Not sleepless in Seattle

29 03 2009

I slept through the night! yay! First time since I landed on Wednesday… Maybe the jet lag has gone now???

Seattle’s weather

29 03 2009

When I arrived in Seattle late yesterday it was grey, low clouds and bucketing down with rain. And cold — like 38F cold. This morning it is clear blue skies and sunshine! I have no idea how warm/cold it is outside, but right now the weather looks great from 40+ floors up!

None of us are getting any younger

29 03 2009

…so I was impressed by an initiative that I saw at my uncle’s. He had a flyer from Blue Shield offering free membership to ‘The Silver Sneakers’ for all those 60 and over (I think it was 60 — no matter). There was a long list of participating fitness clubs and gyms, all of whom allow people in this age bracket free membership so they can keep fit.

What a good idea! A health insurance fund trying to keep its long-term costs down by providing the means for the aging segment of the population to keep as fit as possible and thus keep them out of the health system for as long as possible.

It’s as big as a house

29 03 2009

Char and I got upgraded to a suite at The Westin in Seattle. It’s massive, and it’s a long way up… above the 40th floor!

Here are a couple of photos to give you some idea of the scale of the room; more photos are here ( the photos start at the bottom this album page in the link and go on to the next two pages of the album).

The Westin in Seattle -- main bedroom

The Westin in Seattle -- main bedroom

The Westin in Seattle -- looking from dining area past the Murphy bed in the wall and the office desk to the living room

The Westin in Seattle -- looking from dining area past the Murphy bed in the wall and the office desk to the living room


29 03 2009

My good friend Char was waiting at baggage claim when I arrived in Seattle late this afternoon. Her flight from Boston (via Denver) had got in about 15 to 30 minutes before mine and we’d agreed ages ago to share a ride into town. What we didn’t expect until a few days ago, was that the ride would be provided by Chuck, the conference’s official photographer and all round nice guy!

Chuck’s number plate is great “User1st” (user first); he drove up from San Francisco yesterday and was happy to wait in the cell phone carpark for us both to arrive (they have a car park just off the SeaTac airport for those picking up loved ones; as far as I know they don’t charge for it and it keeps the access points from being clogged by people circling looking for their party — an EXCELLENT idea). Chuck dropped us off at The Westin in town which is where the conference is being held.

Thanks Chuck!

I’m impressed with Alaska Airlines so far!

29 03 2009

This morning I flew American Eagle (American Airlines commuter airline) from Orange County to San Francisco (SFO). Before the flight, I checked in and was pleased that I could check my luggage all the way through to Seattle, which means I didn’t have to collect it in SFO and re-check it into Alaskan Air. I was also able to get a boarding pass for the SFO to Seattle flight too, so that was good. What was not so good was the fact that EVERYTHING (except soft drinks and pathetic nibbles) in the Admirals Club lounge have to be paid for, and the free wireless is NOT available to Qantas Club/OneWorld card holders, only American Airlines people.

The flight to SFO left a couple of minutes late, but it was a very acceptable delay, and arrived some 10 minutes early which was good. We flew along the Californian coast, past Hearst Castle (I could see it ‘cos I knew what I was looking for), Big Sur, Monterey Bay, etc. It’s a beautiful day with clear blue skies and no fog banks, so the view from the plane was just gorgeous. Photos here.

It was a TINY plane — about 60 seats (seat > aisle > seat > seat) and my laptop bag wouldn’t fit in the overhead locker so I had to use “Valet Check-in”, which means you leave your bag on a cart outside the plane and it gets loaded into the hold. Problem: I have all the chocolate snacks in the laptop bag and it sat in the hot sun for at least 15 minutes, so I expect the chocolate to be spoiled 😦

We deplaned (I hate that word!) at Terminal 3 and Alaska Airlines is in Terminal 1, which meant I had to leave the security area in Terminal 3, walk a LONG way to Terminal 3, and go through security again (that’s the fourth time!). On the walk I found a $20 note lying on the ground — not a soul was in sight, so that was a lucky break!

When I got to Alaskan, I re-checked that my boarding pass from American Airlines was OK and that the gate was still correct, and asked directions to the lounge. I got to the lounge and found that being a member of the Qantas Cub has no value with Alaskan (even though they are a subsidiary of American Airlines which is part of the OneWorld alliance and where my Qantas Club membership usually gets me into their lounges). However, the lovely Mike at the Alaskan lounge counter said that only Qantas Business Class travellers could gain access. Guess what? 😉 The catch was that they had to be travelling Qantas Business that day — which I wasn’t. But a sweet smile and showing him my itinerary with all the Business Class flights that I’ve already done, and that I’ll be doing in the next week sold him 😉 He let me into the small lounge (but there was almost no-one there, so it was no big deal).

But the big plus was that Alaska Airline’s lounge has COMPLIMENTARY drinks, and decent snacks (well, cheese and bikkies, but not those horrid bar snacks like American’s lounge), and best of all, COMPLIMENTARY high-speed wireless access — they have these little table cards everywhere with the username and password! Cool! So that’s where I’m typing this from.

So far, I’m impressed with Alaska Airlines. The guy at the check-in counter was very helpful; Mike at the lounge was equally helpful and friendly.  The flight to Seattle this afternoon (which is fairly short) and my flight next Thursday on Alaska Airlines to Vancouver will be the ‘proof of the pudding’. But so far, I’m impressed with them. It’s much more like Qantas (not that Qantas is a benchmark, but compared to most US airlines, Qantas is positively luxurious with both the meals and drinks on all their flights and their lounges). Alaska is looking good…

Update later the same day: The flight to Seattle was fine — a little turbulence, but nothing major. The hosties had fun with the passengers in their announcements etc. especially when they were singing Seattle’s praises as the Emerald City, then told us the expected weather on arrival (38F and wet) and suggested we turn around and go to Cancun (Mexico)! Nibblies were free as were the soft drinks — and according to the hostie I spoke with, they’d like to keep it that way. I don’t know if you had to pay for beer, spirits or wine — I suspect so. And light meals were charged for. I liked their attitude and would happily fly with them again based on today’s experience (which is lucky seeing as though I’m flying with them again on Thursday!)

Alaskan Airlines tail

Alaska Airlines tail