I was asked to speak at the DMAI Annual Convention in Austin last week, and naturally, I was excited. Why? Because Austin is one of the few destinations that JetBlue flies nonstop from Long Beach. Anytime that’s an option, I’m thrilled. Those tickets were $363.70, and DMAI picked up the tab. The flight out was just fine, but the return? That didn’t go nearly as well.
JetBlue has two daily flights to Austin and the last one is at 919a. I didn’t need to get there that early, but I wasn’t about to even consider LAX. I left home an hour before departure and got to the airport with plenty of time. Walking toward security, I did a double-take. JetBlue had rolled out a “save water” baggage cart with drought tolerant landscape.
After going through security, I had plenty of time to kill. So I just spent time outside and watched my airplane get ready to go.
Soon we were boarding, and I had the unique experience of climbing the back stairs. I love this airport.
July 14, 2015
JetBlue 1416 Lv Long Beach 919a Arr Austin 213p
Long Beach (LGB): Gate 5, Runway 30, Depart 4m Early
Austin (AUS): Gate 19, Runway 17R, Arrive 13m Early
N584JB, Airbus A320-232, Barcode tail “Blue Fox”, ~95% Full
Seat 21A, Coach
Flight Time 2h34m
I took my seat (21A), happy to find that I would in fact have FlyFi internet on this flight. The Captain came out and spoke to everyone. He was in a good mood, talking about how he’s from Texas and asked if anyone else was. A lot of those onboard were indeed from that foreign country.
We took off through a thin marine layer and then pointed toward the southeast. The flight attendants came through with drinks first (I had a bottle of water) and then a basket of snacks. I snagged blue chips and some graham crackers and then flipped on the internet.
I wanted to take advantage of the MLB.TV deal which allows anyone to watch games for free, but sadly, this was one day where no baseball would be played. (Well, the All Star Game came on later that night, but that didn’t help.) Still, I tried streaming some highlights from the Home Run Derby and it was really choppy. Might not be ready for primetime yet. Instead, I just watched various news channels dissecting the Iran nuclear deal, and I did some work online.
When I first tried FlyFi back on my Vegas trip and tweeted about it, the JetBlue Twitter team asked for a selfie, but the flight was too short. I told them I’d send one on my flight the next week to Boston, but then I had no wifi on that flight. On this flight, I tweeted something about being on the airplane and quickly had a response from JetBlue asking me for that selfie. Good memories (or tools to help memories) over at JetBlue, it seems.
The rest of the flight passed quickly. There were a few bumps but the seatbelt sign never went on until descent. On final, the heat made for a bumpier ride and the kids in the row behind me screamed “we’re gonna crash!” They seemed to think that was funny, but their mom quickly dropped the hammer on that. They were shortly proven wrong when we landed. I hadn’t eaten much, so I stopped by Salt Lick BBQ and grabbed a sandwich before heading into Austin.
After giving my speech Friday morning, I was ready to head home. Unfortunately, JetBlue wasn’t. I got my first delay alert pretty early that it would be 30 minutes late. Then it kept slipping. According to JetBlue’s flight status, the delay was due to fatigued flight crew in Long Beach, where the airplane was coming from. In other words, I assume someone called in fatigued and they had to find another crew. The flight finally got out of Long Beach and they had us pegged at a 259p departure. Ok.
I got to the airport and started walking toward security. I had already checked in on the app, but when I opened it to pull up the boarding pass, it said something like “Hurry, your flight is boarding. If you need a boarding pass, go see a ticket agent.” The app showed the correct delayed time, so I have no idea why it wouldn’t let me pull up the boarding pass. But I had to double-back to the JetBlue ticket counter. There I found a kiosk, and it let me reprint my boarding pass. Then it was back to security again. Fun times.
I used the Pre Check line and my bag was flagged. At least I thought it was flagged. Nobody said anything. The guy operating the x-ray machine just put it next to him while I sat there waiting. About 5 minutes later, someone came up and took it, saying they saw a corkscrew. There was a lot of swag given out at this event, and I had forgotten about the corkscrew. Sure enough, there it was with a tiny blade. TSA confiscated it, not that I cared.
(Note to Fredericksburg, TX: You may be the heart of Texas “wine country” but handing out corkscrews and bottles of wine at events where most people arrive by air is not a good plan.)
Once through, I still had time to kill, but while I was staring at the departure boards, I noticed something. JetBlue had two flights scheduled at the same gate at the same time. The later flight from Long Beach, 1416, was getting in at 212p and then heading to Orlando at 254p as flight 2416. My flight was arriving at 229p and departing at 259p. Hmm, no.
I asked the gate agent and she said that there were no other gates they could use. So the plan was to turn that first flight around really quickly and leave 20 minutes early. Then we’d hop on our airplane. I was skeptical.
The first airplane arrived early at 158p and people slowly got off. At 218p, our airplane arrived, but they were just starting to pre-board the other flight. (And this was a flight to Orlando, so everyone thought they could pre-board.) This didn’t go quickly.
Eventually they got most people onboard, but there were a couple stragglers and they couldn’t close the door and push back early without them. One guy showed up out of breath, and it turns out he was on United. So he ran across the hall and barely made that flight. Then someone else casually strolled up and got on. They finally pushed back at 245p, only 9 minutes early. The people waiting for our flight were starting to get even more annoyed than they already were.
Our airplane pulled in a few minutes later, but there was no chance in hell that we’d make that 259p departure time. People took their time getting off. One girl got off and stood at the gate fuming. But there was nobody around because they were onboard cleaning the aircraft as quickly as possible.
They finally finished and got ready to board, but first, this girl standing at the counter was about to blow her top. I can’t say I blame her. She was coming from Long Beach on this flight and connecting to Orlando. Yes, that’s the flight that she watched push back early while her airplane spent 20 minutes waiting for the gate. To make things worse, the agent only offered to put her on the flight the next day. I really hope JetBlue got smart and bought her a ticket on the Southwest flight later that day. This was entirely JetBlue’s fault, and she got screwed.
I couldn’t stick around to watch and help, however, because they were making an effort to board us quickly.
July 17, 2015
JetBlue 217 Lv Austin 1242p Arr Long Beach 137p
Austin (AUS): Gate 19, Runway 17R, Depart 2h43m Late
Long Beach (LGB): Gate 9, Runway 30, Arrive 2h33m Late
N537JT, Airbus A320-232, Barcode tail “Red, White, and Blue”, ~90% Full
Seat 23A, Coach
Flight Time 2h33m
I was one of the first onboard in the back of the airplane and two flight attendants were standing there. I warned them that there were a lot of angry people coming. The response? A knowing look and one saying “this ain’t our first rodeo.”
I figured the most annoying part of the trip was behind us… until someone with awful body odor boarded somewhere nearby. Then the girl next to me started eating a nasty-looking pizza that stank. I had to find a way to occupy myself.
FlyFi? Nope. I somehow ended up on one of the only airplanes left that doesn’t have FlyFi. So it was just me and LiveTV. Of course, there’s not much going on at this time of day, so I had to settle for finding out if this one guy on Maury Povich had actually fathered 3 children with 3 different women. (Spoiler alert: he IS the father.)
We buttoned up and pushed back at 325p, long after the 259p estimate. Soon we were airborne and then it became just like any other flight. Though I should note that we had a fair bit of light chop but the seatbelt sign almost never went on. Kudos to the pilots for that.
We landed after 4p, more than 2.5 hours late, and I was drained. I couldn’t have been happier to be getting into Long Beach, knowing the 10 minute drive would be much easier.
I left this trip thinking that JetBlue could have handled this better than it did. It left a bad taste in my mouth, actually. But then, on Saturday, I received an email from JetBlue giving me a $50 voucher. I had completely forgotten that JetBlue automatically provides credit to people when flights are delayed for certain periods of time. That was a welcome surprise and it quickly changed my impression for the better. So, good job in the end, JetBlue, but you could have done a better job setting expectations on the delay.
While I was in Austin, I did a day trip to Houston for a day of flight attendant training with United. You can look for that report and more on training in the next couple weeks.