I don't normally do trip reports anymore unless it's to a Bush Alaska city, but after a completely bizarre experience this weekend on AS
, I felt compelled to report this. No pictures, thanks to my camera cord being in my checked bag, which is a couple thousand miles away from me at the moment.
I had planned a trip to Colorado to go a friend's wedding, using AS
on the ANC
leg and F9
. I didn't want to take the AS
redeye and arrive bleary-eyed, so my routing was to be ANC
110 and AS
2506, with a scheduled departure from ANC
at 13:25 and arrival into DEN
To make a long story short, that didn't happen.
Seat 15D, Boeing 737-800
Scheduled: 1:25 PM
Actual: 5:15 PM
I arrived to the ANC
mayhem at noon on Friday, and stood in one of the MVP check-in lines. There were two people ahead of me; after about five minutes the agent looks at me and says, point blank, "Can I help you?" I say that well, I would like to check in and drop my bag off. Response: "I'm closed after this gentleman in front of you." End of discussion.
This meant that none of the MVP check-in areas were open. Now, let me pose a question: What the hell is the point of being an MVP Gold on AS
when you can't utilize the MVP Gold check-in at ANC
, which happens to be one of their hub cities, and in their namesake state?
I waited in another line for about 20 minutes (AS has never done a good job of adequately staffing the ANC
check-in area during the busy summer season; this has been brought up at Gold lunches but never corrected), dropped my bag off, and was informed that AS
110 was delayed until 2:45 due to crew rest issues.
The Board Room wasn't crowded this afternoon, so I happily surfed the internet and snacked the time away, and headed to gate C5 at about 2:15. I claimed my exit row aisle seat, and soon enough everybody was on board. And we waited. After about 15 minutes, the lead flight attendant announces that we have all the passengers and all the cargo, but are missing a very important component: the pilots. Turns out the pilots had been weathered in at Kotzebue, and were on their way to the gate at that moment.
A few minutes later, one pilot comes on-board. He introduces himself as the First Officer, announces that he will complete the necessary paperwork while the captain does the walk-around. And we wait, for about 30 minutes. I've done enough traveling to know that when you sit at a gate for that long, something is wrong. Sure enough, our lead flight attendant comes back on and says, quote, "I guess I'm the chosen one." She then proceeded to announce that our pilots had timed out due to FAA regulations, and that everybody had to get off the plane. She assured us that there would be plenty of agents to handle the re-booking of people with connections.
As it turned out, "plenty of agents" meant a grand total of three agents to re-book a full 738. I took one look at the line, said to myself "screw it", and went straight to the Board Room, expecting that I could be issued a boarding pass for a new connection in there.
Well, I was wrong, along with about 10 other people who had the exact same idea that I did. Either the policy has changed regarding what Board Room agents can or can't do, or this agent just didn't know how to do it.
So now, I am at the very end of the line of this mass of people. After waiting for another 30 minutes to get to an agent, I survey my options and elect to stay on AS
110 and overnight in PDX
, connecting on to AS
584 to DEN
in the morning. My family lives in Portland, so it wasn't a bad alternative. I then asked her about my checked luggage, and was assured that I could pick it up that night in Portland.
By the time this re-booking was taken care of, I had a few minutes to adjust my hotel and rental car reservations before re-claiming seat 15D. Most people had chosen to take other flights by that point, so now our 738 was only about half full.
Soon enough we were finally on our way to PDX
, with the flight attendants serving free drinks in coach as a gesture of goodwill. I almost feel sorry for the flight attendants on AS
these days; I overheard one of them mention on this flight that in-flight amenities have been reduced so much that there isn't much they can do to make people happy except smile and be friendly, and unfortunately this is all too true on AS
in this era,
We touched down on 10L at PDX
around 10:00 PM
, and had a quick taxi to gate C3
. I hustled down to the baggage claim, and sure enough, no bag. I went to the baggage service office and filed a claim with an agent who couldn't even find my bag in the system, but said that it would probably just be in Denver in the morning when I got there.
I was exhausted, so I jumped in a rental car and headed to my folks' house, got about five hours of sleep, and headed back to PDX
in the morning.
Seat 13A, Boeing 737-700
Actual: On time!
This was a completely uneventful flight to DEN
, which was good because I slept most of the way. We landed in DEN
a few minutes early, and I trundled on down to the baggage claim where, sure enough, no bag. After a brief consultation with the baggage agent, my bag had been found and had, lo and behold, never even left Anchorage. It was scheduled to be put on to AS
82, but since I was due to head back to ANC
the next evening, I told the agent to not have my bag sent to Denver and that I would just pick it up in Anchorage.
From that point, it was on to the rental car with nothing but my laptop bag.
Seat 15C, Airbus A319
Scheduled: 6:55 PM
Actual: On Time
I elected to go with F9
on the return, for a few reasons: First, it was nonstop. Second, it was timed much better than the AS
nonstop on this route (10:25 PM
arrival in ANC
, compared with a 1:00 AM
arrival on AS
). Third, I just wanted to try something new and I've heard good things about F9
I wasn't disappointed.
In fact, this F9
flight was the best economy-class experience I've had on any airline in a very long time. The legroom was enough for me to stretch out and not hit the seat in front of me (I'm 6'1), the seats were extremely comfortable, the food served was excellent, and the IFE was outstanding. I don't ever recall a 5 hour flight passing as quickly as this one.
The DirecTV was free as it is on all ANC
flights, and I passed the time watching the College World Series, Ice Road Truckers, and last but not least part of U2
's ZooTV tour on VH1 Classic. After the satellite television lost the signal as we headed north, I paid for Wild Hogs.
About an hour into the flight the FA
's came around with the wraps and drink service. The wraps were some of the best food I've had on any airline, coach or first class, in a long time, and best of all, they didn't make you pay extra for it. About an hour out of Anchorage, the warm cookies were served, a nice touch at the end of a long flight. We made a smooth landing on a rainy 7L
, and taxied over to gate B5
the shaft and going seasonal, I really hope F9
looks at making ANC
a year-round destination. With the absence of UA
and a little bit of target advertising in ANC
, I think they could carve out a nice little niche for themselves. Granted one flight doesn't make an airline, but I came away very, very impressed with F9
. They struck me as an airline that really seems to "get it".
After landing, I headed down to the AS
baggage claim to find my long lost bag. And for those of you keeping score at home, you can probably guess what happened:
Yes, after I told them not to, AS
sent it to Denver. I'm still eagerly awaiting its arrival back in Anchorage.