Flying The Oakland California Corridor Challenge: LAX-OAK-SAN-OAK-LAX (Trip Report)

Delta, Southwest, Trip Reports

The stage had been set and Henry and my flights were booked. Oakland had requested that we book all refundable flights, and we also were able to pay for EarlyBird so that we didn’t have to worry about checking ourselves in. The event would begin at the BART connector station at the Oakland airport around 8:15am or 8:30am and that was just late enough that I couldn’t fly up from Long Beach that morning. So, LAX would have to do.

Disclosure: Oakland International Airport paid for flights, hotel, and expenses. The airlines involved were also told in advance that we were flying, so it was definitely not your normal experience on the ground, especially with Southwest.

I had requested a Lyft to arrive at 4:50am at my house to take me up for the 6:15am departure. That did not happen. The Lyft driver seemed lost and eventually pulled up just after 5. Fortunately, there was no traffic, and I had no trouble at all getting through the empty security line.

My first inkling that Southwest would be treating things differently on this trip happened at the boarding gate. The gate agents said that this was a designated “fun flight,” a refrain I’d hear over and over again throughout the next couple days. They played games, including one that looked for the oldest coin in the boarding area.

I had no coin of course, because why the heck would I have coins? But someone had a 1966 coin and won… something. I’m not even sure what it was, maybe a gift card?

For the third time in four tries, my flight scheduled on a 737 MAX had been swapped for a 737-800. It was still dark outside when they announced boarding, but I perked up immediately when I saw dozens of Randy’s Donuts at the bottom of the jet bridge to welcome everyone on our half full flight. I grabbed a blueberry donut and walked onboard.

Southwest 1382
April 12, 2022

Depart Los Angeles
➤ Scheduled: 615a, Actual: 614a
➤ From: Gate 15 on Runway 24L

Arrive Oakland
➤ Scheduled: 740a, Actual: 728a
➤ At: Gate 6 on Runway 30

➤ Type: Boeing 737-8H4
➤ Delivered: December 13, 2014
➤ Registered: N8655D, msn 42529
➤ Livery: Hot Dog on a Stick

➤ Cabin: Coach in Seat 4F
➤ Load: ~47% Full
➤ Flight Time: 59m

Once onboard, someone asked me to ring my call button and I was presented with a bag full of swag. Actually, it was mostly snacks to keep me going through the day which was nice. But I got a whole lot of socks and sunglasses and other trinkets all trip long. I know Southwest thought they were being nice, but it just meant I had to constantly repack, eat things, and give things away along the way in order to make it manageable. I know, I know, poor me.

The captain came on and said that it was early so there weren’t a lot of ride reports, but they were expecting it to be a very bumpy on the way up to Oakland. Oh, fun.

We pushed back a bit early and had the customary 2 second taxi out to the runway before launching into the brightening morning sky. As promised, it was a squirrelly climb out of LAX as I watched the whitecaps beneath us fade away. Once we got to altitude, it was perfectly smooth.

It was a beautiful morning in Oakland after the prior day’s rain had cleared out. We blocked in early and I went off to the BART connector to meet Henry, begin the day, and do some interviews. Did you know the BART connector is actually a cable car? I learned this fun fact when we went for a ride.

Because of the timing of the launch event, we could have tried to squeeze in some earlier flights, but we figured it was best to have some buffer just in case. So, we went up to the airport’s offices in Terminal 1, walked around, got some tea/coffee at Oaklandish, and then went over to our gate for the flight down to San Diego.

We got ready to board the fairly full flight, and after more “fun flight” action, we hopped on board, Henry taking the window and I right next to him. We decided to alternate through the day, but we wouldn’t need to do much of that.

Southwest 2697
April 12, 2022

Depart Oakland
➤ Scheduled: 1115a, Actual: 1121a
➤ From: Gate 29 on Runway 30

Arrive San Diego
➤ Scheduled: 1240p, Actual: 1242p
➤ At: Gate 9 on Runway 27

➤ Type: Boeing 737-8H4
➤ Delivered: December 4, 2017
➤ Registered: N8553W, msn 63601
➤ Livery: Hot Dog on a Stick

➤ Cabin: Coach in Seat 7B
➤ Load: ~95% Full
➤ Flight Time: 1h 2m

This was a full flight, and with the winds howling from the northwest to the southeast, it was going to be a relatively quick one. We pushed back a few minutes late, but we made up a little time along the way.

There wasn’t much to report on this flight. I had a cuplet of water, and then I was treated to a rare view of LA at altitude. I’m not used to being at that height, so it was a nice perspective. We came down inland and bounced our way down toward Mexico before turning back around and landing.

We had to wait a couple minutes for our gate to open up, but then we slid right in.

The terminal is ancient and overcrowded. This isn’t a surprise to anyone since they are building the new Terminal 1. It’s very desperately needed. When we landed, we were greeted by a couple of people on the Southwest San Diego team. One looked very familiar, and sure enough, she was the same person who greeted me at Oakland back in 2016 when I did my 8 airports in one day adventure. She’s now down in San Diego, and it was great to see her.

There was more swag, more photos, more games, and a quick bathroom stop before boarding began on our flight back at the gate right next door.

Southwest 1489
April 12, 2022

Depart San Diego
➤ Scheduled: 120p, Actual: 125p
➤ From: Gate 10 on Runway 27

Arrive Oakland
➤ Scheduled: 250p, Actual: 252p
➤ At: Gate 24 on Runway 30

➤ Type: Boeing 737-7H4
➤ Delivered: July 19, 2007
➤ Registered: N283WN, msn 36610
➤ Livery: Hot Dog on a Stick

➤ Cabin: Coach in Seat 14F
➤ Load: ~95% Full
➤ Flight Time: 1h14m

This flight was also full, and it was the only one that was at the full fare Anytime rate. Why was it so expensive? I’m guessing it’s because we were flying with the San Diego Loyal soccer team which took up a huge chunk of the seats onboard. This was our first 737-700 of the day, so that team really cut down on the number of seats that could be sold.

The station manager came on and announced that there were two special guests onboard. One was the San Diego Loyal and the other was… me? It was really strange when people clapped, looking around and wondering why they were clapping. It was also strange that Henry didn’t get the recognition, just me. The whole thing was uncomfortable, but soon we were buttoned up and airborne again.

It was more of a slog on this trip north thanks to the winds, and again, we had some bumps along the way, but other than one point during climb where the flight attendant told every flight attendant to get back to their seats after a few jolts, it wasn’t anything significant.

We landed back in Oakland, and I was exhausted. But, there was no time for that. We headed over to Terminal 1 for our Delta flight. There, the Delta station manager met us with a swag bag. We chatted for a few minutes about how Oakland is growing and doing well for them, and then it was time to board our full flight.

But Delta wasn’t really ready to board. They were still prepping the cabin, so the agents told us they would start boarding anyway and just have us wait at the bottom of the jet bridge. We did that for about 5 minutes before being cleared and taking our First Class seats.

Henry is a Diamond Medallion, so upgrades cleared a few days earlier for us. This would be a nice way to end the day.

Delta (SkyWest) 3769
April 12, 2022

Depart Oakland
➤ Scheduled: 403p, Actual: 401p
➤ From: Gate 15 on Runway 30

Arrive Los Angeles
➤ Scheduled: 525p, Actual: 512p
➤ At: Gate 27 on Runway 24R

➤ Type: Embraer 175LR
➤ Delivered: August 30, 2018
➤ Registered: N279SY, msn 743
➤ Livery: Delta Red Widget

➤ Cabin: First in Seat 3A
➤ Load: ~95% Full
➤ Flight Time: 50m

We were greeted by Mary up front with Sherri working the back. Sherri handled all the announcements, and they were glorious. I’m not kidding. Sherri used to be a kindergarten teacher and spoke to us like her students. Somehow it didn’t come across in an obnoxious condescending way but rather in the perfect tone that made you want to listen and obey what she said.

I think my favorite part was at some point during the flight when Sherri came on and said, “Oops, it looks like some of your masks have slipped below your nose. Please remember to have them cover your noses and mouths.” She didn’t follow that up with “boys and girls,” but she could have. Just looking around the cabin, her announcements seemed well-received.

Once in the air, we took the usual path with a left side view of Candlestick Point followed by SFO. I got very used to this view over the next couple days.

Mary came through and since this was our last flight, it was time for a drink. They had no scotch, so Woodford it was. And then when she came through again and asked if I’d like another, it was hard to say no.

It had turned into a nice evening to fly, and it wasn’t long before we found ourselves descending into LA with remarkably clear skies thanks to those winds. This view of UCLA and the 405 freeway snaking through the Sepulveda Pass toward the San Fernando Valley was just brilliant.

That was followed up sweeping view of the LA Basin and a great look at Sofi Stadium on final approach.

We landed and were treated to an actual gate, not one of those busing gates they’ve had to use while Terminal 3 is being rebuilt.

Our flying day was over, so we were in no hurry once we got off. We chatted with Mary and Sherri on the ground for a few minutes since they had time to kill before their next flight to Phoenix. Then Henry and I walked out to check out the new T2/T1 connector.

With the building of T1.5, you can now walk from Delta’s Terminal 2 to Southwest’s Terminal 1 behind security. The views are pretty great too, and I had to do a doubletake when I saw the airplane that took us down to San Diego earlier that day sitting right in front of the window.

We walked over to T1 and then headed out, going to the LAXit lot to take an Uber over to Ontario where we’d start the next morning. Could we have just flown back up to Oakland and down to Ontario later that evening? Yes, we could have. But cooler heads prevailed and we just went by land.

Traffic was bad, so we stopped for an old-school dinner at the Dal Rae in Pico Rivera and then later headed to the Doubletree Ontario airport. Our day would begin early once again the next morning, and we both needed some sleep.

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15 comments on “Flying The Oakland California Corridor Challenge: LAX-OAK-SAN-OAK-LAX (Trip Report)

  1. I sure hope Southwest can get their manning figured out and all those new planes from Boeing, because they really do have the nicest, friendliest employees. Yes, they obviously knew you were coming, but all those smiling employees in your picture speaks of something deeper than a cursory acknowledgement of your presence. You just get the feeling that Southwest is a caged tiger, waiting for the FAA to finally certify the MAX-7. Southwest, and its employees, have been very patient. It’s time to cut them loose.

  2. “We were greeted by Mary up front with Sherri working the back. Sherri handled all the announcements, and they were glorious. I’m not kidding. Sherri used to be a kindergarten teacher and spoke to us like her students. Somehow it didn’t come across in an obnoxious condescending way but rather in the perfect tone that made you want to listen and obey what she said.”

    Like the book title says… “Everything I needed to know I learned in kindergarten.” That includes mask wearing it semes.

  3. I love these trip reports, especially multi-segment days and challenges like this. And agree with Sean’s sentiments above on Southwest employees’ friendliness. I’m in an airport in Kansas as I write this on the day after the mask mandate was lifted and it’s an interesting experience. People seem jovial and polite.

    1. Not to get political here (but why not), that judge did Biden a favor. The mandate is very unpopular outside a few very blue areas.

      The CDC has seriously hurt their credibility with the public, because their rhetoric doesn’t match the actual danger of this bug. Mask mandates and separation may have made sense early on, but the disease has morphed to something different, and the CDC is still focused on eradication when that is simply not possible.

      The Biden Admin keeps saying they are following CDC guidance at a time when most of the population no longer trusts them. This ruling allows the Admin to back off, and they can even blame Trump (the judge was appointed by him), and stop enforcing an unpopular rule.

      The fact that they have not yet acted to appeal the ruling tells you all you need to know. They may yet appeal, but it am guessing they only will if they realize it will fail.

      1. Its a vocal minority that really doesn’t like the masks. To quote a different article I read earlier: “According to a poll by the Associated Press/NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, a majority of Americans want a mask mandate on public transportation. Fifty-six percent of those polled wanted people to wear masks, while 24% were opposed and 20% didn’t care. A YouGov poll put the number of those in favor at 63% and those opposed at 29%.”

        The thing that was really egregious was announcing the change mid flight. If someone was flying with the understanding that everyone was wearing masks during their travel, switching it midflight is really an egregious betrayal of trust by the airlines and crews involved. TBH, this shows a lack of competence by the judge to not stay her order pending appeal, or at the very least to give everyone until the next morning to implement it. In the same way, the airlines should have had their policy be that any flight in the air will continue to have masks.

  4. Your travel stories are my version of Oprah’s favorite things.

    I was kind of surprised that Alaska Airlines didn’t make the cut for a flight. I thought California flying was their sweet spot? Do they just not have non-stops for oakland?

  5. Probably a stupid question but what value does connecting T1 to T2 behind security peroxide? WN expansion will come via a presumably connected TO and T2/3 will be DL, correct?

    1. Provide, not peroxide! Ugh this needs an edit feature for those of us on our phones!

    2. Bill – It wasn’t really built for that purpose specifically anyway. They now have T1.5 which is the remote check in area that has a shuttle behind security to the Bradley Terminal midfield concourse where flights depart.
      So since they’re building that, they were always going to connect 1 and 2 anyway. Maybe not huge value, but for those who don’t check a bag and connect between Southwest and others, it will be good.

  6. How was Dal Rae?
    I used to love it as it represents such a great throwback to the time when I got introduced to California (end of 70ies).
    Not residing in the US, I sadly only get to go there on rare occasions.

  7. CF, I’m really concerned that you think hot dogs are blue… I mean, maybe they are for Smurf day or something, but they always seem to be reddish brown to me..

    In any case, quite a busy day of flying, and a fun bit of reports!

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