It was time to leave Chicago after visiting for four days. I didn’t mind though as I would be returning again in July to attend a family wedding. My travelling companion and I set out for Midway early on Memorial Day, 28th May 2012. Today we would travel to the second place on our US tour: Fort Lauderdale/Miami. I was looking forward to seeing somewhere new, as well as flying from MDW which I had never done before. From all my years in Chicago, I’ve used only O’Hare as it is closer to where my family live and offers more connection choices.
We arrived at MDW at 06:30 for our 07:50 flight to FLL.
I had a bag to check-in so got in the short line for Southwest Airlines. The agent at the end pointed me in the direction of an available desk. Once there I was invited to key in my reservation details on the screen facing me while the agent weighed and tagged my bag. Southwest have a very generous baggage allowance – you can check in two checked bags for free! This is unheard of nowadays on both sides of the Atlantic – even for longhaul flights! I received my boarding pass and decided to head straight to security. There is nothing much to see landside here at MDW.
MDW is divided into three concourses after security – A, B and C. Southwest occupies much of A and B. My flight this morning was from Gate A15. Southwest is by far the largest tenant at MDW, its largest base/hub.
Like Ryanair, Southwest does not assign seats. Boarding is done by group. You are automatically assigned a group between A and C at check-in. My boarding group was C which meant I would be one of the last to board. I wasn’t a big fan of this. I would prefer the Ryanair-style first-come, first-served approach. Oh well, hopefully I would get a window seat.
Boarding was called on-time and I was one of the last to board at 07:42. The gate agent retained my boarding pass at the podium.
On boarding I was stopped by the cabin manager in the galley as a fellow passenger had the aisle blocked while she was stowing luggage. He looked at me after a minute as if to beckon me on and I walked ahead. He stopped me again and said “I’m sorry sir, maybe I wasn’t being clear – please let the lady stow her luggage before continuing”, rather sternly. I apologised and waited until he verbally told me to proceed. I didn’t know what to make of that…
Date Monday, 28th May 2012 Airline Southwest Airlines Flight WN360 Aircraft Boeing 737-700 Tail No. N215WN Aircraft Name - Scheduled Departure 07:50 CDT Actual Departure 07:49 CDT Departure Terminal & Gate Gate A15 Departure Taxi Route T, RWY22L Weather at Departure Partly cloudy, hazy, winds SW Scheduled Arrival 11:45 EDT Actual Arrival 11:43 EDT Arrival Terminal & Gate Terminal 2, Gate B4 Arrival Taxi Route RWY9L, B Weather at Arrival Scattered showers, partly cloudy, winds SE Class - Seat No. 4F Captain (N/A) First Officer (N/A) Cabin Manager Dean Actual Flight Time 2 hours, 54 minutes
The door was closed at 07:47 and we were on our way two minutes later.
We were off Runway 22L at 07:54. Unfortunately this was not a Wi-Fi-equipped 737. WN is fitting out their entire fleet with Wi-Fi and a small percentage with LiveTV, I believe.
At 07:58 we passed 10,000 feet and the crew were released for their duties.
Each passenger received a complimentary soft drink of their choice, peanuts and wafer biscuits. Alcoholic drinks were also available for purchase.
Climb-out and cruise were smooth for the most part. It was mostly overcast underneath us as cumulous clouds gathered nearer to Florida. Tropical Storm Beryl was to make landfall over northern Florida later that morning but thankfully it would not impact us where we were headed, down south.
The captain advised that we would weave around the storm heading out over the coast and turning right around it in a kind of clockwise direction and heading straight south over the Atlantic. We were warned of turbulence but it didn’t turn out that bad.
Seconds and thirds were offered on soft drinks which I thought was very generous. At 10:51 EDT, Dean advised us that we were 45 minutes from landing. He used light humour in all of his announcements: “I expect the seatbelt sign to be illuminated any time from now on so feel free to stretch, jump up and down, have fun etc. before that time”.
The captain gave his final announcement at 11:13 EDT with details on approach and a few safety reminders.
Approaching the Everglades
We touched down on Runway 9L at 11:41 EDT and made our way to the gate passing Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and AirTran Airways aircraft among others. We were at the gate at 11:43, two minutes early. We were asked to close all the window blinds to keep the interior of the aircraft cool as it waited to turn back to MDW. It was very hot outside.
We disembarked and collected our bags. We had to walk through the “departure lounge” area towards baggage claim. I like FLL, lots of indoor palm trees and wide open spaces.
We got a cab to our hostel which happened to be near the airport. The actual hostel was an absolute dump but we were only staying there two nights so it was tolerable. Fort Lauderdale itself is very pleasant with a very nice downtown area and beaches. A lot of nice old folks with boats down here too!
Anyway the main reason we were here was to visit Miami so the next day we got the #1 bus to Aventura Mall where we changed busses to get to Miami Beach. Total journey time was about 90 minutes. It was 95°F/35°C.
The beach offered great views of aircraft on final to Miami International Airport:
An Air Berlin A330 inbound from Berlin-TXL as flight AB7210
A Lufthansa 747-400 inbound from Frankfurt-FRA as flight LH462
An Air France 747-400 inbound from Paris-CDG as flight AF690
A British Airways 747-400 inbound from London-LHR as flight BA207
It got cloudy for about an hour and a few drops of rain fell but thankfully the storm clouds passed to the south and the sun was back again in no time.
On the bus back to Fort Lauderdale there was a guy in front of us that was chewing gum and popped it every now and then. It was a little annoying but no big deal. Next thing the guy next to me shouts at the top of his lungs “WHO THE F*** IS POPPING?!”, the whole bus fell silent and I was afraid to move. The man who yelled subsequently got off at the next stop so I questioned his method.
Another young guy got on the bus later on (now, he was obviously high on something). He questioned my Chicago Bears hat that I was wearing and then made some inaudible comments about it. I couldn’t understand him so I politely smiled, nodded and turned around. He then got off at the next stop, dropped his pants and started peeing on the bus stop for all to see.
Anyway, I was a little glad to be leaving the next day. Quite frankly I had seen/heard enough!
Myself and my friend got the Tri Rail from FLL to MIA the next day. I found this to be very convenient and the trains are nice and modern. We were to fly Miami-Orlando that evening for the next part of our travels.
The train journey was quick and when we got to MIA, headed straight for the American Airlines check-in area to drop our bags and proceed through security. My bag cost $25 to check-in and the machine wouldn’t accept my Irish credit card so I paid cash at the desk.
Our flight was leaving from Gate D3 which meant we needed to get a train from after the security checkpoint to the “D” gates.
Once again, an Air France 747-400 inbound from Paris-CDG as flight AF690
MIA is a major AA hub. Unlike O’Hare though, I noticed a lot less MD-80s here.
I was planespotting next to AA’s missed-connections and rebooking desk. I really felt bad for the three agents working on the desk as the majority of passengers approached them with all guns blazing, so to speak, as AA had cancelled their flights or “left without them”. I overheard three or four different passengers within the space of an hour mention AA’s bankruptcy to the agents as a cause of their distress which I fail to make sense of…
The area around gates D1/D2/D3 was packed with departures at the adjacent gates heading to Los Angeles and Bogotá – both AA-operated of course. Our scheduled departure time was 18:35 and our gate had changed from D3 to D2.
Boarding was called according to group and because I was once again Group 3, was among the last to board although it was done very quickly. I had chosen my seat, 22F, online at AA.com (free of charge) a few weeks beforehand. I was onboard just before 18:00. Boarding was through Door 1L so we passed through the First Class cabin on our way.
Date Wednesday, 30th May 2012 Airline American Airlines Flight AA1758 Aircraft Boeing 757-200 Tail No. N619AA Aircraft Name - Scheduled Departure 18:35 EDT Actual Departure 18:33 EDT Departure Terminal & Gate Concourse D, Gate D2 Departure Taxi Route M, M1, RWY8R Weather at Departure Mostly sunny, hazy Scheduled Arrival 19:35 EDT Actual Arrival 19:33 EDT Arrival Terminal & Gate Terminal A, Gate 16 Arrival Taxi Route RWY18R, E, B4, stand Weather at Arrival Partly sunny, winds NW Class Coach Seat No. 22F Captain Craig Gordon First Officer FO Townsend Cabin Manager (N/A) Actual Flight Time 1 hour
I was surprised at the 100% load factor for such a short sector. I suppose a lot of passengers were connecting. All window blinds were closed inside but I opened mine as soon as I got to my seat being the rebel I am.
Captain Gordon welcomed us aboard and projected a flight time of 38 minutes. It would actually be bang on one hour from gate-to-gate. This would be my first AA flight.
We were second for takeoff, just behind a company 767-300ER. I noticed a lot of AA 757s here.
We were airborne at 18:46
The flight attendants were very friendly and witty, however, due to the short duration of the flight, there would be no inflight service. We had no inflight entertainment or Wi-Fi.
The fasten-seat-belts sign remained on throughout the flight. The captain advised that due to thunderstorms over Orlando, we would have to weave around them adding some time to his original flight time of 38 minutes. He also advised that he would turn off the seatbelt sign for a few minutes just to let folks use the restrooms.
Descent began at 19:13 and the cabin was prepared for landing.
The gear was lowered and flaps were deployed to the last at 19:26. There was a steep final approach.
Touchdown on Runway 18R
On the ground at 19:27 and at the gate six minutes later.
This 757 would return to MIA again in just an hour. Once again we had to pass through the departures area and get a train to baggage claim.
Once off the train, we needed to descend a level to baggage claim.
My friend and I waited and waited but alas, our bags didn’t come around the belt. Everyone else began to dissipate after claiming their bags and we went into the AA baggage enquires office. She asked to see our luggage receipts stuck onto our boarding passes and disappeared into the back. She returned a few moments later with our bags – they had been put on an earlier flight as we had checked-in so early! Relief! But I thought a bag cannot fly without its passenger onboard for security reasons?
Anyway, we went outside and waited for our bus that would drop us near the Days Inn by Universal Orlando Resort where we would be headed the next day.
Overall, I found Southwest Airlines is great value for money with friendly passenger service personnel and punctual departure and arrival.
American Airlines was a little pricey compared to the service offered on this short flight but I was glad to try them out nonetheless.
Thanks for reading; my next trip report will document my onward travels to Washington, New York and Boston as well as the flight home to Shannon.
jwhite9185 From United Kingdom, joined May 2007, 718 posts, RR: 0 Reply 1, posted (10 months 2 weeks 6 days 21 hours ago) and read 5389 times:
Good continuation of your report there. Not too sure i like the look of Southwest to be honest! American don't look too bad though by the sounds of it. I've got the MCO-MIA sector with AA on my radar for the future so good to see a report on that route.
Funny you should mention about the bus in Miami - i remember feeling very intimidated on one many years ago... although i guess that serves me right for taking a bus through the city centre at gone midnight! Still a great city nonetheless.
MSS658 From Belgium, joined Oct 2010, 2212 posts, RR: 14 Reply 3, posted (10 months 2 weeks 3 days 1 hour ago) and read 3675 times:
Nice and interesting TR. It was great to follow up on your Southwest flight!
I flew with them as well in august last year and was impressed by the service as well.
Here is my trip report. Losing My Southwest Virginity! (by MSS658 Dec 18 2011 in Trip Reports)
About AA, not much to say on such a short flight. Southwest however did manage to give a full service round during my MCO-FLL segment.
AmricanShamrok From Ireland, joined May 2008, 2608 posts, RR: 0 Reply 4, posted (10 months 2 weeks 1 day 21 hours ago) and read 3478 times:
Thanks for the feedback.
Quoting jwhite9185 (Reply 1): Not too sure i like the look of Southwest to be honest! American don't look too bad though by the sounds of it.
Why not?! For the most part I thought they were grand. More expensive than the likes of Ryanair but more complimentary onboard service!
Quoting jwhite9185 (Reply 1): Funny you should mention about the bus in Miami - i remember feeling very intimidated on one many years ago... although i guess that serves me right for taking a bus through the city centre at gone midnight! Still a great city nonetheless.
Yes to be honest, I didn't enjoy Miami as much as I thought. It was dirty (a smell of urine seemed to be everywhere) and just generally a rough enough area. I would go back again though!
Quoting 767747 (Reply 2): AA's operation at MIA seems a bit chaotic to me, I've heard some crazy stories from friends who've had trouble connecting through there.
Well from what I saw, that missed connections/flight cancellations desk was very busy with a consistent flow of angry passengers...not a good sign!
Quoting MSS658 (Reply 3): About AA, not much to say on such a short flight. Southwest however did manage to give a full service round during my MCO-FLL segment.
Interesting! I was expecting some service on board but I guess the 757 is a bit more demanding for the cabin crew than a 737 for such a short flight.