American and Delta Do Well Despite Airport Issues (Trip Report)

American, Delta, Trip Reports

I’m doing a lot of travel this month, so you can expect more trip reports than normal. This particular one was for my grad school reunion up in the Bay Area. I love flying to the Bay Area because there are so many different choices. Both my choices worked out well, though I did have some airport problems along the way.

American New Colors

On the way up, I was flying alone and I had some people to see near SFO. A long time client of ours had a $100 voucher on American that was expiring that he couldn’t use, so he gave it to us. I found a $99 fare on the flight I wanted and that was that. On the way home, my wife was with me and we wanted to fly to Long Beach. But that meant we had to fly from SFO and fares were over $100 more per person than flying from San Jose down to LAX. That was a no-brainer for such a huge fare difference. We took our $69 fares on Delta and ran with it.

Overall, the flights were all fine, but the airports weren’t nearly as good. I was again reminded why I prefer Long Beach over LAX every time.

With a flight out of LAX around midday on a Wednesday, I didn’t expect much traffic. I was wrong. I got toward LAX with no trouble, but then things stalled in the Sepulveda Tunnel (for those who know it.) When the road split between the departures and arrivals levels, the bottom level looked better. Oops, it wasn’t. Both continued to crawl slowly around the airport. At one point, a traffic cop stepped out in the road and stopped two lanes of traffic so he could let others get in. It was a mess. I finally crawled up to Terminal 4 and hopped out. I can only assume this mess was due to LAX construction. I was just glad to be out of it.

Crowded T4 at LAX

Once in the lobby, I saw a lot of panicked faces. People were running for security, clearly anxious thanks to the long delay getting into the airport. I still had an hour, so I took my time. I had checked in on my phone, so I strolled up to the Pre Check line and sailed through. When I got into the concourse, I was reminded of just how narrow American’s Terminal 4 is there. It was like swimming upstream in a sea of people. Just the frantic nature of it all was enough to raise the stress level a little.

I grabbed a sandwich from the Homeboy Cafe and then went over to the gate to wait. My 737 had just arrived from West Palm Beach sporting the new colors. I still don’t like that tail at all.

April 30, 2014
American 2456 Lv Los Angeles 1225p Arr San Francisco 145p
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 42B, Runway 24L, Depart 5m Late
San Francisco (SFO): Gate 58B, Runway 28L, Arrive 7m Late
N827NN, Boeing 737-823, New American flag colors, ~99% Full
Seat 19F, Coach
Flight Time 55m

After everyone got off, they boarded us on this packed flight. I’m not sure exactly why, but we took a few minute delay. When we pushed back, we had to take the scenic route taxiing over to the northern runways. We couldn’t even cut over where we normally would by the Bradley Terminal because that was blocked by an airplane. After a 16 minute taxi, we were finally on our way. I was expecting a bouncy departure because the Santa Winds were roaring, but it wasn’t too bad at all. There was a usual drink service and then the seatbelt sign came off for 10 minutes. Soon we were descending over Monterey Bay.

Landing Next to JetBlue

We had a JetBlue A320 just off our wing as we approached SFO. I love that view. Once we landed it looked like we’d be on time, but it wasn’t to be. They held us on the taxiway (no announcement was made, but I assume it was due to no gate being available) and we chocked in a few minutes late. I raced through the terminal so I could get my car and meet some friends at the Elephant Bar to start my week off right. It was there that I found out that less than an hour after I’d left LAX, air traffic control computers had failed and operations were shut there. Glad I made it out when I did.

By Sunday, I was happy, tired, and ready to come home. We were at a brunch with some friends and slightly underestimated the amount of time it would take to get to San Jose Airport. I hadn’t been there since the new Terminal B had opened (and C closed), but I knew that the rental car facility was right across from the terminal so I wasn’t concerned. We pulled in to drop the car off exactly one hour before departure.

San Jose New Terminal B

It was then that I realized that the rental car facility is only across from the terminal used by Southwest and Alaska. For everyone else, you have to wait for a bus (or walk a pretty far distance) to get back to Terminal A. We waited, but I started to get anxious. I wasn’t worried about me, but my wife still doesn’t have Pre Check. And the clock was ticking.

Sure enough, it took me about a minute to get through the empty Pre Check line. The line for my wife didn’t look long, but they were going very slowly. It probably took her about 15 minutes.

San Jose Quiet Terminal A

We walked over to our gate to find it, like the rest of the gates further north, pretty empty (above). In fact, this already small aircraft appeared to be only about half full… on a Sunday. That’s not good, though maybe Delta will soon benefit from both Alaska and Virgin America dropping this route.

May 4, 2014
Delta Connection 4574 Lv San Jose 122p Arr Los Angeles 237p (operated by SkyWest)
San Jose (SJC): Gate 7, Runway 30R, Depart 4m Late
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 53A, Runway 25R, Arrive On Time
N614SK, Bombardier CRJ-700, Standard Delta colors, ~50% Full
Seat 9A, Coach
Flight Time 56m

Boarding was leisurely with so few people. My wife had to tag her bag to be gate checked, but as always, mine fit perfectly in the bin.

I took my seat and it seemed like the windows were placed higher than I’m used to usually on the CRJ-700. Does Delta have lower-sitting seats on this airplane? I liked it because I had a much better view.

We were ready to push back on time but the captain came on to tell us we had been given an air traffic control metering spot. We would sit at the gate for a few minutes so we didn’t have to wait at the end of the runway until our 238p wheels-up time. When we did push back, it was a quick taxi and we took off at 236p. Go figure.

The flight was uneventful with the usual drink service. I pulled out the magazine and started doing the puzzles in the back only to find that the answers they gave were definitely not right. If anyone else is flying Delta this month, take a look and you’ll see what I mean.

We had an odd approach into LA. I’m used to flying in from the Bay Area by going east over the Santa Monica Mountains and then looping around to the south to line up with the northern runways. But this time, we flew more to the southeast. Then, somewhere near the interchange of the 605 and the 105 (for locals), we looped around to the north and lined up with the southern runways. That made for a very quick taxi back to Delta’s terminal. My wife’s bag was brought up to the jet bridge and then we were on our way home.

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34 comments on “American and Delta Do Well Despite Airport Issues (Trip Report)

  1. Why don’t you pay the 100, or 85, to get Mrs. Cranky GE or Pre? With the kids – and the general insanity at airports – it’s money well spent.

    1. Neil S – You think it’s money holding her back? It’s the hassle of the airport interview. So far, she doesn’t want to bother devoting the time. I really wish she would because it would make it better for all of us.

      1. Interview hassle? Really? Must be bad on the West Coast, but my interview at IAD, total, was less than 15 minutes start to finish. And we started time.

        1. Don Roberto – No, the interview itself is easy. But it requires driving up to LAX, parking, and then doing the interview. The hassle is finding the time to do that. The interview is nothing compared to getting there.

          1. Ubderstood. OTOH, new centers are being opened from time to time. When I applied, only IAD was doing interviews, but now DCA will have that capability. So be on the llokout for an airport closer than LAX.

      2. The interview at SEA was so easy I was surprised. The Customs agent was friendly and the only thing I noticed was how many people were showing up at the right time on the wrong day. I’m not sure how you can do it, but three out of five waiting for appointments that day had done it, and they were clear that they weren’t taking anyone not there at the exactly-correct time. No hassle for me and five years of WORTH IT, IMO.

        You don’t have to do it at your home airport; I travel to DCA frequently and originally scheduled my interview for the location near the White House in DC. I changed my mind with my travel plans. but again, no big deal.

  2. It is nice to have a choice of airports like in the Bay Area, you can use which one has the best fare, schedule or is near where you live or need to go. An area with just one airport can make things harder.

  3. former LA traffic nerd question but why were you in the sepulveda tunnel in the first place? assuming you’re coming from the south on the 405, why not just go to the century blvd exit?

      1. Sean – Sepulveda Blvd runs north/south along LAX and the south runways/taxiways extend over the roadway so at that point there is a tunnel under the runways. Kind of fun and scary to enter the tunnel with a 747-400 crossing over you.

      2. SEAN – To add to what David says, the tunnel was built in the early 1950s when the southern runways were extended at LAX. Sepulveda, which existed before, went underneath the runways. It’s an old tunnel but it still does the job. (And for those who don’t live here, it’s pronounced suh-PUHL-veh-duh (or something like that).

        1. ah makes sense.

          other fun facts… seems like about 90% of the movie scenes shot in a tunnel are shot in this tunnel.

          to reiterate what david said, i LOVE when you get a big plane crossing over the runway and you are on sepulveda approaching the tunnel from the south. the grade of the road drops into the tunnel quickly (probably because the tunnel wasn’t always there) so it actually appears you are approaching an intersection with a very, very large jet aircraft on the other road!

          1. Actually, I notice the Third Street tunnel in Downtown LA the most often in movies and on TV. (THX-1138 and Terminator are two I can recall.) The I-210 tunnel in Pasadena gets used a lot too (The Avengers). These two tunnels I recognize immediately. Bill from DC, I can’t recall seeing the Sepulveda tunnel in a movie or on TV. Can you please jog my memory?

        2. (And for those who don’t live here, it’s pronounced suh-PUHL-veh-duh (or something like that).

          Off topic a bit – when I visited L. A. in 2005 with my GF, I had mentioned a street named La Cienega Boulevard to her, but she just couldn’t quite get it to come out right & it caused a great deal of laughter every time she tried to say it. It was just one of those things locals understand & some visitors just don’t get no matter how much they try.

    1. Bill from DC – Coming from the south, (as Ron notes) I’ve found that taking the 405 to the 105 and on to Sepulveda is nearly always faster. You have only one stoplight to deal with at the 105/Sepulveda exit as opposed to the many, many lights along Century.

      But I can tell you that Century was backed up as well. This wasn’t a roadway issue on Sepulveda but rather a central terminal area issue.

  4. You have a nice wife. My wife would kill me if I went through Pre-Check and left her in the regular line.

    1. Ditto ! I could understand if the idea was to rush to the gate to plead her cause, but as it doesn’t seem to be the case, …

    2. u600213 – There are benefits for her as well. Remember, I can leave liquids in my bag, bring electronics, etc. We just pack smartly.

    3. Does Brett even have a choice to use the non-Pre Check lane with him having the Pre Check certification? He may not at LAX (I haven’t ever flown out of that airport so I honestly don’t know).

      For the record if I flew often enough and were Mrs. Cranky I would take the half day and get the interview over with, the benefits of Pre Check are actually worth the $100 and whatever she would lose for taking off a half-day of work for the interview for the frequent flyer. If I recall a Pre Check certified flyer is allowed to take his/her children through as well (Brett and Mrs. Cranky have two small children), there isn’t much worse than waiting in line for an hour with two cranky small children in tow (although admittedly changing poopy diapers is arguably worse and she probably does that ten times a day).

  5. Landed on 25R? I thought LAX had a rather strict policy of using the inboard runways for takeoff and the outboard runways for landing.

    Also, did you park in the central parking garages for 4 days? That’s almost as much as taking a taxi from Long Beach round-trip.

    Bill from DC — Century Blvd is often a mess; it’s ususally a lot faster to take the 405 to the 105 to Sepulveda.

    1. While that’s the usual LAX pattern, I’ve seen the inboard runways used for landings if there’s nobody waiting to depart. Usually it’s a pretty last minute switch; the pilot will be flying the approach to the outboard runway, then get clearance to sidestep over to the inner runway.

    2. Ron – As David says, it’s not set in stone but that is the usual way it works. It definitely does happen, probably a few times a day I’d guess though I don’t know. (Either that, or I was so hungover I didn’t catch it correctly.)

  6. Yes, the puzzles answers are definitely messed up. The second one seemed right, the third answer (5) seemed to fit the first puzzle, but the remaining answer fit none of the questions. John, Mary, Sarah, and Barry all seemed to have missed the plane.

  7. I will never sign up for pre check because I consider it to be government-sponsored extortion. They are basically saying “we will take a naked picture of you, feel your body, and search your bags, but if you want to avoid this, just give us money and we will let you through easy”. It reminds me of the security personnel in third world countries that will let you through the line without hassle in return for a small “tip”, which is basically a bribe.

  8. It sounds like you were on a CRJ-700 NextGen on the flight back. I cannot remember what Bombardier did, but I think they lowered the floor even more than what they originally did to the 700/900 over the 100/200. It’s the same thing on the 900 NextGen, of which USX/Mesa has a few flying around they got from PLUMA and are in an all Y configuration (I think you were on one recently per a posted trip report). Those NG’s also have new sculpted sidewalls which also make the windows appear bigger and new PSU’s.

  9. I wish SJC would have built a decent walkway between the terminals or at least some moving sidewalks between the two terminals as it is a long walk.

    The very northern gates at SJC (1 – 3) are only used by HA for their Hawaii flights and those leave in mid-morning. Otherwise, that area is a ghost town, but a great place to get some peace and quiet before your flight.

    1. TomTX – I was only looking at Global Entry enrollment, but now I see they do it at the Port of Long Beach. So that is a better option for sure. Thanks.

  10. Oh the history of Tea Time Movies, with host Art Fern and his infamous directions that always included three passes thru, under, and sometimes over, the Sepulveda “Cutoff” or was it the Slausen Cutoff?
    There is no more embarrassing entre airport in the US than LAX, with PHL and BOS coming in close. I remember having to go thru LAX to get to Maui via SkyWest’s “roomy” Bombardier Mini jet. We had to go outside and come back in to get from the United regional jet section to the mainline flights (2007). With only a 50 minute transfer time, I and 100-200 passengers waited over 15 minutes so a vendor could get a load of bottled water, soft drinks and chips thru security. One poor mother was called by the intercome to return to gate 84A immediately, only to find herself in the line. It was something about her 2 month old baby who as with her husband and another child. She was in tears, begging with the man in the tower to help her as she was paged again and again. Her pleadings only got her 2 LA cops wanting to see her ID and playing the heavies. We need to just tear all but Bradley down and deal with the repercussions or nothing will change but a piddly project here or there, but no new airport. Yes, I learned my lessons it’s now PHX-SFO-the Pacific

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