This is a trip report for a recent vacation in Boston and New York. I had previously never been to either city, and now that I had friends living there, it was a good time to visit and check things out. I flew an open jaw into Boston and out of Newark on AS. I was planning to take the train from Boston to New York, but DL was offering flights for only $50 so I opted for that instead.
Segment #1, Seattle (SEA) to Boston (BOS)
September 3, 2006
AS Flight #12, 737-900 (change from originally scheduled 737-800)
Seat: 2F (First Class)
Load Factor: 100% F, 70% Y
Scheduled Departure: 8:40am (Actual: 8:40am)
Scheduled Arrival: 5:01pm (Actual: 5:35pm)
I arrived at SEA around 7:15 and the first class/MVP check-in counter was rather quiet, and was able to check in (including a bag) in around two minutes time, with no line at all. The agents working were commenting to each other how the MCO flight had very low loads today, and that it was a good day to travel, likely due to being the Sunday of a 3-day holiday weekend. When I booked this ticket, I used miles to upgrade to F because I figured that it was worth it on a 6 hour flight, despite AS’s mediocre F product. Plus, free MVP/MVPG upgrades on the transcons are notoriously difficult to obtain. I went immediately to the central security checkpoint and waited about 5 minutes in line. As usual, there were long lines at the D/N security checkpoint but the central checkpoint was moving much faster – this is usually the case, and I don’t understand why people can’t seem to figure out that if they walk a couple of hundred feet they can save themselves 15-20 minutes in line.
Shopped around a bit at the Central Marketplace and made my way to C12 about 20 minutes prior to boarding. They were announcing that the plane had been switched to a larger aircraft, so there would be plenty of open seats. However, pax were requested not to change seats until after takeoff for weight and balance issues. Boarding started, and proceeded without incident. It looked like coach ended up being about 70% full, while F was entirely full. We pulled back from the gate and took off from Runway 34R.
Shortly after takeoff, the purser came through with Digiplayers for the F cabin, and then the FA’s began selling them in the Y cabin. I don’t know if I would have paid $10 in Y because they had just changed the movies for September and the choices were pretty bad. I settled on watching an episode of the Simpsons, and then watched “Guess Who” after the meal service, which wasn’t actually as bad as I expected.
About an hour into the flight, the purser came around taking meal orders by status. I am only an MVP, and had my order taken third, so I’m assuming that most of the people in F today paid for it. The breakfast choice was a western omelet with home fries and a pepper/onion compote, or a montecristo sandwich. I chose the omelette. First, we were served a fruit plate and warm scone, followed, by the main entrée. The scone was great, but the fruit plate wasn’t – just a couple slices each of melon and cantaloupe, which I can’t stand. The omelette was lackluster and small – alright, but would have been a coach meal a few years ago. I had baileys/coffee with the breakfast, and then settled in to watch some movies.
The flight was pretty uneventful, taking us over the great lakes, Canada, and upstate New York. About an hour before landing, we were served warm nuts and another beverage service. Typical service for AS first class. About 30 minutes before landing, the FA’s started collecting the digiplayers, The cabin was then prepared for landing, and we began our decent.
The weather in Boston was downright nasty that day – very very poor visibility, raining, and just not good. As we were decending, I could barely make out what was on the ground below us. In fact, I could barely make out some industrial buildings and apartments so I knew I was very low, but I couldn’t actually see anything clearly. As we’re making our final decent, the engines rapidly fired back up and the plane started climbing again, even as I could look down and see the airport and airplanes. We started climbing for about 10 minutes and then the first officer announced that the visibility was too low and they were going to take another approach and attempt a “CAAT 3 landing”. I felt that they could have been more clear – we were rapidly decending and then the engines just fired back up again and we were soon climbing out very quickly. We were in the air for a good 10-15 minutes again before an announcement was made, so I think a lot of passengers were nervous.
The first attempt was in a southern direction, and the second attempt was heading east, over the city. This time it worked, and we landed without incident. We taxied to the gate and deplaned. I went to baggage claim and waited approximately 30 mins for bags to come out. Then I made my way to the bus which connects to the T, so that I could head into the city. I will say that the buses to the blue line are very poorly marked and I missed a couple of them until I finally figured out the right way to go.
Boston was a great city – had a good time sightseeing and hanging out with friends. However, after 3 days it was time to move along to New York. I took the T back to the airport, and checked in for my flight.
Segment #2, Boston (BOS) to New York (JFK)
September 6, 2006
DL (Comair) Flight #5507 (CRJ)
Load Factor: 85%
Scheduled Departure: 11:30am (Actual: 11:40am)
Scheduled Arrival: 12:49pm (Actual: 12:25pm)
I arrived at terminal A, and quickly checked in for my flight. Boston’s terminal A is very nice, and very spacious. However, I can see that it appears to be underutilized as many on A.net have mentioned before. It would be nice to see DL expand here a bit, or get some other SkyTeam members in their terminal with them. Check-in was very smooth – at this time of the day (around 10:00am) it was very quiet and there were no lines at all.
I went through security, which was a little longer than I expected given how quiet the terminal was. However, the line moved quickly and it took about 15 minutes all together. I was lucky enough to get a second search, since my camera, batteries, and cell phone charger all looked suspicious when they went through the X-ray (I suppose that 4-batteries that look like they have a wire and machine attached don’t necessarily look so innocent through an z-ray, haha). Once through security, I looked around at some of the stores in the terminal and then made my way over the DL connection area to wait for my flight. The in-bound aircraft was on time from JFK, and boarding began just a few minutes late.
Boarding was called for all rows/all passengers, and I made my way down through the long corridor to gate A10 where my flight was leaving. I boarded the flight and took my aisle seat. I learned a few years ago that 6’2” and window seats on CRJ’s don’t really mix, so now I only take aisle seats on CRJ’s. I have to say that the aisle seat on this plane wasn’t too bad overall, despite how people usually complain about the aircraft. The people behind me were complaining to each other about how small it is, but I wonder what they expected for a 45-minute flight. As boarding finished up, quite a few uniformed DL passengers boarded – including about 4-5 FA’s and at least 2-3 pilots. No doubt these were commuters headed to JFK, probably to work international flights. In fact, I overheard one of the pilots saying that he was flying to CDG/BOM to one of the FA’s. This was the first time that I’d flown DL since the new uniforms debuted and I think they are a vast improvement from the “grannies in sweaters” look that they had before. I then looked at the Sky Magazine and thought it was cool that DL brought back the route map that actually shows the routes instead of just the destinations (I hate it when they do that!). Even better, it only showed DL/DL Connection, as opposed to the old ones that also showed Skyteam carriers as well.
The FA Esmeralda was friendly and efficient. For this flight, only water would be served due to the short duration, however we would also get a choice from the snack pack. The choices were biscoffs, peanuts, or peanut butter crackers – I chose the biscoffs even though I don’t like them that well, but when on DL, I usually take them just because I can. I think the FA was relatively new, because she read all announcements from a card. Either way, she did a good job, and I think it would be tough to do that in front of a plane full of very experienced FA’s headed off to Europe.
We came in for landing at JFK about about 40 minutes in the air, and the landing was smooth. After taxiing for what seemed like forever, we finally arrived at Terminal 2. However, we were 20 minutes early and there was no ground crew available, so we had to wait several minutes for them to show up. This particular flight doesn’t have the best on-time record historically, so it’s obvious that the flight times included plenty of cushion. Finally the ground crew arrived and we disembarked. The walk into the terminal was quite a ways, and the nearby DH8’s were pretty noisy, so it was nice to be in the terminal. I went to baggage claim and got my bags in about 30 minutes.
I have to say that I’ve read a lot about JFK on this board and was excited to see it for the first time. I didn’t get to see the WorldPort (I was hoping too), but Terminal 2 was alright. It certainly looked old and in need of refreshment, but overall it wasn’t too bad. Then again, this was the slow time of the day. It seems that DL is going to need to work on these terminals if they want long-term success at JFK, because from what I gather, their facilities are very strained in the peak evening hours, leading to long delays. I hope whatever they come up with will incorporate some of the history though.
I took the Airtrain to the LIRR at Jamaica Station. The loop around JFK was fun, but the station seemed a ways away. Too bad they couldn’t have built a spur straight to JFK so you could get on the train right at the airport, just like almost every city in Europe. Once getting to Jamaica station, it was somewhat confusing trying to figure out what sort of ticket to buy, and where to go, but once I figured it out, it was easy enough. The LIRR into the city was a snap, and took only about 20 minutes (I got on an express with only one stop). Penn Station was right by my hotel, so this option worked well for me.
Segment #3, Newark (EWR) to Seattle (SEA)
September 6, 2006
AS Flight #7 (737-800)
Load Factor: 75%
Scheduled Departure: 6:08pm (Actual: 6:02pm)
Scheduled Arrival: 9:24pm (Actual: 9:17pm)
I’ll say right up front that EWR was not as convenient to get to as JFK, at least in my opinion. First, I had to navigate through Penn Station and figure out the NJT schedules. Then, I had to find the train. The NJT trains weren’t as nice as the LIRR, and it seemed to go slower and make more stops (and it was 20 minutes behind schedule once we got to EWR).
I got off the NJT at ERW, and got on the monorail. I’m not sure if EWR is near a landfill, but it smelled like it when I walked from the Train to the monorail. I rode the monorail to the terminal with AS, and checked in. Lines were short, and the CSR mentioned that the loads were relatively light. Once again, it might have been possible to get a free upgrade, but oh well, nice having the security of a confirmed upgrade.
EWR terminal A (I think) was pretty nice post-security. Lots of shopping and eating items. I was there 2 hours early (I don’t like to chance it when I’m relying on public transport), so I milled around awhile outside security. I finally went through, and the line was a little slow because there was only one line open, and several UA flights to the West Coast and ORD leaving around the same time as my flight. Once I got through security, there was hardly anything there. A news kiosk and TGI Fridays – that was about it.
Boarding commenced on time, and I took my seat in F. The standard bottled-water was offered. The flight crew today was younger and bubblier than on the way over (to BOS). That said, they were quite friendly. We left the gate, and waited about 15 minutes in a departure line. The captain said it was actually a pretty good day in EWR for departures; much shorter wait than usual (probably because it was a Saturday).
I’m a little short on detail since it’s a couple months past, and this flight was pretty typical, so I’ll stick to the basics. Meal options were Mediterranean Chicken or Sesame Garlic Prawns, and the chicken went fast (I was able to snag the last one). The starter was a salad (more like 3 leaves of enormous lettuce), then the chicken, which was a small breast with a red sauce, and rice pilaf. Finally, a desert of Lemon Torte was served. It was the highlight, but the portion was very tiny.
Digiplayers were provided with the same poor movie selection as before. I slept most of the trip.
We landed at SEA a few minutes early, but as with all AS flights it seems these days, bags took around 40 minutes to come out. And no priority tags for F, of course.
You may recall my last trip report on AS was pretty negative (see link below),
as I was at the end of my rope with them.
SEA-LAS-AUS-SEA On AS, Ted, And UA (by RwSEA Jun 27 2006 in Trip Reports)
I’d booked this trip prior to that one, so I was stuck with AS again. I was pleasantly surprised that my flights were on-time, so that at least temporarily satisfied my biggest grievance with them (that said, I’ve had much better luck on the transcons than on the N/S west coast flights). The F product on AS continues to be only average, and this was no exception. The extra legroom (although not much at a 37” pitch) was nice, but the service wasn’t anything special at all. DL did a great job getting me to JFK for $50; they actually exceeded expectations pretty well.
AS (SEA-BOS) – B
Pretty standard service and comfort. Would probably be a B+ if the captain explained the botched landing a bit earlier. I know it wasn’t a big deal to them (this is probably normal in many of the places they fly in the State of Alaska), but many pax were nervous.
DL Comair (BOS-JFK) – A-
Good service and timeliness. Nice to have a snack selection on a short flight like this, and the price couldn’t be better.
AS (EWR-SEA) – B+
Standard service and comfort, but F on AS isn’t anything special. I’d probably try DL on SEA-JFK next time for ease of getting to Manhattan, but AS certainly met my needs .
I’ll add that I took AS to LAS a week later (roundtrip), and both flights were on time. The new 738’s are great, and I think the sooner the M80’s are gone, AS will have fewer operational challenges.