Saturday, July 19, 2014

Friday on a Plane

The frequent flier miles rack up when you travel often to the Pacific.  A round trip ticket between Washington to Saipan earns more than 15,000 miles and for every 25,000 miles you travel you reach a new status.  It does not take long to jump from Silver to Gold to Platinum and then 1K.  When you hit Platinum status, United gives you a handful of Regional upgrades.  At Platinum you get Global upgrades.  Then every 25,000 miles, you get even more.  As a result, if you keep up a heavy travel schedule and your 1K status, you can fly business on almost every flight.

For this last trip to the Marshall Islands I used a Regional upgrade for the flight out, and a global upgrade for the flight home.  I wasn't upgraded between Majuro and Hawaii, but I sat in business the rest of the way home.

UA 72 Majuro to San Francisco
The Honolulu Airport is closed when the flight from Majuro lands.  After going through immigration and customs, you get dumped out on the street with all of your luggage.  The outdoor lobby is full of sleeping travelers or homeless people, I'm not really sure.

When leaving Hawaii for the mainland, the first step in the check-in process is to x-ray your bags.  I don't know what they are looking for, but they don't look very hard.  I saw someone put a suitcase of shark fins through the machine once and all they got was a friendly "mahalo." 

USDA doesn't open the machine until 4 AM, so scores of travelers queue their luggage.  Some stand, others sleep.

I was second in line for the x-ray.  United wasn't open yet, so I took my scanned bags over to the premier line to stand in line again.  The United check-in counters must be set to come on automatically, because they all popped on at the same time.  I didn't need to check in again, just drop off my luggage.  The whole process took all of 30 seconds once they opened.

Then I was the first person through security.  My boarding pass said I had TSA pre-check, but it wasn't open yet, so I had to take my shoes out and remove my laptops.

Starbucks wasn't open yet, so I went to the United lounge.  It wasn't open either, so I found a comfortable spot on the carpet outside near a electrical outlet to charge my phone and check my email.  I was able to pick up the free wifi through the walls.

The flight boarded at 5:30 AM.  I boarded with group 1, got myself settled with my bags in the overhead, sat down, and fell asleep.

I woke up with about 2 hours left in the flight.  I scoured the movie selection and decided on Noah.  It was really terrible.

UA 1574 San Francisco to Washington Dulles
When given the option of transiting through San Francisco or Los Angeles, I much prefer the former.  San Fran has lots of delicious food options and I've never had to leave secure area to go to another terminal.  LAX has a Wolfgang Puck's, but I've never NOT had to switch terminals there.

In San Francisco I bought an Italian sausage pizza and walked over to my gate to eat it.  While I waited for my flight to board I used the airport's free wifi.

I must have been exhausted because as soon as I boarded I fell asleep.  I woke up when they brought the food out and then watched the new Captain America movie.  There were two hours of flying time left when that ended, so I watched the CNN coverage of the airplane crash in Ukraine, then an episode of The Big Bang Theory, and then South Park, and then I read.

The flight landed about 10 minutes late and then it took 40 minutes for the luggage to come out.  I got home at about 1:30 AM, ate some ramen, watched an episode of Bill Maher, and then passed out.

My next flight is on Thursday.  I'm going to Palau to attend the Pacific Islands Forum

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