I had to do a last minute day trip up to the Bay Area, and I had a ton of options. After considering everything, I decided to use my BA points to fly on American up to San Jose. Why? Two reasons. First, it is so cheap to use BA miles. I had a few hanging around so I needed to transfer only 3,000 points (plus the 40 percent bonus from Amex right now) and I had the 4,500 I needed. Second? I hadn’t been to the remote Eagle terminal since it was United’s. I thought I’d check it out. On the way back, I flew Southwest. I’ll talk about that below.
I’ve learned that while the Eagle terminal isn’t bad on the inside, it’s really inconvenient for someone who wants to show up as close as possible to departure. With most of these shorter flights, it’s that commuter mentality that will make someone choose another airline.
I sat in traffic for a long time before arriving at QuikPark. (Thanks, Jared, for suggesting in the comments on my last post to use the code CHEAPISM at cheapairportparking.org. Saved me $5.) Unlike the frenzied holiday rush last time, Terminal 4 was not that busy.
I walked through security and went down the escalator to the holding room for the shuttle to the Eagle terminal. There were plenty of buses lined up, and they checked boarding passes as they filed everyone through. The buses look old and the windows were dirty.
That wasn’t ideal for spotting but it was still a great view as we made our way down. I’d say it’s probably a good 5 to 10 minute journey, though it could be faster or slower depending upon how many airplanes you need to stop for along the way.
Once off the bus, I went inside. There are, I believe, 12 doors for regional flights and they all come off one big room. It was crowded but not annoyingly so. Other than a couple of vending machines, there was one little sandwich/breakfast pastry outlet that was open. It was there that I found the friendliest cashier on Earth. She was in a really good mood and it was infectious.
Over at the gate, I sat for just a couple minutes until it was time to board. They take you outside the door and then you enter these goofy covered walkways that snake around to get you to the right airplane. Once you get near the airplane, it ramps up and then has a jet bridge-style entry into the aircraft.
January 14, 2015
American Eagle 2591 Lv Los Angeles 10a Arr San Jose 1112a (operated by SkyWest)
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 44H, Runway 25R, Depart 1m Early
San Jose (SJC): Gate 10, Runway 30L, Arrive 15m Early
N435SW, Bombardier CRJ-200, White Eagle colors, ~95% Full
Seat 9A, Coach
Flight Time 48m
The friendly-streak continued on the airplane with our flight attendant. She was excellent and chatted with everyone as they boarded. I took my seat and realized this airplane was in need of some TLC. Next to my knees, a compartment was hanging open in the side wall. And don’t even get me started on the passenger service units. Here’s what those looked like.
Yuck. I forgot how much I despise the CRJ-200. The windows are just so low and the cabin feels very cramped. The guy next to me let me in and then said “hello” as he sat back down. I said hello and then he followed up with “so, do you usually fly American?” That was enough of that. I said that I flew everyone and then brought out my headphones. He got the hint.
The nice part of the Eagle terminal is that it’s a shorter taxi to the end of the south runways. We made it down there quickly and were airborne right away. It was a beautiful day to fly (the captain said so as well) as we made our way up the coast. Other than a few jolts that any larger airplane could handle with ease, it was a smooth flight.
The flight attendant came up and down the aisles the entire flight, helping people with their drink orders and just engaging with passengers who wanted to talk. I left my headphones on and enjoyed the view. Outside Monterey, we began our descent and then landed without incident.
After landing, I sat down to do some work. By about 1230p, it was time to go, but I still hadn’t figure out my return flight. Considering my schedule, I decided it best to just buy the last flight home on Southwest because that was the only one I had a shot at making. When it comes to flying within California, nobody beats Southwest’s schedule. So I did something weird.
I bought a ticket at a ticket counter.
I don’t know why I did it, but I had time and it seemed like something different. The agent was great and quickly printed out the receipt for $222.10 for me. Then she handed me my boarding pass, A45. Yeah, this flight was empty.
I went about my day and then headed back to the airport to make my way home. There was no line at security and the airport was fairly quiet except for a loud and probably drunk group of twenty-somethings on our flight. Our airplane was there with plenty of time to spare and they didn’t start boarding until probably 15 minutes before departure because of the light load.
January 14, 2015
Southwest 688 Lv San Jose 945p Arr Los Angeles 1055p
San Jose (SJC): Gate 23, Runway 30R, Depart On Time
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 13, Runway 24R, Arrive 5m Early
N921WN, Boeing 737-7H4, Canyon Blue colors, ~35% Full
Seat 5F, Coach
Flight Time 50m
The flight attendants were very friendly and perky, which was surprising considering this was probably the end of a long day for them. The rowdy group went toward the back and started singing songs. (First up: happy birthday, though it’s unclear if anyone was actually having a birthday.) The captain came on and told us it was a beautiful night for flying. We pushed back right on time and launched (with a light load and limited fuel requirements, I do mean “launched”) into the still night air.
We shot up to 41,000 feet while the flight attendants came through with drinks. Most importantly, the honey-roasted peanuts have returned! Even better, it seems they aren’t going away again as they used to.
We weren’t at cruising altitude for long before we began our descent on a crystal clear night. It was a stellar view of Los Angeles (you can see the airport above the engine, the dark spots are runways) as we glided in and parked at gate 13.
Since my last trip, the work on the terminal has continued. There is a lot boarded up now, including gates 3A and 3B. It’s going to look a lot different once the work is done. This was the end of the perfect Southwest flight. Sure the prices are higher, but that frequent on-time service is what really gets people to love the airline. (We just need more of that “on time” thing.)
After a long day, I headed home.