Frontier Airlines :: PDX-DEN-IAH
United Airlines :: IAH-LAX-SAN
Delta/Alaska Airlines :: SAN-LAX-PDX
Of course, the 787 was being operated on the IAH-LAX segment. Sadly, and like many other reports I've read, the 787 ride was not to be. A week after booking this itinerary, the FAA grounded the aircraft, and I held out little hope that it would be back in service within three weeks, when my flights were scheduled. However, I tried to find positives where I could. UA was replacing the 787 flights with other wide-body aircraft, and I still got to have fun exploring two cities, with a full day in January scheduled in San Diego (with its beautiful weather). And I'd be on 6 total flights, with at least 4 of those aircraft new ones to add to my poster. (Explanation – I've used Adobe Illustrator to build each different plane I've ever flown on and display them all together on a printed poster. So every time I fly something that I've never flown in before...new aircraft type, new airline, new livery etc...I get to add it to my collection, and I print out a poster every couple of years. A new one was due!)
It was a foggy day in Portland when I drove out to the airport for my 10:40 am departure. I parked in an economy lot and rode the shuttle in to the airport. I had my boarding passes already, and there were no surprises as far as security went. I wasn't that interested in wandering the terminal today, so I sat down at the near-deserted far end of the C-concourse to wait for my aircraft to arrive and take a photo. It arrived about 10 minutes late. Our flight would be operated by N213FR, 'Montana the Elk!'
Meandering back to my gate, it looked like a full flight to Denver today – it was packed!
Flight 1 of 6
- Thursday, January 24, 2013
- Portland International Airport (KPDX) – Denver International Airport (KDEN)
- Frontier Airlines, Airbus A320
Photo © Alex Khan
Boarding was called on-time, which was kind of a relief. I only had a 55-minute layover in Denver, which is far tighter than I'd like. I even paid for an up-front Stretch seat to make sure I could be the first one off in case of a late arrival.
The aircraft took a really long time to board, being 100% full. The flight deck announced shortly before pushback that our departure was looking to be delayed about 30 minutes past the scheduled departure time, but there was a chance that we would make up some of that in the air. The woman in front of me (in row 1) was quite upset about this, as she only had a 30-minute connection to begin with, and she was asking the flight attendents if she could get refunded the cost of the premium seat since the tight connection was the only reason she had booked it. The FAs were quite polite to her through her annoyance and the lead FA ultimately refunded it (even though we did end up getting there in time for her to make her connection). I thought up until the end of boarding that the middle seat would remain free, but a hipster-looking gentleman boarded and talked a bit with the FAs, and was told to sit down in the middle seat next to me. Strange – wouldn't he have had to have been assigned a seat to board? And if so, why did he need to be told specifically to sit in this seat? Too many questions, oh well.
Finally, we were on our way. We climbed immediately into the murky clouds, and before long, broke out into the sunny skies.
It was a great ride, with a spacious seat overlooking the engine. Once we got out of the Pacific Northwest, the skies cleared and gave us a beautiful view of the mountains. On the way, I worked on my netbook, writing answers for the essay questions of a scholarship application to submit for my final year in university.
The pilots warned us about some reported heavy turbulence in the Denver area, so the FAs were asked to secure the cabin early. It was beautifully clear though!
We didn't end up hitting turbulence that was too bad until we were closer to the airport. We bumped around pretty good for the last 10 minutes or so, but luckily I was still able to get some nice pictures.
We docked at Concourse-A and of course, being in the second row, I was one of the first people off. We had arrived 20 minutes late, so I only had another 20 minutes available to stretch my legs and use the restroom before boarding.
I arrived back at our gate about 10 minutes after the scheduled boarding time, but they hadn't started yet. The aircraft was there, A319 N914FR 'Stretch the Egret.' Boarding too awhile to start, so it looked like I was looking at another delay.
Flight 2 of 6
- Thursday, January 24, 2013
- Denver International Airport (KDEN) - Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (KIAH)
- Frontier Airlines, Airbus A319
Photo © Jason Whitebird
We boarded, and it seemed to go much quicker than last time. My seat mates made me chuckle, they were two middle-aged women decked out in Obama paraphenilia (sweaters, scarfs, hats, etc.). I assume they were on their way back from the re-inaugaration which had happened a couple of days previous. They were pretty lively and offered me gum.
We were about 30 minutes late when we departed for IAH. After takeoff, I mostly zoned out for the flight. It was pretty non-eventful.
It was completely dark when we arrived in Houston. The airport itself, or at least that concourse, was pretty quiet and I made my way out to find my hotel shuttle. I had a dumb screw-up where I actually too the wrong shuttle and ended up at the wrong Ramada. So, I had to wait for the shuttle back to the airport, and wait again for the right shuttle. It cost me probably about 45 minutes, which annoyed me and almost made me pass on my plan to head into the city to do some exploring.
But, after getting into the hotel room, I thought “what the hell, I've never been in Houston, just do it.” I ran outside to catch a city bus into the downtown. It took a really meandering route, but finally hit a highway and rolled into the city center after about a 50-minute trip.
I didn't spend too much time wandering. I walked up to the University of Houston campus and took some shots of the city.
Unfortunately I wasn't able to set up a nice shot of the light rail train they have (I love taking rail photos). I stopped by a Subway for dinner, and depite the hours listed on the corporate website, they were just closing. However they did make me a sandwich to-go. Instead of cracking it open in the middle of downtown, I stuffed it in my bag and took the bus back to the hotel. I was only in the downtown for an hour or so, but it was dark and, other than wierdos walking around, rather deserted. I really didn't have a great desire to stick around much longer.
I made it back to the hotel, had my sandwich, and vegged out in front of some TV. I tried to get an early bedtime since I was going to leave for the airport at 6 am the next morning...but you know how it is when you HAVE to get up early for something exciting...hard to sleep.
I was out in the lobby and checked out by 6 am, and I was there just in time to take advantage of a nice breakfast (free) of waffles and assorted continental offerings. Myself and about 7 others crowded onto a shuttle van, and headed towards the airport. I was the last one let off (yeesh, the United terminal is the last stop at Houston?).
The airport was still fairly quiet, and it was quick going through security. I saw from the departures board that my aircraft was coming from Honolulu, and was running with a delay of one hour. It was however a 767-400, which is a type I had not previously been on. Cool! I rode the inter-terminal train around and snapped a few pictures.
The aircraft arrived about an hour and twenty minutes late, and I ran around snapping pictures of it before boarding.
Flight 3 of 6
- Friday, January 25, 2013
- Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (KIAH) – Los Angeles International Airport (KLAX)
- United Airlines, Boeing 767-400
Photo © Andrew Compolo
Eventually we were let on, and I took my seat at a window in the second-last row of the plane. The seating of a 767 of course is 2-3-2, and I was seated next to a woman whose husband and two kids were seated in the center section. Just after the doors closed, I noticed that the two seats behind us were empty, so I told her that I would move back there and one of her kids can sit by the window, if they want. She was really appreciative and thanked me half a dozen times, but heck, I really just wanted two seats to myself to stretch out.
The entire back row was empty except for someone at the opposite side window. I'd estimate load factor at about 90% in economy.
Climbing out of Houston, I snapped my only photo of this flight leg.
As I did that, I accidently dropped the lens cap. It hit the floor and disappeared under my seat owing to the angle of the climbing aircraft. I shuffled around trying to find it, but gave up. There were no seats behind me, but there was some kind of large plastic casing.
After that failed attempt, I settled back to watch The Dark Knight Rises on the awesome PTV system. I hadn't seen it yet but was looking forward to it. I drank a few helpings of coffee, and also asked the flight attendant that served me if she was able to provide any help in finding my lens cap. She said it would be easier to do the search after landing, and asked me to remind her then.
The movie lasted most of the way to Los Angeles. When we arrived, I noticed how crappy the weather was. I already knew we were expecting rain, but it was also terribly windy and aircraft were approaching the airport from over the ocean; a first for me. We were in clouds until we were turning final, bumping in turbulence with nothing below us but choppy sea.
We landed, and with the initial delay combined with the longer-than-normal westerly approach, we arrived an hour and a half late, which cut it close – as my scheduled layover was only two hours. Then, things got worse.
I was getting antsy as we pulled into a gate at Terminal 6. Shortly thereafter the pilot came over the PA and told us that the jetway was non-functioning, and that we were going to taxi over to another gate in Terminal 7. We were just waiting for an available tug to push us back onto the ramp.
There were apologies and 'please-be-patient's' from the flight deck, but we waited close to twenty minutes before we were actually pushing back. I had given up hope of making my connection, which was now set to depart in less than 10 minutes. The engines started again, and we very slowly taxied over to Terminal 7 and parked at another gate.
When we were finally docked, I had to of course wait for everyone to get off first since I was right at the rear. The flight attendent from before was at the back of the plane too, and she helped me search for my lens cap. She was really amazing, she was actually down on her hands and knees helping me look under the big plastic casing. She saw it after looking in there with a flashlight, and found a long stick of some sort and fished it out for me. I couldn't believe the trouble she went through to help me get that lens cap out. I thanked her many times and ran off the plane. I went straight to the gate of my next flight, and happily found that the flight to San Diego hadn't departed yet, because there were a few passengers (including myself) who were on late arrivals due to the weather. But, I went straight down to the EMB-120 and settled into an exit row seat. Not the single seat unfortunately, but it was fine just the same.
Flight 4 of 6
- Friday, January 25, 2013
- Los Angeles International Airport (KLAX) – San Diego International Airport (KSAN)
- United Airlines, Embraer EMB-120
- Unknown reg.
Photo © Dmitriy Shapiro
I think most everything must have been delayed out of LAX that day, and by the time our aircraft departed, we were over 30 minutes late. It was a really long taxi to the west end of the airport, but finally we launched into the murk and turned south for San Diego.
Despite how short the flight was, we got a full drink run, with the flight attendent taking orders and then bringing the drinks back to us.
I didn't take any photos during this leg as well, since we were in cloud just about the entire trip. It was pouring rain in San Diego when we arrived, and it took forever to get to my hotel by shuttle van. The delays had made me miss out on my planned trip up to Oceanside – I now couldn't make it up there by train and still have enough time to explore and catch the last Coaster trip back. So instead, I caught a bus out to the Hotel Del Coronado and wandered around there for the evening. I went for a walk on the beach, which got me throroughly soaked from the rain, but it was enjoyable anyway. No photos again, because of the wet. I got back to the hotel, warmed up in the shower, and enjoyed YouTube until bedtime.
By the next morning, the rain had stopped but it was forecasted to be cloudy all day. Being a train nut in addition to a plane nut, I wanted to get a bunch of photos of the city's light rail trains (the Trolley), so I had researched where I might find good photo locations without too many people gawking at me or getting in the way. I also wandered around some various places in San Diego.
Well, the weather was kind of a wash and I didn't get any really stunning photos that day, but I still had a great time. I caught the bus from downtown back to the airport at about 3:30 pm. My flight, operated by Delta/Skywest, was departing out of the commuter terminal. The security line there was really short, and I started to regret having gone through as quickly as I did. There was very little space after clearing security, and I found out that my flight was going to be delayed by 30 minutes. So now I had two hours ahead of me in this small waiting area. I got a coffee and sat down by the window.
I heard other people on my flight say that the reason for our delay was that our aircraft needed a part that had to be flown down from LAX. Eventually, almost an hour after the scheduled departure time, the gate agent came over the PA system and asked everyone who was booked on this flight to come up to the gate. They were rebooking everyone onto the later LAX flight, which was set to depart on time – the aircraft had just arrived.
I started worrying initially, because most everyone on that flight was in line ahead of me and I knew there could only be so many seats. But then I actually got a bit excited, because when I reached the front of the line, the gate agent casually asked her co-worker if there were any seats left in First, and then I was handed a boarding pass for seat 4D. I was all excited, and I went immediately to board the plane. Turns out only rows 1-3 were First. However, this must have been a premium seat since there was a ton of legroom. Nice!
Flight 5 of 6
- Saturday, January 26, 2013
- San Diego International Airport (KSAN) - Los Angeles International Airport (KLAX)
- Delta Connection, Bombardier CRJ-700
Photo © Oliver S. Porter
My seatmate was a friendly businessman in his forties, and we chatted for a bit. It was completely dark when we finally took off, and the view of the almost-full moon over the clouds was stunning. No photos though...sorry...
The entire approach into LAX was in cloud, and it was quite foggy when we arrived.
My three-hour-plus layover had now dwindled to about 75 minutes, but I still had time to grab dinner and take some photos of aircraft sitting forlornly in the fog.
The flight up to Portland ended up being the only flight out of six I took that didn't leave with a delay. It was bad weather all over the country though – tons of rain on the west coast, and crazy snow on the east so you really couldn't blame the airlines.
Flight 6 of 6
- Saturday, January 26, 2013
- Los Angeles International Airport (KLAX) – Portland International Airport (KPDX)
- Alaska Airlines, Boeing 737-800
Photo © Jason Whitebird
We boarded, and the attitude on this flight seemed nice and calm – I don't know what it was, but it was really mellow and relaxing. I tend to get that on my Alaska Airlines flights, I don't know whether it's just luck or not.
I was behind on sleep, so I slept most of the way back up the coast and I don't have anything really to report on it. After arriving in Portland slightly earlier than scheduled, I drove home and that was the end of that trip.
You know, depite not getting the much-desired 787, the lousy weather and all the delays, I still really enjoyed my trip. I attend university full-time and have young kids, and it's nice to be able to get away for a few days all by myself. Thank you for checking out my trip report, and please share any feedback you'd like. Good night all!
[Edited 2013-08-13 20:07:09]