As you well know by know, Southwest held its sometimes-annual Media Day in Dallas last week, and this year there was no way I was missing it. Last year I got sick and couldn’t make it, so I loaded up on vitamins and made sure I would be in good shape this year. Thanks to the Wright Amendment still hanging around in its dying days, I had to stop somewhere on my way to Dallas, so I opted for the quickest, most-direct options via El Paso one way and Albuquerque the other. I like the two short flights better than one long (to Austin/San Antonio/Houston) and then a really short flight up.
How’d it go? Typical Southwest. They do short hauls really well, in general. And yes, this flight was provided by Southwest at no charge (as was my hotel stay).
October 27, 2010
Southwest 37 Lv Los Angeles 915a Arr El Paso 1205p
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 7, Runway 24L, Depart 10m Late
El Paso (ELP): Gate B6, Runway 22, Arrive On Time
N728SW, Boeing 737-7H4, Canyon Blue, ~66% Full
Flight Time 1h35m
I hit bad traffic on the way to LAX (why I choose Long Beach when I can), but I relaxed when I found that the security line was non-existent. Very strange for this terminal, but I wasn’t complaining. They did, however, send us up some stairs to get to the auxiliary security screening area and the woman in front of me was having a heck of a time with her suitcase.
Once through, I went over to gate 7, an old America West gate that got me daydreaming about the good old days. I went to the podium to exchange my paper ticket for a boarding pass (they still require paper tickets for flights provided by Southwest), and a minute later, I had my boarding pass and I went looking for laptop power.
Fortunately, the new Southwest gate areas were available here and that meant seats with power. Unfortunately, the first four outlets I tried didn’t work. One worked if you held the plug in but that wasn’t going to happen. Finally, someone left his seat and I found one that worked.
Our plane pulled up right on time, and soon we were boarding. The crew must have been Dallas-based, because they had that accent as well as that informal charm that always screams Southwest. The first flight was quick and painless and I enjoyed my ginger ale as we flew toward El Paso.
The only complaint? The guy behind me was an insanely-aggressive typist. I’m guessing he was writing an angry comment on a blog, because rarely do people ever put so much purpose into their typing. I felt every keystroke in my back, but fortunately, he hopped off in El Paso.
Soon we were descending (actually dive-bombing, another trait of a traditional Southwest pilot) into El Paso and all was well.
October 27, 2010
Southwest 37 Lv El Paso 1225p Arr Dallas/Love Field 3p
El Paso (ELP): Gate B6, Runway 26L, Depart On Time
Dallas/Love Field (DAL): Gate 11, Runway 31R, Arrive 5m Early
N728SW, Boeing 737-7H4, Canyon Blue, ~75% Full
Flight Time 1h18m
Once we loaded up in El Paso, we were off like a shot once again. El Paso departures are interesting because you aim straight at a mountain and then (hopefully) bank left before you hit it. Combined with the always-bouncy air around the area and you get a rockin’ ride until you get above 10,000 feet. Then it was uneventful all the way to Dallas and I was off to Media Day festivities.
After an action-packed day and a long night of drinking, I was feeling pretty happy about my decision to take a 1025a flight back and not an earlier one. I made it to the airport, sailed through security and soon found myself with time to kill.
October 29, 2010
Southwest 12 Lv Dallas/Love Field 1025a Arr Albuquerque 1115a
Dallas/Love Field (DAL): Gate 11, Runway 13L, Depart 3m Late
Albuquerque (ABQ): Gate A6, Runway 3, Arrive 10m Early
N347SW, Boeing 737-3H4, Canyon Blue, ~75% Full
Flight Time 1h22m
Love Field is old-school but it is functional. Still I’m glad a new terminal is on the way. It should be done right about the time the Wright Amendment fades away and the experience will be much nicer. But for me, it was fine to just grab a seat by the window on this beautiful blue sky day and read the paper.
The airplane rolled in and I noticed I’d be flying on N347SW. Despite being an old lady (built in 1989), ship 347 was looking good in her new Canyon Blue paintjob. In fact, she was the last one to wear the old colors before getting a fresh coat earlier this year. The paint didn’t hide the years of rivets and patches that show her age, but that just adds character.
The boarding agent wasn’t in much of a hurry to board despite our departure time creeping up. Incredibly, we did all end up sitting and the plane pushed back just a couple minutes late. We launched into the blue and pointed the nose toward Albuquerque. A couple hours later, we were descending into surprisingly smooth air. It’s such a great, scenic place to fly into. We headed to the gate and I sat there waiting to go on the last leg home.
October 29, 2010
Southwest 12 Lv Albuquerque 1150a Arr Los Angeles 1p
Albuquerque (ABQ): Gate A6, Runway 8, Depart On Time
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 2, Runway 24R, Arrive 15m Early
N347SW, Boeing 737-3H4, Canyon Blue, ~99% Full
Flight Time 1h44m
For the first time on this trip, the flight was full and that meant I had the middle seat next to me filled. Bummer. But it turned out that the person was a 20 year flight attendant with United who was commuting in uniform. As you’d expect, we struck up a conversation and talked about her job, United, and the industry all the way to LA. While I usually want to be left alone, I really enjoyed this conversation. The only thing that interrupted us was when I realized that we were flying right over Sedona and its deep red rocks. Had to watch that.
But the conversation went quickly and soon enough, we were on the ground. I headed off to the shuttle bus station so I could catch the bus back to the train to get me home.