Spring break was upon me, so about 2 weeks before, I made my reservations with Southwest for travel on 5th of March and to come back that next Sunday on the 14th. I chose SW1735 and SW371 because the first fit the best with my schedule, and the latter because it's almost always a 737-700, and since there is a flight to STL 40 minutes before hand, there are usually 40 or so ppl on the flight. However, plans changed because I decided I wanted to see some friends in Austin and professors assigned tons of homework over break. I then switched my flights to SW2109, since it leaves early and is also a -700 series most of the time, and SW2440 as that is its sister flight which turns around in OMA to do the exact same return path. Little did I know what luck I would have.
So, the night before my flight I stayed up until 2am and printed my boarding pass online thinking that I'd still have to get to the airport early to checkin at the gate. Well, I took a taxi to the airport up Delmar and I-170 around 11:25 for my 1:30 flight. The whole security process took about a minute, and I got to my gate in 2. Really, nothing beats checking in online. After that, I had lunch with a friend of mine traveling to Wisconsin On Midwest Express(charter). Then I went back to my gate to see the most beautiful WN bird I had ever seen.
Boarding was called at around 1:20 as our inbound aircraft was a bit off schedule. As I was watching out the window waiting for my aircraft, I watched some planes land on the north-south runway 18 I believe, this was a first. I'm guess that the winds were out of the southwest as it was really gusting, and a full crosswind landing in 40mph winds would be dicey. As I had checked flytecomm.com before I came, I knew my bird was a -700, but I didn't know it was N716SW, a -700 in old colors with sharp winglets and apart of the "Original Texas 3"! I boarded 4th in the A group and sat down on the right side in 5D. Then the fun really began.
Flight: Southwest Airline(WN) SW2109
Aircraft: Boeing 737-700 (N716SW)
Seat: 5D (Open Seating)
Departure Gate: E8
Scheduled Departure Time: 1:10PM CST 1910 ZULU
Actual Pushback/Startup Time: 1:43PM CST
Actual Takeoff Time: 1:45PM CST
Scheduled Arrival Time: 3:20PM CST 2120 ZULU
Time on Ground: 3:57PM CST
Engines Shut Down: 4:04PM CST
Arrival Gate: A5
Continuing to: Austin(AUS)
Actual Flight Time: 2:12
Actual Gate-to-Gate: 2:21
Reason Given: 140MPH headwind out of the SSW
PAX: ~127 out of 137 (30 transits)
Photo © Mark Kopczak
Photo © Mike "Rotor" Nowak
The fun started with my seatmates. Two women sat next to me that were in high school. They were "partners" and were going home to tell/meet the parents. Now I have no problem with this, as in I am not judgmental, but the problem I had was that they had many PDA's during the flight which I will not describe here for the sake of decency. I mean even if there were a married couple next to me, I wouldn't say it were nice to take up some of my seat and armrest for their romantic feelings throughout a flight! Ok, the flight was fine otherwise. (Although this makes me want to switch to my other hometown airline Continental.) As we taxied out, the crew prepared the cabin for takeoff, and we rolled onto 30L at 1:45. The captain was definitely adhering to the fuel efficiency and noise regulations as he couldn't have been at more than 90 N1. We used up all of the runway lifting off past empty terminal B using 3/4 of the runway. I really hope STL doesn't become a SAT with O&D accounting for 90% of the traffic because it really does look dead. But, we climbed out over Earth City, Chesterfield and West County through moderate chop climbing very slowly to FL370. It took about 6 minutes to get to FL100. Tat is when the captain addressed us announcing a late landing time due to 140MPH headwinds.
At 2:10 we leveled off a FL370 to find some more moderate choppiness. Despite this, the crew did their duties handing out the Ritz snack mix and providing me with a full can of Seagram's Ginger Ale. Time past quite fast as I read my book my Buck Rinker, urgh I forget what it's called. I am used to flying long range, so this isn't really that bad comparatively, though this flight was the longest I've ever taken on this route. Time passed, and we began our descent around 3:30.
Descent was started from what I saw north of Lufkin, and we cruised through cloudy layers from about FL150 to FL30. The aircraft lost speed slowly, and we made our final turns around the ship channel flying south to the Alvin area, flying parallel to SR 59 and making a right turn at SH288. We flew directly over over Pearland coming in over Mykawa Road onto the Southern Approach to 4L (I think). From there we taxied in, waited for a plane to come out of the A1-7 area as it is a narrow area, and pulled into A5 quite a bit past schedule. From there, home sweet home and Austin, which is a cool place.
Now to my less eventful return trip. I woke up at 5:00AM CST for my flight to STL, again printing out my boarding pass the night before at midnight. I left home in Missouri City-Sugar Land at 5:45, stopped a Jack n' the Box for a quick bite of breakfast on this Sunday morning. Drove to Hobby and got there at 6:25.
I was pretty ecstatic as I would be leaving out of the new Central Concourse, which I had arrived in but never left from. This was all made possible by WN creating the rule of all westbound flights leaving from A1-9 and the rest leaving from the new concourse. I would have to say that the new concourse reminds me of Frankfurt Terminal 2: D and E, as there are so many window, and the aisles are very wide. I went through security in 30 seconds and was at my gate in 2 yet again.
As this was the first flight of the day, the aircraft was ready to go with crew, and to my utter shock, it was the first of 3 -700 in the Texas 3, N704SW. Another wingletted plane. This was actually only the second plane that was delivered to Southwest I believe back in 1997. I was again 4th in line of the A group and boarded the aircraft taking seat 5C or the left side of the aircraft hoping to get views of the STL terminals as we landed. This time my seatmate was quite nice.
Flight: Southwest Airline(WN) SW2440
Aircraft: Boeing 737-700 (N704SW)
Seat: 5C (Open Seating)
Departure Gate: 43
Scheduled Departure Time: 7:35AMCST 1335 ZULU
Actual Pushback/Startup Time: 7:27AM CST
Actual Takeoff Time: 7:31AM CST
Scheduled Arrival Time: 9:30AM CST 1530 ZULU
Time on Ground: 9:12AM CST
Engines Shut Down: 9:15AM CST
Arrival Gate: E24
Continuing to: Omaha(OMA)
Actual Flight Time: 1:41
Actual Gate-to-Gate: 1:48
Reason Given: None
PAX: ~120 out of 137 (0 transits)
Photo © Paul Robbins
Photo © David Marcoux
Everyone boarded ontime and the cabin was ready at 9:20 for pushback, having to wait until 9:27 to actually startup. The cabin was prepared for takeoff, and takeoff was done on my favorite runway 13R. As Hobby has short runways and this flight was fairly full, we used up most of the runway taking off into light fog and already a 65 degree day down in Texas. We made a left turn over I-45 going into clouds there after and starting our slow 30 minute climb to FL410. I've got to say that when I have been on a fully loaded -700, I've noticed that takeoff is smooth, but a slow climb ensues, however, on the -300 series, when it is full, it seems to struggle a little more taking off, but it climbs faster. Now this could just be pilot style, but I have done this with different airlines in both and it's just an observation.
The other thing that I don't like about WN morning flights is that they serve animal crackers instead of snacks in the morning, I guess I'm just used to a full breakfast that I get on British Airways and Lufthansa, especially flights like ABZ-LGW, hot breakfast is appreciated. However, the flight went by, myself studying statistics and everyone else sleeping or diving into a good book. Oh, the other thing I've noticed is that I have been on quieter, more behaved full flights going from Houston than to.
Descent started around 8:55. We started a steep descent from FL410, flying above clouds until around FL130 and breaking through at around FL70. From there, we flew over the Illinois side of the Mississippi flying parallel to South County and I-55, we made a sharp left turn to fly over Busch Stadium, a lot of abandoned nothing, and flying south of Florissant until we lined up with 30R, landing with slight chop, and early, using only 1/2 of the runway. We waited for a plae to takeoff on 30L and then taxied into E24 and shut down. The usual crowd mentality ensued and everyone deplaned. I then went downstairs, caught a cab and headed back to campus in Clayton, getting there before I should have landed.
Overall, Southwest is a good airline to fly, but I think that they are my college years airline, and I am looking to start flying Continental just because they are my other hometown airline and they seem to be pursuing a lot more nonstops out of Houston, and a lot more alliances. Plus WN doesn't do international flights (Thank goodness). I find it funny that we really have 2 hometown airlines with Hobby 90 percent WN and Intercontinental 93% CO, but that's Houston for you. Thanks a lot for reading and yay to Lee Rd. reopening!
[Edited 2004-03-25 22:54:23]