Trip Report: Escaping South for the Winter – Los Angeles to Seattle

Sunday 20th January 2013

After spending what little remaining time in the LA Sunshine spotting and going backwards and forwards along Aviation Blvd between the Proud Bird and 93rd Ave to get shots as flights approached the north or south runways it was time to reverse my process from Saturday morning. I filled the car up (20c off a gallon in LA at Shell thanks to Fred Meyer even though back home in Seattle it’s not more than 10c off a gallon) and dropped the car back at National & within moments I was on a shuttle back to T3. This time the shuttle was absolutely crammed full of people, but it wasn’t long before we got to T3. As we rolled past T2 I saw something that would be awesome if I could get a clear shot of it, but that’s a little secret for now.

Showed up at T3 and came into the terminal and it was packed solid. Which was to be expected considering Virgin Australia had landed a number of flights on the ground about an hour or so ago and there would be people connecting on to destinations unknown. I had priority check in, though there was nothing priority about it. I spent longer in this queue without even being recognized at one point than people were going through the normal or self-serve queues. I guess that serves me right. But this was the start of all my problems. About the only thing going for it at this point was the fact that I wasn’t charged for a bag, which was pretty cool.

When I finally got my boarding pass it had a B seat on it, which had me in the middle, no priority markings or anything on it so this was not going to go well. I queried about why my seat allocation had changed and was told “can’t fix it, needs to be done upstairs”, I checked about the priority security which I should get as well, was told “it will be fine”. So I head off to security and being told that I can’t use it because it’s not on my boarding pass (hell I actually had to ask where priority security was because it wasn’t even marked). After fighting with the lady for a minute or so she finally let me through so after that point, security didn’t take too long. I just wanted to get through it all quickly and without a fuss, so I submitted to the nude o scope. Once through, I repacked my trash and headed for the customer service desks to fix my seat. Sadly though they told me they couldn’t fix my seat till 30 mins prior to departure AKA when boarding began and that they can’t guarantee a single thing. So much for being a Gold Member on this partner!

I decided to just give up and hit up the Virgin America Lounge which I had access to, but wasn’t sure if I was going to have to fight my way in. I was doing a review for AirlineReporter on the lounge anyway but I had given them pre warning on that but there was no sponsorship to get into the lounge, that was down to the access from Virgin Australia. It was painless and not much had changed since I was there last time when I went down for the day and David and I talked our way in. The changes that had happened was mainly the food etc. was a bit more plentiful compared to last time and also the signage had changed from Virgin Australia to Virgin America. I managed to while away my short time in the lounge (about 45 minutes) taking photos, gorging on the most yummy cookies I have had in a while, and spotting out the big picture windows.

When it was about 35 mins prior to departure I headed back to the customer service desk to get my seat fixed up but was told I had to wait till exactly 30 minutes prior, and wait I did. I stood there and at exactly 1205 I handed back my boarding pass and said “its 30 minutes prior now) and at that exact second they called for boarding. She reissued my boarding pass and weirdly rather than destroy the old one, she stapled the two together.

Virgin America VX783
Los Angeles to Seattle Tacoma
1235-1515
Airbus A320 (N846VA)
Main Cabin – Seat 16A

Boarding: 1204 (Gate 36)
Push Back: 1234
Take Off Roll: 1244 (Runway 24L)
Top of Descent: 1438
Touch Down: 1500 (Runway 16R)
Shut Down: 1505 (Gate A4)

By the time I managed to get to the gate, they had just called Main Cabin Select passengers and since I was apparently going to be Boarding group D since again Virgin America had failed to deliver what they should have, it could have been a long wait. When they called boarding group B and all Elevate Gold and Silver members I figured I would give it a go and see what happened. She didn’t even look at my pass just scanned it and on I went, not so much as a comment. I wouldn’t normally have done that but was pretty unimpressed with VX up to this point today.
I took my seat, stowed my stuff and settled in. The plan for this flight was different to the last. Whereas the flight down I was working online, this was going to be an offline flight, focusing on watching the game to see who made the Superbowl and writing the lounge review. The flight was 100% full and the couple sitting next to me never said a word.

We took off out over the beach and when we turned back around and headed north, I waved goodbye to the sunshine and warmth, as we were headed north to the cold and more than likely rain. The flight itself was pretty boring really. I worked; I snacked on a banana and some almonds for “lunch” (since I had eaten like a dozen cookies in the lounge I wasn’t all that hungry and frankly a little bit ashamed of my gorging). We passed direct over Portland just as the game was finishing up and we began to descend. A high majority of people on the flight were doing the same thing).

We came in over Gig Harbor, Tacoma and then a right turn over the University district before lining up for the 16s. Up till this point it had been nice and sunny (but obviously cold) but as we neared SeaTac we descended into the fog bank and I farewelled Mt Rainer again. We hit 16R fairly smoothly and had a quick taxi (or at least as quick as can be expected from that side of the airport) over to another new gate for me in the A terminal. I had to wait a little while to get off being up the back but I wasn’t in too much of a rush.

Once off and into the terminal I think I walked the wrong way to the baggage hall and when I eventually found the right carousel my bag was already going around. I dressed back into my Seattle attire (aka layered back up) and headed for the shuttle to reverse the process. Within an hour of touching down I was taking the off ramp from I405,heading to the grocery store for the weeks shopping and planning how to do that as quickly as possible to avoid a) freezing to death in almost freezing temps and b) missing as little as possible of the New England game.

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