As promised, here is a description of my return flights from PHX to New York. I decided to take this route back a) in order to get on the beautiful ERJ-140, and b) to get a few extra miles out of the trip.
AA3424 PHX-LAX 830 p.m. Embraer ERJ-140 (N819AE)
I arrived at Phoenix Sky Harbor far too early for this flight (2 hours). Once I checked in downstairs, I headed up to the main part of the Terminal, and walked around for a while, mostly looking out the windows at some limited views of aircraft and the runways. The Terminal was fairly small, with a few shops, and two branches of gates on opposite sides of each other. Finally, with about 45 minutes left until the flight, I decided to head through security. Once again, I was searched. This time, I was given a full metal detector check, and the guy checked my wallet, bending it lightly to see if there were any metal objects in it. He was very polite though, and made sure I saw everything as he put his hands on my stuff. I appreciated that. After that, I walked down a fairly empty hallway to gate 7, where about 20 people were waiting. Our ERJ-140 sat gleaming in the dark outside, letting passengers off from the flight from LAX that had just arrived. It looked absolutely spotless and beautiful, and I was excited for my first flight on this aircraft type.
Once boarding came, we walked down some stairs (so that I got to pass right next to the nose of the plane, which was thrilling of course) and then up a small staircase to the plane. I was in seat 2A, which is across from the galley. I'd been on the ERJ-145 before, so I knew to expect how cramped it feels inside there. This was amplified by the fact that the FA was doing his thing next to me, so I felt even more pushed into the side of the plane. My bag wouldn't really fit anywhere (since everything I took on the trip was in the backpack) but I finally crammed it under seat 1A, although how much that complied with regulations I was not convinced of. The FA, meanwhile, looked stressed and like he had a bit of a cold. He told some people behind me to wait until some of the pax got settled into their seats before boarding, and the guy at the front of the line perceived that the FA "had an attitude." The FA tried to insist that no, he did not have an attitude. When the man continued to insist that his view was the correct one, the FA erupted, shouting "If you want to see an attitude, I'll show you an attitude!" to which the man replied "No, I'll show you a f**king attitude!" I thought for a moment that I was about to witness my first onboard fight, and in an ERJ I could imagine that it might get pretty ugly. Thankfully, the FA walked away and people seemed to calm down a little bit. Boarding took some time as there were a few late people, which was fine by me as I had a great view into the flight deck. I studied that closely, until they finally closed the doors and we were ready to depart.
The cool thing about being in a small plane is that all the pilots had to do to push back was to rev the engines a bit and turn, so that we did a quick jump to the right and taxied out to the runway. We waited while a number of SW and America West planes took off, and then headed over to takeoff position. The roll was extremely short, and what I was most struck by, being so far up in the plane, was the almost total lack of engine noise, even at takeoff thrust. We got up to altitude fairly fast, experiencing minor bumps pretty consistently (and for most of the 1 hour 25 minute flight). It was a beauty of a plane on the inside. Everything was brand new and the black leather seats looked very smart. The sound of air rushing past us was fairly loud- louder than I'd remembered it to be in that size of plane.
The feeling of flying in that aircraft felt similar to taking a stretch limousine out on the roads. I felt like any birds up there that saw us gleaming in the moonlight would have been envious of and excited by our sleek figure. In any case, the flight passed by uneventfully. There was a drinks service, which the FA begrudgingly carried out. Also, he warned us that there was a problem with the door to the lavatory, and that we should not close it all the way if possible, as a man had been stuck in there for most of the previous flight coming to PHX. Although I felt bad for him, I found it quite humorous that he would tell us that. Of course, twenty minutes later I proceed to head back, enter, and close the door shut, to which I reacted with "sh*t!" However, I was relieved to see that the door re-opened for me. I guess I got lucky. Either that or the "problem" was just the FA's idea of a joke, by which he hoped to incite embarassment/riots when the men walked in on an old lady who was only trying to follow instructions.
We landed at LAX after about a twenty minute descent over the massive city, lit up bright at night. There was a bit of a crosswind, and our left wheel rolled for a while on the ground until the rest of them touched down. We rolled up to the former TWA terminal and de-planed fairly efficiently.
LAX is an incredible place to see planes from all over the world. I got to watch a spectacular ANZ 744 takeoff. Part of me wished I was on that flight. Of the idle planes I saw, they included: a couple of Qantas 744s, 2 NW DC-10s, a VS A340 in the old colors, and numerous others. In Terminal 3 there was a nice little outdoor section with banana trees and palm trees (possibly my two favorite forms of vegetation) so I sat there for a while before heading over to Terminal 4, the main AA Terminal. On the walk, which took me outside, I saw China Airlines, Korean Air, Philippines and SQ 744s, and an AF 777 (I think it was a 777, but I only judged that from seeing the tail). I got to the AA Terminal, which was very new, bright, and beautiful inside. Parts of it were still under construction past security, but I was impressed with what they'd done with it. A funny thing about the security line: the line I was in was proceeding in a fairly standard manner, but what struck me was the the line next to us was requiring all pax to take off their shoes and place them in the X-Ray, whereas ours was not. You'd think that they would stay consistent with that sort of thing. Also, as I passed through, it was comical to see a security agent holding a tiny pair of scissors as the little old lady in the wheelchair (whom she had taken them from) pleaded with her to have them back.
AA30 LAX-JFK 1100 p.m. B767-200 (N317AA)
I headed straight for my gate, although I had some time before it would leave. When I got there, the aircraft was not yet at the gate, and the strange thing was that the 1000 p.m. flight to JFK was boarding a couple of gates over. I considered asking if they might put me on the 10 o'clock, but chose to just chill out for a while and stick with the one I was booked on. Our aircraft then arrived, having just come from ORD, and looked good as it sat being tended to. For a 17 year old plane, I thought it looked pretty sleek. Boarding "commenced", and I headed on to the jetway behind a ridiculously drunk man in his 50s who was having to be continually silenced by his more responsible wife. He screamed something to the FA upon boarding about magazines, but she was cool enough to shrug him off. I took my seat which was on the left side of the middle 3: 29C. At first I thought I'd have the row of 3 to myself, but soon a very large man came on and took the aisle on the other end. It wasn't so bad- we just piled our jackets and hats in the middle seat.
The captain didn't make an announcement before takeoff, but an FA told us that the flight would be 4 hours and 20 minutes (nice and short). We got to the runway fairly quickly, and roared down it in the dark for what seemed like quite a long time. We rotated and lumbered up slowly to our cruising altitude. It always strikes me how the flaps can sound very different depending on what type of plane you're in. I hadn't been on a 767 in a while, and I noticed that the flaps on this plane groaned loudly as they were extended and retracted. The Captain came on soon after takeoff and let us know that he would let us sleep and not bother us until landing, but that we should expect some turbulence during the last 1/3rd of the trip.
The plane cruised along very smoothly, and I was happy that this plane featured the new interior, with the dark blue seats and adjustable headrests. The FAs were all very polite and nice, and I wasn't too bothered by the fact that there weren't going to be any films on the flight, because if there had, it would have been "K-Pax" which I had already seen and was not particularly blown away by. The food they served about an hour into the flight was a fairly inedible turkey and cheese wrap, a tasty cookie, and some tostitos chips. I didn't eat much. The one thing I wished for on this flight was a skymap, so I could see our progress. I think that they should install it so that even without PTVs, they can show that on the main screens when nothing else is playing. I would have enjoyed that mcuh more than the insipid TV show "Everybody Loves Raymond," which seemed to be on the entire time.
It was kind of strange to be heading back in the direction I had just come in, but soon we had gone beyond Arizona, and I felt more like we were making positive progress. I fell asleep about an hour into the flight, and probably slept a total of two and a half hours or so, which I was pretty surprised by. Usually, I can't do that unless I'm really tired. Actually, interestingly enough, the two times that I've gotten a significant amount of sleep on a plane without the aid of a pill, I've been on a 767.
Soon enough, it was getting light out, and we began our descent. The clouds seemed to never end, and by the time we could actually see the ground, we were only a couple of hundred feet off of it. We landed and took a bit of time to taxi over to Terminal 9. Shortly after our arrival, at about 6:30 a.m., the fog got really intense, and you couldn't see more than a few hundred feet in front of you. I can't imagine having to land a widebody in such blindness. I know that instruments are very effective, but I would always feel a little nervous as the pilot relying completely on them for guidance.
So, overall, another positive experience flying with AA. I got to ride on a few great planes, which are made so much better when you actually have a place to put your legs without them being crushed. If you have any opinions of this trip report, or the one preceding it, please let me know. I appreciate your feedback.