Jul 292014

Up way too early to head back to the airport to fly home.  Seaborne only has one flight a day out of St Kitts, so I was left with really no choice on timing.  I was planning to fly United San Juan – Chicago – Washington National, but United retimed the flights changing my layover to nearly 6 hours in San Juan, and getting home at nearly 1 am….no thanks.  United offered to rebook me on the nonstop San Juan – Washington Dulles, and despite the loss in miles I decided to take it as it would get me home nearly 8 hours earlier.

Quick check-out at the Marriott, quick 15 minute cab, and we were at the very quiet St Kitts airport….which wasn’t all that quiet because in addition to our Seaborne flight there was a full American 737 to Miami also checking in.  Not a problem, except American also handles the check-in for Seaborne so ended up waiting about 15 minutes to check-in.  Again, no biggie, and the agent was so rushed and flustered that she forgot to charge me for my bag…hooray for small victories.  Then, we got to immigration, which is where the shitshow began.

There was one immigration officer handing a full 737 plus our flight, and the American flight (which left 30 minutes before ours) was already boarding…and there were still 50 American passengers in the immigration line…not to mention security.  I made small talk with the lady in front of me in the queue and she was from New Orleans, and kept going on and on about how American  was paging her over the intercom but she was stuck in line.  I noticed she had the dreaded SSSS on her boarding pass…so I’m sure they were looking to get her extra search out of the way.  Eventually something happened, and a second very annoyed looking immigration officer came to assist….but was doing no more than “give me your passport, I stamp it, you go.”  No checks or anything.  Hooray for border security?

Anyways, everyone made their flight, and we’ll assume lived happily ever after?

The St Kitts Airport is just one big room with 3 or 4 duty free shops and a bunch of chairs, and a small snack stand.  It actually reminded me of the airport in Podgorica, Montenegro…it was designed exactly the same way…even down to the check-in area, security/immigration setup, waiting hall, and “gates.”  Possible they were designed by the same firm?

Soon, it was time to board our ride to San Juan.  There were only 12 passengers, and I was allowed to keep my seat 1A.

Seaborne Airlines flight 4513
Basseterre, St Kitts and Nevis (SKB) to San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU)
Depart 7:50, Arrive 9:00, Flight Time 1:10
Saab 340B, Registration N336SA, Manufactured 1993, Seat 1A

Walking out to the plane:


Fully boarded, we managed to get airborne about 10 minutes before our scheduled departure time.  Unfortunately, despite my carryon bag being quite small, they crew insisted it wouldn’t fit under the seats (I was in the bulkhead) and insisted on gate checking it.  Ugh.  I don’t know why I didn’t think, but I let them do it…with my passports, laptop, and even wallet in the bag.  It was obviously early and I was uncaffeinated, because I didn’t even think to protest.

The view on takeoff from St Kitts:


“Meal” service…there was a snack basket with three or four options, I couldn’t resist the cookies.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Diet Coke in tall cans before….usually only see Red Bull in these:


Had a nice chat with the flight attendant for a bit, and learned a bit more about how Seaborne works.  Both of my Seaborne flights were quite nice, and I hope they manage to grow and fill the gap left by American Eagle in San Juan.  Landed about 15 minutes ahead of schedule, and taxied to a waiting area where several Seaborne planes were parked.

Retrieved my carryon, and headed inside and down a long series of very warm corridors towards immigration.  Bienvenidos a los Estados Unidos!


Now, a word of advice.  As I mentioned…I was tired and not thinking clearly.  Not so much tired, because I’d been getting plenty of sleep, but just caffeine-deprived.  Two things I recommend you do NOT do when entering the US in Puerto Rico.  Even when the Global Entry machine spits out a “ok, you can go” receipt, do not do two things:  1)  juggle your Zero Halliburton briefcase in one hand while fumbling to hand your global entry receipt to the CBP officers and 2)  don’t greet CBP officers with “buenos dias officers!  gracias!”  I got the privilege of playing 10 questions with them for that, while they decided if they were going to pull me into secondary for looking shifty.  Fortunately, I was allowed to go  😉

Unlike the transit from United to Seaborne, the transit from US Immigration to United in San Juan was all indoors, nice and cool, and a relatively short and air conditioned walk.  Check-in was nice and quick, and there was no line at all at TSA pre-check, so I was through security in no time…and very quickly was at Starbucks.  And all was right with the world again.

Had a couple of calls I had to make for work, so used the American Admirals club thanks to my Citi American card, where the internet was nice and speedy, and it was a comfortable place to wait for a couple of hours and get some work done.  Plus, the staff there as always were super friendly.

I was getting starved by this point, having subsisted on Diet Coke, Espresso, and a bag of cookies to this point, so I gave in and went to the Air Margaritaville for lunch.  Well, liquid lunch….but in fairness, I did have a cuban sandwich as well which was significantly tastier than I expected.


The margarita was tasty, but this place was an absolute ripoff.  One margarita and a cuban sandwich set me back nearly $40…I know it’s airport prices…but come on, get real!

Headed over to my gate, where the gate lice were frantically scurrying about, trying to make sure they were first on the plane.  There were also more than 20 wheelchairs on this flight.  Definitely a leisure route, since even the two Silver Elites in front of me were making sure that everyone around them knew they’d been upgraded to first class.  LOL.

As soon as boarded was called headed on with global services and military, and managed to escape the scrum…fortunately…because there was a fierce battle even in first for overhead space.

United  flight 1067
San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU) to Washington, Dulles (IAD)
Depart 12:45, Arrive 16:40, Flight Time 3:55
Boeing 737-800, Registration N14242, Manufactured 1999, Seat 2E

This was one of the more ancient 737s in the Continental…I mean United….no, I mean Continental…as the pilot reminded us to “sit back and enjoy the fine service provided by this Continental Airlines doing business as United crew.”  Ugh…I thought you guys were past those childish post-merger games.

Pre-departure beverages were offered, and I got greeted with “you must not fly much, we haven’t had the margaritas in years!”  Uh, you had them a few months ago, but not going to argue.  Thanks for the insight  😉  I went with water, and waited until lunch to have a glass of wine.

Oh, and the cut-price half cashews weren’t warmed…which I actually prefer:


Then, it was time for lunch…or what passes for a 4 hour domestic lunch these days on United.

Hola!  Mi nombre es Jeff!  Hay muchos camibos ahora a United que creo que te va a gustar!   ….¿Quieres un burrito?

with sombrero

The burrito…aka the “tan” meal…everything was some shade of unappetizing tan…except the wine, and that was added for colour.  Note, once again, too cheap for a bread plate….but the butter gets its own bowl?!  WTF United catering:


Though, I will admit, whatever is in that chipotle-mayo-whatever sauce combo is like crack….I think I ate all of the sauce and maybe half the burrito…and skipped the “freshly baked…just for you” cookie.  Gag.


Landed on time, moon buggy to baggage claim…and then we waited.  And waited.  I think I grew several grey hairs.  Still we waited.  I watched a diabetic passenger go into shock and need emergency glucose.  Dinosaurs roamed baggage claim.  The Leafs won the Stanley Cup…no wait, it wasn’t THAT long   😉  Anyways, finally 77 minutes after landing, our bags started showing up.  Seriously United/Dulles…WTF.

With that, an amazing long weekend was over.  Several weeks of relaxing at home before the next big…and super insane trip.  I’ll give a teaser:

DC ->  Honolulu ->  Paris -> Barcelona -> Andorra -> France/Spain/France/Barcelona/Paris -> Honolulu -> Vegas -> DC.

It’s gonna be crazy.  There will be bachelor parties.  There will be my 159th country visited (also my LAST in Europe).  There will be chocolate croissants…there will be beaches…there will be madness….

Jul 232014

The day started early. Very early. So early it might still have counted as the previous night…I’m not entirely certain. What I am certain of is that I’d had lots of caffeine quite late in the afternoon, and getting up in time to not only make a 6am flight…but in time to check luggage for one, was not likely to be a whole lot of fun. Even though I’m only about 2 miles from the airport, by the time I manage to get an Uber, etc etc, it still takes time…and with the 45 minute baggage cutoff, there was no way I wasn’t leaving at least 90 minutes before the flight…and that meant getting up at least two hours before…yes, 4am. NO THANKS.

I’m still not sure why I didn’t just fly American one-stop via Miami instead of United. It was a paid business ticket anyways, so it’s not like I had any particular reason to give Uncle Jeff my money…oh well, lesson learnt. Oh, and did I mention I had managed to leave myself a 70 minute connection in San Juan? Add that to the fact that upon check-in I learnt United doesn’t have an interline agreement with Seaborne…and I was looking to be screwed. No way I would get my checked bags, find out where Seaborne is located (turns out, in a different terminal) and check my luggage…while still making it to the gate on time…in 70 minutes. Yeah. Not one of my brighter travel decisions.

Despite having access to the 1K/elite/whatever line at DCA, it took me more than 20 minutes to get to an agent.  United was woefully understaffed this morning, and something as simple as checking a bag as a top-tier elite should not take 20 minutes.  Ever.  Fortunately, there was no line at TSA PreCheck, and I made it to the gate just as we were about to board.

United Express, Operated by Skywest, flight 5249
Washington, DC, National (DCA) to Chicago O’Hare (ORD)
Depart 6:00, Arrive 7:00, Flight Time 2:00
Embraer ERJ-175, Registration N113SY, Manufactured 2014, Seat 2A

Skywest just recently started flying this route for United Express, and their E175s are a dream for elites.  Only about 75 seats total, of which 12 are in F, giving them probably the best upgrade chances in the fleet.  I was on a paid business fare today, and until four days before the flight was the only one in the first cabin.  By takeoff, there were three uniformed pilots, and all the other seats were taken as well.  My usual shot of the Pentagon upon takeoff:


I’d made the incredibly risky decision not to have any coffee before the flight in the hopes I might catch a little extra sleep.  Anyone who’s seen my pre-caffeinated in the morning will understand the risks we’re talking here.  Fortunately, shortly after that Pentagon pic, I completely passed out and managed another hour of sleep.

Into gate B20 at Chicago, and my departing flight was from the C gates.  We were a little early, so no huge rush and I decided to stop at Starbucks.  Now, Starbucks rarely gets my name right.  I’ve been Justin, Jasmin, Jensen, Jackson, you name it, but rarely Jason.  Today, they were really butchering names, and I have no idea how they pulled this one off.  If it wasn’t for the “grande in a venti cup extra ice” I would have assumed it was someone else’s:


Happily beginning to caffeinate, made it to the gate with plenty of time to spare:

United flight 1688
Chicago O’Hare (ORD) to San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU)
Depart 8:10, Arrive 13:55, Flight Time 4:45
Boeing 737-900, Registration N69818, Manufactured 2013, Seat 2E

Pre-departure beverage was a Coke Zero with lime…mainly to test if they had limes…which they did!  I’m not sure what I was thinking on the caffeine front (probably the Starbucks hadn’t quite hit yet so I wasn’t thinking) but I was bouncing off the walls by the end of this.


Breakfast choices?  “Scrambled eggs” or the “Giant Plate o Carbs.”  Eggs on planes scare me, so I decided to go with the carbs.  Carbs, carbs, and even more carbs.  I think I’m about to go into a diabetic coma just looking at this pic….and yes, there was more Coke Zero.


There was no way I was getting any more sleep after all that caffeine, so I stayed up and finished off season 2 of House of Cards.  There was a dedication plaque


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