This was the first trip I've taken with YX since their much-publicised cutbacks in service.
I bought my ticket on travelocity.com a few months ago, as I was planning to visit friends in the Boston area for Thanksgiving. Midwest Express' fare was among the lowest, so I opted for them, as I usually do whenever I can. I was much dismayed when the cost-cutting measures were announced, but I never actually heard anything specific about what was being cut and on what routes.
For my departure, I opted for the not-so-early flight on Saturday, November 23rd, leaving Milwaukee at 7:35 am, arriving Boston Logan at 10:50 am. I scheduled my return for the evening of December 1st, leaving Logan at 7:30 pm, arriving Milwaukee at 9:05 pm.
11/23/02, YX 203, MKE-BOS, DC-9-30, Seat 11A (12A)
I asked a friend the night before I left if he could drive me to the airport. I packed my carry-on in very little time, and went to bed. The next morning, time seemed to fly - I got up 15 minutes earlier than I'd planned, so I would have 45 minutes to get ready, yet still did not make it out the door by 6:00. I wheeled my bag over to my friend's place; he lives two buildings over from me. Then we set off groggily for the airport. It's nice living as close to the airport as I do; the drive takes less than 10 minutes. My friend dropped me off outside the Midwest Express check-in station. The line inside was long, but moved fairly quickly - lots of holiday travelers, but the agents working check-in were quick and efficient. I was given a choice of seat 11A on the aircraft, or a seat further forward; I opted to keep my original assigned seat, not realising it was in front of a window exit - no recline. After I checked in, I made my way upstairs to Concourse D. Security was quick, even though I set off the metal detector, had to remove my shoes, and was wanded.
Down at Gate D44, the wait was not too long - about 20 minutes - before boarding was called, at 7:15 am. The interior of the DC-9-30 series aircraft looked quite old and somewhat dillapidated, but pretty clean. These planes are not going to be with YX much longer, as the 717s will be delivered next year, replacing them. I stowed my carry-on, and sat down in 11A. Luckily, the seat next to me was unoccupied, as was the window exit row directly behind me. I decided to move back to 12A as soon as the door was closed, just for the extra legroom, never mind the seat also did not recline. The flight attendants performed the safety demo as we pushed back. I noticed the cabin chime was much louder and harsher than what I'm used to in newer aircraft.
As the PWJT8D engines spooled up, the aircraft's nose was pointed towards the taxiway. We powered up and moved away from the gate. Taxy was brief; we were cleared for immediate take-off, and roared down the runway. Though the DC-9-30 does not have quite the power or steep climb of the MD-80 series, liftoff was still a thrill. We were informed that flying time would be two hours, which would put us into Boston a little earlier than scheduled.
We climbed to our cruising altitude of 33,000 feet, and the flight attendants began the breakfast service. Here is where the cutbacks became apparent. When asked whether I would like the chicken and apple frittata or a muffin, I opted for the frittata, and was presented with something that looked like a bite-sized mini quiche, along with a very un-ripe (read: green) banana which looked like it had been genetically engineered to be 2/3 the size of a regular one. This was accompanied by champagne and orange juice, which made things a little less "painful." The frittata was gone in two bites, the banana tucked away to ripen. I did have more champagne and orange juice when offered; however, there was no coffee service, which surprised me. I think there WAS coffee on the trolley, but the F/As didn't offer it. I found the service somewhat disappointing on this flight, because I DID opt for Midwest Express over a cheaper ticket with a different carrier, and I think this time, the cost difference was not justified.
The flight was smooth; we cruised above the clouds in a bright blue sky, and the sun streamed in through the window. We began our descent gradually, sinking through the cloud layer towards Boston. I liked the approach into Logan - out over the Atlantic, a hairpin turn, then back over some small settlements on a peninsula out in the harbour, swooping in to land. We taxied for quite a bit, actually, and had to wait for other aircraft to move before we parked at Gate C40. We arrived at 10:35, which was earlier than I had told the friend who was meeting me. On my way up the jetway, I spoke briefly with a businessman walking in front of me; he remarked about the lack of decent food on this Midwest Express flight, compared to others he had taken. I told him about the cutbacks, but he seemed somewhat disenchanted, nonetheless. As we deplaned, a security guard rather sternly told us which door to take to get to the baggage claim. I met my friend down there, after about a 20 minute wait.
12/01/02, YX 210, BOS-MKE, MD-82, Seat 22A
After a fun nine-day visit with my friends, and a nice tour of Boston, I was ready to get back to Milwaukee. To save the friend I stayed with the time and trouble of driving to Logan, I opted to take the T commuter train from Bridgewater, where he lives, to South Station, and then take the underground from there to the airport stop. This turned out to be amazingly simple, and saved alot of headache dealing with traffic.
I departed Bridgewater at 4:41 pm, arriving at South Station in Boston at 5:25 pm. I was a bit concerned at the length of time the entire trip would take, but after changing lines three times on the underground, and a total of five stops, I was at the airport station. There are free buses that take passengers from there to the airport, which is really a wonderful thing. So, the entire trip to the airport from Bridgewater cost me only $5.25 - $4.25 for the train, $1.00 to get into the underground. The bus took about 10 minutes to get to Terminal C at Logan; we were dropped off in front of the baggage claim. I got off and went inside and upstairs to check in.
I had a bit of trouble locating the check-in counter for Midwest Express; there were no signs for anything but Delta and several international airlines. However, walking around, I spotted it. The line for the Midwest Express counter was very short, and I had my boarding pass by 6:10 pm. I was informed at check-in that the service on the flight had been changed from a dinner to a snack, and the agent said it would be trail mix and cookies. I couldn't help but tell him it was too bad...it did not sound at all enticing, and I was hungry. So, after checking in, I went to get a turkey sandwich at one of the food stands. Also, I was thankful I had taken along a couple packages of beef jerky and a large chocolate bar, just in case.
Security was a bit of a hassle; there were not enough guards and assistants to search all of the people who set off the metal detector, so we stood in line for awhile. When my turn came, I decided to take off my shoes to save potential hassle. This turned out to be a good decision, as almost every guy with shoes on was setting off the detector! Despite the delay at security, I was at the gate by about 6:40 with my sandwich.
I noticed there was no aircraft parked at the gate for my flight. Boarding was supposed to be called at 7:00; this time came and went, and no announcements were made. I asked the young woman sitting next to me for the time; she replied, "7:30." This was our scheduled departure time. We sat for another 10 minutes before the aircraft arrived; still, no announcements. Boarding was called almost as quickly as the incoming passengers finished deplaning, but there were no apologies or even an acknowledgement of the delay. I found this to be unprofessional and annoying.
My row was among the first called; I had been asked if I wanted to sit further forward in the aircraft when I checked in, but I kept my originally-assigned seat. I wished I hadn't. When I got to where I was supposed to sit, there was a rather large young man in my seat. I asked him if he was supposed to be there; he produced his ticket stub, which said 22B, apologised, and moved over. As I sat down, I remarked to him about the delay, wondering why no one had said anything. I have since been told that delays are commonplace at Logan and other East coast airports, so no one makes a big deal of them.
This M-82 had what looked like a very new interior. The seats appeared to be in excellent condition, and wider than the ones in the DC-9 I'd flown in to Boston. Also, the overhead service units were modern, and the panelling had a nice pattern to it.
We departed a little after 8:00; the captain announced that the flying time to Milwaukee would be about 2 hours, with arrival scheduled for 9:07 pm. I had phoned the same friend who had driven me to the airport to see if he could pick me up, and told him the arrival time. I was pleased that we would be making up some time in the air for an on-time arrival. One change I noticed - the captain, a woman, welcomed us on board Midwest Airlines, not Midwest Express. I guess they are preparing for the changes next year already. The safety demo was done while we still sat at the gate. We were pushed back, engines started, and we taxied. It seemed an odd sensation to me to look out the window and see nothing but darkness, broken here and there by blue runway lights. We turned onto the runway, positioned for take-off, and held for a bit, the engines revving. It was fun to feel the extra push from engines already at full power when the pilot released the brakes. We roared into the night sky, and climbed steeply, levelling off at about 15,000 feet over the brightly-lit city for awhile, then climbing higher, up to 35,000 feet for our flight to Milwaukee.
The cabin service begain about 25 minutes into the flight. I was prepared for a small bag of trail mix, so I had the sandwich I bought in the airport out and ready to eat. However, I was pleasantly surprised when the flight attendant offered either a bratwurst or a chicken salad sandwich with potato salad. I opted for the latter, and found it to be of excellent quality, decent size, with not too much mayonnaise, served on a fresh croissant. The potato salad was very good as well, though it only consisted of about five small slices of red potato and some spicy pepper mix. I requested champagne to accompany this, as well as a glass of water. Though I requested water three separate times during the flight, I never received it. I ate the sandwich I brought after I finished what had been provided by the flight attendants, so I ended up being quite satisfied. I also had a refill of champagne, along with the freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies which were served awhile later. Yummy! I'm glad Midwest is keeping those.
The flight was fairly smooth, with a few bumps here and there. I was somewhat dismayed to notice an unpleasant odor coming from my seatmate from time to time. He also spent most of the flight playing a pocket-sized game, which continually made annoying noises, and disturbed my nap by asking me for the time. I told him good-naturedly that I did not have a watch, but wondered why he decided to wake me up.
We approached Milwaukee over Lake Michigan, descending gradually through the clouds. Touchdown was at 9:40 pm, much later than originally promised. The captain informed us that all connecting flights were holding. I am glad this did not affect me, but I was concerned that my friend, who had been expecting me to come out of the airport at 9:00 or so, had gone home. Thankfully, he was waiting when I exited Concourse D.
Overall, I would still rate Midwest Express highly, though I think they may have trouble initially because of the cutbacks in service. I heard many passengers on both flights I took commenting on the lack of real food; the woman behind me on the BOS-MKE flight actually said she was upset there would not be a full dinner. I hope these changes do not affect business for the airline too much; I am certain they still live up to their slogan of The Best Care in the Air.