Trip Report: Indy for Christmas

I made it back last night from the second annual Christmas trip to see my girlfriend’s family in Indianapolis and all went well. Tickets were over $500 roundtrip when we started looking a few months ago, so it took a little creativity to get the price down. We took US Airways on the outbound and after using an ~$80 credit, it was $221.60 out of pocket purchased on October 21. Since my girlfriend had to be at work this morning, we came back Christmas afternoon using a Southwest Rapid Rewards ticket which cost a whopping $2.50. Not a bad deal at all.

There were two main reasons for choosing US Airways for the outbound. One, it allowed us both to qualify for Silver Elite status next year. Two, it meant we could fly out of Long Beach Airport instead of the bound-to-be-crazy LAX on the busy Friday travel day.

Since it was Long Beach, we didn’t feel the need to get to the airport until 45 minutes prior to our 650a flight. When we got there, there were about 10 people in line, but they got everyone through with amazing efficiency – less than 5 minutes. The only thing that was a little nerve-wracking was looking behind the counter and seeing luggage stacked up in piles.

We headed to security and found a 15 minute line in a surprising rain with temperatures in the low 40s. Ugh. Our flight was going out at the same time as an Alaska flight to Seattle so everyone was waiting for those two flights. Once through, we went straight onboard with 15 minutes to spare.


December 22, 2006
US Airways #200 Lv Long Beach (LGB) 650a Arr Phoenix (PHX) 923a
LGB: Gate 21, Runway 30, Dept 11m Late
PHX: Gate A1, Runway 8, Arr 4m Late
Aircraft: N307AW, Boeing 737-300, America West colors, 8/8 in First, 126/126 in Coach
Flight Time: 51m
Seat: 4A, Coach

This flight was recently upgauged to a 737-300 from a CRJ-900 and it was completely packed that morning. We took a few minute delay so they could load all the bags that were stacked up, and then we taxied out to the runway and sat for 5 to 10 minutes due to a traffic backup in Phoenix. We took off into the rain, climbed above the clouds quickly and then made our way to Phoenix. There was a low overcast in Phoenix which may have explained the earlier delay, but landing was easy and we had a short taxi to the gate. Then we headed over to the gate for our flight to Indy.


December 22, 2006
US Airways #460 Lv Phoenix (PHX) 1037a Arr Indianapolis (IND) 400p
PHX: Gate A22, Runway 7L, Dept 42m Late
IND: Gate D6, Runway 23L, Arr 46m Late
Aircraft: N637AW, Airbus A320, New white colors, 12/12 in First, 138/138 in Coach
Flight Time: 2h53m
Seat: 11A, Coach

This was the same connection we took back in August to Indy, and once again, we were unhappy to find our flight delayed. This time it was posted as 20 minutes, but I knew it wouldn’t be that quick. It turned out that our plane was coming in from Chicago/O’Hare and it sounded like the crew was late getting in the night before, so they were delayed coming out in the morning. The plane pulled up at the gate about 15 minutes before scheduled departure, and it took them a very long hour to turn it.

Part of the problem with the slow turn could have been that the plane was oversold and they were struggling to find volunteers. They made numerous announcements offering to put people up for THREE nights in Phoenix and give them seatback advertisingall meals – flying them out Christmas day. As you can imagine, there weren’t many takers, so I’m sure there were some really unhappy people left at the gate.

Once onboard, I noticed that this aircraft had tray table advertising on it. My first experience a couple years ago was very negative since the picture was of a guy in his underwear seemingly staring at me while selling his wares for Dillard’s department store, but this time it was much more subdued. As you can see on the left, the ad for Verizon was pretty low key and unobtrusive since I could just put up the tray table and be done with it.

By the time we pushed back, it had started raining in Phoenix but there were no delays. We took off to the east and, once above the clouds, had a perfectly smooth flight to Indy. The service was average at best on this flight. They only did one drink service and one buy-on-board pass for the almost three hour flight. We both slept through that service and didn’t have another chance to get anything to drink. They showed the movie “Elf” but I didn’t watch it because when I wasn’t sleeping I was eagerly reading David McCullough’s addicting book “1776” or I was reading the barfbagbarf bag to find out how I could advertise on US Airways. I’m not kidding, see the picture.

As we approached Indy, we could see that the rain storm had cleared out and there were only a few low scattered clouds. We passed over the airport with a great view of the cool looking new terminal under construction, looped around downtown and then landed. As usual, we had a loooooong taxi all the way back to the terminal where it took probably 45 minutes to get bags. At least they showed up this time.

We had a nice time eating our way through the weekend in Indy. There was great food everywhere we turned, and it was a lot of fun hanging out with my girlfriend’s family. After having Christmas “dinner” around noon, we headed to the airport in a driving rain for our flight home.

We got to the airport almost 2 hours early and there was no need for it. The ticket counter was basically empty so it took no time to check in. Most of the stores were closed, so we just went through security. It was about a 10 minute line because not that many security lanes were open, but we weren’t in a hurry. Once through, I passed time in the bar watching the Lakers get crushed. Our plane came in from Tampa about 30 minutes before our departure and then we boarded at the back of the A group. (I refuse to stand in line when I know I’ll get a good seat even at the back of A.)


December 25, 2006
Southwest #1535 Lv Indianapolis (IND) 330p Arr Kansas City (MCI) 400p
IND: Gate C9, Runway 5R, Dept On Time
MCI: Gate 32, Runway 1R, Arr 4m Early
Aircraft: N679AA, Boeing 737-300, Canyon Blue colors, 137/137 in Coach
Flight Time: 1h5m
Seat: 14A, Coach

My girlfriend and I took an empty row behind the exit, but we quickly found that the flight was full so there would be no room to stretch out on this flight. This was my first ride on a Southwest 737-300 in 2 1/2 years. This particular aircraft was built 20 years ago for Air Cal, used by American after they purchased Air Cal, and then eventually sold to Southwest.

We pushed back on time and had the “pleasure” of taking off to the east. That meant yet another looooooooong taxi before we were airborne. As I mentioned, it was raining really hard, so after taking off we were in the soup pretty quickly. It was a smooth ride through the weather and we popped out of the clouds into a brilliant blue sky within a few minutes. There was light turbulence most of the way to Kansas City. When we got there, the sky was blue and it was breezy, but landing was uneventful.


December 25, 2006
Southwest #1535 Lv Kansas City (MCI) 430p Arr Los Angeles (LAX) 610p
MCI: Gate 32, Runway 1L, Dept On Time
LAX: Gate 3, Runway 24L, Arr 25m Early
Aircraft: N679AA, Boeing 737-300, Canyon Blue colors, 137/137 in Coach
Flight Time: 3h06m
Seat: 14A, Coach

This was a through flight, so we hung back on the plane with probably another 30 to 40 through passengers as they turned the plane quickly. The flight was packed full yet again, but this time we learned it was because many customers had been reaccommodated from US Airways flight 372 which was going Indy to Phoenix but diverted to Kansas City due to smoke and then canceled. Even with the heavy load, we managed to turn in 30 minutes and headed on our way to LAX.

wnrockiesThis flight was fantastic. We chased the sun all the way west and there were only high clouds just above us that lit up with bright oranges, reds, and yellows. The Rockies were obviously covered in feet of snow, and the view was incredible. I’ve attached a pic here from my cell phone (yes, it was in airplane mode) that most certainly doesn’t do it justice.

Service onboard was also excellent. The crew was very friendly and did multiple passes with drinks, snack boxes, and peanuts. (Man, do I miss peanuts onboard every other airline.)

We could see the lights of Palm Springs in the distance as we started our descent into LAX. You could see for miles all around and there was only a light wind off the ocean as we glided in without a bump. Fortunately, our gate was open even though we were half an hour early (thank you light Christmas scheduling). Our bag was the last one off, so it took 30 minutes. We then hopped in a cab (remember, we flew out of Long Beach originally) and headed home.

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