I decided to take a trip to STL for some TWA photography. Normally I fly non-rev on American Airlines, however with the spring breakers I was having difficulty finding seats on the flights I needed. So I broke down and brought a ticket....Leave it to an aviation enthusiast to book a simple trip on three different airlines.
Saturday, March 24, 2001
MSP-MDW AirTran Airways Flight 821
Boeing 717-2BD N957AT
I got to the airport early to catch Sun Country's 7:00am DC-10 departure to Miami. It left a little late so I had to high tail it back to the terminal to catch my flight. While passing through the check in area, I noticed that the lines for Northwest and United were running about an hour to get through. There was no line at the AirTran counter...I check my bag and received my boarding pass within two minutes. I boarded the plane immediately and stopped by the cockpit to poke my head in. I asked if I could take a quick photo. The first officer seemed hesitant and asked if I worked for another airline (if I did so what? What's so classified about the B717 cockpit?). The captain was very friendly though and we engaged in a conversation for several minutes after I took my photos. I took my seat (18F) and noticed that the plane was about two-thirds full. The first thing I noticed was that the aircraft appeared that it had not been serviced. I found this hard to believe since it overnighted at MSP, but there was garbage in the seat back pockets and lots of crumbs on the floor. Pushback was right on time at 7:45am, however there was quite a long line for departure on 30L. The flight was uneventful. The flight took us over Rochester, MN and Davenport, IA. Beverage service was accompanied by two biscotti cookies. As soon the beverage service ended we had already started our descent. The final approach was kind of neat. It seemed like we were skimming the rooftops on our way to 31C. There was an Atlanta bound AirTran flight in our gate that had been delayed, so we were sent to the penalty box for about 15 minutes. There was an ATA 727 and a 757 (the white one with no titles and a blue tail) that sat there with us. After arrival, I claimed my bag (AirTran and Southwest cannot do interairline transfers) and waited in the long check in line at the Southwest counter in the new terminal.
MDW-STL Southwest Airlines Flight 1789
Boeing 737-3H4 N600WN
Unfortunately I had a 3 hour layover which turned into a 4.5 hour layover because the arriving Southwest flight was late. The terminal at Midway is just miserable. It's crowded, the facilities are woefully inadequate, and a good number of the employees are really crabby all the time (I probably would be too if I had to work there). Then, you get the pain-in-the-ass checkin procedure that Southwest makes you go through and it really made me promise once again that I need to quit flying Southwest. But those cheap fares are hard to beat and the most important thing is getting from Point A to Point B for the cheapest fare available. Unfortunately, it's on Southwest Airlines sometimes. Alas, our aircraft had arrived and after the infamous Southwest 15 minute turnaround we were on our way to STL. The aircraft looked like it hadn't been cleaned the entire day. The floor was starting to resemble a movie theater's floor and the seat pockets were overflowing with trash. It's a lot easier to do 15 minute turnarounds when you don't bother to clean and service your planes. The flight was typical, beverage service then our descent. Landing was on 30R and we taxied immediately to our gate in Concourse E.
Monday, March 26, 2001
STL-MDW Southwest Airlines Flight 492
Boeing 737-7H4 N793SA "Spirit One"
After my three day cloud spotting fiasco (no, the trip didn't go as well as I had hoped it would), I arrived at the airport extra early to deal with the long lines at the Southwest counter that I always encounter at almost every U.S. airport. Surprisingly, there was no line and I checked my bag pretty quick. I was pleasantly surprised when our aircraft arrived from Little Rock to take us to Chicago was Southwest's new B737-7H4 "Spirit One" in the new color scheme and the new leather interior! There was the usual rush at the boarding door. Despite being the 6th person to check in I think I was maybe the 60th person to get on board. Prior to pushback from the gate the captain got on the intercom and explained the significance of the airport. Most people seemed uninterested or unimpressed. We pushed back right on time at 6:15pm and had an immediate departure on 30L. Beverages were served along with those salted peanuts. Arrival was on time at MDW on 31C again. After the long hike to the new terminal to claim my bag from Southwest, I went upstairs to check in with Northwest.
MDW-MSP Northwest Airlines Flight 1069
Airbus Industrie A320-212 N332NW
I used Northwest's E-check in to change my seat to 21F and print a boarding pass. I still had to stop by the counter to check a bag, but at least there was no line. Boarding and departure was right on time. This marked my first Airbus flight (I have managed to avoid them for the past two decades)...it's not a bad aircraft but I still a hardcore Douglas person. In fact, the only reason I got the bus was because the original flight (DC-9-30) was switched a week before. Again, an uneventful flight....arrival was on time on 30R. It was after 10:00pm so the airport was quite deserted, just the way I like it!