Air Tran Report
Here is my promised Air Tran’s report! I find Air Tran to be a pretty decent low fare airline, and the business class is certainly a worthy product for a low fare airline. There is no doubt that Air Tran is a low fare airline, judging from the chaotic boarding gates and hassling agents, but the service is pretty friendly, even from Ryan International Airways. Indeed the seats themselves are not bad, compared to Alaska, Northwest and certain second tier domestic narrow-aisle first class seats, and they only feature slightly less legroom than AA, CO, and UA. I just love the flexibility of Air Tran’s business class fare – fully refundable, which is mile ahead of other airlines’ so-called premium discounted fares. I indeed needed to cancel my original itinerary and the agent reaffirmed me that the fare was full refundable. Paying $307 for a one-way transcontinental fare is well worth it, if you need to buy last minute or flexibility.
April 23, 2004
FL 2 LAX-ATL Lv1235 Arr1950 Airbus A320-200 N94lLF in full Air Tran livery
I arrived at LAX about an hour and half prior to departure time and found that there was no business class check in line for Air Tran, but the regular line was sparse with only one customer on line. (But the flight was pretty full and I guess everyone checked in early.) My sequence number is 105, and the Midwest agent was friendly and wasted no time in checking me all the way to DCA and showed me the direction of the gate. Midwest handles all ground handlings for Air Tran. I guess the additional DFW flights may trigger Air Tran to hire its own staffs soon. I went to the International terminal for a sushi lunch to go, since Air Tran serves no meals. On the East pier of International terminal, it was filled with the morning traffics, which include Thai’s Boeing 747-400 (HS-TGN), Asiana’s Boeing 747-400 Combi (HL7415), All Nippon’s Boeing 777 with Yoko sticker (JA709A), Air Tahiti Nui’s A340 F-OJTN, and the brand new Mexicana’s Boeing 767-300ER “XA-MXB” Buenos Aires.
Boarding began at 11:53am at gate 35 and there was a quick pre-boarding announcement, but everyone crowded the gate and the Midwest agent did not make any attempt to correct the situation. Once on board, two F/As said welcome and a freshly packed blanket and Air Tran’s “Arrivals” magazine were placed on each business class seat. The aircraft was very comfortable and the seats feature decent legroom and lots of recline. For business class, row two have the best seats and the bulkhead was not too bad though, but not as good as the bulkheads at Boeing 717s. I read a previous report that Ryan F/As were rude, but not in my flight today. The Aussie F/A was particularly friendly and to my surprise, a full pre-takeoff beverage was offered, which Alaska, American and United did not always offer them. Our load was 135 today and the door was closed at 12:29pm. The pilot welcomed us aboard and informed us that our flying time was three hours and thirty-three minutes, and cruising at 33,000feet, but he expected some ATC delays on our arrival into ATL, in which he was right. We pushed back at 12:32pm and took off from R/W24L at 12:40pm.
As you know, Air Tran offers no meals in either business or coach. For coach, snacks were limited to Biscoff and pretzels, but for business class folks, the initial snack basket features TGI Friday’s Potato Skin “Cheddar and Bacon” flavor, and Synder’s Pretzel Snaps (regular size), and the second snack basket contains Mrs. Field’s Oatmeal Raisin and nuts cookies, Quakers’ Fruit and Oatmeal Strawberry and Cinnamon-Apple cereal bars, and more pretzel snaps. Beverage refills were nonstop. I had more five beverages… and the F/As were generous with alcohol beverages, and I guess there was no more restriction on the two alcohol beverages system. No trolley was used for either first or economy class. The galley equipments were all originated from TACA, and the aircraft was double catered at ATL for both outbound and inbound flight, and the F/As worked both flights as well. Decent began at 3:45pm and we landed on an extremely busy Hartsfield’s Runway 27L at 7:25pm EST among a sea of Delta-FLOT planes and Air Tran’s growing dominance of Boeing 717s and Airbus A320s. We parked at gate C17 with an almost twenty minutes early arrival time.
FL 188 ATL-DCA Lv2015 Arr2200 Boeing 717-200 N910AT/”794”
ATL terminal was unimpressive and looked more ancient than LAX’s terminal three. Well I really did not have much time to look around and headed direct to gate C10 for my onward flight to DCA. It was my first Boeing 717 flight and I was very excited. The agents at the gate were okay, but rushing passengers much. I guess that was the theme for low fare airlines these days. The F/As were friendly and I was welcomed by some thick Southern accents. The aircraft was much newer and the seats are brand new. I had the undesirable row 3 and regretted not booking seats at Row 1, which had tons of legroom. I made my change very late. Seats were very hard and seemed to be placed at a highly uncomfortable upright position at Row 3. Unlike my usual style, I had to recline my seats slightly shortly after takeoff. However, I remarked at how FL seats offer more legroom than Alaska on a similar MD-80 aircraft. Maybe it was due to the seats or FL is actually more generous with legroom. To my surprise, there was a full pre-takeoff beverage and the F/As manage it within the twenty minutes boarding window. Door was closed at 8:16pm, despite the boarding was completed early and to some late paper works. ATL was busy, but we managed to takeoff from Runway 27R at 8:31pm. Boeing 717 performed much like its MD-80 sister ships, but accelerate quicker and it was like a rocket. Beautiful takeoff and it was quiet up front.
Flying time was a quick hour and sixteen minutes with a cruising attitude of 33,000feet. Beverage service was similar to the other flight, with the same snack basket, I had the TGI chips, Biscoff and Mrs. Field cookies. It is my junk food day and I had a vodka tonic, and the F/As gave me two bottle of vodkas with a full can of Tonic water. It was a beautiful night. The seat belt sign came on thirty minutes prior to arrival and descent began at the same time around 9:17pm. We landed on Runway 1 at 9:50pm and parked at gate 9.
In general, I am satisfied with Air Tran’s business class product and will consider using it in the future. The beverage and snacks are abundant and the F/As are casual and friendly, and I love the flexibility of the fare. It is simple and customer friendly. Boeing 717s are nice and I am looking forward to the Boeing 737NG phasing in the summer. My only recommendation is the introduction of a business class line for check in and speed up the installation of check-in kiosks.