My First Q400 Ride (Trip Report)

A good friend of mine was running the Ironman Canada in little Penticton, Canada and I was asked if I’d come up to help her drive back down to the States. (It was her first Ironman and she finished with ease – I was amazed.) I Q400 Propfigured this would be a lot of fun, and I’m always happy to help a friend in need, so I did it.

Initially I had hoped to try WestJet and a 737-600 but the timing didn’t work out, so instead I ended up flying Alaska via Seattle and connecting into Kelowna. (It’s just an hour shuttle ride down from there to Penticton.) The cost was about $240. On the way back, I took Southwest from Portland using my friend’s award ticket. The most exciting part was my first ride on a Q400.

August 28, 2011
Alaska 517 Lv Orange County 8a Arr Seattle 1055a
Orange County (SNA): Gate 2, Runway 19R, Depart 15m Early
Seattle (SEA): Gate N7, Runway 16C, Arrive 29m Early
N618AS, Boeing 737-790, Standard Alaska Colors, ~99% Full
Seat 6a
Flight Time 2h10m

I got to the airport about an hour early, and the place was hopping. Despite that, it took only 10 minutes to get through security and I headed to my lonely gate 2 – all the way at the northern end of the terminal.

Alaska started boarding way early – about 45 minutes prior to departure. I had snagged a bulkhead when I checked in, so I boarded later in the First Class Divider on Alaska 737-700process, but it was still about a half hour before departure.

I love the bulkheads on Alaska’s 737-700 because they’re not really bulkheads. You can still stretch out underneath the First Class seats in front of you. Instead, there are just curtains that extend halfway down to provide privacy for the fancy fliers. It’s a much better way to fly than having a hard bulkhead.

I took my seat and the flight attendants were doing a great job of managing the bag situation. Two others in my row tried to put their personal items up, but the flight attendant asked them to put it below the seat. Neither of them thought they could since it was a First Class seat in front of them. Funny.

The early boarding led to a 15 minute early departure. We did the usual Orange County rocket launch so that we could glide quietly over the rich people below. Once over the ocean, we shot up to 40,000 feet and winged our way north.

This was the first flight I’ve been on over an hour that had wifi, so I was looking forward to trying it out. It took me a little while to get it to work, but once I did, it was actually very fast the wholeSkillet Breakfast on Alaska way. I was able to get a ton of work done, alternating with a view out the window. Nice work, gogo.

I had no plans to get breakfast, but the flight attendants came by with a skillet breakfast with eggs, potato, and sausage. It looked good, and for only $6, I thought I’d give it a shot. It WAS good, even if it did come with Hellman’s ketchup. (Who the heck knew Hellman’s made ketchup and why isn’t it Best Foods, like the mayo is on the west coast?)

We landed and I had to chance to meet up with frequent commenter Nicholas Barnard on my long layover. We had a great day of spotting from the central food court in Seattle, and then I went over to my next flight.

August 28, 2011
Alaska (Horizon) 2670 Lv Seattle 142p Arr Kelowna 246p
Seattle (SEA): Gate C2J, Runway 34R, Depart 6m Late
Kelowna (YLW): Gate 1, Runway 34, Arrive 1m Late
N425QX, Bombardier Dash-8-Q400, 25th Anniversary Colors, ~90% Full
Seat 3a
Flight Time 41m

Horizon’s setup in Seattle is a lot like Delta’s in Salt Lake but on a smaller scale. You check in a gate and then walk out on to bare concrete covered walkways to get to your airplane. Ours was the festive-looking 25th anniversary aircraft for Horizon Air.

I dropped my bag on the “a la cart” station and then boarded. This may be a prop, but it has good interior space. The flight attendants were a little gruff, but other than that, it was a great flight. I thought it would be better to show more details in this 1m50s video. (I’m speaking quietly to avoid bugging the person next to me.)

I really enjoyed the ride – it’s pretty quiet, the vibration is minimal, and the views were spectacular. Combine that with the free microbrews onboard, and it’s hard to think of a more fun way to spend the afternoon.

After arrival in Kelowna, it was an easy entry into the country and my shuttle was there to take me down to Penticton. It’s beautiful up there, but the trip was shortlived. Soon we were driving down to Portland and I had to fly back home.

August 31, 2011
Southwest 2637 Lv Portland 720a Arr Oakland 910a, Lv Oakland 935a Arr LAX 1050a
Portland (PDX): Gate C14, Runway 28R, Depart On Time
Oakland (OAK): Gate 22, Runway 29, Arrive ~10m Early, Depart On Time
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 14, Runway 24R, Arrive 3m Late
N908WN, Boeing 737-7H4, Canyon Blue Colors, ~66% Full (1st) and ~33% Full (2nd)
Seat 3a
Flight Times 1h12m (1st), 56m (2nd)

We stayed in an airport hotel the night before, so I took the shuttle over in the morning. I arrived to find the security line stretching halfway down to the other concourse. Despite this, it moved quickly and I got through in only Mt Hood in the Distanceabout 15 minutes. Then I went to the gate to sit and wait.

I wistfully passed the JetBlue flight heading nonstop to Long Beach, but my friend had Southwest points to use, so that wasn’t an option. We boarded on time and both flights were completely uneventful. There was a low marine layer at each stop but we got above it quickly and cruised high. The only thing notable onboard was how empty it was. I thought the first flight was light, but the second leg was maybe a third full.

Sounds like summer is just about over.

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