The occasion for this trip was my wife's 30th birthday. It makes a nice change from flying for business to be stepping on a plane knowing that a lot of drink, food, gambling, and other fun is to be had at the other end. My wife had made the request to go to Vegas quite a few months ago, and we were originally planning on driving. However, a couple of weeks ago I realized that we had a busy few days ahead of the mini-break, and figured that the last thing I would want to do was drive for 4 or 5 hours (at best) on a Sunday afternoon. So instead I went on the search for some bargain flights. Thanks to kayak.com, I found $82 roundtrip per person plus taxes and fees on travelocity. It worked out to about $107 each.
One thing that I found a bit odd was that although Travelocity showed the flights booked as US Airways, the return flight was operated by Ted. I didn't know those two had a codeshare agreement. Still, I was happy as it would mean trying out a carrier I'd not flown on before (except UA, I've flown on them a few times).
We had a busy Sunday morning with friends and grabbed a very quick lunch on the way to the airport. I hadn't told my wife that we were flying, and it was only when were speeding along the 105 towards LAX that she finally cottened on. I was amazed that it took that long, as the 15 to Vegas is in completely the opposite direction and she has an uncanny sense of direction.
We put the car in Long Stay Parking Lot B at LAX and caught the shuttle to Terminal 1. We had to check our bag because I had a razor blade in there, but the friendly guy at curbside check in took care of it swiftly. We only had about 45 minutes until our flight departed, so we immediately cleared security and went to the gate. Then we got the good news; the plane was MX in Pheonix and would be delayed by an hour and ten minutes. What else was there to do but get an early start on the drinking? We hit the bar and had a few beers each.
Sector: LAX - LAS
Eventually our plane showed up. I looked out the window and had one of those Genesis 1 moments..."and I saw that it was good." A type I'd not flown on before - CRJ-600. Ubercool.
Here she is in her old America West colours.
Photo © James Richard Covington
She's had a change of clothes since then...
Notice the Air China 747 pushing back in the background. I snapped another pic after it had completed pushback.
Only a handful of people deplaned, and within 10 minutes or so, they called our boarding. Surprisingly, there were only a handful of us going to Vegas. The wife and I had seats 6A and 6C. I let her have the window seat. Doors closed, grumpy flight attendant safety demonstration done, and we pushed back. We taxied directly to runway 24L and performed a rolling takeoff. It seemed like we'd only rolled a few hundred feet before we were off the ground; a light load!
Decent legroom for my 6ft frame in this CRJ...
It's a small cabin though...
I was quite impressed with the climb of this little beast. I find that climb rates seem a bit exaggerated in smaller aircraft compared to larger aircraft, but it really seemed like were rocketing upwards. We banked to the left and headed inland over Long Beach and began our short journey to LAS, levelling off at 28,000ft.
Of course, following on from this non-av thread, my wife ordered a tomato juice.
Before we knew it, we were descending in to Vegas. Our approach took us to the north east of the city in a wide circle before lining up on finals for a landing on 25L. The landing was a real greaser; we hardly felt the aircraft touch the ground.
Now there really is no place on earth like Las Vegas, and this becomes quite apparent from the moment you step off the plane and are greeted by several rows of brightly coloured slot machines, blinking and beeping at you, inviting you deposit your nickels for the privilege of watching the reels spin. I chuckle every time I land there.
We collected our bag at baggage claim and then caught a shuttle to our hotel. The hotel of choice, again at my wife's request, was The Luxor. We've stayed in several along the strip, and The Luxor was one she wanted to try, so that's where we stayed.
Overall, it's okay, but we won't stay there again. The rooms seem quite noisy, picking up the noise from outside easily, and the casino floor seems small and cramped. Their entertainment level has some great attractions though; the IMAX there is one of the best I've seen (we saw "Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon", it was nothing short of brilliant), and their IMAX In-Motion simulator is fun. The buffet there is also quite good.
A couple of shots looking down the strip
We spent two days having fun drinking and gambling. I played a couple of single-table No Limit Hold'Em tournaments at Mandalay Bay which was fun, especially as I came 2nd in the first tournament and pocketed $210. Nice work for a couple of hours spent playing cards.
The tigers at MGM Grand were asleep. I hate that these beautiful creatures are caged up in such a small enclosure. No wonder they sleep most of the time.
The highlight of the trip was Bodies: The Exhibition at Tropicana. This is an absolute must see for anyone visiting Vegas. It's basically an exhibition of the anatomy, except they've used real human specimens, preserved with acetone and silicone in such a way that they don't decompose. It's absolutely fascinating to see real organs and real dissections; well worth it. Go and check it out.
The fountains at Bellagio.
Best meal of the minibreak was at Fusia in Luxor; kind of an Asian/Oriental cuisine place. The food was top notch and the wine was most excellent; I recommend the Mongolian Wok Beef and the '98 B.R. Cohn Cabernet Sauvignon.
Now, I want to deviate from the trip report for a moment to share this excellent example of a mullet with you.
This was caught while waiting at the tram stop between Mandalay Bay and Luxor. I was astounded at it's extent. It's completely business in the front, raging party in the back. This is a Honkey Mudflap to compete with all Honkey Mudflaps. One excellent Achy Breaky Big Mistakey. I was astounded.
By far, this is the best example of an Arkansas Waterfall I've ever seen. And I was absolutely certain that this kid must be from the deep south somewhere. And then he opened his mouth.
He had an English accent.
I'm so ashamed.
How can he even think of representing the motherland in such a way?
Anyway, back to the trip report...
All too quickly, though, it was time to come home. We were tired after minimal sleep and maximum exertion, and we were ready to come home. We were booked on an 8:12pm departure, but I called Ted to see if we could standby on an earlier flight. There was one at 2:43pm and we were listed, so we packed our stuff, and waited for an airport shuttle. And waited and waited and waited. Where are the shuttles when you need one? Eventually, we asked a couple of girls who were waiting with us if they wanted to split a cab, so we hopped in one and headed to the airport, with the two chicks paying half and getting out at Terminal 2 for their Air Canada flight, and the missus and I carrying on to Terminal 1 for Ted.
We checked our bags and confirmed we were listed for the 2:42pm departure. The load was light and we were pretty much assured a seat. With only 45 minutes or so until that flight, we cleared security, boarded the train to concourse D, and grabbed a Quiznos sandwich on the way to gate D43.
The escalator on the D concourse has these cool little model airplanes on it
Sector: LAS - LAX
Carrier: UA operating as Ted
Our aircraft had just arrived.
Here she is in her old United colours
Photo © Michael Arcellana
And now in her current Ted colours
Photo © Anne Deus
I went to the desk and checked on our status. The girl printed our boarding cards - 25 A and B. We finished our Turkey Swiss sandwiches and boarding was called. I found Ted's boarding policy interesting, and it actually worked well. They adopt Southwest's procedure a little by separating everyone in boarding 'groups', although I couldn't figure out the logic. My wife and I were sat in the same row, yet she was Boarding Group 2, and I was Boarding Group 4. Still, people generally observed the boarding groups, and it prevented long lines and bottlenecking.
Another Ted bird was pushing back as I took my seat.
I would estimate that the aircraft was 70% full. We had our row to ourselves, and the last row directly behind us was completely empty. I took the window seat and it wasn't long before we pushed back and taxied to the runway, taking off from the 25R.
Acceptable legroom in Y
The last few people boarding
I took the following video with my digital camera, so forgive the poor quality. It was quite cool that as we were rolling, a US Airways flight was landing on 25L.
We climbed above the clouds and leveled off at 28,000ft. Again, it seemed like were only up there for a matter of minutes before made our descent. The latter stages of decent and the final approach in to LAX were quite bumpy, but we had a smooth touchdown on 24R and taxied to Terminal 7.
I was quite impressed with Ted. For a 'budget' airline, they have a good product, and it was a considerably nicer experience in Y than any recent flights I've been on in Y with United. The staff were friendly, the plane was clean, and service was conducted with smiles all around. Good job!
We grabbed our bag and hopped on to the shuttle back to Parking Lot B. We hit the 105 just as the evening's rush hour traffic was starting, but thanks to the car pool lane, we made it home before 5pm.
Vegas was great, the flights in each direction were great, and I'm looking forward to the LAS meet in March. Thanks for reading and maybe I won't leave it another year before posting another trip report!