My First Southwest Flight from Long Beach (Trip Report)

Southwest, Trip Reports

This wasn’t supposed to be this way. I had to be up in Sonoma for a family event, and initially, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to fly JetSuiteX. Yes, getting to Burbank with my son (just the two of us were flying up together) was going to be a pain, but Concord Airport is well-placed for me to get to Sonoma. The fare was cheap, and I bought it. Unfortunately, JetSuiteX seems to be struggling. I received a note saying my morning flight up had been canceled. (I was later told the service just hasn’t ramped up quickly enough.) With the next flight not until the afternoon (awful schedule), this just wasn’t an option. That meant I had to hitch a ride with another airline, and that airline was Southwest thanks to cheap fares on its new Long Beach service.

Southwest Boarding Long Beach

An intro sale had flights at only $39 each way, even on peak days. Huzzah! I snagged the tickets and then didn’t think about it until it was less than a day before travel. As you know, that’s bad if you’re on Southwest. See, I forgot to check in for the flight and that meant I had a low B boarding pass. Fortunately I was able to family board after the A group with my son.

Strangely enough, when I got the airport, the Pre Check line was open. There was nobody around, so I was really shocked. My son and I made our way to the gate, which is the furthest one on the south side. It was pretty crowded in there. Our airplane was an ex-Air Sahara airplane that Southwest picked up on the used market years ago. (All the N5xxWN aircraft that are 737-700s came from random former homes.)

Southwest Flight Certificate

As we boarded, a gate agent handed my son a certificate for taking the flight. (He loves this thing, but he already knows that it has the new Southwest colors on it and our airplane didn’t. I’m training him well.)

I haven’t done Southwest boarding from the front and back of the airplane in a long time, and it reinforces my belief that a lot of people are not smart. Everyone crowded around the ramp going to the front door while my son and I just cruised back to the empty rear stairs. We had our pick of a bunch of empty seats.

Canyon Blue in All Its Glory

July 14, 2016
Southwest 1853 Lv Long Beach 1030a Arr Oakland 1150a
Long Beach (LGB): Gate 1, Runway 30, Depart 1m Early
Oakland (OAK): Gate 25, Runway 30, Arrive 11m Early
N551WN, Boeing 737-76Q, Canyon Blue Colors, ~75% Full
Seat 18B, Coach
Flight Time 54m

We pushed back on time, and I noticed that this airplane looked pretty dingy. In particular, the overhead bins were various shades of yellow, and they definitely didn’t match each other. But no matter.

Dingy Bins on Southwest

Flying from Long Beach to the Bay Area is an interesting experience because you stay low while dodging LAX’s flight path. Only on the other side do you climb up and pass through 10,000 feet. That’s when the service began, and it’s when I turned on the free TV. Unfortunately, TV pickin’s were slim, so I went to the moving map. It appears that Southwest hasn’t bothered to include Long Beach in its moving map system, because both up and back, this was the image I had.

Wacky Flight Tracker Southwest

I assume that’s just the default if it doesn’t know where you’re going.

Drinks came by, and my son’s orange juice came with a lid and a straw, always a nice touch. Soon we were descending into the Bay Area.

We had some good views, and I kept pointing out landmarks to my son, barely getting him to take his eyes off the tablet. But as we got closer, he got more interested. And he really seemed to like almost landing on the water on runway 30 in Oakland. He’s been playing with a model Lufthansa 747 (for some reason, his favorite airline) doing the same thing ever since.

We landed and headed to the gate. Then it was off on the rental car bus to get a car. Budget seemed to have a rough time, first sending me to a space with no car in it. But we eventually got out of there and headed out into the country.

This was my first Airbnb experience, and it was great… until the owner tried to ding us for $500 for dried blood stains which we most certainly did not make. This could have turned me off from Airbnb for good, but when the company intervened in the dispute, we were told we weren’t liable. That was great.

My wife came up the next day with our daughter, and we took the kids into San Francisco to do the usual touristy stuff – Lombard Street, Ghirardelli Square, etc. I hadn’t done those things for years, and the kids seemed to enjoy it. But all too soon, it was time for us all to head home.

We had checked in online but had B boarding passes so again we knew we’d do family boarding after the A group. We pulled into the rental car center only an hour before our flight, and I was anxious about the length of the security line. I got even more anxious when the rental agent asked if we had told them about the damage to the car when we picked it up. What?! Once I rubbed the “damage” off and showed him it was just dirt, he let us go. But we were losing precious time.

The ride from the rental car center in Oakland seems to take forever, though it’s really about 10 minutes to Southwest’s stop. When we pulled up, we grabbed a kiosk and printed all the boarding passes. Then I saw a fairly empty security line and I knew I could relax. We made it through with no problems and our gate was right at the top of the stairs. We even had time to kill.

Since the night before, they had changed our airplane 3 times. (One of our internal Cranky Concierge tools allows us to see tail numbers.) The night before it had showing up as a 737-300 (at one point, the Arizona plane. N383SW), but by the morning it had shifted back to a -700. And then when the inbound flight was delayed, they found another -700 in Oakland to keep us on time.

Southwest Oakland Gate

I like the gate areas in Oakland where pre-boarding and family boarding happen on one side while regular boarding is on the other. It seems to flow pretty well.

July 17, 2016
Southwest 18 Lv Oakland 305p Arr Long Beach 430p
Oakland (OAK): Gate 25, Runway 30, Depart 2m Early
Long Beach (LGB): Gate 1, Runway 30, Arrive 10m Early
N419WN, Boeing 737-7H4, Canyon Blue Colors, ~95% Full
Seat 14B, Coach
Flight Time 1h3m

Once on the airplane, we took seats just behind the wing and watched as the airplane nearly filled up entirely. We taxied out to the runway and took off to the north. I had forgotten how aircraft tend to route on this flight. First we headed out over San Francisco and then stayed out over the water until we were over Monterey Bay. We then hugged the coast down until we passed over Point Conception.

The problem with this route is that it appears to be at the edge of the satellite service area. I was trying to watch the nightly news (on east coast time) getting caught up on both Nice and Turkey, but it kept cutting out and freezing.

In the meantime, the flight attendants came through with drinks and snacks. It wasn’t long before we were back over the water heading toward Catalina. From there, we had great views of a somewhat hazy day in Southern California. We threw our lasso around Catalina and whipped around for landing in Long Beach.

Descending into Long Beach

At the gate, I was again surprised to see people standing at the back of the airplane and not using the rear stairs. We ended up going through the front for that reason. Go figure.

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22 comments on “My First Southwest Flight from Long Beach (Trip Report)

  1. Thanks for the always entertaining and informative trip report, as I sit waiting for our IAD-BOS flight to take off.

    1. Kilroy – No way I can let that happen! He really loves Lufthansa for some unknown reason, but he has this old 747 Schabak model of mine with the decals peeling off. Yet he takes it everywhere. I also take him up to LAX to In ‘n Out and we make sure it overlaps with the early arrival from Frankfurt. So he’s pretty sold.

      The only other airline that even competes is Delta, and that’s because of the cookies.

      1. Nice. Yeah, the Biscoff cookies are tough to beat.

        I am just impressed that you have your son trained to be enough of an aviation dork that he carries a model plane around. Pretty soon you will have to spend time at In N Out training him on how to identify the different models of commercial airliners.

  2. I love boarding from the rear. My Ryanair flight last year was pretty full at the front, and I had all of row 31 to myself. I was third off the plane when we landed. I wish there was more of this in North America!

    1. Jeremy – I thought about that if things got ugly. I walked out through T1 on the way out and they’re doing a ton of construction. Lines looked pretty bad there.

  3. Similar experiences would be why I fell out with Budget. I don’t have the time in my life to argue with them or screw around with the rental return, and it seemed to me that I was doing too much of that. What I found was that at LAX, either all of the rental companies are within $2 of each other (in which case I take National) or some are significantly more expensive and some less (and usually Enterprise is less, and I take them).

    I also got sick of them charging for fuel by default on a short rental…

    1. DAB – My default is National, but they were crazy expensive on this trip (3x Budget). Since I didn’t have time constraints (except for those of my own doing on the return) I figured it would be worth saving the money.

  4. Laughing at your comment that people just aren’t that smart. Airports tend to highlight that. I always laugh at the people who get to the top of the jetbridge, stop, and start freaking out about where they can find bag claim while ignoring the big directional sign to bag claim.

    1. ++ Totally agree that there’s something about airports that really highlights just how stupid some of us are as a species. Actually, let me correct that. It’s not that people are “stupid” in the traditional sense, it’s that there’s a large segment of the population that is physically, intractably, irredeemably incapable of paying attention. To anything. To announcements, instructions, signage, unspoken rules of conduct in groups, physical barriers, anything. Anything at all. It’s astounding. Boundless capacity for yapping at anyone within ear shot, but zero free mental capacity to listen > observe > process > act accordingly.

      I do wonder if we’ll eventually reach the point that the only way we’ll be able to insure efficient air travel is for everyone to be anesthetized the moment you arrive at the ticketing counter, encapsulated in a large coffin-like pod, and then moved onto the plane and to your final destination like cargo, where you’ll be revived, handed your bags, and shoved out the door on your way.

  5. Sounds like those were two easy plane trips for you.

    JetSuiteX had been having ads in the newspaper and talking about new routes, but I haven’t seen any ads for awhile now.

    Off topic but since you went to Oakland , Allegiant announced they will hop into the OAK-LAS market with Southwest and Spirit. Should be interesting to see how that play out.

  6. I’ve noticed that I always have issues returning Rentals from Budget/Avis compared to National/Alamo/Enterprise. For these reasons alone, I stick with National/Alamo/Enterprise, and if not available I use Hertz/Thrifty/Dollar. I avoid Budget/Avis like the plague.

  7. I flew CCR-BUR on JetSuiteX on Monday and it was delightful. The agent in Concord told me that they were doing well but there were only 9 passengers on our flight.

  8. I always enjoy and look forward to your trip reports, Brett. Thanks for “taking us along.” This sounds quite similar to a trip I took with my 4-year-old airline dork son from ICT to BWI during this same time frame. I agree that the lids and straws on the kids drinks on Southwest are a nice touch. My little guy also gets upset when our Southwest plane doesn’t have the newest paint scheme. I’ve even taught him to recognize when a “Disorganized” United plane flies by. We used Budget for the first time on this trip (my preference is Enterprise, but Budget was cheaper) and had a great experience. Similar to OAK, it seems that the shuttle ride from the rental car facility to the terminal in Baltimore takes forever.

  9. The WN/Row 44/GEE map system is fairly clunky and hasn’t been updated. The map still shows Key West, (EYW) Branson MO (BKG) and Jackson MS (JAN) those points have been closed for over two years.

  10. I’m done with WN. I fly SNA to DEN via Frontier. With their “works” upgrade still cheaper, plus I don’t have to hover over a computer 24 hours in advance, twice. For EWR I go to LAX and take Virgin America. Way cheaper, non-stop, in flight entertainment. Only downside is lot “C” parking shuttle. As for car rental, I love Dollar and am a frequent renter status.

  11. You are absolutely right! People are not smart!
    Question…Did your son recognize the aircraft on his certificate is an -800 and you flew on a -700?


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