US trip 2013: Day 2: Saturday 2 March

2 03 2013

This is going to be the LONGEST day. I leave Melbourne before I arrive in Los Angeles! And once I get to LA, I have about a 6-hour wait for my flight to Seattle. I’ve booked a day rate at a local hotel to shower and to get my phone sorted out (I’ll get a US SIM and a pay-per-day plan from T-Mobile).

The day started out OK, with a bit of bubbling excitement about the First Class upgrade. Not only is it an upgrade on the plane, there’s also a different Qantas Lounge at the airport for First Class passengers. So I was intrigued to see what all the fuss was about.

Alas, it was not to be…

I got to the Qantas check-in counter, and asked about my upgrade. The lady couldn’t find it in the system, She called a few people, and yes, it had happened, but no ticketing had been issued for it. After a few more phone calls, the Frequent Flyer people admitted they’d ‘made a mistake’ and I shouldn’t have been upgraded as there are NO available seats in First on this flight! They’ve since refunded my points they deducted for the upgrade. All this took about 40 minutes at the counter, so I feel for the other passengers in line waiting to be dealt with as one check-in person was out of action for all that time.

Just to prove I had the upgrade for a brief moment in time, here’s a screen shot from my FF account:


We board in about an hour, so I’ll finish for now and update this post for the same date once I arrive in the US.


Qantas QF93 MEL-LAX: My choice for dinner was potato and leek soup, followed by a lightly crumbed and pan-fried thick pork fillet, with carrots and a stack of potato slices. Dessert — yoghurt ice cream with rhubarb compote. Shiraz and a sticky wine with dessert. For breakfast, I chose yoghurt and buttermilk pancakes with an apple/cinnamon compote and mascarpone. Yummo!

I sat next to a lovely lady on the flight — she was on an incredibly long haul: Melbourne to Los Angeles, then about a 5-hour wait for an Air Canada flight to Montreal, then another wait before another flight to Monckton, New Brunswick. She wasn’t due to land in Monckton until after midnight. Then she has Sunday to recuperate before starting a tough week’s work, and then repeating the flight but in the opposite direction a week later. I sure don’t envy her!

Landed at LAX at 6:30 am. Very uneventful and calm flight across. As per usual I did no more than cat nap (if that), though as I was laying flat, I did rest. The new ‘mattresses’ are great at removing some of the lumps and bumps of the seats — they looked like rolled up swags, so that’s what I called them and the cabin crew thought that was a great name. I have no idea why no-one had ever thought of it… they just look like swags used in the bush. But then again, maybe none of the cabin crew has ever roughed it in the bush in a swag ;-). However, they’ve no doubt all sung Waltzing Matilda at some point. The light doona replacements for the blankets were good too. Thin, but not too hot or too cold.

The line for Immigration at LAX was quite long and we were in it for about 45 mins. Bags were piled up three deep on the baggage carousel and well and truly waiting for us. No delays here with the baggage handlers — the hold-up was the lack of enough Immigration guys to deal with the number of flights (there were three flights from Australia [two A380s from MEL and SYD respectively and a 747 from Brisbane] and one from South America that all landed within a few minutes of each other and we all had to be processed. Cleared Customs with no hassles, then dropped bags for transit to Seattle.

Called the Hacienda Hotel where I’d taken the day rate, and got picked up by their shuttle bus. The room was ordinary, but hey, I wasn’t staying long! Just long enough to have a shower, quickly check email, and to get to the T-Mobile store close by to get my phone sorted out (new SIM, activation for two weeks).

Hacienda Hotel bathroom

Hacienda Hotel bathroom – note the artful flower arrangements. Who does THAT anymore? and then there’s the BRIGHT orange walls, which didn’t come out so bright in this photo

The phone didn’t take long, but that’s ‘cos I helped out the girl serving me. Initially we couldn’t get internet access and I pulled out a notebook from last week where I’d jotted down all the Access Point Number data from last year when I went through the same process in Dallas. Voila! It worked! She didn’t have a clue, and had I not had that info she would’ve had to call Support and spend a lot of time with them trying to figure out what was wrong.

But here’s the thing. I was at the T-Mobile store when it opened at 10 am. I was the first customer in the store and there were two girls on duty. The one who dealt with me was quite young (mid 20s at the outside). And she REEKED of alcohol! She’d probably had a late night out partying the night before, but what on earth made her think that it would be a good idea to come to work smelling like a distillery? The work she does means that she’s often in fairly close (like, breath-smelling distance) contact with the customer. And this customer didn’t like it one little bit.

After getting my phone sorted, I caught the hotel shuttle back to LAX and to the Alaska Airlines terminal. My fare meant that I had access to the ‘Board Room’, their lounge.

View from the Alaska airlines 'Board Room' at LAX

View from the Alaska airlines ‘Board Room’ at LAX

It’s only when you sample US airline lounges that you realise how good we have it with what we get at the Qantas lounges. And how good we get it on the Qantas domestic flights too. That said, the Alaska Air experience on the flight to Seattle wasn’t too bad, but overall US domestic airlines aren’t a patch on what we get in Australia (at least with Qantas). And don’t get me started on the security checks…

The flight to Seattle left on time and arrived on time. That’s a first for me in the US in a long time! I found the shuttle service into the city (go up a floor, across a walkbridge, then down a floor…), and got dropped off right at the door of the hotel where I’ll be staying for the next week.

On the way to the hotel, we passed some weirdly dressed people — it seems ComicCon is on at the Seattle Convention Center, which is close to the hotel. The strangest figure I saw was someone riding a unicycle on the footpath, with a Darth Vader mask on, wearing a brown skirt, and with a set of bagpipes under his/her arm!

Update: Seen on Facebook, April 2013 — I knew I wasn’t seeing things!


It’s currently 8 pm Saturday night in Seattle, which is 12 noon Sunday in Western Australia. That means it’s been some 54 hours of elapsed time since I left home, and I’ve had about 5 hours sleep in that entire time. I think I need to go to bed!

Oh, and Seattle? Grey, cloudy, rainy when I arrived. No surprises there!