Friday, January 26, 2007

AA 967 SFO to MIA

Just when I'm completely fed up with United, I get stuck in an old-school American Airlines coach cabin flying coast-to-coast and realize that United isn't so bad after all.

Thank goodness I have a wonderful wife who enjoys traveling with me (and more importantly she's not as jaded as I am when it comes to air travel).

The thing that kills me the most on the big US carriers is the "letter from the CEO" page in the inflight magazine. What freaking world are these guys living in? It's as if they've never flied on their own airline.

But that's really no surprise given the steep pay cuts the rank-and-file employees get forced upon them while creepy dudes like AA's CEO Gerald Arpey get 7-figure compensation packages. Listen, folks, I'm all for capitalism but come on . . .

Even thought I bitch often about the major airlines in this country, it's hard to blame a rude flight attendant for being in a pissy mood as he watches his salary and pension melt away while douchebags like Arpey make $13 million a year. Just not right. Run a perpetually money-losing company and get a comp package like that? Try that in any other industry.

Even though this flight was on a relatively new B-757 (evident by the winglets) the cabin was the usual American piece-of-crap. Dirty, not much legroom, but at least AA still doles out the complimentary blankets that somebody probably farted on during the flight before yours.

Thank goodness Jet Blue is starting service from SFO this spring.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

UA 1157 SEA to SFO

My research now concluded, I can confidently report based on observation (as well as the resigned shoulder shrugging of my colleagues in Seattle) it is indeed grey there the entire winter. Nevertheless, people have found ways to add color to the otherwise muted landscape.

The trip home was ho-hum smooth sailing. Had dinner at Anthony's at Sea-Tac, within the massive central shopping-mall-atrium-wall-audiologists-nightmare that is the Seattle Tacoma Airport's main terminal dining and shopping zone. This restaurant used to offer one of the best airport meals in the country (if you like fresh seafood), but it looks like they're slipping off a bit. You can sit at a counter that's practically in the open kitchen, which usually puts you face-to-face with the guy making the salads or frying chips. That's where I sit, and the guys didn't have their usual smart-ass spunk and hustle this time -- maybe that's why the food wasn't so good. Even the waitress was scowly.

The flight was a by-the-numbers short haul United late evening flight, with the flight attendants making it clear they just didn't care (was the end of a long day for everyone). The only thing that raised the hairs on my arms was a few times the pilot repeated the ATC instructions back wrong -- including the RUNWAY we were supposed to land on as we were on final approach into SFO. This airport has parallel runwys, and landings are always on 26 Left and 26 Right. Normally there are airplanes landing on both runways simultaneously, so if the pilot gets them mixed up, well . . .

You don't hear stuff like that too often on United's inflight audio channel 9, but it does happen. Luckily the ATC corrected the pilot and we landed safely.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


All it takes is a couple of years living on the west coast, and the whole tolerance to cold thing goes out the window. I grew up in The Bronx, along with the attendant rough NY weather. I never really minded the hot summers, but man, the cold and the snow . . .

It snowed here yesterday morning, before I arrived, and all indications point to the entire city having grinded to a halt. My company's office here is beautifully situated on a river, and some of my colleagues kayak to work. Seems like a great way to commute, unless you capsize. Try explaining that one to your boss.

The rumors about Seattle are true, it is indeed in a nearly constant state of overcast skies. This morning it seemed like the sun didn't come up until 10am. But this is more than cancelled out by the people -- some of the coolest, friendliest, laid-back people you'll meet in this country.

And the seafood . . . it took me around 2 hours to tear apart and eat a local Dungeness Crab last night at a nondescript place in the Public Market. I was kinda bummed that my favorite restaurant here, Matt's In The Market, is closed for renovations, but there's no lack of great food in this town.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

UA 308 SFO to SEA

Well, it was just one of those long days. A presentation in the morning in SF, cut short by other presenters going long. All good, regardless.

Quick taxi ride via Luxor Taxi to SFO. The United terminal was unbelievably deserted for 5pm on a weekday, got through security in 5 minutes. Even "Team SFO", arguably the best TSA security team in the USA, seemed indifferent.

Thanks to my Premiere Exec status with United I got upgraded to First. Double meaning there -- First Class and first row on the plane. This is not always as great as it seems.

I often pity those that pay for these domestic first class seats. This would've probably cost $2,000 to buy outright, and for goodness sakes it has less legroom than coach.

The flight attendant that took care of the massive 2 rows in First on this 737 was a "senior" menber of the United crew, but she was very attentive, even serving pre-flight cocktails old-school style (United normally doesn't do that anymore, even when I'm flying on a $6,000 biz class ticket so it was a nice surprise). No food, even on a dinner-time flight, so that was a dissapointment.

The Sea-Tac arrival was pretty smooth, despite the snowstorm, although whenever you arrive at an airport with this going on you gotta wonder:

I wound up sitting next to one of my colleagues on the flight, who as it turned out saw my presentation this morning, so we had alot to talk about. My usual driver from Sea-Tac to downtown was unavailabe. so we shared a cab to the Alexis Hotel, where we're both staying.

Top tip if you stay at the Alexis, or any of the Kimpton hotels -- if you belong to their frequent stay program (free to join) they usually upgrade you. I opened the door to my room and this is what I saw...

This was a very good sign (it is always a good sign when you open your hotel room door and can't see the whole thing right away, usually this means you've got a pretty big suite on your hands). Full suite, full kichen, balcony with downtown views. If you at least belong to the frequent stay program you get treated better -- that's the way it works.

The Alexis kicks butt in these ways, despite the fact that I've got this right across the street...

Aah . . . beautiful downtown Seatle. All the guns and porno you can eat. What more can a blue-blooded American ask for?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Dreading The 1 Day Tokyo Tango

For reasons I don't want to get into, I'm doing a fly-in fly-out meeting in Tokyo in the near future . . . in COACH. Not a pretty picture - outta SFO on Sunday morning, arrive NRT Monday night, work Tuesday, come home Wednesday.

In these situations there's no question, you fly with an Asian carrier if the ticket's in the same ballpark as the US carriers (in my case, the coach ticket on ANA - on actual ANA aircraft - was a few hundred less than the ticket on the United/ANA codeshare which is on United aircraft with the attendant uneven crew attitude & service level, not to mention the $5 for drinks which are free and of much better quality/selection on ANA).

Check out the ANA coach seat and you'll see what I mean. Don't be fooled by that photo of the lady in the seat, though, she's of normal Asian proportions. Put my 6 foot 3 inch butt in that seat and that equals me pacing up and down the aisle every hour or so. Apologies in advance to anyone sitting near me on that flight. Just offer me a sake and say Kampai!

I'll be in Seattle the next few days, so as always I'm looking for restaurant recommendations (especially seafood places) so please send me a comment if you know of anything I should check out.

On The Road Again

Welcome to BizFlyer, my second foray into the blogosphere.

You can read my professional blog Bob Donlon's Digital Video Blog if you have any interest in video production. If not, never mind. This blog has nothing to do with that.

As part of my job with Adobe Systems, I travel the globe far and wide (flew around 200,000 miles in 2006), something I've been doing with regularity for over 8 years. I hold elite frequent flier status with both Star Alliance and One World, as well as elite guest status with Hilton, Fairmont, and Starwood.

Basically, I spend about half of my life on the road. I live in San Francisco but manage to set foot on every continent in the course of a given year. I was blogging about my business travel quite a bit on my Adobe blog, but as its readership grew (to my own surprise) I felt it was better to stay focused on video related stuff. That's why I started this blog. You should read it if:

1) You're a business traveler and want unbiased opinions from a fellow road warrior, or

2) You like travel in general, or
3) You have interest in seeing what strange places I happen to be in.

I hope you find it informative and entertaining. This year is already looking to be busy as I'll be in Seattle starting tomorrow, then Miami for a bit, then a quickie to Tokyo (there for 1 day then back to SF).