I’m sitting in the Admirals Club lounge at Philadelphia Airport B/C gates waiting for the AA1684 flight to Phoenix, departing 20:20. There’s still about 90 minutes before its scheduled departure time, and a 5 hour flight time. Despite being awake for about 18 hours at this point, I’d normally be feeling relaxed that all outbound connections have been made and we’re actually going to spend a day in Phoenix. But the trouble is there’s no sign of Moff, and he’s not picking up WhatsApp messages or answering his cellphone.
The last time I’d connected at Philadelphia was in August as part of a family holiday, and the international arrivals hall had been rammed with huge queues for immigration, customs and subsequently security in flight connections. This time with Global Entry I knew I’d be able to skip any queues, but Moff doesn’t have it, so had hot footed it ahead of me off the plane in case of any delays. As it turned out, the arrivals hall was almost empty, and I’d last seen him at an immigration desk whilst I was using one of the electronic Global Entry machines. Turning to look after it dispensed my immigration slip, he’d disappeared. I’d figured he’d gone on ahead, but I’d already checked at the gate and in the lounge and he was nowhere to be seen.
Eventually after starting to become concerned he is actually going to miss the flight, he’s walking toward me across the lounge. It turns out that the US Customs and Border Protection Officer had been unconvinced by a tier point run as the reason for entering the US and transiting to Phoenix for a single day on a 9 flight itinerary. Assuming he was potentially up to no good he’d been taken away for a thorough search of everything he was carrying. The drug mule joke from the bartender in the Mirage in Vegas the week before had turned out to be somewhat prophetic.
Philadelphia to Phoenix (140 TP)
The flight to Phoenix is on a little Airbus A319. I’m surprised they’re running such a tiny plane over such a distance, and it turns out to be completely full. I’m also constantly surprised, and this flight is no exception, quite how much cabin baggage people bring onto US domestics, how lenient the cabin crew are with people clearly over their allowance, and how ultimately it all gets to fit.
There’s the usual AA pre-takeoff drink for travellers in first class, and (as usual) I take an IPA. A few months ago they were serving an IPA called Voodoo Ranger from the New Belgium brewery, but that seems to have been replaced with the more mainstream Goose Island. The slightly lower ABV is not enough to stop me sleeping almost the whole flight.
We land a few minutes ahead of schedule at the evocatively named “Sky Harbor” Airport, and again it’s time to follow the signs to “Ground Transportation”. I’ve booked an inexpensive Comfort Suites hotel close to Old Town Scottsdale, which some earlier research had suggested is good for restaurants, bars, craft shops and has a couple of museums. Tomorrow we’ll find out.