I had initially looked at taking jetBlue from MSY to JFK to OAK as I’ve never experienced the “jetBlue experience” before. I would have left MSY at 7:00am and would have arrived into OAK for about 2:20pm. A long day of flying to be sure (in the air for about 8 and ½ hours?) but it sounded like fun; however, I decided to go with Southwest, as they could get me up there the previous night. I get off of work at 4:30pm and WN has two flights from MSY to OAK after that time: 6:10pm nonstop and 6:15pm one-stop. I was sure I could make it on one of those two flights, so I got a Southwest pass and hoped for the best. If worst came to worst, I figured, I could always take B6 the following morning.
After calling the WN non-rev line a couple of times during the day I found out that the nonstop flight looked like it would go out very close to capacity. They said they expected it to have ten seats open at most. Sure I could have probably got on that one but chances would have been real good for me to get a middle seat, which isn’t exactly the best thing to have on a 4.5 hour flight. I instead went ahead and listed on the 6:15pm flight, which is a one-stop no change service through Houston. That flight looked good on both segments, with the HOU-OAK portion less that 75% full. So I checked my bag on WN2540 at 4:30pm and made my way down to gate B7 shortly thereafter. The flight was running behind schedule due to some very bad weather in the MSY area all day long. I think the aircraft did a HOU-MSY-TPA routing before heading back to MSY/HOU/OAK. At about 5:20 I handed the friendly gate agent my standby pass and I was promptly given a boarding pass in the “A” boarding group. Oh so nice. That really made my day. She said I’d be fine all the way to OAK. All I had to do now was sit back and wait for the blue Boeing to show.
Southwest Airlines #2540
Boeing 737-700 (new colors)
Push back MSY: 7:02p
At Gate HOU: 8:10p
Push back HOU: 8:38p
At Gate OAK:10:47p
Load: MSY-HOU (95%), HOU-OAK (65%)
The blue bird pulled into the gate at around 6:30pm. It looked like we would be around 45 minutes behind schedule. I counted about 35 people deplaning here in MSY from TPA. Boarding began at about 6:45pm. I made my way down the ancient jetway and found an empty row in the back, row 22, the second to last on the plane. I took seat 22F. Perfect seat in my opinion. Great view of the winglet. The plane filled up here in MSY. I’d say that a good 90 people boarded here, the vast majority of which were going to HOU. Takeoff was from runway 1 this evening. We used just a tad over 3,000ft. to get airborne, and we shot up like the damn space shuttle. There’s really not a great deal to say about a MSY-HOU flight. In eight words: short and somewhat scenic depending on the weather. The flight time is usually around 45 minutes, but due to the bad weather, we have to deviate our course a bit, which added about ten minutes to the flight time. Bumpy ride at least until we passed LFT, then the weather cleared somewhat. Got a nice view of the Gulf of Mexico shoreline as we crossed over into Texas. The f/a’s were exceptionally cheerful as usual and did their job well and with a smile. I got some pictures of the port, Astrodome and the new Reliant Stadium on our downwind leg to Hobby, which I will try to post in a reply to this topic once I get the roll developed. Not a cloud in the sky in H-town tonight and there was a minimal wind, hence the landing was very smooth. We parked at gate 10 I think. As I mentioned previously 99.9% of the people on the plane got off here. Just three including myself stayed on for the long OAK segment.
Maybe about 70 passengers got on here for this flight. The middle seat next to me was empty (always a bonus). There was a fairly attractive asian woman in the aisle seat. Pushback was shortly after 8:35 with an announced flight time of three hours and fifty three minutes. I don’t know which runway we used to takeoff but once again, the roll was very short, I guess we might have used 5,000ft. this time. Once we got up to our final cruising altitude of 40,000ft., the f/a’s came around with the snack packs and drinks. The snack packs aren’t too bad all things considered. I would like to see a cold sandwich in there of some sort but hey, who am I to argue? Better than just peanuts. After I finished off two Diet Sprite’s, I read some of Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein (an amazing read), then later on put on my headphones and jammed out to Ryan Adam’s latest masterpiece, Cold Roses. I flee asleep somewhere around El Paso I reckon but I woke up in time to see Las Vegas metro area, which is quite a sight from 40,000 feet. You could clearly make out the strip. Very impressive. The f/a’s came around with water or coffee at this time as well, which concluded their service for the flight. I listened to some of the new Dave Matthew’s Band cd for the final hour of the flight. Not a bad cd, underrated in my opinion. The approach into OAK was pretty scenic, not too many clouds, great view of the bay as we landed. It was my first ever landing in Oaktown and it was pretty much just like landing in SFO. Landing was hard and an excessive amount of braking was used. I guess the captain had a date waiting or something, no time to take the turn off further down the runway. As we taxied to the gate I saw a FedEx DC10 land. Once again, I did not take note of the gate where we parked, but we were sandwiched between two other WN birds.
My first impression of the OAK terminal: not that great. Quite a bit of construction going on in that particular wing. It was ok overall, nothing too special. I called my friend and told him I was here and made my way down to baggage claim. After a few minutes of waiting I decided to go see if my bag was in the stack of fifty or so bags sitting next to the WN baggage office. Sure enough, it was. Apparently they loaded my bag on the MSY-OAK nonstop so it got to OAK about two hours before I did. My friend Pierre met me in the bag claim just a couple of minutes later and off we went back to his place in Diamond Heights.
I had a really nice stay in the San Francisco area as usual. I had four full days up there. One thing that I had not done on my previous five or so trips to SFO was to take the ferry across the bay. Well this time I got to do it. Pierre dropped me off at the end of the F line streetcar in the Castro area (about five minutes down the mountain from his place) and I took that down to Pier 39. Amazingly I got on one of the New Orleans streetcars. What a coincidence. At Pier 39 I took the ferry to Tiburon and killed a couple of hours over there. Gorgeous area. I must say Angel Island looks like a neat place to do some hiking. Maybe next time. Also one of the more scenic highlights was our drive up to Mt. Tamalpias (maybe thirty minutes past the Golden Gate bridge) and we hiked the trail to the summit. From the top you could damn near see the entire bay area. We also hit a few good ethnic restaurants including a kick ass Tapas place which served up very potent drinks.Yummy.
Here are some pics that I took during my visit, including a couple of me and my friends as well, to you know, put faces to the names and stuff. Enjoy. I hope.
View from the summit of Mt.Tamalpias
The Golden Gate Bridge and the SF skyline
The ferry that took me to Tiburon and back. SF in the background.
Me and Pierre
Pierre and Ena
I’d move to the SFO area in a heartbeat if I could. Perhaps a change in careers could facilitate the move. We shall see. Anyway, on the way back home, I took HP out of OAK. I was booked on flight 98 OAK-LAS connecting to 296 LAS-MSY. Pierre dropped me off at the OAK terminal for 6:45pm, and there were only a few people in line at the counter. Check in was a breeze, and I proceeded to gate 4.
America West Airlines #98
Push back OAK: 8:20p
At Gate LAS: 9:48p
This was to be my first-ever flight on the proud wings of America West. And I have to say, I was impressed. Boarding was efficient for such a big crowd. The whole plane was boarded in about fifteen minutes. I found my seat, 22A, and sat down. I thought the seat was very comfortable with adequate padding.
The flip down screens were down and showing nature scenes accompanied by “peaceful” music. Nice touch, at least it’s something. Push back was on-time. The captain gave us a great route description: take off, cruise over San Fran, turn back around and overfly OAK, cruise down the San Joaquin valley, over the Sierra Nevada range, past FAT, then direct towards LAS. Takeoff was smooth and powerful, and climbout was smooth as well. About fifteen minutes after takeoff the crew came around and offered drinks and pretzels. Also, some IFE started playing on the flip down screens, but I was glued to the window for a good chunk of the flight. Captain announced that we would be landing on runway 25L in LAS and that we would be a few minutes early into the gate. It’s always fun landing in LAS at night, seeing all those lights come out of nowhere. We flew pretty much right over the MGM Grand from what I could see. Landing was pretty decent for an A320, and once again, a lot of braking was used. We parked at one of the B gates. This concluded my first HP flight, and I was impressed by the aircraft and by the crew. I just hoped my next flight would be equally as enjoyable.
I made the walk to gate B12 to find hundreds of people lounging around waiting for the red eye flights to cities like BWI, IAH, OKC, and CLE to depart. The gate area was kind of odd, very 1950’s-ish, but it was adequate. I wanted to hit the Taco Bell in there but the line never got shorter than 25 people. No thanks, I wasn’t that hungry. I found an empty seat by the grace of God and listened to some music before HP296 to MSY started boarding.
America West Airlines #296
Push back LAS: 11:32p
At gate MSY: 4:48a
This plane had come in from IAD a little late, so the cleaning crew did not do that great of a job. Still, I’ve seen worse. I took my seat, 17A, and settled in for the three hour flight to New Orleans. This flight ended up being nearly totally full. They had about four open seats in coach and about the same up front. Once again, the middle seat next to me was empty. I found the seats on the 319 to be a little different than on the 320. The comfort was about the same though. Push back was close to on-time, and we taxied for maybe ten minutes before getting in the air. Initial climb out as rough but things got better after ten minutes or so. Since this was a red eye there was no IFE, which was fine by me and by all the other passengers from what I could tell. The crew came around about twenty minutes after takeoff with drinks and pretzels. I declined, decided to force myself to get some sleep, since I had to work around five hours after I landed in MSY. I think I woke up to see them come around with water at some point, but I can’t be certain of that. I slept for the vast majority of the flight, which was smooth as silk. I awoke as we were 60 miles out overflying the city of Baton Rouge. Very smooth landing onto runway 1. We came to a stop with 2,000 feet of runway remaining. A FedEx A300 landed right behind us, always a nice sight as such an ungodly hour. We parked at gate D3 in between a CO 735 and a CO 739. Overall I was really impressed with America West. Comfy planes, friendly service, and on-time flights. Nice job guys!
After I claimed my bag, which seemed to take longer than usual, I hopped on the employee shuttle, got in my car, made the fifteen minute drive to my house, and fell soundly asleep for about three hours before I had to wake up for work. That drive home was all a blur I can assure you. As was today really. Tomorrow should be better.