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Old May 9, 10, 5:15 pm   #13
Seat 2A
  
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: East Ester, Alaska
Programs: A few airline and car rental companies
Posts: 6,885
April 28, 2010
Mexico City – Los Angeles
Alaska Airlines First Class
Boeing 737-800 N527AS Seat 2A
5:00pm – 7:03pm


The check-in counter for Alaska’s single daily flight to Los Angeles opened at 1:00pm – four hours in advance of my flight. When I arrived at 1:45pm it was fairly crowded though thankfully there was a First Class/MVP Gold check in line which was fairly deserted. Was that a nasty look I just got from one of the coach passengers as I strolled unimpeded into the First Class check-in lane? It was indeed as the guy took a moment to remind me that the line started way back behind him. It must be the backpack thought I as I explained to him that I was in Primera Clase. The conflicting sentiments of “Sorry about that” and yet “So there!” ran through my mind as I sauntered up to the check-in counter.

Twenty minutes later I’m through security and trying to find the lounge complex. I’ve got access to four different lounges here in Terminal 2, including American’s Admirals Club. Unfortunately, American and Alaska flights depart from a terminal extension located a good third of a mile from the closest airline lounge. Thankfully I had about three hours to hike out there and back.

The first lounge I visited was Mexicana’s Elite Lounge. Experience has taught me that the airline using whatever airport I’m in as its home base will usually have the best lounge at that airport. See Qantas at SYD, Lufthansa at FRA or BA at LHR. Unfortunately an exception will have to be made at Mexico City’s Benito Juarez International Airport where American’s Admirals Club is far and away the best lounge in the terminal.

Mexicana’s lounge was okay, but aside from a small tray of baked spinach and cheese tidbits there was very little to eat other expensive food that could be ordered and paid for from a restaurant menu. A large collection of wines adorned one wall of the lounge and I should imagine that wine drinkers could have a pretty good time in this lounge. I wanted a beer but didn’t want to pay for it so after a brief session on the internet I bid adios and headed downstairs to American’s Admirals Club.

Now this is a proper airline lounge! And a very attractive one at that with polished stone floors, lots of potted plants, large windows and comfortable seating areas. A buffet area offered an appetizing array of mini tacos, chips, great salsa and hot soup along with the usual crackers, cheese, etc. Cold beer was in the fridge so I put together a plate of tacos and grabbed an ice cold Modelo before retiring to an Internet area to fire off a few more messages.

I was having a such marvelous time with the Modelos and tacos in the Admirals Club that it was almost as an afterthought that I finally gathered my gear and headed across the hall to United’s Red Carpet Club. Whoa! What a difference a bankruptcy makes! This lounge was certainly better than hanging out in the gate area but compared to the plush digs over at the Admirals Club it was little more than functional and utilitarian. There was no warmth to the furnishings or public areas and aside from pre-packaged snack items the only food available was a small tray of finger sandwiches. One redeeming quality was a fridge nicely stocked with Modelos and Coronas. I helped myself to another Modelo while perusing the latest USA Today. At about 4:00pm I began the long trek out to gate 30.

By the time I arrived at Gate 30 it was close to 4:20pm. We’d been advised to be in the gate area no later than a half hour out and while I often ignore this advice at US airports, I didn’t want to take any chances at a foreign airport where they might actually enforce the rule. Well you can imagine my consternation upon arriving at gate 30 to find – nothing. There was no airplane, there was no agent or sign at the podium indicating Alaska Flight 245 to Los Angeles and perhaps most alarming, the TV monitor displaying all departing flights from MEX didn’t even list the Alaska flight. Interestingly, none of the gates had clearly marked podiums displaying flight and destination. I approached some agents working an American flight to Miami and asked them if they knew anything about Alaska having a gate in the area but they professed to know nothing. There was no information desk in sight and I was beginning to worry that if the flight had been relocated to another gate – especially one in another part of the airport, I’d be looking at another night in Mexico City.

Finally, at about 4:40pm an announcement was made advising passengers that Alaska 245 had been moved to Gate 36. Again, no signage was ever posted and the flight was still not listed on the TV monitor. Oh well. At least I had a gate number and so I headed right over there. Boarding had already begun but was limited to people over 80 years old. I’m not kidding – there were a lot of seriously geriatric passengers on this flight and all of them seemed to require assistance in getting down the jetway. Eventually First Class was called and by the time the door was closed and we pushed back it was nearly 5:30pm.

Mexico City International is littered with dozens of mothballed or derelict aircraft. I saw all kinds of cool airplanes including a fleet of black Federal Police 727s, some long since grounded AeroCalifornia DC-9s and Avolar 737s along with lots of aircraft bearing no markings at all. As we approached the runway I could see we were lined up behind six different AeroMexico aircraft. Maybe Mexicana gets their own runway?

Mexico City sits at almost 7000 feet so I shouldn’t have been surprised at our 49 second takeoff roll. But I was anyway. That’s a long time to roll down the runway. I once got airborne aboard an Eastern DC-9 in just 18 seconds.

42 minutes passed before a flight attendant arrived to take drink orders. Other than that though, the service on this flight was surprisingly good. I’d heard horror stories detailing Alaska’s substandard catering on the 4.5 hour Cancun to Los Angeles flights and so was expecting little more than the usual meat and salad plate. Imagine my surprise and delight then to be offered the very same catering that I’d recently enjoyed in First Class on my Seattle to Newark transcon just a few days earlier! Although we were not presented with menus, here’s the breakdown:


DINNER
Mexico City to Los Angeles

Appetizer Salad
Smoked Salmon Torte

Warm Rolls with butter



CHOICE OF ENTREES

Braised Beef Rib with Cherry Sauce

Garlic Redskin Mashed Potatoes
Baby Carrots and Brussels Sprouts


Chicken Wellington with Hollandaise Sauce
Grilled Asparagus


DESSERT

Fresh Baked Cookies

Chocolate Chip
White Chocolate Macadamia Nut

Coffee and Liqueurs



The Chicken Wellington would be my natural choice but as variety truly is the spice of life I instead opted for the Braised Beef Rib with Cherry Sauce. And a glass of the red wine, please. While seatmate tucked into his huge portion of Chicken Wellington, I sawed into my much less impressively sized plate of braised beef. Truth be known however, the meat was tender and its flavor delicious. Besides, I’d snarfed down a few of those mini-tacos back at the Admirals Club so I was doing pretty well, so well in fact that I passed on the chocolate chip cookie dessert. That week in Argentina has just sort of put me off sugar for awhile.



Braised Beef Rib with Cherry Sauce


The Australian couple seated in front of me was very impressed with the service. I asked the flight attendant if tonight’s meal represented enhanced catering for this flight and she replied that only the MEX-LAX flight gets this level of catering. The longer Cancun flights as well as those from cities like Mazatlan or Puerto Vallarta still get the standard catering much like you’d receive on a LAX-SEA flight.

Light haze diminished quality views of the mountainous land below us throughout the flight. This cleared a bit up near the top of the Gulf of California but none of the views were clear enough to warrant a photograph.

We landed in Los Angeles on a nice, cool evening and taxied briskly to a spot just beyond gate 30 at Alaska’s Terminal 3. Busses pulled up, stairs were appended to the aircraft and we then disembarked from both front and rear doors onto the busses which delivered us to the International Terminal where Customs and Immigration awaited our arrival. Thankfully we appeared to be the only international flight to have arrived at that particular time because the lanes for immigration were deserted. Even my backpack showed up on the carousel in a timely fashion and soon I was on my way to the Alamo Car Rental lot where a silver Dodge Charger with satellite radio awaited me.

The next six days were spent blissfully cruising around the Desert Southwest. In Mojave I got a nice photograph of what was once the fastest jetliner ever built until the Concorde arrived on the scene in 1975. Are any of you familiar with this model of aircraft? It was operated – if only for a short time – by three major US airlines. Unfortunately its big early generation fan jet engines were huge gas hogs and that, coupled with the arrival of the more fuel efficient 727, relegated this jetliner to service in the Third World.



Besides me, who else recognizes this jetliner?



Mojave Desert Vista



Looking east into Arizona from the summit of Sitgreaves Pass on Route 66



Twilight in Monument Valley


May 04, 2010
Los Angeles - Seattle
Alaska Airlines First Class
Boeing 737-800 N597AS Seat 3A
6:30pm – 9:24pm


I intentionally returned my car a bit early this afternoon because I didn’t want to risk getting caught in LA’s legendary evening traffic. As a result I ended up checking in for my 6:30pm flight at 4:00pm. So – on to the Boardroom for a cold beer. Or two!

I remember visiting the facility that currently serves as Alaska’s Boardroom back when TWA operated it as an Ambassador Club. The year was 1981 and I was flying out of LA aboard one of TWA’s soon to be retired 707s. Back then, the terminal building still seemed reasonably up to date, even modern. Today, against a backdrop of renovations to every other terminal at LAX, Terminal 3 seems downright dowdy. Indeed, this terminal has changed little since it opened in 1959. Alaska will soon be relocating to Terminal 6, and while I look forward to the new upgraded facilities there, I will also fondly remember all the great times and flights I’ve had while flying out of Terminal 3 aboard Eastern, TWA, American and Alaska Airlines.

Awaiting me at Gate 33A was ship 597 (N597AS), a 737-800 upon which I’d flown six times previously. After this evening’s flight I’ll have logged seven flights and 8230 miles on this airplane. That’s nothing! On ship 548, the dark blue Alaskaair.com airplane, I’ve logged twelve flights and 19460 miles. All that notwithstanding, the eleven Alaska 737-800s I’ve yet to fly continue to elude me. Oh well. I’ll have two more chances tomorrow.

The flight attendant serving the First Class cabin provided a friendly and gracious service. Beverage orders were taken about twenty minutes after takeoff and the drinks were delivered shortly thereafter. Dinner was some kind of pasta creation the likes of which I’ve never before seen. Described as ravioli with cream sauce, I was expecting a plate of pasta pillows topped with a creamy sauce. What I received was a molded olive green pasta torte, fractured along the sides thus allowing gobs of creamy white sauce to ooze out. Although the presentation of this meal is unlikely to ever grace the centerfold of any airline catering publication (They do exist, you know…), it actually tasted pretty good. I never could figure out what the “ravioli” was stuffed with, but it was fairly tasty and seemed to be vegetarian.



Stuffed Ravioli in Cream Sauce LAX-SEA

We landed at SeaTac from the south, then taxied in to Gate D-11 located at the far end of the D Concourse. While one could effectively argue the exercise benefits of walking all the way down the D Concourse to Baggage Claim, just once I’d like to pull into Gate D1. I’ve done it before but it’s been so long that I can’t remember when last it was.

My connecting flights on to Anchorage and Fairbanks don’t depart until tomorrow morning at 10:00am. I’ve been spending a lot of money on hotels lately so I think I’ll spend tonight on the airport floor in my favorite little alcove. I’ve brought my Thermarest pad and pillow along for just such an occasion and the $53.00 that I save can be applied to an upgraded seat on the Durango-Silverton railroad which I’ll be riding in about three weeks.


May 05, 2010
Seattle – Anchorage - Fairbanks
Alaska Airlines First Class
Boeing 737-800 N560AS Seat 2F
Boeing 737-800 N577AS Seat 3A
10:00am – 4:18pm


This is it – the final day of this magnificent adventure. Between trains, planes, cars and busses I’ve traveled approximately 92,830 miles over the past two months. At the end of a trip like this, many people would be excited to return home and/or exhausted from all the traveling. I’m excited to get back to Alaska, see friends and sleep in my own bed for five straight nights. I’m especially looking forward to returning to work where I’ll be able catch up with old friends (many of whom have some great travel adventures of their own to relay) and start earning some money to pay off my sizeable credit card bill.

As for exhaustion – travel isn’t exhausting, it’s invigorating! Exhaustion is for marathon runners. Sitting in a spacious First Class Suite for a 14 hour flight to Hong Kong isn’t exhausting, it’s relaxing. The same holds true for the plush accommodations I’ve enjoyed aboard the many trains and even busses that have highlighted this trip. For those of us who by whatever means are fortunate to be able to travel in premium accommodations, the act of travelling is an exercise in well-appointed comfort with superior service and attention. Even though I’m happy to be back home for awhile, I could easily do another two or three months of traveling in this style.

Alaska flight 87 to Anchorage was scheduled to depart from Gate C-20, way out there at the end of the C Concourse. Once again, the most convenient lounge available to me was United’s Red Carpet Club, located just a short train ride away from the lounge entrance at the North Satellite train station. It occurred to me while riding over the C Concourse stop that were I to include all the airport and city transit trains I’ve ridden of late, the total number of train rides in this report would be closer to 40.

Luncheon on today’s 3 hour and 12 minute flight up to Anchorage was described as a Teriyaki Chicken Wrap. In presentation however, it looked more like chicken sushi with pieces of chicken surrounded by rice all wrapped up in a thin, golden tortilla, then sliced into inch rolls. A bowl of teriyaki dipping sauce was included on the side along with a half plate worth of shredded lettuce. Whatever this dish should be called, be sure to include tasty amongst the descriptions.



Sliced Teriyaki Chicken Wrap SEA-ANC

A two and a half hour layover in Anchorage allowed me to start loading all the Vb code that must go into a report like this. Actually it doesn’t have to go in but I feel like if you’re going to put as much time and effort as I have into writing a report of this scope, you might as well take the extra time to embellish it with italicized and/or bold lettering as well as imbedded pictures. That alone has been a gargantuan effort that took up most of the flight up to Fairbanks and many more hours at my humble abode here in the tall spruce forests outside of Fairbanks.

And so we’ve come to the end of this trip report. To those of you who have ridden along, hanging on to every sentence, paragraph and/or misplaced adverb, Thank You for your readership and I hope you've found this report worthy of the considerable time required to read it. As ever, your comments and questions are always appreciated for if nothing else, they are the currency that validates the effort we writers put into a report like this.

Happy Travels To All

Last edited by Seat 2A; Nov 3, 14 at 7:39 pm
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