A Worthwhile $5.60 Change Fee (Trip Report)

American, Trip Reports

My first trip of this year was a lot like the last trip of last year. This time, the Travel and Hospitality Club at my alma mater, Stanford’s business school, asked if I’d come up and speak. To make things even more enticing, American CEO Doug Parker was speaking to the school earlier in the day. I gladly accepted the invitation and got some time with Doug while I was there. (Look for that interview soon.)

As usual, I looked to British Airways first. No, British Airways doesn’t fly domestically, but I can use a mere 4,500 BA Avios plus $5.60 each way on American, if it has award space available. (Yes, that rate goes up to 7,500 each way soon. I’m sad.) I quickly found space in both directions and booked separately as one ways. (It’s always better to book BA as one ways when you use points, as you’ll see shortly.)

A couple days before travel, I was getting nervous. The flight up looked fine, but the day of my return was expecting a lot of rain. And as you know, bad weather at SFO = big delays. I kept looking and then, it happened. A day before I left, American opened up seats on Friday out of San Jose. With BA, you can cancel online and you just lose the taxes but you get the Avios back. So for what was effectively a $5.60 change fee, I was rebooked from San Jose.

The day of travel was a hectic one since I had attended American’s event at the Hollywood Bowl right before. Henry Harteveldt from Atmosphere Research had come down for the event and was flying back on the same flight I was. Casey Norton, who handles external communications for American, was on the flight as well since he was going from the Hollywood Bowl up to San Francisco for Doug’s talk at Stanford. I drove the three of us over there, parked the car, and headed into Terminal 4.

The security line was short, and we went into the Admiral’s Club to get a little work done while we waited. As we left to board, I snapped this beautiful 787 shot.

American  787 LAX

January 20, 2016
American 209 Lv Los Angeles 415p Arr San Francisco 536p
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 40, Runway 24L, Depart On Time
San Francisco (SFO): Gate 57, Runway 28L, Arrive 8m Early
N130AN, Airbus A321-231, Ugly flag colors, ~65% Full
Seat 20F, Coach
Flight Time 54m

I was surprised to see an A321 on this flight, and unsurprisingly, it wasn’t full. I had a window with Henry on the aisle and nobody in between. Casey had a row to himself a few behind us. I found myself a little confused by the safety card. This airplane had just come in from Honolulu so I assumed it was the A321H, but the safety card said A321S. They’re the same on the inside from a passenger perspective, so maybe the safety cards are the same?

Views Over California

We pushed back on time, went all the way to the other side of the airport, and took off. There were a few high clouds that provided some great shadows over the land as we headed north.

A321 American IFE

I played around with the inflight entertainment. American has recently decided to offer more than just the NBC stuff they used to show on the overheads for free. There was a selection of a bunch of different things, so I flipped on a TV show and passed the time. I tried to use the moving map, but it wasn’t working. Bummer.

Broken Map A321 IFE

The flight attendants did a full service, and then it was time to descend. Once on the ground, I was off for a whirlwind couple of days.

I spent Thursday night at the Four Points near San Jose Airport (not the nicest hotel around, but it did the trick). In the morning, once I saw my airplane was in the air on its way and on time, I headed to the airport. After dropping my rental car off, I cleared security in Terminal B. That left a long walk to my gate in Terminal A but I had time. Little did I know I would be bombarded with pop-up shops selling generic Super Bowl 50 gear. Who buys this crap?

Super Bowl Shop San Jose

Our airplane arrived on time and boarding was nice and relaxed.

American Eagle Embraer 175

January 22, 2016
American Eagle 5951 Lv San Jose 1006a Arr Los Angeles 1132a (operated by Compass)
San Jose (SJC): Gate A10, Runway 12L, Depart 4m Early
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 44C, Runway 24R, Arrive 15m Early
N213NN, Embraer 175LR, Ugly flag colors, ~85% Full
Seat 14F, Coach
Flight Time 50m

Once onboard, I asked the flight attendant up front how the ride had been on the way up from LA. She paused, said “a little bumpy” and then went on her way. Meanwhile, I headed back where I was greeted by a very friendly flight attendant named Nancy. She was directing everyone to the overhead bins they should use, and then she was helping them to put each bag in the right way to maximize space. I grabbed my seat and looked out at the gloomy skies ahead.

We pushed back on time and the captain came on to say that he was sorry but the seatbelt sign would likely stay on the whole time. He apologized as well because he said the flight attendants probably couldn’t do a beverage service since they’d be seated much of the time. On the bright side, it was only supposed to be a 49 minute flight, helped by our southbound departure.

We were airborne pretty quickly and made our way up into the clouds. While there were some bumps, it wasn’t really all that bad. After about 20 minutes, we had made our way into a high but relatively thin cloud layer. At this point, Nancy got up and brought a beverage tray with cups of water. She then came back with cups of coffee for those wanted. She was very friendly with everyone and she had quite the calming effect on the cabin. This was almost like a repeat of the last flight on Compass where the flight attendants were also fantastic. (I’ve already sent a note to American praising her.)

American Eagle Los Angeles

As we got closer to LA, the high clouds remained, but we descended quickly and had a great view the whole way in. I snapped a picture of that giant winglet as we passed downtown. We touched down early but then had to taxi all the way around the airport to the Eagle remote terminal.

I was happy to be there early, and of course, I checked. Had I stuck with SFO, I would have been over an hour late. Looks like that $5.60 was worth it.

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24 comments on “A Worthwhile $5.60 Change Fee (Trip Report)

  1. Wait, you can walk from terminal A to terminal B post security checkpoints at SJC? Where is this secret passageway?

    1. Not secret at all. Just walk to the end of one terminal and there’s a corridor that keeps on going into the other. The international gates and Club at SJC’s entrance is in this area. You really can’t miss it.

  2. People buying the generic Super Bowl stuff are people who don’t know better and those that can’t afford the real NFL approved gear.

    1. David SF – This is real NFL approved gear, but up until yesterday, they didn’t know the teams that would be in it. So all they can sell is generic Super Bowl garbage. Maybe it looks a lot different today, filled with Carolina and Denver stuff.

      1. This stupid generic stuff has been in SJC for at least the last month. I have NEVER seen anyone buy it so why clog up the aisles with it?

  3. Hi Brett.. Much as I benefit from your wisdom regarding all things to do with airlines, I find it off putting for you to still refer to the American logo as the “ugly flag colors.” Your visual presentations here are not your strong suit. Many of us celebrate the logo as a brilliant design. Please consider referring to the logo in a way that does not

    1. The Crankster is spot on. The current (“new”) AA color scheme is UGLY!

      Why they didn’t stick with the simple and elegant former scheme they used for over 40 years is beyond me.

      1. Some airline geeks are dressed by their dowdy wives. For all their strengths, they lack visual imagination. The new AA tail is brilliant. Get over it.

        1. Wow: an ad hominem attack on the wife of the writer of the blog. That’s pretty much uncalled-for.

    2. I would not call something that looks like a five year old playing with finger paints brilliant. It’s hideous and does nothing for branding.

      Delta has the widget, United has the Continental Globe, Frontier has the animals, Alaska has the Eskimo, JetBlue and Spirit have their name on the tail, and American has a hideous finger painting.

      If anything, it reminds me of Delta’s previous tail, “colors in motion.” While that was a pretty tail, it did nothing for branding.

        1. Some savvy people might find finger paintings brilliant. It doesn’t change the fact that most people I read panned the tail as something that can be fairly described as “ugly flag colors.”

  4. Cranky, does a comment sent to AA really get back to the person who it was written for? I’m curious if it does or goes into a black hole.

      1. I work for Compass Airlines and I can tell you that those comments do get back to us. AA and Delta (we fly for both airlines) love the praise feedback emails and make sure they make it back to that specific person mentioned.

  5. Here are the 321H aircraft:

  6. Perhaps those shirts were aimed at me?

    I have no clue about the rules of NFL or even who is playing in the Super Bowl being a Limey, but given that the stadium is very close to work, I saw it being built and there are some close connections to the area…I picked up one of those shirts on a recent business trip to SJC as a souvenir of how far Santa Clara has changed since my first business trip some 25 years ago.

    1. Jeff – Well I assume somebody must be buying them or they wouldn’t bother putting them out. Interesting perspective from someone with no skin in the game itself. Just more about civic pride.

      1. Merchandising commitments at airports and around the city are actually part of the Bids that cities submit to the NFL for selection as a SB host city. The NFL wants it as marketing and hype for the events, and of course they get a licensing fee from all the gear — while the city bears all the inventory risk if it doesn’t sell.

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