Trip Report: Florida Deja Vu

American, Trip Reports

It seems like just last month that I was heading to Florida for a wedding. Oh wait, it was. This past weekend, I did it all over again. This time two of my good friends were marrying each other on Longboat Key, a surprisingly nice area near Sarasota. (Anything nice in Florida is surprising to me.) Though we had wanted to fly into nearby Sarasota airport, the fares to Tampa were much better, so we went there. We ended up buying tickets in mid-Feb on American for $340.60 per person.

Something new on this trip . . . the guys over at now allow you to get a personalized prediction for turbulence on your trip. I submitted my request in their forum here and it was actually pretty close to accurate.

May 3, 2007
American #276 Lv Los Angeles (LAX) 1125p Arr Miami (MIA) 710a
LAX: Gate 45, Runway 25R, Dept 47m Late
MIA: Gate D42, Runway 8L, Arr 38m Late
Aircraft: N175AN, Boeing 757-200, Silver colors, ~99% Full
Flight Time: 4h15m
Seat: 20E, Coach

We arrived at LAX an hour before the flight to find the security line a mess. Fortunately, it only took 15 minutes to get through all the chaos of lines crossing and surly ID checkers.We sat at the gate and passed the time staring at people as they walked by. The Rod Stewart look-a-like (with tight pants and all) combined with the 60 year old woman with no body part older than 10 made for a good night for watching. The plane was a bit late coming from Dallas, and they took a long time to turn it, so the departure time kept creeping ever-later. Boarding was messy. They called up Groups 1, 2, and 3. Finally they just gave up and everyone started getting in line. No other announcement was made, so we just joined the crowd.

07_05_08 headcoverThe gate agent taking boarding passes was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and sweatpants. I would have had no idea if she was an employee or not if it weren’t for the ID hanging around her neck. Boarding was extremely slow as everyone apparently decided to carry on a 100 pound bag that took at least a minute to hoist up to the overhead bin.

Finally, 45 minutes late, we took off. I promptly passed out and slept through the movie and a drink service. A couple hours later, probably somewhere over eastern Texas, the chop picked up and I wasn’t able to sleep anymore. Once it smoothed out, the sun started coming up and despite my best efforts to hide (at left), I knew I wasn’t going back to bed.

It was a beautiful morning in Miami, and we glided right in to the airport.

May 4, 2007
American #1234 Lv Miami (MIA) 830a Arr Tampa (TPA) 925a
MIA: Gate D31, Runway 8L, Dept 2m Early
TPA: Gate F79, Runway 18R, Arr 8m Late
Aircraft: N934AN, Boeing 737-800, Silver colors, ~50% Full
Flight Time: 34m
Seat: 9A, Coach

We only had a 45 minute layover since our original flight was delayed, so we were happy to find our connecting gate not very far away. We made it a few minutes before boarding began for the half-full flight. This time, after First Class and elite frequent fliers, they boarded everyone else at once.We departed to the east and had a nice view of Miami before turning back around. The flight attendants said the flight was too short to do a beverage service, so they wouldn’t be coming through the aisle at all.Flashback: December 2005 I flew Ft Lauderdale to Tampa on Southwest. The flight was 5 minutes longer, but it was completely full unlike this one. They started taking drink orders on the ground and did a full beverage service. Kudos to Southwest. American easily could have done a run here if they wanted to.

May 6, 2007
American #1965 Lv Tampa (TPA) 125p Arr Dallas/Ft Worth (DFW) 305p
TPA: Gate F79, Runway 18R, Dept 2m Late
DFW: Gate A9, Runway 17C, Arr 11m Early
Aircraft: N7549A, Douglas DC-9-82, Silver colors, ~99% Full
Flight Time: 2h1m
Seat: 16A, Coach

It didn’t seem like long before we were already on our way back to the airport to come home. This time it was a day full of MD-80s. Not my idea of fun.We got to the airport about an hour before the flight and had a 10 minute security wait. Boarding began on-time and soon we were airborne. They offered drinks but no food for sale. Just under 2 hours later, we landed in a very humid and hazy day in Dallas.We taxied to the most northerly gate in the terminal and prepared to hike to our next flight all the way down in the D terminal. When we got off the plane, we saw there was a flight leaving an hour before ours over in the C terminal so we decided to wander over there to see if we could get on.

This was my first time in the new above ground Skylink system at DFW and it’s a vast improvement over the old trAAm. My only complaint is that the little door opening/closing chime was stuck in my head for hours afterwards.

May 6, 2007
American #2457 Lv Dallas/Ft Worth (DFW) 340p Arr Los Angeles (LAX) 500p
DFW: Gate C28, Runway 18L, Dept 3m Early
LAX: Gate 42B, Runway 25L, Arr 11m Late
Aircraft: N593AA, Douglas DC-9-83, Silver colors, 100% Full
Flight Time: 2h47m
Seat: 13E, Coach

We got to the gate of the earlier flight and the agent said we didn’t have much of a shot. She did offer to put us on the list anyway though, so we took her up on it. Sure enough, we were the last three called and even though it meant giving up our prime seats on the later flight, we decided it was worth it considering the potential for thunderstorms popping up as the day progressed.We walked on to the MD-80 and it was bad from the start. My friend had seat 12E next to a very large man who was angry that someone showed up for the middle seat. His demeanor quickly changed and he started talking my friend’s ear off for at least the first half hour of the flight. I was in the middle seat behind, and my seatmates were silent . . . until I needed to get up to go to the bathroom. The guy on the aisle gave me a look like he wanted to kill me. Needless to say, I didn’t get up again.I thought I was being generous offering my girlfriend the only window seat they gave us, but little did I know she had one of the worst seats in the house. I didn’t even know this configuration existed on American anymore, but she was in 31A, the window seat on the left side wedged in between the galley and the lav. It provided a thrilling up-close view of . . . the engine. I offered to switch but she said she didn’t mind going deaf from engine noise, so I trudged back to my seat hoping the aisle-keeper would let me back in without harming me.

Anyway, we had a slight delay in taking off because storms to the west meant reduced capacity for departures heading that way. Once airborne, we leveled at a very low 22,000 ft. Apparently, higher altitudes were crowded due to the storms, so we were going to fly low and cut through a hole in the weather. And this really was a hole. There were good-sized storm cells on our left and our right. The cells were connected across the top and bottom with clouds as well, but there was a big hole in the middle. So we punched through it without much turbulence at all and then climbed up to 32,000 ft.

07_05_08 labasinThe flight attendants announced buy-on-board, but there was none actually offered. We were pretty hungry but American doesn’t even have peanuts or pretzels anymore. I’m not sure what happened there. Either way, the so-called “full service” carrier provided much less than that the entire day. AA offered nothing more than a low cost carrier would except for assigned seats. This particular MD-80 didn’t even have powerports. At least on Southwest we would have had a snack box.

The flight was choppy a lot of the way, and when we started into LA, it got rougher. The Santa Ana winds must have been kicking up, because along with the rough ride came beautifully clear vistas all the way around (Downtown LA, at right). We landed on the newly moved runway 25L and sat around waiting for them to fix a broken plane at our gate. Finally they gave up and put us in another gate, slightly more than an hour before our original plane would have landed.

Next up . . . trying out ExpressJet this weekend for a flight to Tucson.

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