Jetting to Smurf (Trip Report)

JetBlue, Trip Reports

I love trips like this. Just as our cold June and early July gave way to sizzling 90 degree heat, it was time for me to head to the mountains. My brother and I joined 7 other guys for some Fishing in Tahoedrinking, hiking, and fishing up at Lake Tahoe.

What the heck does this have to do with Smurfs? Well, in the airline pricing world, you rarely say the name of a city. Instead, you just sound out the airport code. Even though there’s no “r” in SMF (the airport code for Sacramento), it somehow became known as Smurf.

I had the option of flying out of LAX to Reno and then driving an hour or flying from Long Beach to Sacramento on JetBlue and driving two hours. Needless to say, I chose Sacramento and the tickets were $179.40 roundtrip.

As usual, I left for the airport an hour before the flight and I was sitting around in the boarding lounge (read: double wide trailer) within 20 minutes. For midday flights when the lines are shorter, I may just start leaving home later.

July 15, 2010
JetBlue 262 Lv Long Beach 1119a Arr Sacramento 1237p
Long Beach (LGB): Gate 2A, Runway 30, Depart 1m Early
Sacramento (SMF): Gate B25, Runway 16R, Arrive 6m Early
N589JB, Airbus A320, Blue Skies Ahead, ~75% Full
Seat 6F
Flight Time 1h2m

When we started boarding, the friendly gate agent was very careful to tell people where to go, especially since it was a long walk to the plane. He said something like “when you get out there, stay within the metal fences and you’ll get to the plane. It’s the only one out there and it’s called Blue Skies Ahead.” I started smirking, thinking about people wandering aimlessly looking for planes, getting lost, left to die. It’ll be nice when the ramp work is done here.

The flight was completely uneventful and enjoyable. I do have only a couple minor nits that JetBlue might want to think about.

I get that LiveTV is free, and I have no trouble with JetBlue putting ads up to make revenue off the product, but I hate the timing. They let you watch TV on the ground without any issues, but then when you take off, they run ads for a couple minutes. I was in the middle of watching the Daily Show at the time, and I missed the end because of the JetBlue ads.

The other issue is with this “express” service. Once again it was water, Coke, Diet Coke, or Sprite along with Doritos, Munchie Mix, and Animal Crackers. That was it. Since JetBlue has been promoting its new blueberry juice option, I thought I’d give it a try. Not on this flight. Same for my beloved ginger ale. And not even blue chips?

I asked the flight attendant what the cutoff was for a normal service. She said it was an hour, and then looked a bit sheepish after realizing the captain had just told us our flight would be an hour and two minutes. She then said, “Well, it’s really by route. We just don’t have enough time to do a full service on a full flight.”

That Sacramento Terminal Bexcuse was pretty lame since this flight wasn’t nearly full, and the flight attendants had plenty of time to sit in the back of the plane and chat. I know the flight attendants don’t decide if they run a full service or not, so something tells me management might want to look at this policy again.

Other than those minor annoyances, the flight was great. We landed a couple minutes early in the retro Sacramento Terminal B. I was on my way to meet my brother and friends to head up to Lake Tahoe.

It was a fantastic weekend, and after the nine of us caught 27 salmon in the lake, we had a great feast. Tired and a little hungover, we headed back down the mountain.Sacramento Restroom As you would expect, there was traffic on a Sunday afternoon, but we arrived at Sacramento Airport as planned at 430p. I dumped them off for their flight and then I went to return the car before mine.

The shuttle dropped me off again at Terminal B, which lies in the shadows of the massive new Sacramento terminal project. That’ll have to be the subject of another post. For now, I was stuck in a time warp. (Check out the restroom sign.) I sailed through security and popped on to free wifi to do some work before it was time to board.

July 18, 2010
JetBlue 265 Lv Sacramento 645p Arr Long Beach 807p
Sacramento (SMF): Gate B25, Runway 16R, Depart On Time
Long Beach (LGB): Gate 2, Runway 30, Arrive 11m Early
N504JB, Airbus A320, Shades of Blue, ~100% Full
Seat 9A
Flight Time 1h0m

Although the plane came in on time from Long Beach, it was slow to deplane and we found ourselves pushing up against the departure time. Finally, we started boarding and it started with a bit of bad news.

I saw that we were on N504JB, the second airplane JetBlue took on back in 2000. It looked good for its age, but the insides weren’t keeping up today. They announced that LiveTV wasn’t working. Boo . . . ish. I love LiveTV, but I get a $15 credit (as does everyone else on the flight) since it didn’t work. I’ll take it.

The boarding process was nothing short of awesome. A woman whom I believed to be the station manager started walking the line, making sure everyone had their boarding passes out and even tore off pieces to make sure it would be easy for the gate agent to rip. We boarded very quickly and pushed almost right on time. Great work.

Once onboard, I found a packed flight, and of course, I was the one sitting next to the guy who just had to be farting his way through. On top of that, he was talkative. Without LiveTV to hide behind, I was in trouble.

Fortunately, he did let up as we made a mad dash toward the runway. We launched into the warm evening and headed out toward the Sierras. It was a beautiful ride down as we butted up against the foothills Sunset Coming in to LGBthe whole way. We had another express beverage service and I did some work.

We descended in over a smoggy LA. I had a great view of the beach on my left and enjoyed watching airplanes come out of LAX, climbing high as we dropped down.

We came through the thin marine layer before landing in a nice and cool Long Beach.

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30 comments on “Jetting to Smurf (Trip Report)

  1. For what its worth –

    I fly jetBlue atleast twice per month for the longest time I also hated the ads that played. On a recent BOS – CLT flight for some reason the ads didn’t kick in. Unfortunately for a solid 5 – 10 minutes of the assent the signal was blotchy. It’d be there then click over to a black screen with a small blue bar at the bottom that read ‘searching for signal’. I found myself switching over to XM (which worked most of the time) and watching my neighbors screens to know when TV was back.

    This whole experience made me not hate the ads as much… then again those Hanes T-Shirt Ads are only funny once.

    Conversely I’ve also been on a flight where the ads didn’t click off correctly and they just replayed about 6 times until a flight attendant reset the whole system. I’ve always wondered why the whole LiveTV system is so finicky.

  2. I’m with you on the timing of the ads. You’ve settled into watching something, and then it has to interrupt you. But the timing must maximise the number of eyeballs it gets; if you do it on the ground before the safety announcement, then not everybody will be at their seat yet.

    The express service never bothered me. And switching between express and full service on the same flight, depending on the load, would just be complicated and confusing for everybody.

  3. Over here at SWA, even though we dont have tv … we still do full service. Every leg. Even between OAK and RNO. Unless there is turbulence and it is a safety issue.

    1. I agree, I’ve flown between the bay area and southern California or OAK-RNO, SJC-RNO, SFO-RNO and over the years all the airlines always had a full drink service using the beverage cart. To not have one is either the airline being cash poor and can’t supply all the different type drinks to offer or maybe it is just flight attendants who decide they don’t want to work very hard on a given flight so do the short version.

  4. “””””They announced that LiveTV wasn’t working. Boo . . . ish. I love LiveTV, but I get a $15 credit (as does everyone else on the flight) since it didn’t work. I’ll take it.”””””

    So how eactly do they give everyone a credit?

    A farting/talking seatmate, now that is ‘Live’ entertainment…

  5. Brett, first of all, can’t wait to see your take on our new Terminal B. Second, as one who has lived all 32 years of his life in Sacramento, I have never heard SMF be called “Smurf.” So that is a new one for me. Most people here refer to it by saying S-M-F, just like people saying LAX. Of course the real jackasses in the media call it Sacramento Intergalactic Airport in reference to its international designation (before we had flights to Mexico, when it was designated as an int’l. airport but had no flights at that time).

    1. “I have never heard SMF be called ‘Smurf.’ So that is a new one for me. Most people here refer to it by saying S-M-F, just like people saying LAX.”

      Just be glad you don’t live in Fresno or Sioux City. ;-)

    2. Yeah, this was just something that we used in the pricing world. Not sure where it came from, but that’s always how we referred to it. But then again, we threw airport codes around so often that you wouldn’t know what the heck we were talking about if you didn’t live in it every day. Even SFO was too much for us. It just became a single syllable “spho.”

  6. A farting/talking seatmate, now that is ‘Live’ entertainment…

    Talk about being passive agressive!

    Sorry…I couldn’t let that one pass without commenting. LOL

  7. First of all David, JB & SWA do not use carts. SWA takes orders on the ground, pours drinks b4 delivering them, has less choices & tosses peanuts to you (on the short hauls.) All good-I love SWA & their Brand consistency.

    JetBlue on the otherhand serves the whole can, has tons of drink & snack choices, sells headsets for the Live TV and bigger airplanes. With transcons lasting up to 6.5 hrs or a quicky like JFK-BUF or LGB-SMF/LAS/SFO/OAK they choose to have 3 levels of service. My best advice- if you have a special request & ask nicely the crew is happy to oblige.

    JB also often has promotional products i.e. red/wht/blue Terra Chips & blueberry juice that supplies vary. Inconsistent yes, but nice to have the change sometimes.

    1. I had said over the years so if Western, United, PSA, AirCal, Contiinental, Pan AM, and TWA could have set up the beverage cart, slowly moved the cart down the aisle and servicing each passenger, then stowed the cart all in less flying time then schedules show today, I think Jetblue shouldn’t be saying there is not enough time to do a full service between southern California and nothern California.

    2. I took a flight in Turkey last year from Izmir to Istanbul, 55 minutes wheels up to wheels down. Turkish Airlines managed to serve a drink AND dinner from a cart during that time, and come by and pick up the garbage to boot. So, you most certainly can do a full service on an hour long flight. Methinks JetBlue’s management is just being cheap.

      And for the record, my experience with WN is that the “safety” issue comes up quite a lot. I had two flights in a two week period, one from TUL-DAL and another from MCI-STL where the FAs announced before we took off that there would be no service due to turbulence, and the seat belt sign stayed on the entire time. Not so much as a bump the entire flight either time. Granted, it was probably just “good” luck and coincidence both times, but still…

  8. I used to work for JetBlue and I never found out why they do this dumb “express service”. My family and I flew from SLC to LGB recently (a 1.5 hour flight) and they took the “express” route as well. On top of that, they were out of some of the “express” snack choices.

    I figure if Southwest F/A’s can do a “full service” on their flight of 38 minutes from LAS to ONT, then JetBlue should be able to handle a full service on an hour flight. They hand out the full can of soda and don’t even have to pour (which I love). Come on JetBlue, where’s the JetBlue Experience?

    1. Rex I was thinking the same thing, if they hand out the full can the service would be faster since they don’t have to open the can, pour some, wait for the fizz to go down to finish filling the cup.

    2. I know those flights SLC to LGB are funny due to turbulence? That would be the only way that would have occured? As you know the catering in LGB is very minimal if you worked for jet blue. So yes they could have been out. But if you got express service then the 2 snack choices they would have had or if consumed by you’re flight replaced by another? Let’s all be realistic here and 1 hour flight is really about 15 to 20 minutes of service time if you take away the time from take off to 10,000 and the inital decent. In that time frame you have to set up, give out drinks, snacks, collect garbage and clean up and make sure galley is secure. To top if of you have safety duties to preform. Now you tell me how do you expect to do all this doing a regular service, unless you nix some of you’re duties? Also remember they have no carts. I for one choose to have nothing nixed as far as duties when flying 35,000ft up in the air. I rather be safe and bring my own drinks/snacks than complain about an express service. People safety should be you’re first priority not complaining about what you didn’t get?

  9. Thanks Cranky, always enjoy your trip reports.

    Flying into SMF, when you want to get to Tahoe or RNO. Yes, I’ve done that too. Of course, the drive up and over the pass was part of what I wanted to experience. A little different than driving along the Potomac. But, when you really don’t want to put up with such dirves?

    Way back when, when life was not so modern, so advanced, so, well, whatever, we had things called “joint fares.” Of course, it was often a challenge to get the know-it-all “majors'” reservations sales agents first, admit such things as an IAD-LAS-Grand Canyon joint fare existed, then, actually force them to make the effort to find a seat on the two legs. Of couse, the “joint” was typically a few dollars higher than some almost similar “local” but, they were great.

    Are there no such things, like a LGB-SMF-RNO, or any other routing joint fares still out there? Shouldn’t DOT require “joint fares?” Add in requiring “interlining” and my day is made!

    1. Nobody flies from SMF to RNO, so that wouldn’t work. I’m sure I could have done LGB-OAK-RNO if I wanted, but why? It’s only an hour longer drive from SMF to where we were staying than from RNO. It makes no sense to connect.

  10. I am a 20 yr FA with one of the bigboys. I too have never heard of SMF refered to as “smurf” city. And SMF is a regular for me. As far as the express service goes, at my carrier if there is a differant service level offered we most likely were not boarded a full galley to offer a full service even if we wanted.

  11. I used to live in Sacrameno for years and flew in and out of the airport back in the golden era of of PSA and Air Cal with one runway and one terminal. I commonly referred to the airport as “Smurf”, but have since replaced it with “Sac” or even “Sac-of-Tomatoes”. However, I have never heard anyone else ever use the “Smurf” term until today, so I’m going to make the leap and conclude that I was the actual founder of the name. Yep.

    Anyway, I digress. Yes, the JB express service is occasionally used by our inflight on segments hovering just “above” the one-hour mark, which in my opinion stems from several factors, but agree that if SWA can do it, why can’t we? The JetBlue experience must not fade as the seniority of its inflight crew ages with the airline.

  12. B6’s “express service” annoys me too. I’m convinced someone in the B6 inflight service department used to work at USAir/US Airways back in the ’90s, which also gave choices of Coke, Sprite, Diet Coke, or water (sometimes 3 of the 4) on an “express beverage service” flight. Those were very short segments like CLT-GSP, not an hour and a half flight. I flew IAD-BOS on a morning flight and after a 2-hour ground delay and close to an hour and a half flight, I wasn’t able to get a coffee (and I asked as nicely as I could). Ryan, the reason it’s annoying is because JetBlue promotes free snacks very aggressively and saying “not all selections may be available” says they may be out of animal crackers or chips, not that they are serving only 4 pre-poured beverages and no snacks. Setting expectations a primary step in customer service, so if JetBlue only does an “express service” on flights scheduled under 90 minutes, I have *no* problem with it, just tell people ahead of time (not once in the air – besides weather conditions that could curtail inflight service). Besides that, I think JetBlue is great!

  13. Showed this to my Aunt, a former SWA FA from the old days. She about fell out of her chair. Yeah, 137 isn’t 150, but when you’re flying from AUS to HOU in 30 mins wheels up to wheels down, it doesn’t really make a difference, does it?

    Sling those drinks and flip them nuts ladies (and gents)! It ain’t called work for nuthin! ;-)

  14. Here’s the facts.
    Jetblue’s express service: morning express service (up to 10am) consisting of Water, Orange Fusion, or Dunkin Donuts Coffee followed by 2 snacks of the crews choosing.
    Standard express service: (any express service after 10am) consisting of Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite or Water followed by 2 snacks of the crews choosing.

    Express services at Jetblue are not contingent upon the lenght of the flight, but rather specific routes chosen by the company.

    These duties are decided by the company and not the flight attendants.

  15. OK, I’ve been a flight attendant for 7 years at JB so I’ll give a little info on how these things work. First of all, to do a full service on an hour flight is VERY tight. Yes, maybe it can be done, but think about it….How would you feel if we started doing a full service and then half way thru the flight the captain tells us to sit down for 15 mins due to turbulance. Now, the first half of each section got their famous large jetBlue selection, and you ended up getting nothing because we ran out of time. The express service is quick and assures that even if something happens during the flight, there should still be enough time so everyone get’s something. The other reason I find is that remember we are traveling with the general public. If there is too much of a selection, you tend to get a lot of people who when asked what they want, end up telling you…..ummmm……..I guess……ummm….. It just looks more professional to have an easy-going express service than a rushed full service. Besides, how much do you really need for an hour??

    Didn’t get your Blue Chips?? Actually, if the plane does 2 short haul flights, we have enough to do one type of chips for one flight, and the other for the second flight. You didn’t get our famous Blue Chips, but the flight before you (or maybe after you) didn’t get the mixed harmony of the Munchie Mix. It’s just the luck of the draw.

    With the TV issues on the west coast, for some reason when we are climbing out in the west, we don’t get signal until we reach a higher altitude. I don’t know why. This doesn’t happen anywhere else.

    …..and the TV ads, OK I’m with you on that one!! Not only am I a flight attendant, but I’m a commuter. I tend to work and then commute home at night. Nothing like missing the end of Saturday Night Live. ughhh!! Honestly, I would much rather have it that we couldn’t watch TV during boarding. Then at least you don’t feel so bad when you get your show cut off!!! :)

    If you have the opportunity, take a longer flight on JB and experience our full service and what we have to offer. Remember, all that we serve doesn’t come out of my paycheck, so ask nicely and you can have all that you want!!! (although I don’t recommend eating too much of that stuff… me!! lol) Why doesn’t anyone ever drink the Blueberry Juice we are sampling?? No one ever asks for it, and it ends up being for the crew. If you’re flying soon, tell your flight attendant you would like to try it. I bet he/she will give you a big surprise face. I would recommend trying the Crasins too!!

    Anyway, not every flight is going to be your best, and that goes for myself as well. Overall, I seem to find that people enjoy what we have to offer…..or maybe on my flights anyway (I’m one of the best flight attendants in the company, but don’t tell anyone I told you….shhhhh) Who knows, maybe I’ll greet you at the boarding door one day!! :D

    Safe Flying!!!!
    May Your Skies Be Blue And The Winds At Your Tail…..(except for landing)

    1. Thanks for chiming in here. A couple thoughts.

      How would you feel if we started doing a full service and then half way thru the flight the captain tells us to sit down for 15 mins due to turbulance.

      If that happens, it’s certainly understandable. I’d rather have flight attendants try to do a full service and then stop if turbulence hits. As I mentioned above, however, this isn’t a big deal to me. I just noticed it and found it mildly annoying.

      With the TV issues on the west coast, for some reason when we are climbing out in the west, we don’t get signal until we reach a higher altitude. I don’t know why. This doesn’t happen anywhere else.

      I can answer that one. The satellite range craps out just off the coast of California, so when you’re overwater on flights like SFO-Long Beach, you’re out of range. I don’t think I’ve ever had service for an entire southbound flight from SFO. The northbound flights go over land so those are fine.

      But that’s not what happened here. The flight home simply had no working TVs at all. It wasn’t an issue with satellite range. Nothing worked.

      Why doesn’t anyone ever drink the Blueberry Juice we are sampling?? No one ever asks for it, and it ends up being for the crew. If you’re flying soon, tell your flight attendant you would like to try it.

      I did try that on the way up but was told it wasn’t an option. Bummer.

  16. To be honest you paid 179.00 round trip for a flight that saved you time plus cost less than if you had to drive ( gas, chips, soda while driving )? It amazes me how so many people think service is so easy. You try to do service and everything else you HAVE to do like making sure the safety aspect is not overlooked for that hour and everything in between. Do you ask yourselves while sitting in you’re seats mind you and not getting up how does this all work? People we are 35,000ft in the air and all you can do is complain about the express service? LOL you are kidding right?

  17. Reading all the above about Jetblues full service and express service, sounds like you don’t know what you may get on a flight.

    Maybe Jetblue and anyother airline who does this, should go back in time to Western Airlines and name their service/markets ahead of time to people know. Remember ‘The Islander’ service to/from Hawaii, ‘Fiesta’ to/from Mexico, ‘Hunt Breakfast’, ‘Royal Canadian’ to/from Canada, ‘Golden Californian’ service, ‘Champagne’ flights.

    Jetblue should just make flights within California ‘California Lite’ flights and just say on their website what that service will be. They can do this with short markets out of BOS/JFK, and have ‘Florida Blue’ service to/from Florida. At least people would know what to expect and not be confused or start telling their friends and family that Jetblue is cheap or has lazy F/A’s who didn’t want to do a full service.

  18. Worked as crew scheduler for Southwest & AA in ’80s & ’90s & we called it “smurf.” Called SFO base “San Fran” never “Frisco!”

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