US trip 2010: Travelling north

21 03 2010

The good

  • Crocs are fantastic for airport security — kick them off, slip them on, done.
  • Orange County airport is much friendlier and less hectic than LAX. Even the TSA people are pleasant and helpful.
  • Alaska Air flight to Seattle left 2 minutes EARLY — never my experience in the US before!
  • Alaska Air flight arrived 25 minutes EARLY. Wow.
  • Alaska Air provided little snack packs of nibblies and a non-alcoholic drink for free — twice.
  • Alaska Air’s flight attendants smiled and looked you in the eye.
  • Alaska Air’s flight attendants didn’t stop those in the early rows of economy class using the business class toilet.
  • Alaska Air honoured the ticket from my travel agent that said I could have 1 piece of checked luggage for free (normally it’s $15 per checked piece)
  • While waiting at the gate for my flight, I saw 3 then 4 then 5 then 6 people come off the arriving flight in bright lime green t-shirts. Eventually there were 10 of them! All the one family. Mum, dad and 8 kids ranging from late teens to babies. No wonder they wore bright lime green shirts — that’s a lot of kids to keep track of! Very sensible idea.
  • My suitcase came out quickly at baggage claim at Seattle.
  • Greeting my good friend Char when she arrived from Boston about an hour after my flight arrived.
  • The new Link Light Rail from the Seattle-Tacoma airport to downtown is quick, good and cheap ($2.50 one way).
  • The weather in Seattle was good. Partly cloudy, fine, 65F.
  • The food variety and prices at the Westlake Center food court in Seattle is good. Value for money.
  • The high speed wireless internet service I found was cheap and blisteringly fast (compared to anything I’ve experienced in Australia).

The not so good

  • Flying on a Saturday meant less traffic getting to the Orange County airport and possibly less people in the airport, but more families travelling who had young children with hacking coughs, or who were chucking tantrums, squealing, and making lots of other noises. My tolerance for young children is not high…
  • Alaska Air charged me $50 for an overweight bag! The suitcase (two nested suitcases, actually) and its contents weighed 60 lbs, which is less than the 32 kgs allowed by Qantas and other airlines on international flights. Alaska’s limit is 50 lbs. They wouldn’t take into consideration that I was an international passenger and told me to claim the $50 back from my travel agent!
  • What’s with people making loud private cell phone calls in public places like airport waiting areas? Sorry, but I really don’t want to hear what you and your family is doing, or how much money you’ve lent your loser brother-in-law to support his gambling habit!
  • The flight attendant in business class spent much of her time reading a novel in the little door alcove out of sight of passengers — and she had another novel alongside her waiting to be read. I thought her job was to look after the business class cabin, not read a novel.
  • No blankets! The lady in the window seat next to me had a cold draft coming at her and she was freezing. She asked for ab lanket and was told that they don’t supply blankets now ‘because of swine flu’. Because of swine flu??? Come on. Try the truth — they’re cutting back expenses and the dry cleaning bills plus the extra weight was just too much.
  • The biggest bugbear about the Link Light Rail at Seattle-Tacoma Airport is the LONG walk to the station. If you didn’t have wheeled luggage, you’d be sick of schlepping your bag all that way.
  • We couldn’t get a room upgrade at The Westin as the hotel is fully booked — there’s a Microsoft conference on here too. And because we didn’t have a suite (like last year), we didn’t get a complimentary basket of fruits and cheeses.
  • Two people sharing a room who have two computers cannot both be on the internet at the same time using the hotel’s internet connection, even if there’s both wired and wireless in the room. One has to wait to use the other person’s computer (not their own if they didn’t do the sign-up), OR pay for a second connection, OR sign up to another (cheaper!) plan with a wireless provider outside the hotel. I’ll blog about this failed user experience by high-end hotels on my Cybertext blog in the next day or so.