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A Trip Of Firsts: Air Tran LGA-CAK-LGA

Tue Jul 15, 2003 6:22 am

My girlfriend's cousin got married in Youngstown, Ohio Sunday and since I was unable to think of a suitable excuse (I've conned my way out of 3 weddings already) I had to go. However, since her family decided to fly instead of drive, they generously bought me a ticket to go with them from LGA to CAK. This they did without telling me, as I had intended to drive down to Baltimore, where my girlfriend lives, and fly with her from BWI-CLE on Southwest. So I got to travel with my (for all intents and purposes) future in-laws to the wedding on AirTran, marking several personal firsts- first FL flight, first 717, and several other firsts, as I will mention below...

N928AT (ex N409TW)
Seat 1F

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Photo © Aric Thalman

My girlfriend's parents picked me up at my house, and drove me to the airport, getting there about an hour before our 10am departure. There was no line at the check-in counter, but the Spirit check-in next to us was mobbed, and we had to fight through that crowd to get to AirTran's check-in. We were assigned seats 17A,C,D, and (without asking me) my GF's father took all our bags and said 'check em' this peeved me slightly as I had intended to carry my bag on and my book was in the bag. However, he made up for it by then noticing the pin the CSR had advertising the $35 upgrades. He inquired about an upgrade, and the CSR told him that there were 3 seats available in Business, and she tried to upgrade us. However, the CSR was so busy trying to get the credit card number that another CSR took one of our seats and gave it to another passenger! Our CSR apologized, saying she had forgotten to tell the others not to touch those seats. Seeing as my GF's father is 6ft and 400+ pounds, and I am 6'5", my GF's mother, who is rather petite, said she would stay in coach, so the CSR gave her two seats, 17AC to compensate for her mistake (my GF's mother had the only empty seat on the plane next to her). We went to security, and were met by a quick moving line, and none of us set off the metal detector, which surprised us. Also, the TSA agent demanded we take our shoes off, contrary to what the TSA had said last week. After clearing security, we stopped at the Au Bon Pan, got juice and pastries, and went to our gate, where boarding had begun. As we boarded, I noted that we were on N928AT, which according to the list I had compiled, was an ex-TWA bird, as the photo above indicates. Interestingly there are no photos of this plane in FL's paint up on this site. My GF's father and I had seats 1DF, and were offered drinks by the FA. I had a Diet Coke, and watched the traffic go by on the way to RWY 22. They were working on RWY 13-31, so it was closed. Push-back was on-time, and we taxied to the runway, joining 11 other aircraft ahead of us. After a twenty minute wait, we took the runway and departed. The initial climb seemed very sluggish, and we quickly made a turn to the East, orbiting the airport before turning on our Westbound heading. It was so clear that day, that I could easily make out details at HPN as we climbed before passing over Teterboro. Shortly after departure, we were offered drinks, and I had another Diet Coke, and was given the whole can, as well as two granola bars from the proffered basket. The flight went fairly quickly, and I read the in-flight magazine, which seemed to be nothing but articles about golf courses and browsed the Sky Mall catalogue. Our descent was uneventful, and we passed over downtown Akron and the municipal airport there. We flew what I thought was a downwind leg for the airport and saw the crash trucks hosing something down at the very end of one of the 3 runways. I though nothing of it until several minutes later, when we had yet to make the turn for the base leg of the approach. I commented to my GF's father that something was wrong, and as soon as I was done saying this, the Captain came on the PA saying there had been an accident, and the airport was closed. We were to hold for a bit before diverting to Pittsburgh. After five minutes or so, we began to climb and were told we were going to Pittsburgh. I laughed, saying that this would be my first divert, and my GF's father said now we could probably get out of going to the rehearsal that afternoon. However, after only 30 seconds to a minute later, we began a descending turn and were told the airport had just re-opened and we were going to 'try for it' (not the most inspiring thing I've heard over the intercom). After several minutes flying over East Central Ohio, we made what I thought was a very gingerly done left turn, felt the gear and flaps deploy, and I could now see one of the intersecting runways at CAK. However, as soon as we leveled off, we began to climb, marking my first go-around in an airliner (as a pilot I have done many myself- just ask my former flight instructor, but this was my first as a passenger)! After a wide right-hand orbit of the airfield, we finally landed, and made a very long roll-out, departing on the last turn-off. We passed the accident off our right (so I had a good view) and it looked nothing like an airplane, so when I got home and saw it mentioned in the newsletter as a Piper Aztec, I was shocked. We taxied to gate 7, and waited a fairly long time for our bags, got the rental car, and were off to the depressing wonderland that is Youngstown Ohio.

Seat 2A

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Photo © William Jenkins

The wedding was very nice, Marcie and Marcus (the bride and groom) had wonderful weather and a pleasant reception (I spent most of it at the bar doing shots with the Bride's godfather and the groom). We left Youngstown 2 hours before our flight, and made it to the airport in under an hour thanks to my GF's father's lead foot. It appeared that FL uses its ramp rats to do check-in at CAK, as the person checking us in was wearing a sweaty polo shirt, shorts, knee guards and steel-toed boots and had ear-plugs around her neck. Good way to cut costs I guess. We enquired about upgrades, and my GF's parents got 1AC and I was given 2A. My bag was checked again, but I was able to get my book first this time. There was a long, slow-moving line at security, but we were able to clear it without setting off the metal detectors again, and we went to the 'business waiting area' and watched a Comair CRJ700 arrive, get serviced, and depart before heading to the gate around 12 for our 1215 departure. Boarding was already in progress, so we got on, and were offered drinks, I had another Diet Coke. My final first occurred when we pushed back using the thrust reversers. We began to move forward at first before finally going back, which did worry me somewhat. We taxied out, and departed without delay. The flight was smooth, and inflight service was another drink, however unlike the outbound flight, I was not given the whole can, and either pretzels or nacho-flavored potato chips. We made an unusual descent over Northern New Jersey, then up the Hudson river before turning over lower Westchester County and following the northern shore of Long Island Sound over the Throgs Neck and Whitestone Bridges and landing again on RWY22 at LGA. We had a very short taxi to the gate, and disembarked quickly. However, AirTran shares a luggage belt with Spirit and ATA at LGA, and all 3 airlines had a flight arrive, so getting our bags was a mess, taking much longer than it should have.

Overall, I was very impressed with AirTran, my only real complaints would be the gaffe with the upgrade at our first check-in and the seats were kinda hard and somewhat uncomfortable. However, it is hard to criticize a $35 business class seat, as the width and legroom were both very good, so I would not hesitate to fly them again- Thank You AirTran!
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