Monday, March 23, 2009

Flying this Weekend

We were out in Florida this past weekend, seeing some friends and catching up on various things. I'll cover the actual weekend later this week, as I wanted to describe our traveling experience first, since many of you caught our Twitter updates.

We flew out of San Jose Thursday afternoon. We were both giggling as we left the apartment, as we had planned to leave at 10:30am, and were both looking around at 10am, ready to go. Neither of us had ever not-rushed to get out the door in time for a flight. We checked-in the rental car and took the bus over to the terminal. Security took 5 minutes, 45 seconds, which was pretty darn fast. Jonathan sent a few emails, I bought a bottle of water and started a book (play), and then we were boarding. Interestingly, the plane actually boarded from both the front and rear doors, so that was pretty fast. We were up and landed in Phoenix pretty quickly.

However, we were supposed to have a 40-minute layover, but we landed late and pretty much had to run to the gate. This meant that we missed eating, since it was like 2pm (PST) and we wouldn't land in FL until 10pm (EST). We also didn't have enough cash to buy expensive plane food. But that didn't actually matter, since they were out of sandwiches and salads, only having the $5 snackpack left. We chalked it up and bought one, as did our seatmate. Between the three of us, two boxes worked out pretty well, since Lawrence didn't want his crackers or cookies (meaning I got all 8 Oreos, hehe). Sidenote, Lawrence was pretty cool, he was a software engineer from Orlando who also had his first job at Lockheed, so he and Jonathan chatted quite a bit. His undergrad was from FSU (grad degree from UF, and he was born and raised a Miami Hurricane fan, haha), so we talked about campus changes over the years as well. Anyway, it was a bit long of a flight to be stuck in a window and a middle seat (we're both aisle-kids), but we made it. Jonathan's parents picked us up from the airport, and we made it to Melbourne in time to see Obama and Jay Leno have their now-infamous "I bowl like I'm the Special Olympics" comment.

Okay, fast-forward to Sunday morning. It was actually like $60 cheaper to fly out of Melbourne than Orlando, so we did that. We were to have a 6am (EST) flight to ATL, then a connection to San Jose, landing about 10:45am (PST). That would give us the entire day to catch-up on California things, buy groceries for the week, etc. Well, none of that happened. We were at the airport in plenty of time, and boarded the plane on time. I was feeling a little queasy/claustrophobic in the seat (last row, window seat) for the first time in my life, so I dozed off to calm down. I woke up as we taxied to the runway, and the pilot came on to say we were second in line. I woke up again twenty minutes later, and we were still on the runway. Jonathan was also asleep, so I just figured somebody cut the line and jumped in ahead of our plane. But, then it was 6:35, and I began to get antsy about making our second flight. We were shortly asked to disembark the plane, as there was a problem with a pneumatic valve. We get off, get in line for customer service, and wait another 40 minutes. An announcement comes on to suggest a 7:50 departure, and that meant we'd surely miss our connecting flight. (No checked bags, so no worries there.)

As we waited for our turn, Jonathan used his phone/ipod touch to see what our options were going to be. We could hear that some of the people in front of us weren't going to get where they needed to go, and I began to have a similar fear. We consider getting someone to drive us to MCO (Orlando) so we'd have more airport choices to fly to with a connection chance, but decide against that when MCO is looking pretty booked that day. That's out. We briefly consider just going back to the Melb house and trying the same flight the next day, but that would take a 1/2 day from JB's job. So, when we finally get to the desk and the gentleman informs us that there were no other ATL-SJC flights that day, we were forced to suck it up and fly to San Francisco instead.

We get new boarding passes, and go sit down. An announcement comes on, letting us know that the flight is now pushed back to 10:20. We're not concerned in the least, as our flight to SFO wasn't even leaving ATL until 5:05pm (EST), and it's only an hour flight to ATL. That did mean a lot to other passengers, many of which had to get back in line again, as now they'd miss the connection that was already their second choices. We tried to go get some breakfast, but the only eatery in the terminal offered nothing more than cookies and wraps. So we sat down to do some work (free wi-fi in MLB), and we ended up boarding about 9:45. It was a smooth flight, and emptier, since some people had opted to fly elsewhere or the next day instead.

We landed in ATL and immediately tried to get a different (read: better) flight. By the time we found a gate with a representative, we had lost about 15 minutes. We then waited in line another 20, only to be told that this specific desk only deals with flights going to and from Detroit. This was despite the fact that the person who checks on "why you're waiting" looked at our passes and told us to stay in line (her job seemed to focus on taking care of small problems which didn't involve computer help). We were a bit frustrated, and headed to the desk we were instructed to seek out. On the way, we passed a "boarding pass scanner" which we used to find out our flight's status, and also get seats. This ended up being realllly lucky, as we found out hours later that we got the last two seats on that flight. The new rep wasn't all that friendly, and I'm not sure she was that good at her job, either. At first she offered us an earlier SFO flight, which we took, but then there weren't seats. Then she offered us a flight to SJC... it would land later than our SFO flight, but we'd be where we wanted, and the time would pretty much balance out with ground travel. But somehow it turned out that this hypothetical flight wasn't operating that afternoon. Still not sure what she was looking at when she told us about it.

So, we walked away and looked at our tickets. We realized that they were first-class seats (not together), which was a little spark of light in this glum day. We then remembered that we had witnessed another person receive a meal voucher when he missed a flight due to an airport screw-up. So, I went back to the unfriendly woman and asked about this. She was a bit reluctant, but I reminded her that a mechanical problem beyond any control of ours has cause us to be at ATL for the next seven hours (it was really six, but I wasn't looking at the clock when I spoke). She printed out two $7 vouchers for us, and I expressed great appreciation.

We headed over to E, since that concourse has a Qdoba and (allegedly) free internet. I'm starving, so the fact that it was only 11:30 wasn't a big deal as we made our way over there. By the time we sat down with the food, it was five minutes til noon. Luckily, we were able to order Fajita Classica burritos, which have been off the menu for almost a year. I was beyond excited when I ordered and made substitutions, and the worker was like "so you want the chicken fajita?" and all but high-fived me for choosing his favorite meal as well. After eating, JB checks on internet. Nope, not actually free. So we travel the 4,000 feet to get to Concourse A, and find seats at the gate which we wouldn't depart from for another four hours.

I suck it up and pay the $8 to get online so I could get some work done while Jonathan took a nap. I end up getting a little more than 3.5 hours in, so it was worth it. At one point, Jonathan got up to take a walk and found another SFO flight, so he added us to standby. We didn't take it/get it, as we figured we might as well go with the first-class seats and the perks they'd give (JB had flown first-class once before, I never had).

We board, find our seats, and I have a hell of a time getting my luggage up into the overhead compartment. I finally figure out that the side I was on and the middle bulkheads were smaller than the ones on Jonathan's side, so I stuck mine over there. By the way, we were in the same row, but separated by four people between us, as we had opposite windows.

"Business" seats are pretty sweet, let me just say that. They have TONS of legroom, and recline extra far. They're also wider, so you're not thigh-to-thigh with your neighbor. I had an orange juice before flight, and skimmed through the latest American Theatre magazine. We took off and the view was great (it was the entire flight, miraculously). I was really hoping to fall asleep quickly, but that didn't happen. I played some trivia, then some other games, and finally decided to check out the movie selection. I watched Slumdog Millionaire as I ate my dinner. Yes, dinner. I had the pasta (which was only okay... it had a lot of mushrooms in it), salad, roll, and lemon meringue pie. I also had a few Sprites (in real glasses, mind you). Had I been into wine, I pretty much could have had a bottle's worth, as they refill you like 5 times. I didn't really care for Slumdog, which I was sad about, since I wanted to love it, LoL. I also saw most of Tyler Perry's The Family that Preys, which also wasn't that great.

We landed a full 30 minutes early, but it was freaky descending, as we were over the bay until the second we touched down, so I really thought we were about to land in water, and was a bit freaked out.

Picking up the rental car from SFO instead of SJC wasn't that bad. Now that we're on the Preferred List, it's a lot quicker. We got a brand-new Nissan Altima. Brand-new as in only had 9 MILES on it when we got it. As soon as the door opened we were greeted with new-car-smell, pouring out of the doors. I'll talk about the car when I talk about the weekend. But yeah, that pretty much sums up how we were to be home by 11-11:15am, but ended up pulling in just a few minutes before 9pm.

Oh, and ironically, I had mentioned in my other blog last week that I didn't have an opinion on ATL. I sure do now...

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