Category Archives: USA

A Layover too Long in LAX

LAX kind of sucks for a layover. I’ve dealt with long layovers before but this seems to be worse. My first thought was ‘Wow this place is crowded.’ There are so many people around. But the biggest problem for layovers is how disconnected the terminals are. After disembarking in a domestic terminal you have to go outside and enter the international terminal through the regular departure area. More security screenings!

I’m not worried about getting through security (I’m actually waiting in the airport right now) since my layover is so long. But I can easily imagine how that might be a problem for some people, especially since I need to get a boarding pass from the China Southern desk, American wasn’t able to print them all out for me in DC. The problem is that China Southern only flies one flight a day from here at 10 PM. The counter opens at 6:20 PM. I still have two hours to wait before I can even get my boarding pass. Until them I’m stuck in a mall food court.

That’s the easiest way to explain the waiting area. There’s a handful of fast food places and scattered seating. McDonalds and Panda Express are the two big ones. I that doesn’t scream mall food I don’t know what does. There actually is a single sit down restaurant, but they want $15 for a hamburger. All the places are way overpriced. I was forced to get something from McDonalds since American Airlines doesn’t offer food service on their flights and because it was the cheapest by far but still way more than it was worth.

There is free wifi that’s decent aside from having to reconnect every hour or so.  But it doesn’t work well with mobile devices. For some reason i cant check my email on my phone. It blows my mind that a large and international airport like LAX can’t provide wifi that works with mobiles.

This, coupled with the American Airlines disappointment is creating a pretty poor trip so far.

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American Airlines

Nickel and dining seems to be the new way for airlines to make money. I don’t know how widespread the practice is, flying from DC to my LA layover was my first ever domestic flight. Maybe all the national airlines do it.

First is the overhead compartments. The pilot mentioned repeatedly that it was a full flight so we were required to keep our winter jackets with us. Like airline seats aren’t cramped enough. Next time get planes that have bin space for every seat in the house.

The in flight entertainment was some move I really wasn’t interested in. That’s common enough. What also is common is have a guide of what movies are going to be shown. We were told there that information was available I in the sear backs, but my row didn’t have anything but safety cards and a few rough looking magazines. But that all wouldn’t bother me so much if AA didn’t want to charge for the headphones. I’ve never been on a flight where you need to pay for the headphones. At least they had the sense to try and spin it that passengers are given the option to use their own headphones. I had that option when you weren’t shaking folks down for a few bucks.

Even after the movie that I didn’t want to watch the entertainment didn’t get much better. The showed NBC shows like The Office, complete with commercials. I have to deal with commercials at home and now on a flight? Also why couldn’t they play 30 Rock? That’s the best show NBC has had in years.

They plane has wifi! That’s pretty awesome right? Well I thought the same until I saw how much it cost. What is this, the year 2000? If you offer wifi you offer free wifi. It should be against the law not to
Speaking of six hours, I figured that a 11 AM flight would offer something in the way of lunch. Seriously, it’s a six hour flight. I could have gotten a bite at the airport for a fraction of the cost of the food on the plane. That’s right, I said ‘the cost of the food on the plane.’ Everyone else I’ve flown on had included something to eat. LOT hooked us up with cookies for an hour hop. But not AA. If you want a tasteless looking sandwich and a bag of chips be ready to shell out $10. For that price I could have gotten a gargantuan burger and fries at Five Guys before leaving. And that would be enjoyable. Of course I’m no rich guy so I passed on lunch. But at least there was complimentary soda or juice. You know, the bare minimum of service.

I really wouldn’t mind this sort if stuff from Southwest or RyanAir. But AA is behaving like a budget airline without passing savings in to customers or even admitting they’re not top tier anymore.
I’m lucky because I bought my ticket through a website. My second leg from LA to China is on China Southern and they give two free checked bags. AA is forced to comply with that although with a sign at the gate boasting ‘First checked bag free!’ I feel like they wish they didn’t have too.

I know it’s hard for the airlines these days. Maybe this is the new normal. Between trimming back freebies, cutting flight attendants pay to when the planes are only actually flying, to overbooking flights, American carriers just aren’t that nice anymore.
If it wasn’t for the mileage rewards no one would willing fly these legacy carriers and now I see why.

The view was awesome though.

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Washington Dulles International Airport

One good thing about arriving early for flights and long layovers is that it gives you plenty of time to sit around. So I’ll try to be productive and live blog my experiences flying from Washington DC to Los Angeles to Guangzhou to Wuxi. Also arrive early allows you to find the power outlets before they all get taken.

If there’s anywhere I can consider a home base, Dulles airport probably is it. I’m here often enough.

Up front the airport doesn’t look like much. If you have friends or family waiting with you a bit, you’re going to be bored. The main building for arrivals and departures is full of check in counters, a few benches, and a single restaurant. That’s right. If you want to have lunch with others before you leave, you don’t get a choice.

Once you get through security the whole place changes. After security you’ll board an underground train to head to the gates. At the terminals you’ll find all sorts of places to sit and eat. A personal favorite of mine since my college days is Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Not for someone trying to watch their weight, Five Guys burgers are a smorgasbord of greasy goodness. With the regular burger clocking in at two patties and whatever toppings you’d like, the junior burger might be a better fit for many people. The fries are also oversized, a regular serving is enough to feed two people with a bit left over. And the best part about it is the prices are not sky high just because it’s an airport.

Actually until I landed in LAX I never realized how nice Dulles actually is. It’s heads and shoulders above other airports. Decent and inexpensive food, lots of space, easy to find outlets, and wifi that actually works. It’s impressive.

It’s a travel truth that the earlier you arrive before your flight the quicker you’ll go through security. The day you arrive three hours early is the day it takes five minutes to get through. The day you arrive an hour early it takes fifty-five minutes to get through. Either you’re waiting or sprinting, never any middle ground.   So here I am waiting.