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Joined: Fri Feb 09, 2001 12:57 am


Tue Apr 20, 2004 11:09 pm

On Thursday, April 15, my fiancée, who lives in Washington, DC, was scheduled to attend a conference in Las Vegas. I talked to her the day of her departure, and she was disappointed that she wouldn’t know anyone going on the trip with her. She said she wished I could come. Just for the hell of it, I checked airfares, thinking that last-minute fares would be prohibitively expensive. I tried the individual airline web sites first. WN was about $400 round-trip AUS-LAS. AA was about $50 more expensive. CO was running about the same as AA. Disappointed, I checked Expedia around 1:30 pm. To my surprise, there was a CO option departing AUS at 4:10 pm for $252 round-trip. Excited, I went through the entire booking process, only to find that Expedia cannot book tickets within 6 hours of departure. I called Expedia to see if they could do this over the phone, but no luck.

Again, I checked On that site, the price for the same exact flights was over $700. To be sure, however, I called Continental to see if there was anything they could do to assist me. Fortunately, my call was answered by a very nice reservations agent. She understood the Expedia situation, and after easily finding the expensive flights, asked for the exact flights that Expedia had given me. I told her that the outbound leg was on the NW codeshare, and connected through MEM. She looked around on the system for a while, and much to my surprise, was able to get the flights for $297. That was good enough for me, especially when purchasing the tickets less than 2 hours before departure. I booked the fare quickly, and I hope I thanked the woman profusely enough. Due to the codeshare, I was unable to check in on both and, but I just figured I’d use the kiosks at the airport. I threw some clothes into a suitcase, bolted out the door, and raced to the airport, which in normal traffic is about 25 minutes away. I made it in about 15, parked at the superb Airport Fast Park lot (only $5.50 per day for covered parking with an Internet coupon!), and got to the terminal around 3:15.

NW has a pretty small operation at AUS, just a few daily flights to DTW, MEM, and MSP. Hardly anyone was checking in at the NW counter, but I went ahead and used the kiosks so I could select my seat easily. I knew I’d be on a CRJ for the AUS-MEM leg, which was OK with me. I selected seat 2B for that leg, and 7A for the MEM-LAS leg, which would be on an A320. I dropped my small checked bag with the TSA, made it through security without any major problems, and waited at the near-deserted NW gate area (Gate 3 for those of you who are familiar with AUS). As I waited and sent a few e-mails from the T-Mobile wireless internet connection available at AUS, I noticed an interesting plane parked at Frontier’s Gate 4. It was a Frontier plane, but definitely not the A319s that I usually see flying over in Frontier’s great livery. It looked like some kind of larger RJ – it had winglets and the same nose shape as a CRJ, but was definitely bigger than the NW CRJ that was parked right next to it. I later discovered that it was a CRJ100, a plane that – despite my enthusiasm for aviation – I did not know existed, let alone that F9 was flying them to my home airport!

I wasn’t at the gate area for more than 10 minutes before boarding began for NW flight #5924, operated by Pinnacle. I was surprised at the number of people who came of the inbound CRJ from MEM – seemed like a lot more than the 50 pax capacity. For a CRJ, however, boarding seemed to take forever. Many of the passengers were musicians; there were three different people carrying guitars. Some were disappointed that they couldn’t carry their guitars directly onto the plane due to the smaller overhead bins, but no one made any major complaints about gate checking them. I thought the boarding process was unnecessarily deliberative. I was in Row 2, and they called the rows by 2s … 11 and up, 9 and up, 7 and up, 5 and up, 3 and up … really, what’s the point in that on a CRJ? When I finally got to my seat (my first trip on a CRJ, although I have flown AA Eagle’s CR7s), I realized why the guitar people were complaining – the overhead bins on these things are TINY. The seats aren’t much better. It didn’t take me long to determine that I much prefer AA Eagle’s ERJs to the CRJs. Fortunately, there was no one in front of me and no one behind me, so I could recline and not worry about anyone reclining into me.

The flight was pretty uneventful. I had seat 2B, and aisle seat, and pretty much every passenger near me closed their window shades, so I couldn’t see out. No big deal for me, however. There were 39 passengers on the flight, most of whom appeared to be O&D. The flight was scheduled from 4:10 to 5:55, but we touched down at MEM at 5:30 and were deplaning at the gate by 5:40.

This was my first visit to MEM, and I didn’t really know what to expect. I know it’s one of the smallest airline hubs in the US, but I was surprised at how narrow the concourses were. I had a good hour and a half to kill – my flight to LAS didn’t depart until 7:25 – so I wanted to roam around, but the lack of trams at MEM and the fact that I was lugging a backpack and laptop didn’t really make the idea very enticing. Plus, the windows at MEM make spotting pretty difficult, so there really wasn’t much to see. I was also very surprised at the lack of food options available at MEM. One barbeque place, but the line was incredibly long. I ended up waiting 15 minutes in line for McDonald’s instead. I must say that there was an interesting mix of people at MEM. The airport was very crowded, but few people seemed to be traveling on business. There were plenty of rednecks, which I expected and am used to. But there were also several school groups and bachelorette parties. I saw one group of three women who were particularly interesting: they all had homemade T-shirts on; one said “MY FRIEND IS FINALLY TURNING 21,” another read “MY DAUGHTER IS FINALLY TURNING 21,” and the third’s said “I’M FINALLY TURNING 21.” ‘What a bunch of freaks,’ I thought, only to see them turn around … on the backs of their shirts were the words “VEGAS, BABY, VEGAS.” Uh-oh, I thought, this could be a long flight … . After getting my food, I made my way back to Gate 25 to wait for my flight. I called my parents, who were of course surprised that I was in Memphis. I also called my fiancée to make sure she was on time and set for her 8:00 pm HP flight from BWI to LAS.

Boarding for NW flight #525 was a nightmare. I was in seat 7A, so I was one of the last to board. As a frequent AA flyer, I must say that I think AA’s group boarding system is much better than the row boarding system. When I gave my boarding pass to the agent, the line to get on the plane had already backed up through the entire jetway. Finally, I made my way to my seat. This particular A320 reminded me a lot of the AA 757 I flew on the DFW-LAS route back in January (that 757 had the new “LRTC” configuration). No headrests, even in First, and no leather seats, even in First. When I selected my seat at the kiosk at AUS, the middle seat next to me showed up as unoccupied. I hoped this would still be the case, but no luck. The flight was pretty much completely full.

Again, a pretty uneventful flight. I don’t regularly fly Airbuses, and I generally prefer Boeing and MD aircraft, but the A320 is a great plane (much better than the CRJ I flew to MEM!) The plane is very quiet in the cabin, which is great. I must say, however, that I greatly missed AA’s MRTC. I felt extraordinarily cramped in my window seat, especially when the fellow in front of me decided he needed a nap and suddenly reclined all the way. MEM-LAS is a good distance, and after an out-of-the-way flight to MEM from AUS, I hoped it would go by quickly. I wasn’t expecting meal service, and didn’t get any; only beverage. I didn’t realize, however, that NW had started a meal-for-purchase program. They offered an Italian sub sandwich that sounded good; with chips and a bottle of water, it cost $10. That seemed a bit pricey, but several passengers jumped at the chance. I did not, but I think that the meal-for-purchase system is the way for the airlines to go on domestic flights like this one. Let the passenger pay for a meal if he wants it, whether it’s before or after he boards.

I enjoyed sitting next to the window on this flight. The pilot told us we’d pretty much be following I-40, and fortunately for me on the left side of the plane, we flew just to the north of it. Once the sun set, I was clearly able to discern the lights of Little Rock, Oklahoma City, Amarillo, Albuquerque, and Flagstaff before we started our descent into LAS. With about an hour to go in the flight, however, I had a STRONG urge to go to the bathroom. The two women next to me were sound asleep, and I hate disturbing people like this, so I just held it and held it, praying that the pilots would get us on the ground ASAP. Fortunately, they did. We touched down and reached the gate about 10 minutes ahead of schedule. Just like the AA crew on my last flight to LAS, the crew on this flight strongly advised us to arrive early at the airport for our return flight due to the length of the security lines. I didn’t have any problems with this the last time I flew out of LAS, but that flight was at 1:15 in the morning, so I figured it could be different this time. Anyway, I made it to the bathroom without any problem and began the trek to the huge LAS baggage claim.

Once I finally reached the baggage claim area, I was surprised to find that a good ¼ of it was under construction. Because of this, my carousel was also carrying luggage from three other flights, including a couple of charters. However, I was still able to get my bag pretty quickly. By this time, it was about 9:30, so I still had an hour to wait before my fiancée arrived on her HP flight from BWI. I checked the monitors, however, and her flight (#777) wasn’t listed. So, I called HP’s 800 number and found out that the flight was due to land about a half hour early. Sure enough, she showed up at the baggage claim shortly after 10:15 with the rest of her co-workers. Her flight was not that great – she has Gold status on AA, so she is used to MRTC and pre-reserved exit row seats, so the pitch in the middle seat of an HP A320 wasn’t good for her, especially on a 5-hour flight from BWI to LAS. Still, we were in a festive mood and ready for a good time. That would have to wait, however – the taxi queue at LAS was seemingly endless. It moved relatively quickly, but still took us 30 minutes to get a cab. Finally, we made it to our room at the MGM Grand and settled in for the night.

The next day, I accompanied my fiancée to her conference. She is a legislative aide on Capitol Hill, and was invited by Taser International to attend their annual training conference. It was very, very cool. We saw several live demonstrations of people (who lined up to volunteer) get shot with the Taser, which I fell in love with. I really want one of these things. There was also a discussion of Taser’s efforts to get the weapons authorized for airline cockpits, something I strongly favor. (I will probably post a discussion thread about this soon). Unfortunately (or fortunately), there wasn’t time for me to volunteer to get “Tased.” After the meetings, we gambled a bit down at the Bellagio. She was up, I was down. We then had dinner and called it a night. The next morning, I visited my aunt and cousin in Vegas before heading to LAS to catch my flight home.

I took the NW crew’s advice and headed out early. I took a quick, cheap (10 minutes, $8) cab ride from the MGM Grand to the airport, and checked in using CO’s kiosks. I selected a window seat (11A) that appeared to be on an empty row for my LAS-IAH leg, and a bulkhead window seat (8F) for the short hop from IAH to AUS. I then proceeded through the horrendous security lines at LAS – it took me a whopping 2 minutes to clear security. After that, I had some time to kill, so I shot a few photos, but didn’t have any good views: photo:

Photo © Stephen W. Sides photo:

Photo © Stephen W. Sides

I then proceeded to my gate, A19, and waited. I was able to get this shot of the 757 that would take me to IAH: photo:

Photo © Stephen W. Sides

Along with a photo of the A gate area at LAS; gotta love the slots in the terminal: photo:

Photo © Stephen W. Sides

Boarding for my flight to IAH was pretty simple. I got on board and found my seat on the window; no one else in the seats next to me yet. The flight wasn’t very full at all, making me think that I might be lucky enough to have two empty seats next to me. No such luck, however, two women who were assigned 11B and 11C came soon after me. They were clearly eyeing 11D, E, and F across the aisle; all of which were empty. However, another couple beat them to it, leaving us crammed in to 11A, B and C. Taxi and takeoff were great, and I was able to get some good shots such as these: photo:

Photo © Stephen W. Sides photo:

Photo © Stephen W. Sides photo:

Photo © Stephen W. Sides photo:

Photo © Stephen W. Sides photo:

Photo © Stephen W. Sides photo:

Photo © Stephen W. Sides

I must say that the CO seats are much more comfortable and feel less cramped than the NW seats … that is, until the woman in front of me decided to recline. I am all for reclining, and do it myself sometimes, but the seat in front of me came way, way back, easily bumping into my knees. I was irritated, but fortunately no one was sitting behind me, so I was able to fully recline in my seat without bothering anyone. For the most part, the flight was great – I generally prefer flying in the afternoon as opposed to the evening, it seems more relaxing and the views, of course, can be great. As for me, I had a great view of the Grand Canyon as we flew over it. Here are a couple of shots: photo:

Photo © Stephen W. Sides photo:

Photo © Stephen W. Sides

Once we got over New Mexico, however, clouds rolled in and I was unable to see anything. This disappointed me, because I figured we’d be flying near my hometown of Abilene, Texas, which I have sadly never seen from the air. I would have watched the movie feature, Something’s Gotta Give, but I didn’t want to shell out $5 for headphones. I wondered why CO charges $5 while NW and AA charge $2, but let it pass; I’d already seen the movie anyway, and if I really wanted to watch it, I should have brought my own. We hit some turbulence over El Paso that was pretty bad, but made it through it without many serious problems.

I decided to pull out my laptop, download a few photos, and work on this trip report, when I began getting irritated once again about the reclining woman in front of me. As I said before, I don’t mind people who recline, and I’m pretty much against the “knee defender” product, but I do hate it when people recline so far that work on a laptop is damn near impossible. Maybe I just need to get a smaller one, or just keep flying AA for MRTC, but it was really uncomfortable to work. I thought about using CO’s JetConnect and see if I could go ahead and upload some pics to, but figured it wouldn’t be worth the money for what seems to be such a slow connection speed. Still, I got all of my Vegas pictures downloaded and ready for e-mailing and uploading to

Toward the end of the flight, I was getting ready to see the new Terminal E at IAH. The captain told us we’d be arriving at gate E8, which I noticed was also the same departure gate listed on my IAH-AUS boarding pass. My layover was scheduled to be just over an hour, and the flights didn’t have the same number, but I assumed I would be on the same aircraft for my IAH-AUS flight. I was already happy that I’d be flying a 757 on the route; DL and AA already ceased sending theirs to AUS, so it’s good for AUS to still be getting these larger planes.

When I arrived at IAH, we had to taxi quite a while to get to the E gates. Upon arrival, I was very impressed. We parked next to a CO 767 that was standing at a gate with a dual jetbridge. The 767 wasn’t big enough for it, however, and the front part of the gate was not being used. Just like our boarding in LAS, we disembarked from the CO 757 from the door in front of the main cabin; passengers in First weren’t the first ones off for a change. When I stepped into Terminal E at IAH, I was very impressed. Spacious, comfortable, and high-tech, it’s a welcome addition to IAH, which is one of my least favorite airports to connect through. photo:

Photo © Stephen W. Sides photo:

Photo © Stephen W. Sides

Sure enough, the same 757 that flew me from LAS to IAH would be flying me from IAH to AUS. I had about a half hour to kill at IAH before boarding, so I thought I’d see if there was a wireless internet connection available in the terminal. There was, but unfortunately, it was not the T-Mobile service that is available at AUS, DFW, and several other airports. This IAH connection was being offered through Time Warner’s RoadRunner service, and carried a promotional offer from Pappadeux’s Seafood Kitchen, which has a location that overlooks the concourses of Terminal E. photo:

Photo © Stephen W. Sides

Flight #1441 was the quickest and least eventful of the trip. I am intrigued, however, of CO’s policy of boarding flights 45 minutes before departure time (unlike AA and many other airlines, which have a 30 minute policy on domestic flights). This flight was very light, and everyone was pretty much on board by 8:05 … and we didn’t depart until 8:32! Still, we made it to AUS in 30 minutes. I wondered to myself why, with the new cooperative agreement, CO and NW are at complete opposite ends of the terminal at AUS. Of course, few if any people are going to be connecting through here, so I guess it doesn't really matter for outstations. Bags took a while to get to the carousel, but that’s pretty typical at AUS. Made it to Airport Fast Park (definitely the best parking lot at AUS) in no time, and I was on my way home. Talked to my fiancee later that evening, and she had been delayed almost two hours out of LAS and didn't get into BWI until after midnight EDT. I am very, very glad I wasn't flying HP! On a separate note, everyone in her conference group lives in central DC; I thought I had remembered that HP has a non-stop DCA-LAS flight, so I wondered why they didn't take that one, but I guess the BWI-LAS fare was probably significantly less expensive. In any event, she was very turned off by the HP experience.

All in all, a great trip. Sorry I couldn’t provide reg numbers for any of the aircraft I flew on – the angles at all of the gates made it impossible for me to get them, and I never want to bother F/As with that kind of stuff. Still, hope you find this one interesting; it’s probably my most detailed trip report so far on; I’ll try to keep them coming. I'll be flying AUS-DFW-MSP-ORD-AUS next weekend for a wedding, but I’m the best man, so I may not have time to keep track of the details.



[Edited 2004-04-20 16:15:09]
"Lose" is not spelled with two o's!!!!
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Joined: Tue Mar 01, 2005 5:31 am


Wed Apr 21, 2004 12:52 am

Interesting SSides, using for trip report photos. All this time I skip reports that say ("with photos") that look like just regular images of particular aircraft.
Posts: 1469
Joined: Wed Apr 12, 2000 8:18 am


Wed Apr 21, 2004 1:27 am

Nice trip report. I love those spontaneous type trips. Did your fiancee know you were doing this or was it a big surprise for her at LAS? I agree with you about the ERJ's VS the CRJ's. I find the ERJ's much more comfortable and their windows are great. I also agree with you about NW's MEM hub. Unlike NW's other two jewels (MSP, DTW) MEM is downright drab and dull. It needs a makeover badly. Too bad you didn't want to wait in line there for BBQ, that place (the name escapes me) is great. Anyway, I enjoyed your report and look forward to more.
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Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2001 1:02 pm


Wed Apr 21, 2004 8:22 am

Nice trip report, my AUS based brother.

One small tidbit, you're supposed to go to LAS to escape from your fiance, not meet your fiance!  Wink/being sarcastic Wink/being sarcastic Didn't they tell you whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas?  Wink/being sarcastic

I guess with her in DC though I can understand.
Firings, if well done, are good for employee morale.
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Joined: Tue Apr 06, 2004 2:33 pm


Wed Apr 21, 2004 8:51 am

Very good to read about your last minute trip. I believe the Frontier plane you saw at AUS was a CRJ-700 operated by QX as Frontier Jet Express. Hope you enjoyed your time in Vegas.
The views expressed do not necessarily represent those of Southwest Airlines its Directors or its Employees
Topic Author
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Wed Apr 21, 2004 11:34 am

I look like an idiot -- talking about a "CRJ100?" Turns out that was a "place-holder" that I was going to change before posting the message.

I think Unmlobo is right -- it was probably a CRJ700. I have seen and flown on these planes many times before, but this one looked longer than I had seen -- probably due to the angle and the way Frontier's titles make the aircraft look. Sorry for the misrepresentation -- I wasn't aware that Frontier had the CR7, so it surprised me!
"Lose" is not spelled with two o's!!!!
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Wed Apr 21, 2004 12:39 pm

I'm very glad I came upon your trip report, I had absolutely nothing to do right now, and this saved my boredom. I always like how you can get cheaper prices for flights when you say that you saw the price somewhere else. I always do that. I'm glad it all worked out for you.

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