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AirTran: MDW-ATL-MCO (pics)

Sat Jan 03, 2009 2:24 am

Hello all, and Happy New Year! This is my second trip report on, my first one can be found here…

Recently my family relocated from Chicago to Orlando, so I thought I would go down and visit them for the holidays, and get away from the cold Chicago winter for a few days. So in November, I booked a round trip flight on AirTran, leaving on Friday, December 26th, and coming back on Tuesday, December 30th. This would be my first time flying in 2 1/2 years, and my first time flying AirTran, so I was pretty excited. Little did I know, there were many problems ahead for me. (Skip the next two paragraphs if you want to go straight to the trip report)


Fast forward to December 26th. After a week of cold, snowy weather in Chicago, the temperature was expected to hit 40 something degrees on Friday (it ended up hitting the upper 50s that night), which meant all of the snow was going to start melting. Fog was in the forecast, but I figured it was good that it at least wasn’t snow or ice. I arrived at MDW two hours before my 6pm flight, and it was raining and a little foggy. At around 4:30pm, flights were starting to get canceled. Minutes before my plane was scheduled to leave, it was not at the gate…it was in a holding pattern over IND waiting for the weather in Chicago to clear up. Then an hour after we were supposed to leave, the flight was canceled, as our incoming plane diverted to STL. Not just my flight though, all airline arrivals and departures at MDW were canceled from about 5pm Friday night, till about 8am Saturday morning.

Nobody at MDW was going anywhere that night, and so there was a mad dash to rebook. The gate agent announced to everyone that AirTran’s next flight with open seats to MCO was on Monday (3 days later). All the passengers at the gate freaked out, and I went back to the lobby, because I figured there would be more agents, and the line would move faster (it was impossible to get through to AirTran by phone). By the time I got to the ticket counter, the next available flight on AirTran to MCO was on Wednesday (5 days later). I asked if I could change my return flight, and the agent said, “No, you have to fly back on the same day you originally had booked.” “Ok, but my return flight is the day before the new departure flight.” Then she refunded my tickets, and the entire trip was canceled. Damn! So I jumped on my computer and was able to rebook the entire trip, leaving on Tuesday, December 30th, and returning on Saturday, January 3rd. I was surprised I was able to get a ticket for Tuesday, since the agent told me nothing was available until Wednesday. As I was heading back home at 8pm, the fog was so thick around MDW that you could not see more than 15 or 20 feet in front of your car.

Some pics from that day...

Driving up to the airport at 4pm, it's starting to get foggy.

AirTran ticket counters, empty now but crowded in a few hours when all flights get canceled.

Southwest ticket counters, busy at 4pm, and was probably much, much worse later. On Saturday, the news stations were showing the lines for the WN ticket counters were all the way out into the parking garage!


Four days after I was originally supposed to leave, it’s time to go back to MDW for my new flight. I arrived at the airport early again, because I had heard on the news what a disaster MDW was in the days after the airport reopened. On my way to MCO, I would have to stop in ATL for over two hours, and change planes. The wait to check-in at MDW was only a minute long. I explained to the agent that I was never refunded my checked bag fee, when my reservation was canceled last Friday. Without thinking (it seemed) she said that I would have to call some AirTran phone number. After I explained it again, and showed her my documentation, she agreed. She brought over a supervisor, to show her how to apply the old baggage fee to my new flight.

I then roamed the concourses, looking at the planes, and hoping to spot "Illinois One," a plane I've been dying to spot since it first came out a few months ago. No luck, this was the closest I got.

Taken on Friday before my flight got canceled.

I did however get a picture of a Frontier plane (something I've never personally seen before), the only one at the airport at the time! You can also see the tail of a Porter Airlines plane, which just started serving MDW a few months ago.

Date: Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Flight #: 23
Route: MDW-ATL
Aircraft: Boeing 717-200
Registration: N997AT
Seat: 26F
Cruising altitude: 33,000 ft
Distance: 674 mi
Duration: 1hr 24min
Departure time/gate/runway (MDW): 11:24am (CST), A12, 13C
Arrival time/gate/runway (ATL): 2:11pm (EST), C16, 26R

My plane. I saw it coming on FlightAware, so I walked to the end of the concourse to get a picture of it coming in.

Boarding went by really quickly, and I took my seat and hid my camera in my jacket (which was on my lap). Since I haven’t flown in a few years, and never on a 717, I looked at the safety card and figured out how I would get out in an emergency (good thing I wasn’t thinking out loud or else I would have been escorted off the plane like those folks at DCA). A few minutes later, my seatmates joined me…elderly twin sisters! Despite having flown before, I had to help the one sitting next to me with her seatbelt, and then she showed her sister how to use it (goes to show that not everyone knows). Since I was taking pictures out the window, they asked me if this was my first time flying (ha ha!) I didn’t catch the FO’s name, but the captain for our flight was Captain Cook (the English explorer that discovered Australia in the 18th century?!)

We taxied over to hold for runway 13C, I watched another FL 717 approach and land on the same runway, and then we turned onto the runway and started our takeoff roll. The plane rocketed down the runway and took off within seconds, one of the shortest takeoff rolls I’ve experienced (my brother later told me—that’s MDW for ya!—referring to the short runways).

Taxiing to the runway.

Those walls around the airport are NOT spotter-friendly! You can also see the collapsible blocks at the end of the runway.

A little hazy, but you can see MDW towards the middle of the picture.

Shortly thereafter, the flight attendants started their beverage service. There were 3 flight attendants, and they were all girls in their 20s. I got a Coke (they weren’t giving out cans, and I didn’t ask) and of course a bag of pretzels. I talked with the twins during the flight, and kept track of our flight’s progress using an atlas (and visual cues from the ground).

Me and the twins.

Hills in Tennessee.

Before I knew it, we began our descent into ATL. We flew right past the airport, then turned 180 degrees to land on runway 26R. This was my first time in ATL, and my first impression was that I had never seen so many Delta planes in my life! I know ATL is Delta’s HQ, but United doesn’t seem to have THAT huge of a presence at ORD!

Aerial view of ATL as we fly by.

Our shadow getting larger during the approach to ATL.

I spotted some DC-10s (one of my favorite planes) as we were about to touch down.

Passing a DL 757 as we taxi to the gate.

An AirTran 737 we parked next to at the gate.

The cabin after our flight.

Flight deck of the AirTran 717. Sorry, the sun was bright and I didn't have my flash on  Sad

When I got off the plane in ATL, I looked around and thought—where am I and where do I go for 2 hours? I was alone in a very unfamiliar airport. I went up to a gate agent and asked her where the smoking room was—that I read about on (I hope to quit for New Year’s). It was right by the gate, and I walked in and couldn’t believe how smoky it was in there! I sat down and talked to some of the dudes that were sitting nearby, then I left. I walked to the far end of the C Concourse and watched the planes/took pictures out the window.

Delta 767 that just took off from 26L.

This plane was being towed with the nose gear on a tug.

AirTran 737 that just took off from 26L.

I then walked to the D Concourse to find my departure gate (on the far end!) and then walked to the international concourse to see if I could get any pictures of international airline/aircraft types that I don’t get to see at O’Hare. By the time I walked down there (I never took the tram) it was getting late, so I had to turn around and walk back without taking pictures. By the time I made it to my departure gate, they had already started boarding. My boarding group was called, but I stayed in the gate area a few more minutes watching the planes takeoff out the window.

Date: Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Flight #: 874
Route: ATL-MCO
Aircraft: Boeing 737-700
Registration: N175AT
Seat: 27A
Cruising altitude: 39,000 ft
Distance: 404 mi
Duration: 1hr 10min
Departure time/gate/runway (ATL): 4:42pm, D2, 27R
Arrival time/gate/runway (MCO): 6:11pm, 93, 18R

AirTran 737-700
Not N175AT, but another I took a pic of in MCO.

I boarded the plane, took my seat, and took out my camera once again. My seatmates then arrived, which were two women flying separately. None of them said anything the entire flight, so we just sat there in silence (which is fine). I took a few pictures out the window and was surprised by how big the winglets are on a 737. I tried to compare my height to that of the winglet, and it appeared to be 7 or 8 feet tall.

We pushed back on time, and then began our taxi down to runway 27R.

Delta 777 seen while we were taxiing.

Right as we were turning onto the runway, I saw a Delta MD-88 approaching the runway, and got a little nervous. Little did I know that it was actually landing on the parallel runway 27L (oops). The takeoff was nothing out of the ordinary, once we were airborne we made a series of turns, and then were on our way to MCO.

Just after takeoff from ATL.

Shortly thereafter, the flight attendants came around with their beverage service. On this flight there were 4 flight attendants, 1 man and 3 women. They were all in their 40s or 50s except for one of the women who was probably in her 20s. I got the same thing as before…a Coke and a bag of pretzels (once again, they were not giving out cans and I didn’t ask either).

The sun began to set, although I couldn’t see it since I wasn’t able to book a seat on the right side of the plane. I took some pictures, did a little bit of writing, and listened to some Bob Marley on the iPod  Smile

Sun beginning to set.

This flight was short, and before I knew it we began our descent into MCO. We landed on runway 18R in the twilight, and then taxied over to Airside 4 where our arrival gate was.

Approaching MCO.

Slowing down on the runway at MCO.

Winglet to winglet with another AirTran 737 at the gate.

A pic of the cabin after the flight.

As I was walking down to the tram, I saw Virgin Atlantic G-VLIP parked at their gate. This same plane I saw land at MCO the next day, while I was planespotting from the Red Lot. I didn’t hang around in the gate area to take pictures after my flight, I followed the rest of the passengers to the baggage claim so I wouldn’t get lost (I don’t even remember hearing an announcement about where our baggage claim was in the first place). I found the baggage claim for our flight then stepped outside to call my parents to pick me up, then I realized…it’s December and I’m not wearing a jacket outside! Nice.

The next day I came back to MCO for some planespotting, thanks to some helpful advice from the local MCO folks on here. I was hassled by parking lot security while I was there (my first time hassled while taking pictures), but I’m not going to get into that here, since I already did in the photography forum  Smile Here are some of my favorites from that day…

Star Alliance/US Airways 757-200
Star Alliance/US Airways 757

Air Jamaica A320

Virgin Atlantic 747-400Virgin Atlantic 747

Delta Air Lines 757-200
Delta 757 with winglets

My overall experience on AirTran was good, it’s not their fault that MDW closed down due to fog, and they had to cancel my first flight. The check-in was quick, the crews on the plane were nice and friendly, and both flights were on-time.
The roofs are full of snow in Petrograd!
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RE: AirTran: MDW-ATL-MCO (pics)

Sat Jan 03, 2009 2:39 am

You know what? If you would've been able to continue on the 26th, you would've been on the same ATL-MCO flight as me (I think)! Wow, wouldn't that have been cool! I was even wearing an shirt!
Live to Fly.
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RE: AirTran: MDW-ATL-MCO (pics)

Sat Jan 03, 2009 4:12 am

Great Report my friend!

MDW is indeed a great airport and I love shooting out of it on the planes haha.

MCO is also a nice airport too!

Great pictures too!

Enjoyed the report! Uncanny you sat next to two elderly twins on your flight!

Good things come to those who wait, better things come to those who go AFTER it!
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RE: AirTran: MDW-ATL-MCO (pics)

Sat Jan 03, 2009 7:14 am

Quoting Atrude777 (Reply 2):

Quoting Atrude777 (Reply 2):

I'm flyin SAN-MDW-MCO next Friday. Two airports I haven't been to before.
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RE: AirTran: MDW-ATL-MCO (pics)

Sat Jan 03, 2009 2:55 pm

good report on an airline not much documented
Jetblue: The official airline of Springfield! And Eventually: The official airline of Quahog, RI
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RE: AirTran: MDW-ATL-MCO (pics)

Sat Jan 03, 2009 4:01 pm

You wrote a great trip report. Any reason is always a good reason to go to Orlando. However now since your family moved down there you have even more reasons to go.
God bless through Jesus, Jeff
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RE: AirTran: MDW-ATL-MCO (pics)

Sun Jan 04, 2009 5:43 am

Great TR & I really enjoyed the pics!

Glad you finally made it...
Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try.- Homer Simpson
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RE: AirTran: MDW-ATL-MCO (pics)

Sun Jan 04, 2009 6:54 am

Great TR! I flew PHF-MCO. It's much cheaper in Virginia to fly directly to MCO than laying over. I still have to fly FL's 737s though  Sad. I see the US Star jet was in MCO again. What flight is this?!?! A majority of flights I do in MCO is with US. A majority of ALL my flights is US and I have yet to fly a logo jet  Sad. Perhaps 2009 will be my year  Smile
Roar, lion, roar
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RE: AirTran: MDW-ATL-MCO (pics)

Mon Jan 05, 2009 6:00 am

Thanks to all of you that read my trip report, and to those of you that commented (I always enjoy reading those).

Quoting AllegiantAir (Reply 1):
You know what? If you would've been able to continue on the 26th, you would've been on the same ATL-MCO flight as me (I think)! Wow, wouldn't that have been cool! I was even wearing an shirt!

Actually, my flight on the 26th was MDW-MCO non-stop. When my entire reservation was canceled on the 26th, and I had to rebook the entire trip, the only flights I could get to MCO were through ATL, on the 30th. It would've been neat though to see someone wearing an shirt on one of my flights. Ha ha!

Quoting Atrude777 (Reply 2):

Ha ha! Thanks for the comments, I see you are from my neck of the woods. When I worked for United at ORD a decade ago, I had some buddies there who were in the SIU flying program. I'm sure they are long gone by now!

Quoting UAopsMGR (Reply 6):
Glad you finally made it...

Silly thing is I almost didn't make it back. I missed my MCO-ATL flight. A 2 hour weather delay turned into a 40 minute weather delay, and well, I was taking pictures at the end of a different concourse not keeping track of the delay.  ashamed  Oops! I should've known better, but I'll never make that mistake again. Luckily, I was able to get put on standby for the next MCO-ATL flight, and I was one of the last people to get on the plane. And, I still made my connection ATL-MDW, since that was delayed 2 1/2 hours!  Cool

Quoting StarAlliance38 (Reply 7):
I see the US Star jet was in MCO again. What flight is this?!?

I looked it up on Flight Aware, and the flight flown by the Star Alliance jet was #706 (AWE706) from MCO-PHL. It departed at 2:51pm on 12/31/08. Good luck catching a ride on it!  Smile
The roofs are full of snow in Petrograd!
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RE: AirTran: MDW-ATL-MCO (pics)

Fri Jan 23, 2009 5:56 pm

Nice trip report! FL just came to CMH & I'm tempted to give them a try sometime.

I was on the same US Star 757 in July on the same route as you had depicted there (MCO-PHL).
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RE: AirTran: MDW-ATL-MCO (pics)

Tue Mar 03, 2009 5:51 pm

I was in Chicago for Christmas when the temperature shot up the way it did! It got SO WARM (How warm was it?!)...that we could ACTUALLY WATCH the SNOW/ICE MELT! I left on the 27th from MDW on the way back to STL and on the way to the airport, there was so much water on the roadways that I found myself thinking of that old spiritual, "Wade In The Water" while I was driving!

Nobody went anywhere THAT night (the 26th), but they sure started going out the day I left! I don't know about your experience at MDW, but when I got there, I turned in my rental car and went inside to the SW ticket counter only to be ushered back out through the garage whence I came (like your TR says) and into a back hallway. That was the end of the line for SW ticketing! All in all, it took only 30-45 minutes to snake our way around! Security was another nightmare! Good thing my flight was delayed because I made it through with only minutes to spare before my flight was supposed to leave (2:45pm)! Instead, we didn't leave until like 4:30!

Odd that the gate agent and FAs were rushing us aboard claiming that they needed to get us off the ground ASAP before the weather got WORSE! I don't think that was even POSSIBLE what with all the RAIN and FOD and whatnot!

Anyhoo...nice trip report!
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RE: AirTran: MDW-ATL-MCO (pics)

Wed Nov 18, 2009 3:18 am

Nice TR!!

Always nice to see something from MDW (my home airport, plus ORD)!!

Great pics, and seeing that I'll be flying MDW-ATL-SRQ soon, this is a good impression! (i've never been on Airtran.)

So, Thanks again for the nice pics and the good read! :]

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RE: AirTran: MDW-ATL-MCO (pics)

Thu Nov 19, 2009 1:34 pm

Quoting Maestra80 (Thread starter):
The next day I came back to MCO for some planespotting, thanks to some helpful advice from the local MCO folks on here. I was hassled by parking lot security while I was there (my first time hassled while taking pictures), but I’m not going to get into that here, since I already did in the photography forum Here are some of my favorites from that day…

I'm an MCO local myself, but I never can find a good spotting "spot", where did you go for that?
The sky is no longer the limit, but the mere minimum
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RE: AirTran: MDW-ATL-MCO (pics)

Tue Dec 01, 2009 8:05 pm

A very good TR and thanks for sharing... I like the contrast between aircraft types (it wouldn't have been nearly as much fun traveling on two FL 717s, for example!). Orlando is a great airport with quite a variety of different airlines and aircraft!

Quoting Maestra80 (Thread starter):
There were 3 flight attendants, and they were all girls in their 20s.

And no pictures of them???  Smile

Quoting Maestra80 (Thread starter):
Me and the twins.

Actually, some good advice - be careful on posting cabin pictures with easily recognizable faces or close-ups. Although it is unlikely these two ladies will ever know their picture is on a website, they may not like or appreciate that they are. Same with the other people in the pic.

I'm not trying to be Mr. Negative because I like all the pics but I know sometimes people can be funny about things like that!
None shall pass!!!!

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