Celebrating in Phoenix (Trip Report)

Last weekend it was time for another trip to Phoenix, but this time it was for a festive event – my brother’s wedding. The kids kept us up at all hours of the night during the weekend itself, but they were angels on the flights. Go figure. The flights themselves were mostly good.

We bought our 4 tickets at $129.80 a piece back at the end of August. I didn’t even look at LAX knowing that Long Beach would make life much easier. I was right.

We had someone drop all of us off at Long Beach Airport a little over an hour before departure, earlier than usual because we had to check a bag. There was no line at the counter, and our bag was on its way. My wife, still without Pre Check, took the baby with her through the regular line and I took my son through the Pre Check line.

Pre Check is very new at Long Beach Airport, and it seemed like it was this guy’s first day working the line. He said I couldn’t bring my son with me if he didn’t have Pre Check, but before I could correct, one of his fellow officers told him that wasn’t true. We sailed through after that little speed bump.

We headed toward our gate and I took what is probably my favorite picture of my son to date.

After a brief wait, the agents let us pre-board.


October 23, 2013
US Airways Express 2835 Lv Long Beach 435p Arr Phoenix 556p (operated by Mesa)
Long Beach (LGB): Gate 2, Runway 30, Depart 7m Early
Phoenix (PHX): Gate B16, Runway 7L, Arrive 17m Early
N903FJ, Bombardier CRJ-900, Standard US Airways colors, ~95% Full
Seat 8C, Coach
Flight Time 55m

We had two seats together on the left side with two immediately behind. We let my son play in his seat area until the door was buttoned up. Then I strapped him in and we were off. Not much to say about the flight itself. The flight attendants did one pass with beverages and that was that.

The earlier departure from Long Beach combined with an odd eastbound landing (that usually only happens in the mornings in Phoenix) meant we arrived really early. Our bag came off quickly and we were on our way to celebrate.

For the return, we had an early morning flight back and I was a little nervous about Monday morning security lines. We arrived just after 6a, and I had my wife and daughter go straight to security. I took my son with me to check the bag. There was a longish line for people who needed to check in or do other things, but the bag drop area was empty. I was struggling to carry my son and our bags, so an agent actually came out from behind the counter and helped me get up to the front. That was very nice of her.

The bag had already been paid for, so she took it and I was on my way to security. There is apparently now a Pre Check line at the B gates (it used to just be the A gates) so I went that way. The regular line actually didn’t look too long at all, and the Pre Check line was empty. I was through in seconds.

I actually beat my wife to the gate. (Have I mentioned. I love Pre Check?) Once she showed up, I watched the fiery sunrise and let my son run around in circles, hoping he’d tire out.

While we waited, I was surprised to hear that the flight was oversold, but then I think I figured out why. This flight was being sold without a First Class cabin. I thought all the CRJ-900s had been converted, but I guess not. Even though that’s how it was sold, this aircraft had First Class. Initially, a bunch of people were called up – clearly those who had been upgraded to First since nobody could have booked it or upgraded into it before. Then they made the announcement about being oversold, seemingly stuck with people who would have had seats on an all-coach airplane.

This time, pre-boarding wasn’t offered so we prepared to board in our assigned Zone 2, but the computer froze and the agent seemed helpless. He called on the walkie talkie for help, but by the time someone showed up a few minutes later, he had already gotten it working. Boarding resumed.


October 28, 2013
US Airways Express 2819 Lv Phoenix 740a Arr Long Beach 901a (operated by Mesa)
Phoenix (PHX): Gate B5, Runway 7L, Depart On Time
Long Beach (LGB): Gate 2, Runway 30, Arrive 7m Late
N329MS, Bombardier CRJ-900, Standard US Airways colors, 100% Full
Seat 7C, Coach
Flight Time 1h7m

This airplane looks like it could use an interior makeover. The seats themselves were fine, but the sidewalls were in rough shape. Apparently this airplane was with HeavyLift International, an all-cargo carrier, before coming to Mesa so it probably got beat up a few times over.

We strapped the kids in, and we pushed back on time. There was no runway magic going for us this time. Departures were to the east, so we had to taxi all the way back to the west end of the airport before launching into the morning sky.

We turned around and pointed west. There was one drink service and it was almost done before it started. The pilots had only made a brief announcement before departure asking flight attendants to be seated. Once in the air, we didn’t hear much more from them until the very end when they told us we were on approach.

While the flight attendants were finishing up their service, there was a chime. A couple minutes later, a flight attendant came on the PA.

Ladies and gentlemen – If you feel the little turbulence we have right now, we’ve been informed that in 10 minutes, it’s gonna get a lot worse. So if you have to go to the bathroom, do it now.

I certainly didn’t like the sound of things getting a lot worse, but I knew that a front was rolling through Southern California and high winds were expected. Still, if it’s going to get a lot worse, I’d like to hear it from the cockpit.

In the end, it didn’t get a lot worse. We had maybe a couple minor bumps as we descended through clouds, and then the rest of the flight was smooth. Weird.

There was quite a headwind working on us so our flight time was pretty long for this route. But we were at the gate only 7 minutes late. Fourteen minutes after that, I was off the plane with our checked bag in hand. And another 14 minutes later, I was at my desk working. I love Long Beach Airport.


31 Responses to Celebrating in Phoenix (Trip Report)

  1. Simon says:

    That’s a cool bag on your son’s back – would you recommend it (and if so, let us know where you got it so I can get one for my daughter)?
    I have some great pictures of my daughter on her Trunki, so know how you feel about a favourite photo!

  2. Your sunrise photo shows exactly why the Arizona license plate has the colors it does on it.

    So was your son really toting his back pack or is that really Dad’s? :-)

  3. Ron says:

    Long Beach 1: I pass by Long Beach airport on the 405 every day on my way to work, and quite often it is just before 7 am, when the planes line up for the first takeoff. Almost always, the US Airways plane is first in line, sometimes waiting at the runway as early as 6:50 or even a few minutes before. Any idea why it’s so important for them to get out first? Do they schedule a lot of tight connections at Phoenix?

    Long Beach 2: Yesterday I was informed by Delta that our non-stop flight from LAX to JFK is no longer operating, and they rebooked us on a connecting flight through Salt Lake. This is particularly annoying because originally we had paid substantially more for the non-stop, so if I had known it would get canceled we could have saved a lot of money and not been much worse off. Delta offered to refund the ticket, but of course now the cheaper options are no longer available. The best I could get them to do was switch the LAX–SLC segment to a Long Beach departure; I guess that’s something. (I wonder: is there a way to get some additional compensation? I do feel cheated)

    Long Beach 3: Given that we are now flying out of Long Beach, how does one get to the airport with children? A taxi ride from home is only 8 minutes and under $20, but then we’d be stuck with car seats for the whole trip; public transit involves changing buses and takes 50 minutes. I really think California should join civilized nations and exempt children in taxis from the car seat requirement.

    • CF says:

      Ron:

      Long Beach 1 – There are usually a couple flights scheduled to go before 7a so they have to wait at the end of the runway. Sometimes they get out quicker than others, but usually there’s at least a little wait. All the SoCal flights leave around that hour to connect into the Phoenix bank.

      Long Beach 2 – No additional compensation. You can get a refund if you want, but that’s it.

      Long Beach 3 – Get a ride from a friend. That’s what we do.

      Long Beach 4 – I’ve never seen a Long Beach to Phoenix ticket run $600 a couple months in advance. We wouldn’t have looked at another airport until the fare was probably over $250.

      • CF Praytel, where did you pull up Long Beach 4 from? I don’t see it on the list from Ron.

      • Ron says:

        long beach 1: yeah, i was just wondering why us airways were the most eager to get out. i guess they’re the only ones with connections to make — delta seem to have given up on making the early bank in salt lake (they used to schedule for 6:45 like us, but now their morning flight is scheduled for 7:30).

        Long Beach 2: You know, people complain that passengers always go for the cheapest fares, but I think it’s perfectly rational given the airlines’ behavior. I gave Delta a lot of extra $$$ for a convenient flight, but when they change their schedule my only recourse is to get my money back and be left in the cold (since the cheaper alternative is no longer available). I know that from the airline’s perspective they’re still getting me from point A to point B and it only takes a little bit longer, and given the schedule change this is the best they can offer, but from my perspective it is still a substantial downgrade (changing planes with 3 kids is a pain, and also carries an increased risk of misconnecting). A rational player would have to discount the value of the better flight by the likelihood of getting downgraded, which means that at the time of booking, the better flight option is of lesser value than it appears. It therefore makes sense to just book the cheapest option.

        • ptahcha says:

          DL should have offered you another LAX-JFK option, even if your fare is no longer available. It’s their schedule change that caused the problem, so it’s up to them to fix it. I would have hung up and call again, or ask for a supervisor.

          • Ron says:

            Delta’s remaining non-stop flights are badly timed — worse than the connection they put me on. Short of putting me on another airline, Delta really did give me the best itinerary with the flights that are operating. And at today’s prices, anything equal or better would cost a lot more. This doesn’t change the fact that on the day I bought my ticket, the cost of my current itinerary was substantially less than what I paid. Think of it this way: when I bought the ticket, the cost of basic transportation from LAX to JFK was x; I paid x+n for an improved schedule; but Delta (or any other airline, for that matter) only sees itself obligated to provide me with basic transportation from LAX to JFK, and when they downgrade my schedule they don’t refund the incremental cost that I specifically put in for the schedule. This creates a strong disincentive to put any money towards an improved schedule. If airlines want people to pay up for better schedules, they need to find ways to protect the value of such increments.

    • Jim says:

      Some taxi and shuttle companies provide car seats with advance notice. Call around and ask.

  4. A says:

    You’re lucky that S. CA has airport options. I’m truly amazed that some massive metroplexes have really only one airport option. Next week I’m back to YYZ but my meetings are far east in Whitby area. Why not another airport on the east side to save me hours on the 401?!?! Grrr.

  5. Ron says:

    Long Beach 4: “I didn’t even look at LAX knowing that Long Beach would make life much easier.” That’s because you found very reasonable fares from Long Beach, and you knew you couldn’t do a whole lot better elsewhere. If Long Beach fares were $600 a pop (as sometimes happens), I bet you would have at least looked at LAX (or else decided to drive).

  6. #1-I love the photo of your son, so fitting. #2 I agree in that smaller or regional airports are better. They have what-you-need amenities (W.C./WiFi/Coffee or Light food-done), are generally nicer and more friendly staffed, and have a true concern for timeliness (sometimes a flight might be the only one for that day to a certain destination). I was in Omaha this weekend and after reading your review it’s the same experience, but in different territories.

  7. Excellent pictures all around!

    I’m curious on the HeavyLift International use of the Mesa airplane.. I’m surprised that a cargo airline would leave the passenger sidewalls (and overhead bins?) installed. You’d think they’d want the windows covered up with a sidewall or some tougher material..

    • CF says:

      Nick – I have no clue what the story is, but Mesa has only been flying it since March of this year, so I can’t imagine they’ve done the damage. Then again, maybe they just found some old sidewalls.

      • Mesa. Sigh. Such a lowest price operator.

        • B757capt says:

          These are aircraft that Mesa was able to lease at cheap rates, after the Air Mekong mess. Long term the aircraft will be reconfigured as they go into maintanence checks.

      • David says:

        The aeroplane was one of two (msns 15124 & 15126) that were built in 2007 for Tartarstan Air but never delivered. They were registered in the UAE (A6-HLM & HLS) to Heavylift International Airlines for some reason but appear to have spent several years parked at Ras al Khaimah (RKT) in the UAE. There a several pictures on the ‘net of both at RKT. Judging by the amount of dust they gathered, they didn’t seem to be used. Reports on ‘spotters’ websites from RKT indicate they only occasionally got moved around the airfield!
        http://www.airliners.net/photo/Canadair-CL-600-2D24-Regional/1879799/L/
        They were registered to GECAS in August 2011 (N326MS & 329MS) but did not enter service with Mesa until March of this year. Not sure when they got ferried to the US.
        So they seem to be unloved, low time aircraft until now being used on US Airways Express services.

        • CF says:

          Great info on this airplane. This one I can confirm has been updated with F seating. Anyone know if the others are still in progress?

  8. giles says:

    Maybe in 20 years, that will be a real “Jet Pack” on little Cranky’s back! Oh, wait, they have been telling us that since the 1950’s!
    I love PreCheck, also. But lately at MSP and IAD, Delta (according to the TSA) has been ‘experimenting’ with randomly issuing PreCheck boarding passes to randomly selected passengers. Strange, and extremely annoying! The passengers don’t have a clue, we are all funneled into a single checkpoint, and what used to take 2 or 3 minutes now takes 20. If you could find out from Delta if this is really their deal, and just exactly what they are trying to do… then tell them to STOP!

  9. Andy Kultgen says:

    I flew out of Phoenix on Wednesday the 23rd, and the computer at my gate was inoperative also. The gate agents just had to check boarding passes manually, tear their half off, and make a pile on the broken computer. The old fashioned way I suppose. Coincidence, or time for new computers/system at PHX?

  10. John says:

    Maybe I just entered a time warp, but i could have sworn your son was born last week…or maybe I am getting old, and time speeds up…

  11. ang says:

    i love the picture of your son with the airplane school bag. it’s so cute!!!

  12. Ron says:

    Cranky, this is off the topic of the thread but related to the string of comments regarding my canceled Delta flight: Do you ever get a feeling, as a concierge or otherwise, that a particular flight is likely to get canceled? When I booked my Delta itinerary there were other scheduling and pricing changes happening which made me suspect that the schedule for my flight day might be vulnerable, and several weeks later my flight got canceled (though I didn’t expect the downgrade that happened). When you do have suspicions about a flight’s survival, how do you advise your clients? (Under some circumstances schedule changes can also work to your advantage, of course.)

    • CF says:

      Ron – Sure. If you’re traveling on an off-peak day around the holidays, you’ll have a decent chance of seeing a cancellation. Or if you go early summer schedule to Europe, flights can change. But we usually just tell people if we have a feeling about something, and they decide what they want to do.

  13. jeffrey says:

    380 miles or 5 hour and 30 minutes by car. Maybe the car would have been a better option. A nice road trip. and my guess is by the time of check in, check out,, etc. not much extra trim and way less cost. As well as it is good to see America as a kid

  14. No Fly Zone says:

    Great post, Bret. The pic of your son, with his ‘jet’ airplane bag and some obvious purpose in his gait suggests a young man on a mission. He’s been there before and seems to know exactly where he is headed. For a small fellow in a family of travelers, he will quickly become your in-airport leader, at least at Long Beach. As soon as he reads signs a bit better he’ll be helping Mom, Dad and the bags into the right lines. Bank on it. And heck yes, burning some of that endless energy before the door closes is a brilliant idea. In ten years, he’ll be tucking you in for the long flights, well before he sits down. Does anything slow him down? Sorry; I know better… -NFZ
    P.S. If/when YOU (+family) get stranded or have flights cancelled en-route, who do YOU call for assistance? Is one staffer designated to monitor your moves or do all keep an eye on your options? Must be nice to have not one, but several experts looking for options, even before a hint of a problem. They just know… And finally, LA to PHX is such a short trip, did you consider driving? If not, why not? A fun post and the Man on a Mission – “I’m going to fly…” is priceless.

    • CF says:

      No Fly Zone – We’ve driven many times, but the prospect of doing it with the baby needing to be fed every 3 hours seemed just too much this time. Besides, we have family with an extra car and car seats, so this time it was just much easier. But we do normally drive it.

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