Cranky Dorkfest LAX 2019 Was One for the Record Books

Cranky Dorkfest

If you missed Cranky Dorkfest LAX yesterday, you really missed out. We had record participation with at least 250 people, several airline executives including our first CEO showed up, and the #CrankyDorkfest hashtag was trending on Twitter. (Tracking reports show 191 people tweeting with a reach of over 2.5 million and more than 12 million timeline deliveries.) This event is becoming a monster in its 9th year. (Many of you asked me how long this has gone on, and I had to look it up.) For those who didn’t make it and didn’t follow along on Twitter, here’s a recap for you.

The Airfield Tour

The day started with the airfield tour arranged by LAWA. They really did a great job of putting this together at an airport that’s known for having more than its fair share of bureaucracy. (Thank you, Heath and Brandon.) People were told to arrive at 9, and by the time I got there at 8:45am, many were already milling around.

LAWA opened up check-in at the Flight Path Museum, and the hordes descended. They opened up the museum early (thanks to museum manager Kevin), and we were able to wander and take in the exhibits.

Singapore Airlines gave us a nice surprise by sending over dozens of Randy’s Donuts. That’s the LA donut shop with the iconic large donut on top of the store that you’ve seen in dozens of movies. Singapore serves those donuts on its flights departing LA, so it was quite appropriate. (Thanks, Singapore!)

The buses rolled up and first just took us to the edge of the taxiway so we could watch airplanes and take photos.

We then did a clockwise circle around the southern runway complex, stopping to take photos of an A380 at the Qantas hangar, the EVA Hello Kitty 777, a Korean A380 on the gate at the Bradley Terminal, and down at the cargo hangar while a Cathay Pacific 747-8 freighter crossed our paths. Be still my heart. After a loop, we were dropped off back at the Flight Path and then it was off to the main event.

The Main Event

The bus tour ran long, so I didn’t get to In-N-Out until about 10 minutes after 11. By the time I had arrived, there was already a big crowd. Delta decided to buy a bunch of In-N-Out gift cards to hand out to those who attended. Thanks to Liz and Trebor at Delta for making that happen.

Then, it was just like it’s always been from the beginning. There were just a lot more people joining in this year, including some surprise guests. United CEO Oscar Munoz dropped by. As you can see from his shirt, he was obviously in town to support his alma mater in their unfortunate victory against Stanford last night. There was some official business as well since I believe this was the christening of United’s naming of the field at the Coliseum.

Oscar’s comms team ended up buying a bunch of burgers, and he wandered around handing them out. I wasn’t expecting him to stay for long, but he seemed to be having a good time talking to everyone, and he didn’t leave for quite awhile.

Southwest EVP and Chief Revenue Officer Andrew Watterson was there handing out swag. Frontier Chief Commercial Officer Daniel Shurz brought his son out for a visit. And American SVP of Marketing, Loyalty, and Sales Kurt Stache came by wearing an MD-80 t-shirt with his son in tow as well. Of course, these were only a few of the people who joined us. It was just a glorious mix of airline employees, enthusiasts, and of course, confused bystanders.

You could tell it was raffle time when all of the attendees circled around the small hill where we started handing out prizes. Ben Granucci from NYCAviation as well as Ian Petchenik from FlightRadar24 helped give out prizes which ranged from American MD-80 safety cards to American Flagship Lounge passes and free premium cabin tickets in North America on United. There were the usual models, including a United 737 in the new livery and a spectacular 1:100 Alaska 737-900ER alongside Boeing aircraft in the house colors and a small MRJ90. Alaska and Spirit both gave away free tickets, and Frontier had $350 worth of gift cards. It was quite the haul for those lucky winners. Thanks to all the airlines and aircraft manufacturers that donated.

Plenty of great photo opportunities were there for the taking including a Lufthansa A380 in the new colors, a crazy looking eagle/race car livery on the Saudia 777, and several other special liveries. There were also the airplanes that you won’t get to see much longer, including an Air France A380.

I stayed late, as usual, until about 3. That’s when it was time to go over to the terminal for the progressive dinner. I brought a couple of people over to LAX for their flights out, and then I parked, changing out of my aloha shirt in favor of something slightly more appropriate for the evening.

The Progressive Dinner

All 10 of the auction winners showed up on time at Terminal 7. United gave us gate passes, and then we went through an empty security area. We were escorted by Natalie and Julie from United’s corp comm team through security, and then Paulina, the ops manager on duty, took us over to Terminal 8. We descended to the ramp level and slipped into the airline’s operations center at the airport.

After our tour, we visited the ramp tour, and then it was off to the Polaris Lounge for drinks. The London flight had just left, and so it was fairly quiet. The bar was empty, so we all walked up and it made for a perfect spot for a group photo.

Steven whipped up some excellent cocktails for us. I was surprised to find that they infuse their own vodkas and really take great care. My old fashioned was excellent.

We said goodbye to our United friends and went off to Terminal 6 for appetizers with Alaska. The lounge was really busy, but a table had been cordoned off for us to use. We started at the bar where most of us ordered Bloody Marys. Here’s Ian at work before adding the garnish.

We then sat down and Joanne treated us like her grandkids. She kept bringing out more and more food from the menu, and it was carefully cut into small pieces so we could each taste.

Once we were done there, it was time to move on and get the main course despite being full from the mega-appetizers. We descended down into the tunnels.

The original plan was to eat dinner in Terminal 5, but the concessionaire there simply disappeared on me despite initially sounding eager to arrange something. American stepped up to the plate and offered to let us have dinner, and not just dessert as originally planned, in the Flagship First Dining room. So we kept walking and were met by Charles at the door to the lounge.

Charles and Bree split us up and gave us tours of the Admirals Club and Flagship Lounge before we met up again at the dining room. There is a big communal table in front of the bar which was set up for us. I was surprised to see several others dining in the main room, likely flying to London, New York, and later, Hong Kong.

Many opted for the filet which was on the new fall menu, but I had the curry. It not only looked spectacular, but it smelled and tasted that way too.

Grace and her staff took great care of us as we just enjoyed talking and relaxing after the long day. Once we finished up, it was near 10, far later than we expected. The next stop was supposed to be the Bradley Terminal, but we had no set plans. We were just going to go to a bar and have a drink. Everyone was having such a nice time at this table in the dining room that I decided to put it to a vote. There was a unanimous decision to skip Bradley and just hang out where we were for longer.

Some of the East Coast folks left soon after as the late hour started to hit them. I made it until about 11:30pm before I had to call it a night. Others kept going.

The numbers are in, and this evening event raised just over $1,500 for the Flight Path Museum.

Again, I want to thank everyone who helped arrange events, provided food, and gave raffle items. But most importantly, thanks to everyone who simply showed up to enjoy the company and watch airplanes. Let’s do it again next year…

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22 comments on “Cranky Dorkfest LAX 2019 Was One for the Record Books

  1. Brett, thanks again for organizing such a spectacular event! I thoroughly enjoyed my first Cranky Dorkfest. I hope to attend next year too. Seeing as I’m the first visitor and poster here at 3:15 PM PDT, I assume everyone else is still recovery from their planespotting hangover. :-)

    In a happy coincidence, I ran into one of my MIT Hockey buddies who had randomly brought his wife and infant son. Apparently, the young boy loves watching planes land. They were confused as to why so many others were hanging out. He may be another young avgeek in the making!

  2. Had a great time Brett. Thank you for organizing, and thank you to all the airlines who provided swag/food etc. Was a great event.

  3. How did people got notified or selected to attend this event? This is the first time I read about it.

  4. I made it. Crowds aren’t my thing though so I stayed on the periphery. Interesting to observe in a Dian Fossey sort of way. Cheers!

  5. It’s actually pretty cool that an airline CEO showed up!! Talk about credibility!!!? the event has grown by leaps and bounds. Who knows what the future holds for DorkFest!!!! Impressive!!!

  6. Looks like an awesome time – disappointed I couldn’t make it this year (medical problems culminating in my Borg designation being involuntarily changed to “Nine of Toe”.)

    Next year!

  7. Minor, minor quibble about an otherwise outstanding LAX airfield tour: I would have enjoyed some narration/discussion of current and upcoming LAX initiatives. It was obvious that the Tom Bradley Terminal was being expanded, but there was last year’s shuffle to get Delta over to the North Complex and there is upcoming work on a new tram/security gateway. Just hearing more about how one of the world’s busiest airports continues doing what it does with limited opportunities for expansion might have been interesting.

    Still, it was great to get up close to a 380 and see the Hello Kitty plane. Thanks to LAWA for adding a second bus (although I was among the first 50) and to Singapore for the doughnuts … I guess I missed out on the burgers.

    Dorkfest X should be a doozy.

  8. This was my first event and thank you for making it possible. The LAX staff were very gracious and informative hosts. The airfield view from the parking garage next to In ‘n Out was worth the price of parking there.

  9. Sooooo sad, I just learned about your group. I’m the daughter of a plane spotter and would love nothing more than to join one of your activities.

  10. Great event! First time for me and I’ll definitely be back. A small suggestion for next year: use a bullhorn or another audio delivery system so that we all can hear those running the raffle…really tough to hear the item descriptions and ticket numbers. Thanks!

  11. “…and down at the cargo hangar while a Cathay Pacific 747-8 freighter crossed our paths. Be still my heart.”
    Ahh, a fellow 747 aficionado!

    I’m just gobsmacked–I had no idea that these events existed! I’ll have to go back and read about past Cranky Dorkfests now. Travel for me is severely restricted by multiple debilitating medical issues, so my participation in Dorkfests will forever be limited to my own personal Dorkfest of one, long-distance plane spotting in the skies over Flushing, MI and keeping Flightradar24 open on my laptop screen. It’s always a good day when I’m able to see/hear a 747 fly over. My best plane spotting moment came in 2016 at Flint’s Bishop Airport, when Air Force One landed on a runway about 170 yards away, right in front of me. It was carrying President Obama, in town to meet with local officials and activists regarding the water crisis. Be still my heart, indeed–what a magnificent aircraft.

    When I was a baby, my parents lived in a tiny walkup apartment in Chicago, about a mile away from Midway. As a no-cost form of entertainment, my mother would take me out onto the balcony and point out the planes taking off and landing. My first word? “Airpane.” I was born to be a plane spotter!

    Carry on, fellow avgeeks–I wistfully salute you all!

  12. Although it would be a long 12 hour flight to get there, I would love to try and be at a dorkfesf in the next year or two. Does anyone else from outside the US ever attend?

    Adrian Jenkins
    Auckland, New Zealand

    1. Adrian – Yeah, there are some from outside the US that come. I seem to recall meeting someone from the UK this year, and I’ve seen Aussies before, I believe. Then again, most people who come from that far usually try to tie it to something else so it’s not just a trip to come out to Dorkfest.

  13. Looking forward to next year’s dates for my first dorkfest, I’ll be coming from the UK, just trying to decide between the cheaper longer flight, or the more expensive but direct option. Can’t wait either way!

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