Friday, May 11, 2012

Flight Report: Leaving LA

Burbank Airport

Sunset at BUR...

I ended up not getting very lucky this time around for flights. I was set to fly out on United from Burbank back to Seattle via SFO, but pretty soon it became apparent that things would take a little longer than I expected. My original flight out was delayed and finally we got the green light to board. They got all of us on board and then had to deplane everyone because there was a flow control situation in SFO.

What is flow control? Every airport has a certain capacity for accepting airplanes, which varies through the day and by visibility. Airports tend to accept fewer airplanes at night (often with a curfew to be good neighbors to the surrounding population) and when visibility is reduced they are required by the FAA to limit the number of planes that take off and land for safety reasons. San Francisco is known for fog and for being a hub for air travel and we were delayed a few hours this time around.

Everyone was ready to go and on board, literally, just before they delayed the flight

Unfortunately for me, my connection was only an hour and a half. At this point, I'm not very happy with the way that United is treating their customers and this became an example of that. A few other frequent fliers I was talking to on the flight were standing in line and told me that they had stopped bothering to try and call the new United because the wait times were so bad. That mirrors my experience since the merger with Continental as well, to the point where I've the new United has literally refused to take my call to customer service (all that I get is something like the message: "We have a high volume of people calling right now. Please try again later. Goodbye." and then an audible *click*). I can't believe that that is acceptable to them and while the official line is that this is something new with the merger, I clearly remember a couple times pre-merger where I have been unable to reach Continental during an emergency. I've recommended United in the past, but  my stance is shifting.

In total, they offered to maroon me in San Francisco, if I wanted to fly up there that night, but wouldn't provide a hotel. That wasn't an option. When I told them I had a place in Los Angeles, but would appreciate a $15 shuttle ride there, since it was now 9pm and my friend couldn't provide a ride, they said they couldn't do it despite providing that to other passengers who had to get to LAX for a reroute. They weren't interested in a single day of rental car as a solution either, so I could get there and back. I think overall my requests weren't that unreasonable, especially since afterwards it took about 1.5 hours to get back by bus because it was so late. That's a huge inconvenience and it put me with my baggage in Hollywood late at night. While places like that don't usually concern me, people had been drinking and a fight broke out across the street from me while I was trying to transfer to my next bus. The $15 shuttle ride would have been a very appreciated gesture, especially since that was all I was asking for.

...and back again the next day.

In the end, I came back the next day for my new flight: A direct flight from BUR to SEA on Alaska Air. At the start of the year, I had status matched with them and to my pleasant surprise I was welcomed with a first class seat, despite the fact that my status as a paid Alaska passenger was dubious. In IROP situation, airlines can put you on other airlines if they need to. Burbank was as trouble free, in terms of security, as ever. Even with it being lower on the priority airport totem pole, I still like it better than the other options around LA.

We had a very nice stewardess in the first class cabin who was on her first day. She was very nice and she took great care of us, but you could see that she was a little green. Because I like to take photos, I asked if I could swap seats with someone at a window seat for the climb and she asked if it was my first time on a plane (No, not quite). It was refreshing to see someone at the brink of starting a new adventure and her enthusiasm was really quite infectious. I could see that the rest of the people she was working with got a little caught up in it as well: The pilots offered a couple kids (who were on a plane for the first time) a chance to sit in the cockpit and everyone else on board seemed pretty positive.

Want more like these photos? Keep reading after the break! I've got more photos from the flight, including the inflight meal, and some really nice shots from our approach to Seattle.

Keep Reading!

These are from the climb to cruising altitude, which took us up and over the northern part of the San Fernando valley. Lots of little houses in this area, and many of them are nice. The red roofed development in the mid right of the picture is a private community: Only three points of access and each has a security house.

Once in the air, we had out inflight meal: A roast beef sandwich with a mustard potato salad. Domestic first class food isn't really anything too far from what you pay for in coach, but it was alright.

Finally, on approach to Seattle. We came in over the Puget Sound and then looped back around over Magnolia before heading down to Seatac.

Southworth, looking West from above Vashon Island

Bainbridge Island

The Seattle Center and Space Needle 
The Museum of Flight from the Air

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