Flying The Oakland California Corridor Challenge: SNA-OAK-SNA on JSX and Spirit (Trip Report)

American, Southwest, Trip Reports

And now, it’s time for the final installment of the Oakland California Corridor Challenge. By the time the final day rolled around, I was completely exhausted. That being said, I was really excited for this day since it would mean flying JSX for the first time ever as well as Spirit for the first time since 2011.

Disclosure: Oakland International Airport paid for flights, hotel, and expenses. The airlines involved were also told in advance that we were flying.

First up was JSX. And I was very happy that we didn’t have that flight until 8:55am. Since JSX is semi-private and doesn’t require going through security, that meant I could get a little sleep before heading over.

We had specifically booked the Hyatt Regency near the airport for one main reason… it was the closest and easiest hotel to walk to the JSX terminal. Airport shuttles are great from a ton of hotels, but it’s not helpful if your airline doesn’t use the terminal. JSX is further south at a fixed base operator.

The walk was less than 10 minutes through some typically walking-unfriendly Orange County streets. When we got there, we saw a little sign and some people hanging out outside. We walked right in and saw a very small counter on the right with friendly agents ready to help.

There we were checked in and given boarding passes. We also had our bags checked since there are no overhead bins onboard. After saying goodbye to our bags, we went into the very small waiting area which had some snacks, coffee, TV, and a few chairs that were full. I stood near the monitor where I learned JSX has a lot more flights from Orange County than I realized.

It wasn’t long until 8:40am hit and boarding began. They don’t start boarding until 15 minutes before departure. We were all put in a line and walked out on the ramp to our aircraft, looking good in the morning light.

After a few obligatory photos, Henry and I hopped onboard.

JSX 331
April 14, 2022

Depart Orange County
➤ Scheduled: 855a, Actual: 856a
➤ From: Gate n/a on Runway 20R

Arrive Oakland
➤ Scheduled: 1020a, Actual: 1025a
➤ At: Gate n/a on Runway 12

➤ Type: Embraer ERJ-135LR
➤ Delivered: January 13, 2000 to American Eagle
➤ Registered: N256JX, msn 211
➤ Livery: X Tail

➤ Cabin: Coach in Seat 9C
➤ Load: ~57% Full
➤ Flight Time: 1h15m

A friendly flight attendant greeted us. We later learned that she used to fly for Eastern (the real one) out of San Juan. She took some time off, but when she wanted to get back in, she joined JSX and seemed to be having an absolute ball. She was great.

This JSX configuration had the usual 1-2 seating across, but the seats were cushier and more comfy. Power had been installed at the bottom of the sidewall, a welcome break from Southwest’s lack of power.

The airplane was only about half full, so the flight attendant told us to feel free to spread around. I had two seats to myself on one side and Henry took the single seat on the other.

We were soon airborne, and I was surprised to see that we didn’t seem to do the usual Orange County procedure of stopping the climb and pulling back on the throttles in order to lower noise for all those super important rich people below.

After getting out over the ocean, we turned to the right and started making our way north. The flight attendant came through with menus of what they offer onboard.

JSX has an open bar with plentiful snacks.

There were quite a few people having alcoholic beverages that morning. I, however, stuck with water.

I was a little surprised when the water showed up as a bottle sitting in a plastic cup. Not that I cared, but I figured this upscale experience would have glass or at least some ice. Far more surprising was the streaking stain I uncovered on the seatback when pulling the tray table down. I looked around and saw there were also some red-tinged stains on the ceiling.

Severe turbulence? Somebody get way too over-excited holding a Cape Cod? I have no idea, but the airplane could have used a little cleaning.

As we chugged our way north, I had time to ponder the most glaring issue with JSX. There is no wifi. For a company that’s all about saving travelers time and improving productivity, that seems like a huge miss. Fortunately, JSX announced soon after our trip that it will be adding Starlink wifi to its fleet. That will make all the difference in the world.

The promised storm was rolling through Oakland as we descended through all the cloud layers. The winds caused us to do an approach from the north, and it meant we had to land on the regular big jet runway instead of the closer runway on the north field which would have been used on a normal south approach.

The long taxi time meant we arrived a few minutes late. They held us on the airplane until all the bags were pulled out, and we all got off in the spitting rain, grabbed our bags, and walked into the terminal building.

Here, JSX had a much bigger space, but it was still busy. I also noticed on my way out that this space seemed to have actual security of some sort unlike Orange County, I think. I’m not quite sure how all this works.

The OAK team met us and drove us back over to the main terminal since the only other way to get there is a rideshare or cab. Once back, it was time for a completely different experience.

The Spirit flight right back down to Orange County wouldn’t go for a couple hours, so we went into the Escape Lounge thanks to Henry’s Amex Platinum card. It’s a very small lounge, but there is plenty of seating, or at least there was for the time of day we were there. There’s food, drink, and power. We bided our time there.

The Spirit flight kept delaying a few minutes at a time. I don’t quite know why, but it could have been the rain in Oakland. Our airplane was coming from Vegas, so it could have been something there too.

For this flight, we had booked the Big Front Seat to see what it would be like. This is like having a First Class seat with no extra amenities, and I’ve always thought it was the best value flying. I was eager to board our A320neo, but first I had to get the boarding pass. I had checked in on my phone, but it kept timing out and made it difficult. I tried to get the app, but that didn’t work for me. Could Spirit make this difficult on purpose so you need to pay for help? I don’t think so… right… RIGHT?

Finally, with the boarding pass acquired, we got onboard.

Spirit 2900
April 14, 2022

Depart Oakland
➤ Scheduled: 1220p, Actual: 1p
➤ From: Gate 9A on Runway 12

Arrive Orange County
➤ Scheduled: 144p, Actual: 206p
➤ At: Gate 14 on Runway 20R

➤ Type: Airbus A320-271Neo
➤ Delivered: November 11, 2016
➤ Registered: N903NK, msn 7011
➤ Livery: Yellow bird

➤ Cabin: Big Front Seat in Seat 2A
➤ Load: ~80% Full
➤ Flight Time: 1h

The airplane was nice and clean on the inside, as it should have been since it’s a fairly new airplane. It’s a pleasingly non-descript interior, a far cry from the days when there were ads on overhead bins.

We had no trouble finding bin space, and when I took my seat, I found it instantly comfortable.

We took off from the north and had a great view of the main terminal as we climbed toward the soup.

We circled around so we could get into the right path for our flight down south, and there was a perfectly-timed break in the clouds so I could get this view of SFO.

That neo is just such a quiet airplane, such a nice ride. It wasn’t long before we broke into the brilliant sun, and then I could say… howdy right back at’cha.

I wanted to test out the wifi, and I was surprised to find out that it was only $3.99 for regular wifi or $6.99 for streaming fast wifi. I just did the regular wifi and it was still blazing. I didn’t do a speed test, but I should have. I was just having too much fun using actual functioning wifi.

The flight attendants came through to sell stuff, and I forced Henry to join me in a Buzzballz toast.

Buzzballz and Spirit belong together, so we got a Lotta Colada and a Tequila Rita. Both were surprisingly good, though Henry didn’t have too much. I ended up finishing them both off, and yeah, it gave me a buzz. Truth in advertising right there.

At one point I walked back to the very last row to sit in an empty aisle seat so I could get a sense of the regular legroom. You know what? It was perfectly fine.

The curve in the seat pan makes it easy to stretch your legs out. I found it really comfy, though I obviously didn’t sit there for very long since it was a short flight.

At one point, the flight attendant had a contest saying that one seat had something under it, and if anyone had it they’d get 500 Free Spirit miles. Is that a normal thing? I don’t know, but it was kind of strange.

Soon we were descending into Orange County, and the view of LAX was just spectacular.

We landed, and I was ready to be done. Technically, I was supposed to fly back up on Spirit in regular coach and then go up to Crescent City for the night as an added bonus. We had already cut the Crescent City plan, but I was still going to fly up on Spirit and then turn right back around again on Southwest. It just wasn’t worth it. We had already completed the entire challenge, and this would have just been gravy.

Henry flew back up to Oakland for his final flight, and he was able to get himself an exit row. I went back home and passed out.

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7 comments on “Flying The Oakland California Corridor Challenge: SNA-OAK-SNA on JSX and Spirit (Trip Report)

  1. Good to see that JSX at least offers liquor that’s roughly mid-shelf, could be much worse when it comes to free booze.

    I’ve never had a BuzzBallz, but from what I’ve seen of them (usually in displays by the registers at liquor/convenience stores, and with packaging that clearly targets the “barely legal to drink” demographic who wants a buzz), they do seem like a great fit for Spirit.

  2. Dang…comfortable seating, flying with Henry AND a MKE Brewers Barrel Man sweatshirt? This trip report is perfection! :-)

  3. Funny that the Crescent City leg would have been by far the most interesting. (Having flown Southwest a fair number of times in my life.)

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