Here is my trip report from the Tour of the Boeing facilities in Seattle that we took last week. I plan to review this trip in three parts:
1. The trip up there and the first night.
2. The touring activity.
3. The trip home.
BTW, on the photos I am hosting, I reduced the color levels down to speed up loading times. They don't look the best, but you get the idea.
June 28, 2004
Animal: Black Bear
Scheduled Departure: 15:35
I checked in online using FlexCheck on the Frontier website around 5:30am. I found that I was in the row behind the emergency exit row. Uh-oh, limited recline so I thought I’d change it when I got to the airport.
When I left home for the airport, it was sunny out but the DUATS said that storms were on the way. I arrived at the airport two hours early and checked my two bags. All I was going to carry onboard was a small camera bag. I asked if I could have a seat in Rows 1-6 window or aisle, the agent told me that I was already assigned a seat. I asked her if I could change it, and she complained that she would now have to check me out, then check me in again with the new seats. She told me that if I want a seat change, don't use the electronic check in service, it makes more work for the agents. I was assigned seat 3C. It was now 13:10. I am a Early Rewards member.
In Houston, DL does the ground support for Frontier. They are ok, not real friendly,but they get the job done if you know what I mean. Since there is really nothing to doin the terminal anymore (Building A), I decided to go past security and see what kind of food there was being offered to travelers.
After looking at the Pizzeria Uno, and McDonalds and a Chili’s, I opted for the Pizzeria Uno. It was ok, not like being at the original in Chicago but it was filling and did have a nice flavor. I had a Deep Dish Pizza, with Cheese, Italian Sausage, Mushrooms and Onions and a bottle of Dansani water.
I moved on to gate A24, which was to be our departure gate. There were lots of people standing around.
There were LOTS of CO planes moving ever so slowly, in pairs towards the gates and the runways. They were everywhere! This is just part of a long, long line!
Our plane had landed but it took 45 minutes to get to the gate due to all the congestion caused by the ground stop. When the 733 arrived at Gate A24, it began raining very heavily and thundering and lightning.
The light you see in the picture is my flash!
They announced that due to lightning they cannot unload the aircraft, either people or baggage. I went across the pier and looked out at a DL flight that was scheduled to depart for SLC. The Captain was at the check in desk, all people had been checked in already so he was standing there by himself working with the computer terminal. I walked by him and said “They got you guys doing EVERYTHING nowadays, yeah?” He smiled and said “Yes they do, we try harder” I asked him about the weather and he just said it was storming. I identified myself as a pilot and he asked me to come around the back of the counter and look at what he had up on his screen. It was several weather charts and current IAH radar. Neat. After discussing the weather situation, they called for Frontier Flight 268 to begin boarding. It was 17:00. One guy in the crowd that was waiting said that he is not going to fly on a day like this and left and went home!
I walked on board our plane, which I expected to look older, but I was pleasantly surprised that the interior looked newer. The plane was immaculately clean. No crumbs on the floor, No trash in the seat backs. I was very impressed. I took my seat and immediately noticed that I had two HUGE women in seats 3A & 3B. They were so huge that they obscured the window completely! They must have been 500 pounders! The rolls oozed over and under the armrests and I had to raise my armrest on the aisle side to fit most of me into the seat! I have never before seen such huge people on a plane!
After awhile they started to stink! It was a mess. It turns out that they were wheelchair boards too. When we landed in Denver, the F/A told them that their “assistant” would be on board soon to “off load” them. I think they were too huge to walk!
The flight attendants appeared to be older. One woman had to be in her 50’s, she spent most of the time during boarding sitting in the jumpseat on the flight deck joking with the Captain. The male Flight Attendant (Christian) was at least in his 40’s as well. The F/A in the rear cabin was a nice lady who was maybe in her 60’s? She started with the original Frontier back in the early 70’s! Very Friendly!
They closed the doors and the F/A who had previously been joking with the Captain didn’t look real happy about something. I thought she was going to be one of those with “attitude”. But she turned out to be somewhat friendly and cordial during the trip. I had the feeling she didn’t want to be there. The other F/A’s turned out to be very nice and outgoing. Service with a smile!
At 17:43 we headed out to the runway and got in line for takeoff. At 18:09 we began our takeoff run on runway 15L and 42 seconds later we lifted off and climbed out on our way to DEN. The cruising altitude was FL28 according to the Captain. About 30 minutes into the flight (which was 100% full!) The F/A’s began service. They brought drinks first. Then they made another pass and passed out a small bag of Snyders mini pretzel rolls. They didn’t charge me for the drinks due to the delay we had, but they didn’t make a “free drink” announcement either. Here is what I got:
They came around asking for trash several times, which was nice, it keeps your table clean. I asked for another Gin & Tonic and the F/A told me that she couldn’t get it for me until she is through picking up the trash and then washes her hands first. She said that Frontier company policy is that you must NEVER handle food and trash at the same time.If you handled trash, you must wash your hands before handling food. On all the Frontier flights I saw, I observed this behavior. I have never heard of this before, but I imagine that it can reduce cross contamination of food. Then they came through and offered bags of SunChips from a large woven basket.
Our flight went north crossing over Dallas, Oklahoma City and Liberal, Kansas before turning northwest into Denver. When we landed the local Denver time was 19:21. I clearly missed my connection to SEA. Uh-oh!
We pulled up to gate A28 and the flight attendant told me not to worry the people at the desk outside will get me to Seattle ok. Relieved I exited the aircraft and went to the check in desk for A28 and told the agent that I missed my connection to Seattle. She said that she didn’t know what she could do for me and told me to see an agent down at Gate A24. That agent said she could give me my money back and I could then see if I could get myself to Seattle on my own. I told her no thanks, let me think about my options.A passenger who was sitting there came up to me and told me that there was a Frontier Service Counter down the hall and that they may be of more assistance. So I walked down there and after a 10 minute wait I had an agent that said she’d be glad to help me any way she could. She said the next flight to SEA would be in the morning as the 21:00 flight was totally booked. We were going to have our “Meet & Greet” in Seattle and I needed to get there as soon as fast as possible! She offered to check with United, who had a 21:10 flight to SEA (overbooked), she also checked with Alaska but their last flight to SEA of the day had already left. The agent also asked me if would it be ok with me if she sent me to Spokane rather than Seattle? I told her no, I needed Seattle. She then asked me if I would mind staying overnight in Denver at Frontiers cost and go out at 7:00am? I said that would be even worse as I would miss the first part of the tours and since I was renting a mini-van for the group, lots of people would be stranded. She gave me a standby boarding pass for the 21:00 flight and I grabbed a quick hamburger at McDonalds and arrived at the gate at 18:40. The agent told me that the last minute arrivals wouldn’t be coming so I could get on board. It was raining and it wasn’t possible to take a photo. I did notice that the Denver Airport is HUGE!! I have never seen anything like it. I wish I had more time to explore it.
Scheduled Departure: 21:00
Photo © Jack Hannen
We departed from Gate A32. I walked down the Jetway and saw that the A319 had the same interior as the 737. At least the fabrics on the seats were the same. The headrests were a little different. But the A319 was as clean as the 737. Spotless.
Photo © Tim Samples
Once again the F/A’s were oldies, but they were very nice. Lot’s of smiles and they seemed to be enjoying their jobs. That’s what really matters the most anyway. Isn’t it?
I was assigned seat 20B, which was a middle seat. To my great astonishment a man was sitting in the seat. He sheepishly told me that his wife wanted the window seat and would I mind switching to the aisle? I gave him a great big smile and told him I would have no problem at all, just to avoid the horrible center seat! So I sat down in seat 20C and we pushed back at 21:05. Once again the flight was 100% full! It was dark and raining and from the aisle seat I couldn’t see what runway we were on. At 19:13 we took off. Take off roll lasted 45 seconds and we slowly climbed out for SEA. Our route would take us north to Cheyenne Wyoming, the turn northwest and pass over Laramie Wyo., the Grand Tetons National Park, Idaho Falls, Id., Walla Walla, Wa and into SEA. We hit a few good bumps along the way. It was stormy in the area and we were cruising along at FL36 and still in the clouds. The seat belt lights were still on most of the way. Our groundspeed hovered at 495 mph, according to the air maps.
I used my Credit Card to activate the DirectTV service. I also brought my own headphones (mini-stereo plug) and I thought that the sound quality was very, very good. I found myself watching the AirMap most of the time. Every 10 minutes or so I would have my screen blank out and the message “Due To Normal Aircraft Movement, This Programming is Unavailable”. But this happened quite a few times along the way. But the picture quality was very clear and sharp. You get a volume and brightness control in your armrest, but no contrast or color controls. I found the colors to be quite accurate, I would have tweaked the contrast just a bit. I imagine that the message I mentioned earlier was from weather interference with the DirecTV signal. But the picture was at least as good as the one as I get in my own home with DirecTV and a Sony Wega Big Screen.
At 09:30 the F/A’s came around with drinks. I ordered a Gin & Tonic. Every time I ordered one of these, I got a lime. This hasn’t happened to me in years. Usually they don’t have any to begin with, or they run out. Frontier also gives you the entire can of whatever you are drinking, unless it’s water. Then they come down the aisle with a two liter water bottle and refill your glass. I found this to be true on all flights. When I ordered a second Gin & Tonic the Flight Attendant asked my if my tonic was still fizzy enough or do I need another one? I told her it was fine, and that was very nice of her to ask me about that. They offer Schweppes Soft Drinks & Tonic and Sparkling Water and Pepsi for Colas. I didn’t see any Cokes around.
We finally began our descent into SEA and I noted that it was now 22:15 and sunset was still in progress! You could see the sun setting on the tops of the Cascade mountains. Since I was on the aisle, I couldn’t get that good a view, but I saw just enough to know what was happening. I know you can have late sunsets in Canada, but I didn’t realize Seattle has this phenomena too.
We landed and as we taxied in I called BCAInfoSys who said he was already at the airport waiting for me along with WindowSeat and Charlib52 I hung up and we arrived at gate A6 at 22:47.
I walked out of security and I saw BCAInfoSys first, then WindowSeat and Charli52. A nice warm and energetic greeting exchange took place and they said they’d come to the airport to meet me and drive back to the hotel in the rental car with me. I certainly did appreciate that. I already felt right at home. They even carried my heavier bags for me! I couldn’t have asked for more!
After negotiating the path to the rental car shuttle bus stop, we waited about 10 minutes and the shuttle took us away to the car rental office. We had a dark blue Dodge Caravan with CD player and dual A/C, which came in handy later in the trip. The weather was nice, cool (55 or so) low humidity and a gently breeze blowing. We drove down International Blvd about 5 minutes and arrived at the hotel. BCAInfoSys and all took me up to one of the rooms where everyone had gathered. Unfortunately, I missed the “Meet & Greet” altogether. But I met everyone, I stayed a few minutes and off to my room I went for some much needed sleep.
This trip segment rates an 8/10, here’s why:
Frontier had very clean aircraft which is a major plus in my book. I realize we had massive weather delays, and Frontier can not be blamed for that. However, I wish that IAH had Frontier support staff as I think DL handles them just as “another job”. Lots of moaning and groaning out of the agents as they were handling the Frontier passengers. I understand that Frontier is going to add another frequency to Houston soon. I wish them well. The agent told me that Frontier has very good loads out of IAH.
The “light snack” served on board was good. It wouldn’t be enough to fill you up, but if you hadn’t eaten in awhile it would hold you until you reached your destination.
When I arrived in DEN I had to go to several agents before I found someone who knew how to handle my misconnect. Some of the offers were ridiculous (send me to Spokane, give me my money back, etc.) I was nice and friendly with all of them, I just said I missed my connection and could they try to get me to Seattle? Frontier needs to concentrate on consistency of service. This would not keep me from flying them, but it does make it a little bit of work. When I did go to the Customer Service Center, the agent there could not have been nicer. Why couldn’t I have been directed there in the first place? If it hadn’t been for this issue, I would have given this trip a 10. Nobody was rude, they just didn't know any better.
Watch for Part 2! The Tours! Coming Soon!