Seattle to Los Angeles to Houston to Tulsa
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.
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)
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.
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?
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 🙁
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.
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.
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)
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 😉
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
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.
United Airlines - UA4573
Houston Intercontinental to Tulsa (IAH-TUL)
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.
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.
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.
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.