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United Airlines: SFO-SNA / SNA-SFO (2003) (w/pics)

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  • United Airlines: SFO-SNA / SNA-SFO (2003) (w/pics)

    NOTE: This is a re-post of my original trip report published in 2005. I didn't know how to post photos correctly at the time so the final product was messy. Also, the album containing my original photos was deleted by Webshots. Since this month marked the 10 year anniversary of this trip I decided to fix things up and post again.


    Today I would be flying my favorite route, SFO-SNA. This is the same route; utilizing the same aircraft as my first flight ever, back on May 10, 1993. Today I would be traveling with two of my best friends to southern California for a post high school graduation vacation.

    The Flight Down:

    I started out from home around 7:00am in order to have time to pick up my two friends, Jeff and Dominic while, still leaving enough spare time to arrive at SFO early. We ended up arriving at 7:45am. This was Dominicís first flight ever so; his mom followed us in her car and stopped with our van curbside to see him off. The weather was great today, as most mornings had been foggy lately, typical of summer mornings in the bay area. The sun was shining with a bit of haziness lingering. It was great to be able to fly on a fairly clear morning. All three of us unloaded our luggage from my van. I said goodbye to my Mom and brother and Dominic said goodbye to his mom. We made our way to the Standard United ticketing counters where the lines were fairly long. I looked at the United lines next to us for United First, Mileage Plus 1K, Premier Executive and STAR Alliance Gold members and they were just as busy. As long as the line we entered was, things moved quickly. We made it to the front of the line and quickly received our boarding passes. All of us had to take our checked and tagged luggage over to a screening machine that was oddly placed, right next to the entrance doors where we had entered. I double-checked my luggage for any items that might be damaged by a scan and removed some extra film I had forgotten about by mistake.

    The three of us proceeded to the security screening line, which was very short. I removed my shoes and placed them in one of the x-ray bins. I then loaded the bin as well as my carry on bag onto the conveyer. I passed though the detector with no problem, collecting my shoes and carry on bag quickly. Jeff also passed though the detector quickly. Dominic wasnít so lucky. A TSA agent pulled him off to the side after he set off the alarm. I didnít even hear anything when I watched him pass though so, this was odd. He said he had set it off and that the agents wanted to double-check that he was of no harm.

    After that little incident was over we headed for our gate in Terminal 3, Concourse F. The terminal was busy for the early morning but, it was Unitedís main domestic terminal! Dominic and Jeff had a thirst for some Jamba Juice so we stopped in at the store located in the food court, right before the concourseís main entrance. It was a great store with lots of windows looking out at the tarmac. I didnít bother to get a drink. I stared out one of the large windows at a United 767-300 parked closest to the store. Across from us was International Terminal G where many of Unitedís early morning Asian arrivals were parked. Two United 747-400s and 777-200s were parked on the East side facing the store.

    After Dominic and Jeff had received their drinks, we made our way to Gate 88. Our 757-200 had not yet arrived which was great! Dominic had brought his video camera, which I would now be able to use to film our aircraft pulling up to the gate. After about twenty minutes I spotted a 757-200 trailing behind a 767-300, both taxiing from the maintenance facility. I turned to Dominic and told him that that had to be our aircraft. He handed me the video camera and sure enough the 757 turned off taxiway Bravo 2 and into position with our gate. I filmed the entire event and then took out my camera and snapped some photos.

    After I had taken pictures of our aircraft we had some time to burn, so I took a walk down the concourse and observed a couple of 767-300s and 757-200s as well as a 777-200 bound for HNL. I then looked out across runways 28L and 28R at the United / American maintenance hanger where two United 747-400s were parked with the company of a Kitty Hawk 727-200 and DHL DC-8-70. I took a photo of this scene before I left for our gate again.

    Flight: United Airlines flight 581
    Aircraft: 757-200
    Registration: Unknown
    Date: Monday, June 23, 2003
    Seat: 24F
    Origin: SFO
    Destination: SNA
    Departure Time: 9:10am
    Departure Gate: Terminal 3, Concourse F, Gate 88
    SFO Departure Runway: 1L
    Arrival Time: 10:41am
    SNA Arrival Runway: 19R
    Arrival Gate: Terminal B, Gate 4
    Flight Duration: 1 hour and 31 minutes

    Boarding began at 8:40am. Our flight wasnít all that full so our zone number was called fairly quickly. We made our way through the jetway. Just before stepping aboard I gave the fuselage a pat. The flight attendants greeted us warmly and we found our way to our seats. I was assigned 24D but I had an agreement before hand with the other guys that I would get the window seat so I took 24F. Our gate was at the northeast end of the Concourse, which meant there was no gate to the left of ours. At the Gate to our right was another 757-200.

    The safety video began as we waited at the gate. After about ten minutes we were pushed back from the gate and the engines were powered up. We started our taxiing shortly after on taxiway Alpha. We taxied by Americanís Concourse E at Terminal 3 where I spotted an American Eagle ERJ-135 and MD-80 at the gates closest to us. Next, we passed by Terminal 1, Concourse C where the east side, Northwestís side, was uninhabited. Deltaís side, the western side, had a 737-300 and 767-300 parked at two of itís gates.

    As we continued to taxi, we passed Terminal I, Concourse B. It was also very quiet. The only aircraft parked at the terminal was an ATA 757-300. Finally, we began to turn off taxiway Alpha and onto taxiway Mike, headed for runway 1L. I looked towards International Terminal A where, a Northwest DC-10 was the only aircraft parked on the south side this morning. We taxied from Alpha onto Mike, as there was no line to wait. We lined up on 1L and held for a minute. I made sure to take a picture of Bay Front Park from the aircraftís perspective. I usually take pictures from the park of the planes. Here I was taking a picture from the plane of the park. This was a refreshing moment, allowing me realize the other side of the situation again.

    There was a United 777-200 taxiing on taxiway Foxtrot for runway 28R but we would be gone before it would rumble away. We started our roll and rotated quickly. Dominic got a thrill out of it, being his first takeoff ever. We climbed out over the bay and began our circle out over Brisbane and South San Francisco. The sun was hitting the opposite side of the aircraft and I was glad not to be blinded. The flight attendants came by shortly with drinks and a bag of pretzels. Iím not all that fond of pretzels, I was hoping for peanuts! I hadnít flown United that recently so I wasnít aware of the change. I got over it and ate my pretzels and drank some of the water that I had requested. On the television screen was Unitedís version of NBC, named ďNBC In Flightď. I watched a little but preferred to look out my window at the water of the Pacific Ocean instead. As we traveled closer to the Orange County / Santa Ana area the skies became cloudy and we began to experience turbulence. The monitor at our gate at SFO had displayed the weather as being cloudy at SNA. It was dead on. The bumpiness became consistent enough that the pilot requested all passengers and flight attendants to return to their seats. Soon enough the sun was completely gone and our plane was engulfed in clouds. We began our decent shortly after. This was the bumpiest and cloudiest decent I had ever experienced into SNA! As we continued to descend we emerged from the thick clouds above and I noticed the familiar site of swimming pools. Many of the residents in the Orange Country / Santa Ana areas have pools in their backyards. We continued our bumpy decent over the city of Santa Ana and itís many store lined streets. Finally we crossed over the Interstate 405 freeway and touched down very hard on runway 19R. My friend Jeff was asleep and did that landing wake him up or what! It was the roughest landing I had ever experienced. The pilot came over the loud speaker and apologized for the rough landing and promised he would get it right next time. Everyone laughed and applauded! We were given our welcome to Santa Ana John Wayne and the usual blurb about our over-head bins and what forms of communication were now acceptable. We taxied off 19R and onto taxiway Echo and shortly after from Echo to Alpha. We taxied quickly and soon enough we pulled up to Terminal Bís Gate 4. Just as we were beginning to unbuckle our seatbelts and leave our seats I heard a rumble and I darted back to my window to catch an Aloha 737-700, flight 481 bound for HNL, roaring down 19R. It was very exciting to see Aloha for the first time ever and in such dramatic fashion! I decided to take one photo before leaving my seat for good.

    Our side of the terminal was pretty quiet with the exception of the United A319-100 parked at Gate 2. It seemed to take forever to de-plane but finally we were in the terminal and on our way to the baggage claims down stairs, at the arrival (lower) level. There didnít seem to be many major changes from the last time I had visited. In fact, although I couldnít tell the difference, there didnít seem to be many changes from the first time I had visited on May 10, 1993! The terminal still looked great! One of the aspects I have always loved about SNA is itís great large windows. The windows and skylights provided great lighting and viewing.

    We made our way to the baggage claim. SNAís interiors are architecturally magnificent! If you are not familiar with SNA, the inside of the baggage claim area is crafted to look like New Yorkís Grand Central Station. Also, the curbside overhang is crafted to look like the interior of an aircraftís fuselage. Our baggage arrived after a fairly lengthy wait. The conveyer belt and light rang twice and shut down twice before they finally decided to stop fooling with us and actually send our baggage. As I was waiting for my luggage, I found a United A320-200 trading card on the floor. I had never seen any airliner trading cards before so, this was quite an interesting find. It was a little trampled but not too, too bad. Funny thing is that the picture on the front is of an A319 not an A320.

    I never understand how people donít catch these things! I made sure to read the stats on the back as our return flight would be my first flight on an A320. We all grabbed our luggage and decided to stop by the John Wayne statue to take a couple of pictures before we left. We then made our way to the Super Shuttle pick up at the GTC (Ground Transportation Center) to be driven to our hotel. Our week in Anaheim began.

    The Flight home:

    After a great and memorable week, it was time to head home. Every time I fly I am very excited before hand but today I lacked the energy from our busy week. Even the thought of my first flight on an A320 wasnít enough to fully energize me. The Super Shuttle van arrived at our hotel at 5:05pm to take us to SNA. On the way, we made various stops at other hotels but none of the people showed up so we had the van to ourselves, which was great. This was a vast contrast from our ride from SNA to our hotel when we had arrived. In that case Jeff had shotgun, Dominic had a seat next to the door and I was smashed in the back with a man and his elementary school aged son. Yes, this ride was much better. As we headed towards SNA on the Interstate 405 freeway, an Alaska 737-700 roared over our heads, touching down on 19R shortly after. That woke me up a bit! We arrived at SNA curbside soon after. As soon as our luggage was unloaded and the Super Shuttle was gone, Jeff realized he was missing his cell phone. He knew he must have left it on the van, because he called his mom as we were en route to the airport. He decided to deal with the issue as soon as we arrived home. We then made our way to the United ticket counters and checked in. All procedures went fast and smoothly with no troubles. Next we got into a short security line where we passed though quickly without any problems. SNA is a great alternative to LAX, if you can afford to go a little out of your way. Making it though lines smoothly and quickly is hardly ever a problem. Congestion is definitely minimal. Even peak hours arenít too much of a nightmare to deal with. We headed for our gate, which was Terminal Bís Gate 4, the same one we had arrived at originally. Our A320 hadnít arrived yet which was perfect once again, allowing me to film it pulling up. As I waited I went looking for Deltaís early evening SLC departure, which was an MD-90. At SFO we donít see Delta MD-90s very often so I made sure to research in advance when it would be present. I glanced out the window in front of our gate before I headed down the terminal and there it was, holding on 19R! I dashed over to the window and hurried to take some shots before it began itís role. It continued to hold which allowed me to take a couple of shots.

    I was satisfied even though the mid-evening lighting was against me. I was just glad not to have missed it!

    Flight: United Airlines flight 295
    Aircraft: A320-200
    Registration: N418UA
    Date: Monday, June 27, 2003
    Seat: 16E
    Origin: SNA
    Destination: SFO
    Departure Time: 7:35pm
    Departure Gate: Terminal B, Gate 4
    SNA Departure Runway: 19R
    Arrival Time: 8:52pm
    SFO Arrival Runway: 28L
    Arrival Gate: Terminal 3, Concourse F, Gate 70
    Flight Duration: 1 hour and 31 minutes

    We had arrived early again so it was still awhile before our A320 pulled up to the gate. Once again, I was able to film it all. Boarding began at 7:05pm. This flight looked to be pretty full, as many people in our vicinity prepared themselves to board. Soon enough our zone was called and we made our way down the jetway. Once again I gave the fuselage a good luck pat before stepping aboard an A320 for the first time. The flight attendants greeted us pleasantly but, not with quite the same friendliness as the ones on our flight from SFO. I paid extra attention to the interior of the aircraft as it was also my first flight on an Airbus aircraft of any type. Right away I noticed the different shape of the windows and that the overhead T.V. monitors were fold down, as opposed to the 757-200 we flew on earlier in the week which, had mounted monitors. I had seat 16D but just as before, we arranged in advance who would sit where. I promised Dominic the window seat this time so he took 16F. Jeff allowed me to have 16E. This was the first time I hadnít sat in a window seat! Jeff took the isle in 16D. Before the flight I switched seats with Dominic to take some pictures out the window. At Gate 3 next to us was a Northwest A319-100 being readied for its flight to MSP.

    Two cargo departures taxied by us headed for 19R soon after. The two were a UPS 757-200 flight 913, routing SNA-SDF as well as a Fed Ex A310-300 flight 1258, routing SNA-MEM. This was exciting because I had never seen a UPS 757-200 before and I had never seen a Fed Ex A310-300 so close.

    Very soon after the sighting the flight attendants notified us we were ready for pushback so I switched places with Dominic again. We pushed back on time and the engines were powered up. I immediately noticed after settling into my seat that the A320ís seating was more comfortable than the 757-200, newer seats and a bit more seat pitch allowed. As we began to taxi on taxiway Alpha, the T.V. screens deployed from above as the safety video was soon to be shown. We continued to taxi, passing Americanís gates at the end of Terminal A where a 757-200 and ERJ-135 were parked. The safety video began to show as we turned from taxiway Alpha to taxiway Lima. As we proceeded, the pilot came across the loud speaker and informed us that in order to meet the residential noise abatement requirements and climb quickly, he would have to power the engines to full thrust while holding for takeoff (thanks to c72 for refreshing my memory). We turned onto 19R without having to wait in any line. We began to hold and the engines began to roar! I have always loved departures at SNA for this reason. The engines were at maximum thrust and the pilot let off the break. Did we fly down that runway or what! We rocketed into the air! The ascent as always was abnormally steep. What an awesome takeoff to experience again! Shortly afterwards the flight attendant came around with a bag of pretzels again and drinks. I had a cup of water with my pretzels once more. The safety video had ended as soon as we were in the air, and I decided to check out the United Hemispheres magazine located at the back of the seat in front of me. The sun was beginning to set and the golden light flooded the cabin. I began to read an article about the Montreal Expos and the possibility of moving to San Juan, Puerto Rico. I thought to myself, it only could help the Expos if they were to do so. The sun continued to set and was almost completely gone by the time we started our decent into SFO. We passed over the San Mateo bridge and I looked across the bay to OAKís hangers where all the night-lights were on. Our A320 continued descending, headed for runway 28L while a United 757-200 to the right of us was headed for 28R. A classic SFO dual approach was in the works! We came down much smoother than we had in SNA. We were welcomed to San Francisco and warned to be careful when opening the overhead bins, etc. The sun was just disappearing over the South San Francisco mountains as we taxied off 28R and onto taxiway Kilo.

    From Kilo we turned onto Alpha and headed for our gate, Gate 70. We deplaned and were thanked for flying with United. I took one last shot of our aircraft whose day was still not done as it was being prepared for a much longer flight than ours, headed for BWI.

    This was another great flight with United on a great aircraft in the A320-200. I recommend United for flights from SFO to SNA in which they have always provided great service the six times I have flown to and fro between SFO. To my dismay, mainline service has decreased in favor of CRJ-200s more recently. Either way, United has and always will be my choice on this favorite route of mine!

    I found a great deal of information about SNA in Airliners Volume # 75. Unfortunately it is out of print at the present time, but if you can find a copy I highly recommend it!
    "When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return."

    -Leonardo da Vinci

    My first taste: SFO-SNA, United 757-200 May 10, 1993