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MR! DEN-SBA-LAX-YVR-TPE-KIX/NRT-JFK-MIA-ORD-FNT-ORD-CLT-ATL-CLT-PHX-DEN in 5 days (Y)

MR! DEN-SBA-LAX-YVR-TPE-KIX/NRT-JFK-MIA-ORD-FNT-ORD-CLT-ATL-CLT-PHX-DEN in 5 days (Y)

Old Jul 5, 16, 12:13 pm
  #1  
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Join Date: Apr 2012
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MR! DEN-SBA-LAX-YVR-TPE-KIX/NRT-JFK-MIA-ORD-FNT-ORD-CLT-ATL-CLT-PHX-DEN in 5 days (Y)

*note, videos and pictures are being uploaded/embedded into this report*

Preface
This is not a luxury, glamour trip report. This is not international first/business class flights, no high-end hotels, and no fancy meals. Although as an American Airlines Executive Platinum I was upgraded on my domestic US flights, they aren't anywhere as exciting as the international products that get shared on this forum. I just wanted to share my mileage run trip, as the way you can earn RDMs will all but be dead come August 1. If you've never been a part of an MR, this is what a good one can be like. I have lots of pictures to share, and will try and focus on some parts of the trip that you don't really ever hear about, since most TR's are all Intl First Class to Exotic Destinations. I hope you enjoy my commentary on this adventure.
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Hello and good afternoon from presently somewhere over the Rocky Mountains, en route to Santa Barbara. Looking at the title, you’re probably wondering why anyone would do such an itinerary. Well, it never started out like this. Some plans changed, multiple times actually, to lead to this crazy itinerary.

It all started in early March when A supposedly flash sale for Taiwanese based flyers got some traction on the Mile Run Deal forum. It was actually by chance I found that thread. I came home from work and took a nap, and it was one of those gloomy days where I really didn’t feel like getting out of bed in the evening. My girlfriend had texted me, and I fired up my computer to load up skype, and figured I check the forum. The thread title mentioned TPE-SJC on AA/JA for less then 1.25 cpm. The thread was active, Mountain Time, from around 6pm (coinciding with the next morning in Taiwan). People started locking in TPE-NRT-LAX-SJC for around $200 USD. You could also throw in a stopover in Tokyo.

I started playing around with google flights and was able to replicate it. Before I booked anything, I saw a poster mention he was able to do the itinerary, but also throw in a “Free” vacation to Key West. I thought this was an awesome deal, and wanted to take advantage of it. The dates you could schedule for this was very wide open. I decided to do it around July 4, as to minimize my time off from work, AND end up back home in Michigan for the holiday weekend. The round trip itinerary I ended up booking was actually cheaper then a one way flight from Denver-Michigan (sans a spirit flight). I booked the return over Thanksgiving, again to minimize time off work. What also made the fare amazing was that it booked into full Y. Many people swore it was a mistake fare, while a couple others said it was a flash sale.

I wanted to make this a mile run, but also visit a different/less traveled airport (by that I mean one I probably wouldn’t visit under normal travel patterns). I was able to book, TPE-KIX//NRT-JFK-MIA-EYW-MIA-DTW, with a return SAN-NRT-TPE. When I lived in San Diego, I always wanted to be on the SAN-NRT flight, and this was my chance.

I once read a poster on FT say, about Mile Runs (or great deals maybe it was), that it’s not about booking the perfect itinerary, it’s about being able to book a good itinerary and then worrying about changes later. After all, a good itinerary is better then no itinerary. So the plan was Leave Taipei at noon, get to Osaka at 4pm, and then …I don’t know, show up in Tokyo the next morning to get back to Detroit for July 1st, the start of the July 4th holiday weekend. I paid $222 for the itinerary. I would worry about getting to Taipei for later, and what I would do for the return part of the trip much later (still no plans).

No more then two days later, I was alerted of a schedule change. Actually, there was 4 changes on my JFK-MIA-EYW-MIA-DTW legs – all four times had changed. I was fully ticketed, but did NOT want to call in to AA to get the schedule change fixed. It was a problem, because the MIA-EYW-MIA legs got pushed back about an hour, and the MIA-DTW flight got moved up, meaning I would land back in Miami after my Detroit flight had left. I knew I had to fix it, and thought about options.

First one was to stay in Key West for a night, but a hotel night cost more than my ticket! I figured I could try a different city, going back perhaps via Dallas for some extra miles as well, but figured it wouldn’t hurt to see if I could get into Flint. FNT is the closest airport to my home (MBS) that AA serves. I saw that instead of JFK-MIA-EYW-MIA-DTW, I could go JFK-MIA-ORD-FNT, with the MIA-ORD being on a 763. Flint to Detroit is less than an hour drive, so it wasn’t a HUGE request, and sure enough, the agent was able to let me change to that. Except one thing…after she changed it, my fare classes went from Y to a combination of discount economy buckets, which would hurt my mile earnings a fair bit. I called in the next morning to see if I could get by “Y” fare restored, and after three calls, was able to get it done. That’s the end of “Part 1”.

Part 2
Ok, so I had to get to Taipei. While talking to my coworker about the trip, he generously offered to get me a discount award saver ticket (35,000 miles plus $25 in taxes) in exchange for helping him in the future find good deals and maximize PQMs on some United Trips. We looked at some options on the UA website. I didn’t want to get in Tuesday night and stay the night, so I looked for options that would get me in Wednesday morning. When we looked in early March, there were only a couple of the options we found that had availability and the timeframe I was looking at.

DEN-IAH-TPE
DEN-YYZ-TPE
DEN-DFW-YYZ-TPE

I decided on DEN-YYZ-TPE, choosing to fly the DEN-YYZ portion on Air Canada rather than UA (which also had availability). I always wanted to fly on an AC flight out of Denver (hard to explain), and it had good timing – leaving at 4:35 in the afternoon and getting into Toronto around 9pm, with a four hour layover for a 1 am flight to Taipei getting in at 5am. I thought about the DEN-DFW-YYZ-TPE which had an AC leg on DFW-YYZ, but figured I didn’t want to hang around DFW for long, and worse, get stuck there if anything happened. DEN-IAH-TPE just didn’t appeal to me, as I don’t really care for Houston.

That was “Part 2…” until two weeks before the flights, I started looking, just to see, what availability opened up. Ideally, I figured I would enjoy myself the most if I could get DEN-LAX-TPE, as now that the TBIT connector is open, it’s a really fun place to hang around. I didn’t find that, but I did find DEN-YVR-TPE, which immediately sent me into a frenzy because EVA operates a 747 on that route, but even better, the upper deck is all-economy. The times also worked out great – a 7pm Denver-Vancouver flight, with about 5 hours to hang out at YVR before the flight. Having never used an award ticket before, I called up the United (Gold) Line and asked about the change – it would only cost me $25, to which I happily paid. I found myself in an interesting spot after it ticketed. I pulled up my reservation on EVA’s site, and there wasn’t many seats I was able to pick. On the upper deck, there were only a couple middle seats left to pick. I figured I would play it safe and take a window seat over the wing on the lower deck, and worry about an upper deck seat closer to departure.

What I did not know at the time was that EVA blocks out almost half the aircraft. The seats are eligible for BR elites, but almost half the upper deck, and more than half the lower deck was blocked out. I called EVA the next morning and asked if they could put a Star Gold member in one of the blocked out window or (preferably) exit row seats, but the nice women said she couldn’t. She could, though, put in a request for me for those seats. I figured the request wouldn’t actually do anything, but it’s not like it could hurt, so requested them. I set up an expert flyer notice as well, and began searching the Asian Airlines forum for whatever information I could find. The consensus I gathered was that most seats get assigned at the airport (not OLCI), so I had to really ask myself if I could chance it. I decided I would suck it up if need be, and opted to pick seat 87J, a middle seat towards the back of the upper deck.

AT T-4 days, I figured I could up my chance if I could connect in LAX. Since there is an afternoon BR flight, if I could get to the airport (and not have a better seat by that point in time), I could get to a BR desk and inquire there, perhaps giving me a jump. I could also hang around the TBIT and Star Alliance lounge. Only thing was…I didn’t know if that was even legal (in UA award routing terms). Honestly, I’m still not sure what the rules are. Regardless of whatever the rules are, there was not a single saver seat on any DEN-LAX flights. There was ample DEN-SFO-LAX flights, a DEN-SBA-LAX flight, and DEN-SMF-LAX that had good times. There was 4 LAX-YVR Air Canada flights that all had saver availability.

This is the start of where my backwards logic came into play. I wanted to pick a flight that would give me the best chance at being in a VDB situation. An early DEN-SFO flight seemed like the best option, and also most comfortable since DEN-SBA-LAX was all CRJ 200’s, and DEN-SMF-LAX was a 700/200. I picked the 7am DEN-SFO flight connecting to get me into LAX around noon. I put in the change request online, an much to my excitement, there was no extra miles cost, and only a $25 charge. I booked it, but immediately regretted the decision, because, I hate the early morning flights. Sacramento left at 8am, which was better, but when I went to try to see if that was still available, it wasn’t, so that wasn’t an option.

DEN-SBA left at 11:25am, but was on a CRJ 200 that didn’t have many seats left, so good and bad. Good, because good option for VDB, but bad, because that’s a 2.5 hour block time flight on the Devil’s Chariot. I called up UA asking if they could change it since I just made the change, and they waived the cost and was able to get that for me. So with that, my outbound was complete, DEN-SBA-LAX-YVR-TPE. As long as my SBA-LAX flight was on time, I would have some time in the TBIT area to lounge, talk to someone at BR (hopefully), and then venture to the other side of LAX, a part I’ve never been to (AC leaves out of Terminal 2).

I spent a little bit time looking at more oddball routes to see if I could find anything, mainly trying to see if I could get on a Q400, an aircraft I’ve never flown. Unfortunately, it looks like I’m late to the party, and they’ve all been retired from DEN.

“Part 3”
Part 3 actually takes place before changing to DEN-YVR-TPE. My original plan was to be home for the 4th of July weekend and see my girlfriend and family. Plans changed and my amazing girlfriend decided to come out to Colorado for a bit, so she would actually be here rather then in Michigan. So instead of spending the weekend in Michigan, I just decided I would turn around and come back to Denver. The problem I had was that flights were not cheap that weekend, and I couldn’t not find anything “decent,” and by decent I mean under 10cpm.

I could leave at 6am the next morning (so ~6 hours overnight at FNT) and do FNT-ORD-DEN, or FNT-ORD-PHX-DEN for I think it was $224. It left at 6am and got in at midnight. I tried with multicity pricing on AA’s website to change the times, but I got stuck in the endless loop of death process, where AA says the fare has changed to a higher or lower price, but when you try to book it goes back to the original price, forever. I was prepared to do the FNT-ORD-PHX-DEN route, but looked to see if there were any cheap flights from Flint to anywhere via Google Maps.

The only result was a $79 fare to ATL, but it had stops in ORD and CLT. It was a good starting point, but flights from ATL to DEN were up in the $240 range, and ATL-DFW-DEN at that price didn’t sound too appealing. I was about to call it quits, but decided to plug in different connecting cities to see if I could get anything. I was able, for the same price, to turn ATL-DFW-DEN into ATL-CLT-PHX-DEN. So 240+~80 was about $320. Since the AA change to $$ based was recently announced, I figured this was my last shot at a true mile run. I was about to book them separately when I realized I was able to book them all on one ticket, FOR LESS then what they were separately.

Apparently, AA had relaxed their end on end ticketing rules which was a HUGE problem for Mile Runners and/or people needing multi-city itineraries for a period of time, as it was cheaper to book multiple legs on multiple tickets. The price went down to $308, and AA was willing to let me book it, so I did. With that, my flight Itinerary was complete…except for one more problem.

"Part 4"
I regret not booking TPE-HND/NRT. I was getting into KIX at 4pm, and needed to get to Tokyo. I was going to go with the hi-speed train, but the cost was $140 ish, and it still would take almost 4 hours. There were several LCC flights from KIX-NRT in the $49-$79 range, getting into NRT around 9pm, which means I would need to train back to the city and wouldn’t get into 10pm. I could chance a 5pm flight on Star Wings (ANA codeshare), but figured that was too close to call. I went back and forth for a week on the Train vs. Plane ideas, when I found out an award ticket through UA was only 5k miles.

At that price, you could buy United Miles and get an award ticket less then what the economy ticket was going for. I wanted to fly into Haneda rather then Narita, but there weren’t many options from KIX that looked appealing. There was, however, from another Osaka Airport, Itami. As another incentive, ANA flies a 772 on the route, so I chose that. The only choice I had to make was rather I wanted a 7pm departure or 8pm. There’s a direct bus that goes between the aiports, so I chanced that the 7pm departure would work and booked that. And with that, my final itinerary was set.
DEN-SBA-LAX-YVR-TPE-KIX/ITM-HND/NRT-JFK-MIA-ORD-FNT-ORD-CLT-ATL-CLT-PHX-DEN. Buckle up as we go through this roller coaster.

I'm writing the opening part of this before my first flight to Santa Barbara while I’m still sane. If everything goes smoothly, I will have 16 flights over the next four and a half days, and total distance of 22,289 miles.
With all that done, here is a map of what I would have:



The Lead Up
I was a bit nervous, because I wasn't able to secure my upper deck seat in the aisle or window. I had thought about if it would be just as fun if I had took a lower deck window or aisle seat, but decided that I was going to fly the upper deck, no matter what* (unless there was a very attractive VDB offer to not even fly on it). I had an alert set on expert flyer, but I still probably check my reservation 20-30 times a day.

I was figuring that I would have to wait until OLCI for the seats to be unblocked, but also checked at T-72 and T-48, which meant getting up at 3am local time to check. At those times, I didn't not see any additional seats open up. Sometime between T-48 and T-24, I saw one of the exit row window and aisle seats had been selected, so I rushed back to my reservation to see if I could get anything else, but still nothing remained opened. I figured I would have to wait until OLCI.


Even the white "P" seats were unavailable. This was two days before the flight.

I had just finished watching the Game of Thrones season finale, and right before getting ready to go to bed (to get up at 3am for OLCI), I checked once more. Magically, there were more seats open up. Not all of the blocked seats, but maybe a quarter of the seats that were blocked, including a single aisle and window upper deck seat. I quickly changed my seat to 88A and pressed submit, and waited for the longest 5 seconds of my life as I waited for confirmation that my seat had been changed.

I would end up checking in at T-24, where no additional seats had opened up. Between going to be at 10pm, and planning to wake up around 7am (and briefly 3am for check in), I slept terribly. I was anxious for the trip more or less, and if everything would work out or not. I had mentally rehearsed my trip, all parts of it, multiple times and how I would plan to spend downtime (and where). I managed a staggering one hour and 37 minutes according to my Microsoft Band, which seemed about right. Around 5:30am I decided to just get up and head to my apartment's workout facility for some morning cardio. I hoped that this, with the lack of sleep, would let me sleep on the YVR-TPE flight.

Day 1 – Fort Collins/DIA

After getting back from working out and showering, and checking my two bags for the one hundredth time, I was ready to leave. I would be taking my backpack and a small red wings duffle bag. My backpack had my laptop, two puzzle books, and all the electronic cords that I would have to depend on. My duffle bag contained two sets of clothes, a pillow, a neck pillow, and nothing more as I wanted to have some space to bring back a couple souvenirs.
I had booked a one-way shuttle ride through Green Ride, which has shuttles from the transportation center here down to DIA.

With my corporate discount, it is $26 each way. I would be getting a rental vehicle for the way back through AVIS. My girlfriend would drop be off at the Harmony Transportation Center for an 8:40am pickup (and 9:40 dropoff), but before that we stopped at a waffle house for breakfast. Waffle Houses are one of the few restaurants you can't find back in Michigan (and the Midwest really). It's very cheap, and some hash browns and coffee was a great way to start this trip. After a very quick breakfast and a five minute drive down I-25, I arrived at the Harmony Transportation Center ready to begin this trip.

And at $5, can you beat this?

I was down to Denver International Airport almost weekly starting in January qualifying for EXP for the first time. I don't have $12k+ to spend, and I'm lucky to get 2-3 work trips a year, which are simple DEN-IAH trips, so all the qualifying I did was out of pocket. Fort Collins is a nice area, but getting to DIA is a bit of a pain. There is a toll road that adds about $6 each way, and parking is slightly above average, unless you want to park remotely and take a shuttle bus (which I did), which adds almost another hour and a half to your trip. The local area here, Fort Collins/Loveland Municipal (KFNL) used to have commercial service on Allegiant to Las Vegas, and I'm told ages ago a commuter flight to Stapleton, but all that's left now is a semi-regular charter service to Rockford, IL operated by Elite Airways. So at $26, it's not a terrible deal.


Exciting Stuff...

The ride down took exactly one hour, and I was soon off of the bus, and walking into DIA, ready to begin this adventure.

Last edited by BThumme; Jul 5, 16 at 12:39 pm
BThumme is offline  
Old Jul 5, 16, 12:45 pm
  #2  
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Join Date: Apr 2012
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Check In
First stop was to the United Luggage Carousel Kiosks. Downstairs at DIA, the kiosks are always empty, but only for use if you are not checking luggage. I had needed to grab my boarding passes since my UA app would not give them to me, but was more importantly looking for a possible VDB offer. No such luck today, but I did get my first three boarding passes. Interesting enough, my LAX-YVR boarding pass did not display precheck, despite what my online check in pass on my computer from AC had showed.

I walked up to the very small Air Canada check in desk, expecting to be out of luck, but the Lufthansa agent (yes I said LH) was able to get me my pass on AC stock with precheck on it. I found it odd that there was a Lufthansa women and man behind the counters, and as I walked away, she moved over to the next terminal and said “checking in for Denver Air Connection?” Looks like they run a couple of check in booths.

With the ticket in hand I walked over towards the Northern Security line. There’s three options for security at DIA. There is an upper level walkway that leads to the AA/USO lounge (and now Delta) and A terminal, and when I’ve been at DIA past, it’s always said “this is not a pre check station.” There is the northern security line that leads down to the shuttle, and I find it to be usually less crowded. With United being the main tenant at the airport, most of their customers get funneled into the southern checkpoint. A quick look at security line showed moderate lines for non pre and clear pax, and a very short line for those that did have it.


Busy as usual at DIA, this from the north checkpoint.

I went downstairs and saw not 1, not 2, but a full 3 TSA officers working the precheck queue today, and was even more surprised to see that there was two metal scanners in use, not just one. This may be normal, as I haven’t flown an afternoon flight out of here in a while (mostly AA red eyes or 5/6 am AA’s), but it was nice to get through in under a minute. I headed downstairs and shuttled over to the B gates, and up to the B “east” United Club. On my way, I received a nice notice that my CRJ 200 would be leaving from gate B48 instead of B80 something, which was easily a 10 minute savings in walk time. The way the “B” terminal is laid out, it is two long piers, the west side and east side. At the end of the east side, there is an enclosed walkway that leads down to ground level and yet another wing, and coming from the underground shuttle, it could take up to 15 minutes to walk all the way to the end.

The United Club was nothing special. There was some pineapple and cantaloupe, as well as mini bagles, apple and (I think) cranberry juice, and two cereals. There was some yogurt and granola as well. A big improvement from the past, but still nothing really too exciting. I grabbed some pineapple and headed over to get some coffee from the machine, but it needed a “puck replacement.” I figured I would wait a bit and grab some later, but after 15 minutes of sitting down and checking my email, it never got fixed. I got ready to head down to the gate area around 10:30am, hoping that a VDB offer might come up. Before I went down I went to the south side of the club to get some coffee, where I had to queue up. It took over 5 minutes to get an Americano from the machine, and after I got mine, I turned around to see that the already cramped club had a queue of almost 10 people now waiting for coffee – yikes!

The views though are really nice!

I scurried down and had a very short walk to B48. While sitting down, I pulled up the United App to see if there were any pairs of seats unoccupied – no luck. I checked the incoming plane, it was almost here from Tucson……arriving at gate B79? I rechecked my flight info, and it still showed B48. About 5 minutes later it updated to B79, and I made the trek down. Gate B79 is right before the walkway to the express gates, but the time you save in walking to the high B Gates (80-95) you pay back in having to walk down to your flight. You go down, what I would call a hotel stairway – one of those stairway areas that has pipes and always kind of cold. Once you get down, you have another long walk down a very narrow corridor. The walk here almost reminded me of when I landed in Chicago from an international flight, but smaller (and much warmer).

Lies!

We got down the very end of the tunnel where we had to still wait. I thought it was odd they staged us down there before the plane was ready. After about 8-10 minutes of standing down there, we were able to exit the corridor and walk up to our plane. It’s always cool walking up to the plane, and even cooler seeing the big planes taxi by. This particular skywest bird had the skywest livery, which was a first time for me. I very rarely fly CRJ 200’s – ORD-MBS and even rarer LAR-DEN, but they’ve always had the UA/CO globe.


This is part of the walkway to the planes, really.


Most people here are completely lost by this point.


Walking up to your plane never gets old though.

DEN-SBA
Pushback: Sked 11:25 am Actual 11:20am (5 minutes early)
Takeoff: Sked 11:44am Actual 11:39am (5 minutes early)
Landing: Sked 1:00pm Actual 12:50pm (10 minutes early)
Gate Arrival: Sked 1:04pm Actual 12:52pm (12 minutes early)


2.5 hours of this! I regret this decision.

What can you say about the CRJ 200 that hasn’t ever been said? I had seat 9A, right below the exit row. Exit row on the 200’s aren’t any better than the other seats. I felt especially bad for the people in row 1 – which UA sells as premium seats (free of course with status). Sure, they are the front of the plane, but the bulkhead restricts leg room severely. As I got on board and looked out my window, I envied the E145 next gate that was going to Cody/Yellowstone. My small duffle bag easily fit into the overhead bin, but others were not as lucky. I watched one man who I thought for sure was going to bust one of the bins with his small suit case. He would periodically look towards the front of the cockpit to make sure the FA was occupied before trying to slam his bag in it. He got it about 98%, but just couldn’t seem to get the rest of it in. After a couple more slams, he was finally able to get it, and panted back to the exit row in front of me to grab his seat. There’s really not a whole lot to commentate about the flight. There was a beverage service, but I passed on it.

I’m writing this portion of the trip report on the flight since there’s no Wi-Fi or IFE, and wasn’t in a Gameboy mood. We taxied over to the west side, and down to runway 25, which I’ve only used on flights to LAX in the past. After a very long roll we were up, ascending at a very mild rate. It was nice taking off in the light when I could actually see some places. I had a good view of downtown Denver, and soon after we were into some bumps over the mountain. The pilot came on saying that there was some bad weather currently in Las Vegas, but unsure if it would end up affecting us. The FA came by at 12:30. I declined the drink, and took the snack pack, but upon realizing its flavor of Zesty Ranch, promptly returned it. As I write this, I just realized that this CRJ 200 flight is longer than the combined time I’ve spent on CRJ 200 flights total (four by my count) – and still an hour to go, I’m not even sure how I’m able to type so cramped.


Did manage to get an okay shot of downtown Denver. You can see Coors field, the Pepsi Center, and Mile High Stadium

After a bit we began our descent, and it was a pretty interesting one. I’m not very familiar with the region admittedly, but it felt like the clouds were very low. As we were on final, I could see many homes in the mountains well above the clouds. I’m not going to say it was scary, just different. As we got lower and lower, the clouds just….stopped…and within a minute, we touched down.


Weird seeing homes above the clouds...

Santa Barabara
First thoughts – it’s kinda chilly in here! Phone says outside temp is 68, and of course flight at this gate to SFO is oversold. There wasn’t a whole lot of post-security options, but with SBA being a smaller regional airport that wasn’t a surprise. There was a small Mexican restaurant and a small coffee shop. What I thought was cool was the gate doors – and actually the gates for that matter, I love when jetways are clear. We had landed early, but had to wait first for someone to marshal us in, and then some more for someone to get to the gate. If we had gotten in about 10 minutes earlier, I may have had a chace to catch an earlier united flight that had just pushed back for LAX.


Mexican resturant or airport? You decide.

I headed down to the end of the concourse and settled down at Gate 4. There weren’t any immediate outlets at the gates, but there were some stalls with outlets closer to the middle of the concourse. At Gate 4 there was a 215pm departure that, of course was oversold looking for volunteers, and as I was watching an Alaska CRJ 700 pushback for Portland, overheard the AA Eagle flight to Dallas was looking for two people because of weight issues.


The earlier SBA-LAX flight, and AS CRJ700 SBA-PDX.

My flight meanwhile was wide open, and after checking some email, was informed my gate had moved back to 2. We started boarding early and I was the first to board.


It is pretty unique though.


Also, I'm a huge fan of clear jetways.

SBA-LAX
Pushback: Sked 2:45pm Actual 2:35pm (10 minutes early)
Takeoff: Sked 2:57pm Actual 3:16pm (19 minutes late)
Landing: Sked 3:35pm Actual 3:43pm (8 minutes late)
Gate Arrival: Sked 3:41pm Actual 3:55pm (14 minutes late)

I had seat 8A, the “exit” row. As I mentioned before there is no additional space whatsoever, it didn’t matter as the plane was only about 60% full and I had the seat next to me open. After we pushed back, the captain came on and told us ATC had put a hold on us for flow reasons – he did a really good job explaining it, saying “Think of it like a highway in the sky. We have to merge into the highway, but we can only merge when ATC gives us the space to do it.” It was currently 2:43pm and he told us we could expect a wheels up time of 3:15 (yikes!). The previous SBA-LAX flight that I had mentioned only had a flight time of 17 minutes and arrived at the gate a half hour early. We were currently scheduled to land at our original gate time since United heavily pads the schedule.

We took off to the south and skimmed along the coast. As we made contact again, we passed over Dodger stadium before executing a series of small right hand turns to line us up with the runway. The flight seemed to last fairly long – almost 30 minutes (I was expecting close to 20). Since most of my LAX flights I’ve been on are from the east of LAX, I found myself disoriented until right before we landed. As we approached, we were parallel with a Singapore Cargo Plane.


Singapore Cargo Plane

We landed on the right runways, right behind a Turkish 777 from Istanbul. The usual suspects of 380’s were at the gate, and what a sight as always to behold. There was also the Air Tahiti Nui plane to Pape'ete at the front of all these monsters. We taxied to gate 84, at the far end in Terminal 8, arriving 16 minutes late. Once we were clear to land, a couple people made a rush off the plane for their connections.


TBIT Tail Shot

LAX
So I had about 2.5 hours until my flight. I wanted to head down to the international terminal to lounge for a small bit, but also wanted to talk to an EVA rep about seeing if 85A was open and if they could put me in it. As I walked from Terminal 8 to Terminal 7, I didn’t even realize where I was due to the construction. I ended up in Terminal 6, and as I was making my way to the underground walkway that connects T6-T5-T4, I saw that the shuttle bus was boarding for terminal transfers. It was boarding for T6-Gates 60A-I (the American Airlines express flights nest), but I decided to wait for the T4 bus which showed up right after.


T7 Construction

As we made the drive across the tarmac, an older women sitting across from me was sure we were going to get run over by a plane – it was almost a borderline panic attack as a Delta 737 slowly passed by (wonder what would have happened if it was a larger plane!?).

Once in T4, I headed down towards security, and made the walk up the stairs to the TBIT connector. I like that as you walk up, you are next to the American Airlines 777 gate. There was a flight to LHR that wasn’t ready to board yet, but you got a fairly close look at AA’s 777-300. The connector brought me past the Qantas First Lounge (I will get to check it out for the first time in October!) and the OAL lounge. A short walk later I was at the Oneworld Business Lounge and then the Star Alliance Lounge.

I needed to present my UA Gold card as well as my boarding pass to get in. Once in, there was a handful of *A reps at a small table – Air New Zealand, Lufthansa, and EVA. I had asked the EVA rep to see if she could look into my flight to see if 85A was available, stressing that my flight was from Vancouver to Taipei and not Los Angeles which took a minute for her to comprehend.

She said I would have to do that at YVR, so I asked if she could at least print me my boarding pass since I didn’t have one. She wasn’t sure, and after about 2 minutes called someone (I’m thinking the desk downstairs), and was told that she couldn’t do it.

Ok then. I wasn’t going to bother heading down to the gate where there was a delayed EVA flight that hadn’t begun boarding yet. The cuisine on the *A bar was very heavily Asian themed, which didn’t bode well for me as I’m a very picky eater. There was however a noodle bar in the back where I grabbed some wheat noodles with some diced chicken and imitation crab meat which was pretty good. I was also pretty thirsty and grabbed a coke from the fountain machine, which for whatever reason tasted better then normal. I still had about an hour and a half, so decided to head outside really quick, and then to Terminal 2 and check out the MLL and the terminal, one I’d never been in before.

My dinner - noodles with imitation crab and chicken.


Quiet outside the *A lounge


It's not the best for plane spotting, but you can definitely hear the planes!

The walk itself wasn’t too bad – just a bit over 15 minutes from *A lounge to T2 entrance. My AC boarding pass had precheck, so once in the terminal, I went up the stairs, and to the right which was was the precheck lane.


Did get a view of this beauty on the walk over though!

All I can say was that T2 security was an absolute mess. To start with, I was number 47 in the precheck line. There was one single officer working the line. He was also harping about making sure to take out laptops – OK, I guess we’re running precheck lite, whatever. You know it was bad when two pilots were in line behind me and after 5 minutes got out of the line. After 10 minutes, a guy in a black suit came and opened up a lane farther down on the left side, which moved about 20 people down there, which helped. But here’s what happened and why I think that was stupid – to help alleviate the long lines, people with precheck (and albeit a lot of these people were foreigners based on accents) were getting sent to the non-precheck lanes. Right before I got up, the officer said to the women “you might have to take off your shoes, you might not” As he said this, there was a giant message on the screen behind him pointing out the benefits of precheck, including keeping on your shoes and light garments.

So we got pushed into the middle, where there was a WMTD on the left and body scanner on the right. I was pushed into the right lane, but kept my shoes and jacket on. The women in front of me did too, and as we got our stuff on the belt, the security guard one lane over asked if she was precheck and then called her through to the WMTD, and I followed lead. In all, it took about 20 minutes, which I guess isn’t terrible, but it just felt like no one knew what was going on or what to do. Once through, I nearly passed by gate, having to actually look behind me as my gate to Vancouver, 21, was immediately to the right of security. I had about 30 minutes until boarding, so decided to go up to the MLL.


My first view of T2...a little bit different, very much a mall-like feel.

Air Canada MLL
Upon getting into the lounge, I presented my boarding pass, to which the lounge agent said “this doesn’t get you access.” I was kind of puzzled, and said “Star Gold”? She asked if I was on a non-revenue ticket and I said it was an award ticket, and she said as long as I had my star gold card. I presented it, and then when I examined my boarding pass, saw it didn’t actually list my UA FF#, so no *G displayed on it.


MLL Liquor


MLL Wine


MLL Draft Beer! Happy to see the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale


MLL Buffet


More Buffet Items


List of MLL Items


View from my bar table.


MLL Candy!

I will say that the lounge was much better then I was expecting. The view isn’t the best I’ve seen, as you can see T3 and parts of the big planes behind it at the TBIT. I did get to see an N and Z 773 in the black kiwi livery taxiing, which was awesome to see. There was a decent spread for snacks and drinks, and for spirits as well. I had a small dose of Glenlivet 12 and some more coke. It also provided a view of the northern runways, where I saw the New Zealand plane taxiing.


Air NZ in it's beautiful black livery.

After briefly charging my phone, I went back downstairs to the gate area to snap a pic of my plane before boarding. …Except I couldn’t find my plane. It was 5:45pm (boarding time), and our plane wasn’t at the gate. I thought maybe it was a weird jet bridge and I just couldn’t see it, but it was in fact not there, despite us still showing an on time departure of 6:15pm.

LAX-YVR
Pushback: Sked 6:15pm Actual 6:35pm (20 minutes late)
Takeoff: Sked 6:24pm Actual 6:47pm (23 minutes late)
Landing: Sked 8:41pm Actual 9:04pm (23 minutes late)
Gate Arrival: Sked 8:59pm Actual 9:08pm (9 minutes late)

The plane pulled up around 5:53, and our departure time changed to 6:25pm (which wasn’t going to happen either). I boarded in group 2 around 6:15, and settled into my exit row seat 17A. I was pretty impressed – the seat felt great! AC also does a great job with in seat power and USB ports in convenient locations (read: not below you, hidden between seats). I started browsing through movies and came up between the Martian and Zootopia. My girlfriend and I agreed we would watch Zootopia when I got back so I settled for the Martian, which had a runtime of 2 hours and 20 minutes, almost what my flight time was.


Great leg room!


My view - much different then the usual flights from T4/6/7/8

We left the gate at 6:35 and took off at 6:47 heading west for a fair bit before a slight right turn to the right. I had to pull my window shade up because the sun was blinding from the west. No complaints on the flight, my movie ended right before we touched down. My window was very foggy though, and it was hard to see out it as we were on final approach and taxiing to our gate. I saw the British Airways A380 parked at the end at Gate 64, and as we taxied, saw a China Eastern 747 and my EVA 747 next to each other. Both flights leave at 2:00am, but I was happy to see my planes were already here while there was still some sun left, so I could snap a pic.


Two good looking 747s!

YVR
The walk down immigration was fairly straightforward. I like that in YVR it is an open, not enclosed space above the gate areas. After a 5 minute or so walk, there’s a fork to the left for INTL connections and to the right for Domestic/US. I went left to a fairly small room that only had one person in line. The officer asked for his immigration card, to which the guy said “I was told I didn’t have to fill one out,” which the guard replied “you were told wrong.”

I want to preface this by saying that I was re-reading a thread on Flyertalk about immigration at YVR – it was honestly a bit scary some of the stories there. I only bring this up because I flew into YYC last month and was pulled aside for secondary screening before I could exit. The guards were very polite and professional, don’t get me wrong on this, but the experience was a bit frightening. Two things made it a very nerve-wracking experience – the first, was as I was emptying out my small bag and backpack for the officer, there was a man who emerged in handcuffs with his suitcase not more than 20 feet from me in a door.

The second was that they said they had to go through my phone and laptop to look for illicit material. So I unlocked my computer for the guard, and my phone for another women guard, who proceeded to take my phone and disappear into a back room, while the officer in front of me started asking me questions about my facebook posts (that he had pulled up on my laptops computer). The women was in a different room for almost 20 minutes, before coming back to give me my phone, which the guard then said I was good.

I was worried that my complex itinerary would raise some flags, that I would have to explain mileage running to someone who would ask me why I didn’t have a large suitcase or the like, despite the fact I wasn’t going land-side in Canada.

However, things worked the way they should. He asked me where I was going, I said Taipei, he said ok, stamped my card, and then sent me off. I had to speak to one more person who asked for my boarding pass, and then my boarding pass from LAX, and with that sent me down a small staircase that dropped me off right in the international terminal.


YVR has that "cabin up north" feel

There wasn’t a whole lot of activity going on. There were two late night Air Canada departures, a 773 to Sydney and a 789 to Brisbane. I wanted to talk to a gate agent, but with it being ~10:00pm (the opening time for the BR desk), knew there wouldn’t be anyone at the EVA gate for at least 2 hours. I walked to security and asked an officer if there was an exit so that I could go to the desks in front, but she said I wasn’t allowed to do that. With that, I gave up on any hopes of seat 85A, hoping that my middle seat next to me would stay open, and ran right into the YVR MLL.


Look at this beauty!


Front-on view.

YVR MLL
It was smaller than I was anticipating. My EVA boarding pass (which did have my *G information on it) was good enough to get me in, but I was told the lounge would be closing at 11:00. I sat down at one of the computers (which worked great and had great speeds), and checked in for my JAL flight. I was able to print my boarding pass, which was great because it would (unbeknownst to me at the time) help me out later. I also printed out my EVA boarding pass just because. I went online to the EVA website to see what seats were available. 2 more middle seats had opened in the upper deck, and also one aisle. The seat next to me was still empty. I was pretty hungry at this point so I went over to grab some snacks.

I decided on some (plain) nacho chips, some cucumbers, and then I finally saw it…Chicken Noodle Soup. For the picky eater like me, Chicken Noodle Soup is a cornerstone of what I eat, but I NEVER see it in lounges. It’s always some crazy type of soup that doesn’t sound appealing, but this was the jackpot. I had probably four small cups of it, and with a coke it was very good. The nacho chips were also very salty, so I was very satisfied with the snack offerings.


Plain nachos, chicken noodle soup, and a coke. I love it.

After having some snacks, I needed a shower, decided to meander over to the Plaza Premium Lounge, which is the lounge EVA *G’s and Business Class pax get. I had a mobile boarding pass and a mobile lounge invitation, but the lounge rep didn’t seem to want that, so she instead wrote down my name and seat number for the flight. I asked about the showers and she walked me over to them. The first one she went into, but came back saying “not ready,” then checked on the second one (the handicap accessible one) and said I was good to go, so I did.

After I got out and changed, I looked at was available for food. There was two sets of food; the first, right after the entrance and before the showers, had a deli-style display with some sandwiches and brownies. Right off the side was some soup, and…bingo! Chicken Noodle Soup! I had to get some to try and….wait a second….the soup looked identical to the MLL Chicken Noodle Soup…

And down a little bit farther was the hot food section, again heavily Asian-flavored. I snapped a couple pics, but passed on the dishes. I got bored of waiting around as there really wasn’t a lot going on, so decided to head back towards the departure gate to see if anything was going on, this would have been about 11pm.


Chocolate brownie dessert. It was cold, so it was very good!

As I walked back, sure enough there was an EVA agent behind the gate desk and a line of people. I got in line, and when I got up asked if they could print a physical pass for me, and then asked if my request for seat 85A from the phone agent ever got approved (answer: No). The agent did ask me how long I would be staying in Taiwan, and when I promptly answered 7 hours, seemed kind of taken back. I explained I was connecting to Japan, and showed her my printed ticket. She punched some information into the computer before giving me back my passport, boarding pass, and a lounge invitation. She had remarked that the lounge had called down asking for it, and suggested I go back there to wait until boarding at 1:20am.


Mini-aquarium on walk back

I said thank you, but decided not to go back to the lounge. I went to look for outlets around the gate since I wanted to charge my phone and laptop, but outlets were far and few between, a big a pet peeve of mine. About halfway down the concourse I found an outlet pair next to a chair. It was like an island table, that spit out cold air. Hard to explain, but it actually felt really nice. I spent an hour on emails, flyertalk, passing the time.


Charging up for the flight!


Also, shout-out to the YVR wi-fi.

I watched the EVA air crew come in sets of 2 or 3 sporadically, as opposed to the China Eastern crew who came in one large contingent. Pre- boarding soon began, so I went to use the restroom and then queued up at gate 55 to board the Queen of the Skies.

It's time!

Last edited by BThumme; Jul 5, 16 at 3:03 pm
BThumme is offline  
Old Jul 5, 16, 3:00 pm
  #3  
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Join Date: Apr 2012
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YVR-TPE
Pushback: Sked 2:00am Actual 1:56am (4 minutes early)
Takeoff: Sked ??? Actual 2:13am
Landing: Sked ??? Actual 4:40am
Gate Arrival: Sked 5:10am Actual 4:47am (23 minutes early)

I had spoiled the surprise to myself by watching a youtube video showing the walk down the jetway and up the 747. That didn’t stop my giddiness though. I walked in, and immediately turned right and up the very small staircase, to the back of the upper deck. There were two women in the front of the upper deck that had pre-boarded, which seems like an odd location for pre-boarded pax to sit, but who am I to question. From the time I boarded, no one else came upstairs for 15 minutes. I had boarded with group 1, I’m guessing from *Gold, but no one else must have had it. Row 85 did indeed have infinite leg room, but the seats I had had a moveable armrest, which meant it wouldn’t squeeze you in.


View of the upper deck as soon as you come up the stairs.


From the exit row looking back.


EVA's upper deck exit row, row 85.

After boarding, I watched the China Eastern plane push back, and was greeted by a flight attendant who confirmed I ordered the fruit tray. We pushed back shortly after, and began trailing the other 747. With it being quarter after 2 in the morning, there wasn’t a whole lot to see. I wasn’t able to watch the plane take off as it took off from the other side of where I was seated.


Plenty of leg and knee room.


View of the side-cabinets for stowage - really nice to have!


My view for the next 13 hours.


Best view I could could.

It’s a little hard to see out the windows, because due to the curvature of the plane that high, the windows actually point slightly upwards. I took a video of the takeoff like I usually do, but there wasn’t really much to see other than a bit of the flashing light. The acceleration was very smooth, and the nose pitched up quite steeply compared to my earlier flights and we were on our way. We made a couple right hand turns and followed up through Victoria and the coast of British Columbia before eventually veering over the Pacific.

With the excitement over, I began nodding in and out (which was a good thing), before being startled by the flight attendant – she had brought out my fruit tray. Now the thing with preordering meals, is that you get it early. The only bad thing is, the normal meals need time to heat up, so it was almost another half hour before my plate got taken away. As I mentioned earlier I’m quite the picky eater, so I had ordered the fruit platter.


Fruit Platter (Dinner Course)

It was a nice meal to end the night, and with nobody in the middle seat, I was able to sleep for a bit. What I really liked was that the flight attendant made everyone put their seats up for those people behind them who were eating.

I woke up around three hours later, and for the next couple hours would nod in and out. Until about 2 hours out when I was served yet another fruit tray.

Breakfast fruit platter

I took a coffee and began to wake up and look forward to moving around. The night sky slowly started to light up, a very beautiful red/orange sherbet color with some blue sprinkled in, and we made contact over land bending to the left to line up for the runway. I don’t know how much being in the upper deck affects what you feel, but the touchdown was very smooth. The flight attendants came around taking duty-free orders, and I decided on picking up a model 773 and EVA Plush pilot. I would have liked a 747, but there was only 773's and A320's to pick from. At $50 for the plane and $30 for the bear, prices weren't cheap. This was also my first model plane I've ever bought.


Right before descending.

We taxied for about 7 minutes and then pulled up next to an EVA 777. I was deliberately slow packing my stuff off, as I wanted to see if I could grab a picture or at least a view of the cockpit. I had asked the flight attendant to ask the captain, and she told me to take a seat and wait for a minute. I sat in the aisle seat of the exit row (85D), and boy was I glad I didn’t get an exit seat – the arm rests aren’t removable, sure, but with the way the remote sticks out, it was actually digging into me. No way I could have done that for more than 10 minutes.

One of the pilots came out, looking a bit confused. I think he thinks I may have wanted a picture with him; I explained I simply wanted one of the cockpit as it was my first time being on a 747, but was told now because “it’s company policy.” After a few awkward seconds I thanked him and the gate agent and proceeded down the stairs and into the transit area.

TPE
We had pulled into C5, and directly after exiting the gate was an enormous line for people connecting. I noticed the line right next to it was completely empty, and it was for elite/business class members, so I went up, presented my star gold card, and was told since I was connecting to JAL, I needed to go down to the China Airlines desk. I thought she was mistaken by that, as China Airlines skyteam. I figured I needed to at least go somewhere else as I wasn’t going to EVA. I made my way to the “D” transfer area, where I asked a China Airlines rep with a clipboard directing people where to go, showing him my boarding pass, and he pointed me to the “D” security checkpoint just ahead. I went in, gave my printed boarding pass to the guard who looked at it funny, gave it to another officer who said something back to him, and then was given it back and told I needed to get an actual boarding pass.

Despite the “JAPAN AIRLINES BOARDING PASS” printed in bold letters up top (it didn’t have a gate because I checked in so early, maybe that was the problem)? I went to the China Airlines desk. There was a list of almost every airline that they handled, so I gave my boarding pass and passport to the official who looked at it, and then said she would need to hold on to my passport. Apparently, JAL uses a different system and it would take some time to get me my pass, but I was directed to a set of chairs just next to the gate. Again, whatever, not going to argue.

I sat down and connected to my sweet, sweet wi-fi, expecting to only have to wait 5 or so minutes. I sat down at 6:14 am, and once 6:45am passed, I said if I didn’t hear back by 7am I was going back up. I looked on my phone and saw that the flight was going to leave from gate D8, so I knew I was in the right area, and had an official boarding pass. I was going to demand they give it back, but at 6:57 the woman came back apologizing for the wait but said she couldn’t get it. I was frustrated, but said screw it I’m going back through security.

There was a bit of a line, which in the US would probably mean 20 minutes of wait. At Taipei, it was about 2.5 minutes. I didn’t say anything to the guard, threw my stuff in a bin and walked through, and not a single thing was said to me.

I turned a corner, up some escalators, and I wa dropped into the middle of the pier connecting the C and D gates. My first thought was to get to a lounge, but which one? I followed the signs into a large open plaza, and took another escalator up to the fourth floor, which was the food court and lounges. Immediately on my left was the Singapore Silver Kris lounge.


My first view of the main Taipei concourse.

Now at the time, I thought all that was needed for Star lounges was *G (or a club membership) and a same day boarding pass on a star airline. I had my eva pass, and I had my itinerary showing my ANA flight, but was told I had to be departing TPE on it. I had heard that SQ lounges could be stingy, so didn’t argue and went to try the first of 3 EVA lounges. Right next to that was “The Club.” I walked up, showed my boarding pass and *G card, and the woman said “Oh, you’re looking for the lounge just right down there.” Ah, perfect.

Down to the main EVA lounge, where I got the same answer as the SQ lounge. Had to be depearting TPE and TPE only. Frusturated, I told myself I would just go to whatever airline lounge JAL uses. I pulled up the so-so wi-fi and found “The VIP legends lounge,” located between gates D6 and D7. I headed towards the gates and probably spent 40 minutes trying to find it. I went between D6 and D7, nothing. I looked up, tried to find stairs, tried looking next to the food stands and display areas, but couldn’t find anything. I pulled up another result from JAL, which had a map, and a red dot pointed on the right side closer to gates D8 or D9. Went down there, and nothing. Another google search, and I got a result it was on the fourth floor (the gates are on the third). Darn, that figures. I walked back to the centrium and up the stairs, and made a big circle but it didn’t go anywhere towards the D gates.

I was so confused, and thought maybe there was a hidden staircase or elevator I needed to go up. Another walk back to the D gates, and I saw a door with stairs, but thought it might be an emergency door. I got on a moving walkway and finally saw the entrance on the other side. When I was there earlier, it had a metal(ish) door hiding the entrance (like what malls have when they’re closed, except not transparent) over it, it must not have been open earlier.

View from in front of the SilverKris Lounge


Another view of TPE concourse

TransAsia VIP Lounge
The lounge was pretty underwhelming. Since there is a limited number of OAL departures, I guess it makes sense. The lady at the front desk didn’t like my paper boarding pass, writing down my name and flight, but let me in. There was an 8am departure to Kansai, but at 7am there still wasn’t anyone else in the lounge. There was a section that had seats with desks facing the C terminal and a small part of the runway. It was very spacious, so I had no problem sprawling out.I skyped my grandmother back in Michigan, who had a hard time understanding that it was actually Wednesday morning where I was and not Tuesday afternoon.


The entrance is no where near as exciting as the other lounges at TPE


View coming in


Seating area where I would setup base.


Food offerings 1 (no thanks)


Food 2


Food 3


Transasia VIP Liquor


Drinks plus frozen desserts (chocolate and almond brownies)


Coffee and tea machines. I had an americano.


[I...]And maybe a scotch as well.[/I]


Overlooking TPE


My souvenirs I had picked up from the EVA on-board shop.


Good wi-fi speeds.

After about 3 hours I got bored and went to explore some of the C terminal and gift shops. I was surprised how much of a focus was on alcohol at the duty free stores. I’m used to seeing stores with snacks/food and souvenirs, but there was none. I went down towards D3 which was supposed to have an E-Sports exhibit, but it was underwhelming. There was a huge TV that had a demo of Kinect Sports from two years ago, and a series of gaming computers running…NBA 2K13. Even if you’re not a big gamer, it’s not exactly a game to show off what top of the line computers can push out.


esports computer demo station


Xbox one esports station


Walking down the terminal.

I was getting hungry for some real food, and went up to put a little more effort into checking out the food court this time. There was a burger king, starbucks, and two oriental restaurants on the north side and a burger shop and dim sum place on the south. I don’t know why, but Burger King sounded better than normal. I looked at the prices and was actually surprised to see how affordable it was. The combo meals were < $5 USD, I would expect in an airport to be closer to $10. Did I say I’m a picky eater? I wanted a hamburger and fries, but I only put lettuce (and bacon) on them. In the states, I still get a screwed up order probably 33% of the time. I told the BK worker I wanted the Hamburger combo, but with only lettuce. He said okay and asked what I wanted to drink – coke – and then I said “so no Ketchup, Onions, just lettuce – he said “I know.” I think he may have thought I thought he was stupid and couldn’t understand that – I didn’t think that, I just hate having to bring back food that wasn’t made right. I paid for it, and my meal was out in less than 20 seconds – amazing. And it was made correctly, and boy did it taste great.


Might not look at, but this tasted amazing. And only $5 USD!

I started walking back, planning to head to my gate, but made a quick stop at the godiva store in the food court. They had some chocolates of course, but also had ice cream cones and frozen coffee drinks. And again to my surprise, the frozen coffee drinks were very reasonably priced - $5 USD.


Godiva Menu - note the reasonable prices


My Godiva drink.

I grabbed a chocolate raspberry drink, and it was heavenly. I walked back to D8 and arrived at 11:15, exactly one hour before my flight. As I sat down, I was immediately paged up to the counter. There were some posts on the deal thread that said a couple people had been upgraded on the TPE-KIX leg, so I was thinking I had got one. Instead, they wanted to verify my transit information, that I arrived earlier in the day, and after a minute seemed happy enough and gave me my physical boarding pass.


Gate D8


My bird to Osaka

I had started double checking my planned transit from KIX to ITM. There is a charter bus service that runs between the airports, for a reasonable ~$19 USD. I read a thread on people connecting from KIX to ITM that I hadn’t seen in the past, and someone mentioned that if you were connecting within two days, you could get a free pass. I checked the website again, as I hadn’t seen that, and sure enough until September 30 you can get a free pass, all you need to do is show an inbound ticket and an outbound ticket – awesome! Down the jetway and onto the next flight.

TPE-KIX
Pushback: Sked 12:15pm Actual 12:15pm (on time)
Takeoff: Sked: ??? Actual 12:32pm
Landing: Sked: ??? Actual 3:34pm
Gate Arrival: Sked 4:00pm Actual 3:43pm (17 minutes early)


First time on a JL flight. First thoughts – WOW! Those business class seats look amazing! I was in seat 24A, part of a mini-cabin just behind the rear of business class. There was already a women sitting in 24B, and as I sat down I remember what it feels like to loathe economy. I had no legroom. I had to have my knees bent out like a V just to avoid having the seat in front of me dig into my legs. I don’t know how you could ride this overseas. While still boarding, one of the FA’s came by and asked if I had pre-ordered a meal. I said yes, and then she made me tell her my name and what I ordered to verify it (seemed like a bit much), and then went on her way. Similar to my EVA flight, I had picked the fruit platter, and once again it was delivered early and picked up late. It made things worse because of how limited I was for space.


No legroom on my JAL 787


My pre-ordered fruit plate meal.

The IFE and games slection was okay, but my right arrow didn't work on my controller. I thought it was really cool that Street Fighter II was one of the games.


But without a working right button, I couldn't hadouken.

There wasn’t much to see as the flight was mostly over water, and soon we were beginning our descent. I filled out my immigration and customs cards, and kept going back between the flight info screen and my watch. We were expected to arrive at the gate a 3:38pm, which meant I might have a small shot at the 4:00 bus to Itami if everything went smooth. The next bus was at 4:40, and after that, I would have been pushing it VERY close. I kept looking out, waiting to go below the clouds and mist, and saw what looked like a buoy…we were already below the clouds, and actually just seconds away from landing. There was some crazy fog, but it didn’t seem to be a problem.


The view probably 15 seconds before landing - I thought we were in the clouds!

KIX-ITM Transfer
I got off the plane and hurried on towards immigration. As I was doing this, a couple business men went running by. I didn’t know it, but we still needed to take a shuttle bus to the main terminal for immigration processing. I got in a line of about 40 people deep, at 3:52, so pretty much gave up on trying to catch the 4:00 pm shuttle. Immigration went okay, it seemed like the officer’s reader didn’t read my passport at first, but in the end I was good. I went through baggage claim, and had to talk to a customs officer before I was out. He asked me where I was coming from, asked me twice if I had checked bags. His final question was what I was doing in Japan, to which I said I was connecting, showed him my itinerary (although he only looked at the ITM-HND flight, not my flights back to the states, and almost annoyed told me to go on.

Walking into the main area of Kansai, I was immediately dripping in sweat. I knew the general idea of where I had to go from the various maps on the bus page, and as I kept walking down I finally found it. I had simply told the lady I was connecting to a flight out of Itami, gave her my physical TPE-KIX pass and a copy of my itinerary ITM-HND, and in a minute she had filled out a small paper voucher, told me the next shuttle was at 4:30 (not 5:30), and I would be picked up right in front. Great. I exchanged $20 USD for approximately 2,000 yen and went outside to wait.

Except it was even worse outside. I also couldn’t connect to wi-fi outdoors, so went back in for 20 minutes. I hadn’t actually checked in for my ANA flights at this time. I’m not sure if the problem was it was domestic (I doubt it), or that it was an award ticket (I’m guessing maybe?), but I figured if we left at 4:30, got there at 5:30, that would give me an hour to check in and lounge around before boarding.


Not much between us and the water

The shuttle came and soon we were on our way. Driving down the road towards the mainland, it reminded me of the Cedar Point Causeway, if anyone is familiar with that. I couldn’t see much due to the fog, but I could see we were right next to the water.

Somewhere in Osaka


View after drop-off

The exactly one hour bus ride was uneventful and dropped me off right in the middle of Itami, where to the left was ANA flights, and the right JAL.

Red pill or blue pill? Blue for me.

I went to the left and found a Kiosk, where I tried finding my reservation but could not get it pulled up. I got in line for check-in, and saw there was a sign that elite check in was upstairs. So I went upstairs, and was able to get checked in in person in about 2 minutes.


ANA Premium Check-in counters

Before going through security, I saw there was a sign pointing to stairs that said observation deck, so I had to check it out. Although the airport is fairly small, it was cool to get outside and high up so you could see some planes. There was a 772 in Star Alliance Livery, an ANA Q400 (very cool!), and I saw a Japan Air Connect CRJ 200 as well. It was weird for me to see them because the only time I see ANA/JAL planes are all 777/787 widebodies at US airports. The ANA Q400 livery goes really great with the plane IMO.


ANA 777-200 in Star Alliance Livery. This would end up being my bird to HND! Also note the beautiful Q400

I went back downstairs and through security, which was super fast and easy, and towards the gates. I saw a kiosk at the first gate on the right, so I went towards it to see if I could change my seat. It was approximately 5:52, and I looked up to see I was at the gate for the 6pm Haneda departure. I looked up, looked down at my pass, and one of the ANA agents asked if it was my flight. I politely said no, saying I was on the 7pm flight, and she said ok. I did ask though, expecting to get laughed at (or thoroughly shot down) if I could move up to that flight. I’m sure it might be an option, but remind you, it’s less then T-10. People are still casually showing up to the gate boarding, and the ANA lady takes my small boarding pass, goes to the kiosk, and three minutes later gets me on the flight. Not even rushed “HERE TAKE THIS GO NOW,” just very calmly and politely. I wasn’t even the last to board. I could not believe that had happened.

ITM-HND
Pushback: Sked 6:00pm Actual 6:00pm (on time)
Takeoff: Sked: ??? Actual 6:12pm
Landing: Sked: ??? Actual 7:01pm
Gate Arrival: Sked 7:15pm Actual 7:12pm (3 minutes early)

I walked into the 777 – my first time being in one of any variant. It’s so big inside! I was assigned seat 41H, an aisle, as there was no windows left. I began heading down, and noticed I was only in row 13 – I wasn’t even sure there was 30 more rows! There was though, and I was the back of the 772 where it was 2-4-2 seating, so I had no one to the left of me. We pushed back exactly at 6, and began taxiing. What I thought was really cool was that the TV’s on board showed the front view camera feed, so you could watch the taxi and take off.


While not having a window seat, the live camera feed from in front was a good substitute.
At 41 minutes, this would be a quick flight. The flight went by very fast, and I was very excited that I would have an extra hour then planned in Tokyo. As we began our final the tv screens came back with the camera where you could see the runway lit up, and we landed and had a fairly long taxi around the terminal and into our gate. As I was one of the last people to exit, I had asked, again, if I could get a picture in the cockpit and was told no. At Haneda, it felt like I was connecting as in international passenger, as it did not drop me off in the departures area. Instead it was a long tunnel where you could connect to domestic/international flights or follow the tunnel to the end to arrivals and baggage claim. At the end I emerged into a very crowded and fast moving main concourse area. I connected to google maps, pulled up directions to the Akihabara train station, and went downstairs and followed the signs to the monorail.


Solaseed Air 737, one of only 12 in existence (according to wikipedia)

Google maps had quoted me a price of 630 yen; leaving from the monorail and connecting at Tokyo Station to a JR line train to Akihabara. I found a ticket kiosk, and not sure if I was doing this right, saw a button that said connection to JR line, hit that, put in my ticket value (it wasn’t based on destination, only ticket prices), and put in my card. The machine wouldn’t take my two credit cards, so I used the cash I had exchanged for earlier. It printed out a small stub, and I wasn’t actually sure if it was the ticket or a receipt, but it turned out to indeed be my ticket. Down one more set of stairs and I was soon on my way.

The connection at Tokyo Station was fairly straightforward as well. At the station, there was lots of signs for AA. I went down to sets of stairs, and followed signs for the JR platform 2 (which Google Maps told me to do). I got there right as a train was boarding, and thought about cramming in, but decided I would just wait the four minutes for the next train to come.


Lots of AA signs here!


The very not confusing map for first time visitors

I began the final leg of this portion of the trip up to Akihabara, four stops out. About 10 minutes alter we arrived at the station. I got out and was greeted by the AKI48 café and Gundam Café. There was a group of people gathered outside the AKI48 café, which had video monitors broadcasting something “live.” I started walking north, and then realizing that was the wrong way before turning around and getting to my hotel.


I think the signs look pretty cool too

Hotel Washington Akihabara/Out in Akihabara
The hotel is located right next to the train station and the Yodobashi Akiba, one of the largest stores in the world. After checking in to my room, which I had prepaid for 8800 JPY (approx $88 USD), I went up to my 9th floor to shower and change into some not-soaked in my sweat from the humidity clothes, and made my way out. Unfortunately many Japanese stores are closed by 9pm on weeknights, so I didn’t get to visit a whole lot of places I had good things about.


The hotel actually starts on the third floor; Denny's on the second.


Bedroom - normal size for Tokyo standards


Bathroom was surprisingly large - and with a heated toilet/bidet!

My first stop was the Yodobashi Akiba. Yodobashi Akiba is an eight-floor electronic superstore, that makes you feel like a little kid in a candy store – instead of candy it's just electronics and electronic-related goods.


This place is seriously huge.

Rather then sit and ogle through every floor, I realized my time would be best spent on floor 5, the toys and video game floor. Taking the escalators up, I can say the feeling was a bit overwhelming. Everything was bright, and loud, and yelling at me. It was like a Toys R Us for adults, if that makes sense. I began walking down one aisle, only to get distracted by something else in the next aisle, and again, and again. I made my way over to the video game section where I saw more versions of Nintendo DS systems then I knew existed. The prices were a little bit steep, but it didn’t stop me from getting a stuffed plush for me and my girlfriend. At 1950 and 3100 Yen they were a bit overpriced, but again, you don’t see this stuff in the rest of the world every day. I spent close to an hour there before decided to see what else I could find. As I exited the store it had begun to rain, and I was surprised by how many Japanese had umbrellas. It wasn’t a downfall, but it was a small mist. I next made my way into a pachinko bar where I was again overwhelmed.


Akihabara

I’m familiar with pachinko – you try to catch balls that get shot up and dropped down. The ages have changed though and everything is much more electronic based. I wanted to play, but didn’t know how to. It was also very loud – much louder than any casino I’ve ever been to. I spent about 5 minutes out before going to a more proper arcade.

I found the games and people there very interesting. There was lots of UFO catcher games, with prizes ranging from small plushes to posters and pillow cases. The first arcade I went to I went downstairs where a group of people were linked together playing a Gundam game. Upstairs I was in the “rhythm” section, where I saw people playing a game I had never seen before – Orathimi. One guy was there in a suit absolutely killing it, and I wish I could have found out how to play.


One of the many multi-story arcades in the area

I visited I believe three arcades, all with the big SEGA logo out in front, and they were for the most part identical. It was approaching 11pm, and I was getting hungry and tired. I stopped at mcdonalds to order a chicken mcnugget meal to take back to my hotel room. I wanted to pay with card, but they only took cash. I almost cancelled the order, because I feared (and correctly) that the train ticket machines wouldn’t take my cards.
The cashier had asked if I wanted Ketchup, which I declined but asked about Salt. He wasn’t sure what I meant and I made the hand motioning of a salt shaker, he looked at me for a minute, looked around, then went to the salt shaker that every McDonald's uses to salt their fries, and poured me some into an empty fries bag.


Japanese McDonalds

I walked back to my hotel, where the rain had started to intensify. I got up to my room and started eating, and the food was pretty much terrible. The nuggets were almost completely cold and stale, and the fries were very soggy. I managed to eat what I could before giving up and starting to prepare for my journey to Narita the next morning.

There were a couple options – trains, more trains, and trains back to Tokyo connecting to a shuttle bus. I knew I would need to go to an ATM to get cash, and decided on a 645 am train that should get me into Narita at 8am.
I woke up about 4:45am to a mild panic because of how bright it was. About 3 months ago I had overslept a $500 ticket from Colorado Springs to Hong Kong, so I was on edge about missing this as it was. I didn’t chance going back to sleep and made an early check out to find an ATM. I went to one of the grocery stores around 6am that was open, “Family Mart,” where the only withdrawal amounts were in 100,000 JPY intervals. I passed on that and figured I would head to the train station and try my debit card (which doesn’t have foreign-free transactions). I got to the station right on time, but neither my two cards nor my debit card worked. I went to another nearby family mart, put in my information, and my card was declined for cash withdrawal. With 7am approaching, I figured my best bet might be making the 2 mile walk to Tokyo station and paying for a bus, since I figured that would be the best bet for somewhere that takes (American?) credit cards.


Backroads to the other train station.

I walked about 5 blocks and came next to a duty-free store, that had a different brand of ATM machines then the Family Mart ones. I put in my card, tried to withdraw 3,000 JPY, and it worked! The machine also didn’t charge a service fee for withdrawing. I decided to head back to the station to catch the train towards Narita. I believe Google Maps quoted me a fare of 1,390 JPY. I went to the machine, and didn’t see that listed as one of the values. I hit something like 1,500 and it spit out my ticket, and I followed the stairs up to Platform 2. I had about 10 minutes before the train was supposed to arrive, but something felt off. I was trying to find a map of the stations and stops, but I couldn’t find the next stations I was supposed to go to. Google Maps lists out the stops, and I could find some in the same direction, but not the same stops, especially from my platform 2.

I was looking for the Atsukori Toei line, and I saw signs about connecting to the Toei line. I went to the other end of the station, down some stairs, and realized that I needed to be on the subway, not the JR line I was on.

I asked a ticket agent for clarification and he told me I was indeed looking for the subway. He took my ticket from me, and gave me back the cash amount I had paid for it without me asking (Thanks so much!), and I went down the stairs to the kiosks, where everything made much more sense. There was a button for Narita, connecting via Oshaige station just like my app had mentioned. I grabbed my ticket, went down, and saw there was a train boarding from the platform immediately, so I hopped on it towards Oshiage.

My app had said to stay on the same train from Oshiage. It was supposed to leave 7 minutes later, but I had thought I was fast enough to catch an earlier one. As we approached Oshiage, I thought, maybe there was a chance that this specific train wouldn’t head out to Narita. I decided that, at Oshiage, I would play it safe and get off and wait 7 minutes for the next train, and I’m glad I did. The train I was on wouldn’t have went to Narita. As I got off and saw a flight attendant with her bags, I knew I had made the right decision.


Even the subway trains are very bright


Narita bound!

Of course, once I got on the train, I found a metro system map that cleared everything up (amazing how that works once you know you’re set). The train ride lasted almost exactly an hour, and I was dropped off in the basement of Tokyo’s Narita Airport Terminal 2.


Up the stairs we go!

Last edited by BThumme; Jul 5, 16 at 6:52 pm
BThumme is offline  
Old Jul 5, 16, 7:27 pm
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Join Date: Apr 2012
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NRT
Up three sets of escalators, I was at the international departures area, which was actually fairly calm. I went towards the business check in section, was greeted by a JAL woman, and upon showing her my emerald card, she walked me over to the first class check in lane, where three other Japanese women bowed. I had checked in before, but all I had was a small QR code in my email, and I wanted actual boarding passes. The JAL check in agent gave me my NRT-JFK and JFK-MIA passes. I had asked if seat 23A opened for NRT-JFK as I saw that was supposed to have some more legroom (and was blocked for airport control last I checked), but she told me it wasn’t. I went off towards security, was denied premium security screening since I wasn’t in Biz/First class, but then realized that normal security would still be 100 times more pleasant and efficient than anything in the US.


First Class Check In!


All the ladies bowed when I came in and left.


There were four lanes open, and it took me about 10 minutes total to go from queued up to walking to passport control. At passport control, the agent tried to scan my Japanese QR code I had, which didn’t seem to work. She typed something into the computer and I was on my way. Immediately past security there was signs for the JAL First and Sakura lounges.


Up I go!

I went up the stairs and presented my boarding pass. The woman at the desk almost seemed like she wanted me to go to another place as they didn’t have sushi (that’s fine I’m picky) or some other amenities like a shower. I said no problem, I would be fine here, and proceeded to find a spot to sit. The lounge was VERY empty – there was no more than four people there at a time. What I didn’t like was that there was a dedicated dining bar at the complete opposite of the lounge. In terms of food, it was all over the place. I grabbed a piece of the peppered pork, two hash brown cakes, and two sausage links to start, as well as some coke.


Quiet First Class Sakura Lounge (4F)

I don’t know if I was that thirsty or what, but the coke felt so refreshing. I tried the hash brown cakes and they were cold and stale. The sausage wasn’t quite stale, but still cold nonetheless. The pork was good, but it was such a small serving, and the rest of the bowl was onions. Wanting more, I decided on some White Rice which was very tasty, but it’s also very hard to screw that up. I tried the raspberry and chocolate dessert cakes which were very “meh.” I don’t want to come off as complaining, because I’m a very picky and basic eater, but I was disappointed overall with the quality of the offerings. I should have probably headed to the American lounge, but decided just to wait around.


Beverage Station


Second Beverage Station


Japanese Wine


JAL Starters (no thanks)


More starters (had the peppered pork, was pretty good)


Breakfast Hot Items 1


Breakfast Hot Items 2


JAL Pumpkin Soup


JAL Miso Soup and Beef Curry


My favorite JAL dish, the white rice.


JAL Finger Foods.


JAL Sweets


JAL Veggies

I skyped home for a couple minutes, had a drink, and then went to try out one of the massage chairs, which were very cool. There are pouches for your hands and legs that are air filled, and it suctions them out at various phases to mold to your arms/legs, and it felt pretty relaxing. I don’t know what any of the options meant, so just hit the first thing I could and it seemed to work very good.


JAL Massage Chair.


I noticed JAL 6's flight path from the day before - right over my home airport (MBS)

I started to head down to my gate about an hour and fifteen minutes before boarding. Downstairs at the gate area, I had saw there was the big entrance to the Sakura Lounge. I’m not quite sure what the difference was (at first), so I asked a JAL lady who was checking passes for access, and decided to check it out. I walked towards the entrance, and she said, “Sir, you need to use the first class entrance” “Ok then.”

The lounge down here was much more active. It had showers, a sushi bar, and the same food offerings as well as some views, which I didn’t have upstairs. I think the upstairs lounge was supposed to be a quiet place. I didn’t spend much time there, maybe five minutes, and proceeded to head to Gate 61, the first gate on the left down the pier.


My JAL 777-300 to New York!

I caught a view of my JAL 773 which would be taking me and many others to JFK. It had a tennis player on it as livery. I went down to the gate where I connected to the NRT wifi (before I was on the JAL lounge wifi) The speeds were excellent. Soon after the JAL agents were preparing the queues. I was surprised to see that oneworld emeralds get to board with First Class, ahead of business and oneworld ruby/sapphires, and only behind those needing extra time to board. I hopped into the number two spot in line. Another JAL woman asked to see my boarding pass and passport, and for some reason I was fully expecting her to kick me out (despite there being a very clear green oval next to the boarding sign), but she just smiled at me and said thank you.


Almost time to board!


Also, another shout-out to the NRT wi-fi.

Of all my flying I’ve ever done, this has to be the biggest tease. Boarding, with first class, and not even sitting in the front half of the plane. I would be seated behind first/biz/prem eco, in the middle of the first part of the economy cabin. I walked down the jetway when we began boarding, turned right to economy, and made my way back.


Hopefully sometime soon I will be making a left turn.

I’m very happy I didn’t pay the $300 to upgrade to premium economy. I’m not sure it was offered, but I believe that’s the going rate. Not that I don’t think it’s not worth it, I’m sure it has its perks, but the economy seat is just that good. It’s like an economy plus seat. Very wide, great legroom, and a large screen. No need to pay extra money when this is your seat. I was in 24A, one row behind 23A, which I mentioned had the extra leg room I had tried inquiring about. I’m glad I stuck with 23A as I had the inflight screen and power controls right in front of me, whereas row 23 has the portable monitors. There was a couple who sat down in that row saying “oh wow, we’re so lucky,” leading me to believe that the seats were assigned to them automatically (I never had them available to pick from).

I was one of the very first to board, and I took my bear out for a quick picture. One of the FA’s noticed and smiled, I told her since my girlfriend can’t travel with me, the bear gets to take her place, and asked if I could grab a picture in the cockpit of it AFTER we landed. She very apologetically told me no, and that that doors to the cockpit had to remain shut at all times. I feel bad for the pilots who are forced to live their lives beyond that door, never having them opened.

NRT-JFK
Pushback: Sked 12:15pm Actual 12:15pm (on time)
Takeoff: Sked: ??? Actual 12:32pm
Landing: Sked: ??? Actual 3:34pm
Gate Arrival: Sked 4:00pm Actual 3:43pm (17 minutes early)

Tokyo to New York, the “big” one. This flight would surpass my previous longest that I had just flown YVR-TPE and before that NRT-TPE. Similar to my previous JAL flight, I had pre-ordered the fruit platter for my meal selection. A gate agent came by with a small note, asking me to confirm my name and what I ordered, and the plane began coming to life with passengers. Despite being in the second row of economy class, I was placed slightly behind the wing, which offered a good view,

We boarded about 10 minutes late, but boarding was quick and efficient and we pushed back slightly ahead of schedule. My last trip through NRT, a mileage run to Bangkok, was through Terminal 1, where I remember there being much more activity. I believe there was an American Airlines flight getting ready for Dallas at the end of the terminal, but other than that there wasn’t much to see.


A/B/C seats of the mini-cabin


Side-view showing the bulkhead seats leg room


Ready to go! No post-flight cockpit picture for us though

Our taxi was long and slow as we queued up with the Terminal 1 planes. I saw a Spring Airlines 737, parked in front of a Delta 747. The odd mix of Spring’s lemon/lime and delta’s red and white was an interesting sight. There was also a couple ANA 787 and 777’s, as well as a parked United 747.

t'way 737 to Seoul, also only one of 14 birds in existence


Finnair A333 to HEL that would leave right after us.


Contrasting liveries of Delta and Spring


ANA 788


Really shows the difference between a 747 and a 737.

It was finally our turn as the engines came to life and we began cruising down the runway.
About a half hour in, my fruit platter was brought out. I thought it was pretty good and provided a good amount of food, but as before, that also meant that I would have it sitting on my tray for almost a half hour.


Tasty

I started working on a crossword puzzle after the meal, but once my plate was taken, started to feel a bit groggy as I think the travelling was starting to get to me, and proceeded to sleep on and off for the next several hours. I eventually woke up south of Yakitusk where we ran into a bit of turbulence. I didn’t mind it, I actually find it oddly relaxing. It was the turbulence where you drop a bit and shake. No one seemed to mind, and sometime in the next hour or two I woke up to being served a single banana with a fruit platter sticker on it. I wasn’t really hungry so put it in my seat back pocket and went back to sleep, eventually waking up as were approaching Southwestern British Columbia. Feeling much more relaxed and having about 4 more hours to go, I became revitalized a bit and went back to (failing) at the USA today crossword puzzle I had from Monday. About three hours out I was served yet another fruit tray. I’m glad I ended up picking these, as the main courses that EVA/JAL/ANA offered were pretty heavily Asian based cuisine, and I don’t think I would have liked it.

As we began heading towards Milwaukee, I kept a close eye on our map. I had seen that the flight two days prior had flown pretty much directly over my family’s home near MBS, so told my family to keep an eye on flightaware or flightradar to see if they could spot me. We crossed over into Michigan over Holland, and then began the tour of I-69 Michigan airports: Grand Rapids (GRR), Lansing (LAN), and just a bit south of Flint (FNT), where my final destination would be for the night. I could make off MBS way in the distance due to knowing the geography, but I doubt my family could have been able to see me if they really tried. We crossed over the former home of the Detroit Lions, the Pontiac Silverdome, and then KPTK and into Ontario.


KGRR


KLAN

The rest of the flight seemed to go pretty fast, and we circled around from the Northwest counter-clockwise to land and touched down early around 10:15am. We taxied past the JetBlue terminal and eventually pulled up next to a Qatar 777.

New York JFK/JFK Flagship Lounge
As I landed, I received an email alert that four out of my five eligible flights (FNT-ORD single class) were upgraded, with the exception being my morning ORD-CLT. I went to the AA app to see the status of my JFK-MIA Miami flight, and not only was I not upgraded, I wasn’t even on the list. I also couldn’t get boarding passes for MIA-ORD-FNT, so I planned on stopping at T8.

I have global entry so thankfully there wasn’t too much of a hassle. THe kiosk took a minute, I went down and gave my pass to a guard who asked where I was coming from, I said Taipei, and he said what for, and I said “for the frequent flyer miles.” I was expecting some resistance but didn’t have an issue, and I was sent on my way for one final person at customs. I had to queue in a line at the very far end of the baggage claim area, and as I got called up the woman asked if I had any bags, I said no, and I was done. Total time was about 5 minutes, it probably could have been a little bit faster, but the signs at JFK aren’t the most visible.

I headed up to the AirTrain where it was only going in one direction – from Terminal 1 to 8 in ascending order, so I would get the full tour of JFK that morning. Of notable interest in the morning, an Aerolineas Argentinas' 332, and an Azerbaijani 787.


Azerbaijan 787 - larger image direct link


Arik Air A330 (Lagos, Nigeria)

It was a five minute walk to the American Gates at T8 where there was some construction going on. I went first to a kiosk to get my boarding passes and make sure I was actually checked in for all my legs, and upon doing this got an error message saying I couldn’t be added to the upgrade list. The AA app however updated and showed me #1 on the list. I went towards the security entrance from what I remembered my last time at JFK, but was told by a security guard I had to go back towards the T8 entrance and go around to the other gates to get to security.

Thankfully, PreCheck was actually operating like it was supposed to and I was through security in 2 minutes, into a very tranquil T8. My flight would be leaving from Gate 12, the first gate on the first left pier of T8, and right across/under the first of two AA lounges and the AA Flagship Lounge. I went up the elevator and into the club, where I presented my JAL economy class ticket and onward ticket to Miami. The lounge agent didn’t seem to like the very blank JAL passes, so he printed up my JFK-MIA flight on AA stock and I was on my way to my first ever visit in a Flagship Lounge.

Despite lots of construction, it was nice, and quiet. I grabbed a seat overlooking the tarmac and as I sat down, my 757 from Dublin was just pulling into the gate. My flight would be on an internationally-configured 757. The good part is that it offers a better first class seat; the bad part was that there was less first class seats then the domestic-configured 757s.
I wasn’t overly impressed with the food selection, as again I’m stubbornly picky, but I did grab the sliced turkey, which was delicious. I caught up with my family to let them know everything was going well, and then skyped my girlfriend for a bit.


Flagship Lounge Food 1


Flagship Lounge Food 2


Flagship Lounge Food 3


Soups were crab chowder and apple/butternut squash (no thanks)


Flagship liquor - didn't find anything too amazing.

Around this time I had started looking at flights for the following day. As it stood, I had a short layover in Chicago followed by a long layover in Charlotte. Having a United Club Access, I didn’t want to spend any extra time in Charlotte, despite it being, to me, one of the more pleasant airports in the country. I saw there were two earlier CLT-ATL flights that would get me in and let me spend some time in the United Club at Atlanta, which I had heard good things about. I went up to the customer desk at the Flagship Lounge, and asked about doing a same day confirmed change onto one of the earlier flights. The lady, well nice, didn’t put much effort into it and simply said they weren’t available.


My AA 757 arriving from Dublin


Also spotted a Saudi Airlines 747 Cargo Plane

No big deal, and as it was approaching one hour before my flight, I decided to head down to the gate where my flight was zeroed out. Lots of people were complaining about the seats they were assigned. The agents started getting snappier (people don’t like middle seats), and started saying “well then if you don’t like it you can take another later flight” (and then) “I don’t know when.”

An agent didn’t show up until about 20 minutes before boarding, and there was already a line. I got in line to ask if it was oversold, and told “maybe,” and that I was also on the upgrade list, and the agent wasn’t sure if that would be an issue or not. About 10 minutes later she came on saying they were oversold by SIX, and needed some volunteers. Awesome! I feel like a kid in a candy store when these situations come up. I pulled up Google Flights and Expert Flyer and looked at what options there were. I had to get to Chicago to connect to flint, so that’s what I looked at. Should I try and go JFK-IND-ORD? JFK-PIT-ORD? Or how about JFK-CLE-ORD, and a short visit to the Great Lakes Brewing Company restaurant there? Or there was also a nonstop 5:30pm JFK-ORD flight. While doing this, I saw my upgrade had cleared.

As with the case of the other 5 times I’ve volunteered with AA, they didn’t end up needing anyone. It’s such a tease. When I was told I could board, I skipped to the priority line and went to the front and boarded, where I was able to turn left after entering rather than right, to my last-aisle seat, 4E. I stowed my bags and began to relax, as I knew I was in for a good ride down to Miami. While I’m a window-seat guy, a first class seat is better than economy any day.


My view from 4E

JFK-MIA
Pushback: Sked: 1:45pm Actual: 1:42pm (3 minutes early)
Takeoff: Sked: 2:10pm Actual: 1:59pm (11 minutes early)
Landing: Sked: 4:50pm Actual 4:27pm (23 minutes early)
Gate Arrival: Sked: 5:00pm Actual 3:43pm (28 minutes early)

It felt good to be back on AA. I passed on a PDB and started to pass out for a bit while we finished boarding and began taxiing and taking off. Shortly after I was given some warm nuts and ordered the oriental chicken salad. I don’t really care for the salad, but I do like the (cold) chicken, which I’ve had on several AA flights, as well as the sourdough roll that comes with it. I asked if they had any of the Glenlivet on board, as I read AA recently brought it back, but was told no.


JFK-MIA Lunch

As I put my train down, it looked like my seatback had been crying coke. The cold chicken was very good, and the warmed cookies was so-so – a tad but overcooked, but still good. The flight down to Miami was very uneventful, as we circled around from the east coast of Florida to land from the west.


Seatback of my tray - looked kinda messy.

MIA
Miami is, in my opinion, one of the more boring airports I’ve transited through. The AA gates span a very large D wing, where a train operates four stops throughout. I decided to check out the lounge as I wasn’t familiar with it, but it was undergoing major construction. On my way there was a large group of people watching the Euro Championships game between Poland and Portugual.


70' mark of Poland/Portugal game

When I eventually got to the D15 AA lounge, there was a makeshift lounge being used. I was given a drink coupon however, and decided to use it or lose it. I decided on getting the Glenlivet, where I received a very small amount. There wasn’t much to see or do, so I went downstairs where I was right next to my gate, which had already began boarding.


Temporary seating for lounge renovation

One of the things I don’t like about AA is that if you show up late, you have no idea what group is boarding/what groups have already boarded until you hear the Gate Agents call the next flight. Seeing as the Priority lane was fairly empty, I just opted to head towards it and walked down. I went to the front of the line and waited while the gate agent scanned another 5 or so economy pax before letting me scan my pass and board. On to the 767!

MIA-ORD
Pushback: Sked 5:55pm Actual: 5:53pm (2 minutes early)
Takeoff: Sked: 6:12pm Actual: 6:10pm (2 minutes early)
Landing: Sked: 8:12pm Actual 7:53pm (19 minutes early)
Gate Arrival: Sked: 8:12pm (apparently the same) Actual 8:04pm (8 minutes early)

Since moving to AA, I’ve been on 5 AA 767 flights. Twice I’ve been in row 17, the pilot rest area seats, which fantastic seats. Twice I’ve been in business, and like those two times, the planes configuration was changed from their nicer 1-2-1 to 2-2-2 in business the day before. The third time I was in business class but got downgraded when the plane swapped to a 737 at Chicago.


My seat for the next 2.5 hours


I had grabbed seat 6J, the last window seat, which gives a great view of the wing and right engine. When the FA came around for PDBs, the man next to me ordered a scotch, and I specifically asked if there was any Glenlivet catered. I know I’ve brought this up three times in the last three paragraphs – I didn’t even really want it, it was just more so to see if they actually had it. The man next to me (not the Flight Attendant) said they don’t do that anymore, and the FA agreed, but I asked if he could check, and sure enough, he had three mini-bottles. He poured us each one and said he would save the third bottle for me and the gentlemen next to me to split if we wanted it later, which was a kind offer.


Great view out the window


Lining up on the runway!


And shortly after take off, an immediate bank to the right to head north.

Dinner today was grilled shrimp and (I think) grits. I’d had the shrimp before on a PHX-DTW flight, and similar to that flight, the shrimp was great! Very hot and moist, with lots of flavor. I didn’t touch the grits, and nibbled away at the lettuce and peppers from my salad with a roll, and of course a warm cookie that was better then the earlier JFK-MIA flight’s. I slept for most of the flight, and there wasn’t anything else to highlight.


We're getting there!


MIA-ORD Dinner

Chicago ORD/Flagship Lounge
In contrast to Miami, I love almost everything about ORD. I think what it is, is that it was always the start of trips for me when I was younger. I didn’t fly a whole lot, but all my flights would connect in Chicago, usually the 6am flights from either Flint, Grand Rapids, or Saginaw. I don’t quite care for the AA gates as much as the United gates, but it still almost feels like home for me.

I was able to check out the flagship lounge here as well, and wanted to since I probably won’t have the option again for a very long time (and definitely not in the for seeable future, I would try to go through LAX if anything). The lounge was pretty quiet, as most people there were getting ready for the late night AA flight to London. There was a wide range of food, and it seemed to slightly cater a more Spanish and Asian flavor; I wonder if that was because of the Iberia flight that had just departed, or I was making things up. I ended up grabbing a piece of the trout with black beans, and carefully scrapping away the beans. I’m pretty sure it was salmon though.


I suppose this is one of the reasons for the Spanish flavor at the Flagship lounge


View as you enter the ORD Flagship Lounge


ORD Flagship seating area


ORD Flagship Liquor


ORD Flagship Soup - Beef Barley


Asparagus and Green Beans


ORD Flagship snacks


More ORD Flagship lite snacks

As my flights were leaving from the AA express gates at the end of the G wing, I left a bit early to head over as I knew my flight was zero’ed out. I got up to Gate G18 towards the very end of the pier, asked if my flight was oversold, and she said no, but that the flight one gate over to Detroit was (I just can’t catch a break). Having about 20 minutes to kill before boarding,
I went into the AA lounge to ask about same day confirmed changes again. As I walked in I was given another drink chit, and went to an older lady working the service counter.

I figured instead of trying to get to ATL earlier, I would ask to leave Chicago later instead. I told the women my itinerary, asked her if there was any options, and she just kind of smiled and kept nodding her head. My thoughts were I was talking to a brick wall, as she hardly said anything and just kind of kept saying “ok” when I kept throwing out all this information. She said there was a 10:35am flight ORD to CLT, I said that would be great, can you get me on to it, and again she just kinda nodded without saying anything, and I figured she was just going to type some things in and say no.
Well amazingly enough, she got me on it. I was floored. It just seemed like she was kind of in her own world just nodding to appease me, but she was able to confirm me on it and print off my passes. She asked about my travels and said I should start a travel blog, and call it “The Flying Man.” I joked no one would want to read my flights since my all my travels are boring, and there are so many others who can do a better job documenting the luxurious experiences.

Very happy with this change, I went over to the bar. I noticed the glowing green bottle of Midori sitting on the shelf, and never had it before, told the bartender I wanted something with Midori in it. I felt like I had to defend myself, as a couple people chuckled at the bar chuckled, and said that I had been drinking too much scotch and wanted something fruity. I said I wanted to feel like a college-aged girl drinking, which seemed to get a couple laughs. The guy next to me was a former bartender and suggested Midori and Pineapple juice, but there wasn’t any pineapple so they gave me a drink of Midori with orange juice instead.

The guy next to me asked if I was a single guy. I thought he was referring to single malt scotches, as I had mentioned the Glenlivet, and thought I was about to get into the pros/cons of scotch’s. I was wrong though. He said I needed to keep a bottle of the Midori and fruit juices for when I would have lady friends over. I believe his words were “It will loosen them right up, and they will melt like butter.” I said I would have to keep that in mind for the future. I had my drink, and it was very fruity, you couldn’t tell there was even alcohol in it, so I could see what he meant. It was very tasty. I went down to the gate where I got ready to board, where the adjacent gate for Detroit was offering $500, a 9am flight the next morning, and food and hotel vouchers, or else they would have to IDB the last person who checked in.” Why can’t that happen to me? I was the only person with status to board, so I don’t know what happened with the DTW flight.

ORD-FNT
Pushback: Sked: 9:55pm Actual: 9:55pm (On Time)
Takeoff: Sked: 9:59pm Actual: 10:11pm (12 minutes late)
Landing: Sked: 11:36pm Actual 11:46pm (10 minutes late)
Gate Arrival: Sked: 11:55pm Actual 11:49pm (6 minutes early)

The flights home are the best flights, right? I love being on the E145’s back to Michigan. Whether its Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Flint, Lansing, having seat 12A is easily one of the best economy seats out there, and that’s coming from a bigger guy. I think what helps is having the air vents a foot above you – it really helps keep you cool. The legroom is also great, and I find it amusing I can reach into the overhead bins on the B/C seats while sitting down in my seat.


Does it look like this guy is going to get his bag in?

Despite being zero’ed out earlier in the hour, there were several open seats, including both 12 B and C next to me. There was an old man and his wife who weren’t sitting together, and one gentlemen offered to switch seats so they could sit together and he responded saying “Nope, I’m happy right where we are” which several people found funny. As soon as the FA announced boarding was complete, a woman ran up to 12C. Another women went to 13C, saying how the women in 12C had the right idea and she wanted those seats. I was slightly irritated, as they are supposed to be premium seats, and the FA didn’t make an announcement to change seats, but nothing worth crying over.

As we got onto the runway and started taking off, right in the middle of our climb – I mean, 30 seconds after wheels up, that old man came up and took seat 11A in front of me. I don’t think you could pick a more unsafe time to move In the cabin. No one seemed to care though. There was heavy cloud cover, and I couldn’t see much until right before landing, as we approached from the west along I-69 before touching down at the airport I had flown over 10 hours ago. No service of any kind was offered on the flight, which was a bit disappointing as I like to use my executive platinum perk to get a free snack box.

There was a united flight that had landed about 10 minutes prior, and the only other activity should have been a Southwest flight landing from Midway shortly after us. I was greeted by my mom at the airport who had mentioned the local news station was at Flint. Flint is starting FNT-EWR service on United, and even though the first flight from EWR-FNT wouldn’t be until the next night (and first FNT-EWR flight that Saturday morning), I guess there was a celebration going on (the inaugural EWR-FNT and FNT-EWR flights would be cancelled).


Back home!...at least for 6 hour overnight.


Bishop International Airport (KFNT) at night.

There were some blue and white balloons at the United desk that wouldn’t be there the next morning when I came back. We were out and onto the road shortly after.

My mom and I stopped at one of the few 24 hour restaurants nearby, the Mega Diner in Corunna where I divulged in some sweet, sweet, American Food.

So good.

Dinner was good, then a quick nap at the nearby Hampton Inn, where I was fortunate enough to be able to use a friends and family discount for only $55 for the reservation. I did think it was funny that the hotel explicitly mentioned they were not affected by the Flint water crisis. Three hours of quality napping, before catching a 4:30 am shuttle back to the airport, only five minutes away to begin one more long day of domestic flights.

Last edited by BThumme; Jul 6, 16 at 11:14 am
BThumme is offline  
Old Jul 5, 16, 11:05 pm
  #5  
 
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Awesome. Just spent awhile reading. You make me want to do a Y MR. (Ok maybe not ). Thanks for posting!
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Old Jul 6, 16, 4:40 am
  #6  
 
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A thoroughly enjoyable trip report but can I make a plea for those of us who are 'amateur' flyer talkers? Can you tell us the airport name not just the code? Also we don't all know the airline codes of the lesser known airlines. No criticism meant, just what I hope is a helpful suggestion.
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Old Jul 6, 16, 6:25 am
  #7  
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I really enjoyed this report, especially the narrative. It allows the reader to engage his mind a lot more than just a photo montage does.

Thanks again for sharing ^
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Old Jul 6, 16, 9:05 am
  #8  
 
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Originally Posted by patnlcc View Post
A thoroughly enjoyable trip report but can I make a plea for those of us who are 'amateur' flyer talkers? Can you tell us the airport name not just the code? Also we don't all know the airline codes of the lesser known airlines. No criticism meant, just what I hope is a helpful suggestion.
Not trying to be annoying, but a quick Google search gets you the airport name and city. The benefit of that is you learn them too and makes posts much easier to read. Same with airlines. Welcome to FT
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Old Jul 6, 16, 9:27 am
  #9  
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Originally Posted by shgroamer View Post
Awesome. Just spent awhile reading. You make me want to do a Y MR. (Ok maybe not ). Thanks for posting!
Thanks shgroamer, if you have a game plan, it helps.

Originally Posted by patnlcc View Post
A thoroughly enjoyable trip report but can I make a plea for those of us who are 'amateur' flyer talkers? Can you tell us the airport name not just the code? Also we don't all know the airline codes of the lesser known airlines. No criticism meant, just what I hope is a helpful suggestion.
I'll go back and re-edit where I can. I can't do anything for the title because of how limited the amount of characters you get is, and I don't think I ever abbreviated the airline codes (EVA for example is the airlines name, code BR).

Originally Posted by Non-NonRev View Post
I really enjoyed this report, especially the narrative. It allows the reader to engage his mind a lot more than just a photo montage does.

Thanks again for sharing ^
Thanks Non-NonRev. Just a picture report wouldn't do justice for this report, since it's not glamour first class seats and meals.

Following up with the US segments now.
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Old Jul 6, 16, 9:37 am
  #10  
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*pics being uploaded*

Flint
I was up for a 4:45 am shuttle the next morning, so ended up getting about three hours of sleep in after getting some late-night dinner. As I got down to the lobby, it was pouring outside. I talked with the shuttle driver about Denver for a bit, and how I thought they deify the Broncos and neglect everything else, and that I had managed to not convert and stay a Lions fan. He dropped me off and I went through PreCheck in a matter of seconds and was at my gate, where I was greeted with a sign saying “1 Volunteer needed.” This was it, this was going to be my jackpot. I could probably get 3-$400 and skip all my legs and just do FNT/MBS-ORD/MSP/DTW-DEN, and be home by noon and not deal with all the extra stuff. I mean, 6am flight on a Friday of a holiday weekend from a regional airport, people can’t misconnect/no show on these...Right?


Flint in the early hours, looking down the baggage claim area


Up the escalator to security and the gate area.


Score! This could be my ticket to not flying all day.

The agent had secured me a MBS(Saginaw, just a half hour drive north, only serviced by Delta and United)-ORD-DEN flight later in the afternoon, which would have allowed me to go back to the hotel to sleep in. The lucky guy I am, they had one person not check in, so I was not needed. I wasn’t even surprised, I don’t know why I get my hopes up.


We made it out thankfully, but this storm would wreck havoc in the NE airports later this night.

FNT-ORD
Pushback: Sked: 6:05am Actual: 5:58am (7 minutes early)
Takeoff: Sked: 6:21am Actual: 6:06am (15 minutes early)
Landing: Sked: 6:01am Actual 5:58am (3 minutes early)
Gate Arrival: Sked: 6:09am Actual 6:04am (5 minutes early)

We took the scenic route into ORD. Same crew as the night before, same lack of service. I did have a guilty pleasure of seeing the gentlemen in seat 12B having an executive platinum tag on his bag, and knowing that I got the best seat. Selfish and stupid, I know, but I felt like I was playing a game, and winning at that. We circled around to the west instead of the usual landing from the east (and subsequent 20 minute taxi/guided tours of ORD), and pulled up into gate G2B. As I landed I saw I was upgraded on my ORD-CLT flight, which meant I would be 5/5 on upgrades for my remaining legs. I headed over to probably my favorite airline lounge of any I’ve been to, the Untied “F” lounge, located above the E/F pier containing united express and delta flights.


I had walked by gate F5 going to Saginaw; wish I was going home.

United "E/F" Lounge
This lounge was one of the first to be renovated to a more modern design, one I believe the new Polaris product is modeled after. It actually feels like a lounge, with open spacing, and great views, and the newer food offerings. I love that there is bar-style seating, with outlets everywhere, and overlooking the main runways and also a place to rest your feet on. It is truly what a lounge should feel like. I saw a 747 making an early departure, which I thought was odd. It turns out it was going to VCV – Southern California Logistics Base in Victoriaville, California. I did see a bunch of navy sailors in gear on my walk over – maybe it was a ferry flight for them? Nothing too exciting in the earlier part of the morning, an ANA 777, and a couple cargo 747’s.


Quick shot of the eastern half of the club.


I'm hooked on Americanos now.


My view of the United Express flights, overlooking gates F10-F18 (even numbered)


And to my right, Delta flights.


The early morning 747 - it was departing for VCV ("Southern California Logistics Airport")


Early morning breakfast spread.

For breakfast I went with some blackberries and the American style sausage links, which were really good. Combined with an Americano from the illy machine, it was a great way to start the morning and begin the end of my trip. The three hours passed by, and I began my ~10 minute walk towards Terminal 3 and the “H” gates, to my gate of H14.

ORD-CLT
Pushback: Sked: 10:25am Actual: 10:22am (3 minutes early)
Takeoff: Sked: 10:43am Actual: 10:48am (5 minutes late)
Landing: Sked: 1:10pm Actual 1:14pm (4 minutes late)
Gate Arrival: Sked: 1:21pm Actual 1:24pm (3 minutes late)

I was seated in 1F. It wasn’t ideal as I don’t like the bulkhead seats; there is no extra legroom, you can’t stretch out, and worst of all, you can’t stow a bag anywhere. Another travesty is having to look at these once beautiful red white and blue birds and see the US Airways majestic flag logo replaced by a makeshift Eddy the Eagle logo (ok, made the name up, but still miss the US Airways logo).


I wanted to rip this off. How can you hide such a beautiful logo?


I don’t actually remember much on this flight, except for something that happened before we pushed back. There was some passenger traveling from Kansas City to Florida, he wasn't supposed to be on this flight, but for some reason was on it, and with a cat in a cage. He was finally able to board, before he was pulled off the airplane. I remember the agents saying they felt really bad for him, and that someone in Kansas City had screwed up and they wouldn’t have done what he did. I don't know any more details, but started to get tired pretty fast. The flight itself went by very fast, I declined drinks, and declined the snack basket being offered, and I slept for a bit. The flight was only an hour and 26 minutes of air time.

CLT
As were taxied towards the terminal, it was refreshing seeing some of the remaining US airways livery, especially the Q300 I saw – I think it looks great on them. I also don’t see Q300’s much anymore, so always enjoy seeing them when I can. We would pull into gate C15, a 10 second walk to my connecting gate at C18. I just hung around the gate area, as I only had about 30 minutes to pass, before boarding began. Exciting stuff eh?


Did see the AA A319 Bird in Piedmont livery as we pulled in

CLT-ATL
Pushback: Sked: 2:45pm Actual: 2:45pm (On Time)
Takeoff: Sked: 3:06pm Actual: 2:59pm (7 minutes early)
Landing: Sked: 3:52pm Actual 3:38pm (14 minutes early)
Gate Arrival: Sked: 4:02pm Actual 3:45pm (17 minutes early)

For this flight, I had seat 2F. On the Airbus 319’s, there are only two rows of first, so I was happy to be able to grab a seat in the second row and not have the bulkhead problems, although, the flight went by so fast (39 minutes in the air, even faster than my Flint flight), it wouldn’t have even been too bad in economy. No comments here, flight was fast and uneventful.

ATL
I haven’t spent very much time in ATL. When I was young, there were two or three summers in a row where my family and I flew FNT-ATL-Florida, and then one time I was at a convention a couple years ago, but didn’t actually have to navigate the terminals. We arrived into gate T12, which was great because the united club was right next to it. I went in to check it out, but left almost immediately as I saw I had about 40 minutes to get to the D gates, and also wanted to get there early since I saw it was zero’ed out.

I was able to navigate fairly easily, and took the train four stops to the D gates, where I was passed an AA flight boarding for PHL and then to my gate. There crowding situation was pretty bad – there weren’t very many outlets, and all the seats were taken.


Where do I even try to line up to board?


Directly across from us was a Delta Connection flight to Louisville that was boarding, so I grabbed an empty seat there while waiting. The gate lice got bad around T-10. Take a look at the pic and see if you can find where the first class people were waiting. I had to push my way to the line when boarding started, as there wasn’t an easy opening, and the gate agents didn’t do a good job of gate control.

ATL-CLT
Pushback: Sked: 5:15pm Actual: 5:11pm (4 minutes early)
Takeoff: Sked: 5:38pm Actual: 5:29pm (9 minutes early)
Landing: Sked: 6:34pm Actual 6:12pm (22 minutes early)
Gate Arrival: Sked: 6:45pm Actual 6:23pm (22 minutes early)

Similar to before, but on a larger A320. The standby list for this flight ended up being 40 people long, so I thought there might be a possible VDB opportunity, but there wasn’t. I was offered a PDB and again, inquired about the Glenlivet where the gentlemen next to me changed his order to that after hearing mine. He had mentioned he doesn’t usually drink on flights, but I guess that was enough to change his mind. He was surprised they brought it back. The FA had said she never understood why they stopped serving it, and he said, “Honey, I can tell you why, they didn’t want to pay the money for it.” Okay then. I passed on the snack basket and only 43 minutes of air time we were back in Charlotte.

CLT
Back in Charlotte, I had about an hour until I was going to board for Phoenix. I was also starting to get very hungry, as I had skipped on the snack baskets the last couple of flights. I also knew that the meal I would have on board to Phoenix might only be so-so, so I wanted to make sure I at least got something in me. I decided on some mini-pretzel dogs at Auntie Anne's, although they were kind of burnt.


They were still good, but kind of burnt...


Just outside the food court. Love the open-feeling of CLT.

On my way to my gate, B4, I noticed lots of American's mobile food snack operations out, which are used for delayed flights. There were several days in my immediate area alone – I believe weather was pretty rough in the NE, including Philadelphia. There was a cancelled flight to JFK, one to Orlando delayed three hours, and the new JFK flight was also delayed 2 hours. Fortunately my flight was still showing on time, and would stay that way. This would finally be a flight for me in the direction of home.

CLT-PHX
Pushback: Sked: 7:50pm Actual: 7:49pm (1 minutes early)
Takeoff: Sked: 8:04pm Actual: 8:01pm (3 minutes early)
Landing: Sked: 8:58pm Actual 8:56pm (2 minutes early)
Gate Arrival: Sked: 9:06pm Actual 8:59pm (7 minutes early)

This would end up being a long flight. With no IFE, and me opting on not purchasing wi-fi, the flight would end up taking just under four hours as we chased the sun westward. As we taxied to runway 18C, there wasn't very much activity going on nearby at the airport, in part due to the weather madness in the northeast (the former US territory). We held short of runway 18C, that was temporarily closed for inspection, before lining up and taking of to the south.


Ready to go! One last long flight.

I briefly passed out for the first 20 minutes or so, and woke up to everyone having their drinks and nuts, except me. I waited a minute to see if I would be offered some before getting impatient and just flagging down the FA for mine. She had already taken meal orders, and asked if I would like some eggplant parmesean (absolutely not). I declined but asked if I could get the side salad and dinner roll with it.
I didn't really care for the salad that came out, and the strawberry ice cream for dessert was so-so.


Didn't really touch any of this.

We had a fair bit of turbulence during this flight, as I would say the seatbelt sign was on probably 75% of the time. As we crossed into Arizona, there was lots of lightning in the distance, but didn't seem to impact us too much.
We landed into a fairly quiet PHX, where upon landing I turned on my phone to see the inagural EWR-FNT (and therefore next morning FNT-EWR) flights were both cancelled – so much for a big celebration!

Phoenix
Phoenix to me is a great airport. It's not going to have all the bells and whistles and big planes that larger airports have, but it has a simple layout with many great amenities. The food selection is some of the best I've seen at airports. Right after exiting the flight, I was at the four points brewing company, where I've had there stout beer with fish and chips more then a handful of times. I didn't want to sit down for too long, so I decided to head down towards the B14/15/16 gates where my flight was departing from, and check out the Brooklyn Pizza Department, where you can get two large slices of pizza and a drink for $6. Unfortunately for me they were closed, so I opted to get in line for Wendy's. I got in line right when boarding should have began, but after getting my food and heading back to the gate, boarding was just getting ready to begin. So with a Spicy Chicken sandwich (plain, of course) combo in hand, I boarded through B14 on my last flight of this adventure.

PHX-DEN
Pushback: Sked: 9:49pm Actual: 9:56pm (7 minutes late)
Takeoff: Sked: 10:00pm Actual: 10:12pm (12 minutes late)
Landing: Sked: 12:24am Actual 12:35am (11 minutes late)
Gate Arrival: Sked: 12:33am Actual 12:43am (10 minutes late)

We had the luxury of being on one of the updated 737's with IFE. The older AA Boeing 737's are some of my least favorite planes that you can fly, but the newer ones are quite nice, including a very large IFE screen. It wouldn't matter to me much as I was ready to be done and would try and sleep for whatever duration as I could, as my drive back up to Fort Collins would probably be longer then the duration of this flight.
We pushed back late, and then spent almost 15 minutes taxiing around the airport before lining up to take off to the east.

Right after take-off I tried to sleep, but the plane was pretty hot, and the air vents didn't do a great job of reaching me. We finally landed and took a very long taxi, going between the A/B terminals before circling around to the rear of the A gates into A51.


Nearly 1am...meaning 3am eastern, almost 24 hours of airport travel

Denver/DIA AVIS
I finally got off the plane, and it hit me that this adventure was over, and that I probably wouldn't get to do anything like this ever again. We had got to our gate late, so it was almost 1am when I was walking back towards the shuttle buses to head over to Avis. My report should have ended here, but I had a rather unpleasant experience at Avis.

I had reserved a car for pickup at 12:30am, and was on the shuttle bus and at the Avis preferred board at 1:10 am. My name said to see the counter, but the preferred counter was closed, so I had to walk up to the normal Avis desk, where there was a line of about 15 people deep, including those on the bus where I had just gotten off. What I like about being preferred is the rental process only takes a couple seconds, but I now had to wait almost a half hour just to speak to an agent for a vehicle.

I had reserved a full size vehicle, but was offered a Nissan Frontier, a pickup truck. I asked if there were any SUV's available, and was told no several times. I finally just gave up, wanting to go home, and said just give me the frontier. After a minute, it turns out the frontier was no longer available, but there was a SUV (magically). So I went out to finally head home and....my vehicle wasn't there. Frustrated, I went back and jumped in front of everyone in line, where I was given another vehicle, a Mazda CX-9, that didn't want to read my iPhone's music library. It was almost 2am at this point, and I got back to my apartment at 3:15am, exhausted, but happy to have been part of such an awesome and MR-earning trip.

Thank you for taking some time to re-live this journey with me, and I hope you enjoyed it.


The first picture I took on the report. DIA was quiet, but I'm sure it wasn't long before it was buzzing with activity.

Last edited by BThumme; Jul 6, 16 at 11:16 am
BThumme is offline  
Old Jul 6, 16, 9:55 am
  #11  
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Outstanding ^
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Old Jul 6, 16, 10:01 am
  #12  
 
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Fun TR, thanks for posting!

Having ATM withdrawal problems in Japan is a nearly-universal experience until you discover the not-so-secret secret: 7-Eleven is your best friend.
arlflyer is offline  
Old Jul 7, 16, 10:06 pm
  #13  
 
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Thanks a lot for sharing.

What a run ! Though it probably beat United 757s to and from Scandinavia.

I liked the picture of the American Airlines jet in the Piedmont colours. Thanks for including it.

Look forward to the next report.
michlflyer is offline  
Old Jul 9, 16, 3:21 pm
  #14  
 
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Interesting read, thanks for posting. That is a whole lot of flying in coach! Just one recommendation, if ever going through Japan again try some random food. Overall food in japan is probably some of the highest quality and best food i have ever had. You might like it, you might not....but at least you tried it!
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Old Jul 10, 16, 7:37 am
  #15  
 
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I really don't know how you survived a 5 day marathon Y trip like this. I know the lounges helped a bit, but wow.
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