December 19, 2003
Air Tran flight 12, operated by Ryan International
Push back: 1:05pm
Wheels up: 1:13pm
Wheels down: 8:20pm
At gate: 8:27pm
Photo © Ryan Gaddis - SPOT THIS!
I got dropped off at the stunning International terminal at SFO at 10:45am. Check in for my flight was painless. Even though the flight was booked to capacity, no one was in line at that time. I got a window seat (30A) and proceeded to visit the nice aviation store, located next to the aviation museum. I killed a good 20 minutes in there, and left with a Boeing 727-200 model as well as the latest edition of Airways Magazine. Since the security line was very long (several Asia flights left around this time), I decided to just go into the concourse and take some pics. Our flight was due to arrive on-time at 11:45am. I got around seven nice shots of a JAL 747-400 which was loading for NRT. I could never get tired of seeing a 744...much more impressive than any plane flying today in my opinion. The 744 was parked next to a Northwest DC10, also NRT-bound. I bought a small sub sandwhich at the Firewood Grill to take on the flight with me, since there is no meal service on the long 4-hour flight back to ATL.
Boarding began promptly at 12:10pm, as did the KLM MD-11 flight to AMS which was parked at the gate next to ours. I stepped on board the A320 and noticed a different seat pattern on this aircraft, although I was not able to take note of the registration. I made my way back to row 30 and sat down. My first impression was not a good one. The seat was tiny...legroom was horrible...the plane looked liked it had seen better days. And to make matters worse, there was definetely going to be somebody sitting next to me, so no chance at all for me to stretch out a little. Oh well, that's how it goes sometimes.
Push back was a few minutes behind schedule, but we were quickly airborne, overfyling a JetBlue A320 on finals to OAK as we cruised over Oakland and Emeryville before making a turn to the east. Climbout was bumpy and visibility was poor, but everything cleared around twenty minutes after takeoff. Drink service began about 45 minutes into the flight. I had a Vanilla Coke and gladly accepted a bag of pretzels to go along with my overpriced ham and cheese sub sandwhich. After thinking about it, I realized that the seating on this plane was no worse than Delta's 757 coach seating...maybe a tad better....although Delta has Ryan beat in terms of aircraft appearance and overall service.
I was once again glued to the window for the first 2 hours of the flight, as we crossed the Sierra Nevada range and the Rockies without a cloud in sight. Once our mountain crossing was complete, I decided it was time for a nap. I woke up somewhere over Arkansas. A second limited drink/snack service (Coke, Diet Coke, water, Biscoffs) was offered one hour prior to arrival. By this point every person on the plane appeared to be dying of thirst so everyone took something to drink from what I could tell. Water and a Coke for me. Night approach into ATL was interesting as usual, seeing the dozens of aircraft take their spots for landing...very, very interesting. Touchdown was pretty smooth, as they usually are on the Airbii. We parked at gate C20. Overall, this was a good flight. Certainly not the most comfortable coach seating and the service was just adequate, but it was not bad by any means.
Air Tran flight 161
Push back: 10:02pm
Wheels up: 10:23pm
Wheels down: 10:38pm (central time)
Photo © Daniel Wojdylo
The aircraft arrived late from ICT due to an ATC hold over Hartsfield. We commenced boarding at 9:15pm. The flight, like the previous one, was booked to capacity. It took us awhile to push back due to late arriving bags from other flights. Looking out at the rampers do their thing, it looked like utter chaos out there. I had seat 18F, which I found to be comfortable. Leg room was minimal, but shoulder room was amazing for a window seat....possibly the best coach shoulder room I've ever had on any flight. We finally pushed back about an hour late. Taxi time was short...by the time we got to the end of the runway, we were number two for takeoff behind a Delta 757. On the way I spotted around six or seven Delta heavies at the maintenance hangar, including MD-11 ship 802 with the blown engine, and a couple of 777's. Takeoff roll was about 25 seconds and, just like the flight from MSY, we rocketed skyward. Extremely steep takeoff. The 757 would be proud of its younger sibling. Flight time was 1h15m at flight level 370. Service consisted of beverages plus pretzels. Clear skies afforded us a nice view of BHM, MEI, JAN in the distance, and finally the MSY metro area. The flight was very smooth and quiet. The captain did a good job narrating the route of flight, which is something I always enjoy. We landed to the North on runway 1. Taxi time was about five minutes and we parked at gate C-9 next to a United A320 at gate C-7.
I thought Air Tran did a decent job overall. Service wise, it was nothing overly memorable, but it was good enough. The 717's are great aircraft. It is a shame that they are not as popular as they should be. Connections in ATL were a breeze, but the terminal really needs an upgrade.