Southwest IAD inaugural flights
Here is another inaugural report on Southwest¡¦s inaugural flight from Dulles. Another quick report, but in general, I was surprised at the lack of fanfare at Dulles and there was no celebration of any sort. I guess I overestimate on the importance of Dulles and WN is firmly established in the Washington area with a major operation from Baltimore. Anyway, I arrived on United a day earlier around 6pm and noticed a crowd was forming in the B concourse at gate B50 (the first WN arrival), so I went over to B concourse and saw a major Southwest crowd, and snapped a few pictures, as they all went to downstairs for the group photo.
October 5, 2006
WN 459 IAD-MDW 0625 0720 Boeing 737-700 with winglet N486WN
Well I took the super shuttle in the early morning, and there was another couple also heading to Southwest¡¦s inaugural flight. The airport was really quiet at 4:30am and I took the opportunity to snap a few pictures before everything opened up. The check-in counters are located in zone 1 and in the back row ¡V Southwest corner of the airport. Knowing Dulles, I headed over to security checkpoint before the crowd built up.
Concourse B was dead quiet and the Southwest gates, B48 and B50, were very quiet with no press conference or any kind of inaugural activities. Well the fact was that inaugural flights are not that important in the United States, and I guess I will select my inaugural flight a bit better. B48 also had a Southwest¡¦s Boeing 737-300 N352SW parked there, and a third one in the tarmac (used on the Tampa flight at 7am).
There was obviously some training going on and the gate agent was showing various boarding passes to the gate agent, and everything seemed to be simple. Boarding began at 6:06am and I was the third one to board the flight. The three flight attendants were not particularly enthusiastic and the two male F/As were chatting among themselves in the back. I headed directly to the exit row ¡V 11A had the best legroom, and with a light load around 50, boarding was completed quickly, but the ground agents took their times, as it was his first day in the job. The pilot was the most enthusiastic one and made an announcement about the inaugural flight and telling passengers to move to the window and made it look like a full flight and boo Southwest¡¦s competitors. Flying time was an hour and twenty-eight minutes with an early arrival time expected.
Door was closed at 6:25am and we pushed back a minute later. We took off from R/W30 at 6:38am and quickly climbed to 40,000feet for the short flight over. The F/As served a beverage service, accompanied with a Minute Maid Soft-baked blueberry snack bar. We began descent at 7:26am to 30,000feet, and then further at 7:38am. We landed at R/W4R at 7:06am CST and parked at gate B11 two minutes later. The flight would continue to BWI in forty minutes.
WN 1558 MDW-IAD 1050 1340 Boeing 737-700 with winglet N209WN
Chicago Midway was a pretty busy, but compact airport. I basically bought a Mexican breakfast and walked around. I headed to see the departure of the second IAD bound flight of the day, and there were balloons lying around, as seen in the photos featuring American flags and symbols. The staff will move those two piles of balloons to the next IAD flight. The loading on the second flight was very light at 30-40 folks. Well in general, it is a very slow fall day and most WN flights were not particularly full.
After my breakfast at the center food course, I finally saw a Dulles counter and got a few goodies. The ground staffs were promoting the flights to people walking by and most were surprised at WN¡¦s entry into IAD especially with seven daily flights. I settled around B17 and watched plane for the next hour or so. Then I headed over to B20 for my return flight. The inbound flight arrived early from IAD, and there were few ground staffs enthusiastically announcing the inaugural day of service and passed out star shaped American flag sugar cookies, American flag pin and Southwest stickers to everyone. Finally the F/As were a bit enthusiastic about the new flights.
Boarding began at 10:28am and the loading was a bit better at 60people. Nobody was stuck in the middle, but every row is taken. Door was closed at 10:47am, and pushed back two minutes later. We took off from R/W4R at 11:01am. Flying time was an hour and nineteen minutes, and we climbed to 41,000feet. Inflight service was a bit more varied with the usual beverage and two kinds of snacks ¡V plane crackers and dry roasted peanuts. The F/As asked if we wanted a refill, and descent began at 11:48am CST, and we landed on R/W1L at 1:20pm EST. We parked at gate B48 around 1:25pm. WN uses carousel 11 for baggage claim.
In general, Southwest provides a very consistent low fare no frill experience. The cabin is pretty tidy and the ground experience is simple and easy. I think it will take some times for WN to build a loyal customer base, and it was interesting to note that the ground agents at both ends made an effort to announce the WN way of boarding, and I helped a lady in finding a seat, because she did not realize that it was an open seating policy in Southwest. I think it will provide a good competition for United. However, I doubt that I will fly WN on its IAD to LAS flight as legroom is okay, but not particularly attractive for long haul transcon flying. But the new leather seats are very comfortable and look better than the old cloth seats.
Enjoy the report!