A New JetBlue Route and Finishing the Companion Pass Run (Trip Report)

JetBlue, Southwest, Trip Reports

For the 2nd year in a row, I attended the Boyd Conference. This year, however, it was up at Lake Tahoe, and that meant flying into Reno. I’ve only done that once before, but I couldn’t have been happier about the timing of this event. See, JetBlue just started nonstops from Long Beach. In the end, however, I only chose to do that one way.

I booked JetBlue going up for a mere $58.10. But on the way back, I decided to fly Southwest. Apparently my quest for 10 one ways in order to qualify for a companion pass hit a snag. I had booked the first two flights (not part of my 9 Airports, 1 Day adventure) before registering for the promo, and I misread the terms. Those didn’t count. I needed two more. So I booked a flight from Reno to Oakland for $38.98 and then another from Oakland to Long Beach for $58.98. Problem solved.


For my flight up, I left home an hour before departure, got through security in about 5 seconds (Pre Check was open, no wait), and then parked it in the gate area. Our airplane, the one with the special 10th anniversary livery, was letting its passengers off and I just did a little work.

JetBlue 10th Anniversary

They called boarding, and I waited closer to the end. Technically in row 13 I should have boarded from the front, but I was close enough that I figured it would be fine to go from the back. I wanted to see that tail up close.

September 18, 2016
JetBlue 42 Lv Long Beach 1153a Arr Reno 115p
Long Beach (LGB): Gate 7, Runway 30, Depart 2m Late
Reno (RNO): Gate B6, Runway 34L, Arrive 12m Early
N569JB, Airbus A320-232, 10 Year Anniversary Colors, ~90% Full
Seat 13F, Coach
Flight Time 1h0m

Once onboard, I was surprised to see a mostly full flight. I guess that’s what $58 fares will get you. Still, for a September day, that seemed pretty promising.

As I made my way to my seat, I encountered Quintin. He was a really talkative flight attendant who has been there for years. (He proudly announced that he and one of the other flight attendants onboard opened the Long Beach station for JetBlue. That was 15 years ago.)

You could tell this crew had been flying together for a long time. During the safety briefing intro, the flight attendant on the PA said something to the effect of “You have a fabulous crew with Jessica near the exits. Quintin’s up front. [pause] He’s alright.”

Over LAX

We took off and danced our way through LAX traffic before climbing up to cruise. I will say this about JetBlue, I do love that free wifi. I wouldn’t pay for wifi on an hour-long flight, but if it’s there and free, then I’ll use it. And I was productive.

The flight attendants came through with snacks and drinks, and then a few minutes later we were descending. The flight attendants warned us that Reno is often bumpy so they cleaned up early. They were right. It was a bumpy ride in.

Once we landed, Quintin hopped on the PA and talked about all kinds of things. He had us all clap for the two first-time fliers on board. Then he told us all to be nice to each other. “If someone has a turn signal on, let them in.” I liked his whole shtick for a short mid-day flight like this.

We spilled off into the B gates in Reno. This terminal looks like it’s been here for a really long time. Landing on B is odd, because you have to then walk all the way back toward the A gates before finding an exit. But it was easy enough to navigate and I was in the bus on the way to Tahoe in no time.

All the time I’ve spent in the area before was in South Lake Tahoe, so it was nice to visit Squaw Valley for the first time. What a beautiful spot. But of course, I couldn’t stay long, and soon enough I was in a bus for the hour drive back to Reno.

Reno Airport

The airport looks pretty tiny from the outside, with a single level for both departures and arrivals. I had checked in on my phone but figured I’d print out a boarding pass, so I walked to Southwest’s counter at the far end. There was a full service line, a priority line, and an international line (seriously). No other kiosks were around, so I said screw it and hoped my phone would pull up the boarding pass when I needed it.

Amy the Poodle

Security lines were short, and on the other side I was greeted by Amy the poodle. Apparently Reno brings these therapy dogs around to help calm people. She was a pretty sweet pup, and I stayed to pet her a little. Then I headed to the gate to find this glorious sight:

Southwest N237WN in Reno

Pretty photogenic, eh?

It took a long time to turn the airplane around despite its early arrival. We had 4 or 5 wheelchair passengers on our flight, and there was only one gate agent to help them all.

September 21, 2016
Southwest 257 Lv Reno 1205p Arr Oakland 110p
Reno (RNO): Gate B3, Runway 16R, Depart 2m Early
Oakland (OAK): Gate 4, Runway 30, Arrive 3m Early
N237WN, Boeing 737-7H4, Canyon Blue Colors, 55% Full
Seat 7F, Coach
Flight Time 39m

This time I wanted to be on the right side so I could get a view of Lake Tahoe, and 2F was open. No bins were, however, so I went to row 7. The flight was half full and I had an empty middle next to me.

The pilots came on and said it would be a quick 38 minute flight, but it was going to be bumpy due to a cold front that was rolling through bringing some rain and clouds. The flight attendants would have to stay seated the entire time. (I had so many drink coupons to burn, but I’d make up for it later.)

The pilots were right. We took off to the south and it was pretty bouncy until we got to about 10,000 feet. The winds weren’t consistent, and it felt like we were fishtailing a few times. It calmed down and we were able to get a spectacular view of Lake Tahoe between the clouds.

Lake Tahoe

Originally we were to climb to 19,000 feet, but we ended up at 22,000 skimming the cloud tops much of the way. The pilots were darting around the clouds to try to keep it as smooth as possible. Every so often we’d graze something and bump around a bit, but it was all pretty light.

We began descending through the clouds and they started to disappear. By the time we could see the edges of the SF metro area, there was a thinning high cloud layer and nothing else blocking the view.

Exiting the Storm

We landed early and then had to wait for our gate, which was in Terminal 1. Southwest needs more gates, so it’s started picking some up there now.

Just as we landed, I got the delay notification on my phone. My next flight would be about half an hour late, and I had 3 hours to kill.

I found a quiet gate where I could plugin and do work, and it just happened to be where JetBlue was finishing up boarding for its Long Beach flight. It was so tempting, but no… I had to keep my eyes on the companion pass prize.

I was, however, glad I stuck around Terminal 1, because my next flight ended up there as well, at gate 6. I wandered over after working for a couple hours and waited for the airplane to arrive.

There were a few oddballs in this group of passengers. First a guy walked up and tried to board with the A group using his B pass. He was told no, and he just stood there, seemingly unclear on what was going on. Then another person tried to board a flight to Portland. She was told this wasn’t a Portland flight and she backed up and stood there looking confused, seemingly unhurried to find the right gate. I checked later and the Portland flight wasn’t scheduled until 445p, so it’s unclear what this woman was thinking.

September 21, 2016
Southwest 5266 Lv Oakland 330p Arr Long Beach 450p
Oakland (OAK): Gate 6, Runway 30, Depart 20m Late
Long Beach (LGB): Gate 1, Runway 30, Arrive 10m Late
N746SW, Boeing 737-7H4, Hot Dog on a Stick Colors, 55% Full
Seat 2F, Coach
Flight Time 59m

Once on the airplane comfortably in seat 2F, the flight attendants announced continuously that it was only about half full so everyone should spread out. When Mr. B Group got on board, he tried to sit in the middle in the bulkhead. The flight attendant told him that there was plenty of room in the back, but he decided no, he was going to take that middle.

I wish I could have seen the looks on the faces of 1D and 1F. Just as he was sitting down, the flight attendant told him he couldn’t, in fact, take his bag with him since there’s no place to put it in the bulkhead. He’d have to put it up. He didn’t like that so he started to get up.

That’s when it dawned on me. His next choice would probably be seat 2E, my open middle. But nay, he just kept walking back, and I didn’t see him again.

San Francisco

The flight itself was fine. I had a tremendous view of San Francisco on the way out. I settled in to watch some TV when the flight attendants came by. I used a drink coupon and had a Wild Turkey. Since the flight was only half full, the service was quick, and I was asked if I wanted anything else. I had another one, because… why not?

Wild Turkey

We made up some time and landed only about 10 minutes late. I was at the curb ready to go home about 5 minutes later.

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20 comments on “A New JetBlue Route and Finishing the Companion Pass Run (Trip Report)

  1. Brett, your tenacity is to be commended. Wild Turkey? Herbie would drink to that (and with you) for sure!

    “All day Ray”
    SWA Flight Training Instructor – Retired

  2. Just FYI, Brett, the header for your third flight reads LA to Sacramento.

    Also, what do the “Hot Dog on a Stick” colors look like?

    1. Oops, I just copy and paste the little info header from previous trips, and I forgot to change the cities on that. Everything else was right, but I’ve fixed this now! Thanks.

  3. Didn’t they give you the huge printed companion pass once you arrived from your 9 Airports trek?

    Did they revoke it or how did you learn about needing to take 2 more flights?

    1. George – That was just something LAX decided to do on its own to celebrate, so it wasn’t the airline doing anything official. I figured it out when I kept checking and realized that it hadn’t been turned on yet. So I went back and read the mice type to find that indeed, I had overlooked one paragraph.

  4. I started traveling to Lake Tahoe in the late ’70s when my uncle moved to Incline Village (still lives there) and my Dad and I would fly out yearly to ski…I actually learned to ski at Squaw Valley. I remember when RNO didn’t have jetways and it was all air stairs! The addition of jetways and two concourses was a big improvement…plus Air Cal, PSA and Western jets coming and going daily! Times have changed.

  5. September 21, 2016
    Southwest 5266 Lv Los Angeles 330p Arr Sacramento 450p

    -that looks a little off. unless you moved to Sacramento?

  6. Ah yes, the airline industry and its penchant for fine print. Was there this much fine print back before deregulation? Apparently, the airlines hired every single lawyer from the tariff-filing days of regulation and put them to work coming up with everything they could find to trip up the unsuspecting customers.

    And Reno, I love to travel in and out of that airport. A wonderfully convenient and efficient rental car operation, with some very good daily rates, close to but not quite, LAS-levels. And, if you like to experience hard landings (winds, cross-winds, elevation) RNO is one of those places. But, those pilots seem to be able to handle it all in stride. Thank you.

    And, at this time of the year, oh, to experience the RNO travelers. First, the Burning Man types, then the air racing fans, and a Cranky-guy here or there!. Just a great place to visit

  7. Cranky, I always look forward to reading your blog, but can you hold off on anymore Southwest/JetBlue/Long Beach trip reports for awhile. We get it. You love flying out of LGB

    1. ROB – Nope. I will always write up every trip I take. This isn’t for you, it’s for me. I like to have a detailed record of my flights. It allows me to go back and reminisce. Fortunately, you can just hit delete if you get it by email.

  8. Wow, I missed you by a week. Flew STL-OAK-RNO, arrived at gate 4 in OAK and left from the same gate. I was lucky enough to catch the Norwegian boarding for ARN at gate 3, they called this woman 5 or 6 times to get her butt to the gate as they were LEAVING, and she showed up 3 minutes after the doors closed and she was crying and wailing etc…a good show!

  9. Cranky,
    Good thing you did JetBlue going and Southwest returning, because if you did it the other way around, you would have experienced a JetBlue RNO-LGB flight cancellation, like my wife & I did. On the other hand, if that WOULD have happened to you, it would have been interesting to see how you’d handle this, since the only “protection” JetBlue offered us was to book us on the next day.

    1. Dave – Whoa! Check that out. Looking in the system it shows the airplane was late and eventually canceled. Hopefully you didn’t have to just sit around the airport all day. It’s too bad they wouldn’t put you on another airline. Hopefully they gave you food and hotel and some kind of voucher for future travel to apologize?

  10. Hello again Brett. I took another look at your great pic of SF, home of my birth. The Golden Gate Bridge opened a year later in 1937.

    “All Day Ray”

  11. Happy you got on the right bus to Squaw Valley. We spent a few days there last fall (driving up the Eastern Sierra highway), and a relative who came to join us almost got on the bus from RNO to South Lake Tahoe by accident. Good thing she phoned and we managed to get her on the right bus — otherwise it would’ve been a longer drive for me than picking her up at the airport in the first place!

    1. Ron – The airport was a sponsor at this conference, so it was a special bus for arriving conference attendees. They even had a private room with snacks and drinks set up near baggage claim so that conference attendees could wait for the bus in there. (The other bus was probably nicer. This looked like a slightly improved rental car shuttle, and one that actually had over 650,000 miles!)

  12. Nope, the only thing they offered was to book us on their flight the next day. And my wife & I are both Mosaic frequent flyers! I contacted them after the fact and they gave us each $125 in travel vouchers but it really left us worried about future LGB-RNO-LGB trips on JetBlue. Luckily we had AA miles to use to fly to LAX, but of course we had to pay the $75 close-in ticketing charge plus the cost for Lyft from LAX to our home in Long Beach.

  13. Brett, next time you have hours to kill @ OAK, do let me know!! I’m just seeing this Trip Report, so a tad bit late. Hope all goes well with the healing of your hand. Excited for all of this new capacity @ LGB. Just hope most of it sticks around for a while. Time will tell.

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