Airports and airplanes
During my three week trip I rode on 9 planes. I feel like a very experienced air traveller now. It wasn't without pain though.
The trip over was a very long flight. I was seated near the back of the plane, only a few rows from the very back. No one was in the seat next to me and I was on an aisle.
For some of the trip I had a young boy sitting next to me, his sister and mother were in the seats next to the empty one. He was kind of annoying so I'm glad he moved back to his proper seat after the dinner meal.
Although it was a long trip I was very pleased with the in-flight entertainment. There was so much choice of movies, television and music to watch or listen to. Too much choice really I didn't know where to start!
I watched three films on trip: period-romance "Becomming Jane", political-comedy "Man of the Year", and school-drama "History Boys". I also watched some of Enough Rope, The Simpsons and both the US and UK versions of The Office.
The lights went down on the plane and I tried to sleep but I didn't doze off for more than half an hour twice. I felt too squashed in to stretch and be comfortable.
The inbound immigration queue at LAX airport was very slow. Because I was at the back of the plane I was at the back of the line too. It felt like it took an hour to get through and I was surprised that once my passport was checked I could take my bag and just leave. No customs checks or anything like that!
When I was leaving LA and heading to Las Vegas I found that interstate trips have a lot of security. After getting my boarding pass (where I showed my ID) I then had to show ID and boarding pass to one security guard to get to the security screening.
Having just shown my boarding pass I put it in my bag and onto the x-ray machine. Unlike here where anyone can go to the gates, in the US you can't go past check-in if you're not getting on the flight. I had to plead my case to the security guard to let me through the detector to get to my bag to get my boarding pass.
I also got used to taking my shoes off for every security check too, something that doesn't happen for our flights. I did start to notice that many Americans wore thongs for travel that they could easily slip off.
My trip from Washington to St Louis was on a very small plane, only three seats across. Standing in the aisle I couldn't stand up straight in the plane without hitting my head on the roof!
Most of the American Airlines flights had no in-flight entertainment. Only one plane, St Louis to San Francisco, had anything and I watched the movie "Because I Said So" and a new (to me) episode of The New Adventures of Old Christine. You had to pay for headphones though if you didn't have any. I'd kept the free ones I'd got on my JetBlue flight from New York to Washington. On JetBlue you got your own TV screen with live satellite feeds of about 30 US TV networks.
My worst flight experience was getting to New York. The flight from Las Vegas sat at the gate, with all of us aboard for about 30 minutes before taking off due to delays. When I got to Chicago my connecting flight was canceled. There were no notices about this so it was very unclear what was going on. I ended up teaming up with a Mexican couple but doing all the phone work to get us on new flights.
I took the last seat on the next plane to New York, but the couple had a longer wait. I got on the plane but it left the gate and sat on the runway for an hour, delayed by a storm coming in. I looked out the window at one stage and saw seven other planes lined up behind us!
Coming home it was nice to see the Qantas plane at San Francisco. It felt like home was just a bit closer. I slept well on this flight, partly because it left at 10pm at night and I was tired from my three hour bike trip in the morning. I watched "Music and Lyrics" but didn't get it all in before we got to Sydney.
I had to get off the plane at Sydney and transfer to another Longreach plane for the shuttle down to Melbourne. The plane was basically empty (most people disembarked at Sydney) and it seemed a really odd way to do it.
Back at Tullamarine the longest delay was getting from picking up my baggage and getting outside. There was a very long snaking queue to get into the customs queue. I was asked a few questions by a guy while in the first line and when I got to the customs queue was just directed right out the door. No Border Security-type moments here!