Last December I made a trip home to Texas for the holidays, my first trip home since starting work in Chicago. Since I’d flown out of O’Hare and Midway many times in college, I decided to give Milwaukee a chance – it’s only about 30 miles from where I live in Lake County (about the same distance as Midway.) I found tickets on AirTran, and was all set to go…
December 23, 2003
AirTran Airways Flight 605
Milwaukee Mitchell (MKE
) – Atlanta Hartsfield (ATL
11:00am, arrives ATL
Boeing 717-200, seat 28F
I arrived at MKE
around 9:30am and left my car in the long-term lot along Howell Avenue. When the shuttle bus dropped me off at the terminal, I found a good-sized line at the AirTran ticket counter. MKE
’s ticket lobby is very claustrophobic – mostly because of the giant x-ray machines that have been dropped down in front of every airline. Hopefully these can be moved behind the scenes in the future (as was recently done at DFW
After checking my luggage through to Dallas I went upstairs to the huge MKE
departure lounge. It’s very 1980s-looking, but quite spacious and relatively quiet, especially compared to ORD
Eventually I made my way to Concourse E, which is used by Northwest, Continental and AirTran. Northwest and Continental occupy the gates in the ‘banjo’ portion of the concourse, while AirTran uses the two gates in the stem. Aside from our 717 and a Northwest A320 bound for Detroit, the concourse was empty.
Our 717 parked at Gate E1:
Boarding started around 10:45pm (AirTran cuts it close, much like Southwest) and the full complement of passengers quickly got situated. Since it was only two days before Christmas, I expected full flights, and I wasn’t let down.
The view while parked at the gate prior to pushback (a very light snow was falling):
Pushback was right on time at 11am, and we swung around and taxied towards the threshold of Runway 1L. Aircraft were arriving on Runway 33L, but all departures were from 1L (very odd).
Taxiing out across Runway 15R-33L:
Passing the Wisconsin Air National Guard facilities adjacent to the 1L threshold:
As you can see from the photos, there was a low overcast over Milwaukee and we hit clouds only about twenty seconds after taking off. Eventually we climbed above the cloud layer, but I had no view of the ground until just before we began our descent into ATL
The cabin crew began a beverage service, which was accompanied by packets of Biscoff cookies. I’ve never really been a fan of AirTran’s 717 interior – the seats have an odd shape to them that takes some getting used to, and there’s a strut in front of each window seat that makes it difficult for you to stretch your legs. The plane is exceptionally quiet, however, even when you’re sitting all the way back next to the engine, as I was.
After about an hour at cruise we began our descent into Atlanta. ATL
weather consisted of spotty clouds and lots of glaring sun… I was glad when we finally turned off of the downwind leg and the sun moved away from our side of the cabin.
Turning final for Runway 26R over the eastern Atlanta suburbs:
Flaps are fully extended as we head down, with downtown Atlanta visible over the wing:
Crossing Interstate 270 on short final:
Very low over the top of the Ford automobile plant:
… and finally down onto Hartsfield’s Runway 26L, with the Delta headquarters visible over the wing:
Landing was very smooth, although we had to hold adjacent to Runway 26R while four or five aircraft departed before we were able to taxi to the terminal area. Hartsfield was the usual mess of Delta and AirTran aircraft:
Turning into Gate C7:
Deplaning took forever, and the aircraft became uncomfortably warm as I waited my turn to file off. I was glad to exit into Concourse C, even though I consider it the ‘poor relation’ among Hartsfield’s concourses. The place could use some sprucing up.
My connection was very short, so I stayed on Concourse C; I did walk to the opposite end (Delta Connection gates) where I was able to get a photo of an AirTran/Ryan A320 parked on the old ATL
terminal apron across the runway:
Eventually it was time to head back to AirTran territory for my flight to Dallas.
AirTran Flight 107
Atlanta Hartsfield (ATL
) – Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW
3:00pm, arrives DFW
Boeing 717-200, seat 28A
For this flight I had chosen a seat across the aisle from my seat on the MKE
leg. I was disappointed to find my window filthy… the plastic coating was chipped, which made taking pictures very difficult.
We pushed back on time and quickly taxied out towards the north runway complex:
Our 717 followed a US Airways Express ERJ onto Runway 26L:
Takeoff was quick and smooth, although there was a definite ‘sinking’ feeling as we made our way down what is probably the most sloped runway in the United States. The sun glare was pretty bad, although I was able to get off a few photos:
I lowered my window shade shortly after takeoff, as the glint of the sun off of the port wing was very strong. The flight was uneventful – we had the typical drink-and-Biscoff service shortly after takeoff, and then the passengers were left to their own devices.
This photo gives you an idea of what AirTran’s 717 cabin is like:
I thumbed through the Arrivals
inflight magazine. On the “Connections” page, AirTran has diagrams of Atlanta, Baltimore/Washington and Philadelphia airports, as well as a new diagram of Dallas/Fort Worth. They must have some plans for DFW
if they’re featuring it as a ‘hub’ in their magazine…
After about an hour and a half, we began our descent into Dallas/Fort Worth. The sun glare was really obnoxious at this point – I had to keep the shade half lowered and peer directly below the aircraft to see anything.
We came in from the southeast, crossing into Dallas over the town of Hutchins and heading straight across the Oak Cliff section of the city. Eventually I realized we were making an approach for DFW
’s Runway 31R, which would be a nice change from the normal approach to Runways 17L/C/R and 18L/R.
I tried to take one photo as we approached the airport, but the bright sunlight made it difficult:
Finally we winged low over the Las Colinas area and touched down smartly on Runway 31R at a very busy DFW
. We then made the LONG taxi back towards the terminal area, passing by the east-side control tower:
I was surprised when we turned off at Terminal E, as I thought that AirTran had moved into its new gates at Terminal B (this didn’t happen until early January, apparently.)
Pulling into Gate E1:
That’s it for Part I of the trip report… a good trip on AirTran, although the sun glare made it difficult to enjoy the second segment. Watch for the second portion of the report (DFW
) in the next few days!