The stereotypical “good” Southwest flight is one that runs on time with a crew that’s having a lot of fun. It’s been harder to come by those kinds of flights over the last several years as the airline has grown, but I had a textbook example on our way out to Indianapolis a couple weeks back.
On this trip to Indiana, we had two purposes. We were flying out to see the in-laws, of course, but my wife’s best friend Leslie was getting married as well. Southwest recently brought back its nonstop to Indy, and it was ideally-timed at midday. The price was right too at $166 each. Considering we’d have a few bags to check, this was an even better deal.
Leslie ended up joining us on this flight, and I thought that would be the perfect opportunity for a little pre-wedding public humiliation. My idea of embarrassment, however, paled in comparison to what the crew put together.
With the TSA melting down and us needing to check a few bags, we decided to get to the airport pretty early. To make things worse, my usual haunt QuikPark was full so I had to go somewhere else where I had less insight into shuttle frequencies. We pulled up at Airport Center Express about 1015a. The shuttle didn’t make us wait for long, and we were on our way. The usual airport congestion meant it took some time to get there, and shuttles now have to park almost at Terminal 2 because of all the construction at Southwest’s Terminal 1.
My daughter insisted on pulling one of the suitcases, which also took some time. By the time we walked into the new ticket counter area, it was 1045a. I had seen the new ticketing area just before it opened, but I was looking forward to seeing how it functioned.
Unlike in the old setup where you had to wait in a long snaking stanchion-obsessed line, we had no trouble finding a kiosk with nobody in line. We walked up, printed our tags, and put them on our own bags. It was a bit awkward since we pulled the bags to the side so that others could use the kiosk while we affixed the tags, but it worked and was certainly faster than the old way. Then we had to drop the bags.
The lines were fairly deep with maybe 6 to 10 groups in each, and that snaked back into the kiosk area. Combined with people scattering to tag their bags away from the machines, it made for a crowded and confusing experience. Was this better than it used to be? Oh yeah. Could it use some more help? Yep.
The security experience was shockingly easy. Pre Check was open (finally), and we were through in 5 minutes. I’ve missed you, Pre Check. Don’t ever leave me again.
Southwest’s Terminal 1 continues to be a mess as they work on remodeling it. Now, the entire east side is closed past the first couple gates with the lone exception of this oddly-shaped wedge to try to fit in more seating for the gates that remain open on the west side. We couldn’t find any seats for a bit but eventually snagged two that were directly across from the gate. Then we waited.
Our airplane was said to be arriving on time at 1145a, but it didn’t pull in until 1152a. I figured we’d be a little late as well, and we were.
We had checked in 24 hours in advance and got B6-10. But since we had little kids, we could do family boarding right after the A group. There were a lot of families, however, and I got a little nervous about finding seats together. We hopped on board and hoped for the best.
May 21, 2016
Southwest 2108 Lv Los Angeles 1215p Arr Indianapolis 720p
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 16A, Runway 24L, Depart 15m Late
Indianapolis (IND): Gate B21, Runway 5L, Arrive 10m Early
N7721E, Boeing 737-7BD, Canyon Blue Colors, 95% Full
Seat 13B, Coach
Flight Time 3h26m
As we worked our way toward the back, I realized I was right to be worried. We weren’t going to find seats together… except for the fact that the flight attendant had been standing in row 14 and nobody had tried to sit in that row of 3. Right across from that was an aisle/middle, so we took those quickly.
Leslie is a glutton for punishment, so she insisted on sitting in the middle seat between the kids while my wife and I sat across the aisle. We tried to argue, but there’s no arguing with Leslie.
The crew was very friendly, and it quickly became apparent they had an old school Southwest jokester-style. The flight attendant making announcements was a fast-talking comedian who had a joke for just about everything. But it was the pilots that surprised me the most. Instead of coming on and doing their own announcements, they programmed Siri to do it for them. And it wasn’t a shortened speech by any means. Siri went on to tell us all about the flight and even cracked a few jokes.
We have some great and talented flight attendants here at Southwest. Unfortunately they’re not on this flight. But the Captain and First Officer are looking at me and clearly disagree…[or something close to that]
The nearly full flight seemed to appreciate the humor, and there were a few muffled cheers. Our flight did fall behind schedule and we didn’t push until 15 minutes late. As usual with Southwest at LAX, we were in the air quickly.
It was a smooth start to the day and the seatbelt came off once we reached our cruising altitude. The flight attendants came through to take drink orders, but I was more interested in watching TV since I knew the kids were in good hands with Leslie.
The TV worked right away, and what was the first thing I saw? The Diamondbacks, my baseball team, were playing the Cardinals, and the game was just starting on Fox Sports 1. This was awesome since the flight duration would be just about the same as a length of a baseball game. My day was looking up.
After the drink service was done and snacks were passed out, I decided to see if the flight attendants would be interested in having a little fun with Leslie. I went up front where the fast-talker was standing and asked if she might make a little announcement when we landed congratulating Leslie but also ribbing her a little saying “it’s about time.” She said she’d do something, and I took back a Bloody Mary for Leslie and a Wild Turkey for me so we could start the celebration off right. (My wife didn’t want anything.)
Somewhere past Denver, the flight attendant came on and announced that Leslie was getting married. She said that they had made her a traditional Southwest wedding veil and brought it back to her. This thing was awesome. It had interlocking bags of peanuts with swizzle sticks and a garbage bag making up the veil. Then the flight attendant said she knew there were a lot of long-married couples onboard including one that had 62 years together. So she handed out napkins to anyone who was interested and asked people to write advice for Leslie to make for a happy marriage. (She then added, “I have none, I’m already on my second.”)
A few minutes later, the flight attendant made Leslie get up and collect all the notes. I was pretty sure that Leslie was going to murder me, but it was totally worth it. Her march through the cabin was cut short when the turbulence got bad enough that the pilots put the seat belt sign on and told the flight attendants to sit down. But once all the napkins were collected, there were dozens of fantastic little pieces of wisdom ranging from Bible verses to “Don’t do it.” It was a pretty cool thing to do.
We continued to bounce around for awhile after that (one of those strange days where it was smooth as silk over the Rockies but bouncy over the Plains), but once the sign was off, I knew Leslie needed more alcohol so I headed back to thank the flight attendants and re-load.
In the meantime, you’re probably wondering how the kids did. They were rock stars. Armed with all kinds of snacks and iPads, they were silent and happy the entire time. They’ve finally reached that age. Whew.
The only bad part of this trip? The Diamondbacks got smoked. But at least they made it interesting in the 9th when we started descending into Indy. It’s a good thing it didn’t go much longer since my battery was giving me warnings that it was dying. (Yes Southwest, you need power outlets. No more lame excuses.)
We came into Indy and the flight attendant mentioned Leslie one more time as we landed. She finished with “we’d like to welcome you to Honolulu. But since we can’t, we’ll welcome you to Indianapolis instead.”
We arrived 10 minutes early despite the initial delay. The bags were on the carousel just about when we got there, and we were off. This could be the Wild Turkey talking, but I couldn’t have asked for a better flight out.
I’ll write up my return on a new Delta 737-900ER soon.