Well, it's the Monday after Thanksgiving, and my first flights with The Best Care In The Air are behind me. They certainly will not be my last, let me tell you. It is my belief that there is not a better airline service-wise in the continental US.
11-25-99: YX 302, MKE-DFW, A/C: DC-9-30, Seat 2A; connecting YX/AE 3730, DFW-ACT, A/C: SF340B, Seat 7A
I waited at the gate for my first Midwest Express flight for about 40 minutes before boarding. I did not check any luggage as I had packed lightly for such a short trip - only a carry-on bag. The flight boarded on time, departing promptly at 7:30 am.
I was quite impressed with the wide, business-class leather seats, done in a tasteful brown colour, and the clean, light cabin of this DC-9-30 aircraft. The age of the aircraft was really noticeable only in the archaeic F/A call buttons and pax service units. The flight was full (though I was lucky enough to have the seat next to me empty), and the cabin attendants were the most professional and friendly I have ever experienced on a US carrier. I noted that the legroom for most taller pax was not typical business-class; the man across the aisle from me had his knees up against the seatback in front of him, indicating the seating pitch is about what one would expect in coach. I was glad to be only 5'8" and not leggy! After the pre-flight demonstration, which I always pay close attention to, we lined up for take-off and flew into the early morning Milwaukee sky.
YX's DC-9s are fitted with hush kits on the engines which, according to an acquaintance of mine who works for them, look like big cookie cutters. These break up engine exhaust and direct the noise upwards. The aircraft was somewhat quieter than I remember older DC-9s being. Other YX DC-9s which took off before us did not have the typical high-pitched roar of the JT8D engine.
About 30 minutes after take-off, the cabin attendants invited the passengers to "join us for breakfast." This is actually what they said over the P/A system! Of course, they did not actually dine with the pax, but I thought it amusing, and very unlike the typical "we will be coming through the cabin to serve you..." Early in the flight, I had noticed the absence of fold-down tray tables; they are in the outter part of the seat, typical of business-class, and fold out from the armest, opening across the passenger seat itself. Breakfast was a choice between Belgian waffles with strawberries and a side of yogurt, and a fruit plate with cold cereal and yogurt. I was the last lucky passenger to receive a choice, as there are only certain quantities of each meal (the fruit plate DID look great, however). I chose the Belgian waffle. The meal was served on Midwest Express china, with real metal cutlery and little salt and pepper shakers, even a cloth knapkin. Complimentary champagne was also served, of which I partook, of course! The meal was excellent - the waffle was sweet and crunchy, the strawberries fresh, the yogurt cold, not runny and nice. The champagne was brut, and was cold and refreshing. I asked for orange juice, and mixed myself a mimosa.
The cabin attendants offered seconds of champagne, along with coffee after the meal.
We cruised at 33,000 feet, the rest of the flight passing uneventfully. The plane landed at DFW on time after a most pleasant two hour, 15 minute flight. I was met by a friend who works for American Airlines, and he accompanied me to the American Eagle gates. There was some confusion on behalf of the gate agent, who could not seem to find a bus to transport the seven passengers on my American Eagle flight out to the plane. Finally, a bus pulled up and we were driven out for boarding. American Eagle uses Saab-Fairchild SF340B turboprop aircraft on most of its very short routes, and this was the aircraft for the Waco flight. We boarded and left on time for the short 20 minute flight. My seat was 7A, but due to the small number of passengers, I switched to the exit row behind it - more legroom and a reclining seat. After taking off and climbing to our cruising altitude of 9,000 feet, the cabin attendant served the seven of us pretzels, cookies and drinks of our choice. The flight was a bit bumpy, but again uneventful. The Saab is a somewhat comfortable aircraft for a commuter plane, albeit noisy as is typical of most turboprops. I cannot imagine spending more than an hour in one as the noise and vibration in the cabin begins to wear on one's nerves after a short while. I wonder if American Eagle will eventually replace these aircraft with ATRs or RJs on the Waco route? We landed with a thump at Waco's regional airport. The terminal has been recently remodeled, with a passenger waiting area by the two gates separated from the main terminal by a baggage checking system complete with x-ray machine and metal detector. This is actually quite an innovation for Waco's airport as it was only a small terminal building for years.
At this time, only American Eagle and Continental Express serve Waco.
11-28-99: YX/AE 3830, ACT-DFW, A/C: SF340B, Seat 12B; connecting YX 309, DFW-MKE, A/C: DC-9-30, Seat 6A
Thanksgiving was a nice, relaxing time spent with family. My 15:30 American Eagle departure from Waco was once again aboard a SF340B, this time nearly full - only one seat aboard the aircraft was empty. The flight was 35 minutes from Waco to Dallas, and there was no time for a beverage service due to the heavy load factor. Not a problem as the flight was so short, anyway.
I had about two hours at DFW before my flight to Milwaukee, and my friend once again met me at the American Eagle gate. We went for a drink in a bar after changing terminals. I think that will be the last time I order a drink in an airport, as this tiny rum and coke cost me $7.00!!!
I was glad to have checked in and received my boarding pass for the flight to Milwaukee early, as it had been oversold. We boarded for an on-time departure at 18:30. Traffic at DFW did not seem overly heavy, though Sunday was the busiest travel day with so many people returning home from the Thanksgiving holiday. The plane took off after a short taxi, not pausing at the end of the runway, but instead revving up immediately and lifting off into the warm Dallas night.
The flight to Milwaukee from Dallas was shorter by approximately 16 minutes in comparison with the flight to Dallas from Milwaukee. Again, excellent, very professional service, and the seats on this DC-9-30 looked newer and cleaner than the ones on the other aircraft. About 35 minutes after departure, the passengers were "invited" to dinner. This was a choice between steak and mashed potatoes, and a cold seafood and pasta platter. I chose the seafood and pasta as I had over-indulged in rich foods for the three and one-half days of my trip. The meal was perfect in that it was light but of excellent quality. It consisted of a main dish of three huge shrimp and two REAL crab claws, sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, and cold saffron pasta mixed with bell peppers in a light vinaigrette, a side dish of fresh cubed watermelon, a roll with butter, and a chocolate and banana mousse tart. Red and white wine were offered with dinner; I chose the white, a nice chardonnay of which I had two glasses.
The meal service was followed by coffee, which I decided I would take a chance on. For the first time on a flight with a US carrier, I was delighted to discover that the coffee was rich and strong, not the typical brown water I have so staunchly refused in the past. Midwest Express earned 200 points for that alone!
The plane landed on time in Milwaukee, at 20:40. As I stated earlier, Midwest Express is certainly the finest domestic airline I have flown with, and whenever possible in the future, I will choose them. Midwest operates flights for most of the routes within the US I travel, which I consider very fortunate. And who can beat business class seating and service for a coach fare? Other domestic airlines could learn a few things from Midwest's products and services. I have already booked my flights for the Christmas holiday aboard Midwest Express.