Tuesday 16th February 2016
Up at O Dark 45 this morning to get myself ready to head to Raleigh to begin my big drive. It was dark and quiet in Orange County and after staying at the Sketchiest hotel I have stayed at in years (this is what I get for being cheap) I headed onto the freeway and to the airport. I dropped off the car at SNA and had to hunt around to find the drop box, but eventually found it.
It was quiet in the terminal as I entered and found check in quick enough. I had to wait a little bit to finally see someone but was checked in and had my boarding passes soon enough and my bag (with priority sticker) on it’s way into the bowels of John Wayne Airport. The TSA today was funny as everyone was walking straight past an open checkpoint to another one. I was so confused, but hey… whatever. No line is no line! I was through security pretty quickly and spent more time putting my stuff back together than I did getting it all out and through security.
Once through I walked through the terminal a bit before heading up to the Admirals Club when it opened. This was going to be my first time flying American properly and I had scammed access via a status match with Air Berlin. I had mainly done that so that I had access to lounges on my way to Australia. The lounge opened up at 530am and with that I had somewhere to grab a coffee and use the restroom, away from the gate lice. I headed down to the gate early and this was my first mistake. When I got down there I realised that everyone was down there as well… but something was up.
The gate staff were not making any announcements about their boarding process or anything. They were calling people up at random, but not saying anything else. My thoughts was that it was connecting flights internationally and they were checking passports etc, but not sure. Then boarding time passed, and nothing. Delay was about to strike, I positioned myself in such a way that I could get to the club quickly if I had to. When the announcement was made that there would be a delay I was halfway to the club and barely heard the reason. A dead battery? Really AA? Lame!
I was the first person into the club and the line formed after me and I was quickly helped. I was told to just sit tight if I wanted to keep my first class seat (I sure as hell did!) and that they would protect me on the next available flight from DFW to Raleigh. This was one of these moments that helped for sure, but I was just frustrated! I was protected but it meant waiting around for several hours and told that there was nothing else at all. Changing airports was not really an option since it would get me there way to late tonight. I came back to the desk after a little while to get a seat assigned and all that was left was Aisles 🙁 ugh. But i guess with a night flight that will be ok.
I sat around in the club just chilling out, trying to relax. I fixed up my travel plans for that day, reaching out and letting people know about the delay (was meeting someone at Dallas and seeing a friend in RDU). I changed around the pick up time for my car hire tonight and also let the hotel know I was coming in late… *sigh*. About an hour before the new flight time was meant to depart, I headed up to check if it was still going on time and tried to entertain myself somehow.
After walking around the terminal a bit, I returned to the gate in the hope we would get more information. Nothing. They made one announcement to say that the battery was “on site” however there was not a single person moving around the aircraft to do anything. It was hard to know what was going on when no one was saying anything! So rather than head back to the club, I stuck around the gate area and just waited it out. I was quite bored just standing around but I figured if I left something was going to change and I would miss it.
So the 9:30am departure became 10am, the 10am became 10:15. It just kept dragging on and on without any word. The battery did show up at the aircraft around 10am and it was installed pretty quickly. About 10 minutes later boarding was called and the bum rush for the gate began!
American Airlines – AA1627
Orange County to Dallas Ft Worth
Boeing 737-800 (N928NN)
First Class – Seat 4A
Boarding: 1012 (Gate 7)
Push Back: 1100
Take off Roll: 1111 (Runway 20R)
Top of Descent: 1510
Touch Down: 1534 (Runway 36L)
Shut Down: 1545 (Gate A14)
First Class was called and it seemed everyone was in First Class because they rushed the boarding area. I scooted around the side and did my best “Screw you I am boarding when I want” look, cutting in front of someone else (who turns out was not in first class). I was going to milk every last bit of this points redemption to RDU today.
I finally got a good look at our aircraft when I boarded and was happy to see the Boeing Sky Interior. That meant that I could actually charge my phone as well because the seats would have power, however no seat back tv, just wifi to your own device. Eh whatever! I took my seat by the window and got myself situated. Boarding followed after that and it was an utter mess with people everywhere. They wanted us on and seated as quickly as possible, even though we were just going to sit there.
We sat and waited onboard while the rest of economy boarded and I joked online if I was going to get a Pre Departure beverage. Well moments after I made that joke, I was offered a water or an orange juice. Now that is the cheats way out of it for American, but it was better than nothing right? Water it is today! I sat back while the flight attendants shuffled around the galley, drinking coffee doing nothing.
We finally heard from the cockpit saying that they were waiting for us to be fully gassed up before we could do anything else and that meant we waited some more. I had a prediction with a fellow passenger we wouldn’t leave until 11am and I looked like that was going to be spot on. I sat back, texting my wife, joking with friends and just trying to relax and enjoy myself. Even leaving at 11am I would still have plenty of time in DFW.
We buttoned up at around 10:50 and pushed back right on 11am, as predicted. We had to hold on the taxiway a while, waiting for traffic. We were right on the runway threshold entrance so we could just hold in position until it was our turn. After a Southwest 737 departed we made our turn onto the active runway. We had to wait a little bit longer at the hold point for another Southwest 737 to land and then it was our turn.
I had heard so much about departing from SNA and their unique departure. Due to noise abatement they had strict rules on how and when you could depart Orange County. Firstly no jet movements before 7am in the morning. The line up to get underway at 7am in the morning was like 15 or 16 aircraft and they were backed up everywhere, all waiting. When it is your turn to depart, due to the short nature of the strip it is full throttle, balls to the wall. But once you are in the air the noise abatement comes back into play. SNA is surrounded on all directions by housing, so you can only climb at power till 5000 feet and then you must throttle back until you cross the coast. Once across the coast you can then throttle back up to climb power. When it was finally our turn, it was full throttle and then off we go!
We climbed but the level off and power down wasn’t as evident, so I was a little bit disappointed. I know that sounds stupid, but I wanted to hear the engines wind back down. Guess not! We kept climbing albeit a little bit slower and crossed the coast and it seemed we were going to do so at the same rate. Maybe we were light today and everything was offloaded to other flights? I know that this flight was non rev express with every man and their dog cleared onto the flight. So maybe that was it.
We turned back east and climbed over southern california. I could see down below us as we passed what looked like Ontario and kept tracking east over Palm Springs, Palm Desert and the Coachella valley. The sky was as blue as it could be and the contrast against the desert below was stunning. We kept cruising east and the pilot came on to tell us a little about the flight (flying East over the Texas Panhandle etc, flight time of 2h30 mins and an ETA on the ground that would give me 2.5 hours).
Drinks were delivered just after the speech and then once that was handled the flight attendant working the cabin decided to do service by cart. That was a little bit different for first class, but hey, whatever. Breakfast orders had been taken on the ground and I was thankful I did not pre select today, because otherwise I would have been boned. Originally I was going to go for a light breakfast of oatmeal, about the best idea after a weekend of indulgence. Thankfully I didn’t do this because I would have been disappointed when we had an almost lunch time departure. I went with the “Hot” option which was a Quiche of some kind with potatoes, fruit and a biscuit on the side. Pretty decent light lunch if you ask me (could have done with some vegies, but hey… whatever).
I consumed my “breakfast” fairly quickly because I was pretty hungry and it looked good. The taste was ok, so I was not going to complain. The biscuit was pretty decent for being in the air so that was good (no seconds offered although there was plenty spare… but be good malcolm!). We had a few lumpy bits somewhere about an hour into the flight (nothing serious) and I went back to working on my laptop on the trip report). After a while I decided to pack that in (I had plenty of time to write it) and catch up on some tv.
By the time i finished watching TV, my flight was about to begin descent so I packed up all my stuff, taking a little bit of compensation from the aircraft with me 😉 By the time that had done we were into our descent and my seat mate started packing up his stuff as well. Pretty soon we were on our way down into DFW. The landing was pretty picturesque on the way in and we did a downwind past the airport and over AT&T stadium (aka the new Texas Stadium) and the Baseball stadium for I think the Texas Rangers. Right next to that was also a theme park and it looked like I might have seen my first ever Six Flags (judging by the Batman and Superman logos I was assuming Six Flags over Texas?).
We landed and quickly got off the runway and onto one of the many taxiways at DFW. What I was now waiting on was getting to the gate, because at DFW, that could take a while. We took a little bit to get to the gate, but nothing over the top. The wait wasn’t horrendous till we had the jet bridge to the door and I was headed out of the plane, into the terminal. I was headed to the D Concourse as I had some time to kill and during my wait I was headed over to a meeting for a quick tour with a coworker. I won’t be specific, so let’s just say it was an eye opening experience.
I stopped by an Admirals Club to get my seat assignment fixed up and they did that, along with reprinting me a boarding pass. That was so easy and I headed over to the C Terminal where my flight was heading from. I camped out in the Admirals Club there (while also snagging myself an extra drink chit for a bottle of water… well 2 actually). I should have known to ask for them earlier! When it came time to head down to the gate, I packed up my stuff and headed out.
The admirals club sure left me a number of questions for someone i know who used to work in one. A number of questions regarding standards etc. But on the whole it was a fine way of just getting stuff done. I went down to the gate and tried to see if the gate staff could tell if my bag made the flight, the only thing left for me to worry about. Unlike other airlines they don’t seem to keep track of it through all stages…. *sigh*. I just waited around the gate area and eventually it became time (I will admit, I gate liced it).
American Airlines – AA1207
Dallas Ft Worth to Raleigh Durham
McDonnell Douglas MD82 (N466AA)
First Class – Seat 3F
Boarding: 1750 (Gate C15)
Push Back: 1813
Take Off Roll: 1830 (Runway 35L)
Top of Descent: 2100
Touch Down: 2139 (Runway 23R)
Shut Down: 2143 (Gate C23)
Boarding was called and I was one of the first people down into the Jet Bridge. Down at the aircraft they were still loading food so I wasn’t sure if we should be onboard or not. I still got on anyway when she said it was ok. I jumped into my seat and stashed my stuff as quickly as I could. I took the Bulkhead because it was the only window available, even though I don’t really like it sometimes (when the storage situation is dire).
Boarding filled the entire plane pretty quickly and the flight attendants did not do a PDB. Scratch all the good things I said about AA…. ever! Nah that is mean, but the FA today was already on my shit list. We ended up pushing back early and set up for a flight time of 2h 5mins giving us a good 30 minute of ground time in the schedule. That makes sense since DFW is the size of a state!
As we pushed back and lined up to leave the apron I realised that up front in the MD80 there is no real noise at all. It was just so quiet from the plane. What you did hear was stuff going on the in the cockpit, the flight attendants gossiping (we had someone non revving in the jump seat). The sunset out my window was fantastic though, just stunning! It made me think just why I fly all the time. Looking out at that sunset over a city below is what makes me happy (and why I want a window seat).
As we climbed out of DFW I settled in to watching out the window till the sun set then went back to watching TV on my tablet. I still had shows to watch and it was something to keep me going right? Service was slow tonight. Drink orders were taken before take off but no meal orders? Confused. Then when we got around to being in the air, drink & nuts came out before the hot towel? Again confused. Mind you none of this was rushed at all, it was slow. Really slow. With a flight time of 2 hours the FA didn’t seem to be in much of a hurry.
Dinner service finally started about an hour into a 2 hour flight (wierd especially when you need to have everything cleared by 30 minutes out) and she followed the old FEBO rules. I figured that would happen eventually & being at the front on an odd numbered flight, I was going to get whatever was left. Sigh. By the time I got my meal about 10 minutes later, I still had both choices & went with the Green Chilli Tamale over the chicken. However 5 minutes after I started eating we had to start packing up as we were heading into turbulence & they wanted everything sorted since when we came out of that we would be in descent. Start scoffing it down!
I packed up my stuff, and got the FA to put it up for me eventually & just sat back watching the descent out the window. I had no idea where I was or what was going on so I just relaxed. I finally saw what looked like an airport & we took a roundabout way to come onto finals.
We touched down very quietly up front but when we turned off those brakes groaned. At the gate it was worse :/ within a few minutes the were set at the gate and I was off the plane and through the terminal. Nice new modern looking terminal bug baggage claim felt like miles away from the gate. Add onto the fact that my bag was one of the last out and you can bet how tired & Cranky I was. O well off to get my car & some sleep.