I took this trip last October to attend a conference in Los Angeles, Ca. Since this was a business trip, I had to keep my travel expenses within reason, but searching through several travel sights allowed me book flights using equipment that I really wanted to fly.
I really thought this would be the highlight of the trip. I had watched these planes fly in and out of DLH for a few years and really wanted to try one out. In addition, this would be my first time flying out of my hometown so I was excited.
Checking in at DLH was quick and I had a bit of time to sit around with the family before boarding the flight. Checking the gate area, it looked like we would be quite full for the 25 minute flight to MSP. I hung out with my family until the final boarding call, then headed down to the aircraft.
My first impression was that the ARJ-85 is alot bigger inside than it would appear. The cabin was very clean and seating was comfortable. In addition, what looked like a full flight was only about 60% booked. Seating was 2-3 and I had both seats to myself. I was seated about 2 rows behind the wing and had an excelent view of the overhead wing, engine and of course the ground.
Takeoff was very smooth and quick. Being fall in Minnesota, the trees were in full color change and it was quite a sight. Unfortunately, we did not take a route that would fly over my home, but that was the only negative on this leg.
Landing was a brief 25 minutes later. Since we arrived a bit early, we had to wait 20 minutes for a gate to open up for us.
I booked this flight because the DC-10 was my first flying experience as a kid. Not knowing how much longer these beauties will be flying domestic routs for NW, I had to get at least one last ride in.
Most of the time between flights was spent looking around MSP airport. Actually it is more of a mall with planes parked outside.
Boarding was a breeze, but we were delayed in taking off due to a hydraulic problem. If I thought my previous flight was a bit empty, this one was barren! There were under 100 passengers on board when the doors were closed, and the captain told everyone to spread out and enjoy what should be smooth sailing to LAX.
Once we pushed back from the gate, the interesting stuff started. The pilot had already explained the hydraulic problem, but there was a continued banging sound coming from below us. Since the FA did not seem concerned, I gave it little concern. We taxied directly to the runway for a quick departure, but the pilot suddenly gunned the engines and made a quick turn onto a taxiway. He explained that another flight was on final and we would have to let it land before we could depart. No sooner did he finish explaining, and the other plane touched down. We were back in takeoff position before the other plane turned to the taxiway.
The flight to LAX was fantastic. An empty wide body is like lounging around in your living room. The FA's were very friendly and served FULL cans of pop with our snack and meal. It looked like they had stocked for a full flight since they were offering seconds and thirds on snacks and meals. My drink was never more than half empty before another was delivered.
Landing at LAX was interesting. I had never been on a flight with as many course changes in the last 30 minutes of the trip. We came in quite low and the engines were really laboring, so it was alot of fun. Landing was great, but our taxi to the gate took about 15 minutes due to landing on the opposite side of the airport from our gate. I had a chance to see many airlines for the first time, and get what might be my last good look at the L-1011.
After a week in LA, I was ready to head back to Minnesota. I arrived at the airport with pleanty of time to spare before my flight. Checkin was fast and I was assigned the exit row seat for my later MSP-DLH flight. There were some problems getting through security. They made me show them that my cell phone was working and checked my computer bag for drug residue. This was not a major inconvenience.
I spent the next hour or so walking around the terminal, watching flights boarding for Japan and Australia. There were no good views of the runways, so I went back outside for a smoke and watched the takeoff's from there.
We boarded our flight on time and this one was near capacity. I did have a window seat, but with another person rubbing against me, it felt alot tighter. The flight went well and was much quicker than the trip out. Lunch was served, which consisted of pineapple chicken, rice, bread roll and some kind of ice cream. I was not too picky at this point as I had not eaten yet that day.
We came into MSP 10 minutes ahead of schedule and had a nice view of the Mall of America and Highway 494 corridor. It was overcast and reported to be 31 degrees outside, a far cry from LA. The family sitting behind me kept commenting on how strance it was to see homes with no fences or walls between the yards....guess that is the Minnesota Nice thing at work.
Landing was uneventful and we returned to the gate I had departed from a week earlier, but had to hold for 30 minutes as our gate was in use.
Saab Turbo Prop?
With 2 hours to wait for my connecting flight, I went outside for my first smoke in 5 hours. It was cold but it felt good to be back in Minnesota! Since two of my coworkers were passing through MSP on their way to DFW, we met at one of the airport bars for a few drinks. They barely made it to their flight and received a firm reprimand from the agent about being on time in the future.
Having an hour till my flight departure, I walked down to my gate for the last leg of the trip. I sat around for a bit and noticed that there were not too many people waiting for this flight.
Since this was a regional flight, passengers take a bus from the departure gate to the aircraft, which is parked in another area of the airport.
With 30 minutes left until my flight, a couple arrived to check in. They were told that the flight had left early due to being at it's weight restriction. I joined in on the discussion and we were informed that the only flight to DLH that day was the red eye, but hey, it was JET SERVICE!!! Yeah!? Just wanting to get home at this point, I asked to be booked on that flight. I was assigned an isle seat so I figured that it would be rather full.
I spent the next 3 hours roaming around an airport that was becoming increasingly deserted. All of the shops had closed, so I was left with the fortune of eating dinner out of a vending machine.
Our aircraft arrived 45 minutes before we were due to depart. It had come in from Orlando, Fl and was pretty full. I watched as a family deplaned, with their small child screaming and pulling at her ears. They seemed very disinterested in her distress and waiting passengers were becoming quite upset that they would not do anything to comfort their child. As they left, the child stopped and vomited in the middle of the concourse. Of course, the parents just tugged on her arm a little harder and walked off with her still screaming in pain. One of the passengers connecting to DHL told us that she had been in screamin pain the whole flight and the parents showed no interest.
We boarded our flight, an Airbus 320 for the trip to DLH. The plane was being shuttled up to the maintenance facility, otherwise an aircraft of this size is not used on such a short route. After boarding, I realized that there were only 10 passengers on board. The flight attendants were wiped out after a very long day so there was no formal drink service. What transpired was more of an inpromptu 25 minute party in the back of the plane. The passengers and FA's just hung out chatting, and drinks were made available if anyone was interested. Everyone on the flight, including the FA's were from the DLH area, so we spent the 25 minutes in local conversation. At one point the pilot came on announcing that we were reaching our cruising altitude, left the mic keyed for about 5 seconds and then proceeded to announce that we were starting our decent into DLH. Very funny!
We came into DLH over Lake Superior and had a fantastic view of the city below us. Duluth is located on the shore of the lake, with hills behind it. The airport is located over the hill, which made for some very turbulent air on final approach. We touched down and used almost the entire runway to come to a stop.
After a long day, I was ready to head home to bed, but took the time to thank the FA's and Pilots for an enjoyable flight.
Overall, I can not complain at all about Northwest's service. All of the flights were great, and the delay in MSP was an acceptable trade off for the fun we had on the later flight.