Jan 13th 2012
Saturday morning and time for my first mileage run of 2012. As I explained in my previous post, the first leg of my trip would be on Jet Blue, nonstop from Austin to San Francisco. After that I’d take American Airlines to Los Angeles and then nonstop to Austin. I was doing this trip to take advantage of the triple miles bonus that AA was offering.
I arrived at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport at 6:30 giving me plenty of time to check-in for my 8 a.m. flight. Since my first flight was on Jet Blue I expected to have a normal boarding pass and not a Priority Access pass that I get on American, meaning that I would have to wait on the security line rather than going to the front as I normally do. The only thing I did not know was where I was supposed to go to check in.
My itinerary on AA.com listed the Jet Blue flight, so I first tried to check in at one of the American self-serve kiosks. That did not work, I got an error message telling me that it was unable to process my request. So, I went to Jet Blue and tried to check in at their self-service kiosk. Jet Blue had sent me an email confirmation that had a bar code on it which it said I could scan to check in. I tried that, no luck, it did not work. So I tried to check in manually; I thought I was making progress, it asked for my full name, date of birth and gender, the standard information for TSA, but when I completed that I got a message that I would need to check in at the counter. Fortunately the line was short and I quickly got my boarding pass for the Jet Blue flight, but not for the AA flights.
I cleared security and then had time for a quick stop at the Admirals Club where they gave me my AA boarding passes, and then went to the gate to board. This would be my first flight on Jet Blue. I boarded the plane, an Airbus A-320 and was immediately impressed. We had leather seats and each seat had a TV screen with Direct TV and Sirius/XM radio.
I was even more impressed when I sat down and felt how comfortable the seat was. While it did not have as much legroom as I get while in an exit row seat on AA, there was definitely more legroom than a regular coach seat on American Airlines has.
The captain did one thing that I thought was very nice. Every flight features the captain welcoming the passengers, saying how much he and the airline appreciate us, and giving information about the flight. We got that on this flight, but the captain actually stood at the front of the passenger compartment where we could see him rather than speaking from a closed cockpit as normally happens. Do all Jet Blue pilots do this, or was this his idea? I don’t know, but I thought it was a nice touch.
The four hour flight to San Francisco went smoothly. Jet Blue served beverages and a snack (cookies). I decided not to order one of the meal packages.
We arrived on time at San Francisco International Airport’s Terminal 1. I had flown out of SFO in the past and did not remember a modern terminal. They have done a major redesign since I was there: I don’t know if Terminal 1 was an old terminal that had been renovated or was new, but either way, it felt like a brand new terminal. And it did not cause one of my met peeves — they actually had clocks in the terminal!
My American Airlines flight to LAX would depart from Terminal 2, so I followed the signs that would take me to that terminal. I was disappointed to find that although I did not have to go outside to change terminals, I did have to leave the secure area and would have to go through security again in Terminal 2. Fortunately my next flight was on AA and my boarding pass said Priority AAccess which would allow me to go to the front of the security check-in line.
They have done a nice job with the terminals, even putting artwork on display.
After a long walk I eventually made it to the far end of Terminal 2 where gates 50-59 were located. I quickly cleared security and as I was putting my shoes back on I looked up and saw something that I had never before seen at an airport — a Yoga Room.
Terminal 2 was recently renovated and is now home to American Airlines and Virgin America.
The first thing I wanted to do was eat lunch. I went to the food area and was not impressed with the selections. Really what I wanted was something like a Chili’s where I was familiar with the menu, or a seafood restaurant like those at Sea-Tac. I found neither. There was a sushi bar, a burger joint (named The Burger Joint :-)) It turns out that the airport has a high standard when choosing restaurants and, “The airport expects its food and beverage tenants to provide sustainable food to the greatest extent possible.” I suspect that requirement would stop many food chains from having a location at SFO. (You can read more about SFO’s high environmental standards at this page.) I eventually found a Mexican restaurant where I ordered a burrito.
When I finished I went to the Admirals Club. On the way I found that SFO has a special location where people can refill their water bottles.
In addition to the water refill station, the terminal had one thing that more and more terminals are adding — locations where passengers can plug in their laptops, tablets, or phones to recharge.
In keeping with the modern feel of the terminal, they had some modern seats.
It was also easy to tell the time in Terminal 2.
I went to the Admirals Club where I was able to use one of their computers to check my email and also charge my iPhone while waiting for my next flight.
After resting for a while I made my way to the departure gate where I boarded the 737-800 for my flight to Los Angeles. As soon as I boarded I knew this would be a special flight — this would be my first opportunity to fly on a plane with Boeing’s new Sky Interior.
Boeing developed the Sky Interior for the 787 Dreamliner and has made it an option on the 737. So far it has delivered over 200 of these new aircraft to airlines around the world. There are several things that make the Sky Interior special.
The first thing you notice when you board is the LED lighting and the new design of the overhead luggage bins.
Amazingly, although the luggage bins are larger than they are on older planes, there is actually more headroom beneath them than on a standard 737.
Boeing gave a lot of thought to the panel directly above the passengers and used a new design.
There is an old joke about doing something that seems obvious. “If we were able land man on the Moon in 1969, why did we have to wait another 25 years for someone to put wheels on our luggage?” Moving the flight attendant call button away from the light switches is like that, it is such an obvious thing to do that I wondered why it had not been done sooner.
We took off for our short flight to LAX. I had a window seat, the middle seat was empty, and it turned out that the gentleman in the aisle seat was from the Dallas area and was also doing a mileage run take advantage of the triple miles bonus American was offering. He was also supposed to fly on my DFW-SFO flight that was cancelled. Whey they offered him the chance to fly on Monday he did something I should have done — he called the AAdvantage Platinum desk and got a much higher level of customer service than I got. They ended up booking him on a DFW to Chicago to San Francisco route which actually earned him more miles than his DFW-SFO flight would have given him.
He and I had a nice talk, it turns he is also on FlyerTalk and is making the trip several times in January as I am. When I took my camera out of my bag he laughed, we even had the same camera!
We landed on time at LAX: I had enough time to go to the Admirals Club, relax for a while and watch the NFL playoffs on TV, and then board my flight to Austin where something unusual happened.
When a plane lands and pulls up to the terminal the crew makes an announcement, “Please remain seated with your seats belts buckled until the plane has come to a complete stop at the terminal.” Immediately after that we hear a “ding” and the lights come on, telling us we can get out of our seats. But that did not happen on this flight.
We landed on time in Austin, pulled up to the terminal and heard the announcement, but the bright lights did not come on. Very odd. After a minute or so I saw the pilot had left the cockpit and was talking to someone as we remained in our seats. And then I saw why. Two Austin police officers came on board the plane, told a passenger in First Class to get up, and then escorted him off the plane. I found out that this passenger had been very loud, used bad language, and when the passenger behind him asked him to quiet down he shoved him back into his seat. But he didn’t shove him by pushing on his shoulder — he pushed on the man’s face. And that is how you get the police to take you off a plane.
I was surprised the next morning to see that the miles for my AA flights had already posted, that used to take 2-3 days. That afternoon I called AAdvantage customer service, told them about the flight cancellation and asked for the miles that I did not get due to my “involuntary reroute” after they cancelled my flight. The representative took a few moments to verify what had happened and even told me why the DFW-SFO flight had been cancelled — the aircraft had been damaged in a bird strike. It may seem hard to believe that a bird can damage a multimillion dollar aircraft that weighs many tons, but it can. Do you remember the US Air flight that landed in the Hudson River a few years ago? That plane was damaged after it flew through a flock of geese. He agreed to give me my miles and said they would post the next day.
So, I got all the base miles for my trip (the bonus miles will take 6-8 weeks to post), had the chance to fly Jet Blue and a new AA 737, and got home on time. All in all, it was a good day. My first January mileage run was complete, leaving me four more for the month.
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