My First Southwest 737-800 Ride and LAX Is Getting Better (Trip Report)

If you thought this was my trip report for my 9 Airports, 1 Day adventure, then I’m sorry to disappoint. See, as if 8 flights in one day on Southwest wasn’t going to be enough, I committed to doing another 4 just a few days earlier. Southwest had an event up at Boeing where it was showing off its new interior with its new seats, and I was invited to come take a look. Considering how much I dislike the old seats, I didn’t want to miss this. I’ll write up the details of the seats soon, but today, it’s just a trip report for the flights up and back.

For this report, I want to focus on two things. 1) The ever-changing LAX Terminal 1 is finally getting better, and 2) This was my first time on a Southwest 737-800. So let’s get going.

[Full Disclosure: Southwest provided flights and hotel in Seattle.]

Since the only nonstops Southwest has from the LA Basin to Seattle are two poorly-timed flights from Orange County, I figured I’d just fly roundtrip from Long Beach via Oakland both ways. That WAS the plan until I got sick (again, I know). I didn’t want to cancel, but I did want to get to Seattle earlier so I’d have more time to rest before the next day’s festivities. Long Beach options are limited, so I chose something out of LAX via Sacramento. That second flight from Sacramento would be my first on a Southwest 737-800.

Southwest 4 Part Pass

Southwest still uses those old school paper tickets for non-revenue travel, so I had to go present myself at the counter to get a boarding pass. I was able to check in the day before, but since the change was made within 24 hours of travel, I ended up with B13 and B55 respectively.

There seemed to be a lot of confusion as one person said I could use the kiosk to get a boarding pass, but that didn’t work. So I went to the counter and the woman there said to get it at the gate. Then she just printed it out for me herself and told me to have them “put them together” at the gate. Ok.

I headed through security and found that once again, Terminal 1 looks a lot different. Now, all the gates in the first half of the building are open as are all the shops and restaurants.

The old shops on the west wall (I think it was just electronics and a newsstand) which were open last time are now closed and being renovated.

LAX Terminal 1 Closed Shops

Across the way, the brand new California Pizza Kitchen has opened (where the Mexican place used to be) along with new bathrooms behind it, finally. I’m guessing they doused the old bathrooms with acid and burned them to the ground. Those were nasty. I’m not sure that they built these new ones big enough, however, since the line for the women’s room was out the door.

LAX Terminal 1 New CPK

If you remember the old gate 7, the photo below is where you used to walk between the Mexican place and the bathrooms to access it. Now, it leads back to the new bathrooms and to the left, a brand new gate.

LAX Terminal 1 Entrance to Gate 13

Gate 13 shows off how nice it is to have the extended width of the terminal on that east side. It is much more spacious than in the old days, and there’s plenty of room for boarding. But that’s the only new gate open on that side as they continue to phase the rest of them as part of the project.

LAX Terminal 1 New Gate 13

When they opened gate 13, they closed off 18B at the end. Now there are only 4 of the old gates in use on the east side. Slowly but surely…

LAX Terminal 1 Old Gates

Our airplane pulled up with the new colors, and boarding began. I found my spot in line, and there was the usual scramble by people to figure out where they belonged. The guy in front of me said, “I’m 12.” I said ok, and then he turned around and said “I mean, that’s not my age, that’s my IQ.” I responded “well you found your place in line so it has to be higher than that.”

August 3, 2016
Southwest 1166 Lv Los Angeles 1250p Arr Sacramento 205p
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 16A, Runway 24L, Depart 1m Late
Sacramento (SMF): Gate B16, Runway 16L, Arrive 8m Early
N926WN, Boeing 737-7H4, Hot Dog on a Stick Colors, ~80% Full
Seat 8A, Coach
Flight Time 58m

Onboard I found the first empty window and settled in. The flight attendant was in a good, joking mood. His shtick was really cheesy and fit well with the clientele. It looked a lot like what you might find at a bar in a retirement community at 3pm on a Wednesday. I don’t remember much of what he said exactly, but I did like his last line. “Sit back and relax or sit up straight and be all tense, whatever you prefer.”

Southwest New Livery Engine Cowling

We were airborne quickly and then the flight was entirely uneventful. I had a ginger ale and pretzels and before I knew it, we were on our way into Sacramento a few minutes early. I can’t say it’s often that I see a C-17 on final approach, so this was pretty exciting.

C17 on Approach to Sacramento

It was time for the main event… though not quite yet. My connecting airplane was late coming in, and we would be about an hour behind schedule. What was a short 35 minute connection ballooned into an hour and three quarters. I hadn’t been in the new Sacramento terminal before, and it took me about 5 minutes to explore.

Empty Sacramento Gates

The eastern half seemed just about entirely empty when I was there. It looks like there’s a whole lot of room for growth. There were a lot of restaurants, so I found one, had some soup, and worked.

Once it seemed like it would be time to board, I headed over. I was then presented with a dilemma. It was a clear day in Seattle and airplanes were landing to the north. Should I pay $40 to get early boarding (you can do that if they have empty Business Select spots) and guarantee a right side window to see Mt Rainier? Or should I chance it? I went with the latter.

Nobody seemed to be in a hurry and boarding was slow. I know it’s a larger 737-800, but it still took an incredible 51 minutes to turn that airplane around. I’ve seen legacy carriers turn a 737-800 around faster than that. This felt like a different Southwest.

I saw Mr “My IQ is 12” was on this flight as well, and he tried to board. I say “tried” because he got to the front and the agent told him that he was in the wrong boarding group. Ha! I could only chuckle considering our previous conversation about him being able to find the right spot.

August 3, 2016
Southwest 1117 Lv Sacramento 240p Arr Seattle 420p
Sacramento (SMF): Gate B20, Runway 16R, Depart 1h4m Late
Seattle (SEA): Gate B10, Runway 34C, Arrive 58m Late
N8655D, Boeing 737-8H4, Hot Dog on a Stick Colors, ~85% Full
Seat 3F, Coach
Flight Time 1h18m

Onboard, I first noticed the marbley-looking mini-galley area right when I walked in which seemed awkward. (It’s going away in the new interior.) Past that, the first thing I noticed was that the Boeing Sky Interior does make the airplane look a lot better. Here’s the old interior from my first flight.

Southwest 737 Old Interior

And here’s the Sky Interior.

Southwest 737-800 Sky Interior

I know, maybe not the best shot, but that’s because I was really lucky. Seat 3F was wide open despite my boarding late, and it was next to a very nice older couple (who I later found out were on their way to a family reunion). Score.

The flight attendants were barking at people to sit down so we could get moving, and they appeared visibly annoyed when someone who I don’t believe spoke English very well was just wandering around after the door had closed. (They weren’t the only ones annoyed.) They did get him down and we pushed back over an hour late.

The pilots did seem to want to get us out of there fast. We moved quickly to the runway and then launched mightily into the sky. A sharp left turn shortly after takeoff had us pointing toward Seattle.

I flipped through the magazine, and that took me about 5 minutes. Then I failed to find anything worth watching on TV, so I mostly stared out the window. That’s a beautiful route with views of Crater Lake, Mt Hood, Mt St Helens, and then the baddest of them all, Mt Rainier. I snapped this shot of the scimitar winglet giving Mt Rainier a kiss on the way down.

Southwest Winglet Kissing Mt Rainier

The flight itself was fast, but our taxi times were a little slow thanks to having to cross multiple runways. We pulled into the gate, and I was happy to be able to jump off quickly from my perch up front.

Two days later, it was time to head back. I stuck with my plan to fly via Oakland back to Long Beach this time, and it all worked well, especially since it was a direct flight with me not having to get off in Oakland. I got to the airport about an hour before departure and the security lines were really long. Fortunately the Pre Check line moved quickly, so I had nothing to worry about. Once at the gate, I waited a bit until it was time to board.

August 5, 2016
Southwest 1024 Lv Seattle 945a Arr Oakland 1150a
Seattle (SEA): Gate B10, Runway 34R, Depart 3m Early
Oakland (OAK): Gate 22, Runway 30, Arrive 8m Early
N404WN, Boeing 737-7H4, Canyon Blue Colors, ~95% Full
Seat 11F, Coach
Flight Time 1h42m

Once I got on, I found a window and parked it. I had to snap this shot from our taxi out, because it’s just so rare to see the old girl these days.

Delta 747-400 at Seattle

We took off to the north, looped around and pointed south. I remember very little from this flight, so it must have been perfectly fine. We circled around to land from the south and then we parked. Nearly everyone got off. Once the flight attendants had done their count, I moved up to row 2 and made sure to sit on the left side so I could have a good view on the way down to Long Beach.

August 5, 2016
Southwest 1024 Lv Oakland 1220p Arr Long Beach 145p
Oakland (OAK): Gate 22, Runway 30, Depart 1m Late
Long Beach (LGB): Gate 1, Runway 30, Arrive 9m Early
N404WN, Boeing 737-7H4, Canyon Blue Colors, ~99% Full
Seat 2A, Coach
Flight Time 1h2m

Once everyone else boarded, we took off and started heading back south. Had I been on the right, I would have had a spectacular view of most of San Francisco. Instead being on the left, I settled for this view of the former Candlestick Park. It’s gone.

Flying Out of Oakland

We skirted along the coast all the way down and landed nice and early. I hopped off and headed home, knowing I’d be back for my insane day of flying just three days later.

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