Wednesday January 9, 2008
Leave Raleigh - Scheduled 1145am, Actual 1145am
Arrive Milwaukee - Scheduled 1255pm, Actual 1251pm
Midwest Connect 2702 (Operated by Skywest Airlines)
N417SW (Deliered 5/26/2000)
After a fun couple days ith my family and sending my brother off to war (again) it was time for the second phase of my trip. I spent a restful night at the Sleep Inn by RDU and after a leisurely breakast I took their shuttle to the airport and was dropped off at Terminal C right at 945am. I had already checked in but didn't see anyhere to curbside check my bags so I headed inside the terminal. I quickly found a small Midwest Connect sticker mounted in the American / American Eagle section of the check in counters. I went to it but found that there was really nowhere to form a line for it. American does the ground handling for Midwest it appears so right where one would assume they line up for the Midwest counter, American had placed 6 or 8 of their own kiosks. So I was standing like half in the Midwest line and half in the American line. This got me a talking to by an American employee wearing a red coat. She asked me if I had my boarding passes and I said yes was just waiting to talk to the agent to check my bag. She told me since I was flying Midwest I had to stand over to the right. I didn't really like her, and neither did the lady behind me. I realize American's commitment is to their own passengers, but they could really make the area more hospitable and clear for the Midwest passengers that they agreed to handle.
I waited in line about 20 minutes to just check my bag and see about exit row seats on my flight. There was a couple in front of me that was trying to check their cats RDU-MKE-DEN. Apparently there was some sort of issue with their connection time in MKE and phone calls had to be made back and forth to assure that the cats could be checked and would make it to Denver. It got so bad at one point the lady had her laptop on the counter and was showing the Agent (Jerry) some policy on Midwest's website. She left the laptop alone for a minute and I secretly was hoping it would fall. After they wrapped that up I gave Jerry my bag; he gave me two exit row seats and I headed for security. Security at RDU was a breeze, I had to wait behind 3 people and I was through with no problems. The lady behind me was quite huffy, apparently 3 minutes was too long for her?
There really wasn't too much to do so I took a seat at gate C20 and started reading. There was an ATA 757 at gate C18 that was chartered for a flight to somewhere in Mexico. There was an Eagle ERJ at gate C20 headed for Newark. I saw an AC Jazz CRJ with Yellow titles arrive from Toronto. That was pretty much it for the action on that side of the airport. About 10:50 (20 minutes early) I saw my plane come rolling up. The Eagle ERJ was in our gate so they parked it at gate C19. Barely a minute later there was a gate change announcement for my flght. Talk about being on top of things. I have to admit I'm not really a fan of CRJ liveries but the MIdwest Connect livery looked rather good in it.
I moved over to gate C19 and waited for boarding. The gate agent went to everyone in the gate area and asked if they had a green or white boarding pass. I had never heard that one before. I had a green one that I got from the agent. Boarding was called at 1120am with a general call for all rows. Looking around there weren't many people headed to Milwaukee this morning. I boareded and was quickly greeted by Debbie our smiling FA for our flight today. I made my way to seat 8A and put my bag in the bin and sat down. Several years ago was my first and only CRJ experience with Mesa from PHX-LAX and I have tried to avoid this plane since. But in the exit row, there was plenty of legroom and I was actually rather comfy. Debbie did her announcements and that included a lengthy announcement for people in the exit row. I looked around and I was the only person in row 8. I put my magazine down and gave her my full attention even though I didn't need to hear it. She came by and casually asked me if I would help her out if she needed it. I told her I was there for her if she needed me. The cabin door closed and we started our pushback about 1140, 5 minutes early. Looking around I saw 17 people, and that included Debbie.
We had a quick taxi to the runway and as we were turning the pilots revved up the engines and pretty quickly we were airborne. The climbout to 36,000 feet was smooth for the most part, some chops from time to time but nothing to write home about. As soon as we leveled off I put on my iPod and started reading. Debbie came through with the buy on board and I declined. It was a thai beef rollup that looked actually pretty tasty but I was full still from breakfast. Also, I'm trying to avoid a lot of prepackaged foods as part of my diet that I've been on since the beginning of October. (44 pounds so far!) A few minutes later Debbie appeared with the drink cart and was more than happy to give me a cranberry juice and a glass of water. I had a flight attendant once give me a hard time about two drinks and I never ould figure out why. So as I'm sipping my juice and reading a few minutes later I get a tap on the shoulder. Debbie is there again, but this time with fresh cookies!!! I didn't know they did those on the Connect flights. It was a very nice surprise and I have to admit (even though I just mentioned the diet) that I ate them both and they were very good. There is nothing in life quite as good as a fresh baked hot cookie.
The flight remained smooth and I kept on reading. I looked at the window from time to time and saw the ground moving quickly beneath me as we headed NW. I closed my eyes and leaned back and just relaxed for a bit. About halfway through the flight Debbie was back again with small bags of the cookies for us! I took the cookies and held on to them for later in the day. I thought that was a nice touch, giving out the leftover cookies like that. The flight progressed smoothly and about 1220pm or so we started our descent into Milwaukee. We flew over Lake MIchigan and it seemed to go on forever. I don't think I've ever flown over the great lakes before. We crossed into land and touched down smoothly on the runway. We had a quick taxi over to gate D51 and parked at 1253pm. As we deplaned I thanked Debbie for a great flight. She definately liked her job and I could tell she kept the customer experience in mind. Not too many do that anymore it seems. I entered the terminal and sent a few text messages and headed for gate D42 for my flight to Kansas City.
Wednesday January 9, 2008
Leave Milwaukee - Scheduled 130pm, Actual 125pm
Arrive Kansas City - Scheduled 255pm, Actual 256pm
N922ME (Delivered 4/5/2005)
As I lwalked from gate to gate I noticed how empty the terminal was for how many flights I saw departing. I realize that a Wednesday afternoon isn't really a busy travel time, but what I saw just seemed really low. Add to that the 17 people on my flight, and what turned out to be probably 25-30 on my next flight and I have to wonder about Midwest's load factor. About 110 they started boarding for Kansas City. The person making the announcements thanked everyone for flying Midwest. As I gave my boarding pass to the gate agent he handed me the stub back and thanked me for flying them. I made my way down the jetway and entered my first ever 717. The flight attendant instide the door greeted me and I made my way back to seat 14A, exit row again. I LOVE the 2x2 seating. The legroom and seatroom is incredible. I didn't really think the seats were all that comfy, my bum was starting to hurt as we pushed back. But the room was amazing. Better than some first class I've been in. There was a deadheading pilot ahead of me in 13A, we were the only two people in the two rows. There was one person seated about 5 rows behind me and that was it.
One of the flight attendants (Lynn) stopped by and asked me if I'd eaten my Wheaties today. I told her I had not but I did have 4 chocolate chip cookies and I felt ok to help her with anything she needed. She laughed, thanked me and went about her pre-flight duties. We pushed back about 125pm and started our taxi. As I looked around at all the gates I saw they had several gates where planes had to park at weird angles. There was an Airtran 717 on the opposite concourse that was at a really weird angle, was hard to explain but it was at the gate and pretty much pointed at the taxiway ahead of it. We made our way to the runway an had a rolling take off. Before I knew it we were airbone and on our way to Missouri. I realized that up to this point we hadn't heard anything from the pilots. Barely after that thought crossed my mind the pilots called for a "departure check". What is that exactly? Seems like something you'd do on the ground rather than after take off. We quickly climbed up to 28,000 feet and our pilots told us it would be one hour 10 minutes to Kansas City and the weather was 40 degrees. Slightly better than the 33 in Milwaukee.
The two flight attendants did their service run. I had another cranberry juice and 2 more cookies. Well, I'm on vacation so I guess the diet can miss a day. The flight attendants did a couple more runs and right about the time I finished my book (The King of Torts, by John Grisham) we were starting our descent. I leaned my seat back and played with the footrest but I couldn't find a really comfortable position. The seat did get more comfortable as time went by. I relaxed and somewhat got a little bit of sleep before they made us put our seats back up for landing. We made a smooth landing and taxied to terminal A. We held up for a minute for a Southwest 737 to get out of our way and we parked at gate C30 at 253pm. 2 minutes early! I deplaned and my sister was waiting for me. Within 10 minutes I had my suitcase an was headed for the parking structure.
All in all I was impressed with Midwest's service. The consistency of the Midwest Connect product versus the MIdwest mainline product was seamless.. From what I've seen in the past (Continental Express and American Eagle) usually the regional serivce is better than what I've received on the mainline product. The Skywest employees did a great job representing MIdwest and had I not been an a.net member I wouldn't have noticed a difference between Skywest and MIdwest's employees All the employees I ran into at mainline were friendly and all of them thanked us for flying with them. It didn't sound fake or forced like when every other airline thanks you for your busines, it really did seem sincere. I am glad that Midwest was able to fend off AirTran. They have a unique culture that I don't think would have survived that merger. However with the loads on my flight I have to wonder if Midwest is doing ok. Hopefully it was just a really off day for them. Hopefully the Northwest/TPG merger won't affect this great little airline.
Stay tuned for part 3. The return home MCI-PHX on my hometown airline, US Airways.