They say third time’s a charm, right? I was supposed to fly on my first MAX on Southwest years ago, long before the grounding, but it was swapped out to a 737-800 at the last minute. Then last October I was booked to fly back to LAX from Phoenix specifically because it was on a Southwest MAX, but the Southwest meltdown led to a swap so I switched flights. This time, I was heading back to Phoenix, and I finally pulled it off. That combined with a clean and on-time American Eagle/SkyWest CRJ-700 home made for an easy day trip.
This was my annual trip to Phoenix to watch a spring training game with some old America West colleagues. This didn’t happen the last two years, so I was excited to get back to it. Considering this marks 20 years since I left America West, it says a great deal about how much I liked and respected the people I worked with there. Catching up with them at a ballpark is a highlight every year.
I don’t like to cut it too close to game time, because there’s always tailgating before, so I flew out first thing in the morning. American had nothing until later, so Southwest it was. I bought a ticket on the first flight out for a mere $58.09, and yes it was scheduled on a MAX. For the return, American had the right timing with a 5:20pm departure so I snagged that for $88.60.
I checked in at the 24 hour mark on my flight out and got A51. I figured that meant the plane was empty, because I wasn’t buying EarlyBird and rarely get better than low Bs, but I was wrong. We must just be cheap in Long Beach and won’t spring for that fancy boarding plan.
The morning of the flight I woke up to find a thick fog blanketing the area. I left home a bit more than an hour before departure, parked on the street outside the airport, and headed in. I decided to walk through the historic terminal building since it will soon close and become a rental car center. The new ticketing area will open on May 4, and wow, it can’t happen soon enough. Southwest’s presence at the airport has resulted in a crushing crowd trying to check bags. It is just not adequately-sized for its purpose anymore.
The security line was long. And by that, I mean it took me 5 minutes to get through. On the other side, I strolled over to gate 2 and scratched my head.
The monitor said Oakland and the airplane out the window was Arizona One, not a MAX. I had a sense of dread that I was getting swapped, but nay. The Oakland flight had finished boarding and was on Arizona One. Our airplane was parked by gate 3, and oh yes, it was a MAX that had come in from Honolulu the night before.
Not a minute after I walked up to the gate, they told the A group to line up, so I joined the herd and hopped on board.
March 25, 2022
Depart Long Beach
➤ Scheduled: 730a, Actual: 743a
➤ From: Gate 2 on Runway 30
➤ Scheduled: 850a, Actual: 857a
➤ At: Gate D6 on Runway 7R
➤ Type: Boeing 737-8 MAX
➤ Delivered: Nov 7, 2017
➤ Registered: N8715Q, msn 42570
➤ Livery: Hot Dog on a Stick
➤ Cabin: Coach in Seat 4A
➤ Load: ~95% Full
➤ Flight Time: 54m
The interior of the MAX was quite a wake up call. It had the mood lighting fired up in Southwest colors. I was happy to see a woman in the aisle in row 4 with an empty window, so I took it.
We were late pushing back, and I have no idea why. The flight attendants were chipper, but not annoyingly so. It’s a fine line in the early morning, and they never crossed it.
We found our way down to the end of the runway through the fog and powered up. The first thing I noticed… the engines are so quiet. This reminded me of my first time on a neo. It was also the opposite of my last time flying a 737-300.
We were in the muck only for about twenty seconds before we were above the deck, turning south before heading east.
I was really tired, so I briefly dozed to the point that I missed the drink service entirely. At least I got a snack mix bag. The ride itself was smooth. There were some high clouds that blocked the view, but it cleared once we got past the Colorado River and into Arizona.
The pilots came on and said there were reports of some bumps on the way into Phoenix, so they turned on the seatbelt sign. I don’t know what air those people were flying through, but our descent was smooth as silk.
I saluted my team as we passed Chase Field on our landing from the west. We had a quick taxi to the gate which was on the D concourse so I could snap one of my favorite photos. It’s just such a great view.
The day was so good. We went to breakfast, I picked up some beers, and we hung out for a couple hours until we slowly wandered in for the game itself. Who won? Not that it matters, but the A’s beat the Brewers. Spring training is never about the score.
The game wrapped up a little after 4, so I hopped into my friend’s car and we drove back to the airport. I was in the door about an hour before departure, had a very short line at security, and was lucky to get a close-in parking spot at gate B3. I had a little time to kill, so I walked around. I noticed the newer screens showing flight information. I’m not sure these are any better, especially since they have less information on each screen.
After having some nostalgic flashbacks to my old America West days as I always do there, I came back to board.
American Eagle (SkyWest) 3046
March 25, 2022
➤ Scheduled: 520p, Actual: 520p
➤ From: Gate B3 on Runway 25R
Arrive Long Beach
➤ Scheduled: 647p, Actual: 629p
➤ At: Gate 5 on Runway 30
➤ Type: Mitsubishi CRJ-701ER
➤ Delivered: Sep 10, 2003
➤ Registered: N720EV, msn 10115
➤ Livery: Ugly Flag Tail
➤ Cabin: Coach in Seat 10A
➤ Load: ~90% Full
➤ Flight Time: 56m
It’s so nice to see a clean and modern looking regional aircraft in American’s colors. I like having SkyWest in town a lot more than Mesa. The interior looked good and this flight was already fairly full when I stepped onboard.
Someone was in the aisle when I got there. He got up to let me in, I took my seat, and I realized how tired I was. Also, drunk. But mostly tired. As boarding finished up, my seatmate got up and I never saw him again. I think he moved back to one of the few other empty seats, but I didn’t really care where he went. I was just happy that he did.
We had a short taxi over to the south runways and took off to the west. Morning arrivals and afternoon departures are the best in Phoenix if you’re coming from/heading to the west. The runways nearly always line up in your favor.
Once at altitude, the flight attendants came through with drinks and snacks. I had water and asked for two Biscoff, because if I don’t get one for each kid, I better not get any. She had no problem with that.
The high clouds were still hanging around, so we spent a fair bit of time in them. The flight attendants were working hard, coming up and down the aisles often. One of them was wearing a jacket, and I was confused because it didn’t seem very cold onboard. I asked her if she was freezing, and she said something like “yeah, it’s so cold up front, but it’s not here. It makes me look crazy, I know.” I appreciated the self-awareness.
We had a nice descent through clearing skies that had us fly right over Orange County airport just as a Southwest aircraft was taking off (just in front of the wing in the photo above). Then we hung a right and followed the coast to land.
I was surprised to land nearly 20 minutes early on such a short flight, but I certainly wasn’t going to complain. By this point, I had sobered up, and the walk back to the car down the road felt good in the cool air.
As always, it was a great day, and the flights — like everything else — went like clockwork.