s. And sometimes both! The day was beautiful with clear skies and almost unlimited visibility so all runways were in use. Departures towards the north, using the 1s and arrivals using the 28s, with the odd heavy departures using 28L. For someone never been to SFO
before, it was quite a spectacle watching parallel approaches and departures one after the other. On the side of our gate there was a view towards a fenced terminal 2 and on the opposite side a view of the T3
ramp and boarding area F across.
After walking around for a while and taking plenty of photos, I decided it was time to head back to the gate and shoot a few more of our aircraft arriving. By then, Midwest had gone and the gate was empty. Not long after, our MD
The captain was at the gate most of the time, checking things out on the computer while the screen behind him refreshed with different information. I wish we had that in Europe.
Boarding was announced soon and we were some of the last people to board since we were part of the last boarding group. A short walk through the jetbridge and we were soon greeted by the friendly flight attendant.
Only a short walk through First Class and our seats were located 2 rows behind the divider. It had been 3 years since the last time I was in an MD
-80 and I had forgotten how much smaller they are than the more modern short haul aircraft. Even seemed a lot smaller than the BAe-146 that my company uses. Nonetheless, I love the Mad Dogs I wish I could fly in them a lot more often than once every 3 years.
The load for this flight wasn’t too high, probably about 60% full so boarding was very quick and were on our way soon after the door was closed. The taxi to runway 1R was not too long but long enough to allow for a thorough study of the safety instructions the sky mall magazine and even take some shots of the departures since the runways were on “our” side of the airplane.
We finally reached 1R and positioned on the runway while a WN
737 was holding on 1L. I was hoping for a drag race, I would have loved to see how a MD
-80 did against a 737 in terms of takeoff performance. Unfortunately, Southwest got a 3 second head start and we were never able to catch up, even though I did have some hope we would.
After departure, we flew straight out for about a minute and then started a long left turn which provided amazing views of SFO
, a decent view of OAK
and I even caught a couple of aircraft on a parallel approach. It really was the perfect day to admire the beauty of this place!
The bay area disappeared behind us as we continued our climb heading south but the views during the flight were always great, courtesy of the clear summer Californian skies.
Cabin service started as we levelled off and it consisted of a complementary soft drink. I opted for orange juice while my girlfriend went for cranberry juice.
After my glass was empty I decided to get off the somewhat tight seat and walk toward the back to try and take a couple of pictures of the cabin, including the rear exit, a feature not found in many airplanes these days.
legroom (or lack of)
Descend started about 40 minutes into the flight and soon the vast city of Los Angeles came into view.
It seemed like that even though we were quite close to LAX
we were still flying right over the coast with a Southern heading. Just as the airfield came into view on our left, we started a left turn on downwind that had us fly over Beverly Hills and parallel to the Hollywood Hills with great views of the Hollywood sign. We continued eastwards for about 5 minutes and after flying over Downtown LA
, with great views of all the landmarks, we turned right on a long final. Unfortunately, Southern LA
seemed very hazy and it was impossible to take any good pictures.
By that time I still had no idea which runway we were lined up on but as we got lower it became apparent that we were heading for the north complex, as I could see the southern part of the airport while leaning over my girlfriend. As we continued the approach and crossed the I405 the rest of the airport came into view with the famous satellite building being covered in scaffolding.
Over the I405
Touchdown was smooth on runway 6R, vacating via taxiway Z crossing 6L
then on to Echo and onwards to the southern complex via AA
. It was a long taxi to the gate, it took us about 10-15 minutes but it did provide great views of the TBIT and T4
Disembarking was fast, the captain was by the door greeting the exiting passengers so I asked him if I could take a picture of the flightdeck. To my surprise he refused, saying that it is prohibited by the FAA to do so. Oh well…
We headed inside the busy terminal and downstairs towards the baggage claim area which was also pretty crowded. We did have to wait for about 20 minutes before the bags started coming out and since we didn’t know if the snowboard would come out of the normal belt or the oversized items belt, we decided to split, me waiting by the oversize items belt and my girlfriend by the normal belt. After waiting for about 10 minutes I spotted Jacqui heading towards me with both bags but no snowboard. After 5 more minutes I spotted (from across the baggage hall no less) the snowboard dropping on the normal belt. We headed back there, picked it up and walked outside to the rental car courtesy bus area.
It wasn’t long before the AVIS bus showed up. We boarded for the short trip to the AVIS lot and despite the traffic we were there in a couple of minutes. Our car was delivered at the Preferred members area and soon after that we were on our way to my aunt. Out on Airport Blvd, drive straight for about 40 seconds, turn left and we were there! Such a great place to live!
The final three days of our trip were spent driving around Southern California, spending time with my aunt and cousins and going for planespotting at the In&Out Burger at Sepulveda, about a minute drive from my aunt’s.
Even though the flight from SFO
was short it was a very pleasant flight because of the light load and the great views and flying conditions. The service was nothing to write home about but for a one hour flight, there isn’t really anything to write about it. The flight attendants were polite, friendly and efficient. Even though they were no Frontier Airlines, they were one of the better crews I have experienced.
Part 1: http://www.airliners.net/aviation-fo...ums/trip_reports/read.main/134485/
Part 2: http://www.airliners.net/aviation-fo...ums/trip_reports/read.main/134591/
Part 3: http://www.airliners.net/aviation-fo...ums/trip_reports/read.main/134832/
2 weeks in the US: Part 5: LAX
I'd rather die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather, not terrified and screaming, like his passengers