Well after enjoying an incredible 6 hours 50 minute ride on Amtrak's Crescent from MSY to BHM (a trip report on that can be found in the non aviation section) I hailed a cab and was off to BHM to catch a Southwest flight home.
The airport was only about a ten minute drive from the station. I got out the cab and made my way inside the terminal, which at first glance I found to be VERY nice. Bright, open, modern. I checked in with a friendly CSA at 2:50pm. I was listed on the 4:45pm nonstop to MSY but she said it was oversold and suggested I try to make the 3:30pm, which had a few seats left on it. I figured might as well. Unfortunately for me, the security line was hella long, and by the time I got to gate C12, the flight had closed. So, with the 4:45pm flight being oversold (by about 15 as I later found out), I listed myself on the 6:30pm flight, which was said to have about 30 open seats. I liked the sound of that. As a bonus, the 6:30 was going to be operated with a 737-700, with any luck one with winglets. I've yet to get on a wingleted-equipped 700, so I was kind of looking forward to that. I grabbed a chicken wrap from one of the food court vendors and had a seat next to a huge window overlooking the ramp. BHM had a good amount of activity. AA MD-80, DL MD-88/737-200, a few Comair CRJ's, Continental Express ERJ-145's, a couple of US Airways Express ERJ's, Plante 727-200, Northwest DC-9...not too shabby.
Once the gate counter opened for check in at 5:30pm I handed the CSA my standby pass and she went ahead and cleared me a seat. I had pass #71, in the "B" boarding group. The chances were good, I figured, of at least getting an aisle seat.
At about 6:00pm, the announcement was made that our flight (which had originated in BWI) was running late and would not arrive here until 7:25pm. Wonderful. At least I had a seat, I figured. In the meantime, over at gate C14, flight 179, the scheduled 7:20pm flight to MSY, was announced that it was running over two hours late. Uh-oh. Not good. Sure enough, a large group of people, who were originally booked on the 7:20, were moved to the 6:30. This meant...drumroll please...I would have to give up my seat. And that's what happened. The agent called me up "Sir, we need your seat, but you're now confirmed on the 7:20 flight." My response "It's not leaving at 7:20 though correct?". Her response "Correct, more like 9:45."
The delayed 6:30pm flight pulled into the gate at 7:30pm. And wouldn't you know it, it was a brand new -700 with winglets. I spent those next couple of hours listening to music and dozing in and out of sleep.
Finally, mercifully, our flight pulled to the gate at 9:25pm. It was indeed an old color 737-300, but luckily it was equipped with the new seats, which are really a big improvement over the old ones. About 50 people got off the plane here (which as it turned out had a mechanical in RDU), and about 30 people boarded for the flight to MSY. There were only about 50 people total on the plane go I got a row to myself behind the wing. Pushback from the gate right at 9:48pm. Short taxi but we had to wait for three aircraft to land, including a FedEx 727-200. After a 27-second roll we were airborne at 10:02pm and shot up like a rocket. We made a big circle around the BHM metro area before making a bee line for MSY. The captain never informed us of a cruising altitude but said the flight time would be a short 45 minutes. Once round of drinks was served. Before I knew it we were starting our initial approach. It appeared we would be landing on runway 19, but as it turned out, we made a turn and lined up for 10 instead. Typical hard-as-a-rock Southwest landing. I swear they use auto land or something. Fun, however. Parked at gate B-9 next two a few 73G's.