RGElectra80
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SAT-MEX-SAT On AirTran (pictures/1 Video)

Sat Mar 30, 2013 10:31 pm

Last week, I went to Mexico City for work and while I would have liked to take UA out of AUS (closest to home) the prices were just ridiculous, especially on the return leg since Friday, March 22 was the beginning of the Easter holiday in Mexico. I normally don't like reading trip reports of short flights, but given the fact this one appears to be somewhat of a unique route for the carrier and I couldn't find another one on this site of this route I chose to proceed with a TR. Enjoy! All routing and times were courtesy of FlightAware.

Also, anybody know since when SAT's non-parallel runway became 4-22? I could have sworn it was 3-21 last time I was there.

March 21, 2013
SAT - MEX
AirTran 33 (FL 33)
ETD/ETA: 11:14 - 12:25
ATD/ATA: 11:44 - 12:28
Route: MILET2 LRD J22 NLD UJ11 MTY UJ81 TUMAL TUMA2A
Seat: 11F
Reg.: N299AT
Obs.: although we pushed back on time, we held off to the side near the active waiting out air traffic delays in MEX. I found it interesting FlightAware still logged the departure as the gate pushback time of 11:14.

I am normally a pretty expedited person when it comes to traveling: always early to the airport, to the gate, antsy to get in the plane, etc. For some reason, that day I felt very relaxed. I got to the airport with about an hour before the boarding doors would close and stood in a lengthy security line without a care in the world.

I was probably one of the last people to board, but the plane was pretty empty anyway. I took my seat (11F), a strategically chosen window to get some shots of Mexico City from above. The boarding doors were closed on time and off we started taxiing to the active. That's when the captain came on to tell us about the ATC delays in MEX. So we sat there and I took a few crappy plane pics of the usual SAT fare (AA, WN, UA) which I'll spare you.

Once we actually took off, the climb was kind of weird. It felt like he throttled up to about FL50-70 and cruised there for a little bit then climbed up a little more and finally kept going to cruise. I had never experienced that before, though I assume it's related to those aforementioned delays. After we got to cruise (FL400), the flight was very smooth without a bump in the sky.

Having grown up in Brazil, taken Spanish in school and lived in Miami for 6 months after college, I felt like my Spanish was up to par so I unleashed some Spanish on the guy next to me and...success! We had a good conversation in Spanish, he told me he actually makes cabrito (baby goat; a Mexican delicacy) in San Antonio and was going on a culinary excursion/holiday to Mexico City, Oaxaca, Monterrey, Guadalajara, San Luis Potosi and a bunch of other places. Cool!

I started looking around the plane and noticed a couple of things: they are so proud of their Recaro seats, but they are super thin! I'd hate to sit on them for more than a couple of hours. They are also very flimsy and would recline at will without requiring the push of a button. Also, the overhead spaces could use a little scrubbing, though you can't tell too well from this picture.

Thin seat is thin.


There also wasn't much in the way of legroom.


Snack time!

We were flying above the clouds for most of our time inside the U.S. so I never saw anything too exotic, but having driven in South Texas plenty I know there's not much anyway. It wasn't until about halfway there that the skies began clearing and some mountains became visible just above the clouds.


Finally on approach to MEX, you could see the expansiveness of Mexico City (and once I got around the city, it reminded me SO MUCH of my hometown of São Paulo). Weirdly, São Paulo feels a lot bigger in area than Mexico City. And it is, but not by much (573 v. 588 sq mi). I snapped a picture of Estadio Azul, and the adjacent bullfighting arena.


After landing, we passed grounded Mexicana planes as well as a Cargolux 747-800F (looked pretty sharp!) Once we got off the plane, I walked and walked and walked some more until I got to customs. Customs line was short and sweet!. I got some money at the exchange bureau and got the little green light, and away I was for an afternoon of meetings and a delicious cabrito dinner!

Grounded Mexicana planes.


March 22, 2013
MEX - SAT
AirTran 34 (FL 34)
ETD/ETA: 15:48 - 18:42
ATD/ATA: 15:36 - 18:45
Route: APN UJ15 XOSOK UJ38 CVM UJ41 NLD LRD LEMIG1
Seat: 28A
Reg.: couldn't see it where the gate was in MEX or when we arrived in SAT

On Friday, I heard some other people from my company were also in Mexico City and one of which staying at my hotel. I grabbed a ride to the airport with him, which considering it was around 1300 before a holiday weekend traffic was still pretty normal. We made it to the FL counters and I saw the IB and BA counters. It made me a little teary-eyed because I had to go to London the next day and tried to catch a MEX-MAD-LHR on IB flight but couldn't get the return fare to AUS or SAT to work out at a reasonable price on my company's travel portal.

(An interesting aside, I never realized that MEX-MAD is such a long flight! I believe it clocks in north of 10 hours. I then realized it's a flight between two points along the same latitude over one of the widest parts of the globe. Then again, not sure how I felt about going in Y for 11ish hours without AVOD on those IB A346s...)

My colleague got out his AMEX and we went to the AMEX lounge in MEX T3. It was packed, mostly with families. It also was very hot in there, so we decided to go to the gate area and check out the other AMEX lounge near our gate. My colleague was aghast with this other lounge. It was even hotter and it was supposed to be the platinum/black lounge but it was really just a tiny room with a few seats and a small bar. According to him, the Centurion Platinum/Black Lounge somewhere (I forgot where) is three stories tall and has a 3-story saltwater fish tank that has sharks. Whatever, I personally don't care for these luxuries but I never met the guy and it'd be rude to say, "No! I do not care for your elitist pamperings!"

On the way to the active, we passed those grounded Mexicana planes again but no exotic freighters. There was a JJ flight (A330) pulling up to its gate as we pushed back. We once again sat off to the side of the active, and I could see some trees nearby shaking about but couldn't figure out if it was because it was windy or it was just from the planes. Once I started looking out the oncoming traffic approaching for landing swaying side to side, I figured out it was wind.

Full plane. Wind. Take-off. Fun! Sure enough, as we began gaining speed toward V1-V2, I felt the plane swaying side to side and when we lifted off more so. A kid, no more than 4 or 5, a few rows back begins crying his little eyes out. You know he must have been terrified, because it's not like he's just a baby who's crying because that's his only means of communication. Turns out we just hit one big bump on that climb out. I reasoned that MEX's climate is likely to create these conditions and once we were away from the Valle de Mexico things would smooth out. That's exactly what happened.

I'm not one for turbulence, I'm not necessarily afraid but I always get this odd sensation the plane is falling when it shakes.

My seat mate was slightly less chatty this time: an older woman very interested in her gossip magazine, and I got deeply entrenched into an iPhone game called Flow. We began to approach San Antonio, and as I often do when I go to places I know well, I kept trying to figure out the landmarks along the approach but this one threw me for a loop. It looked like from above like we were going to approach 30L, but then we kept going and once I saw we were going past Fiesta Texas on the NW side of the city it dawned upon me we just flew north to turn around for approach.

It also dawned upon me that I should take a video of this approach on my phone. The late afternoon/early evening orange glow was just so inviting for that, I couldn't pass up!

Conclusion
It looks like I might have to start going to Mexico City for work more frequently, and I wouldn't necessarily rule out AirTran. It's not perfect, but the fact I don't have to go AUS-IAH-MEX-IAH-AUS or even AUS-DFW-MEX-DFW-AUS makes FL a slightly attractive more option. Even if I do have to drive an hour each way. Hell, the flight would get stuck taxiing at IAH for 30 minutes on each flight anyway! =p

[Edited 2013-03-30 15:40:37]
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MesaFlyGuy
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RE: SAT-MEX-SAT On AirTran (pictures/1 Video)

Sun Mar 31, 2013 3:12 am

Nice report and good idea trying FL instead of UA! Always good to try the unique routes! 
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xaapb
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RE: SAT-MEX-SAT On AirTran (pictures/1 Video)

Mon Apr 01, 2013 3:52 pm

Nice TR, you could also try Interjet or Aeromexico on the SAT-MEX route.

Greetings.
Jorge Meneses
 
RGElectra80
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RE: SAT-MEX-SAT On AirTran (pictures/1 Video)

Mon Apr 01, 2013 10:22 pm

Quoting xaapb (Reply 2):
Quoting mesaflyguy (Reply 1):

Thanks, gents! I might have a look at Aeromexico next time. I already have time and miles invested in UA and thus, Star Alliance, but none in SkyMiles but who knows it might be worth a look for something different.
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mfe777
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RE: SAT-MEX-SAT On AirTran (pictures/1 Video)

Tue Apr 02, 2013 4:24 am

Try AUS/SAT-IAH-MFE-MEX with United and Aeromar! I would love to see an Aeromar trip report from MFE-MEX! Haha.
 
xaapb
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RE: SAT-MEX-SAT On AirTran (pictures/1 Video)

Tue Apr 02, 2013 3:25 pm

Quoting mfe777 (Reply 4):

I'm sure I will to that trip I just don't know when! I travel a lot to the Rio Grande Area and I hate flying to REX or MAM. I have already flew MEX-MTY-BRO with AM.
Jorge Meneses
 
RGElectra80
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RE: SAT-MEX-SAT On AirTran (pictures/1 Video)

Tue Apr 02, 2013 9:33 pm

Quoting mfe777 (Reply 4):

Try AUS/SAT-IAH-MFE-MEX with United and Aeromar! I would love to see an Aeromar trip report from MFE-MEX! Haha.

Ha! I could drive to MFE from Austin and do MFE-MEX by the time I go AUS/SAT-IAH-MFE! Funny guy... =)
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TheRedBaron
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RE: SAT-MEX-SAT On AirTran (pictures/1 Video)

Sat Apr 06, 2013 10:18 pm

Be aware that Aeromexico has 2 flights to SAT one with an Embraer 195 (4 seats each row) and a 135 ULTRA CRAMPED.... better go with Interjet, very clean, on time and use a A320 ! Also they say that Interjet may retire the A320 aun use the Shukoi Superjet on that route..if so I will surely travel to SAT to buy clothes....just for the fun of flying on a Vodka Burner!

TRB
The best seat in a Plane is the Jumpseat.
 
mfe777
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RE: SAT-MEX-SAT On AirTran (pictures/1 Video)

Sun Apr 07, 2013 2:12 am

Quoting xaapb (Reply 5):
I'm sure I will to that trip I just don't know when! I travel a lot to the Rio Grande Area and I hate flying to REX or MAM. I have already flew MEX-MTY-BRO with AM.

Cool! If you do, a trip report would be awesome.
 
EddieDude
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RE: SAT-MEX-SAT On AirTran (pictures/1 Video)

Mon Apr 08, 2013 2:29 am

Hi RGElectra80,

Thanks a lot for the report and the pics. It was very enjoyable. I have flown many times from MEX to SAT and back (as a kid to visit an aunt and spend days over the summer break, and more recently to visit a good friend who was living there for a bit less than a year), so this was an interesting TR to me. Most of my flights were with MX though, and perhaps one or two with CO. I am not sure I ever got to try AM to SAT. It is now interesting that FL is now flying this route and catering to the huge touristic market that appreciates the lowest fares possible.

Next time you visit Mexico City let me know and I will happily treat you to drinks.

Quoting RGElectra80 (Thread starter):
My colleague got out his AMEX and we went to the AMEX lounge in MEX T3. It was packed, mostly with families. It also was very hot in there, so we decided to go to the gate area and check out the other AMEX lounge near our gate. My colleague was aghast with this other lounge. It was even hotter and it was supposed to be the platinum/black lounge but it was really just a tiny room with a few seats and a small bar. According to him, the Centurion Platinum/Black Lounge somewhere (I forgot where) is three stories tall and has a 3-story saltwater fish tank that has sharks. Whatever, I personally don't care for these luxuries but I never met the guy and it'd be rude to say, "No! I do not care for your elitist pamperings!"

You mean the "big" AMEX lounge before security on the international side of T1? That used to be a good lounge and has a decent size, but it has been ages since I last used it. Lately, when at T1, I tend to use the AM-Beyond co-branded Iounge because it is a Priority Pass lounge, is airside and newer. I wonder if AMEX' big lounge at T1 has been renovated recently. The truth is that the small AMEX lounge down a flight of stairs in the gate area at the very end of MEX is a dump. it is too tiny and sometimes it is so full, that passengers get outright refused. It seems there was just that space available and AMEX did not have much of a choice but to make do with it, but I find it to be unacceptable and really never used it. By the way, you may have realized that flights bound for the U.S. from T1, or more accurately, U.S. carriers at MEX T1 use the gates at the farthest end of the terminal. I dunno why (maybe I am just making a story here) but it seems it is some sort of security protocol-mandated thing. I just realized that in several airports around the world, U.S. carriers seem to use gates at the farthest end of terminals. Anyhow, I digress. Interesting comment about the AMEX lounge with shark tank. That would not be in Mexico, right?

Quoting mfe777 (Reply 4):
I would love to see an Aeromar trip report from MFE-MEX! Haha.

It is coming. Flew VW MEX-MFE a few weeks ago. Trip report is coming.

Quoting TheRedBaron (Reply 7):
Be aware that Aeromexico has 2 flights to SAT one with an Embraer 195 (4 seats each row) and a 135 ULTRA CRAMPED.

I don't believe AM has Embraer 195s or 135s; to the best of my knowledge they have ERJ-145s (which are on their way out), E-170s (which are on their way in and are replacements for the 145s), and E-190s. Expect the 145s to be phased out from this and all other routes soon in which case it will be more comfortable 170s and 190s flying this route. I think I prefer the E190 over the 737 because of the way more comfortable 2-2 configuration for solo flyers.
Next flights: MEX-LAX AM 738, LAX-PVG DL 77L, SHA-PEK CA 789, PEK-PVG CA A332, PVG-ORD MU 77W, ORD-MEX AM 738
 
mfe777
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RE: SAT-MEX-SAT On AirTran (pictures/1 Video)

Mon Apr 08, 2013 8:19 pm

Quoting EddieDude (Reply 9):
Quoting mfe777 (Reply 4):
I would love to see an Aeromar trip report from MFE-MEX! Haha.

It is coming. Flew VW MEX-MFE a few weeks ago. Trip report is coming.

Sweet! Looking forward to it.
 
xaapb
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RE: SAT-MEX-SAT On AirTran (pictures/1 Video)

Mon Apr 08, 2013 10:31 pm

Quoting EddieDude (Reply 9):
Quoting mfe777 (Reply 4):
I would love to see an Aeromar trip report from MFE-MEX! Haha.

It is coming. Flew VW MEX-MFE a few weeks ago. Trip report is coming.

Can't wait to see that TR!

Quoting TheRedBaron (Reply 7):

Not anymore, I belive AM is using only E jets (E170 & E190) on the route and sometimes the 737. The ERJ145 flight is from MTY.

Greetings
Jorge Meneses
 
RGElectra80
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RE: SAT-MEX-SAT On AirTran (pictures/1 Video)

Fri Apr 12, 2013 1:26 am

Quoting EddieDude (Reply 9):
Thanks a lot for the report and the pics. It was very enjoyable.

Thanks! It was fun writing it!

Quoting EddieDude (Reply 9):
Next time you visit Mexico City let me know and I will happily treat you to drinks.

Sweet, will let you know next time I'm out there!

Quoting EddieDude (Reply 9):
You mean the "big" AMEX lounge before security on the international side of T1?

Yeah, I think so. We walked aways from where we checked in to get there, so it may have been T1 or 2.

Quoting EddieDude (Reply 9):
I just realized that in several airports around the world, U.S. carriers seem to use gates at the farthest end of terminals.

Interesting. I flew back from LHR on UA last week and the T4 gate we flew out of was smack dab in the middle of the terminal.

Quoting EddieDude (Reply 9):
Interesting comment about the AMEX lounge with shark tank. That would not be in Mexico, right?

No, I think he said it was Panama City but I could be wrong.
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EddieDude
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RE: SAT-MEX-SAT On AirTran (pictures/1 Video)

Fri Apr 12, 2013 1:41 pm

Quoting RGElectra80 (Reply 12):
Interesting. I flew back from LHR on UA last week and the T4 gate we flew out of was smack dab in the middle of the terminal.

Ok, so there goes my theory. :p
Next flights: MEX-LAX AM 738, LAX-PVG DL 77L, SHA-PEK CA 789, PEK-PVG CA A332, PVG-ORD MU 77W, ORD-MEX AM 738
 
ss278
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RE: SAT-MEX-SAT On AirTran (pictures/1 Video)

Fri Apr 12, 2013 4:04 pm

As you probably know, runways are numbered according to their magnetic alignment. The magnetic poles are shifting ever so slightly, but in this case, enough to require a change in runway numbering. Its happening at other airports as well.
 
mfe777
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RE: SAT-MEX-SAT On AirTran (pictures/1 Video)

Sat May 04, 2013 10:22 pm

Quoting EddieDude (Reply 9):
It is coming. Flew VW MEX-MFE a few weeks ago. Trip report is coming.

Still looking forward to that trip report.  
 
aflyingkiwi
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RE: SAT-MEX-SAT On AirTran (pictures/1 Video)

Sun May 05, 2013 5:26 am

Hey, thanks for the nice read. Quite a unique route for Airtran. I've always envisioned as just an Atlanta airline.

Quoting RGElectra80 (Thread starter):
an iPhone game called Flow.

I play that game as well!

Thanks
 
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TheRedBaron
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RE: SAT-MEX-SAT On AirTran (pictures/1 Video)

Sun May 05, 2013 5:50 pm

Quoting EddieDude (Reply 9):
I don't believe AM has Embraer 195s or 135s; to the best of my knowledge they have ERJ-145s (which are on their way out), E-170s (which are on their way in and are replacements for the 145s), and E-190s. Expect the 145s to be phased out from this and all other routes soon in which case it will be more comfortable 170s and 190s flying this route. I think I prefer the E190 over the 737 because of the way more comfortable 2-2 configuration for solo flyers.

I flew MEX SAT in E190 and back in ERJ145 I stand corrected...

Quoting xaapb (Reply 11):
Not anymore, I belive AM is using only E jets (E170 & E190) on the route and sometimes the 737. The ERJ145 flight is from MTY.

The small was a 3 abreast cramped as hell....

I am Flying Interjet to SAT next week....

TRB
The best seat in a Plane is the Jumpseat.
 
RGElectra80
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RE: SAT-MEX-SAT On AirTran (pictures/1 Video)

Mon May 06, 2013 2:50 am

Quoting aflyingkiwi (Reply 16):

Hey, thanks for the nice read.

Thanks!

Quoting aflyingkiwi (Reply 16):
I play that game as well

I've already exhausted all the phone packs so now I'm playing the iPad pack. I'm officially addicted.
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DariusBieber
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RE: SAT-MEX-SAT On AirTran (pictures/1 Video)

Tue May 07, 2013 5:55 pm

Great report, thanks! It often saddens me as a San Antonio-native to see Mexican flights empty as you said. I remember when Delta served CUN from SAT, that they had a whopping four passengers on one of their MD-88 flights.
Darius Bieber

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