A weekend trip up to SEA....
21 June 2001
America West # 767
We arrived at Omaha/Eppley at 10:30am for the 11:43am departure. Nobody was at the First Class line in front of us. There was just one check-in agent at the desk. She pulled us in front of those in line for Coach and helped us. Another agent showed up just after she started checking us in. The actual check-in process took about 90 seconds and we were issued boarding passes for 1 C/D. After grabbing an overpriced lunch at the north terminal food court, we went down to gate 11 where we preboarded at 11:20am. Flight attendant Kevin welcomed us on board and hung up our jackets for us. A packaged of mixed nuts was waiting for each of us on the center armrest. As soon as we were seated, Kevin took drink orders and gave us our drinks in hard tall plastic cups. Kevin gave us our connecting gate information before we pushed back. Seven of eight First seats were full at the end. Total on board was only 83 including the five crew members. We pushed back at 11:40am and taxied past the terminal on the way to runway 36. After waiting for a Southwest B737-300 to land and clear the runway, we took off at 11:48am and made an immediate sharp turn left to head westbound. By noon the cabin crew was beginning preparations for a “light snack” service. Kevin asked us to pull out our tray tables and he covered them with a linen. Promptly afterwards he delivered our pre-ordered drinks in real glasses (a step above my last TWFirst experience) and left a full can of soda for refills on our tray. The snack was on a small tray. It had a plate with two cucumbers, a tomato slice, and a small cheese/vegetable tortilla wrap. Next to the plate was a clear plastic bag of tortilla chips and a tub of salsa (only downside was the packaging of these two items), and a small Toblerone chocolate. The wrap was good, but the vegetables were dried out. After trays were cleared, another drink refill was offered. The flight attendants then disappeared to the rear galley until one First Class passenger went to go fetch one after his three call button rings over 25 minutes were not answered. When one came back up to First, he offered us all another drink and mixed nuts package. We started our descent a few minutes later. We approached PHX from the east and landed on runway 26 at 12:05pm. After we cleared the runway, the Captain announced that we were 23 minutes early, but that meant that in the rush hour at Terminal 4, our gate was not available yet. A flight attendant announced that the Phoenix weather was “clear and sunny with a temperature probably over 150 degrees.” After a ten minute wait we taxied to gate B4.
21 June 2001
America West # 75
We went immediately to gate A23 to find the inbound flight from PHL had not yet arrived. No delay was posted, but knowing America West that didn’t mean anything. In past similar situations the flight was already canceled, but the cancellation wasn’t posted. Finding flight 75 on the arrivals board out in the concourse, it said the inbound flight was slated to arrive ten minutes before the SEA departure, so an ontime departure seemed unlikely, no matter what the gate agents started repeating over and over. At 1:05pm, the A320 arrived and passengers deplaned. After preboarding calls for UM’s, then small children/familes, then disabled people, First/FlightFund was let onto the airplane at 1:25pm. A packaged of mixed nuts was once again on the center armrest of each seat. My seat, 1A, was on the bulkhead row. Legroom at the bulkhead was less than on the B737-300 in 1 C/D. Seat design/style was same as on the B737. During boarding a coach passenger saw the man behind us getting served wine as his pre-takeoff drink and asked “Is that for me?” jokingly to the flight attendant. She asked where he was sitting, and after take-off took a glass of wine in First Class glassware back to him. Another event during boarding… a UM who looked to be about 14 or 15 (barely qualifying as a UM I suppose) was led on by the gate agent and said he could find his own seat. After the gate agent left, he sat down in First Class. A few minutes later a man came to that seat and there was a small disagreement over whose seat it was. The kid refused to move and just went back to listening to his headphones. The passenger went up to the forward galley and got the flight attendant who after a small exchange with the kid finally got him to relinquish his boarding pass stub which said he was in about row 21 or 22. The kid didn’t want to move and the flight attendant had to escort him back to his seat and make sure he sat there. We pushed back at 1:39pm during the safety video. Flying time was announced as 2hr 30min at 35000 feet. Flight attendants were Shirley, Lynsey, and Bernice. Shirley served First Class. We had a powerful take-off at 1:49pm from runway 25R with the A320’s engines making their trademark annoying buzzsaw sound at full power. Shortly after take-off, Shirley put linens on our tray tables and passed out drinks. A hot towel service followed (prepared by pouring hot water over the towels). The snack was on a small tray and consisted of tortilla chips, a small portion of corn/bean/chicken salad, a scoop of guacamole, two pieces of jicama, a wedge of sharp cheddar cheese, and an Andes mint. It was all actually pretty good and was sufficient for the time of day. The rest of the flight went smoothly. Headsets were passed out as the snack service started and a short features presentation was shown. Descent took us close to Mt. Rainer before making a long downwind, short base, and long final into SEA’s runway 16R where we touched down at 4:17pm. We had a short taxi directly to the gate where we pulled in at B15 at 4:20pm, about fifteen minutes late. It did take awhile for somebody to position the jetway and for the front cabin door to open.
24 June 2001
America West # 750
I arrived at Sea-Tac at 4:50am for the 5:48am departure to Phoenix. I went to the First Class line where I was second in line. There were only two agents checking in the mob of people in the Coach line. One of them halted checking in Coach and served those of us standing in the First line. It was about ten minutes before I had my boarding passes and was on my way. Security took forever due to a relatively slow old man at the metal detector who was metering people through and then figiting himself with people’s cell phones and pagers to make sure they were genuine. Further delay was caused by a person in line in front of me who had a full size suitcase he was trying to put through the x-ray machine. He had a Continental ticket folder, and the Continental cabin crew in line directly in front of me saw that too, and after some discussion amongst themselves, one asked him if he was flying on their flight to Houston and then told him “You better just take that back and check it, as it will not be carried onto the aircraft.” The man had a rather brusque reply and the cabin crew let him be. I wonder how that situation worked out at the jetway door. I walked down to B14 and took a seat. At 5:15am, they called for unaccompanied minors. Six sets of parents and children hurried up to the jetway entrance and turned their children over to the two gate agents who escorted the crowd to the airplane. At 5:20am, they called for First Class and FlightFund Elite preboarding. I was the first down the jetway to the A319. There was a delay at the bottom as the six UM’s were still in the entryway while the flight attendants tried to make sense of the mess of papers handed them by the gate agent. After the bottleneck cleared, I boarded the bright and airy 7-month old A319 and took seat 2A. The seats were light gray leather with adjustable headrests. The center armrest had a small storage compartment. Headsets, pillows, and blankets were on the seats. The occupant of 2B arrived shortly after me and until right before pushback we were the only ones in First. Pre-takeoff drinks were offered along with a bag of granola mix. The flight finished full and pushed back early at 5:46am with the safety video playing. Estimated flying time was 2hr 34min at an altitude of 37000 feet. Ramon served First while Timothy and Larry were in Coach. We took off from runway 16L at 5:58am with the engines making that loud buzzsaw sound until power was pulled back on climbout. We flew just south of Mt. Rainer providing excellent views. Soon the video presentation started, which I ignored. Drinks were passed out by Ramon followed by breakfast trays. No hot towels or base linen for this service. The tray was done up nicely, however there was no choice of breakfast. It consisted of some sort of granola looking cereal, a carton of milk, a cold croissant (however soft), wedge of tasteless cheese of unknown make, butter pad, and fruit plate with four each of melon cubes, strawberry halves, grapefruit pieces, plus a few grapes. As I am lactose intolerant when it comes to pure milk, I passed on the cereal and just ate the croissant and fruit. Ramon was very attentive, and judging from what he said to the other flight attendants I believe he was a fairly new flight attendant. He kept drinks topped off and cleared trays as soon as we were finished. The rest of the flight was uneventful. We landed on runway 8 in Phoenix at 8:20am. We had a short taxi to gate A23 where we chocked in at 8:24am and had a four minute wait for the jetway to be positioned.
24 June 2001
America West # 511
I got my connecting gate information from a customer service agent and proceeded directly to gate A9. Preboarding was just starting when I arrived at 8:35am. Several groups crowded the jetway entrance when First Class was called. The gate agent instructed them to sit down and wait their turn. I boarded and took seat 2D on the B737-300. The aircraft had a ratty looking interior. No overhead personal air vents. The eight First class seats showed their age. Mine did not even go full upright. They were not completely up against the wall, so there was a lot of room on the window side. The cabin paneling was old looking and coming apart in places. A flight attendant passed out mixed nuts and pre-takeoff beverages, having to lean over seats to get around boarding passengers. The people sitting in 1A/B got hit in the knee or head by about every person boarding with their extremely large carry-ons. Several times my row shook with impacts from huge rollaboards, several of which came back out to be gate checked. The flight was overbooked, but they managed to get everybody on board with no empty seats to spare. We pushed back at 9:06am and made our way for the south complex runways. Estimated flight time was 2hr 30min. Robin served First Class while Tammy and Tamra were in Coach. We took off from runway 7L at 9:26am with a very long take-off roll. After climbout, the curtain was closed and drinks were served. Robin then passed out small plates and silverware with linen napkins. She then came around with a tray of various pastries and allowed us to choose one. A few minutes later she came around a second time. I had a glazed lemon pastry and then a banana nut/raisin muffin. Robin kept drinks full and was very attentive. At least when the service was over she sat on the jumpseat across from 1A/B to rest instead of going to the rear galley to hang out like is common anymore. She made another offer for drinks closer to landing. Flying on the B737’s is rather boring, but at least the flight was uneventful. Our route took us over Gallup, then the southeast corner of Colorado, the Kansas/Nebraska border, and then Lincoln Muni Airport before making our final descent over west Omaha and looping around from the north to land on runway 14R at 1:29pm. We had a long delay on the taxiway waiting to cross runway 18/36 due to other traffic. The general aviation runway at Omaha/Eppley is closed for widening/lengthening so general aviation traffic is funneled through the big runways. We waited for two Cessnas to depart, a Lear 45 to land, then a TWA MD-80 to takeoff before we could taxi across and arrive at gate 11 more or less on time.
America West for one of the few times in my recent memory was not a gruelling, uncomfortable, unpleasant experience (even had those in First on HP before). Flight crews were all pleasant, all of the ticketing and gate personnel were professional and courteous. The cabins were relatively clean, and seats were comfortable and well maintained except on the last aircraft. The food was pretty good, but things like hot towel services and table linens are inconsistant from flight to flight. I do like the drop down screens on the Airbuses, however sitting in the front row on the A320 the picture has some discoloration. One thing I noticed is that none of the crews stopped people from wandering up front during the flight like I have seen on other airlines. They did make the standard announcement on climbout about the location of lavs for either class of service, but they didn't stop people from pulling the curtain completely open and walking forward. There was even a line in First during one of the snack services. One thing I do not like is somebody standing over me while I am trying to eat, but that at least didn't last long. The A319's do have the best seats I will say.