Trip report: SAN-SFO-ZRH-DUS on United and Swiss

May 28th 2017, 03:04 | Written by Konstantin Koll

This trip report is about my SAN-SFO-ZRH-DUS flight on March 6th and March 7th, 2017. I only now find the time to write this blog post.

After visiting Silicon Valley, planespotting at LAX and a few days of vacation in San Diego, it was time to head home. I always take redeye flights from the West Coast, they let me arrive home late in the evening and eliminate any jet lag the next day. I usually opt for LH 439 or LX 39, both from SFO.

SAN-SFO

The first flight of the day was SAN-SFO on United Airlines. I had to leave my hotel at noon and took an Uber ride to San Diego's Lindbergh Field, America's busiest single-runway airport. I had a little bit of a hassle with United's self-checkin kiosik (apparently there are versions that cannot handle multi-carrier international itineraries), but eventually managed to get my boarding passes and drop my bag. After proceeding through security, I ventured airside for some planespotting and went to the gate area where my flight would depart. Lindbergh Field has a really nice selection of stores and food outlets to while away the time!

March 6th, 2017 was a very busy Monday, and the Boeing 737-800 flying my SAN-SFO leg was full to the last seat. We left SAN on time and climbed out onto the Pacific Ocean. This time, I was seated on the right side of the aircraft and had a gorgeous view over Los Angeles and California on the flight to San Francisco. Inflight service was a round of drinks, a bag of trail mix and a chocolate bar. The flight was very pleasant, and about an hour and a half later I arrived back at the Bay Area. A look out of the window confirmed that SFO is still United's turf!

SFO-ZRH

My second flight, SFO-ZRH, was scheduled to depart around 8pm, allowing a bit more than one hour to make my way to SFO's international terminal. I was pleasantly surprised I didn't have to pass yet another TSA checkpoint, so I had an easy walk airside with my hand luggage and lots of time to do some more planespotting. I could easily spot my ride back to Europe, as the bright red tail fin of the Swiss Airbus A340 stood out from the rest of the bunch.

Boarding started on time, and I was greeted by a very professional crew. I was amazed and excited that at least the economy section of the plane was only half-booked: I had two seats (labelled J and K at Swiss) all for myself! This time, I was again lucky to be seated at the right side of the plane: takeoff was out to the Pacific Ocean, and a sharp turn to the right spoiled me with an awesome view of the “City by the Bay” at night—a view to remember for a lifetime!

Soon after, cabin service commenced with a round of drinks and a bag of pretzels. I wasn't in the mood for meat that night, so my choice of entree was the vegetarian pasta with tomato sauce and cheese—very delicious! I was also very lucky with the inflight entertainment, as there were two flicks I've missed at the local theater: “Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children” (very nicely done, but definately not a kid's movie) and “Arrival” (one of the best science fiction movies in a long time). After watching those two movies, I happily fell asleep somewhere near Greenland (I see a pattern of finally being able to sleep aboard an airplane forming here).

I woke up just north of Scotland when the cabin lights were turned on for breakfast. I really enjoyed the breakfast, but was puzzled that I missed the duty free sale while sleeping. The cabin attendant (I don't remember his name, sorry) was happy to get me a carton of cigarettes, though, so my acquaintances could ruin their health without paying any duty. Soon after, we descended into ZRH over the snowy mountains of Switzerland. Thanks for a perfect flight back home!

ZRH-DUS

LX 39 arrived at the E concourse, ZRH's satellite terminal. It was very deserted at this time of the day, so I took the opportunity to visit the men's room, and then proceeded to the main terminal using the light rail under the apron. You'll encounter Switzerland's passport checkpoint at the other station. Switzerland is part of the Schengen area, so all flights to Europe are treated as domestic flights beyond that point.

ZRH is a rather small airport considering it's an international hub, so it was very easy to find the gate of today's third and list flight: ZRH-DUS. The flight was a rather uneventful Airbus A320 ride into the sunset, with inflight service consisting of a baguette, a drink and the usual piece of chocolate. I was very happy to find my bag at DUS (it didn't miss any connection), and after my way through customs I was on the train home after 10 wonderful days in California.

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