Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Lucky International to Domestic Transfer at SFO

It feels good to be back home in Birch Bay at 4:00 p.m. Thursday, even after a quick stop for groceries along the way. Since we didn't fly out of NRT (Tokyo) until 5:20 p.m. Thursday, we can tell our grandkids that we arrived home before we left. Actually, it's about 9:00 a.m. Friday in Tokyo as we write this, but it was generally an efficient and pleasant trip.

Our seating (15A-B) on the upper deck of the UA 747 and excellent service combined to make NRT-SFO an enjoyable flight, other than Kathy's inability to get to sleep. For once she's not blaming Brian's snoring. Whew...

We land 20 minutes late at SFO and are climbing down the stairs to exit the plane at about 9:45 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, turning a tight transfer into a doubtful transfer, as our flight to Seattle is due to depart at 10:40 a.m. from Gate 90, one of the most distant domestic gates. Yes, we'll need some luck to get past the official hurdles of Immigration, Customs, and TSA.

The Immigration line stretches back a little once we get to it. Fortunately, several more lanes eventually open and we scoot over to one. With all of our luggage rolling along next to us, we then clear Customs after a minimal wait.

By now it's about 10:10 a.m. and we reach a TSA checkpoint to re-enter the domestic terminal, necessary after an international arrival. Oops! The serving plate we bought in Tokyo creates a problem. Is it made of lead? The employees claim they can't see past it and go through Kathy's rollaboard (that's about the fourth time this trip for her!) while Brian strides off toward Gate 90 to let UA know we plan to be aboard, especially after getting a text message that we've been "protected" on the next flight leaving somewhat after 1:00 p.m.

Hurray, the gate's been moved to 73A, only a couple of gates past that TSA checkpoint. Brian announces himself to the UA gate agent at 10:20 a.m. She seems genuinely pleased we've made it. She'd taken the initiative to protect us on the later flight but hasn't offloaded us from this one (nor should she have). Brian flags Kathy who's just about to roar by 73A on her way to check another screen after hastily repacking the rollaboard, and we board the plane, even finding convenient spots for our bags in the overhead bin.

It was another great crew (Seattle-based UA crews have a great reputation) but Brian snoozes a bit on the 678-mile ride while Kathy remains awake despite her best efforts.

We pick up our car from the DoubleTree, head up I-5 in time to beat the rush hour and enjoy a fairly leisurely ride in decent weather, a pleasant surprise after hearing about the foul weather in these parts. The house looks fine, our mail carrier managed to stuff 10 days of mail into our mailbox, saving us a trip to the Blaine post office, and now we're ready to relax.

Unpacking will occur in due course, but not now, other than our electric toothbrushes and that Japanese plate, which we happily confirmed was unbroken, thank goodness.

Will we schedule that type of connection again? Absolutely. Once or twice we've booked a later flight, managed to show up at the gate in a similar situation and board the earlier flight as standbys. United will protect us if possible in the case of a misconnect and it was a good day to push out luck for that transfer and arrive home "before we left."


Anonymous said...

Nice blog - good trip report.
Rob - pdx

Kathy and Brian said...

We love it when FlyerTalkers drop by. Thanks for the kind comments.