Well the year is almost over for real (my travel days are numbered this year a while back) and since everyone else is doing it, I might as well right! Not as much travel this year as last, but then it was a small year last year anyway. This year had some craziness back in the mix, purely because I could.

This is what my year looks like on a map

Not that big of a year of flying... but still plenty of fun.

Not that big of a year of flying… but still plenty of fun.

That is a total of 23418 miles. I wouldn’t even make silver on any one airline with that amount of flying… *sigh*. But hey… who cares right! Let’s break that down to some stats:

Total Miles: 23418
Total Flights: 16
Longest Flight: Seattle to Frankfurt – 5109 miles
Shortest Flight: Seattle to Spokane – 224 Miles
New Airports: 5 – Frankfurt, Newark, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Spokane
New Airlines: Condor
New Aircraft: Boeing 787-9, Boeing 747-8i
Most Flown Airline: TIED! United – 6, Alaska Airlines – 6
Most Flown Aircraft: Boeing 737 (all variants) – 6

I managed to get one new state (Oklahoma) but no new countries in the mix (in fact the only time I visited another country was my trip to Frankfurt). I will have a separate post on all the driving we did this year, rating mine and Heidi’s favorite rental cars of 2015.

Next years travel will make for a much longer year for miles, purely because Heidi and I are travelling back to Australia and then up to Asia. But for the moment, there is still some craziness involved. If all goes to plan I should be able to knock my unvisited states to practically nothing.

Here is to a good travel year in 2016!

Introduction
Seattle to Los Angeles to Houston to Tulsa
Oklahoma
Oklahoma City to Seattle

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

After dropping the car back at National (and OKC had plenty of half decent cars available in the Emerald Aisle including a new Edge Titanium) I grabbed all my stuff and headed for the terminal. The first thing I noticed was just how easy it was to get around in Oklahoma City and how nice the airport looks. Not sure how old it is but it looked super clean, modern and although the security checkpoint was small, there was not much of a wait and soon enough I was through to the main terminal itself.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

Once through I noticed something I had bet my money on before getting to the airport. There was a Sonic in the terminal, but they didn’t seem to have the half price ice cream advertised, so win to me! The terminal was spotlessly clean and was nice (albeit compact). I walked the entire length of the airport and it was quite easy getting around. Purchased a bottle of water and a souvenir to take home and headed towards the gate.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

By the time I made it to the gate, the plane had not quite arrived but it would be in a few minutes. They were actively promoting to get preferred seats sold and also First Class upgrades (sorry $100 on a non meal flight when I should be home in time for dinner is not a sale for me). They started offering bag checks as I got to the gate so figured I might as well not deal with the suitcase. Ahh Alaska, so predictable! Free bag check fees by waiting to get through security… suckers.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

I got my bag tagged and a printed boarding pass (i changed my seats to get a row of two to myself) and headed off to get a picture of the plane that had just arrived. I got my snaps and headed to find a power outlet to charge stuff up before I got onboard. I relaxed and watched the people around me (something Heidi loves to do) and wrote an email (thanks Carlson Hotels for fixing things so quickly). Soon enough the newest Alaska outstation was getting themselves ready for boarding. Now I can’t tell if these guys are contract workers or are actually Alaska employees, but they were pretty good if you ask me.

Alaska Airlines – AS3427
Oklahoma City to Seattle Tacoma (OKC-SEA)
1605-1823
Embraer E175 (N170SY)
Economy Class – Seat 21A

Boarding: 1535 (Gate 2)
Push Back: 1553
Take off Roll: 1611 (Runway 17L)
Top of Descent: 1727
Touch Down: 1758 (Runway 16R)
Shut Down: 1804 (Gate C18)

Boarding was called beginning with the pre-boards and then military and soon enough they got through the elites then it was a free for all. 21 rows of a plane and they just free for all it. Ugh! But other than that small complaint it was a good show at OKC. Now it was time to get onboard and start heading home. I got onboard to my first Embraer of the year and headed all the way to the back…. All the way! I was in row 21 because it had two empty seats and would hopefully stay that way. I was in 21A and B was hopefully going to stay empty.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

I got myself settled in and just before we closed up I fired off a “see you soon” message home. Today’s flight should only take 3 hours 15 minutes of air time (apparently) and we pushed back and then sat for a while (new staff, I will let them have it). We taxied out towards the runway and had to hold a little while for some Air Force T-38s from Sheppard Air Force Base doing pattern work. Once they had finished we turned onto the active, dumped the fuel into the burners and off we went. We passed the T-38s as they taxied back with canopies open (probably so they don’t cook themselves in the 95 degree heat). We climbed out through some bumps and cloud and started to head towards the PNW. As we climbed out we were informed there would be WiFi (yes!) and streaming entertainment as well. That should make for an easy flight. It was meant to be a super calm flight, but for some reason it wasn’t really calm. I didn’t figure it out till I was checking Flightaware after some big turns that didn’t feel normal to see that we were dodging a line of storms that seemed to be working their way east. Won’t complain about that little detour!

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

When the FA brought around the drinks trolley I got myself a diet coke and decided to try out the flight credit that comes with my Amex Gold Card and see if it would really work on in-flight food. So I purchased a snack box (not that I was going to eat much of it) and it was now time to wait to see if it would come back as free. The flight just kept on cruising Northwest as I sat back and worked on the trip report (plenty of air time to do this) and relaxed into my happy place. About the halfway point in the flight the Copilot came on to say we were passing the Grand Tetons off to the right. Thanks buddy, I am on the left side…. do a quick turn around will you!

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

As I was working away online, I lost track of all time and soon enough we were about 90 minutes out of Seattle. The two crew were super nice and were keeping everyone served pretty well. The flight wasn’t exactly full but they weren’t hiding in the galley either. I had a good chat to one of them about the roads around SeaTac at the time since the Chinese President was tying things up. Before I knew it we were on descent into SeaTac and it was time to pack things up.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

By the time I had everything stashed away, we were turning north over Auburn and Kent for our downwind leg. We passed SeaTac off our left, then Renton and also Boeing Field. We turned for final approach right over Kenmore and Bothell, way up where I used to live. It was kind of surreal to get this kind of approach, since I used to watch them all the time. We tracked over downtown for a 16R arrival and as we approached it was time for this all to be over. We touched down and started the long complicated taxi over to the Alaska gates.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

We were stuck waiting off the gate while the Horizon ground agents got themselves into gear at C18. We finally did pull in and then the dings went off and it was time to wait to get off. I had a last minute chat with the flight attendant about the traffic problems about to hit us all, and then it was off into the terminal to get my bag. By the time i got down to the baggage claim the belt had just started spitting out bags from our flight. That meant no 2500 points for me :( Soon enough I was on my way to the shuttle to get the truck…. trip over :(

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

Introduction
Seattle to Los Angeles to Houston to Tulsa
Oklahoma
Oklahoma City to Seattle

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Getting off the flight was relatively easy and I started to head my way towards the baggage claim and then down towards the car park where the signs were sending me. Except my phone told me I had to go to the rental counter… o dear. Backtracking to find some signage and when I finally did find the rental counter, they told me to go straight to the car park…. *sigh*

From Oklahoma Trip

Eventually I made it to the National Rental area and there was like maybe 6 cars in place. This is not good. No wonder the virtual aisle was not working, they had no cars! I had reserved a full size since the price was so good and it was a reserve service, not an aisle set up. So I should have had a car waiting. When I got there the person working the booth did not seem to care there were no cars and offered me either a Cherokee or a Patriot… both of which are SUVs and neither of which I wanted. I asked him what cars I can have, he said none. I pushed back saying I reserved a full size, he offered me a Fusion, a Camry or a Chrysler 200, all of which are not Full Size. I said I would take the Cherokee in this instance but as soon as I got to the car it didn’t look that great inside so I went back, but I had missed out on the fusion by moments. Again I pushed back to the guy that I reserved a full size and I would like a full size. He said he might have some (he didn’t want to look in the computer at all) and said that maybe when the drivers get back they can get something for him. I said I was willing to wait but he looked like he just wanted to get rid of me. He asked me again what I was looking for and I said “What I reserved, a Full Size, like a Charger or something like that). Well he again had a huff, and then said “What about an Altima” I said sure, that’s a full size. So he walked off down to Alamo and got the keys from them and swapped it over in there computer. Could he not have done this in the first place… *sigh*

Finally off to my hotel and the area was exactly how I expected it. A mix of residential/industrial/commercial park, right next to the freeway. Lots of food options around. When I got to the hotel though, things did not go as planned here either. I arrived to find the driveway of the hotel full of security and police cars. All in all there was 8 police cars at reception. This was NOT a good sign. I ventured inside to check in and the lady on reception again did not seem to care at all, and when I asked about the police cars she just nonchalantly said “O Don’t worry about that”…. ugh yeah… sure! I moved my car and went up to the room briefly to drop things off. I was not impressed with the room and I won’t air all the dirty laundry here, but this was not a wise choice. I tried to see if there was any BBQ still open, but there wasn’t so I did the next best thing.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

I jumped back in the car and drove off for something that I passed on the way to the hotel (well not that exact one, I picked one a little bit closer and close to an area I could find water after). I went to Waffle House. First time at this US staple and it wasn’t half bad. It was dirt cheap and as you would expect, I had a waffle. I had breakfast pretty much for every meal that night with Bagels for breakfast and lunch and then Eggs, Sausage, Waffle and Grits for dinner (although apparently I should have had hash browns… silly me). After my dinner and catching up on digital life I hopped in the car to find the nearest grocery store to grab some dessert and some water for the next day. All that seemed to be open was a Walmart, so that’s where I went. I returned back to the hotel to find all the police cars cleared out and the hotel deserted. So after a quick call to the wife and planning out where I was going running the next morning, I hit the sack.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

Wednesday 23rd September 2015

I woke up earlyish and headed over to Riverside Drive, about 4 or 5 miles drive away. This was the number one running trail that I could find in all of Tulsa and it was pretty damn awesome. Cutting through the middle of Tulsa is the Arkansas River (funny considering that its no where near it right?). The city of Tulsa has done things right here by putting in miles and miles of running/cycling path and really amazing facilities for people to enjoy along the way. I parked my car at the 41st Street Plaza where there was ample parking, restrooms and best of all, resting space if things didn’t go to plan. I hit the trail and it was wide, flat and open and passed plenty of people doing the same thing on the way. All while forgetting my camera :( I did get to enjoy a lovely sunrise as the colors went from dark to light and tinged pink and red and orange. The people were all friendly as well, with just about everyone greeting you as you passed them. Always a great way to start the morning with a sunrise run in a new city.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

I headed back to the hotel and again, more problems found (try no hot water) and so I showered and headed to breakfast (no wifi at all!). Breakfast was as you would expect when it’s free, carbalicious (no fruit so thankfully I brought my own) and I went with something in honor of Heidi, a waffle! A good waffley breakfast and some coffee and I hit the road to make a quick stop back at Riverside Drive to get some photos since the place deserves it!

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

Off on the road to Oklahoma City I went. Open road, cruise control and some music was something I wanted and it was a great drive. Turns out the drive from Tulsa to OKC is a toll road for part of it and $4 cash later, I was able to continue on my way. I expected the drive to just be solid flat road, but it was actually more like rolling hills the whole way. It was a good drive and I didn’t really have an idea of where in Oklahoma City I was heading to but was going to just head downtown and take it from there. I ended up coming in on the freeway seeing signs for the State Capitol and that sounded as good as any for somewhere to go to.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

The State Capitol looked pretty decent and I actually saw one of the state senators arrive at work as they all have reserved car spaces (no names though). Funny that here in the USA the state senators & representatives all drive to work in their own car. In Australia they would all be driven to work in a government car. From there I headed off to find some lunch! I just googled BBQ and went to the one with the best rating. Leo’s BBQ is where I ended up and the place look exactly how I was hoping. A DUMP. But this generally means that the food is good, at least in BBQ perspective because it’s all about the pit, not the ambiance. Leo’s has apparently been on the Food Network so I expected it to be full of tourists, but when the guy sitting next to me at lunch (had to share a table) had been eating there for 35 years, well it was a locals joint. He told me what to order, said he had been eating the same thing for his entire life so I knew it had to be good, and it was. The Brisket I had was amazing, it was melt in your mouth tender but with enough chew to really taste it. I had one rib and it practically fell away from the bone without being overcooked. The Fried Okra was great and the beans were so flavorful. In something I had not experienced before they had a cucumber and onion pickle to go with it. Not a gherkin style pickle but more like a fresh cucumber salad style pickle. It helped cut the richness of the meat really well. None of the meat came out sauced and the guy at the table gave me the good sauce (and good it was!). All of it came served with a slice of their famous Banana Strawberry cake and to be honest, I’ve had better cake. Now lunch wasn’t cheap (probably my most expensive thing in the entire visit to Oklahoma) but it was good!

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

I moved on from Leo’s (my car had not be stolen or damaged so that was good considering the area was sketchy) and headed towards a place I had found in a little brochure around the state capitol. Tinker Air Force base is located in Oklahoma City and was not to far away. They had a big Air Park just next to the main gate so I headed over there to ogle some avgeek goodies. A big piece of park full of heavies and some small stuff that I did not expect. It was really worth the short visit. From there I headed over towards the airport to fill up. I kept passing Sonic’s all day yesterday and today and when I passed one it turns out it was half price ice cream all day…. SOLD!

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

I found the closest Sonic to the airport and then headed that way to grab a treat before I filled the car up. I just wanted somewhere I could consolidate all my stuff (rather than having to do it in a gas station) and whenever there is ice cream involved I can’t really complain right? Sold! Plus when it cost less than $2 for a Waffle Cone Sundae who would say no! Hell it even came with a cherry on top! I gassed up the car (where else can you get gas for under 50c a liter!) and headed towards the airport, ready to finish off the last part of my quick trip to Oklahoma.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

Introduction
Seattle to Los Angeles to Houston to Tulsa
Oklahoma
Oklahoma City to Seattle

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Tuesday 22nd September 2015

*beep beep beep* Crap, time to get up. It’s O Dark Stupid and unfortunately I need to get up and get moving. The normal morning process of Gym, emails, last minute packing (I always seem to forget the same things every time) and it’s time to kiss the wife and head to the airport. Rather than use the employee lot, I decided to use up a couple of expired groupon vouchers and park at Wallypark. So within 45 minutes of leaving the house, I am walking on the secure side of the airport (unfortunately Checkpoint A was an absolute zoo, thank god for premium access).

I dropped off something at work and headed for the United Club. One of the whole reasons for this trip was a final swan song of my *G status before it expires in November. This meant that I could have a quick relax before the flight boarded. I should of had about 30-40 minutes before we boarded to catch up on life and relax. The reality though was our light was delayed for “Operational Reasons” which really was code for “The crew needs to sleep and is running late”. So I had about an hour or so before we were due to board.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

I had some coffee, stole some breakfast and then got myself ready to board. I saw the seat map was wide open and although I tried to get myself an exit row, the gate agent was not in the mood for being helpful. So I took at least a row to myself, nice try lousy gate agent!

United Airlines – UA6522
Seattle Tacoma to Los Angeles (SEA-LAX)
0645-0927
Canadair CRJ-700 (N706SK) – Operated by Skywest
Economy Class – Seat 14A

Boarding: 0635 (Gate A7)
Push Back: 0702
Take off Roll: 0717 (Runway 16L)
Top of Descent: 0901
Touch Down: 0928 (Runway 24L)
Shut Down: 0945 (Gate 87)

We boarded and by the time I had looked through my bag to find something, they had gone from Zone 1 to Zone 2 and with only 1 other person in that zone other than me, i had barely touched the walk way before it was Zone 3 being called and I had to move quickly to escape the masses.

Once in the jetbridge I dropped my bag at the door (this is a CRJ remember) and headed inside. There was a back up for some reason (what are people trying to stow?) and I waited a little while before heading to my seat. I got myself situated in the seats and waited for everyone to board (which didn’t take long). We could have departed on time had we not had to wait while the crew finished all their required checklists. Till that time I just sat there doing stuff and flicking through the magazines etc in the seat back pocket.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

We finally closed up and pushed back a few minutes before the revised time of departure. We had a long taxi out as it was South Flow today and United uses the A gates…. sadly. So after about 10 or so minutes we were at the north end of the field and lining up behind a Virgin America A320 waiting to depart. Sadly no good photos today as the windows on this old CRJ were solidly disgusting and dirty. While I could see out the window the photos just would not turn out, otherwise you would see below a brand new 787-9 and even better, two Antonov AN124’s (one from Volga Dnepr, one from the Antonov Design Bureau).

We climbed out quickly and cruised up into the morning sky, with the sun rising directly out my window. I was able to get a good view of Mt Rainier before we hit the clouds and it was out of sight. I just sat back and did some writing for the blog. Eventually the cart came around and I got my usual morning order of Coffee and Water. This with my pilffered breakfast of Bagel and Banana it was as though I was doing the one thing I have done time and time again. An early morning departure from Seattle, drinking airline coffee and looking out the window. De Ja Vu much?

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

The flight down was pretty uneventful. I drank, I ate, I typed and then you know. We started descent into LAX. We were coming in long and slowly over the mountains to the north of the greater Los Angeles area. We even had a good sight of the Hollywood sign as we came in and did a nice gentle right turn over Dodger Stadium (sorry no games today). We came in for a nice long final approach onto the North Runways and that meant one thing at LAX. A long taxi :(

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

As we touched down on 24L we hit the breaks quickly and hard and pulled off right at the start of the taxiway to the Down Under Ramp. We taxiied up the ramp and stopped, right in the middle of the taixway. Great… this means one thing. Penalty box! We were waiting for our gate to open up, which always seems to happen to me while I am in LAX.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

Finally we headed up to our gate and taxiied in and then there was a mass exodus off the plane, but I waited and was in the last few people off the plane. I had to wait for my gate checked bag so that I could keep going and knowing ground staff (I used to be one remember) it would be a few more minutes (and it was). When I finally got my bag I took a bare few steps up the jetbridge and I saw it. The 787-9. I snapped a few photos and headed off on my way around to the United Club.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

I got over to the UA club out at the end of Terminal 7. The gate that had my plane was way at the end, and there was a club pretty much right above it. I had enough time at the club for a quick bathroom break and then it would have to be off to the gate. Though when I got there I took advantage of a nice person at the desk and asked them to see if they could help me out with the seat situation. She did a big shout out to the United Club ladies for always being there to help (since I have never been let down before). I grabbed a quick snack and headed off to the gate.

United Airlines – UA1977
Los Angeles to Houston Intercontinental (LAX-IAH)
1100-1647
Boeing 787-9 (N38950)
Economy Plus – Seat 18A

Boarding: 1010 (Gate 76)
Push Back: 1055
Take off Roll: 1105 (Runway 25R)
Top of Descent: 1507
Touch Down: 1544 (Runway 8R)
Shut Down: 1552 (Gate E5)

When I got to the gate, boarding was well underway and I got there right as Zone 3 was starting. I had to move quick to beat some more hordes of people but I was down the jetbridge quickly. Stopped at the door for a few pictures, and then stepped onboard into door 2L. Sadly it is a right turn into the aisle and off down the back. Past the 2nd business cabin and into Economy Plus for me today. I was able to get settled quickly before I was joined by my seat mates. Sorry to the two folks sitting next to me who originally had a row to themselves 😉

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

I got myself settled into the seat and the legroom was great and the screen was nice and clear. I managed to snap a lot of pictures in the 45 minutes or so we were at the gate during boarding. About 5 minutes prior to the proper departure time we started pushing back from the gate and I was giddy like a schoolgirl. The wing looked so amazing (I have to say I do love the wing on a 787) all curved up and raked. The window in the first dimmed setting was the best for today as it cut down so much on the glare. We taxiied to the end of the runway right near our terminal and it meant that we would be off within minutes rather than having a long taxi. We did not even stop when we turned onto the runway. We just turned right onto the active and the GenX engines were wound up and into the sky we went.

From Oklahoma Trip

We climbed out and turned left back over the ocean and then kept turning left till we were pointed east. We ended our climb out at 41,000ft (according to the Captain) and it was a smooth climb. Watching that raked wingtip bounce up and down was great and probably as much entertainment as the tv in the seat back. I had been watching a movie, though not paying to much attention to it (it was the new Terminator movie so not at all that great).

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

I spent most of my time on the flight working on the trip report or just generally relaxing. I again ate some snacks I had pilfered from the lounge and just chilled out. I knew that once I got to Houston it was going to be from one end of the airport to the other. We started a very early descent into Houston and we got passed by a Southwest 737 going like a bat out of hell. It was a very slow descent (then again we were up super high at 41,000ft). We did eventually start to get lower and lower and eventually some of Houston’s surrounding areas came into view. I thought I saw the airport, but I was wrong.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

As we circled around to approach Houston, it seemed we were coming into the same side as I had when I was first here back in 2012. Coming in from Qatar we had a long approach all the way past the D gates, and it was the same as last time. We touched down and started the long taxi back around to the E gates which were on the totally opposite side of the airport. Sadly my camera was having a hissy fit dealing with the clouding on the window and the blue tint (which kept the glare out).

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

We taxiied all the way around to the E Gates and we pulled into our gate right next to a Star Alliance 777-200 so that was a nice welcome to the city. Once eventually deplaned (they took their time bringing in the air bridge but then we did get in SUPER early) I headed into the terminal, snapped one last picture of the 789 and headed off back on a trek across the airport. I was heading to the B gates which are back pretty much where we landed. It would mean a lot of walking and a train just to get over to the gates. O well, time to hoof it! I am glad we got in early as it would mean I didn’t have the 54 minutes originally scheduled to get across the airport.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

I decided to check out the United Club in the B concourse but the place was an absolute zoo, I was not going to stick around long because there was no real seats anywhere and I had to really look hard to find a seat with a power plug to give the laptop some juice. I eventually decided to head out of the zoo that was the club and find the gate. Well the gate i found, kind of. It seems the B gates are essentially for the regional jets and rather than bus people out. They come into something akin to what Horizon use in Seattle. However rather than having one mass gate and having people walk to the plane itself. They have the gate at the top and then you walk down to the gates themselves where they scan your boarding pass and let you on from there. It didn’t seem smart to me.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

United Airlines – UA4573
Houston Intercontinental to Tulsa (IAH-TUL)
1738-1908
Embraer ERJ-145 (N16170) – Operated by Expressjet
Economy Class – Seat 2A

Boarding: 1708 (Gate B23)
Push Back: 1731
Take off Roll: 1744 (Runway 15R)
Top of Descent: 1825
Touch Down: 1855 (Runway 18L)
Shut Down: 1900 (Gate B6)

So when we were called down to the gate I headed down the escalators and then down to the plane gate itself. I made sure to get another photo of the plane up close before getting into the Zone 2 line (it was combined with Zone 1) and for some odd reason we had to wait to board from there. It was unlike anything I had experienced before… odd.

From Oklahoma Trip

Once out the door I dropped my bag at the “Valet” gate check and headed up to the plane. Stepping onboard i realised I was not going to be able to do what I wanted and was just going to have to enjoy the flight without any hassles. The flight filled up and i contorted myself into my seat and stored everything at my feet (and then had no room for my feet). I knew I had chosen poorly on this plane now, and kind of regret it. We eventually buttoned up with 37 people on board and got ready to taxi.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

Pushing back from the gate and then holding at the taxi way for a while meant we had to wait. We headed over to a new part of the airport I had not been to before and we lined up on a parrellel runway to an Aeromexico E190. We climbed out and turned right (sine the E190 went left) and we turned back to the north towards Oklahoma. Totally uneventful flight as we just climbed out and the total flight time was an hour. This shows you how crap the US airlines are. Back home Brisbane to Sydney is a 1 hour flight time and that means a full meal service on an airline like Qantas. In the US it means a drink, and that’s it. I was lucky enough to get one cup of diet coke and one of coke zero and a lot of reading my book. To high to see anything decent and by the time we started descending I had no idea where we were.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

As we circled around and landed I was shocked to see just how big the airport was. I had forgotten that this is a big facility for American Airlines as they have their maintenance base here. We landed and had a slowish taxi up to the gate and soon enough I was off the plane and into the jet bridge to wait for my bag.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

Well consider this your Monday morning Avgeek hit to get you on your way to work. Here are some pictures from the Final flight of the EA-6B Prowler as it left Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. First up some of the static displays of aircraft based at NASWI.

From Seattle Spotting 2015

P-3C Orion

From Seattle Spotting 2015

C-40A Clipper

From Seattle Spotting 2015

EP-3 Orion

From Seattle Spotting 2015

EA-18G Growler

And now some of the flying display.

From Seattle Spotting 2015
From Seattle Spotting 2015

MH-60S Seahawk SAR Demo

From Seattle Spotting 2015
From Seattle Spotting 2015
From Seattle Spotting 2015
From Seattle Spotting 2015

EA-6B Prowler & EA-18G Growler Fly Past

From Seattle Spotting 2015
From Seattle Spotting 2015
From Seattle Spotting 2015
From Seattle Spotting 2015

The Prowler came back to refuel and then went on its way, never to return.

So apparently I never got around to posting some of my photos from Frankfurt Airport, so well for your long weekend admiration….

From Frankfurt Spotting

Lufthansa’s Airbus A321

From Frankfurt Spotting

Lufthansa’s Airbus A320 (with Sharklets)

From Frankfurt Spotting

Bringing up the Trifecta… a Lufthansa Airbus A319

From Frankfurt Spotting

Rounding out the whole Lufthansa Short Haul fleet, Boeing 737-500

From Frankfurt Spotting

British Airways Airbus A319 (heading to Heathrow)

From Frankfurt Spotting

JAL Boeing 777-300ER

From Frankfurt Spotting

Sun Express Boeing 737-800

From Frankfurt Spotting

Swiss Avro RJ-85

From Frankfurt Spotting

Aegean Airlines – Airbus A321

From Frankfurt Spotting

KLM Embraer E-190

From Frankfurt Spotting

Condor Boeing 757-300

From Frankfurt Spotting

LAN Boeing 787-8

From Frankfurt Spotting

Korean Air Boeing 777-300ER (Skyteam Livery)

For More goodies, check out the full album.

Frankfurt Spotting

Introduction
Seattle to Frankfurt
Frankfurt Fun Times
Lufthansa First Class Terminal
Frankfurt to Newark
Newark to Seattle
Conclusion
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I stepped off that plane in Newark with a sad face, knowing that the fun was over. I was about to possibly go through hell. At the end of the jet bridge was a Lufthansa staff member waiting for all F guests. She apologized that she couldn’t help us expedite US immigration (no one ever can) but said she would have our bags waiting for us when we get through . I let her know that I might be a while, as I knew my process through immigration would require immediate Secondary processing. She said that she would wait for me. Now that is service!

Immigration turned out to be a non event barely a question asked and barely an extra 5 minutes added, all of which was spent me sitting on a chair pre thinking of answers to questions that might happen. I even had a very happy quick joke with one of the CBP agents about baking on my way towards baggage claim. That experience turned out to be way better than expected. My flight was late arriving (only about 15 minutes, nothing horrible) and I had a 3 hour connection. Through all of it I expected immigration to take around an hour, thankfully with secondary and waiting originally, and waiting in line for customs (and declaring a bag full of candy) took around 45 minutes. I had a good 2 hours till departure, plenty of time to connect right? WRONG! This is Newark!

I wanted a United boarding pass on United cardstock (what… stop judging me already!) and so I made a quick pit stop at airline desks after dropping my bag off at Connections. They issued me one with no problem at all and then it was off to terminal C. The airline desk staff pointed me in the right direction and that is the way I went. Sadly I don’t think they were aware that it was all broken, and that is not a good thing. Although the terminals are quite close at Newark (although not SeaTac close) they run a train (on the landside) between them. Sadly this train was broken somewhere and there was a mass amount of people waiting. No announcements nothing at all. It was bedlam. What they didn’t tell you was that yes you could walk between terminals. I waited a good 25 minutes before I knew that was even possible. At that point, it was time to haul ass, and that is what I did. I moved as quickly and as efficiently as possible between the two terminals and I was sweating (it was almost 90 out).

I made it to the C terminal with expected waits at security of “less than 10 minutes”. I had to quickly trash my water bottle and grab out my boarding pass (as I had stashed while i waited for the Air Train) and while I was doing that I thought I had lost part of my stuff. By the time I cleared security I actually found it and about 15 minutes after entering the security line, I was on the other side. This gave me just over 25 minutes till the apparent boarding time of my flight to get to the far side of the terminal. A LONG way off. I hauled butt to the United Club hoping I could jump into a shower room and clean up a bit, sadly no chance as it was a 15-20 minute wait for a shower and I had less than that till boarding. I resounded to smell and look like crap.

I grabbed a banana (for sustenance) and hot footed it to the gate area to get there before boarding started. By the time I got up there, the gate had no seats at all (literally there was no seats at this gate and the gate area adjacent was full (either from the flight from that gate or mine). I tried to see if the boarding time was realistic (in the hopes that I could maybe find somewhere to sit close enough) but as usual, this is United and it comes with mandatory surliness. I found a table close by to drop my stuff and kind of get myself sorted so that I could quickly email Heidi to let her know all was ok (since I had not done that yet). When it got close to boarding time, I went and joined the gate lice who were already clamoring for positions in the wrong boarding areas. What is it with American’s doing that! The only thing is we just waited and waited and waited some more. I wasn’t surprised at this, like I said this is United.

United Airlines – UA1160
Newark to Seattle Tacoma (EWR-SEA)
1900-2222
Boeing 737-900ER (N64809)
First Class – Seat 2F

Boarding: 1835 (Gate 131)
Push Back: 1913
Take off Roll: 1928 (Runway 22R)
Top of Descent: 2147
Touch Down: 2208 (Runway 16R)
Shut Down: 2217 (Gate A11)

Boarding was called almost 20 minutes later than the time noted and it was blamed on “cleaning the aircraft” yet by that time, the plane had been on the ground for quite some time. Me thinks that someone was telling porky pies! They called every conceivable kind of person before allowing First Class to board. By now I was just wanting to sit down and relax, maybe put my feet up a little. When they got to Zone 1 for boarding, I was happy to jump onboard.

I got myself sorted in my seat and didn’t spend a whole lot of time taking too many photos. This is United remember so it is not all THAT special. The flight boarded and the seat next to me remained empty, right up until the point they paged someone for a “new seat assignment”. Yep F was going out full tonight… sadly. Having a spare seat next to me would have been nice as I could have spread out a little more.

The pushback was delayed due to “the printer in the cockpit not working” (or at least that is the reason given by the flight deck) so we missed our push window and had to wait, I enjoyed watching the ground crew working seeing the slight differences that happens between airlines. When wef did push, we taxied out fairly quickly all the way out to the runway adjacent to the one we landed on earlier.

After only having to wait for 1 or 2 other planes, we lept into the air and settled in for a fight to the west coast. I wanted to try and finish my book for the first part of the flight and I accomplished that quite a bit, until my new seatmate wanted to chat. It wasn’t all bad (found out he used to live in the same suburb of sydney that my grandparents did) and his talking kept me awake and entertained for a while.

I had not flown Transcon UA F ever before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect and when the starter salad came out I thought to myself “where is the salmon”. Woops! Didn’t expect a course by course meal. But the good thing with that was the fact that they had ICE CREAM!! I ate away while chatting and once the meal was complete (and ice cream bowl licked) I switched over to working on the trip report some more while trying not to fall asleep.

Thankfully the WiFi was working as I had to buy a couple of bucks worth to organise my ride home since we were getting in early apparently. Way to schedule pad united. When the internet ran out (I spent most of my WiFi time goofing off) I went back to the trip report and also tried hard to keep my eyes open. They were just so heavy and tired and once I had caught up on the trip report, well my eyes just kept on shutting.

I didn’t sleep, but I know I zoned out to relaxation mode and soon enough we were on descent to Seattle. I couldn’t see squat outside since it was dark and it looked like the weather had rolled in. Add in the fact that my eyes were so heavy and tired and I just didn’t care. I thought we were approaching from the South but when we touched down on the right runway I didn’t see anything out there on my side, turns out we had come in from the North. Soooo observant there Malcolm.

We touched down and taxied over to the A Gates where we would pull into A11 and end our trip for the night. I was hoping that the priority bag tags would have me out quickly (in the past it has been a hit or a miss) and I moved my way over to the baggage claim. Since we were meant to get in early (But apparently landed on time instead) I had reached out to a friend to pick me up since Heidi was working (and actually finished late) and as soon as I had my bag, he came down to grab me. Homeward bound to Heidi & my bed only after being awake 27 hours, way to end a trip!

Introduction
Seattle to Frankfurt
Frankfurt Fun Times
Lufthansa First Class Terminal
Frankfurt to Newark
Newark to Seattle
Conclusion
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It is tough being back to reality now (although not full reality as I don’t start back at work till Monday). The craziest part about the whole trip was just how easy it was to put together. I always expected that when I wanted to do my Lufthansa first class trip, I wouldn’t be able to do it, that I would never find the space. Well that was a total non event because I was able to get what I wanted, fairly close to when I wanted. Now that I am home and able to look at it all, I am so happy to have done it. Before I get to far into it though, all my photos are up:

Weekend in Frankfurt
Frankfurt Spotting

Let’s look at these pieces one by one so that I can give some comments on them really quickly. First up, Condor. I was hoping for an upgrade on Condor, but then life was not able to do that (since we had only a 3 row J class config). This did however give me a first opportunity to fly a Premium Economy product. Now unlike a lot of airlines, Condor use a standard Economy seat with more legroom for their PE service but they have upgraded amenities. This flight was actually pretty good and one of the first times in a while I have flown long haul. I didn’t have a horrible experience but it wasn’t all that great as well. It was fairly so-so. Nothing really to complain about at all.

Frankfurt, o Frankfurt. You were wonderfully relaxed and quiet. One thing my friend Clare said (and I kind of agree with) is that Frankfurt is a city you could move to. It is a city that just confused me in the fact that a Sunday would be so quiet. The city is such a large and pivotal city and yet on a Sunday it is shut down to bare essentials, if that. The hotel, the Radisson Blu Frankfurt, let’s just say that you were not my favourite and I probably wouldn’t go back again. Only if you managed to fix up a whole lot of the issues I addressed with you and you didn’t seem to care.

Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal will remain as one of the main reasons I wanted to go. I wanted to explore what is reputed to be the epitome of the airline lounge. I have to say that it did not disappoint. I was in awe of this facility before I got there and I feel now that I see the draw. I see why so many people say that this is the best they have ever visited, that it is one of the best lounges in the world. The staff help make this lounge. You can have the best restaurant, the best facilities, but without the service, you have just seats. The Personal Assistants are what make this lounge fantastic. Antje really did have passion for what she did. I could see it in the way she talked, the way she spoke about what she does and why. Nothing felt like a hassle and normally I would be all excited about being in the airport lounge prior to a flight. This time though, I was totally relaxed, it was something unlike me. I was still excited but I wasn’t like the Energizer bunny. Considering that I will be doing something similar in life now, it has given me an insight to show that a passion for this kind of work really can make someones day and make their time feel even more special. Mine certainly did!

The flight on Lufthansa itself though, I can’t put in words how amazing that experience was. I feel like I was doted on by the two flight attendants. Kira and Oezlem, you both deserve recognition for what you did. I know that you both were just doing what you do, but you made me feel like the experience was worth it. I had an amazing time on this flight and enjoyed every minute of it. The only thing that i can complain about is that the flight was not long enough, add a few hours to it and I would have been happy. I want to fly it again! The 747-8i was also an amazing aircraft. I loved sitting right in the nose as I felt like I was the first person to do anything on that plane and I was happy to be able to tick off another new model to my list.

Coming home to Seattle on United was like going back to reality. I came home to rain and grey skies. I had left when it was bright blue and sunshine (so I am claiming I took it with me to Frankfurt). Life has to go back to normal now, but really how much normal do I need to get. I will remember this trip for quite some time to come, the only thing I wish i could have shared it with Heidi. Although taking her for her first time visiting an airport lounge or flying true first class, this would probably ruin her for good. Sorry hun… but SQ Suites will have to do for you.

Introduction
Seattle to Frankfurt
Frankfurt Fun Times
Lufthansa First Class Terminal
Frankfurt to Newark
Newark to Seattle
Conclusion
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Lufthansa – LH402
Frankfurt to Newark (FRA-EWR)
1320-1545
Boeing 747-8i (D-ABYA)
First Class – Seat 1K

Boarding: 1248 (Door 4/Gate Z69)
Push Back: 1338
Take off Roll: 1348 (Runway 25C)
Top of Descent: 1525
Touch Down: 1614 (Runway 22L)
Shut Down: 1622 (Gate 62)

After hopping into the Mini Van to be taken to the gate, myself and the other two passengers in the van enjoyed our quick little drive towards A/Z69. Technically my gate was door 4, however I am not quite sure exactly if it was A or Z that the plane actually arrived from. All I know is that when I arrived at the gate, I was standing on the ramp just outside the circle of safety. From the mini van I stopped to take more photos (was already taking them inside the plane and had missed out on seeing the Retro 748) of the plane we were flying. This was my first time onboard a 747-8i as a passenger, and I was about to step foot on the first commercially delivered 747-8i to an airline.

As we got in the lift that took us up to the boarding jetbridges, we stepped off into a maze of people. However the driver who was our escort just pushed his way through, and ran interference for us. We essentially pushed our way through the entire crowd of people and the next thing I know, I am standing at door L1 and turning left into First Class. I was now here. This was not my first time making that turn. The last time was back in 2007 on my first solo trip to the USA. I had paid to upgrade to Business on Air New Zealand and although I couldn’t get the nose for the main part of the journey from LAX to AKL, I did manage it from AKL to home. This time though I was going to be in Row 1 and there was going to be a lot less people up there. Score!

I took a number of photos and tried not to bump into anyone while I was doing it. When I did sit down a glass of sparkling water and macadamia nuts were placed at my seat. I wasn’t sure if they were meant for me, because I had not spoken to anyone by that stage, so I was astounded at the fact that they had read my mind. That is what I was going to ask for, the crew had the best mind reading skills (or so I thought). I was shown where my personal locker was and I took the time to get myself sorted, dropping the camera bag at the back of the cabin. I took my seat and stashed the rest of my gear and got myself situated.

The crew introduced themselves to me and I relaxed as best as I could. I was excited and that meant I didn’t need caffeine or anything as I was already buzzing. We waited a while once the doors closed for the cargo doors to be shut and then we had to wait for another aircraft to clear the taxiway before we could push. When we finally did, it meant that my journey was about to truly begin. It was around this time that the safety video played and unlike on Condor, this one plays part of the way through in German then repeated it in English. By then we were on the taxiway heading for departure. The crew got us situated correctly with the seatbelts in place (the sash belts had to go on as well) and we waited our turn to depart behind another Lufthansa 747. Behind us were two more 747s as well. Score!

It was around that time that the battery in my camera finally died after 2 days (was waiting for that) and since I was strapped in, I couldn’t reach my other one. From then it was just time to enjoy the view as we climbed out. The ride out was pretty bumpy and I wasn’t sure if that was just because you could feel it more in the nose. I can tell you that sitting about the nose wheel gear set up means that you hear extra noises that just truly do not sound normal. We climbed out and once the dings went off to signal the seatbelt sign had been turned off there was a mad dash in F to the bathrooms. I managed to squeeze my way past someone else discussing pyjamas and relieve myself quickly. I returned to my seat and got myself sorted for the upcoming meal. I was going to enjoy this!

Before the meal service started we got all the good stuff brought to us. Amenity kits (no rimowa… *sad face*), pyjamas, slippers, menus. All the stuff that I would be stashing away later (including the safety card). I took it all in while perusing the menu. I could see caviar would be on the menu and this was going to be my first time trying it for real. There was a total of 8 courses on offer with an Amuse Bouche, Caviar, Starter, Salad, Soup, Main, Cheese and then Dessert. If you count cofffee and chocolates that is 9. A LOT of food. But there was one thing on that menu I was really hoping would be there. Aspargus. The famous german white aspargus. I was going to have that no matter what.

The service for drinks etc was kind of slow, but it turned out to be a pretty full cabin, 7 of 8 people. The sad thing is that as people were not really eating and getting ready to sleep, I was just going to be enjoying this flight. This flight really isn’t a busienss flight as you arrive into Newark at the end of the work day. It is a daylight flight going over as well, so I was determined to soak it all in and stay up. Why sleep and miss something when I can soak it all in, then sleep on my connection (though being United, that was doubtful).

When the menu orders were taken, I put in my preference for the aspargus and said that I would be awake for the 2nd service (though doubtful I would have space to try anything). Once everything started it was a slow affair for the first couple of courses but then it hit the right pace. I saw a few people just have cheese, one person didn’t eat at all, me I just soaked it up. The best part of this flight was going to be the indulge, because they don’t come along all that often. I have flown Qantas, Emirates and Cathay first, this would just add another experience to them all.

The meal came out with caviar after the amuse bouche (you can find a copy of the menu in the AR report, but I will update that when I get a chance so there is one here too). This was my first time really trying it and it was presented so nicely. I screwed up the photo of the cart service so that was just dumb, but I did try it with everything. I have to say I am not a fan, maybe I didn’t do it right, but it just didn’t do anything for me. The rest of the meal was amazing. The salad and starters were tasty and then the main was what I was waiting for. I didn’t really want the whole thing by that stage as I was slowly filling up but I downed that asparagus, with a little bit of the ham and hollandaise, not much. I didn’t have much cheese and I gave a little break so I could stretch and use that bathroom before dessert. When dessert rolled around, Kira (the english speaking crew member working first) asked me which one I wanted. I wasn’t sure and said “whichever you think”. She replied with “How about both?” Who am I to say no to that!

I had both desserts with coffee and by this time my movie had finished (Ex Machina) and I was watching a tv show to fill the gap. With Lunch out of the way (is lunch the right meal… I don’t know) I settled in with some more coffee to work and get some of the trip report out of the way. A couple of coffees later I was up to date and decided to settle in to a few movies on a nicely outstretched bed. YAY!

I let the ladies in charge of first change my seat into a bed and I ducked out to the bathroom, when I came back it had all been fixed and I settled down in a slightly modified bed mode (head elevated). I didn’t want to sleep on this daylight flight as if I stayed awake I could keep myself going and crash out when I finally reached Seattle around my bed time. The bumpy flight helped to ensure I didn’t really try and sleep all that much. The flight had been bumpy from the start and with so much bumping, lying down to sleep was not really going to happen.

While I watched my movie, I ended up with another coffee (somehow) and I also wondered if they had any cookies (hey… you know my weaknesses… stop judging). It seemed to be the one thing the FCT was missing and I was hoping they had something with some crunch. The flight attendant on duty (it was Kira at the time) said she would see what she could find as I don’t think it was a standard F item. I sipped on my coffee and low and behold a few minutes later a plate of wrapped cookies arrived at my seat. I am not sure where she got them, but damn they were delicious. I will deny any knowledge of half the supplied cookies landing up in my suitcase.

By the time my movie was finishing up, the cabin was starting to wake up from all their sleeping. I think I was the only one up front who did not go to sleep at all. This was something that confused the hell out of me as if I was heading just to EWR, I wouldn’t want to be waking up around 2pm local and then getting in at 4pm local to then head to bed a few hours later. That doesn’t make any sense to me. As the cabin slowly started to strip down their bedding and the crew put it all away, people started getting ready for the 2nd meal service. I was really not at all that hungry at this stage and thankfully Lufthansa probably knows this. The 2nd meal service is more of a light meal service with a salad cart buffet followed with a piece of cake or fruit for dessert. For me this was perfect but since I just wasn’t hungry at all, I got just a small amount of vegies (I was dreaming more vegies I swear). The salad was fresh and tasty and hit the spot for something that just should top me off.

We started a very long gradual descent over New England and it was still bumpy. I don’t think there was a moment on this flight where there was not a whole lot of bumps for anything more than say 10 minutes. Crazy! We descended with fantastic views of New York City on the wrong side of the plane to me. That was just not fair. The touch down at Newark was a sad moment, it meant that this dream flight was over and now I had to contend with US Immigration and the worst part. Transiting Newark.

This flight of just 8 hours in length had been something I had dreamt of for quite some time. I wanted to ensure that this flight was everything that I could want and more. If it could have continued on forever I would have loved that. The crew looking after F (insert name & Kira) were two fantastic ladies who could not do more to look after me. Even though we had an almost full cabin, they were fantastic and helpful and amazingly kind. They were the epitome of their job imo. As we pulled up to the gate and the seat belt sign came off, I grabbed my stuff and lined up to get off the plane. I said my final goodbyes to the ladies and resounded to make sure that they would get the credit that they deserve for being such an amazing crew.

I stepped off the flight into the terminal at Newark and knew that this part of the adventure was going to be interesting.