Hopping on an airplane to go and visit family for Christmas is a different kind of travel compared to what I’m used to. I’m pretty much a solo traveler most of the year, and jetting off to the far corners of the earth by myself has always been the kind therapeutic escape that I need to “reset” my body and mind from the stresses of daily life at home. They say there’s no need for vacations if there’s nothing to escape from, but I haven’t reached a point in my life yet where my day to day life at home matches the tranquil serenity found on a tropical island resort. But I’m working on it.
My wife would be accompanying me on this trip, and while it’s nice to have her along, it means juggling heavy luggage and standing in long lines to check in at the airport. It also means that I end up in middle seats since she gets to choose the seat assignments. Not because she enjoys being mean to me, but she prefers aisle seats and I end up being wedged in the middle if I’m feeing husbandly and want to sit next to her. But I’m willing to take one for the team to make her as comfortable and happy as possible, and these little inconveniences don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things anyway. It’s nice to travel with her for a change.
It just felt weird walking into the airport that morning pushing two large suitcases while jugging a small handbag. SANspotter is definitely out of his element here.
San Diego, CA (SAN) – Atlanta, GA (ATL)
Friday, December 23, 2016
Duration: 4 hours 9 minutes
Seat: 40E (economy class)
The check in process wasn’t all that bad this morning, as we didn’t have to wait in line for more than several minutes. I guess that’s one advantage to taking a mid-morning flight to avoid the early morning rush. My inexperience of checking bags showed quite clear though – after checking in at the kiosk (and confirming that we would be checking two bags), nothing happened after it spit out our boarding passes.
I was expecting an agent to come over and attach tags to the bags, but it wasn’t happening this time – it seemed we were being ignored. After a minute or two I walked over to one of the agents and asked for help. “You need to check in over here” she replied, pointing to another row of kiosks next to her. Oops. Ok, yeah, well this is what it feels like to be a travel noob I guess.
We timed our arrival to the airport pretty good this morning, allowing us ample time to relax in the American Airlines / OneWorld / Airspace lounge for a bit, and the flight was just about ready to board by the time we made our way back over to gate 48. That ended up working out pretty well because it was standing room only and we weren’t able to find a seat until just a few minutes until boarding began.
I was really excited to discover that a 757-300 would be operating today’s flight to ATL. My last flight on a 757-300 was a short hop from MSP to DTW on Northwest Airlines on September 28th 2003, and these aircraft have eluded me since then. There aren’t that many of them out in the wild anyway, so it was nice to see considering that it was listed as a -200 at the time of booking several months ago. The best part about that is that we were flying economy today, way back in the bowels of the aircraft – so we would definitely be getting the full “flying pencil” experience.
It was a long walk way back to row 40, which ended up being the last row before the bulkhead which separated the two sections of the economy cabin. I’ll be honest when I say that these were not ideal seats, thanks in large part to the fact that the mid cabin lavatory was right behind us. To make matters worse, these seats didn’t recline. And did I mention that I was in a middle seat? We hadn’t even left SAN yet and I was looking for an escape.
There were many animals aboard today’s flight and it ended up happening that two ended up in the same row and they were not getting along. The flight attendants needed to move passengers around to resolve this matter before we could push off the gate, so that put us a few minutes behind schedule.
They wasted no time in getting the service going just after takeoff, starting with the pay-for-food cart first, followed by drinks and snacks. Of course it was a long while before they reached our row, and I was sure they would be out of the one item that looked good to me on the menu, so my hopes weren’t very high as the flight attendant asked if there was anything she could get for me. Thankfully the chicken wrap I had my eye on was in abundant stock, and I was happily stuffing my face a few minutes later with one heck of tasty (though expensive) meal.
I must have been tired from lugging around our heavy bags all morning, because I managed to sleep decently for the next two hours, interrupted only by my head falling forward into my lap every 5 minutes due to lack of recline in the seat. It’s an uncomfortable way to nap for sure, but I was sleeping deeply enough to have some crazy dreams in between head bobs.
I woke up for good just as the sun was setting behind us, and my seat-mate at the window was getting some really nice pics of it all. The aviation photographer and trip reporter in me couldn’t stand being denied views like that for very long, and I ended up handing my phone to him, asking if he could get a couple pics for me. Thankfully he was more than happy to oblige, and I appreciated his kindness.
Turns out that he was a UCSD student on his way to meet his girlfriend (who he hasn’t seen in 4 months) in Florida for vacation. She was coming from cold and snowy Boston, and they were both looking forward to the warm weather in Daytona Beach for a few days. I don’t blame them at all – Florida can be quite nice in the winter time.
A second drink and snack service came through the cabin with 50 minutes of flying time remaining, but the flight attendants seemed very rushed (and distracted) and ended up forgetting to ask us if we would like any snacks to go with our drinks. Oh well – we were just about to land anyway so no big deal.
Landing is a very anti-climatic experience when not sitting in a window seat, so my apologies for not being able to provide you a nice sequence of landing pics for this flight. It was dark though, and there probably wasn’t much to see anyway, so you’re not missing much.
We docked at the gate several minutes ahead of schedule thanks to a hefty tail wind pushing us across the country today, but getting off the 757-300 does take a while if you’re seated in the back like us.
Once free of the bowels of the flying pencil, we set off in search of some food to bring onto our next flight, which was departing down to West Palm Beach in a little over an hour…