9 Airports, 1 Day: Long Beach -> Oakland -> Ontario -> Sacramento -> Orange County

Cranky 10, Southwest, Trip Reports

Enough build-up. Let’s get into the details of my crazy day of flying between 9 airports. Today I’ll look at the first four flights, and then next week, I’ll talk about the last four.

Long Beach
The day started like any normal flying day.

Southwest Ticket Counter Long Beach

With a 7am departure, I left the house at 6 and as usual found myself through security with time to kill. The Pre Check line was hopping, and it took a few minutes to get through. I was just glad this would be the only time I had to go through security the entire day.

I was doing my first Busker live stream of the day (quickly followed by my second Busker live stream when wifi cut out) when I heard my name being paged. I walked up and the gate manager welcomed me and gave me a Sweet Jill’s cinnamon roll. Mmmmm.

Sweet Jill's Cinnamon Roll

Then he let me pre-board. That was a nice surprise, even though special treatment always makes me feel a little uneasy.

August 9, 2016
Southwest 1061 Lv Long Beach 7a Arr Oakland 820a
Long Beach (LGB): Gate 1, Runway 30, Depart 1m Early
Oakland (OAK): Gate 25, Runway 30, Arrive 11m Early
N296WN, Boeing 737-7H4, Canyon Blue Colors, 85% Full
Seat 4F, Coach
Flight Time 55m

I took seat 4F and settled in. The flight up was good, and the weather was my favorite – a low marine layer that left it gloomy down below but gloriously clear up above. It was a beautiful morning all the way up.

Beautiful morning LGB OAK

There was nothing interesting to report on this flight except that the flight attendants did give out the full can of water instead of just a cuplet. I thought about trying to set a record for number of visits to the lav in one day, but that seemed like one record worth skipping so I didn’t drink much. I paid $8 for wifi which was a bargain since it’s good all day for that price. Unfortunately, it was sluggish most of the day, if not downright unusable.

We landed through the marine layer in Oakland and I was met by two Southwest employees: Jessica (ramp) and Ebony (gates).

Ebony and Jessica at OAK

I had a long layover in Oakland and they were there to meet and greet me. They brought me a swag bag with a bunch of goodies (look at those awesome wingletted sunglasses) and we did a Busker live stream while we were there.

They spent plenty of time with me since I had over 2 hours in Oakland, but I ended up going to use the restroom and stretch my legs before we boarded. Jessica gave me a couple of “On the Spot” cards which are rewards for employees. She said I should find people to give them to later in the day if they did a great job. I liked the camaraderie.

August 9, 2016
Southwest 2577 Lv Oakland 1045a Arr Ontario 12p
Oakland (OAK): Gate 28, Runway 30, Depart 2m Early
Ontario (ONT): Gate 407, Runway 8 26L, Arrive 10m Early
N7720F, Boeing 737-7BD, Canyon Blue Colors, 85% Full
Seat 4F, Coach
Flight Time 56m

When it came time to board, Jessica went on and actually sat in 4F for me. When I got on, she got up and let me sit down. That was really nice of her, but it was definitely awkward for me. Nobody said anything or even gave a dirty look as I slinked down into the seat. I was excited, because I wanted to sit in the same seat and record every takeoff and landing. I almost succeeded.

The marine layer had mostly burned off by the time we took off and since I was on the right side, I had a spectacular view of San Francisco.

San Francisco

This time I was given just a cup of water, and when it came time for snacks, they skipped me entirely. It was really weird. The two people next to me got snacks, but somehow they forgot I was there and kept moving. Fortunately after my cinnamon roll, I wasn’t exactly hungry anyway.

None of the flights were all that bumpy, but this was probably the choppiest of the day. I found myself holding my cup a couple times just to make sure it didn’t spill.

It was my first time approaching from the north in Ontario, and I really enjoyed it. We came up alongside the north side of the Angeles National Forest. Then we crossed over the Cajon Pass, following the 215 down before heading west to land at Ontario.

I-15 Cajon Pass

Unfortunately, this photo of the 15 freeway cutting through the pass would look a lot different today. The Bluecut fire recently scorched this area.

When I arrived, I was surprised to be met by a whole group of Ontario employees in the jet bridge. These guys really went above and beyond, presenting me with a backpack filled with goodies. The coolest thing was a plaque (specifically made of aluminum, the 10th anniversary gift) celebrating 10 Cranky years.

Cranky Flier Plaque Ontario Southwest

They had also made buttons with the Southwest heart on them that said “Team Cranky.” We did a Busker live stream right there in the jet bridge with Jesse, an assistant manager, as well as others on the team.

Team Ontario Southwest

The same plane would be taking me back to Sacramento, so the flight attendants were watching all this happen. They got into the spirit and wore those buttons for the next flight.

Team Cranky

I decided I had to at least step foot in the airport, so I went in, used the restroom and laughed at the impossibly large gate numbers. There is a Terminal 2 and 4 at the airport since 1 was demolished and 3 is eventually to be built in between. My gate, 407, was in Terminal 4.

Once again, I was allowed to pre-board so I went back to my now familiar seat, 4F.

August 9, 2016
Southwest 2578 Lv Ontario 1230p Arr Sacramento 145p
Ontario (ONT): Gate 407, Runway 26R, Depart 3m Early
Sacramento (SMF): Gate B19, Runway 34L, Arrive 13m Early
N7720F, Boeing 737-7BD, Canyon Blue Colors, 65% Full
Seat 4F, Coach
Flight Time 56m

Once the flight attendants knew what was going on, they played it up. I had an empty middle next to me, but the woman in the aisle was told she needed to wear a Team Cranky button since she was sitting next to me. I explained what was going on, and she actually seemed to enjoy it. I expected her to just look at me like I was nuts. Instead, she started launching into a discussion about the Southwest IT meltdown. (She had been stuck in it herself.)


We took off and turned north toward the San Joaquin Valley which we’d follow all the way up to Sacramento. In Sacramento, we had a nice view of downtown as we landed to the north.

Originally, this was going to be one of my toughest connections since I had only 20 minutes. But I had seen that due to storms in Phoenix, my inbound aircraft was late. I’d have time to kill.

Someone from the airport met me and gave me a little travel kit, and then Rodney from Southwest came along to escort me to my connecting gate. He gave me a travel backpack that had snacks (including a bag of Snickers) and a drink coupon for a flight later that day. Sweet. Then we did a Busker live stream.

Rodney was very apologetic about the delay and said they had a plan to get me back on time. Sacramento has been experimenting with dual boarding, using both the jet bridge and stairs in the back. They use it 2 or 3 times a day, especially on delayed flights. So I was going to see it in action.

Sacramento Dual Boarding

Once the airplane arrived, the quick turn failed to materialize. Even with two doors being used, people were very slow getting off the airplane. There was a change in flight attendants for our flight, and the new ones didn’t seem to be in much of a hurry to speed the transition. Some of the employees in the airport who were really trying to hustle looked frustrated.

August 9, 2016
Southwest 2262 Lv Sacramento 205p Arr Orange County 330p
Sacramento (SMF): Gate B14, Runway 34L, Depart 36m Late
Orange County (SNA): Gate 19, Runway 20R, Arrive 27m Late
N498WN, Boeing 737-7H4, Canyon Blue Colors, 80% Full
Seat 4F, Coach
Flight Time 1h7m

We finally started boarding and again I was allowed to pre-board. I took seat 4F. A couple minutes later, a flight attendant came by with a sandwich. She looked confused, but I guess someone on the ground had told her to give it to me. They had earlier asked if I had eaten lunch already, and I told them no. I didn’t expect them to actually go get a sandwich for me.

People were very slow to board, and there were a bunch of people spinning in the back when all seats filled up. They had to come back up and take middle seats. In the end, despite the valiant effort of the Sacramento team, we actually lost 3 minutes on the scheduled 30 minute turn. That doesn’t sound like the Southwest most people know, but I get the feeling it’s the new normal.

Once airborne, we headed east toward the Sierra and came down the spine of the foothills before turning south and going straight over Fresno. I tried to log on but the internet just gave up (except for a couple tweets I was able to sneak through).

Southwest Internet Sucks

Soon we were out over the ocean and I decided to just stare out the window.

Southern California Coast

This was the longest flight of the day and the only one that took over one hour. By the time we looped around Catalina and headed back toward the airport, I was starting to feel tired. Here I was almost halfway done, and I was starting to fade.

Fortunately, I snapped out of it, because I didn’t have time. Due to the delay, I now had only about half an hour in Orange County. I knew it’d be fine with the gate nearby, but I had to focus.

Next week, I’ll finish the story with the final four flights.

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20 comments on “9 Airports, 1 Day: Long Beach -> Oakland -> Ontario -> Sacramento -> Orange County

  1. The most airplanes I’ve touched in a day is 4…and that was hellish. Thankfully you’re not doing quick connections at places like ORD or ATL, but still…..

  2. Hi Mr. Cranky– since this post was delayed, may want to update this line at end ‘Thursday, I’ll finish the story with the final four flights.’

  3. I like the photo with the pilot in the background, he has that look like….”what the hell is going on”….LOL

  4. How many backpacks and swag sacks did you end up with? And was there ever a puzzling looks when an enthusiastic Southwest employee reached out to hand you a backpack only to see that you already had 4 on your shoulder?

    1. Shane – Well, Ontario gave me a nice backpack. Sacramento gave me a cool little travel backpack that balls up for easy packing. San Jose gave me a giant duffel to put everything in. Then LAX did the same. (And if anyone is coming to dorkfest, there will be duffels given away.) Nobody had a puzzled look that I could see. Then again, by the end of the day I was so delirious, I didn’t know what was going on.

    1. I was wondering about that – I haven’t flown WN in a while, do they not offer full beverage service anymore on intra California flights?

      1. Oliver – They do a full service. But their water is in a can. They were just being nice by handing out the whole thing instead of using the cups.

        1. Thanks. I was sort of imagining them doing a water or juice cuplet run through the cabin, a la Hawaiian on inter island flights.

  5. It is refreshing to be able to read someone who admits to getting some (unwanted) gifts and advantages yet still pulls no punches when reviewing the product. That’s why we hope you keep doing this ten more years! Congratulations and thank you for putting together an excellent blog.

  6. Your comment about ONT’s gate numbering scheme got me thinking that it would actually work great at LAX to fix all that silliness with A and B gates as terminal reconfigurations pushed the number of gates in each terminal past 10.

    The problem currently is that TBIT already uses 1xx gate numbers (and the western remote hardstands are 2xx IIRC, but passengers don’t see those as gate numbers). The obvious solution would be to drop the 1, making the TBIT gate numbers below 100, allowing Terminal 1 to take over the 100 gates.

    The other potential problem is future “terminal 0”, but thinking about it more I don’t think that’s really an issue either, just number the gates as if they’re part of Terminal 1.

    1. AJ – I’m not active in anything. I prefer the same, cowardly space as a lurker. But I follow /r/aviation more than /r/flying. I still don’t comment much if ever though.

  7. I wouldn’t normally read all the way through Cranky’s reports as they are usually about airlines and routes that I have no knowledge of. However I did read all the way through this one and viewed all the Busker interviews. Wow! was that ever fascinating, I am nearing my eighties but do manage to use the PC for booking travel etc. and read The Guardian (British newspaper) online every day, but watching the Busker reports I was struck by how crazy the world has become in such a short number of years. Here I was in Jersey, no not NEW Jersey, old Jersey which is an island about 15 miles off the coast of France, and I was watching what was in essence live reports from airports thousands of miles away. Well done cranky!

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