With my studies finished and the next phase of my formation at hand, it is time for me to say goodbye to three enjoyable years in Chicago. I'm moving to Seattle to work in a major University there, teaching philosophy and health care ethics. The downside was having to move, pack, and say goodbye to everyone.
The original plan was for me and two other people to rent a van and drive out to the Northwest with all our stuff. That was until we got the estimates on what it would cost. Somewhere between $1200 and $1400, and that's not including gas, food, lodging, etc. We therefore were stuck with plan B: Ship stuff out, and find our own way of getting there. In that spirit, I was able to bag a one way fare on ATA for $167.50 about two weeks ahead of departure.
Then the fun really started...
After spending a long weekend in high heat and humidity trying to get my stuff packed, and the stuff of one of my brothers re-packed (he had to head out to start work assuming we I was going to drive), and preparations for getting it all shipped off.
I left Loyola at 1:30 in the afternoon for a 4:40 PM departure, arriving at Midway by about 2:15. I made my way with two suitcases, a carry-on and my computer to the skycap for check-in. She punched my name into the computer and informed me I have been selected for a random check. She then loaded my suitcases on a cart and I followed her off to the CT machine. My bags were slung through and much to my relief the 15 pounds of coffee I had in one of the bags (don't ask!) didn't raise suspicion. The bags were tagged, and a guy who smelled as if he is supporting a two pack a day habit handed me my boarding pass. Needless to say I was not in good humor, especially anticipating being searched again before boarding. In hindsight, I think a flag came up because I bought a one-way ticket (random screening my foot!)
The line at security was long but moved quickly. The new terminal at Midway is a vast improvement over the old one, but it still seemed a bit overcrowded. Again the air travel gods were smiling on me as I ran everything through the X-ray. The screener asked if I had a computer in my carry-on. I didn't (that went through on the tray) and told her it was a shortwave radio. That seemed to satisfy her, and everything else went through without incident. I suddenly had some time to kill, so went up to the chapel to see if the chaplain was about and say goodbye. He was at a meeting, so I went in and prayed for a bit, then set off downstairs to wander around the food court.
Thinking all I would get is a coke and a bag of peanuts, I stopped off and grabbed lunch at a Greek place. I got a ham and Kasseri cheese pie and a couple of baklava (not recommended as airline food-but then, I digress), and headed out to gate F-9 as printed on my boarding pass.
Gate F-9 is in the only part of the original terminal left standing, and is way at the end of the old concourse. I get there only to find that the gate had been changed. It is now leaving from gate A-6. So then I dragged my stuff all the way back down to gate 6 at the end of the A concourse. When I finally arrived, there was another aircraft at the gate about to depart. This made the flight I was departing on late, and the aircraft actually arrived at 3:55, the time listed on the boarding pass for boarding.
After a seemingly endless time passengers getting off the aircraft, we were finally ready for boarding about 4:25. Boarding went smoothly, and I was ushered to the waiting table for my inspection. The agent who did the inspection was friendly and sympathetic, and did manage to calm me down a bit. I asked how she got stuck with that job, and she said it was because she was new. After the inspection was done, I made my way on to the new 737-800.
The aircraft was still new looking on the inside, and the decor was in muted tones. The seats were a tope leather with a beige insert, and had an adjustable headrest. Legroom was about on par with United's Economy-Minus, and was much relieved to discover that the middle seat was empty on this relatively full aircraft. Things are looking up!
We pushed back about 4:50, ten minutes late with no explanation or apology, though it probably had something to do with the late departing aircraft. We taxied quickly out to runway 13L and were in the air almost immediately.
One of the remarkable things about the 738 is the pronounced feeling of thrust from the engines on takeoff. Many comment it's the same with the 757, but with the 738 that feeling was much more pronounced, and a little exhilarating on takeoff and climbout.
Climbout was smooth, and once we leveled off, the service was started. I was surprised to discover ATA offers inflight entertainment, and better still, it was free. The flight attendants passed out headsets for $1, but you could keep them for use on later flights. The jacks were the non-standard 2 prong jobs, so the one from your walkman wouldn't work. The film was "The Rookie," a Disney film starring Dennis Quaid, a true story about a middle aged high school Chemistry teacher who tries out for and eventually plays for the Tampa Bay Devilrays.
The snacks were also a pleasant surprise. While I was not expecting a meal, or even a snack, they passed out these things called Taco Sticks, along with a bag of pretzels with the beverage service. The taco sticks were warm, and didn't tast too bad. Afterwards, I tucked into my purchase. The Baklava was tasty, but not very neat fingerfood; my fingers were sticky for the rest of the film until I could get to the Lavatory.
Service was efficient and obliging with four FA's on this flight. After the film had ended, I got up and pulled my computer out to play some games. Another interesting thing is that ATA has no inflight magazine, so I played free cell through some rather moderate turbulence that lasted for about 20 minutes.
About an hour before landing there was another beverage service along with those tasty Biscoff cookies and peanuts(!). Our Captain announced our approach would be from the south, but it turned out to be from the north over downtown Seattle. Yet another added bonus. We landed on runway 16R and arrived at gate S12 pretty much on time, pulling in next to a brand new SAS A-340. I didn't get a good look at it because I was sitting on the aisle, and by the time I was off the plane it had already pushed back.
Baggage claim took forever with my bags coming down the chute about 45 minutes after arrival.
Security check and the wild goose chase to find the plane aside, it was a pleasant, uneventful flight with some surprising touches for a low cost carrier. Midway now has the look and feel of a modern airport, and the remodeling of Sea-Tac continues apace. Better communication would improve things, though overall ATA did a good job. 7/10