Huge Changes All Around!

Wow – so many changes this week… busy busy!

  • Alaska Airlines released their plan for Virgin America on their blog, and while a lot of changes are promising, Virgin’s amazing First Class hard product will be missed.
  • There was confirmation that you can use your Alaska Airlines companion certificate on Virgin America routes, which is a surprisingly smooth integration of systems (not going to lie… I was not expecting it to go that well between their IT departments!). I have this card and I’m looking forward to taking advantage of it!
  • Massive LAX changes with Delta moving from T5 and T6 to T2 and T3, displacing pretty much everyone else. I usually avoid LAX simply because I spend more time on the tarmac than in the SkyClub, but this could make things interesting.
  • The Centurion Lounge in SEA-TAC was undergoing expansion earlier this year, and it has finally completed! I’ve been known to fly through there from time to time and I am very excited to go back.
  • One of the biggest changes to Delta was announced by René – you can now be upgraded even after boarding. It’s only a pilot program right now, but I truly hope it will be adopted system-wide.

Battle for #SEA: @Delta vs @AlaskaAir

Though once codeshare partners, Delta and Alaska have been getting progressively aggressive in their battle for territory. Seattle is one of Alaska Air’s biggest cities, and and serves as a great routing city for Delta to cities in Asia. Since 2014, however, there has been a widening rift between the two.

There are currently two promotions available to flyers in Seattle, though one is available only to those not currently belonging to the SkyMiles program. You need to be living in Washington state to take advantage of these, though.

The first offers a starting 5,000 miles just for joining, and then doubles your earnings for the duration of the program (November 30th). If you complete two round-trip flights in that time, you get Gold Medallion Status through January 2017.

Hello, new members!
Hello, new members!

Meanwhile, 12status is a program that rewards fans of the Seattle Seahawks that are also SkyMiles members. You can see all that this entails at their website, but suffice it to say, it is quite compelling! Just be sure to do the first promotion first, as it offers quite a nice starting bonus (and double miles through the end of November).

Earning rates
Earning rates
Perks!
Perks!
One last perk...
One last perk…

Meanwhile, Alaska responded with a fantasy football driven miles program. Each passing yard added to Russel Wilson’s stats for the season equates to 100 miles to “the pot”. At the end of the season, three individuals will be selected at random to split it. The nice thing here is that you don’t have to be a resident of Washington state to participate!

While it’s unlikely that Alaska will be kicked out of their home airport (especially now that they are acquiring Virgin America to solidify their West-coast presence), competition is always good from a consumer’s standpoint! Who are you rooting for?

Sacramento Flight and LAX Plane Spotting

To maintain my status with Delta, I like to plan creative routes when traveling. For my trip to Sacramento this week, I opted to fly from Raleigh to Atlanta, Atlanta to Los Angeles, and Los Angeles to Sacramento (instead of to Salt Lake, and from there directly, for example… or directly from Atlanta… or many other options).

737-900 First Class

My first flight of the day was on one of Delta’s 737-900s. Though the seats are quite comfortable, and the in-flight entertainment console is crisp, the air-flow in the cabin is horrendous. Older 757s and even 717s have much more directed air pressure, allowing you to remain cooler. Extremely important when you’re in the South!

First Class on a 737-900
First Class on a 737-900
737-900 In-Flight Entertainment
737-900 In-Flight Entertainment
Outlets, outlets everywhere!
Outlets, outlets everywhere!

757-200 Thrust Reversal

My second flight, the longest leg, was on a 757-200. Unfortunately I didn’t get upgraded on this leg (I didn’t really expect to, since I was flying out of Atlanta). The nice thing about this was my seat was immediately in front of the engine. This allowed me to capture the thrust-reversal upon landing in LAX!

All 757-200s use one of two engines (one of which has two variants):

According to the Delta Museum, and using FlightRadar24 to cross-check the tail-number based on flight number, I confirmed that my 757-200 was using the PW2037.

Now for some background on thrust reversal! The purpose of thrust reversal is to take some of the engine’s thrust and direct it forward instead of backwards. This allows for shorter landing distances, less wear on brakes, and make for an all around safer flying experience. If you listen after landing, you will hear a loud woosh – that is the thrust reversal process. The Wikipedia article above identifies three types of thrust reversal mechanisms available for jet engines:

  • Target
  • Clam-shell
  • Cold Stream

Purdue released a very helpful visual guide to differentiate between the three, as well as an explanation of where the thrust actually goes! Since the PW2000 series is a high by-pass engine, the cold stream type is what we would expect, and as you can see it is indeed what is happening:

757-200-Engine1
At the gate in ATL
757-200-Engine2
Thrust Reversal!

Arizona Meteor Crater

And now, a brief reprieve from AvGeekery. 😉 Very brief.

En route to Los Angeles, we crossed just south of the Barringer Crater! You can see it up and to the left of the engine intake, below.

Barringer Meteor Crater
Barringer Meteor Crater

Plane Spotting!

Upon Arrival at LAX, I made my way to the SkyClub in the middle of Terminal 5. From one of the seats along the window, I was able to see planes arrive and depart. Given LAX’s traffic, I got to see quite a few wide-bodies, as well as one of Alaska’s 737-900ERs! Lucky, on his blog “One Mile at a Time”, has a very nice guide on differentiating between different variants of wide-body aircraft. Simply put, it largely comes down to the number of wheels, engines, or doors they have. 😉

I tried to find the right version of their seat map on SeatGuru, and have provided links to those, as well. If you find something amiss, please let me know!

AlaskaAir-737-900ER
Boeing 737-900ER
AirTahitiNui-A340-300
Airbus A340-300
Alitalia-777-200ER
Boeing 777-200ER
American-777-300ER
Boeing 777-300ER
Qatar-777-200LR
Boeing 777-200LR
Lufthansa-A380
Airbus A380

After an hour and a half, because the inbound flight was a little late in arriving, I was on my way to Sacramento. It’s not a true visit to LAX without catching a glimpse of the Theme Building!

LAX Theme Building