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