The trip to Australia is getting closer and closer (under 20 days now) and while I haven’t really talked much about it, now is the time. The trip to Australia has me leaving on the 2nd of March. I should arrive into Brisbane on the 8th of March. Everyone who knows about getting to Australia is right about now thinking “that math don’t add up”. It does if you aren’t going the quick way and taking my time getting there. It is time for me to have a bit of a break on my way and to have some Avgeek fun on the way as well.

So the whole trip is booked on points thanks to a number of years of earning points and getting those levels high and thanks to not having a time frame of when I need to be back, it means I can take my time and do some dumb stuff. So why is it taking so long to get to Australia? Well I am going via the middle east. This all stemmed from wanting to use points to get to Australia (business class of course because you know, I can) and the options were just not out there. With the help of my friends at nomascoach they found a flight from Doha to Adelaide. This was the base for where I started putting things together. Could I really justify going the “Long Way” to Australia. I don’t see why not. The first part was getting myself to Doha. I could get to Adelaide (and getting from Adelaide to Brisbane is an easy thing) but getting to Doha is a bit different. I was looking around with the points I had (Chase & Capital One) and one that intrigued me was Turkish Airlines.

I could get a really good deal with Turkish to Doha (45,000 points one way in Business) but it was a crappy layover in Istanbul (8 hours) and it would mean at least a couple of days in Doha. I have been to Doha before back in 2012 so spending a few days wasn’t ideal. Since I had not been to Dubai before, I looked into maybe flying to Dubai. That didn’t work either as I could use the same amount of points to go to Dubai instead of Doha (even with the crappy 8 hour layover) but then getting from Dubai to Doha was a bit crappy option wise. I really wanted Dubai as I have always wanted to visit the Burj Khalifa and experience it. I spent days trying to make stuff work in my spare time looking at options, trying other routings to Australia and it just didn’t work. Until I gave Abu Dhabi a try instead of Dubai. Instantly my connection in Istanbul went from 8 to 3 hours. SCORE! Then for an additional 8000 points I could add an Abu Dhabi to Doha flight to my Qatar ticket for getting to Australia and it would be one through ticket with only a 3 hour layover in Doha. EVEN BETTER!

While it meant I was staying in Abu Dhabi instead, I could still get to Dubai for a day as its only a couple of hours by road (buses go all the time and I’ve arranged a Day tour to Dubai to see the Burj Khalifa). So getting to Adelaide was done. It would mean a new airline (Turkish), a new aircraft (737 Max 8 from Qatar… not the 9… I will be fine people stop it) and a lot of new Airports! (Abu Dhabi, Istanbul, Doha (the new Hamad International Airport) and Adelaide). Unfortunately I needed a night in Adelaide on arrival as my Qatar flight gets in too late on the 7th for a flight to Brisbane, so I can have a relax in Adelaide for the night and fly to Brisbane the next day. I decided to go with Rex for that flight to Adelaide as the cost was right and bringing my new airlines to two for this trip.

So getting to Brisbane was sorted. Getting home, well that was a different story. I had plenty of time to figure out point situations as I had already used a big chunk getting to Brisbane (45k for Seattle to Abu Dhabi and another 75k for Abu Dhabi to Adelaide. I paid cash to get to Brisbane from Adelaide for $150USD). I checked around and I figured getting some Alaska points was the best way to earn the points needed to get to home. So I needed to churn that but as the Alaska card is Bank of America, that meant dealing with them again…. Sigh. But as the points took so long to post (and BofA was being the dumb self that they are getting me the card but that is another story), the options were dwindling. First it looked like I could make BNE-SYD-HNL-PAE work, but that dissapeared. Then BNE-SYD-NAN-APA-HNL-PAE but that dissapeared (thank god!) and there was no Qantas options at all directly into mainland US. In the end another friend of mine said “Have you looked at United yet”. I groaned to myself… not United. But I had not. Turns out there was a BNE-SFO flight for around the dates I wanted to return back to the USA (end of April, early may) but couldn’t make the add on to SEA work. So another ticket that meant. But while United was a good option, turns out they have the most amount of uplift from the States into Australia now, more than Qantas!

So with all of that done, this is what the trip would look like to get me home to Australia and back again. But that isn’t the end of it. Heidi obviously wanted to come down and see some of Australia again and this time, just 5 nights in Brisbane would not suffice. I felt like it was back to my time at Down Under making itinaries for people wanting to travel from the USA to Australia. I had a 2 week time frame to play with and to see some stuff Heidi hasn’t seen but also spend some time with my family/friends with her. We ended up settling on Heidi flying into Sydney, we spend 4 nights down there then fly to Cairns for 4 nights and then back to Brisbane for almost a week before Heidi flies home to Seattle. I would fly down to Sydney the day before so that the hotel room would be ready for Heidi when she lands. I won’t go into hotel choices as that is a whole other post. I also threw a trip into Sydney for Anzac day as the flights were cheap when I booked it (round trip was $150USD).

So all in all, my trip would look like this:

Saturday 02nd March – Turkish Airlines – Seattle to Istanbul+1 (787-9)
Sunday 03rd March – Turkish Airlines – Istanbul to Abu Dhabi+1 (A321Neo) – get in at 2am on the 4th March sigh
Monday 4th March to Wednesday 6th March – Abu Dhabi
Wednesday 6th March – Qatar Airways – Abu Dhabi to Doha (Hamad International) (737 Max 8)
Wednesday 6th March – Qatar Airways – Doha to Adelaide+1 (777-300ER – Qsuites!)
Thursday 7th March to 8th March – Adelaide
Friday 8th March – Regional Express – Adelaide to Brisbane (737-800)
Friday 8th March to Monday 18th March – Brisbane with my folks
Monday 18th March – Qantas – Brisbane to Sydney (737-800)
Monday 18th March to Saturday 23rd March – Sydney
Saturday 23rd March – Qantas – Sydney to Cairns (737-800)
Saturday 23rd March to Wednesday 27th March – Palm Cove
Wednesday 27th March – Virgin Australia – Cairns to Brisbane (737-800)
Wednesday 27th March to Wednesday 24th April – Brisbane with my folks
Wednesday 24th April – Regional Express – Brisbane to Sydney (737-800)
Wednesday 24th April to Thursday 25th April – Sydney
Thursday 25th April – Regional Express – Sydney to Brisbane (737-800)
Thursday 25th April to Tuesday 30th April – Brisbane with my folks
Tuesday 30th April – United – Brisbane to San Francisco (787-9)
Tuesday 30th April – Delta – San Francisco to Seattle (A220)

or if you look at it on a map, like this:

Ok, so now who thinks I am crazy!

Well, as of about 2 minutes ago, I have resigned my job and this is the first part for everyone to know. You may want to know why I resigned. It isn’t necessarily because of a certain bad experience or anything like that. I took this job back during Covid after losing my job at the airport (like a lot of people at the time). While this was a good stable job, it was not something I had really done before and when I applied, I told them it may not be something I was into for the long run. Fast forward almost 4 years later and it is time to move on. While the job was fine to begin with, it has changed a lot over time and I just don’t think I am right for it any longer.

But why am I putting this on the blog. Why does anyone really care? They probably don’t but part of the reason why I am doing this now is because it has been a long time since I have had the time to travel. Living in the USA has meant a lot of sacrifices and while I had a good amount of PTO when I worked at the airport, since then, I haven’t. I am now in my 40s, I haven’t really had a good break from a job since 2011 and have been working pretty much non stop since.

So it is time for a bit of a break (this was originally Heidi’s idea) but when my last day later in February rolls around, I will be taking a 2 month break from work and getting back on the road. I am headed back to Australia for a break and some time spent with family and lots of friends. Some of my friends may already know about the trip, but this is a general call out to everyone in Aus who I have met over the years. It is time to catch up with me in March and April. I have not seen a lot of people in a long time. My last visit home to Australia was in 2016 and that was for 5 days and that was a whirlwind visit. Before that it was 2013 for 4 days and it was even quicker when I came home for a wedding.

During this trip there will be some time to travel about and Heidi will be joining me for some of that adventure. I will get into the trip more about the planning and the route and the fun that is to come but I wanted everyone to know that I am coming home and I am looking forward to it! Here is to a new adventure and everything that will come because of it!

Friday 15th September 2023

Woke up early this morning, which has been the norm since being in Hawaii.  The final sunrise looked pretty good and we went for a walk along the beach up towards the main Waikiki beach.  We took that one last stroll along the beach and came back along the streets.  No need for a stop at the ABC store this morning (we went last night) but we had plenty of time to get all cleaned up and fully packed and have a leisurely breakfast.  We had a 1030 pick up scheduled for our airport transfer (not something we would normally do, but it was part of our Costco Travel package).  

We checked out and headed down to the pick up point.  We made sure to get there a bit early because the bus showed up about 10 minutes early.  It was a bit of a strange encounter but we were soon off to the airport.  It didn’t take too long for the journey, especially once we got out of the city itself (though why he didn’t take Nimitz is beside me).  We got dropped off at Terminal 1 where Hawaiian is fully taken over.  We had to walk back a bit to the Mainland check in lobby and I was a bit worried as we didn’t have to do a USDA check which was something you apparently HAD to do.

We checked one suitcase and then headed towards the security checkpoint closest to the mainland lobby.  We got turned away though due to having TSA pre check and told to go to the other side of the terminal.  I guess this was the older part of Terminal 1. But we got into the long looking pre-check line and it moved pretty quickly through the ID check.  The scan only took a few moments and then it was back out the other side of the dignity check and into the terminal.  Heidi had some Priority Passes to use up so we decided to try and get into the lounge as we had a little while.  Thankfully we didn’t have to wait too long to get it and the check in process sure felt like being back in the lounge in the old days with assigned seating.

The Plumeria lounge was fairly small but not awful either.  It was simple and packed full of Priority Pass members (like us) but we got some snacks and some drinks and just chilled out for a little bit.  Lunch was on offer and it was pretty simple stuff with some soup, some Shoyu Chicken, Rice and Yakisoba.  Not bad to be honest and filling enough before a 6 hour flight.  We enjoyed the relative peace and quiet and even had a celebrity sighting of a Hawaiian Grammy winner before his flight somewhere.  We left the lounge a little early as our flight was about a 5-10 minute walk from the lounge and I wanted to do a little browsing of the shops before getting to our gate.  

Our gate was in the new part of the terminal and it was so different to the old section.  High ceilings, lots of seating, power everywhere, there was even a Hula dancer and Band to entertain the crowd.  The area was mainly set up for heavies headed to the West Coast at that point with multiple flights all headed out.  

Hawaiian Airlines – HA22

Honolulu to Seattle Tacoma

1335-2220

Airbus A330-200 (N389HA)

Economy Class – Seat 43A

Boarding: 1244 (Gate A10)

Push Back: 1332

Take Off Roll: 1352 (Runway 8R)

Top of Descent: 2136

Touch Down: 2205 (Runway 34R)

Shut Down: 2210 (Gate S12)

After a little while boarding was called and they let us know that we had to have our bags ready for USDA inspection.  By the time it was our turn it was pretty simple, you just put whatever you were carrying onto the conveyor belt.  It ran through an Xray that they didn’t look like they were bothering to look at. Simple!  Less hassle than TSA to be honest.  They were just looking for certain Agricultural products so considering most people got the notices to say avoid taking that stuff, it was easy.

We held in the jet bridge for a few minutes and the line moved really slowly.  We had started boarding REALLY early but that is because they understand how slowly it takes people to load in an aircraft here in the USA.  Even a heavily loaded widebody fills up.  Speaking of widebody, it is rare to be on a domestic flight in a Widebody aircraft these days but it sure was nice to have 2-4-2 seating.  Heidi and I had a 2 seat section on the left side so that as we took off we got a great view of Honolulu on the climb out.

We buttoned up with very little hassle and it turns out they don’t make the IFE available until you get airborne as the system wouldn’t even let us look around in it until after we had left.  We pushed back a bit early and we headed for the active runway.  Being on the left side I didn’t get a look out over the Hickam ramps, but I did get a look down the rest of the terminals and couldn’t spot the A380s so they must have both left already.

We headed out to the reef runway and didn’t even really have to wait in line all that much as there wasn’t many others in line and by the time we got there, it was turn and off we go, didn’t even really have to hold.  We blasted out over where I had been spotting just days before at the start of our vacation and and climbed out over Honolulu, past Diamond Head and Waikiki and over the section of the island we didn’t explore all that much.  We then turned heading North East toward Seattle and climbed up with nothing to see below but ocean and clouds.

With the IFE up and running and as we climbed out the Flight Attendants began their service with the sale of items first.  No one really bought anything and I was keeping what I was going to buy for later.  Then after that was completed they rolled out the carts for service.  Hawaiian is the only airline that still offers complimentary food in Economy.  Don’t get me wrong, it is not an elaborate option.  For lunch time offering it is essentially a hot pocket and a free glass of Pineapple Passionfruit Rum Punch (which they used to offer as a second service before arrival to Hawaii, but I guess that changed too).  Other non alcoholic beverages are available and I got myself a full can of POG and sat back to watch movies.  

Flight attendants came through regularly throughout the flight offering water and if you asked them for something they would happily bring it to you.  They would also sell you items from the back of the plane as I went to use the bathroom and bought a Blanket kit.  Not because I was cold but because I need to add to my airline blanket collection.  Speaking of the bathrooms, flying a widebody used for international as well as domestic has its benefits… long haul bathrooms.  God it was nice to have that bathrooms available!  Not being cramped in a 737 or A320 super compact bathroom was amazing.  There was room to breathe!  

The flight was pretty uneventful, we flew east in what felt like a lot of daylight until we had a very short sunset about 90 minutes out from Seattle.  About 30 minutes out we started our descent just as we crossed the coastline of the Olympic Peninsula around Ocean Shores (according to the map) and came in over the Olympia area preparing for a Northbound arrival.  

Saturday 9th September 2023

After a busy day of getting up early & getting going to spend time with lots of friends and plane spotting,we left our last spotting location, dropped a friend off where some others were hanging out and we headed to drop off the rental car.

We jumped the shuttle back to the terminal and it was quick until we hit the ring road and then it was bedlam. When we finally got to terminal 3 we did some stuff to adjust our bags and get changed. Then the zig zags of Delta’s terminals in LAX began. It started at terminal 3 where you are meant to check in, but Sky Priority was allll the way down at Terminal 2. So off we go making our way down. 

We checked in and they said “Straight up the escalators to security”. Easy! We head up, get ok’d after a boarding pass check into the Pre Check line and then walk the entire length of the terminal back to Terminal 3 where it dumped us back out to have to be checked again and then go through security. Once through we had to walk back to terminal 2.

We found a spot by our gate and chilled out for the 30 or so minutes until our flight was due to depart. We didn’t really want to do much as we were so tired after a long day in the sun. 

Delta Air Lines – DL371

Los Angeles to Honolulu (LAX-HNL)

1759-2057

Airbus A321Neo (N530DE)

First Class – Seat 2D

Boarding: 1717 (Gate 25A)

Push Back: 1813

Take Off Roll: 1826 (Runway  24L)

Top of Descent: 2041

Touch Down: 2102 (Runway 4R)

Shut Down: 2107 (Gate F1)

Before boarding was called and the gate agent laid down the law when it came to how things would work. She wasn’t going to take any drama. They offered pre boarding to those who needed more time and a few elderly people went down, they then offered military to board early and this is a flight at a major connection point to one of the biggest military bases in the Pacific, half the dang plane boarded in this group and even the gate agents were shocked. 

After all the military were finally done they called First Class and off we went. We got settled in our fancy new seats that had tonnes of storage but a lot of the good functions didn’t work, like no moving map. Wifi worked (to begin with) and so did the Bluetooth headphone connections. There was plenty to choose from on the IFE and you could make a Playlist, so I got stuck into choosing things and got ready. 

No pre-departure beverage other than a bottle of water at our seat but the boarding was so full on they wouldn’t have been able to do anything. Departure time came and went and our pilot let us know it would be a bit while we took on “bags” code for “we are adding more cargo”. When we finally pushed back we had a really quick taxi to the north active runway and was soon heading west bound towards the Pacific. 

As we took off they had warned us it would be a bit bumpy, now it wasn’t awful but it was constant and it didn’t let up for about the first hour meaning no service during that time. That wasn’t an awful thing as we had some water if needed. Once the seat belt sign finally went out, the crew got moving quickly. 

They started by giving us a couple of snacks and taking drink orders. I didn’t get the drink I asked for, but I didn’t care really, I was too tired to worry. Dinner orders were offered and all I could really stomach was the salad option of a chicken Caesar. Thankfully the dressing was on the side, so that was easy. On the side was a fruit salad and a packaged cookie (not as good as the brownie from the day before). 

Dinner was consumed and then I just chilled out and watched a number of movies. The crew mostly kept to themselves but if you wanted something they were happy to get it for you. 

We seemed to chase the sunset for a while before it just won and it was all black out the window. After a couple of passes of the snack basket (apparently gummy bears have to be vegan now?) we began a descent into Honolulu passing over some of the other islands as we lined up for an approach from the south. 

We touched down really hard onto the runway, as though we had blown a tire or something and came to what felt like a full stop. It was a fairly short taxi as we headed to our gate and it wasn’t long before we were let off. 

The one thing you notice quickly about HNL is that it is open air. Right as we came out and turned a corner you could see the planes around us. Mind you it was 9pm local by now and it was a ghost town. We headed down to the baggage claim, met up with our transfer company representative, got a Lei and grabbed our bags. We had a shuttle ride booked to take us to our hotel and I didn’t mind because I was in no shape to drive and it was essentially free with the hotel booking. We were the first stop on our run to the hotel so life was easy at this point. We were dropped at the door and pointed towards reception at the Ilikai Hotel, our home for almost a week! 

Friday 8th September 2023

Woke up stupid early today, not because we are flying though. Had a full day of work ahead (Mando day too so that was O so fun). Spent all day with that feeling you forgot something. 

Eventually we made it through our work day and got ourselves ready to head to the airport. Our flight took an official delay about 5 hours out but it was a given looking at the schedule it was doing today. What idiot at Alaska decided a 20 minute turn was a smart idea. 

We got a ride to the airport and it was pretty smooth sailing not much of a wait anywhere we went for check in or security, it was smooth sailing pretty much. We had managed to get some cheap upgrades to first class so we had priority lines in most places. We took the upgrade because it would be cheap after taking out the checked bag fee. Some extra room and a small meal onboard for about $65 why not. 

Once through security we went for a bit of a walk around through the terminal and headed towards the N Gates. We got over there with plenty of time to chill out and watch the sunset by the windows. 

After a snack and some time spent by the windows, our inbound flight arrived (on time mind you) and our original boarding dissappeared obviously. But we didn’t matter too much. By the time they all got onboard of course there was a further delay while they did some mechanical sign offs. 

Alaska Airlines – AS1102

Seattle Tacoma to Los Angeles (SEA-LAX)

2035-1127

Boeing 737-9 Max (N946AK)

First Class – Seat 3A

Boarding: 2035 (Gate N13)

Push Back: 2111

Take Off Roll: 2121 (Runway 34R)

Top Of Descent: 2312

Touch Down: 2337 (Runway 25R)

Shut Down: 0010 (Gate 64B)

I stood up to stretch after 10 or so minutes of waiting out the mechanical delay and they were pre boarding, so off we headed over towards the gate and as we came up they called First Class. So onboard we went where we promptly stopped at the door for about 5 minutes, not sure why. We were boarding a 737 Max 9 and it would be my first time on this type of aircraft and to get a special livery was a rare treat. We were on the San Francisco Giants livery, not that we could see it in the dark. 

We grabbed our seats quickly and settled into the nice set up available to us, it looked great! Nice big comfy modern seats, a far improvement over the older seats we had back in April to the east coast. I got everything stashed and wanted to get the wifi entertainment going but it wasn’t working. O well. 

After the flight was fully boarded we eventually pushed back and a short safety briefing was done and we were taxiing pretty quickly down to the active. We didn’t even get a line up and wait, we were just told to do it, get er done! 

We took off heading north and a big swing around to the south in the dark as we headed towards California. Orders had been taken for drinks shortly before departure, so once we were past 10000ft service started and we soon received our meal. Thankfully pre order was available last night so we already had our options sorted. I had the Guajilio Chili Chicken Rice Bowl. It was pretty tasty, however the brownie that it was served with was delicious. 

While the onboard streaming entertainment didn’t like my tablet, I decided to just use what I had on the tablet, which was just as easy anyway. Soon enough we were cruising over the central California area around Fresno and heading south towards Bakersfield and top of descent. 

As we passed the grapevine and started to descend the amount of lights out the window really started to pick up and there was lots of stuff to see, however not much in the way of photo opportunity at night. The descent was pretty quick and as we started to clear downtown LA we turned over Dodger Stadium, heading towards the southern runway. 

After a long roll out, we came to a halt at the end of the runway on the middle taxiway. This meant one thing, penalty box. While the pilots said it would only be a minute, it was about 20. Sigh 

We eventually made the gate and after pulling in, we had plenty of people pushing their way forward. I wasn’t in too much of a rush as we had checked bags to pick up. After a brief pit stop and collecting bags it was out to the street where there was a rental shuttle stop right in front and then like some miracle, a National Shuttle appeared and it was empty! 

The driver quickly (and I mean quickly) took us to the lot for vehicle pick up, where we selected our car. 15 minutes later we were safely at our hotel and in our room, ready for bed after a really long day. 

The annual trip down to Dorkfest is about to begin, but this time it is going to be a little different (not that last year wasn’t more different). For the first time, This will not be an out and back trip when flying down. While we fly down tomorrow night (Friday the 8th) we won’t be coming back to Seattle after Dorkfest concludes.

On Saturday we are planning on heading to Hawaii for a good relaxation vacation. I haven’t been to Hawaii in 14 years, Heidi even longer. While this is not my first visit to Oahu, it is Heidis. I have done a few of the things were are going to do, there is still new stuff to me involved.

So we are combining our usual Dorkfest trip with a jaunt over the pacific (sadly not all the way home, but I can dream right) and some usual Avgeek fun involved. At least 1 new aircraft (possibly two if Alaska doesn’t change the aircraft on us like they did last time) some new routes to me (two actually, though one is only new in the reverse direction) and a hotel in Hawaii that is pretty famous, at least for Hawaii 5-0 viewers. I have put aside some time in LA for some spotting but also some in Hawaii as well.

So stay tuned for all the fun as we go on our Avgeek Escape to Paradise!

Had to wake up again at O’Dark Thirty (this time only 4am, so yay for sleeping in, though thats 1am PST so it was going to be a LOOONG day) and got myself all packed up ready to head towards the airport. While the drive should take about less than an hour from our friends house on the opposite side of Charlotte, who knows what traffic or accidents could lead to, especially with road works on the main interstate (I485). So I headed out early about 5am, for a flight that should board about 8am, but I had rental car stuff to deal with and a new company I have never returned to before so who knows what will happen.

The roads however were absolutely empty and the sat nav on the BMW sent me through the middle of downtown Charlotte, not even remotely close to the way I was expecting. The road was empty and I made it through to the airport in about 30 minutes. This allowed plenty of time to find a gas station to top up (I filled the tank fully the night before, so I only had to top up) and it turned out to be a 1 gallon top off, which made the guy look strange when I asked for a receipt. Then it was off to drop off the car in an unfamiliar place.

By the time I was dropping off, it was 5:55am and they didnt show up until 6am apparently so I waited a few minutes and when no one was still there, I dropped the key in the drop off box (with no envelopes mind you), kept the fuel receipt, took a photo of the mileage and also a full video of the car in case they tried to ding me for some BS reason. It was time to then navigate over to the terminal the easy way (fuck following the signs this time) and drag my bags up to the Delta check in which was empty! I dropped off my bag, they changed my seat to an exit row and then it was off to find my way to security. No clear here in Charlotte (booooo) but Precheck was in one central location, and thankfully the line was not all that long. While I was waiting, I got to the front and then rather than being called over to the line that was packed full of people, I was called over to the line handling employee entrance instead so I was through to an empty screener and it only took minutes.

Once through security, I just headed to the gate to find where it was and then I was going to go find a coffee, but the lines for Dunkin were too long, so I just stayed at the gate. It was at this point I realized I had just carried a half full bottle of water through security and TSA didnt say anything. Good job guys! I ate some of the breakfast I had carried with me and just sat at the gate listening to music and working on the trip report some. It was a pretty chill time at the gate. I was a little nervous as I had not had a connecting itinerary in a very long time (2016 was my last connecting flight, coming back from Japan with Heidi), and 2013 was my last proper domestic connecting itinerary when flying alone).

It was a bit of a wait at the gate, but our plane was there and eventually the crew showed up and went down, the Delta gate agent showed up as well and got the area set up to go.

Delta Air Lines – DL2327

Charlotte to Detroit (CLT to DTW)

0919-1115

Boeing 717-200 (N945AT)

Economy Class – Seat 21E

Boarding: 0846 (Gate A5)

Push Back: 0924

Take Off Roll: 0941 (Runway 18C)

Top of Descent: 1031

Touch Down: 1057 (Runway 21L)

Shut Down: 1104 (Gate A51)

When boarding began, I had to wait till most of the way through (Main 1) but when it was time I made my way down and stashed my camera bag in the overhead bin. Which I then promptly got in trouble for using that bin. The 717 has a smaller overhead bin on the left side of the aircraft, the larger bin on the right, I put it on the right, because thats where I was sitting, the flight attendant got upset I didnt put it on the left side. They then started announcing to use the bin on the left for full size suitcases, but it should have been the right, so they were getting upset a lot for people who were just following orders.

I stashed my backpack under the seat in front but as I had an exit row and an unlimited legroom seat (thanks to a missing seat infront) the person in that middle seat on the row in front got upset I was using “Her bag space”. Ugh no lady, thats my bag space but I eventually moved my backpack to fill the middle seat between us when no one showed up.

We began push back and got told of our quick flight up to Detroit. This was good news as it meant I wasnt going to miss my connection. First time on the 717 and it was perfectly fine, apart from the fact there is no IFE system, not even streaming, on the these aircraft. It was fine, I finished off watching my netflix downloads. The flight went by pretty easily, I looked out the window every now and then, ate a Biscoff, drank some water and just chilled out. Fairly soon we were descending into Detroit. What became obvious as we started to move down towards finals was that the Canadian border was directly across from the airport, and the airport was not far from downtown Detroit at all.

We touched down rather strong in Detroit and made our way slowly to the gate, from the air, it doesn’t look that big, but when you get to ground level, the size of the A concourse at DTW just is massive. The 1 concourse is probably the size of Seattles whole terminal from end to end. We pulled into our gate in the high 50s and when I looked at the Delta app it told me I was going to the low 20s. Guess that is going to be a walk!. But I waited my turn to get out of the plane and then it was into the terminal.

I was stunned the moment I stepped into the terminal. It was bright, open, airy, massive ceilings (to accomodate the train that runs along the ceiling) and it was wide as well. The only downside, the little dots on the windows to stop people from taking photos. Bah, one little downside aint bad. I wish Seattle’s airport could look like this. I could have found the train station and taken the train down towards my gate, but figured I now had extra time, so why not walk. It was about a 20 minute slow stroll down to my new gate, but it was worth it to look around.

The terminal was so nice and new looking (but I dont think its that new) and it was like everything you see at international airports, just not on the West Coast anywhere. I found my gate, tried to see if I would have an empty seat next to me or could move to a aisle seat and was told it was no to both, and then it was time to sit back and chill out while I worked some more on the trip report, and relaxed for a bit while I waited. I finished off the small breakfast I had brought with me (trying to readjust to PST at this point) and waited it out at a nearby gate, one that had no one really at it. Eventually the crew and pilots showed up and soon enough it was time to go.

Delta Air Lines – DL728

Detroit to Seattle Tacoma (DTW to SEA)

1246-1446

Boeing 737-900ER (N871DN)

Economy Class – Seat 31A

Boarding: 1205 (Gate A24)

Push Back: 1245

Take Off Roll: 1258 (Runway 22L)

Top of Descent: 1343

Touch Down: 1407 (Runway 16R)

Shut Down: 1415 (Gate A2)

Boarding began and it was time to wait, wait and more wait. Being in Main 2 this time meant it was a long way to wait, and this was a fully loaded 737-900ER, it was going to be a while. By the time it got to main 1, it felt like most of the plane had boarded and as Main 1 started to get towards the end, I snuck into the dregs of Main 1 before they called Main 2, which they did just as I started down the tunnel. Score! I was mainly worried about getting my camera bag in the overhead, while its small, I didn’t want them to try and make me put it under the seat, what with my backpack going there.

I got into the seat and got set up as quickly as possible and from here, I really didnt move at all for the next 5 hours :(. It was a packed flight, every seat was taken and the joint was overflowing really. We had a quick taxi and were told even with substantial headwinds, we would still be in early, with a 4 hour flight time. Gotta love schedule padding! It was mean’t to be 5 hours gate to gate and we were looking at 4.5 hours. Thankfully with Seat Back IFE, i plugged in my headphones and off we went.

We took off out of Detroit with a few bumps, but it smoothed out not long after and it stayed that way for a good portion of the flight. There was multiple services and instead of the biscoff I tried the “Granola Bar” option, which was really a protein bar, like a cliff bar. I watched a few movies, but otherwise the 4 hours just pretty much went by without any hassles. We did have the seat belt sign come on for about 10 minutes while we went through a section of “light chop” which made me think of some memes that go around regarding Delta and the term “light chop” because it was really nothing, not close to what I had going into Newark.

Clouds were out around Seattle and we didn’t even get a break through until we were on finals over the city and coming in over the southern suburbs north of the airpot. We touched down on 16R and that meant a nice long taxi to our gate, but we were early, so it didn’t really matter to much. Thankfully our gate was empty when we pulled in, and it was to the A gates as well, so it was a quick easy walk out of air side to the way down to baggage claim. But first I had to wait for what felt like the entire plane to get off first, since I was WAY down the back. It was fine, I wasn’t in all that much of a rush.

By the time I was off, it was only a few seconds to hit the bathroom (across from the gate) and then downstairs to Baggage claim but I did have to wait for my bags. I didn’t bother looking at the times for the bag to be hitting the belt as I couldn’t remember if Delta offered their bag guarantee like Alaska does. Once I had my bag, I ordered a pick up from a rideshare app and before you knew it, I was at home, to an empty house and a big mess to clean up from a messy kitty.

After a lesuirely morning of exploring the White House Visitors Centre, breakfast at the hotel and slowly packing up in the hotel, we checked out and headed for the Metro station. 

We decided to take the metro to our airport today because the station was close to the hotel, we still had a few dollars on our metro cards and the metro goes directly to the airport from the stop near our hotel. No changes, no hassles.

The metro station was only a couple of blocks away and there was a train within minutes of getting to the station. 20 minutes later we were pulling into the DCA metro station ready for a long walk from the station to the American Airlines check in, along with security. 

AA’s check in was way at the opposite end of the terminal from where the metro drops off, but because we were at the wrong end of the metro train we had to walk about half the platform and then back the other way. We eventually found the AA check in desk so I could drop my bag off (already paid online) and after self printing a bag tag you then take it to an AA staff member who taps a few keys and tells you to take it to a different part of the airport. Lots of screwing about! 

We made it to the Clear checkpoint and headed through and then it was a short walk to the gate where we had about 45 minutes to boarding. We just hung around the gate area reading and chilling out. 

American Airlines – AA620

Washington DC National to Charlotte

1355-1535

Boeing 737-800 (N946NN)

Economy Class – Seat 32F

Boarding: 1320 (Gate D45)

Push Back: 1356

Take Off Roll: 1408 (Runway 19)

Top of Descent: 1443

Touch Down: 1502 (Runway 36R)

Shut Down: 1515 (Gate B8)

Soon enough boarding began for our flight and the gate scrum started. There was people standing everywhere and I waited a whole before trying to get in line, but it was still a bit of a fight. Once onto the jet bridge it was a slow slow process getting onto the aircraft. Eventually I did get onboard for more slow process getting to my seat and getting my bag sorted. 

Once in my seat I just chilled and waited we closed up 100% full and we waited a bit before we could push back. There was a lot of traffic headed out around the same time. We made our way to the active and after what seemed like a very short penalty box wait, we took our turn and headed into the sky. 

It was a bumpy climb out, not sure why, big it stopped after a few minutes, as we climbed out the crew were up quickly to provide a basic service. They were quick and looked like they were hurrying quite a bit. We got a pack of pretzels da drink and soon enough we were top of descent into Charlotte. Service was still being worked on even into turning finals which was a crazy thing. We came in over the city Charlotte which seemed to come out of no where. 

Once on the ground we waited a bit of our gate to open up and then we waited for what felt like every single person to get off the plane ahead of us. Once we were allowed to leave it was through the maze of bags headed to baggage claim and the rental desks. We were renting with SIXT for the first time so it was going to be an adventure.

While not up too early we were up early, our train to Washington DC was at 8am and I wanted to be there with plenty of time to not rush, get my tickets printed as the app was having problems, and I wanted to make sure we were in the line for the train early so I could stash my suitcase as they did not do a baggage service between DC and New York. 

We got to the station with plenty of time, got a spot sorted and then ran the errands. I picked up some breakfast from H&H, some liquids from the drug store (cheaper than the convenience store) and my ticket printed, all with plenty of time. 

Lines were forming and trains were being called, all the back and forth of a large train station with limited platforms. Only 5 or 6 platforms were being used by Amtrak.  The new Moynihan train hall was visually stunning, it was amazing to look at and had a lot or good features. It was signed well, really well laid out, every time you wanted in a modern facility, and it was built in an old historic building. Wins all around. 

Amtrak Acela – Train # 2203

New York Penn Station to Washington DC Union Station

0800-1058

Eventually the platform was called and a giant rush began, not that we were lined up long, thankfully our train was the first departure of this consists day so it was at the platform empty and ready. So we were down the escalators to track level and off to find our carriage. Thankfully we were right at the front of the train in the 2nd car, but it was so confusing because the train was pointing what I thought was the wrong direction. 

We found our seat (thankfully facing the right direction) and settled in. We rolled out right on time and started cruising towards DC. While the train seemed to pick up speed fast it jumped around a lot. More than I remembered. Maybe I just couldn’t remember back to 2009 much where I did this exact journey in reverse. It was really bumpy. 

The ride was very bland. I ate the breakfast we took with us, I watched multiple episodes of TV. We passed though Philadelphia, Delaware and Baltimore and eventually began hitting the suburbs of DC. It had flown past really quickly & easily, no delays, no hassles, what travel should be like. No hurry up and wait, no security etc. 

We pulled into Union Station in DC and we let a lot of people get off ahead of us so I could get my bags and suitcase without obstructing other people. We were still off the train within minutes of pulling in and then off to the Metro Station to take the metro a couple of stops to our hotel in Penn Quarter. 

The morning started off at 0 Dark Thirty (aka 330am) but it would be worth it. Spent some time getting ready to go and helping to fend off the craziness that was DB Cooper, in prime crazy play mode. After leaving the cat to fend for himself (jk) we took a Lyft to thd airport. We ended up getting a Mustang Mach E as our ride so that was an interesting start to the journey for all of 4 minutes. 

Got to the airport to check in and thanks to first class tickets we were able to jump the giant lines that were there for regular bag drop, but the elite line was just a few people. After checking my bag, we went over to clear to get our ID and Biometrics fixed up (long story) and we finally got through security. Time from home to airside with a lot of faffing about, 30 minutes. 

Our flight was out of the N gates, so we jumped the train over to the Satellite and the Alaska Lounge. We thankfully still had access to the lounge with our F ticket, even after all the changes they made to the access policies. We sat down to rest and get a light breakfast while we waited. 

A short time before boarding we headed to thd gate and saw the door open & thought to ourselves…. It’s like 10 minutes to boarding thd gate area looks empty & the door is open, we thought we were one of the last people there. We weren’t, thank God. They were just checking bags to save overhead bin space. The gate area was empty because our flight was crammed into the adjacent gate and was made up of a high school band making it’s way to the east coast. Thank god for first class. 

Alaska Airlines – AS280

0730-1550

Seattle Tacoma to Newark (SEA to EWR) 

Boeing 737-900ER (N468AS) 

First Class – Seat 2A

Boarding: 0654 (Gate N2) 

Push Back: 0730

Take Off Roll: 0800 (Runway 16L)

Top of Descent 1533

Touch Down: 1630 (Runway 04R)

Shut Down: 1638 (Gate B40)

Boarding was eventually called and we got onboard to stash our stuff before the overhead bin space was filled with musical instruments. Waiting at our seat was a blanket (I did everything I could to not steal it) and a tiny carton of boxed water. 

The aircraft was not what we were meant to have as it had been scheduled for a long time as a 737Max9 but got equipment swapped a few days out. But a first class seat is better than coach so no complaints really. 

Settled in and the hoardes of teenagers boarded. We pushed back on time, down the back was full, up front still had a few empty seats. As we slowly made our way to the taxiway behind plenty of traffic they told us it would be a 5 hour flight time, which seems pretty good, however it would make us late getting in at the rate we were taking go get to the active. 

We made it to 16L eventually and headed up into the sky, It was not a horrible view as we climbed away from Seattle and turned east. We climbed out over the mountains and cleared the light cloud layer. As we climbed further higher towards cruise we started to pass places like Moses Lake and Spokane. 

Drink orders were taken and breakfast orders were confirmed, we were not in a rush and the service wasn’t either. It worked fine because we had already had breakfast on east coast time, best to try and adjust further to eating on a different schedule. Heidi was having the omelette, I was having the non egg option of an Apple Cobbler Oatmeal. I settled in to watch Netflix on my tablet since non of the onboard streaming even remotely seemed interesting. 

When the flight attendant started to bring around meals she apologized for the sight of my meal, she said it smealt great (it did) she was so apologetic about the look. I was already aware of the sight as had seen photos online. It was…. Interesting. While it looked like crap (literally) it wasn’t that bad. It tasted great, though I wouldn’t call it oatmeal, more like a pudding. The meal was rounded out by some ellinos yoghurt, a warm roll and some fruit. Heidi’s eggs was a sweet potato omelette with potatoes. 

After the meal was cleared away it was more of the same as we cruised east. Our flight attendant kept our drinks pretty topped up throughout most of the flight, a few hours out we were about to run parralell to some big storms near Chicago and that made it pretty bumpy for an hour or more. It also meant no bathroom options as they didn’t want us moving around, which is rough when you desperately need to pee after drinking liquids for several hours. 

What became evident as we got stuck in the turbulence was that we were going to be stuck in this for a while and when we cleared it we should be top of descent, but our top of descent came and we didn’t really descend all that much. When you looked down you didn’t see all that much. We then got told that Newark was under an arrival program. Dammit 🙁

That meant we got put in a stack and we were being held and it made for a very long descent, so much so that being 10-15 minutes late would have been a god send. We made our way slowly down towards New Jersey and our destination. It became evident just how low the cloud base was when we knew we were descending and on final (gear out, flaps down) and still could see the ground. It didn’t come into view until we were just about to enter the airport perimeter. Ouch. 

We touched down (finally) and then held on a taxiway for what felt like an eternity, but we eventually headed to what was described to me as “a shit show” and they weren’t wrong. It’s not a good look when everything around where your plane is going was surrounded by fences with consatina wire. O dear. 

We finally pulled into the gate next to a newly arrived Spirit A320 and that meant crowds. Add on that we were late and it was like swimming upstream during salmon spawning season. It was packed!  But we pushed our way out of the mess and headed towards baggage claim. It is never a good look when your bathrooms are essentially fancy portable toilets. 

My bag was not apparently priority tagged (thanks Alaska) and was way at the end of coming out. But it showed up which is the main thing and then it was off to find the train station. The air train is not really convienient to people collecting luggage, but we found it. Then it was more waiting, because those trains run sloooow. Well it’s not really a train but a monorail and reminded me of the monorail that ran at Expo 88 it looked almost the same and thd cars were just as small. People were jammed in everywhere just to make it on the train. My bag was jammed at my feet while I tried not to hit people with my backpack. 

We eventually got dropped off at the train station where we just missed a train and had to Wait 30 minutes for the next one. NJ Transit was meant to run 6 an hour, but 4 of those trains were coming within 6 minutes of each other (turns out they were all late). By the time the train showed up I was ready to get onboard! I struggled to get my suitcase up the steps inside of the train but it was lightly loaded in our carriage for the 30 minute ride into New York Penn (it’s not thst far, bug it runs slow apparently) 

By the time we pulled into NYP I was just done with travelling for the day, I was tired hungry & needed a bathroom, thankfully it was 3 blocks to our hotel, and some relief, we just had to get out of the craziness that was the station at the same time the Rangers fans are showing up for games at Madison Square Garden. But we did it…