Udo From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR: Posted (10 years 2 weeks 3 days 21 hours ago) and read 2213 times:
Some four weeks ago I decided to go on a day trip to Phoenix and booked flights on both Southwest (outbound) and America West (inbound) from and to Ontario. Southwest charged 29 USD plus tax for a nonstop flight, America West offered a connection via Las Vegas for only 49 USD plus tax. Scheduled aircraft were B737-700 and B757 plus A320 respectively.
At around 08:00 in the morning I was dropped off in front of Terminal 4 of Ontario International Airport. ONT is very busy with Southwest all day and so I had to wait in line for a while. When I was called to a counter I handed over my passport and the female agent smiled and first of all told me that her husband's name was Udo as well. It's amazing again and again how personal check-in can be in the US…while in Europe stoned and automated faces often seem to expect an apology from the passenger for being forced to serve at the counter at all…
Within two minutes I had my boarding pass and entered security. An agent checked passports and decided on which lane you were sent. Of course I was sent to the tightened security lane, including a close body check and a total search of my bag. There must be really something about my hairstyle which is not liked…
I had so much stuff in the bag, including several cans of soda, sandwiches, jelly beans and a cup of pineapples, that the TSA guy had to smile and he said: "Hey, you take all your lunch with you?". "Sure" I replied, "it'll be a long day at Phoenix." Of course I didn't add that I was planning to stay on top of the airport's parking structure in order to WATCH planes!
After being back in my shoes and wearing my belt again I had a look around for registrations. Still pissed about the incident on my flight to LAX I acted discretely once more, I just wasn't in the mood of explaining. At least not so early in the day. I took a seat at my gate and found out that my flight 526 was due to arrive from San Jose. I got some FedEx planes while waiting and the usual Southwest crowd. The terminal is just about four years old and very convenient. ONT is a good alternative to LAX for all those who want to avoid severe traffic or congestion.
Arriving exactly on schedule from SJC, N767SW turned in to the gate. Unfortunately it still carried the old color scheme, but already had winglets mounted. It really fits the -700 well and makes it appear quite sexy, definitely more than the -800.
Only around 40 passengers were boarding the flight, and as expected most of them took a seat in the front and the middle section. I went to the far end and had my window seat in the last row. The interior is nice, with the blue and brown leather seats looking sharp and being very comfortable. There's plenty of legroom due to only 132 seats in the aircraft. Cabin crew was ok, but not as motivated as I remembered and expected it from the "Love airline".
We left the gate slightly late but without any waiting we could turn on the runway and head for Arizona. Take off was powerful and followed by an immediate left turn. FAs soon gave out two bags of Southwest's famous honey roasted and salted peanuts and took orders for drinks. These were then prepared in the galley and brought to the seats.
Since there was only desert visible outside I had a lavatory check and was first a bit confused as I didn't find the lavatory where it is usually located. There was the galley section first attached behind the seat rows, the lavatory is then located on the right side behind the galley installations.
Descent was started soon and without turning much we directly approached PHX. Unfortunately on my side there were just industrial buildings visible while the skyline was on the left. Touchdown was hard and thrust reverse stopped us fast. We quickly taxied to our gate at Terminal 4 and passed Southwest's "Lonestar One" on the way.
After deboarding I didn't try to get many registrations as I preferred to do that once on the parking structure. I first walked around for a while searching for the way out there but then I spotted an elevator along with magic P for parking signs. It showed nine levels and I knew I was right - I chose level 8 and went up. As soon as I left the elevator it took my breath, it was so damn hot out there! I don't know in Celsius, but Fahrenheit temperatures must have hit 110 that day, making it even one of the warmer days for Phoenix. But well, no time for complaining I thought, I had my "mission" and that was LOGBOOK FILLING!
Level 8 turned out to be the perfect place for spotting, giving shade all over from the top level. Since the parking structure is extremely long and wide it's not possible to cover both runways in total, but most of the traffic could be caught. I got the rest by just walking around once in a while. It was windy up there but the wind was so hot that it felt as if you open an oven…
Surprisingly many people parked their cars up there and many of them took notice of me…I expected police to show up all the time but there was none all day. One guy parked his car and after staring at me for five minutes he just asked me if I did plane spotting. He added it would be "a dangerous game in these days"…well, I thought not as dangerous as climbing up rocks or eating killer pretzels…
At 18:30 I had enough from the heat and was just about to go when finally the long awaited cavalry showed up. Two cop cars, one from each side would have made it impossible to me to flee…if I had wanted doing so!
Wearing shorts as part of their uniform btw, they asked me what I was doing there and when I said plane spotting they understood. However they filled a form and said they had to check whenever someone calls in. But they said it was absolutely ok to be up here, no problem at all! They were just surprised hearing that I flew in for the day just for spotting. And they asked: "Did you really spend all day up here, in the heat?" Well, it' s all about training!
02. September 2004
Phoenix Sky Harbor (PHX) - Ontario (ONT)
America West HP640
Boeing 737-277 (A)
N186AW (1982 model, msn 832)
Economy seat 15D
At around 19:00 I approached the America West check-in desks at level 2 and was surprised to find only check-in machines. However, they turned out to be handled very easily, via touchscreens. I entered my booking code and first of all I was offered an upgrade to First Class for 50 USD on the Las Vegas-Ontario leg. Of course I rejected and went on with the processs. It showed my two flights as planned and boarding passes were printed. As already chosen while booking, I had my window seats printed on. Departure time was 20:40 and I went on to my gate. This time I wasn't sent to the tightened security lane. Yeah!
At my gate I sat down and read for a while but unfortunately they had a TV turned on loudly with G.W.Bush's speech at the Rep's convention and I found it quite disturbing, to say it diplomatically. Some people were even applauding at his verbal outcomings, well, must have been the heat that day…
I was getting more excited with every minute as I was hoping to find a special colored B757 being towed to the gate. Chances were not too bad as two regular painted 757s had departed only two hours before. The flight 778 to Vegas was due to arrive from Baltimore and right on time an aircraft showed up - but it was an A320! I was puzzled for some time but then assumed they would let passengers deboard and bring in a 757 later. However, trouble began. An announcement was made that "unfortunately our scheduled aircraft is not available". Damn I thought, so much for the special 757. Thanks, bad luck…And then they added: "But instead canceling the flight we decided to bring in a smaller aircraft to operate the service." Wow, what a miracle…I was starting to wonder about the number of passengers when they said: "There are less seats than passengers booked, so please get in line again and have your boarding passes stamped. Only stamped boarding passes give you access to the aircraft." I was number 100 or so in line and thought I would be on the flight, but then at the counter I got a "not on" mark on the boarding pass. I tried to explain I had a connection at Las Vegas but the two guys just answered: "please wait at the gate, we deal with that later". About 20 passengers in total were rejected boarding and I still don't know which criteria they used for choosing them. There were people in front of me and behind rejected, while others were accepted. Probably related to fares paid, and my 49 USD fare for two flights might haven't been a good argument. Some people were really upset and started arguing and shouting. Then they were seeking volunteers and offered a next day departure to Vegas on Southwest, including a hotel stay and a 300 USD travel voucher. I was thinking about it but it wouldn't have helped me to get to Vegas only, with my final destination being Ontario. I guess it would have been a good choice for Vegas only passengers. I went to another agent and told him about my connection at Vegas and they finally reacted to my request. They had a look on the computer and said there would be seats on the nonstop service to Ontario. They suggested I should just go to the gate and speak up. It seemed it was the only alternative available and quite pissed I went to the other gate. While a very kind female trainee welcomed me, the other agent was not kind at all, just took my boarding passes and didn't react to my rear cabin, window seat request. He just said: row 15, seat D, aisle. That was it…how kind! How about a customer service training at Southwest or jetBlue, guy?
I was really annoyed for being stolen not only one flight but also the option of flying one of their old 757s. Before I took a seat at the gate I had a short look outside and saw a B737 nose and thought "wow, a damn boring -300, what a superb aircraft type!".
But then, in order to get the number on the gear door, my look fell at the engine which appeared very small in diameter…and surprise, it was indeed an old JT8D! The number was N186AW and it was a -200, at least a small, well very small, positive aspect. I then remembered I had seen that type while seeking my flights on the Internet. I could have got it for 29 USD but I decided to take the connection via Las Vegas. Last year I had booked two Ryanair trips just to get the -200 and I almost broke a leg to finally get it in one out of eight flights…and now I got it due to a very stupid coincident. But you can be sure, if I had wanted to get the -200 on America West intentionally, I wouldn't have made it…
The flight was quite well booked, I guess load factor was somewhere around 90%. I was surprised the interior didn't look worn at all, the cloths seats were comfortable, so was leg room. However the seats were really high and didn't give a good view at the aisle. I had never seen this type of seat before.
Boarding seemed to be completed but it took another while until a last group of passengers arrived. About 15 minutes late we left the gate. Taxi was fast and we didn't have to line up. The two good old JT8Ds roared loudly and roll began. And we rolled long, it seemed really long until we finally took off, shaking quite a bit.
Cabin service was started soon, but in contrast to Southwest no peanuts or pretzels or anything else was served. However, they indeed had my all time favorite "Arizona Ice Tea" and America Worst got a positive remark from me. Cabin crew were motivated and cared well about pax. I couldn't see much outside and so I chatted with my seat neighbor for a while.
There was nothing special anymore to report on that flight, and soon descent into Ontario was started. We hit some winds coming down from the San Bernadino Mountains which shook the plane a bit, but not much unfortunately. Approach was straight and touch down quite hard, followed by the "music in my ears" thrust reverse that was just awesome loud.
We taxied to the very last gate at Terminal 4 and deboarding was immediately started.
At the end I was not sure being happy about the day or not. First of all I got lots of numbers at PHX, mostly America Worst, Mesa Airlines and Southwest. The missed B757 and A320 flights really annoyed me, but much more the fact that one flight was stolen and I had paid some 25 USD for nothing. I decided to complain with America West Customer Relations, though I don't really expect anything. But I just have to tell them I'm pissed about one flight being taken away…and not to forget, I will complain about the non caring gate agent and his lack of customer orientation. I know his first name which might help.
At the end, a "normal" passenger would say thanks to America West for dealing well with the problem, flying to the destination nonstop, instead of a connection. And for arriving at ONT two hours earlier than originally scheduled. But hell, I am not a normal passenger!
Ba319-131 From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2001, 8546 posts, RR: 54
Reply 1, posted (10 years 2 weeks 3 days 19 hours ago) and read 2136 times:
Nice report. I agree with your latter comments regarding:-
"At the end, a "normal" passenger would say thanks to America West for dealing well with the problem, flying to the destination nonstop, instead of a connection. And for arriving at ONT two hours earlier than originally scheduled"
Yes,the 'normal' passenger is likely to be quite happy,though people like you and me who like the connection due to extra flights and or aircraft types are going to be unhappy.
Regarding HP,i've had 18 flight with them and never had an issue at all,in fact,not even a delayed flight,I think they are great,but perhaps i'm lucky
Now,you and the cops
I think its a real shame and very sad that you(and the spotter community) come in for so much special interest,worse still,if we saw anything suspicious we would be the first to report it! I sure miss the days or roaming down the UA & AA gates at ORD,wandering down the UA LAX terminal at night to get the late night flights....oh well,guess it leaves more time for Letterman
I used to love spotting in america,and still do,I love the country,but all the extra and some of it 'over the top' security measures are really just out to put people off visiting,and it's starting to work,I know lots of people,not just spotters who will not visit the states or go back because they are fed up with being look upon as a potential enemy of the state.
Anyway,thank for the post and keep us all in the loop for your next flight.
How many SQ 345's did you spot @ LAX? - I assume you spotted there!!?
Udo From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 2, posted (10 years 2 weeks 2 days 11 hours ago) and read 2000 times:
Indeed, it was just bad luck with America West. I called them today and complained...they will send me a coupon for 25% off on the next flight. It's just too bad I won't be able to use any more in the remaining days of my stay.
Yes, I have never felt so uncomfortable as a spotter as in the last eight days. The US have become a hard place for us but I don't give up. I will not give in to the terrorists who are threatening our hobby.
Oh, I finally made it to LAX today for a whole day. I stayed at the roof of the T3 parking garage and nobody cared...at least not the police. A cop on a motorbike came by twice but didn't stop. And he saw well what I did. However, the usual EL AL hippie came by and tried to send me off...since it was lunchtime I did him the favour and went back half an hour later after the LY plane had left...
Well, 9V-SGA was the first A345 today...hope to get more!
Yokohama1970 From United States of America, joined Jul 2004, 199 posts, RR: 2
Reply 3, posted (10 years 2 weeks 2 days 7 hours ago) and read 1979 times:
How's it going? Sorry to hear about your aircraft swap & lack of good customer service.
"The flight 778 to Vegas was due to arrive from Baltimore and right on time an aircraft showed up - but it was an A320! I was puzzled for some time but then assumed they would let passengers deboard and bring in a 757 later."
HP flight #778 is an originating flight from PHX-LAS-BWI. During the peak Summer travel months, HP #778 is usually a 757-200. HP #778 is a "Crew Hauler." Due to the enormous amount of LAS "Red-Eye' flights, "Dead-Head" flight crew members must make that flight. When an aircraft swap or "downgrade" occurs, the decision to send dead-headers over revenue passengers becomes a "necessary evil." It is cheaper to re-book, compensate & accomodate 30 or 40 passengers, rather than cancel numerous "red-eye" flights from LAS (hundreds of passengers).
Our last 2 PM flights from PHX-LAS (778 & 716) are never good choices, due to dead-heading flight crews. Especially, during Labor Day weekend. I am glad that you safely made it back to ONT. Don't worry, the ringing in your ears will go away. Hey, at least it was not the last few rows of window seats on the DC-9, BAC-111, MD-80 or 727.
PHX-ONT HP #640 is usually a 737-200. Good news, we will be retiring 1 737-200, very soon! Then, only 4 will remain. My ears will re-joice! I will not shed a tear! I have been hit in the back of the head too many times. Yes, even with the cargo-bin pin installed.
I hate to bash my own airline, but always fly SWA if you want consistently efficient & friendly customer service. Plus, SWA is known for their punctuality & in-frequent mechanical delays.
By the way, there are usually 2 Arizona Iced Tea per drink cart. We have a wierd mix of drinks. After Barq's & Big Red Soda, Arizona Iced Tea is my #3.
Yokohama1970 From United States of America, joined Jul 2004, 199 posts, RR: 2
Reply 5, posted (10 years 2 weeks 1 day 10 hours ago) and read 1879 times:
How's it going? Unfortunately, I work for AWA on the PHX ramp. As usual, I will find out about new routes, new aircraft, schedule changes & aircraft re-painting after you will.
The only change to the 757-200 theme planes happened about a year ago N907AW "Barney" (The Phoenix Suns plane). I remember sending out "Barney" one afternoon HP # 52 SJD-PHX-LAS-JFK. I commented to my co-workers, that I had not seen it for about a month. My co-worker John (Falfie) informed me that it was re-painted after a heavy maintenance check.
N902AW (Teamwork plane) was re-painted & the theme was changed. Only the "Teamwork" concept was kept. I really like the 757-200 theme planes. I hope they stick around.
757 common routes:
PHX-BWI (85), DCA (46), DFW, IAH, LAS (52), LAX (35), PVR , FLL, MCO, TPA, SFO (813), SAN (186), SJD, a few others & Arizona Cardinals charters (it will be a 757-200), not always N908AW (Arizona Cardinals theme plane).
The Florida destinations receive 757-200's & A320's November-May (Winter service). MIA is usually A320 or A319.
LAS utilizes a few 757-200's for JFK (52 & 58), BWI (778) & DCA (49)service.
There are a few others, too.
Udo From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 6, posted (10 years 2 weeks 22 hours ago) and read 1831 times:
Thanks again for the update! I really liked the Phoenix Suns plane a lot, why don't they paint a new one? And it's time for an A320 to fly in special colors!
I really hope the special 757s will remain for some time...