This is the return trip on Southwest that my family and I made this week following a vacation. Part one, SEA-SJC-LAX on WN, was posted already.
October 19, 2005
Southwest Airlines Flight 1216
LAX-Oakland-Seattle same plane service
B737-300 - no registration.
It was in the new colors.
Gate 6, changed to Gate 4A
Scheduled Los Angeles departure: 4:30pm
Actual Los Angeles departure: 4:50pm
Seats 15EF and 16EF.
Well, my family (wife and two kids) departed the Disney Grand Californian Hotel at 1:35pm on SuperShuttle, and after making a stop at a residence to pick up another couple, raced to LAX, arriving around 2:20pm - pretty darn quick.
The scariest part of the trip was the last couple hundred feet to T-1, when we were in the far left lane and need to get in the far right lane, with traffic merging and a couple shuttle buses and so forth in between. There was one small spot at the curb that could just fit our shuttle, and I'll be damned if that driver didn't somehow blast us in there without killing us or someone else. I'd call it a miracle, but that'd probably be too strong. Let's just call it lucky.
Check in was very similar to when we departed Seattle. No line, with the person (Carlos) greeting us in a very friendly manner. He joked with our kids and had a very pleasant demeanor. I asked how full the flight was and he said it'd have about 50 people or so - again, good news, and we were in Boarding group A.
We had a lot of time to kill, so we headed out to sit by gate 14. It had great viewing of the action on the north side of the airport, and I snapped quite a few digital shots of flights coming and going. My favorites included an Aviacsa 732, Aero California DC9, as well as the variety of American Eagle equipment, which we dont get in Seattle. Ironically, the Aero Cal DC9 was the noisiest flight to take off - I think it beat the Air France 777!
While waiting, Southwest announced a gate change from 6 to 4A. No problem, we just waited until about 4:00pm then headed down that way. We could have waited longer, though, because the Flight Attendants for our trip were coming in on a flight at gate 3B, but it was running late.
Boarding finally started at 4:35pm. There was a lightbulb out in the cockpit though, so we had to wait for a technician to come and replace it. He was in the cockpit at 4:47pm and out at 4:48pm, with the door closing behind him. Pushback was at 4:50pm, with wheels up at 4:57pm (following an AE ERJ145 out).
Again, the flight attendant on our flight who made the announcements (Jason) pretty much sucked. He had zero personality and spoke as fast as he could. What is the issue with these announcements on airplanes?
At 5:02pm we hit 10,000 ft, and at 5:04pm the drink orders started. 5:08pm the peanuts arrived, 5:10pm my drink order was taken, and at 5:15pm the drink was delivered. 5:17pm we hit cruising altitude of 34,000ft and the captain said we'd be about 10 minutes late into Oakland. He also said that we should have smooth sailing and turned the seatbelt sign off. Within 20-30seconds, we began bouncing around, and he turned it back on and jokingly said he'd lied. Soon it smoothed out, though.
At 5:24pm the f/a passed by and asked if anyone needed anything more to drink. At 5:38pm we began our descent to Oakland. We passed over Niles at 5:45pm (according to the big "Niles" visible on the ground) and at 5:50pm we touched down. We were at the gate at 5:54pm. This is my first time to Oakland - a new airport to add to the list.
What I noticed when we people stood up to get off the plane were that almost all appeared to be business people in suits, skirts, etc. Literally, almost all of them. It seemed true on all of our segments, and it was interesting to hear people talking on the plane. These were not poor folks - most appeared to be way more successful financially than myself, with very few of the "cattle" that so many anti-WN people love to degrade. i would say that I've never been on a flight with a higher percentage of business types than these. Just my two cents.
Only 11 people stayed on the plane at Oakland for the trip to Seattle, and boarding began at 6:08pm for the final segment. The flight was about 60% full, and we stayed in the same seats with no one sitting next to us on either segment.
6:23pm was pushback, and 6:30pm was wheels up, following a B6 landing.
6:51pm brought a pack of peanuts and a Nabisco Snack Mix.
6:53pm drink orders started.
6:54pm our drink orders were taken.
6:59pm our drink orders were delivered.
7:15pm "We are 375 miles south of Seattle".
7:45pm We begin a gradual descent.
8:06pm the flight attendants made a final pass through for trash.
8:16pm Touchdown, landing from the north.
8:20pm, At the gate. (scheduled arrival 8:00pm)
Again, we walked straight to the carousel and our luggage was already coming off - we've never traveled and had our luggage as fast as we did this time. In fact, from check-in to baggage claim, things just really moved along for us - it was awesome.
Some final observations:
First, I though Southwest did a fine job. Nothing really blew me away, and nothing really disappointed me (other than the announcement crap). No one really ever told the jokes or played the games that everyone always derides them for - they just did their job in a quick, efficient manner.
I was impressed with the second drink offering on the short LAX-Oakland segment, but a little disappointed that the F/A's didn't do anything but read from 7:15pm until 8:06pm on the OAK-SEA segment. I was beginning to wonder if we were supposed to hold our empty cups or something for landing. They could have made another pass through, but they were at the end of a long day, I'm sure, and still had to do SEA-GEG.
In the end, I found myself simply thinking "it was an airplane flight. Nothing more, and nothing less. I wasn't flying to be entertained, I wasn't flying to donate my money - I simply wanted to get from A to B with my family in a safe, reliable manner. Southwest did it well, and I liked their style.
I think the onboard staff could have been a little better, especially in the area of personality. A couple of the f/a's never smiled once, which I found a little sad. But they seemed like a real, approachable staff, and I was very comfortable for our entire itinerary.
The aircraft were clean and comfortable, and the snack/bev was what I expected. Not much to add there.
I'm hoping if someone read these and is either very pro-WN or very anti-WN that you'll add some constructive comments. Not a bash or praise fest, but a dialog about what I experienced versus what you experienced. Do my notes match the norm? I would consider flying them again, but would like to know why someone else thinks I should or shouldn't.
Thanks for reading.