After parking my car at the Irvine Marriott, I took the shuttle from the hotel to John Wayne Airport and was dropped off first at Terminal B, which is where United Airlines is located. I tipped the Marriott Shuttle driver and headed into the check-in area where I went up to one of the many self check-in kiosks and processed my single checked luggage. I had already checked-in when the mobile check-in window opened yesterday, but I still needed to go through the process in order get my bag checked. At first, I had some issues because every time I tried to scan the mobile boarding pass inside of the United App, the kiosk kept triggering Apple Pay. I tried again but this time with the boarding pass in my Apple Wallet. The Apple Wallet version of my boarding pass scanned without triggering Apple Pay, and after answering couple of questions, the self tagging luggage tag printed from the kiosk’s printer.
After tagging my bag with the luggage tag, I went over to the luggage drop off counter where my ID was checked and then told what gate my flight was departing from. I thanked the guy that I handed my bag over to and immediately headed over to security. There were three lines at security and all of them were open. One line was for Premier Access, the middle one of general public and the furthest one was for TSAPre passengers. Since I’m a Global Entry member, I have a known traveler number which United Airlines has on file and prints TSAPre on my boarding passes. There was no one in the TSAPre line and I walked right up the TSA Agent who checked my boarding pass and ID. The TSA Agent was in a good mood and even smiled back at me when I thanked him before proceeding to the main screening area. I put my backpack and other stuff onto the X-Ray belt and then proceeded through the metal detector. Everything was good so I grabbed my stuff once they came out on the other side and headed directly to the United Club.
I turned left instead of right after passing through security so I ended up walking down to Terminal C before I realized that the United Club would not be in the Southwest Airlines Terminal and I turned back and walked back the same way I came from. Just in front of security was a gentleman helping passengers with questions so I asked him where the United Club was. With the information in hand I headed over to the elevator for the United Club located across from Gate 9. Once I arrived upstairs, I placed my mobile boarding pass on the reader and waited for the United Club Agent to let me in. For some reason, the computer system at many United Clubs are slow at bringing up ones membership status. I had to scan my mobile boarding pass twice before the agent’s computer finally showed that my United Club Membership was valid and I could proceed into the Club.
The Orange County John Wayne Airport United Club is small. It is about two and a half times of size of a decent sized living room in many homes. Even with the small size, this United Club has a full bar and all of the same food that one would find at a bigger United Club. The Club never got overcrowded during my visit and I believe the highest number of total people I saw was about 10 passengers. The bathroom for the United Club is located just before entering the club right after you exit the elevator. I made myself a plate and ordered a glass of white wine from the bar before finding myself a table to sit at and enjoy enjoy the food and wine.
The United Club was kept clean by the staff and plates and glasses were promptly removed when finished. The food buffet was constantly restocked before anything ran out. I saw that the bartender at this United Club was doing double duty both bussing tables plus pouring and mixing drinks. The walls of the United Club is glass with open top into the high ceiling terminal. While sitting in the United Club I had unobstructed view of everything going on at Gate 9 down below.
Since I still had a lot of time before my flight, I left the United Club to explore the terminals. It has been a long time since I’ve flown out of John Wayne Airport so I wanted to see all of the changes since the last time I came through this airport. I walked all the way from the end of Terminal A to the end of Terminal C stopping along the way to take pictures of aircraft parked at the gate or waiting in the taxiway. Terminal C did not exist the last time I was here and was added in 2011. There are also two gates that can be secured for international flights and funnel arriving passengers to Customs and Immigration on arrival. John Wayne Airport does not have “International” in its name, but after the opening of Terminal C, CBP facilities were added and flights to Mexico are operated from Orange County as of 2012. There have been on again off again service to Canada from John Wayne Airport and as of this writing, Westjet has one flight a day to Vancouver British Columbia.
I was still feeling hungry after having a skimpy breakfast this morning, so I headed to the foodcourt to see what options were available. After browsing the menus of couple of restaurants, I decided on PieWei. The Kung Pao dish with brown rice was not that great and after picking at it for a bit I threw it away. With about an hour and half still before my aircraft was supposed to arrive, I headed back up to the United Club to kick back for a bit. Once upstairs inside the United Club, I saw that the charcuterie platter was out on the buffet. This wasn’t out on the buffet earlier and had I known that it would be available, I would have skipped PeiWei. I made myself a plate of cheese and cold cuts before going back to the same table that I sat in during the visit earlier in the day.
As I was starting to doze off a bit, I received notification from my United App that my plane had landed. I gathered up my belongings and headed downstairs to Gate 10. I found myself a space at the window and snapped many pictures of the aircraft that would operate my flight to San Francisco as it taxied into Gate 10.
Once the aircraft finished de boarding, passengers for San Francisco were starting to get into line in their boarding groups, so I went ahead and got in Group 2 line as well. I was the first person in line in Group 2. After a short wait in the boarding group line, pre boarding was called followed by Group 1. Next, Group 2 was called to board. In the jet bridge, there was no traffic jam and I walked right onto the plane and to my seat. I was the first person at row 22 and I put my backpack up in the overhead bin before taking a seat. Since I would have to get up when the other two passengers in my row arrived, I sat in my seat without getting too comfortable or buckling up my seatbelt. My seat mates finally arrived towards middle of the boarding process and I settled in and buckled up for departure.
The coach cabin was being worked by three male flight attendants on todays flight with one female flight attendant working the forward first class cabin. Since our aircraft had individual video screens for DirecTV, the video version of the safety video was played before departure. Fight UA295 departed from the gate 7 minutes early and we were estimated to arrive 24 minutes early into San Francisco. Since I was in the aisle seat and could not see outside, I just put in my earbuds and listened to music on my new iPhone X during the short taxi to the runway and takeoff.
Takeoff from Orange County John Wayne Airport is supposed to be different due to noise restrictions over Newport Beach but I did not feel that the takeoff nor the initial flight over Newport Beach was any different than flying out of LAX. Maybe with the newer and much quieter planes than the ones that used to fly into John Wayne Airport in the past, things have changed. I connected to the United WiFi system to try and access the moving route map, but none of the features such as BYOD entertainment worked on this flight. This may have been deliberate to try and force passengers to pay for the DirecTV system which the lady in the middle seat did purchase and watched CNN all the way to San Francisco.
As soon as the chime to release the flight attendants went off in the cabin, announcements regarding service aboard todays flight was made, followed shortly by one of the male flight attendant distributing pretzels to passengers in coach. Following the pretzels, the drink cart came through the cabin and I ordered myself a ginger ale to go with the bag of pretzels. Service by the three male flight attendant were efficient and standard. Nothing to special or memorable nor can one expect anything more on a 1 hour long flight in coach. The guy sitting at the window seat in my row kept asking the flight attendant if they had any spoons or forks onboard. After being asked in three different variations of the same question, the flight attendant finally told him in a polite but firm way that there was no plasticware of any kind on the plane.
Shortly after the drink service was completed, an announcement was made from the cockpit that we would be starting our decent into San Francisco and then the fasten seat belt sign turned on. As soon as the fasten seat belt sign went on, about 10 people in the cabin decided that they needed to get up and go use the bathroom. Flight attendants came through the cabin to collect trash and prepare the cabin for landing and then they finally returned to their own jump seats for landing.
Since I was in the aisle seat, I could only get glimpses of the outside. Between getting on the plane and exiting the plane, I pretty much had no idea what was going on outside of the plane. Only the bumps and jolts of touchdown on the runway or the variations of the noise from the engine were the only indicators of where about in the flight stage we were in. The taxiing to the gate was quick after landing, and de boarding of the plane followed quickly after reaching Gate 65. Once out in the concourse, I walked immediately to the nearest United Club to use the facilities before heading down to baggage claim.
By the time I arrived at carousel 6 at the lower level baggage claim hall, my bag was already on the belt. I collected my bag and followed the signs in the terminal for BART. I’ve been to San Francisco many times before, but I’ve never been on the BART train so I decided to take this opportunity to try out the BART system from SFO to Embarcadero Station.