Monday January 26, 2004
Orlando International Airport
Airtran Flight 224 nonstop service to Atlanta
Scheduled Departure time 4:25pm
Actual Departure time 5:30pm
Equipment: Boeing 717
Seat: 21A Exit Row
I arrived at the airport at approximately 3:00pm for my flight to Atlanta. I had been enrolled in a training class through my company, and was leaving town much to my chagrin. I hadn't flown since the week before 9/11, and I was unsure how tight security would be. I checked my bag curbside, and proceeded to security. It wasn't bad at all, and I made it to the gate with about 1 hour to spare. Naturally, my flight was delayed as there was terrible weather in Atlanta. I am a nervous flyer anyway, and when I heard that Atlanta was experiencing freezing drizzle, I only got edgier. The wait didn't help, but before I knew it our plane arrived from Akron and it was time to board. Airtran really turns their planes around quickly! I made my way to Row 21, which was on the wing. Luckily, the flight was only a little more than half full, so the seat beside me was empty. We pushed back at approximately 5:20, and before I knew it we were airborne. The climb out and subsequent ascent to FL 31000 was relatively smooth. The flight attendants served drinks and pretzels, and then all hell broke loose. Somewhere over South Georgia we entered the clouds, and suddenly dropped 200-300 feet. It literally took my breath away. At the same time, the left wing dipped 30-40 degrees. It was scary. A few minutes later, we hit another pocket of rough air and did it all over again. The remainder of the flight was quite bumpy, although not as dramatic. We didn't break through the clouds until we were literally at 300 feet and essentially over the airport. As we taxied to the gate, the frequent flyer across the aisle indicated that this was the most turbulent flight he had been on in 5 years. I asked him how often he flew, and he said 2-3 times a month. The only good thing to come out of the flight was that half of my trip was over with.
Thursday January 29, 2004
Harstfield Jackson International Airport
Airtran Flight 741, nonstop service to Orlando
Scheduled departure time: 5:15pm
Actual departure time: 5:37pm
Equipment: Boeing 717
I arrived at the airport at approximately 3:30pm, and proceeded to check my bag curbside. It was at this time that I checked in and was given a middle seat in Row 14, although I had picked seat 10A online the week before. No need to haggle with the skycap, I would take it up at the gate. I proceeded to security, and the line was unbelievable. It took about 20 minutes to make it through security, but I really didn't mind. As long as it keeps the planes safer, I am willing to sacrifice a litte convenience. I took the train to Concourse D, and immediately went to the gate agent to inquire about my seat assignment. I was told that I had selected a bulkhead row (No, really?) and those seats were saved until the day of departure for needy travelers. I completely understand that, but I don't think the seat should be made available online if it isn't going to be honored. The gate agents were stern and they basically told me to love it or leave it, because this was an overbooked flight and bulkhead and exit row were all booked. I didn't force the issue, as I was happy to be heading home. Luckily, the weather was goregous and the flight was expected to smooth. We began boarding at around 5:00, but the flight was packed and we didn't even push back until 5:20. On the taxi out, there was a Delta 737 and an ASA ATR 72 that took off before us. Our climb out of Atlanta was as smooth as could be and we immediately turned left to head south to Orlando. There were no clouds over the south on this beautiful winter day, and we flew over Macon, Valdosta, I-10 (where we began our descent), Gainesville, Ocala, etc. Our final approach took us over US Hwy 441, Maitland, Orlando Executive airport, and a straight shot down SR 436 until we touched down on schedule at 6:35pm.
This was my first flight with Airtran since right after their crash in 1996 when they were still known as Valujet and flying old DC-9's. I must say I was overall pretty impressed with them. I like the fact that all of their planes are brand new, the service was pretty good, and their rewards program is excellent. I can now see why they are one of the few profitable airlines flying today.