Topic Author
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My First Southwest Trip....HORRID!

Mon May 20, 2002 6:02 pm

20 May 2002

Hi guys. I'm now in Los Angeles after a nice 10 day holiday in Northern California. Hopefully Southern California and Nevada will have just as much to offer as Northern CA!

Frankly speaking, the flight itself wasn't that bad. It was what happened BEFORE the flight that really spoiled my day.

My American friends had booked me a one way ticket San Jose (SJC) - LAX on Southwest which was (at the very least) half the price of any airline flying out of SFO. Anyway I knew that being dark skinned, (as I have said before, I am ethnically part Indian and part Chinese, and I travel on a Singapore passport) travelling alone and on a one way ticket was not to my advantage while travelling on US domestic services. I was mentally prepared for any questions/extra security procedures that might be carried out on me.

Got to San Jose International airport after a 1 hour drive from San Francisco city centre. I wanted to try curb-side check-in but my American friend suggested that I just go straight up as they would almost certainly want to inspect my bags manually due to my one way ticket. 'Even my 87 year old dad had to go through the same stringent security procedures when he had a one way ticket last month', she said.

Fine. Went up the departure area which was very small. The terminal only housed two airlines-Southwest and AA. Anyway got in line, which moved quickly and finally got to a check-in clerk. In addition to presenting my E-ticket print-out, I also presented my LAX-SIN ticket (departure 30th May) and told her that's the reason I had a one-way ticket. She was a cheerful lady, and acknowledged what I told her and tagged my bag straight through to LAX.

A Chinese family in front of me had to move to the side and have their bags inspected manually. I was relieved, as well as surprised, that I did not have to go through that procedure.

After which I joined the queue for the security check into the restricted boarding area. It was a pretty long queue but I got through it in 5 minutes. Said my goodbyes and hugs and kisses and all that..... and put my bag pack and wallet through the X-ray screening thingy and walked through the metal detactor. The detactor didn't beep, and neither than any security agent (All of them incidently Filipino) stop me for further checks.

I was surprised and relieved again, and took my stuff and proceeded to Gate A5 and stood in line again, to get my boarding pass. I was asked the standard "Did you pack your bags yourself... Did you have full control over what went into your bags" questions and was given a printed boarding pass, together with a boarding card which said "46" on it. 'Thank you very much, Anthony!' the gate agent said.

By which it was 1840 and the flight was due to depart at 1910. Bought a Nelson Demille book at the bookshop and proceeded to the waiting area.

At 1905, there was still no plane at our gate. Had a hunch the flight would be delayed. True enough, a few mins later "Flight 1424 to Los Angeles and Phoenix will be delayed to 1935."

1925, a 737-400 parked at our gate and at 1935 boarding commenced. When it got to my turn, I showed the gate agent my passport and he was like "Sir can you please step aside" (I have Christian first and middle names)

OK fine, I stepped aside. From then on, boarding STOPPED completely. The Filipino security guy asked me to spread my hands out and take everything from my pocket out. He was very VERY rude and did not accord me the slightest bit of respect. Now, this was in FULL VIEW of everyone and bear in mind that boarding had stopped. So naturally I had over a hundred pairs of eyes staring at me and me alone. After which I was asked to take off my shoes. He sent that wand which scanned my entire body (and it beeped when it scanned my cross..... he demanded to see what was under my shirt and surprise surprise, a CROSS.

THe entire thing took about 5 minutes but it felt like 5 hours because of the humiliation I was going through. Of course at the same time another guard was going through my bag pack. Taking things out and putting them back. So anyway now everyone knows the CDs I'm carrying, the magazines I'm reading the the kind of camera I use. Not that they care, but well.......

At the end of it all, he asked me to put my shoes on and take my stuff and board the plane. I looked behind and true enough, everyone was kinda starring at me. I picked up my bag, and walked down the aerobridge.

After which I heard 'We shall now re commence boarding for flight 1424... Could passengers on rows 1 to..........."


Got to the entrance of the 737-400. A female FA was digging into some compartment below and thus didn't greet me. Walked straight to the back of the aircraft and got the second last row.

There was this female FA who looked almost 50 and had lost her voice. One could barely hear what she was saying. She tried to shout out to a man who tried to open a faulty overhead compartment but hardly any voice came out.....

There as this particular young FA who was.... well.....quite cute, but that didn't quite make up for what happened to me minutes before!

At 1950, pushback began. The sound system was terrible so I could barely hear what the Captain nor the FAs were saying over the sound system. However I did catch that our cruising speed was 33 000 feet and flight time to LAX was 1h 20 mins.

At 2000, we took off into the evening sunset. I'm not familiar with the geography of this part of the world so I really can't tell you the landmarks we flew over.

One thing interesting about Southwest is that they don't have a cart service. Their FAs come down the aisles taking orders for drinks, after which they bring them out on trays, just as one would expect in a restaurant.

It was a full flight and they were really busy. I asked for coffee. 10 mins later, the young cute FA came out and served the drinks my section of the plane ordered. By which we had some moderate turbulence and some of the coffee spilled on me. Oh well, just not my day.

Night had completely fallen by now. After the drinks service, the FAs came round serving us peanuts. I notice we reached the city of Los Angeles by about 2045. However we had to circle the airport for a good 20 minutes before we began our final approach! Must be a busy time of the day (or night, rather) for the airport.

I must say the cabin crew look real happy and cheerful and seem to like what they're doing. Very different from the main carriers I usually take in the US, like DL and UA. Not that you get anything much to eat on these carriers anyway, so I can't understand how they charge you nearly double what Southwest charges and still don't serve full meals.

At 2050, the FAs came round collecting our cups and what not, and at 2110, we began our final approach into LAX. Landed at 2115. Sorry can't give you the name of the runway and all that! I'm completely unfamiliar with that airport.

Passed the International terminal where I saw a Qantas 744, Singapore Airlines 744, EVA Air 744, 2 Mexicana A320s, 2 Air New Zealand 744s(one just about to depart) and an Alaskan Airlines MD80(I think.... )

Reached our gate at 2120, and most of the passengers disembarked at LAX. Only a handful were continuning on to Phoenix.

Got to the baggage claims area, and it came out after half an hour. Perhaps it's fast by American standards but slow compared to Singapore and Hong Kong standards.


I certainly have a better impression of Southwest than the other main US airlines I've flown on domestic routes. I WILL fly them again, since they're much cheaper. Most main airlines don't even serve hot meals on board so why pay double the price??

Southwest cabin crew certainly look that they enjoy their jobs and they probably really DO! It's refreshing to see crew in bermudas and just looking plain happy! It's a big change from the formal approach of SIA and Cathay and most other airlines for that matter.

I have no problems with stringent security checks. It's for the common good of everyone. But PLEASE, could they do it in rooms away from the full view of everyone? Like, cos of me, the flight was delayed by an additional 5 minutes. Passengers are NOT zoo exhibits.

Of course it was a very short flight so well, as with my KUL-SIN flight, I have hardly any recollection of it now!  Smile/happy/getting dizzy

Thanks everyone for reading. Next report will be SQ 29 LAX-TPE-SIN on 30 May.

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RE: My First Southwest Trip....HORRID!

Mon May 20, 2002 6:39 pm

great report!  Big thumbs up Sorry about the security. Okay, can you tell me which side was the terminal from your plane? I might help you figure out which runway you landed on (I always fly there in FlightSim Big grin).
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RE: My First Southwest Trip....HORRID!

Mon May 20, 2002 6:45 pm

Great report!

Sorry you to go thru so much trouble!
Proud to be an Assyrian!
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RE: My First Southwest Trip....HORRID!

Mon May 20, 2002 7:29 pm

hey... sorry to hear about your security checks. But after 9-11, can't expect the Americans (or anyone for that matter) to take security for granted anymore. I once held an MAS B777 up for 45 mins in KLIA because the computer rejected my boarding pass, remarks was DO NOT BOARD THIS PAX.

U can imagine the panic I caused because the Australian High Commision got involved, because it was a flight to Brisbane. At the end of the day, it was a computer error! Hahaha... silly. But post 9-11 jittery is out there, I tell you! A trip report was posted about that incident...

I am always happy to read a positive trip report about a US Carrier. It should shut those people who flamed me when I wrote a stinker of a report about Northwest. Excellent service can indeed happen on a US carrier, no matter how large the company is... customer service should be expanded relatively.

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RE: My First Southwest Trip....HORRID!

Mon May 20, 2002 8:01 pm

Again a great report of you Docpepz Big grin

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RE: My First Southwest Trip....HORRID!

Tue May 21, 2002 12:18 am

A great trip report but I am totally DISGUSTED at the way you were treated and I have a good mind to stop my revision and e-mail those disgusting people at San Jose Airport a good verbally telling off just to get it off my chest.

A totally disgusting airport and when I go to SFO in 2 - 3 years I certainly will NOT be going to that airport. Totally horrible and immature.

I am not impressed.

Good trip report  Big thumbs up
Anyone can fly, only the best Soar.
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RE: My First Southwest Trip....HORRID!

Tue May 21, 2002 12:25 am

I thought Southwest only had -200, -300, -500, & -700's series 737's?
Topic Author
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RE: My First Southwest Trip....HORRID!

Tue May 21, 2002 12:26 am

Thanks Singapore_Air but please just confine your emails to Singapore Airlines!!!!

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RE: My First Southwest Trip....HORRID!

Tue May 21, 2002 1:28 am

First, Southwest doesn't have 737-400s.

Second, the security you experienced is the new standard (even though it isn't really standardized) American security. The computer supposedly randomly selects people for extra screening at the gate. IF not enough are selected the security personnel will select people from the crowd. What happened to you, probably happened to several others on your flight. You just didn't see it, because you were already on the plane. It isn't normal process either to stop the boarding while people are randomly searched. I wouldn't take the whole thing personally, as it wasn't meant to put you on display. You do have the right to ask for the search in private if you so wish. Sorry you felt humiliated to be searched, but honestly, unless you were naked or had some curious objects in your bag for all to see it wasn't really anything out of the ordinary. I truly don't think people actually cared about you getting searched because if anyone has flown since 9/11 in America, they know this sort of thing is going to occur.

Hope you enjoyed the US.

rainier - you really have issues with the whole trip report thing don't you? I suggest professional help if your panties are still bunched up over the opinions of others. I assure you, we who supposedly "flamed" you, which by the way, was not the case, have moved on. I sure have.

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RE: Docpepz

Tue May 21, 2002 4:07 am

A very well written & detailed trip report. A pleasant read. I'm sorry to hear that you had such a bad & unmemorable experience at SJC. But you have to face reality: security at American airports will never be the same again. You should take comfort at the fact that such stringent & rigorous security measures are being implemented, as it's in the best interests of all the passengers. However, I was very surprised they searched you in front of everyone else and delayed boarding. Wouldn't it be more productive to proceed with the boarding & continue these personal searches with other security personnel? They would accomplish much more in less time. I would also find it very unacceptable, and utterly embarrassing. But at least you were expecting something like this with regards to security, so it wasn't a complete shocker.

The last time me & my family traveled to the US was way back in 1990, and we also flew domestically, but airport security back then in the US was a far cry compared to what it is today! I’m not sure when we’ll next go to the US, as we’ve got relatives there, & we’re long overdue for another trip. I definitely know what to expect now when it comes to security checks, as I’m Indian too (fully).

Hmm, I’ll probably speak to my parents about it & see if we can go this year!! Big grin
Great trip report. Hope you’re enjoying your holiday!

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RE: My First Southwest Trip....HORRID!

Tue May 21, 2002 5:15 am

Rough break with the security screening... but if it makes you feel any better I recently flew Chicago - Dallas, Dallas-Denver, Denver-Vancouver and at each airport where we boarded, my wife and I got the full security treatment that you described. We were flying on points, so maybe that had something to do with it?

I'm white and my wife is Asian and we weren't carrying anything threatening and probably don't fit the usual security profiles. Sometimes, it's just bad luck - it's never happened to us on any other trips, including a one-way flight from Vancouver to London a couple of weeks later.

As other posters have said, better safe than sorry... but it really isn't fun, is it.

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RE: My First Southwest Trip....HORRID!

Tue May 21, 2002 6:00 am

Rough Trip but good report. Sorry about the coffee spill, i once had a bloody mary cocktail spilled all over my new shirt and pants by a f/a. Oh well live and learn, when they come duck and covvvvvvver!  Laugh out loud
DC-10's Forever
"Traveling light is the only way to fly" - Eric Clapton
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RE: My First Southwest Trip....HORRID!

Tue May 21, 2002 9:04 am

LOL @ Singapore_Air & Docpepz

Khoa I wouldnt be supprised if you got an email back giving you "a good verbally telling off"
 Big thumbs up
I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours. Jerome K Jerome
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RE: My First Southwest Trip....HORRID!

Tue May 21, 2002 10:54 am

Good trip report.
Im shocked they searched you and stopped boarding the flight.
On the last couple of flights I've had they just keep on boarding the flight while they discreetly search randomly chosen passengerS.
Fly the Flag!!!!
Topic Author
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RE: My First Southwest Trip....HORRID!

Tue May 21, 2002 11:31 am

Sorry guys....

it wasn't a 737-400, but it did look like one! (OK go ahead and scold me for being an aviation fan and not being able to distinguish b/w the various 737s) But it looked rather tired and dated. At least 10 years old.

I have no problems with stringent security checks.... just NOT in front of everyone! Yes I had nothing in my bag to hide but it's not pleasant is it.....and why was boarding stopped?

Meanwhile I have really enjoyed the last 10 days in Northern California and had a great day in Universal Studios today. Besides what happened yesterday, my vacation in the USA has been superb! I look foward to the next 9 days.

Look out for my LAX-TPE-SIN trip report at the end of the month!  Smile/happy/getting dizzy
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RE: My First Southwest Trip....HORRID!

Tue May 21, 2002 11:55 am

I can understand the privacy concern, although what's much different than the security check at the main security checkpoint? It's all done in the open. I just don't understand why all boarding was stopped. That is stupid.
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RE: My First Southwest Trip....HORRID!

Tue May 21, 2002 12:09 pm

Docpepz... dun worry, you are not the only one not being able to distinguish the 737NGs... I have a big problem! Try looking at the -800 and -900, unless you take the time to count the windows and squint to look at the very small designation, you would never know.

AZB... lets not open a can of worms here.
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RE: My First Southwest Trip....HORRID!

Tue May 21, 2002 2:45 pm

Actually, it's quite easy to tell the NGs apart from the others. They have a different wing, which a much increased dihedral than the others. The lengths increase in size with the shortest being the -600 and the longest being the -900. Southwest only operates the -200, easily identified by its old low bypass engines. The -500 which is the shortest of the mid generation 737. The -300 which is the pretty much the same size as the -700. To tell the -700 from the -300 one can look at the wing as well as the orange colored fairings on the wings of the -700s.

Ryanair - why are you playing with cans of worms?

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RE: My First Southwest Trip....HORRID!

Tue May 21, 2002 3:37 pm

Very nice trip report! Yes, security is a real bi*ch these days in the US.... If you read my post in the Civil Aviation forum ( you will see that it affects everyone, and angers them as well!

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RE: My First Southwest Trip....HORRID!

Tue May 21, 2002 7:58 pm

Great Report

Btw Southwest doesn't operate B737-400s , they only operates -200,-300,-500 and -700 :P

I can understand your frustration with the US customs , they can be a pain in your neck sometimes . Anyway dont let that affect your hoilday mood . Enjoy !!

Airliners is the wings of my life.
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RE: My First Southwest Trip....HORRID!

Tue May 21, 2002 10:44 pm


don't you think its difficult to tell the -800 and -900 apart? And the -600 and -700 as well... Maybe I have not seen them often enough but the former two is very distinguishable from the latter two... because of the apparent difference in the lengths of their fuselage, from very short to very long... Do they have higher ver stabs as well when compared to the older 737s?

I also know that the specs states that they are a little taller that their earlier brothers as well from a larger landing gear (wheels are the same as the old ones)... any truth to that? I only had a fleeting glance of an AA 738 in ORD, my closest ever to a 737NG.

p/s: I'll leave the cans alone... err panties??
Welcome to my starry one world alliance, a team in the sky!
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RE: My First Southwest Trip....HORRID!

Wed May 22, 2002 1:03 am

Ryaniar - no, I don't find it hard to differenciate between them. Yes, the vertical stabs are a bit taller and just look different. The engines seem bigger as well. Panties = knickers, underwear, shorts, boxers, tighty whities etc...
By the way, for crying out loud dude... it's AZ J not AZ B.

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RE: My First Southwest Trip....HORRID!

Wed May 22, 2002 4:53 pm

See 737-800 aircraft all the time at Changi, thanks to China Airlines.

9V-SVA | B772ER
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RE: My First Southwest Trip....HORRID!

Thu May 23, 2002 10:00 pm

Same thing also happened to me at San Jose on a flight to Phoenix. And numerous other times while flying on Southwest. I just wear hiking sandals now and pack light in my carry-on.

Actually I'd be glad if only they would stop the boarding process, as they seem to have done for you. The times that I've been pulled out of line for a search, everyone else got to board while I stood there. And since Southwest doesn't assign seats....we all know how that story ended.
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RE: My First Southwest Trip....HORRID!

Thu May 23, 2002 11:42 pm

I got stopped at ORD at the gate. The gate agent asked to see my passport even though he let others pass without further checks. It was probably just done randomly, or perhaps I look like a Vietnamese refugee :-P I didn't get the full search, fortunately, just passport checks and I was waved through...

There's always a better way to fly...
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RE: My First Southwest Trip....HORRID!

Fri May 24, 2002 6:04 am

As for security, it is mostly random, but I am not going to lie about this though. Sometimes it might be racial profiling, but realizing how it was an asian who searched you, I think it was just random.
I think you really saved your butt by showing the check-in agent your ticket for LAX-SIN ticket as she now knew that you were continuing to another destination.

Give me a break, I created this username when I was a kid...
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RE: My First Southwest Trip....HORRID!

Sat May 25, 2002 10:15 am

Perhaps I am missinjg something...

18 year vet! 2000-2017
Topic Author
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RE: My First Southwest Trip....HORRID!

Tue May 28, 2002 4:00 pm


What do you mean you're missing something? Don't get you......
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RE: My First Southwest Trip....HORRID!

Tue May 28, 2002 4:39 pm

Well, to be honest, your trip report didn't sound so horrid. I'm assuming that this is what Zrs70 means. Not including your search, you actually seemed to like the flight okay. Just my impression.

Nice report anyway, though.
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RE: My First Southwest Trip....HORRID!

Wed May 29, 2002 2:38 pm

Last time I traveled on Wn out of SJC they would hold boarding of each group until everyone from the previous group, including those pulled aside, had gone down the jetway.

In other words,

They didn't call boarding passes 31-60 until the people pulled out from 1-30 had finished with the extra check. And so on for 61-90, etc.

That way, since there's no assigned seating, they weren't overly penalizing those pulled aside.

My only 'concern' was that it seems to be hurting the turn times, and I got the impression from the F/A's that this is not something done everywhere but only at SJC.

In short: they weren't trying to embarass you, they were trying to do you a favor and hold good seating choices for you!

Topic Author
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RE: My First Southwest Trip....HORRID!

Wed May 29, 2002 4:20 pm

Yeah the flight wasn't horrid at all. It was the 5 minutes of searching that spoilt my day. It was overall one of the best domestic flights I had taken in the USA. (read: FLIGHTS, not pre flight waiting!)


Interesting perspective you've got there about why they halted boarding. Perhaps they weren't being mean after all!

Thanks people for all your comments. I shall be heading back to SIN on SQ29 very early Thursday morning from LAX (i.e. late Wed night). I intend to sleep most of the 14 hours to Taipei but I'll still try to write all of you a trip report anyway!

 Smile/happy/getting dizzy
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RE: My First Southwest Trip....HORRID!

Wed May 29, 2002 10:51 pm

Sllevin & Johnboy hit it on the head. People get to the airport and line up well before they open up for check-in just to get a boarding number in the 1 -30 range. It would not be fair at all to keep boarding the 31 - 60 people while a 1 -30 person is getting the full body search! I recently flew BWI-BUF-BWI on WN. The same stuff happened on our flights but at BWI they have the new Federal TSA agents doing the screening at security and when you board. I will say that they were extremely pleasant and professional. It's the difference between an $8.50/hour worker and someone getting paid $45-60K per year. The TSA people were happy to be there and seemed totally into their jobs. Supposedly there are lot's of ex-cops and law enforcement people jumping to TSA jobs.
For comparison, those of you in the D.C. area should head over to Dulles and look at the screeners there. Watch their motivation and look at their faces. They don't look like they give a crap. I hope Dulles gets the TSA people soon.
Topic Author
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RE: My First Southwest Trip....HORRID!

Thu May 30, 2002 2:11 am

The entire security crew at San Jose airport seem to be made up exclusively of Filipinos from a private firm. While they look like they're trying their best, they don't seem all that professional.

So, as Zrb2 said, thqat's the difference between a $8.50 an hour worker and someone getting paid $45-60K per year.
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RE: My First Southwest Trip....HORRID!

Tue Jun 11, 2002 5:30 am

If you mistook the aircraft for a -400, you were probably on a -700.

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