Happy New Year and welcome to the 2nd sector in this short series of flights,
For the better part of a decade since I've been on the airline status hamster wheel, the month of December has often meant a last minute mileage run to maintain status or reach a new level. At the end of 2018 I was a little under 10,000 status miles short so, like many previous years, I decided to take a quick day trip to the west coast. The routing this year was not particularly sexy and didn't involve any interesting or new aircraft types–the routing was purely determined on price and destination. I decided I would fly to San Diego, where my spouse was on a business trip, and we would fly home to DC together.
Domestic First class tickets yield at least 2 EQMs (Elite Qualifying Miles) per mile flown, so a transcontinental itinerary with over 5,000 flown miles would yield enough EQMs to reach the 10,000 I was missing.
The routing was DCA-LAX-SAN-PHX-DCA of which the first 3 segments will have reviews…after that, redeye-zombie-mode hit.
Having been burned with misconnecting on mileage runs in the past, I made sure to build in a good amount of time between flights on this trip. With the 20 minute early arrival from DCA, I had over 4 hours between flights. I was originally planning to head to In-N-Out to do a little planespotting before going lounge-hopping, but the weather was on the gloomy side that day, which is rare for LA, so I saved myself the long walk.
I did have to make a quick trip to one of the car rental places to pick something up from lost and found, so the early arrival gave me some extra time to do that. I took an Uber back from the car rental and got dropped off at Terminal 1. I wanted to go to Terminal 6, but it wasn't worth sitting in traffic for 10 minutes between terminals when I could just walk across the way from T1 to T6.
So I saved the Uber driver the pain and time crawling along past T1-T5 so he could bail out of the long backup.
On the way to Terminal 6 I walked past the iconic Jetsons-esque LAX Theme Building.
The plan was to do a little lounge-hopping, starting with the Alaska Airlines lounge in Terminal 6. Alas, it was not to be! As I arrived at the entrance to the lounge, there was a huge sign in front of the elevator door indicating that Priority Pass customers were not being accepted at this time due to capacity constraints. Doh! I like Priority Pass, but this happens way too often!
I then decided to make the long walk out to TBIT (Tom Bradley Int'l Terminal), where the next closest Priority Pass options were located. The walk isn't that bad with underground walkways from Terminal 6, through Terminal 5, to Terminal 4. At T4, the path to TBIT leads back upstairs to the concourse level.
There are some nice views to be had on the walk along the T4 -> TBIT connector. Though it's not as good of an #AvGeek fun time as In-N-Out, of course.
American Dreamliners parked at T4
Hong Kong Airlines A350 across the way at TBIT
A nice lineup of Asian 77Ws at TBIT
The connector leads to the main central hall in TBIT, which is always a pleasant light-filled space. As you can see TBIT was decorated for the Holidays.
By the time I got to TBIT, it was about 20 minutes before the Korean lounge would open up to Priority Pass holders. I'd originally planned on checking out the P.F. Chang's, as recommended by Socalnow, but after the Alaska Lounge experience, I wanted to get to the KAL lounge as it opened to avoid being denied entry for overcrowding again.
So I walked about the terminal for a few minutes and checked out the activity.
Spotted this beautiful Delta A350 on the other side of the terminal, but I couldn't get a better shot, unfortunately.
I started slowly making my way towards the KAL lounge, which is located on the mezzanine level, at about 11:50 AM knowing that the lounge opened up to Priority Pass customers at noon.
I arrived outside the lounge at 11:58 AM.
There were two other Priority Pass members in line in front of me. Wouldn't you know that they were turned away because it wasn't 12:00 PM on the dot yet! Wow, talk about strict!
When they say the lounge opens at 12:00, they're not kidding!
So my fellow Priority Pass holders and I waited the remaining 90 seconds until noon just outside the entrance.
Nice view of the concourse from outside the KAL Lounge, no tarmac views though.
Once we had waited until exactly 12:00, we were allowed in. The front desk staff were actually very friendly–just sticklers about that noon rule!
I was expecting the lounge to be packed, but nope…we were the only ones there.
I assume that the lounge offering changes after the 11AM departure of KE18 to a more basic spread for the Priority Pass hours–this would probably explain why the staff are so strict about entrance before noon. It is pretty common for lounges in the U.S. to offer reduced catering during periods where there would be mainly Priority Pass holders (e.g. British Airways Galleries Lounge during morning hours at my home airport IAD).
The KAL Lounge isn't huge, but it's reasonably spacious, and the fact that it was mostly empty was certainly pleasant.
Be warned that the USB ports and power outlets built into the tables between these seats don't work for some reason–at least the 3 or 4 that I tried.
So I found myself a seat near the patio section where there were working USB ports and power outlets.
For a U.S. lounge, the food offering was decent.
There were fruit and crudités, as well as some simple sushi rolls and a variety of finger sandwiches.
There were some hot options as well–which appeared to have been the leftover breakfast fare from the earlier Korean Air flight.
First I had myself a little brunch…
…and then tried some sandwiches and sushi rolls.
I should also mention that there was a decent adult beverage selection. Liquors are behind the bar and are served by a bar tender, but there are some wines and beer available for self-service. The red wine was a decent Bordeaux, which was above expectation for a lounge in the U.S.
I was not expecting much from the KAL Lounge, but it was an above-average experience overall.
Most passengers in the time I was there were Priority Pass with a few Air France passengers sprinkled in. By the time I left around 1:30 PM, it was still uncrowded with only about 20 people in the lounge. I imagine it fills up later as the Transatlantic bank approaches.
I took the connector back from TBIT to T4, which is a quick walk.
I had to hustle a bit to get back to T4 and catch the shuttle bus to the regional Terminal, which is a good 5 minute ride. If connecting between a regional aircraft and mainline AA at LAX, make sure to allow some extra time.
Luckily the shuttle departed as soon as I got there and I arrived at the regional terminal just before boarding began.
Boarding was a mad stampede as always. Though I was towards the back of the gate area, having arrived late, and didn't really make any effort to fight my way through the crowd to board quickly, I somehow ended up being the 3rd in line to board.
The First class cabins on American Eagle E-175s are in a 1-2 configuration over 4 rows, compared to 2-2 in Economy.
When travelling alone, the solo seats on the A side are best, if available.
My solo seat, 4A
Legroom is typical for domestic First with a 38" seat pitch.
View outside the window of RJs lined up at the Regional Terminal
The friendly FA serving F offered drinks shortly after everyone was settled in. Once again full bar was offered, so I had a refreshing Gin & Tonic ? to cool off after my mad dash from TBIT
Though the First cabin was full (of course), Economy was only about 2/3 full so boarding was completed early.
With boarding completed early, the door was closed and we pushed back from the gate early.
The winglet waves Goodbye for now to LAX ?
This is one of those flights where you spend more time on the ground than in the air, but taxi time was relatively short given the regional terminal's proximity to the runways vs T4.
Taxiing past a United 787
And a beautiful Fiji Airways A330
Once we reached the departure runway there was no wait for takeoff.
We took off over towards the Pacific Ocean with a lovely view of El Segundo's refineries and water treatment plant ^^
Logically, we followed the Southern California coastline on out short 25 minute flight to San Diego.
Torrance and the Palos Verdes peninsula
On the south side of the peninsula we reach the Port of Long Beach
Just a few minutes after takeoff, the flight attendant was already in the cabin offering the snack basket and taking drink orders.
She actually knelt down to speak to passengers face-to-face, something I'd only seen on Asian carriers before. Impressive.
The scenery becomes much less densely urban as we fly along the coast of Orange County, the homeland of the great Socalnow
The FA was super efficient and very friendly. She was back in minutes with my Gin & Tonic
The Southern California sun breaking through the clouds made for some cool lighting effects
Between Carlsbad and Encinitas we began to make a slight left turn inland
Then we began to make a right turn over the eastern suburbs near El Cajon to line up for RWY 27 and land from the southeast, which means I picked the good side of the aircraft for views of downtown!
Looking towards the Naval base and Coronado
Approaching downtown San Diego with the Naval Air Station in the distance
Landing at SAN is so impressive being so close to the city center
I'm sure there's some good planespotting from the top of those tall buildings ✈ #AvGeek
Crossing over I-5
After a quick 26 minute flight, we landed at 2:39 PM
We pulled in to the gate after a very short 2 minute taxi, 3 minutes ahead of schedule.
SAN is a really convenient and pleasant, smaller airport; I was curbside in minutes and ready to head downtown.
Thanks for reading!
Korean Air Lounge
Los Angeles - LAX
San Diego - SAN
After a generally disappointing transcon flight from DC with no IFE and broken WiFi, this super short hop down to San Diego was a very pleasant little flight in comparison. The cabin crew were super friendly and efficient, especially the lead FA in F who worked really hard to offer good and attentive service on such a short flight. On these very short flights, PDBs are an essential part of the service in First, so I'm glad to see LAA and Eagle carriers have gotten more consistent about doing a full-bar PDB service like their LUS counterparts.
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