My Last Trip on the Old Southwest (Trip Report)

There was something about this trip that felt like the end of an era. On the eve of the repeal of the Wright Amendment, Southwest had its first media day in years. But the repeal hasn’t happened yet so I still had to stop on my way to Dallas. Hopping across the empire on an old 737-300 just felt like a throwback to an airline that almost no longer exists.

[Disclosure: Southwest paid for my flight to Dallas and hotel. I paid for my return.]

I took Southwest up on its offer for my flight out, but I scheduled a meeting in Ft Worth afterwards. I had no interest in driving all the way back to Dallas just to have to stop on my flight home, so I used my Amex points to transfer into BA Avios so I could fly nonstop back to LAX.

Southwest hasn’t had a media day in a few years, but I was shocked to see that some things still hadn’t changed with company travel. A couple days before my flight, a FedEx envelope arrived with a ticket jacket containing my paper ticket. Unreal.

Southwest Paper Ticket

I was able to check in like a regular traveler and was surprised when, right at the 24 hour mark, I pulled down the excellent A30 boarding pass. I called to have them put my Pre Check number in, and I was good to go.

I got to the airport an hour in advance, and it wasn’t all that busy. The work on Terminal 1 has finally begun. The old US Airways ticket counters are sealed off and so are many of the stores. Even what always seemed like the world’s busiest McDonald’s was shut down. Security was quick and I went straight to the gate.

LAX Terminal 1 Renovations

I walked up to the agent and said, “I’m from 1992, and I need my boarding pass. Here’s my paper ticket.” She just laughed and took care of it for me. It said I was going to media day so she asked about it. I told her that it was apparently for the unveiling of a new paint job. The photos had been leaked, so I showed them to her. She paused, said something about how strange the all-blue body looked, and then made a remark about how the company tells us more than them.

Our airplane came in early, and it was a 21-year old 737-300 that hadn’t been refitted with the painful Evolve seats. I eagerly hopped on board.

Non Evolve Seats

September 7, 2014
Southwest 871 Lv Los Angeles 935a Arr Albuquerque 1225p
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 10, Runway 24L, Depart 5m Early
Albuquerque (ABQ): Gate A8, Runway 3, Arrive 15m Early
N371SW, Boeing 737-3H4, Canyon Blue colors, ~70% Full
Seat 5F, Coach
Flight Time 1h28m

I had plenty of seats to choose from, and I picked 5F with a nice window view. I was on this airplane all the way to Dallas with a 30 minute stop but no plane change in Albuquerque.

Catalina Island

Boarding continued and then wrapped up quicker than I thought. This flight was not very full, and I had an empty middle seat. Ah, the good life. We pushed back early and were airborne quickly. We punched through the thin layer of Hurricane Norbert-remnant clouds and then pointed the nose toward Albuquerque.

Southwest Frills

Service was slow for some reason. I didn’t get my glass of water and peanuts (not honey roasted this time, sadly) until 40 minutes into the flight. I opened up my computer and just started cranking away… offline. The 737-300s do not have wifi or live TV. That’s a huge bummer when you’re flying on the first Sunday of football season.

I didn’t last on my computer for long once I caught the glimpse of the Desert Southwest out the window. With a light dotting of clouds and an endless sky, it was one of those days you just had to watch. I closed my computer and relaxed.

Desert Southwest Day

Soon, we were bouncing our way into Albuquerque, as is so often the case. We landed 15 minutes early, which just meant 15 minutes more ground time since I wasn’t changing airplanes.

September 7, 2014
Southwest 871 Lv Albuquerque 1255p, Arr Dallas/Love 335p
Albuquerque (ABQ): Gate A8, Runway 8, Depart 5m Early
Dallas/Love (DAL): Gate 2, Runway 31R, Arrive 10m Early
N371SW, Boeing 737-3H4, Canyon Blue colors, 100% Full
Seat 5F, Coach
Flight Time 1h24m

I made some calls, checked email, and then people started boarding. This time, the flight was completely full. The middle next to me didn’t fill up until near the end. Of course, I ended up next to a hulking dude who smelled like the perfect combination of cigarettes and liquor He proceeded to open up his sour cream & onion chips for the entire plane to take in just as the door was shutting.

We got off the ground quickly and headed toward Dallas. About 10 seconds in, the man in front of me slammed his seatback into the reclined position. Even though we haven’t had a good fight over reclining for a few days, I didn’t really feel like diverting to some lovely city like Amarillo just to be led off in handcuffs. Besides, that’s not my nature anyway.

Instead, I broke out my computer to finalize the posts I had been working on, and I had to use my T-Rex arms to get around the unfortunate recline situation. It’s amazing how different a flight can feel thanks to the people around you.

Landing in Dallas

It was a quick and smooth ride over to Dallas. I had a ginger ale, another pack of peanuts, and then decided to enjoy the view for the last half hour. It got increasingly cloudy near Dallas, so the view wasn’t great, but eventually we got underneath the overcast and landed early. This was when my old school Southwest adventure ended.

I walked into the sparkling new Love Field terminal for the first time and was taken aback. It’s a very nice looking facility. But I didn’t stay long. There was work to do.

The New Dallas Love Field

Once my time in the Metroplex was done, I headed to DFW. I pulled into the rental car facility and hopped on the bus over to the A gates, which I believe are about 125 miles north. My bus driver took a shine to me because, as he said, God told him that I was special. He was very nice about it all, though when I got off the bus, he stepped out to talk to me about Jesus while making everyone else onboard wait. Welcome to Texas.

I had Pre Check again and made it through security in a flash. With time to kill, I grabbed a couple tacos from Qdoba and then flipped on my computer in the gate area. My 21-year old 757 (just as old as my 737 on the way out) had pulled up to the gate looking quite spectacular in its shiny silver skin. Unfortunately, this was one of the overwater 757s, so that meant no wifi on board. Ugh.

September 10, 2014
American 2447 Lv Dallas/Ft Worth 130p Arr Los Angeles 240p
Dallas/Ft Worth (DFW): Gate A15, Runway 18L, Depart 2m Early
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 48B, Runway 25L, Arrive 11m Early
N687AA, Boeing 757-223, Silver colors, ~99% Full
Seat 28A, Coach
Flight Time 2h41m

Upon boarding, I realized just how dingy that old fuzzy yellow lighting makes an airplane feel. This airplane just looked old. The overhead monitors in the aisle didn’t help.

With temperatures on the ramp passing 100 degrees, we were roasting on the airplane. The flight attendants had everyone close the shades and open the vents. Once we pushed back, it cooled down quickly.

It was a beautiful but windy day in the Metroplex, so we ran through some chop on the way up. But once at cruise, it was a nice ride across to LA. There was no movie on this flight but instead they just played NBC shorts. It’s a good thing I didn’t want to watch them, because I found out later my headset jack didn’t work anyway.

I opened my computer and did some more writing. The flight attendants came by a few times and gave everyone a full can of whatever they asked for. The flight passed quickly and we were soon on the ground at LAX nice and early.

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