CMH to MDW
dep gate: C50
arr gate: B11
Many of you who have seen my WN posts will probably note that I am an outspoken critic of the carrier, and generally only fly them as a last resort. This flight was no exception, but it turned out to be the best WN flight I've had yet.
I arrived at Port Columbus at about 8:30am. I had already printed out my boarding pass online and had obtained the A boarding group. I proceeded past the loooooonnnnnggg line at the Southwest counter to a nearly empty TSA checkpoint on Concourse C. I cleared security with no problems and proceeded to Mulligan's Bar and Grill for some breakfast.
Weather this morning in Columbus was lousy: low clouds, poor vis, and rainy; Chicago weather was pretty much the same except they had snow flurries.
After breakfast, I purchased a bottle of water and a USA Today from the nearby News store and proceeded to the A line at C50. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 10:25am but didn't start boarding until 10:15. I boarded N334SW--Shamu would once again be taking me to Chicago, though the interior of the Shamu aircraft I flew on back in July was in disrepair. N334SW's interior had been refitted back in April 2003 with the new leather seats and the exterior tail paint changed to the canyon blue, and I found it to be quite tidy...a welcome change from the shabby WN a/c I had been on in the past.
Photo © Michael Carter
Here it is getting the aforementioned 4/03 service...
Photo © 737doctor
The WN boarding procedure is, in my opinion, still a complete mess. It does NOT provide for an expedited boarding process like they say it does. I was lucky enough to get an aisle seat (7D...or maybe it was F...the aisle seat in row 7 on the right side of the a/c) but by the time the C group had boarded, people were--as usual-- standing around trying to find overhead bin space for their enormous carry-ons and looking for any other seat besides the middle one.
Because of this, and not unlike every other WN flight I've ever taken, the F/a's had to make numerous announcements for people to find an open seats "for an on-time departure" which wasn't going to happen anyway. I don't recall exactly what time he pushed back, but it definitely wasn't 10:25.
We taxied to 10L (my first 10L departure in many years of flying out of CMH), rolled onto the runway, paused briefly, and then gunned it. We got a positive rate and then disappeared into a layer of cloudy soup that wouldn't leave us for the duration of our flight. Our cruising altitude was 20,000 ft.
Shortly after leveling off, the drink service began, which I declined b/c I had my bottle of water. The f/a's were extremely polite, friendly and very professional. I was impressed. Past WN f/a's have been rude or just plain annoying. One of the f/a's even let me borrow one of her AA batteries for my cd player (since I somehow misplaced one of the pair), which I thought was very cool of her.
We were only in the air for about 30 mins when our initial descent into Chicago began. The f/a's did a good job of cleaning up the cabin and tactfully getting people to give up their drinks. The descent into Chicago was very smooth considering the lousy weather. We continued our descent through the soup until we emerged through the cloud cover with less than 30 seconds before landing, approaching rwy 4R over a railyard and the usual rooftops. I love Midway approaches
Touchdown on 4R was pretty hard, and we taxied to gate B11 and deplaned at 10:40am CST, 10 minutes late but I wasn't complaining. I emerged into the MDW B Concourse to find it just as busy as I expected it to be. The remainder of my journey would take me from Chicago to Milwaukee and then eventually back to Columbus, OH by car the day after Easter.
This was the best WN flight I've ever been on, despite the nonsensical boarding process that is WN's hallmark. Here's the general summary:
-excellent inflight service; the f/a's were wonderful
-the crew did everything they could to expedite our departure and arrival
-however, WN's boarding process was, is, and forever-shall-be (unless they somehow remedy it) a complete clusterf&$k.
The true litmus test for me will be this coming May, when I plan to fly CMH-MDW roundtrip on WN for my cousin's wedding. Look out for that trip report b/c I will be grading WN VERY closely!