N352SW ‘Lone Star One’
Photo © James Richard Covington, Jr
Because we were concerned about traffic coming up from Northern Virginia, we drove to Baltimore Thursday night and spent the night with a friend before heading off to BWI. Turns out we should not have been so concerned- it took us exactly an hour to go from North Baltimore to the gate at BWI, including a stop for coffee and a bagel on our way to the airport. As a result, we got to the gate at 930 for a 1245 flight! However, this caution ensured we were in the coveted ‘A’ group. So we sat at gate C-15 at BWI watching what seemed like half of AirTran’s 717 fleet taxi by. There was one departure from our gate- to Buffalo- before our flight, and once that flight had been dispatched I jumped into the line and waited for our plane to arrive. About 1215, what plane should taxi up to our gate but the ‘Lone Star One’ logojet! This caused a bit of a stir, and some actually got out of line to take a picture of the plane- something the gate agents did nothing to stop I should add. Once the passengers had disembarked and two wheelchair pre-boards had boarded, it was our turn to go down the jetway. Our greeting on the plane was a mixed one- one F/A gave us a nice friendly welcome, the other derisively snorted ‘huh, Orioles’ in comment to my Orioles hat (we’re in Baltimore what do you expect!?!?). One of the pre-boards was in the bulkhead and the other was a few rows back along with some residual passengers from the inbound flight from MDW. However, the exit rows were both free and we made our way back to them. What I found interesting was row 11 on the left was a normal exit row with extra legroom, while on the right it had standard seat pitch, but 11F was missing, giving 12F more room. The girlfriend insisted on sitting on the right, so I took 12F and she had 12E. This was a full flight, but we managed to push on-time. I felt the taxi to the runway was a rather fast one, and we made a rolling takeoff which I had never done in an airliner before. We took off towards the East and quickly flew into the clouds that would obscure the ground for the rest of the flight. The flight attendants came around and took drink orders- I had diet coke, while my girlfriend had ginger ale. The drinks came quickly along with a rather small pack of peanuts, which proved hard to open. When I finally got mine open, it exploded, leaving me with a whopping two peanuts. To pass the time I read my book and listened to my MP3 player. After what felt like a short while, we began our descent into ALB. Landing was perfect on a wet runway courtesy of the falling snow and on-time. The dual jetbridges WN has at ALB were impressive, but we wound up disembarking out of the forward door, and after a 5-minute wait for our bag to arrive we were off.
Photo © John Martin
While we weren’t three hours early this time, we still did get to the airport early enough to be in the ‘A’ group again. I was surprised by how long the line through security was. Surprisingly, there was nobody at our gate, C-3, the same one we had arrived at, so we just plopped down at the front of the line as our flight was the next one out of the gate. I watched as they turned a 737-700 with the new winglets at C-2- a full flight to Orlando with LOTS of children- fun. We had one of each of the 3 kinds of pre-boards- wheelchair, UM, and family with small child- on our flight, but boarding started at 2pm for our 220 departure. We made our way back to the exit row again, but this time we sat on the left, with me in 11A, and my girlfriend in 11B. This flight wasn’t full, but it was close- I could see only 3 or 4 empty seats in front of us. We were ready to go at 220, but apparently someone hadn’t boarded, so we sat for 10 minutes as they got his bag out of the cargo hold. Another fast taxi to runway 28, but no rolling takeoff this time. Drink orders had been taken during the delay, so we were served promptly, but this time got two bags of peanuts, which I actually got to enjoy as they didn’t explode on opening. We had clear skies, so I watched the scenery go by as I listened to my MP3s- we followed the Susquehanna River past Philadelphia, where we began our descent. We followed the west side of the Chesapeake Bay at low altitude in mild turbulence, before turning final, passing over the spotter’s park at BWI. Landing was smooth but fast as we braked rather aggressively before turning off the runway and making our way to our gate at the B-concourse. By the time we had gotten off the plane and used the bathrooms our bag was going around on the carousel. What was interesting was our bag and the ones around it all had the ‘Inspected by the TSA’ stickers on them. This was the first time it had happened to me, so we took it aside and opened it to make sure everything was still there, which it was- we had bought some (not fragile) antiques up in Vermont and were a bit worried. After a short wait, the shuttle bus to the ESP lot pulled up and we were delivered directly to our car- a service well worth the extra few dollars IMHO. Overall, this was a pleasant trip, Southwest did a nice job, with none of the childish songs or games I had heard they did. The only thing I don’t like is the open seating- if I could guarantee a good seat without showing up ridiculously early I think I would use them more often. Still, I have no real complaints, and you can’t argue the price either. Hope you enjoyed the report.