Photo © Daniel Wojdylo
Having never driven to BWI from my apartment, and not wanting to risk running late, especially as I had one very large bag, I left very early for my 1pm flight, and having encountered no traffic, was at the airport in under an hour, making me about four hours early for my flight. I parked at the ERB (ESP?) lot- the name escapes me at the moment- and was quickly taken to the check-in by the very friendly shuttle bus driver. Despite a very long line for check-in, the line moved quickly, and I was checked in in no time. My being early helped, as I got the last upgrade to business on the BWI-ATL flight. Once past security, I poked around terminal D for a while, before settling in at the Harbour Lounge bar for a quick snack and to watch the talking heads on ESPN try and predict the upcoming NFL draft. With about an hour to go before departure, I made my way to gate 23 just in time to watch our plane pull into the gate. The turn-around was quick, and boarding began right around 1230. It seemed like half our flight had the same plan as me, as there were a lot of children running around the gate area screaming about Disney World. Once on the plane, there was no offer of a pre-flight drink, but the flight attendants did re-arrange most of the passengers in business to make sure that all the children were sitting next to an adult. Taxi and departure were quick, as we didn't have to wait for anyone ahead of us to depart, and we flew to the west of Washington, over Gaithersburg, and then south to Atlanta. In-flight service was one pass-through with the snack basket and a full can of coke, after that the flight attendants disappeared for the remainder of the flight. Our arrival in ATL was ontime, following a long downwind leg while landing that afforded a nice overview of the airport. We turned off the runway next to Delta's maintenance base, giving me a nice view of the new 'Spirit of Delta' logojet- it does look kinda cool up close. They had positioned it between the taxiway and the MD-11 that had the engine failure back in December. After a long taxi past quite a few DL planes, we arrived on-time at gate C8.
N603AT ex N482HA
Photo © Jerry Search
Photo © Je89 W.
After a two hour layover in ATL, I was more than ready to leave- I had forgotten how dark and grungy ATL was. Our gate- C17 didn't have any windows, so I went over to C15 and watched all the ASA and Comair CRJs go by. We didn't start boarding until 15 minutes before departure, but didn't take much of a delay as a result. However- FL had overbooked business class- there were 11 of us who had upgraded using the $35 option, one person who had paid full business class, and one who had been upgraded for free following a cancelled flight from his point of origin earlier in the day. They were offering a free r/t ticket anywhere FL flies as comp. for going back to coach, but no one took it, so they bumped the guy traveling for free, who, needless to say was NOT happy- he pretty much told the gate agent "Shut up, I don't want to talk to you" and went back to coach. After that, the flight attendants came around for pre-departure drink orders, I had a Diet Coke, and we pushed back fairly close to our normally scheduled time of 5pm. We had a very chatty Captain on this flight, who mentioned the copilot, the Pilot Flying, was a former Blue Angel pilot, and that one of our F/As was a former Mouseketeer and told all the kids to 'Ask her about Mickey'. The flight down to MCO was a little bumpy, but the F/As still made two passes with both drinks and the snack basket, and this on a shorter flight than the trip to ATL! We arrived on the opposite side of the airport at MCO, and had a long taxi to our gate- 105, but we still were on stand at 635pm- ontime. I also got a pleasant surprise, as both my bags were waiting for me at the baggage carousel, so 10 minutes after landing, I was in a cab on my way to the hotel, somewhat tired from a day of traveling.
N926AT ex N411TW
Photo © Rafal Szczypek
Photo © Mark Abbott
After a long series of meetings, albeit successful, I should have passed out when I got back to my hotel room on the 27th, instead, I went insomniac, and never fell asleep. Finally, at 4am I said to hell with it, got up, showered, checked-out, and called a cab to the airport. As a result I was VERY early for my 1020am flight to BWI, however, the check-in agent offered to put me on an earlier flight, and after another $35 upgrade, I was on my way to the gate. The lines at security would have been better if the TSA agent directing traffic wasn't putting everyone in the same line for the metal detector. I also had a pair of fairly clueless tourists infront of me who couldn't figure out why keeping a cell phone in their pocket would set off the metal detector. Once through security, I proved how tired I was by getting on the wrong tram, and then letting everyone know about it by exclaiming "oh s***!" when the automated voice said we were going to gates 61-99, not 100-120 as I had thought. After that brief scenic tour of MCO, I arrived at my gate, 103, and watched as they prepared N928AT, which I had flown on almost a year ago to LGA from CAK, for departure. However, about 10 minutes before they began boarding, an announcement was made, saying that the flight to Pittsburgh was now going from gate 103, while the BWI flight was departing from 105. So I bid farewell to 928AT, and went over to gate 105, where N926AT was awaiting us. Surprisingly, there was only one child on this flight, but instead, the bulk of the passengers were a tour group comprised entirely of adult couples! Also, this was the first FL flight I had been on where there were empty seats in business class. That being said, the seats were amazingly uncomfortable- hard as rocks and impossible to recline. Again, pre-departure drinks were offered- I had coffee as befitting my sleep-deprived state- and we pushed back on-time again. However, we were to depart from the opposite side of the airport, so we had to taxi around the entire airport, and after waiting for a US A320 to depart, and the Skyservice/Conquest A319 to land, we were off. On the takeoff roll, I noticed a Westjet 73G with winglets parked near one of the Cessna hangars alongside a Planet Airways 727. We must have been light as we rocketed into the air at a very steep angle. In-flight service consisted of stale nutri-grain bars from the basket and several re-fills of my coffee cup. It felt like I was in a diner, as the F/A kept going up and down the aisle re-filling everyone's cup. The duration of the flight was spent reading my book. As we began our descent, the captain pointed out Washington DC off to our left, which gave me a great view of the city- we passed just south of the Wilson Bridge before continuing to the Chesapeake Bay over Annapolis before turning final at BWI. After landing, we taxied around the entire terminal complex, past World and Omni DC-10s and an ATA L15. I also saw a DHL DC-9 in the new yellow c/s- talk about ugly! It took a good twenty minutes to collect my bags, and then another fifteen to get to my car, but despite this, I was back on I-295 before I was originally scheduled to leave MCO- not a bad deal at all.
On the whole, the trip was a lot less painful than I had been anticipating, and with the exception of the first flight, the flightcrews were very friendly and a delight to fly with. My thanks to AirTran for the experience, and rest assured, I will continue to fly with them as my needs see fit. Hope you all enjoyed the report. Regards.