16 February 2001
I arrived at the airport at 6:45am for the 8:09am flight. There was no line for check-in, so I was helped right away. I checked my bag and had my upgrade confirmed all the way through to JAX. I was also told that the flight was delayed until 8:30am due to bad weather in St Louis. I went upstairs for breakfast then went down to gate 4 to wait. At 8:10am they announced the delay program at STL was cancelled so we would board and depart straight away. At that time, I stopped to check my boarding passes before the TW First pre-board. I noticed my flight numbers on both passes were wrong! I went up to the gate counter and pointed this out to them. The agent checked the computer and said that my reservation had been cancelled and then rebooked that morning on the flight to JAX. And as that flight was overbooked, I no longer had a seat from the second after mine became open. My STL flight number was for the 11:00am flight. He was able to change my ticket back to my original flight which was completing boarding. He also called down to make sure my bag made this plane. With profuse apologies and unable to offer an explanation for the change, he told me I was confirmed for the later JAX flight in First and he suggested I check the first flight's gate to see if I could get on board. I was one of the last to board and took seat 5A in the last row of TW First. A pre-takeoff orange juice or water was offered as we pushed back at 8:24am. We taxied to the end of runway 36 where we sat for a few minutes finally taking off at 8:31am. Flying time was announced as 52 minutes at FL290. Supposedly the flight was to be smooth. The flight attendants passed out three Biscoff crackers to each passenger in First (a full load, as well as being full in coach) as they served drinks from the cart. Shortly after they finished first class, the captain turned the seat-belt sign on and the F/A's remained seated the rest of the flight through severe turbulence. We had a bumpy descent and landed on runway 24 at STL at 9:32am after service items were hurridly picked up during the seatbelt check. We arrived at gate D4 at 9:37am. I deplaned and proceeded to gate C15 where after waiting in line for 20 minutes I was told I could not get on the 10:20am departure to JAX as it was oversold by 15. The agent said she would put me at the very top of the standby list if I wanted, but said it would probably be in coach. I took her better suggestion of just waiting as I was confirmed in First on the later flight. This 10:20am flight finally left after 11:30am.
16 February 2001
I waited for several hours at gate C33, watching the latest bombings of Iraq on CNN Airport. I was disappointed as the timetable showed this flight as a DC-9, where my original flight was a B717. I was pleasantly surprised as my first B717 pulled up, arriving from LGA. The cleaners were VERY slow, and we finally boarded at 1:30pm for the 1:10pm flight. The plane smelled new and I stepped on board, the flight attendant standing in the galley wanting coats to hang at that moment. I set my bag down and removed my coat for her. The crew was JFK based, with two English flight attendants, which is unusual for a US domestic flight. I took my seat 3C, which was a nice leather seat with adjustable headrest, unlike the seats on the MD-80's. A pre-takeoff water was offered. The lead F/A kept shouting over the PA for "whoever is at the front holding up the line of passengers needs to step into their row" because "you are the problem that is delaying us." We pushed at 1:48pm. Lead F/A was Diana assisted by Beverly (who served in First) and Nancy. We took off at 1:55pm from runway 30L. For some reason neither of my flights had in-flight magazines in the seat pockets. Another interesting note: One of the F/A's had American Airlines kiddie wings pinned below the TWA wings on her sweater. Getting ready for the merger perhaps? A long announcement was made regarding the AA benefits now extended to Ambassador's Club/Aviators members. After take-off, we went to FL330 for the 1 hour 46 minute flight. The seatbelt sign went off quickly. I reclined my seat, which had the nice feature of a seat bottom that slides forwards as you recline the back. The tray table on the new seats also swivels outward. There is a small extendable tray for cups on either side of the central armrest. Legroom was good, but not as good as on a couple of MD-80's I have been on recently. The drink service started, accompanied by smoked almonds. Wine was offered for those of age. Then meal boxes were passed out: Large white boxes with the Trans World First logo on them. Linen napkins around silverware were passed out as well. The meal was a turkey sandwich on a large soft bun with a pasta salad and potato chips. It was decent enough but I'd expect more on a flight listed as a meal flight. The flight attendant constantly offered to top off any drinks. She was very attentive and polite. After the boxes were collected, I found out the source of the aroma coming from the galley when warm chocolate chip cookies were distributed, three to each passenger. Coffee was then offered with real cream. We had a quick decent while coats were passed out. We touched down at 4:36pm, 21 minutes late and got to the gate on A concourse shortly afterwards. Bags, as usual at JAX, took a very long time to show up on the belt. When the belt stopped, I had not yet seen mine. I went to the baggage service office at 5:10pm (when the belt finally stopped) and retrieved my bag. It made the original flight that didn't have room for me. All-in-all, an acceptable trip down with TWA, but not quite at the service level of some other domestic First Class.
18 February 2001
I arrived at JAX at 1:05pm for the 2:50pm flight. There was no wait, so I checked in and upgraded immediately. After wandering around, I went up to gate A6 to look out the window. Boarding began at 2:20pm, and I got on the B717 with the preboard. There was a long gap between the First Class boarding and the general boarding, partly due to three wheelchair passengers who were escorted on one by one. This allowed time for flight attendant Amanda to pick up coats and distribute the pre-takeoff orange juice/water. The seat next to me was empty until the end. The seats were the nice new leather ones. Legroom in row 1 isn’t as generous as on some MD-80’s. Once again, no Ambassador magazines in any seat pockets. Right before pushback, a TWA first officer boarded and took seat 1F, the window next to me. As I later found out, he was a B757/767 captain and we talked for a good bit of the flight, me having been in JAX to compete for a scholarship at the flight school I will be attending (Jacksonville University) for the next four years. We pushed back at 2:51pm and had a long taxi and hold short to runway 7. We took off after a Southwest B737 and Delta B767-200, wheels up at 3:02pm. We climbed to 31000 feet for the 2 hour 5 minute flight. Drinks began with two flight attendants taking a cart to coach and one remaining in First. Drinks were served with two bags of smoked almonds from the cart, this time with real glasses. As on the way down, the red wine flowed into the glasses of passengers of drinking age the entire flight. My soda was topped off frequently, with the flight attendant constantly offering me another whole can. We were kept updated on the Daytona 500 throughout the flight. I took the race update announcements as an opportunity to use the lavatory, as I couldn’t care less about Nascar. The flight was smooth, and we made a descent over Cape Girardeau, then crossing just south of downtown STL, and as my seatmate explained, flew past the STL VOR 11 miles south of the field and circled around for landing on 12R. Coats were passed out during the approach. We touched down at 4:04pm and had a quick taxi to gate C3 where we stopped at 4:08pm.
18 February 2001
I took my time getting to gate D16 and read until the TW First boarding call, when I boarded the tired looking MD-80. I took my aisle seat in the last row of First: 5D. The F/A took coats before general boarding started, but pre-takeoff orange juice/water was delivered right before pushback. The flight was full. Safety demo completed, we pushed at 5:09pm, on time. We had a typical taxi to 12L. Wheels came up at 5:22pm after a long ground roll. Flight time was announced as 54 minutes at an altitude of 31000 feet. The flight attendants did a quick beverage and almond service, with Tracie serving in First. Wine was again offered (TWA sure does love red wine) and there were three rounds of refills offered. The flight was uneventful. We had a long approach, flying east of the field and up north before circling around over snow-covered farmland to touch down on runway 18 at 6:23pm. We took the turnoff next to the TWA gate and practically taxied straight ahead from the runway turnoff into the gate. We came to a full stop at 6:25pm and it took a minute to manuever the jetway into place and open the door to gate 4. Bags took about 15 minutes to come down the belt.
TWA as usual came through. The way down was rough, but the return flights were just fine. Meal service needs some improvement, but it's better than some. I sure do like the seats on the B717 and hope they find their way to the rest of the narrowbody fleet some day. It's great to fly on an airplane that smells of new leather.