United Airlines A320 economy class San Diego to San Francisco

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01. Introduction: the trip report that almost didn’t happen
02. United Airlines A320 economy class San Diego to San Francisco
03. San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront
04. United Airlines A320 economy class San Francisco to San Diego

As I mentioned in the introductory post for this trip report, I actually walked into the airport this morning fully intending to forgo a trip report for this flight. I was totally convinced that these flights were going to be so dull and routine that there really wasn’t any point in trying to take pics of everything and that it would be a waste of time to write it all up for the blog. And you know what? I was right. The flights were dull. The hotel wasn’t anything special. Nothing exciting happened. But taking pics while traveling is so routine for me now that it just happens naturally, and without even thinking about it I ended up coming home with over 5GB of data. So yeah…the trip report is on.

UA400
San Diego, CA (SAN) – San Francisco, CA (SFO)
Saturday, February 25, 2017
Aircraft: A320
Registration: N428UA
Duration: 1 hour 10 minutes
Seat: 36A (economy class)

United Airlines A320 side view

United Airlines A320 (N428UA) side view illustration by norebbo.com

united airlines a320 seat map

Seat map of this United Airlines A320 (courtesy of seatguru.com) showing my seat for this flight.

SAN to SFO route map

Our route from SAN to SFO this morning: PEBLE6 SXC VTU RZS SERFR SERFR2

terminal 2 west SAN

Even at 5am there are signs of life here in terminal 2 west.

This was a very early morning flight (the kind that starts boarding at 5:45am), and at that early hour it’s hard to get excited about flying on a United Airlines A320 in any class let alone economy. I was especially glad that this was just a short flight up to SFO – my last experience on one of these things wasn’t anything special, and the memories of rock hard seats and ultra-tight leg room are not good. I’d never voluntarily book a UA A320 in economy class for any flight over 1.5 hours, so the flight up to San Francisco this morning was pushing the envelope of what I deemed an acceptable form of transportation.

The coffee shops are the only places open in the airport at this early hour, which is kind of a bummer if you’re feeling hungry and looking for breakfast. I wasn’t super hungry or anything, but I felt like I needed something to give me the energy to get going. Coffee is the morning energy source for most people I know, but for me, I need real food. Without it I’m weak and worthless and I’d never get anything done.

Unfortunately the line for Starbucks was the longest I’ve ever seen it (no way I was going to stand in that line), but Pannikin came through with a hot toasted bagel in less than a two minute wait. Ahh, that hit the spot. I may still have been dead tired, but I was now fueled up and ready to travel.

san diego airport pannikin bagel

Plain bagel, toasted, with nothing on it. Perfect!

SANspotter airport selfie

Can’t start the day without breakfast!

north face backpack airport

My North Face backpack is always just as eager as I am to take to the skies.

gate 45 san diego airport

Gate 45 is our point of departure this morning.

Boarding for this flight was called exactly on time, and to be honest I wasn’t in any real hurry to get onboard. These UA A320’s aren’t any more comfortable than what you’d find on an LLC such as Spirit or Allegiant, so I thought I’d be nice to my knees and hold back a few minutes before getting on the plane.

san diego airport terminal 2 west

Hanging out under the atrium at the end of terminal 2 west (adjacent to today’s boarding gate).

SANspotter airport selfie

Very Star Wars-ish architecture here that I had never noticed before!

SAN airport jet bridge

Walking down the jet bridge.

Once onboard and seated, I never really could find a seating position that was comfortable. Sitting straight up with my lower back pressed to the seat was easy on the knees, but hard on the back. Slouching a little was a little more relaxing, but with my knees wedged into the hard plastic of the seat in front of me, that wasn’t going to work either. All I could really do was alternate between these two positions for the entire duration of the flight, so by the end of it, I ended up with sore knees and a bad back. Yay United!

united a320 seats

United Airlines A320 economy class seats.

united airlines a320 seat back

There aren’t any seat-back video screens here. The only entertainment options are the safety card, Hemispheres magazine, a credit card pamphlet, and a barf bag. Take your pick!

United Private Screening

United Private Screening is available, however. It’s basically a streaming video service which you can access from your own device.

United Airlines A320 economy class seat pitch

United Airlines A320 economy class seat pitch. Note that I am seated fully upright with my lower back to the seat. Any bit of slouching and my knees are pressed to the seat in front of me.

United Airlines A320 economy class cabin

United Airlines A320 economy class cabin.

SAN early morning departure

Pushing off the gate.

taxiing at SAN during sunrise A320

Making our way out to the departure lineup, which was starting to build just before curfew was lifted.

The curfew at SAN isn’t lifted until 6:30am, so there’s usually a long line of aircraft waiting to depart at this time. This required us to cross over the runway to the north side in order to keep the main line of departures (on the south side) from getting too long. Once the curfew is lifted, aircraft on the north and south sides simply alternate to take off. Luckily we weren’t at the back of the pack so we didn’t have to wait long.

san diego airport united a320 departure

Making the turn onto runway 27.

It was a wet but beautiful takeoff from SAN, and it was a bit unfortunate that the condensation on the window didn’t clear until we crossed over the beach and were out over the ocean. “I’m not doing a trip report so pics don’t matter. I’m not doing a trip report so pics don’t matter. I’m not doing a trip report so pics don’t matter.” These were the words I was chanting to myself as I waited for the condensation to clear…

UA a320 departure SAN

Aaaand we’re off!

a320 window condensation

This could have been a great shot if it weren’t for all that condensation on the window!

departing SAN UA a320

All those people down there know exactly when 6:30am rolls around thanks to the steady stream of departing aircraft after curfew is lifted.

san diego point loma at sunrise

San Diego is so beautiful in early morning light!

united a320 climb

Making the turn north and heading towards cruising altitude.

GoPro in flight photography

I still wasn’t planning on doing a trip report for this flight but that didn’t stop me from taking too many pics.

flying over catalina island

Just about to cross over Santa Catalina Island.

The ride up to San Francisco was smooth and uneventful, and I actually slept for a bit in those rock hard seats. I couldn’t believe I was actually sleeping when I was awoken by a giant head bob that seemed strong enough to wake people in the next row. Apparently I was dreaming about flying to SFO, because I woke up and was totally confused about what had just happened. One moment I’m enjoying the view from the window, and the next moment I’m jolted awake with the feeling of my head falling into my lap like a bowling ball. Trippy.

united a320 cabin interior SAN-SFO

View of the action from inside the cabin while en route.

united A320 wing

Cruising along under beautiful early morning skies all the way up to the Bay Area.

Ok, who’s still with me? I suspect most of you have already clicked the back button on your browser by now desperately looking for something more interesting to read, but for those who are still here, consider yourself lucky. Flying into San Francisco on crisp clear winter mornings are always beautiful, and this one was no exception.

interesting cloud pattern

Interesting cloud pattern just south of the Monterrey peninsula.

Monterrey peninsula from the air

That’s the Monterrey peninsula down there – the destination for my road trip today!

SFO approach

The weather was starting to look a bit gloomy on our approach and I was fully expecting SFO to be socked in with fog.

SFO runway 28 approach

But the closer we got, the more the skies started to clear.

approaching SFO united a320

A few last minute adjustments to get set up for 28L.

united a320 SFO approach clear sky

San Francisco is so beautiful in the early morning light!

SFO runway 28L

Just inches off the runway…

united a320 landing san francisco

Welcome to San Francisco!

As we were coming to a stop after landing, I was trying to remember any other time in my life that I’ve landed on a runway other than 28L at SFO. It’s always the same thing every time I fly into this place, and I’m actually hoping that maybe someday I’ll get to experience something different. Not like I think that it would be a total life-changing experience or anything – it’s just something I want to add to my “been there done that” AvGeek list. Yeah, I’ve got one of those.

There was another aircraft occupying our gate once we came around the back side of the terminal, so we ended up having to sit and wait 15 minutes before we could scoot on in there and dock.

united a320 wing SFO airport

Taking the long way to reach our gate. There was no rush since it was still occupied.

united airlines gates SFO

After a bit of a wait, we’ve finally arrived.

united airlines a320 interior

Making a run for the exit is the best part about getting a ride on a United A320. Unfortunately I have to do this again tomorrow…

united airlines sfo gates chrome ball lights

Hmm…this feels more like Virgin America than United. I kinda like it!

There. I did it. A full trip report for a routine United Airlines A320 economy class flight that I swore I wasn’t going to do. And it’s not over yet! I’ve still got to write another one about the return flight to SAN…

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