Southwest used to put together something called the “Message to the Field,” a big party that also happened to be an attempt to tell everyone how the company was doing. Over the years, this has morphed into what today is called a Rally. They do 3 or 4 a year, and it involves thousands of people throughout the company getting a dose of the Southwest Kool-Aid. I was invited to attend the airline’s Vegas event this year, but alas, it’s entirely off the record. While I can’t talk about the event itself, I can talk about my flights.
[Disclosure: Southwest paid for my flight to Vegas but not the return]
Even though this came together relatively last minute, I spent a ton of time trying to pick the right flights. I debated whether to do it as a day trip or stay overnight, and I considered which airport to use. Heck, I even looked to see if they had any of those luxury buses to go one way. In the end, I decided to make this simple. I flew Southwest out in the morning (on their dime). I would have flown Southwest back, but there wasn’t a flight late enough back into Long Beach. I could have flown to LAX, but JetBlue was selling a later departure to Long Beach for only $74.30 the day before travel. That was easily worth the price to be able to stay close to home.
Southwest was able to get me booked for the flight out just a couple hours before check-in opened, so that allowed me to do it right at 24 hours. I ended up with A41, and I figured that meant this flight would be empty.
I left home an hour before departure and parked in Lot B. After snapping this picture, just because I love the view so much, I walked through security and as always, had time to kill on the other side.
The early morning flights had moved out, so the gate area was pretty quiet. Our former AirTran 737 in the old Canyon Blue colors was looking resplendent in the morning sun.
They called us for boarding with a welcome surprise.
This is a very light flight. There will be enough room for everyone to spread around.
They called Business Select boarding, and then a couple people in B1-15 thought that meant they could take their spots in line. That led to all kinds of confusion as people behind in A16-30 weren’t sure whether to go around or not. Eventually, after some angry glares at those people, order was restored and boarding continued. I saw people backed up on the ramp to the front door, so I kept walking around the wing to get to the back where it was empty.
February 12, 2019
Southwest 4233 Lv Long Beach 810a Arr Las Vegas 915a
Long Beach (LGB): Gate 2, Runway 30, Depart 3m Early
Las Vegas (LAS): Gate C11, Runway 26L, Arrive 6m Late
N7728D, Boeing 737-7BD, Canyon Blue colors, ~50% Full
Seat 9A, Coach
Flight Time 43m
People were blocking the first few rows putting bags up, so I was able to walk all the way up to row 9 and take a seat without feeling like a salmon swimming upstream. Someone sat in the aisle, but the middle was open.
The pilots welcomed us onboard, and the flight attendants did too. Then they told us that the pilots had told them it was likely to be bumpy, so if they were able to do a drink service, they wouldn’t have much time. They asked everyone to be ready with orders so they could fly through the aisles.
We took off and circled around over the port before pointing toward Vegas. It was smooth as glass until we got up to altitude, but even up there we only had a couple of bumps. The mountains were looking rather nice with their snow-covered peaks.
The flight attendants didn’t have to worry about rushing, but they did come through with a full service.
A few minutes after reaching cruise, we started to descend. As a window addict, I haven’t done this in years, but my eyes were feeling heavy that morning. So I shut my eyes, sat back, and kept them closed all the way down until the rubber hit the runway. It’s such an odd sensation.
Once on the ground, we found someone sitting at our gate so we had to wait awhile. That’s why we blocked in six minutes after schedule.
I went into the terminal and got ready for my long day. After the Rally, there was an expo/party where I had a little food and talked shop with people. Then it was time to head back to the airport. I hopped in a cab — there was a long line of them at the convention center where the event was held, so no reason to wait for Lyft — and was at Terminal 3 far too quickly. There was nobody at security, and I was through with about 45 minutes to kill.
When I booked the flight, only middles were available, but I set an alert and a window opened earlier in the day. My team made the switch in Sabre, but it didn’t appear to stick. When I pulled up my boarding pass on my phone, it still showed 13B.
Not seeing any windows on the seat map (except for Even More Space and I didn’t want to pay for that), I went up to the agent to see if she had anything. Sure enough, the back row is blocked from assignment, but she was able to give me 25F. Bonus: with rear boarding in Long Beach, it would be a quick exit.
The airplane came in from Long Beach, and we boarded soon after.
February 12, 2019
JetBlue 679 Lv Las Vegas 756p Arr Long Beach 859p
Las Vegas (LAS): Gate E10, Runway 26R, Depart 4m Early
Long Beach (LGB): Gate 5, Runway 30, Arrive 11m Early
N655JB, Airbus A320-232, 100th A320 colors “Blue 100”, ~90% Full
Seat 25F, Coach
Flight Time 44m
This flight was much more full than the one on Southwest that morning, but I was lucky to keep the middle open in my row. My TV was dark when I walked on, and I asked the very friendly Boston-based flight attendants standing at the back galley if they knew if it was broken. They said to just wait and it might start working once we got moving. Sure enough, it did.
We had a quick taxi out and then took off to the west. It was a surprisingly smooth departure out of Vegas. I just always assume it’s going to be bumpy out of there. We climbed up through a couple cloud layers and had a little chop but not much.
The flight attendants came through with drinks and snacks. I still love that JetBlue hands out those mini water bottles.
I passed the time by watching a Howard Schultz town hall on CNN. This is the garbage you have to watch when it’s 11p on the east coast and all the networks are showing local New York news. Fortunately it was a short flight.
As we got toward the greater LA area, we descended below the clouds and had some wonderful views. It sounds odd, but I don’t fly at night a ton, so these views aren’t all that common for me.
We landed early and parked quickly. I was off the plane from the rear in no time. After paying my $17 for parking, I was on my home and in the door a mere 25 minutes after we blocked in at the gate. Have I mentioned how much I love Long Beach?