Vacations are a godsend and we all know it. Naturally, the time comes year after year for a gigantic family vacation and this year our destination was Alaska. This was actually my choice... our Itinerary had us flying to Fairbanks Alaska, starting a 3 day land tour south, then boarding the Carnival Spirit for a 7 day cruise, also southbound arriving in Vancouver and flying home.
After talking about this vacation for literally 1.5 years, the time finally came for us to depart New Jersey (thank the lord for that) and head to Alaska. We had been confirmed on Northwest Airlines for all 4 of our flights and Quite frankly, I was not excited.
But, as you can tell by the title, I was pleasantly surprised.
Arrival: 321pm (MSP time)
Actual Departure: 122pm
Actual Arrival: 304pm
We arrived to the airport at 1130am for our 130pm departure and headed up to the Northwest ticket counters where, as no surprise to us, it was flooded with travellers to Alaska. It becomes obvious now that Northwest likes cruise lines and cruise lines like Northwest. I looked out the window to the tarmac while waiting on line and saw 3 Northwest Airbus' sitting at the gates. I thought to myself "Maybe they switched the aircraft" but they didnt. All 3 pushed back around the same time and headed off.
We eventually got checked in where we found our our MSP-FAI (A Northwest seasonal non-stop service) flight had an equipment change from one 757 to another 757. We were assigned row 24, but it was switched to the 757 with the overwing exits, and row 24 is one of them.
Not all the pax were old enough,so we were moved to 41/42 DEF. The last rows of the plane. Oh well! We checked in and proceeded to Gate 42 where at this gate sat a DC9 with the board saying "Flight 769 to MSP". 5 minutes later the plane pushed back.
"What! Thats our flight!"
Then, an announcement was made that the flight was switched to Gate 41B where there sat another DC9 and the board read "Detriot". Needless to say, it didnt take the agents long to figure out the signs had to be switched.
Next to me sat a pilot who was talking on his cell phone. He looked tired and sounded drunk. Seriously. I said to myself "He better not be my pilot". He then said that he had to fly "A rust-bucket 732 down to MCO" which automatically signified a Delta Express pilot.
Good. He wasnt mine.
Boarding finally began and wouldnt you know it, we were pulled aside for a random security screening. "So that explains the big S on my boarding pass". The check was harmless and we boarded and at the door, we were greeted by the lead flight attendant. She was very pleasant and said "Hello, how are you this fine afternoon" to me.
I made my way to seat 9F where I sat down and started browsing the stupidest magazine known to man...SkyMall. Now really, who needs a business card that will tatoo the company logo onto the client? Seriously!
We pushed back way early and I looked out my window to see no part of the airplane. A small glance back though and I had a nice view of the leading edge slats. The safety demo was done and I was amazed to find that there were only 2 flight attendants for this flight!
The flaps were set and the slats came down and we taxied our way to Runway 22R where we immediately lined up and throttled up (or so I thought) and began our roll. The plane was gaining speed slowly and the thought "How can people think this plane is overpowered" ran across my mind. Then, all of a sudden, the plane sped up like a maniac and we were racing down the runway! Thats when I realized the plane was overpowered.
We took off immediately and hit some light chop as we climbed up to our cruising altitude of 28,000 feet for our 2.5 hour flight to the twin cities.
The service began at cruising altitude and there was one flight attendant in first and one in coach. Now thats unfair. One flight attendant has to tend to 84 people! (Load was 100%). Thankfully, being upfront in the coach 'cabin' (you cant really call it a cabin on the DC9, because its only divided to first class by a curtain that drapes accross the aisle.
The friendly flight attendant reached our row and offered us our choice of drinks. She said she had enough to serve full cans and that we had the choice between a glass and a can. I thought this was a very good idea, and I took a glass of Pepsi. She then handed me a packet of Spinzels and a stick of Shortbread.
The Spinzels would be really good had there not been any artificial flavoring to them. The shortbread was pretty good though, so I gobbled that down and sat back for the remainder of the flight. We started our decent around 90 miles out of MSP according to our super-informative captain.
Decent was steep and bumpy and when I thought DC9's couldnt get thrown much more, the slats were deployed. Now, it seems that slats cause turbulence. The DC9 was getting thrown and thrown and thrown. 4 bins popped open...
The gear was out, as I could see on the grass shadow and I realized we were way off target when I saw the runway up ahead and to the planes right. Suddenly, we turned sharply to the right and touched down....hard....(possibly an understatement) on the runway.
We taxied to the holding point for the terminal becuase our gate was occupied and we pulled into gate F16, right next to a DC10.
A DC9 next to a DC10... hmmmmm. It was an interesting comparison.
We deplaned and said thank you to the crews for a great flight. The captain was standing at the cockpit door handing out pictures of the NW DC9 to everyone. I asked the flight attendant for some NW stuff for my collection and she gave me:
A Northwest "First Flight" Certificate.
Hey! That works for me! We had a 1.5 hour connection before our flight to Fairbanks so we wondered around the airport for a while. Our connecting gate, C4, turned out to be at the opposite end of the airport which was, needless to say, a hassle.
We got there and boarding was announced as on time. The boards at each gate at MSP are very informative and include: Weather, flight time, service, aircraft...things like that.
We grabbed some Pizza Hut at a nearby gate and sat down to wait for boarding. Looking around at the passengers confirmed on this flight, I only spotted about 2 that didnt have their bags tagged with some cruise lines logo. Most were Princess.
Boarding was started 45 minutes prior to departure..
Sked Dep: 515pm
Sked Arr: 750pm (MSP Time... 4 hour time difference in FAI)
Act Dep: 504pm
Act Arr: 816pm
B757-200 (overwing exits)
The flight was 100% full... and that meant 180+ roudy cruise passengers to deal with for the better part of 5 and 1 half hours. Or so I thought. We pushed back on time next to a 727 headed for EWR and just sat there.. All the while, during boarding, the flight attendants kept repeating the flight number and destination and "if this is not your flight..."
Now that we were pushed back, he came on again and said..... "Ladies and gentlemen, this is Northwest flight 864 with non stop service to Fairbanks. If Fairbanks is not your final destination.. It is now" The plane cracked up.....
Numerous amounts of DC9's and 757's taxied next to us and finally we started moving. We moved for about 2 minutes before we were stopped at the butt of a 8-10 aircraft line, mixed with 8-10 arrivals. Thankfully, they were spacing the aircraft very tight, and on several occasions, an aircraft was lined up while another one was landing, which created some close calls. All the lined up aircraft were DC-9's. The 757's and one 747 did not line up until the aircraft had landed.
We lined up and started our take off roll... the power of 100% full thrust can be felt a LOT at the back row and it was much fun! The window was vibrating, which didnt bother me too much except for the noise it made. We lifted off after a 16 second roll, which for a 757, seemed quite short.
Our climb was steep to say the least.. But short in duration. We rose up through clouds and of course, turbulence which seems to plague MSP like locusts in biblical history. We eventaully leveled off at our cruising altitude which I found to be very very high. The cloud cover threw me off, and the captain informed us of our cruising altitude which was a measly 34,000 feet. Boo!
The regular announcements were made about World Traveler magazine and soft drinks..etc etc. The drink service started in the main cabin with two carts.. One up front and one in the middle. There were 4 crew in back, 2 on each cart and served the entire coach cabin full cans in 30 minutes.
They were very generous and pleasant and offered 2 cans to anybody who wanted, as well as a pre-meal snack of Spinzels, which I declined.
Then, they came around with coffee and tea before commencing the meal service. What I found odd was that the choices were not announced over the PA. Instead, you were informed when your row was reached. We were to be the last ones served which resulted in us not having our choice of food.
The flight attendant came to the last 5 rows and called out "Sorry folks, but im out of the meat loaf!"
The general reception was "good". We were offered chicken which was a tad rubbery but had good flavor. It was over rice and vegetables. It came with water, a roll (warmed) with butter and Oreos.
We also ordered veggie meals and they were frozen veggies with rice pilaf. Tasted just like what it was, which is commendable. It came with Oreos, Roll, and water.
The trays were collected and the carts were pulled out again. This time, there was only one cart. They started up front and worked their way back. Starting in the middle of the airplane was another F/A who offerend coffee. In the back, one offered tea. They all worked their way towards whatever part of the aircraft they were headed for.
After that was completed, trash collection came around. And then more drinks, and Spinzels. I declined both and continued to stare out the window at the clouds.
The downfall to NW..... No audio/video. We were about 2.5 hours into the flight now and it was starting to get boring. "Fine.. Only another 2.5 hours to go"
Shattered dreams. "Ladies and gentlemen, the winds have seemed to shift and our flight time has been pushed from 5:15 to 6:10. We apologize for this delay and hope you are enjoying the Northwest experience.. Well be back on to let you know of our mid-flight point"
The flight attendants were now in the galley chatting, and 3 of them were new crew members, one of which, this was her first passenger flight. They were talking about how its better to get the longer flights and that is more fun and less work. They also talked about how they generally liked working at NW but wished there was entertainment.
After that, the conversations ended and another round of drinks! Glasses only this time, which was fine for I was not sure how, at this rate, they would serve the remaining 3 hours.
After the service, which was coke water and oj only was finished, the lead came on and said "Folks, we are going to play some games today on our flight. Our first game is match the flight attendant with their car.. If you win, you get a great prize! One entry per seat, please"
I lost miserably. I didnt match a single one. Oh well! They gave out free alcohol and NW travel coupons to winners.
Then after that, one hour passed with utter nothingness, except a round of coffee, tea, and water. After that, game 2 was announced which was "Name the flight attendant with their birth city"
Again, I lost miserably. 1 match. The same prizes were offered and then the crew asked all the winners to go into the aisles and do a victory dance. It ended up to be the chicken dance, which was quite amusing to watch.
After that, another 30 minutes of nothingness passed and the flight was definately dragging on.
About 2 hours before landing, the flight crew whipped out the beverage carts and served drinks, along with these Musselman Apple cookies which were really really good!
Then they collected trash and offered more drinks along with coffee and tea.
The captain then came on and said "Ladies and gentlemen, we have about 65 minutes left in our flight.. Weather in Fairbanks is rainy with clouds and a light wind. The current temperature is 39 degrees. Well let you know when we are starting our decent so you can use the facilities. Hope you are enjoying your cookies!"
The flight crews cleaned the bathrooms real quick and came around with ANOTHER round of coffee and tea with water on demand.
Boy.. The facilities were sure being used today! Finally, 35 minutes before landing, we started our decent, which I figured would be scenic. WRONG! We were submerged in some gray smog type thing.. It was strange because I could see nothing but gray outside the window, except no part of the wings were covered so they were clearly visible!
I heard the gear come down and then we finally broke the clouds on our final decent. Alaska was beautiful! What I noticed is that the flaps were set once about 15 minutes after decent, and then once more on finals. Only 2 settings?
We touched down and the T/R's thundered to life and suddenly my window was a soaking wet panel of glass from the spray.
We pulled into the gate farthest from anything in the airport and of course, none of the other gates were being used... Figures.
We deplaned and made our way to the claims and got our bags and started the best vacation of my entire life!
Sked Dep: 1230pm
Sked Arr: 735pm (DTW time)
Act Dep: 1231pm
Act Arr: 703pm
B757-200 (Rear exit door)
Seat 21 F
We boarded the aircraft after a hassle through customs and check in and immediately I noticed different seats. They didnt have a ‘floppy' pillow type cushion, instead, they were solid seat. We pushed back next to a UAL 733 bound for SFO and immediately taxied to our departure runway. After letting an Air Canada A340 and a UAL Express EMB 120 depart, we lined up and sat for the better part of 2 minutes before clearance was given.
We throttled up and started our roll. On this 100% full flight, our roll was a quick 24 seconds and we made another steep 757 climb into the clouds. The climb out was smooth as silk with no issues what so ever. We twisted and turned our way out of YVR and leveled off at 37,000 feet. The lunch service began and it was deli service, with a choice of ham or turkey.
However, before the meals were served, the drink carts were whipped out and the 4 crew members served the plane very quickly. Then, the deli ‘baskets' were brought out. I chose the turkey, which came on a warmed whole-wheat bun with lettuce and a piece of onion. The sandwich was accompanied by a bag of Cape Cod chips and an apple. Everything was very fresh and tasty. Another salute to NW's food service!
The trash was collected and another drink service began. After that was done, the flight crews were not to be seen for the next 2 hours. After that 2 hours passed, we had about 1 hour and 15 minutes left in route, and Spinzels and drinks were offered. I took a glass of Pepsi (So much better then coke) and chilled out.
We started our approach into Detriot about 25 minutes prior to landing and I counted 5 circles around the airport before we paralleled with a US 734 and started our final into a dusky DTW. Our strobes were not turned on until about 5 minutes from touchdown.
We made a smooth-as-silk touchdown on the runway seconds behind the paralleling 734 and made our way to the gate. We deplaned after another pleasant NW flight. The crews were again nice, though not as "liquid-obsessed".
Sked Dep: 915pm
Sked Arr: 1030pm
Act Dep: 914pm
Act Arr: 1020pm
B757-200 (rear exit door)
There were only a few people at the boarding area which made me hopeful for an empty flight. Boarding was announced and an estimated 70 passengers boarded the 757, us being the last ones aboard.
The gate agents were asking students if they had school issued ID's which I found strange..
We boarded and was greeted by a friendly male flight attendant who looked at our tickets and told us how far back to go.
The rear section was the most populous of the cabin and the flight attendant covering the section walked up and down greeting people and offering pillows and blankets. We pushed back on time next to yet another 727 and started an immediate taxi behind a company 757.
We were #3 for take off, and when we lined up, our roll started immediately. If we were not using 100% full thrust, we were very close to it, for our roll was 9 seconds!
Our climb was not steep by any means yet quick and we leveled off at the highest cruising altitude of the 4 flights (funny how this flight is the shortest) at 41,000 feet. The grandmotherly flight attendant offered us ‘honeys' Spinzels and a full can of soda or what ever we preferred.
She served us quickly and nicely. Soon after, she collected the trash and offered water and coffee to any body interested. After that was completed, a short 34 minutes after take off, we started our decent.
"Folks, we have started our decent into Newark. We are not too far out, I see us on the ground in about 26 minutes or so making our flight time a perfect hour. Thanks for flying Northwest"
We touched down 25 minutes later making flight time 59 minutes. What a joke of a flight.. So short!
We arrived on runway 4R by the way, behind an SAS A340.
We pulled in and the seatbelt sign was turned off. I deplaned my final flight of this vacation.
Another great flight!
Northwest pleasantly exceeded all the expectations I had set for it. We were very surprised with the leg room on all the flights and will certainly not hesitate to fly them again. We have booked our x-mas travel with NW (727...yay!) And are looking forward to it!
All the rumors about nasty flight crews and such were proven to be phony in my flights and on a scale of 1-10, I give NW an 8.
What a great experience.. My first flights on NW. My first of many.
Thanks for reading!