My Last Trip on the Old Southwest (Trip Report)

Trip Reports

There was something about this trip that felt like the end of an era. On the eve of the repeal of the Wright Amendment, Southwest had its first media day in years. But the repeal hasn’t happened yet so I still had to stop on my way to Dallas. Hopping across the empire on an old 737-300 just felt like a throwback to an airline that almost no longer exists.

[Disclosure: Southwest paid for my flight to Dallas and hotel. I paid for my return.]

I took Southwest up on its offer for my flight out, but I scheduled a meeting in Ft Worth afterwards. I had no interest in driving all the way back to Dallas just to have to stop on my flight home, so I used my Amex points to transfer into BA Avios so I could fly nonstop back to LAX.

Southwest hasn’t had a media day in a few years, but I was shocked to see that some things still hadn’t changed with company travel. A couple days before my flight, a FedEx envelope arrived with a ticket jacket containing my paper ticket. Unreal.

Southwest Paper Ticket

I was able to check in like a regular traveler and was surprised when, right at the 24 hour mark, I pulled down the excellent A30 boarding pass. I called to have them put my Pre Check number in, and I was good to go.

I got to the airport an hour in advance, and it wasn’t all that busy. The work on Terminal 1 has finally begun. The old US Airways ticket counters are sealed off and so are many of the stores. Even what always seemed like the world’s busiest McDonald’s was shut down. Security was quick and I went straight to the gate.

LAX Terminal 1 Renovations

I walked up to the agent and said, “I’m from 1992, and I need my boarding pass. Here’s my paper ticket.” She just laughed and took care of it for me. It said I was going to media day so she asked about it. I told her that it was apparently for the unveiling of a new paint job. The photos had been leaked, so I showed them to her. She paused, said something about how strange the all-blue body looked, and then made a remark about how the company tells us more than them.

Our airplane came in early, and it was a 21-year old 737-300 that hadn’t been refitted with the painful Evolve seats. I eagerly hopped on board.

Non Evolve Seats

September 7, 2014
Southwest 871 Lv Los Angeles 935a Arr Albuquerque 1225p
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 10, Runway 24L, Depart 5m Early
Albuquerque (ABQ): Gate A8, Runway 3, Arrive 15m Early
N371SW, Boeing 737-3H4, Canyon Blue colors, ~70% Full
Seat 5F, Coach
Flight Time 1h28m

I had plenty of seats to choose from, and I picked 5F with a nice window view. I was on this airplane all the way to Dallas with a 30 minute stop but no plane change in Albuquerque.

Catalina Island

Boarding continued and then wrapped up quicker than I thought. This flight was not very full, and I had an empty middle seat. Ah, the good life. We pushed back early and were airborne quickly. We punched through the thin layer of Hurricane Norbert-remnant clouds and then pointed the nose toward Albuquerque.

Southwest Frills

Service was slow for some reason. I didn’t get my glass of water and peanuts (not honey roasted this time, sadly) until 40 minutes into the flight. I opened up my computer and just started cranking away… offline. The 737-300s do not have wifi or live TV. That’s a huge bummer when you’re flying on the first Sunday of football season.

I didn’t last on my computer for long once I caught the glimpse of the Desert Southwest out the window. With a light dotting of clouds and an endless sky, it was one of those days you just had to watch. I closed my computer and relaxed.

Desert Southwest Day

Soon, we were bouncing our way into Albuquerque, as is so often the case. We landed 15 minutes early, which just meant 15 minutes more ground time since I wasn’t changing airplanes.

September 7, 2014
Southwest 871 Lv Albuquerque 1255p, Arr Dallas/Love 335p
Albuquerque (ABQ): Gate A8, Runway 8, Depart 5m Early
Dallas/Love (DAL): Gate 2, Runway 31R, Arrive 10m Early
N371SW, Boeing 737-3H4, Canyon Blue colors, 100% Full
Seat 5F, Coach
Flight Time 1h24m

I made some calls, checked email, and then people started boarding. This time, the flight was completely full. The middle next to me didn’t fill up until near the end. Of course, I ended up next to a hulking dude who smelled like the perfect combination of cigarettes and liquor He proceeded to open up his sour cream & onion chips for the entire plane to take in just as the door was shutting.

We got off the ground quickly and headed toward Dallas. About 10 seconds in, the man in front of me slammed his seatback into the reclined position. Even though we haven’t had a good fight over reclining for a few days, I didn’t really feel like diverting to some lovely city like Amarillo just to be led off in handcuffs. Besides, that’s not my nature anyway.

Instead, I broke out my computer to finalize the posts I had been working on, and I had to use my T-Rex arms to get around the unfortunate recline situation. It’s amazing how different a flight can feel thanks to the people around you.

Landing in Dallas

It was a quick and smooth ride over to Dallas. I had a ginger ale, another pack of peanuts, and then decided to enjoy the view for the last half hour. It got increasingly cloudy near Dallas, so the view wasn’t great, but eventually we got underneath the overcast and landed early. This was when my old school Southwest adventure ended.

I walked into the sparkling new Love Field terminal for the first time and was taken aback. It’s a very nice looking facility. But I didn’t stay long. There was work to do.

The New Dallas Love Field

Once my time in the Metroplex was done, I headed to DFW. I pulled into the rental car facility and hopped on the bus over to the A gates, which I believe are about 125 miles north. My bus driver took a shine to me because, as he said, God told him that I was special. He was very nice about it all, though when I got off the bus, he stepped out to talk to me about Jesus while making everyone else onboard wait. Welcome to Texas.

I had Pre Check again and made it through security in a flash. With time to kill, I grabbed a couple tacos from Qdoba and then flipped on my computer in the gate area. My 21-year old 757 (just as old as my 737 on the way out) had pulled up to the gate looking quite spectacular in its shiny silver skin. Unfortunately, this was one of the overwater 757s, so that meant no wifi on board. Ugh.

September 10, 2014
American 2447 Lv Dallas/Ft Worth 130p Arr Los Angeles 240p
Dallas/Ft Worth (DFW): Gate A15, Runway 18L, Depart 2m Early
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 48B, Runway 25L, Arrive 11m Early
N687AA, Boeing 757-223, Silver colors, ~99% Full
Seat 28A, Coach
Flight Time 2h41m

Upon boarding, I realized just how dingy that old fuzzy yellow lighting makes an airplane feel. This airplane just looked old. The overhead monitors in the aisle didn’t help.

With temperatures on the ramp passing 100 degrees, we were roasting on the airplane. The flight attendants had everyone close the shades and open the vents. Once we pushed back, it cooled down quickly.

It was a beautiful but windy day in the Metroplex, so we ran through some chop on the way up. But once at cruise, it was a nice ride across to LA. There was no movie on this flight but instead they just played NBC shorts. It’s a good thing I didn’t want to watch them, because I found out later my headset jack didn’t work anyway.

I opened my computer and did some more writing. The flight attendants came by a few times and gave everyone a full can of whatever they asked for. The flight passed quickly and we were soon on the ground at LAX nice and early.

Get Cranky in Your Inbox!

The airline industry moves fast. Sign up and get every Cranky post in your inbox for free.

13 comments on “My Last Trip on the Old Southwest (Trip Report)

  1. belated welcome to Texas. home of faith in Jesus, family, friends. Glad someone shared with you the Good news. Anyhow, i enjoy reading and seeing the pics on your reports. I don’t travel much anymore and through your write-ups I sometimes vicariously relive some memories.

  2. How many non-Evolve planes are left in the fleet? I noticed that in the booking process, tells you how many seats are on the plane, and it’s been a while since I saw the number 137. (Then again, I don’t do a lot of searches on Southwest.)

    1. Ron – I’m not sure of the numbers. All 737-700s and -800s have Evolve seating. All the 737-500s do not and won’t get it. It’s the 737-300s that are split with about 130 total in the fleet. I don’t know the breakdown between Evolve and non-Evolve, but they actually file it differently in the schedule files. A 73C has Evolve whereas a 733 does not.

  3. I always look forward to your trip reports, Brett. Your comments about the seat-recline incident and your seat mate made me think of the classic George Carlin airline travel routine. And your story and photo of the old paper voucher makes me nostalgic for my non-revving days as a WN intern almost a decade ago.

    Thanks for letting us share in your travel adventures. I, too, like to live vicariously as I don’t get to fly as often as I would like.

  4. Terrific write-up.

    I find what’s outside the windows so fascinating! A couple weeks ago, coming back from a trip to Reno, on the connecting leg out of DEN, on to IAD, and after we got through some very, very heavy weather, we on the left side were treated, for miles upon miles, to the most wonderful, off-in-the distance, lightning show. Seems we were going parallel to a very violent front, one that the fine folks in lower Michigan, didn’t find quite so wonderful, I’ve heard. But, to me it was one of the highlights of the trip. (Well, Lake Tahoe ain’t bad, either! And, if you’ve ever landed at Reno, heading north, at night, and been a little taken aback how close that little(?) hill is to your right wing (the red warning light is above and oh so close to your wing)…like, has any airliner ever gone into that darn thing?)

    Anyway, upon de-plane-ing at IAD, I complimented the UA First Officer, who seemed to me had a job description that didn’t include talking to de-plane-ing passengers, about his giving us a such a grand light show. I never quite got around to telling him my travel experience would have been even better had he, or someone in the cockpit, turned on that now apparently defunct Channel 9 in his A319.

    Be that as it may, thanks again.

  5. CF writes, “We arrived 15 minutes early which just meant 15 minutes more ground time….” I guess you need to find something to complain about. Pretty lame. Are you still wearing those same old shoes? Or did you “Evolve” them?

    1. Arubaman, I think you’re the one who is finding something to complain about!

      CF’s statement is a statement of fact. If anything he probably was happy about it because he got more time to make phone calls and work on his internet connected computer.

  6. I fly WN fairly regularly from LAX. That McDonalds had been losing quite a bit of business to the Back Lot Deli (barely visible to the left of your photo). BLD is the best food and value in all of LAX by my reckoning, including TBIT. I fear for its future in the updated mall atmosphere the press releases are predicting.

  7. 21 years old is nothing for an airplane. Wasn’t all that long ago I was flying on an almost 40 year old NW DC-9. Heck, 1993 was 21 years ago…I was in senior high then. Feels like yesterday.

  8. “”””” I didn’t really feel like diverting to some lovely city like Amarillo just to be led off in handcuffs”””””

    Oh come on, it would have made for a more interesting trip report……lol

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Cranky Flier