Phast Phlights To and From Phoenix (Trip Report)

American, Southwest, Trip Reports

I had to do a last minute trip to Phoenix for work, so with less than a week out, I was happy to find $114 one way fares on both Southwest and American between Long Beach and Phoenix. I just took the ones that were most conveniently-timed with Southwest winning on the way out and American coming back home. In the end, this felt like taking the bus… I mean that in the best way possible.

The beauty of the Long Beach Airport is that it requires very little advance planning. Traffic isn’t an issue, and I don’t need to leave home very early. On the way out, I booked the first Southwest flight which is at 7:55am. Checking in the day before got me pass A44, and I was good to go. I was looking forward to my second MAX flight, but for the 4th time in 5 tries, I was swapped out to a 737-800 once again.

I scheduled a Lyft to go at 6:55am, and the driver showed up a couple minutes early. I found myself at the airport just 10 minutes later… staring at the big, beautiful new ticketing lobby in Long Beach. I’ll have a separate post on that sometime in the near future.

The security line wasn’t long, but it moved very slowly. That’s probably because several flight crew members had to cut in front of us in the TSA Precheck line, and the alarm kept going off. But no matter, once through I still had to just hurry up and wait to board. One of these days I’ll start leaving home later.

We were at the dreaded gate 10 at the end of the concourse. Why is it dreaded? Well, it has no boarding stanchions, so Southwest calls everyone up in groups of 10, slowing down the process.

Southwest 1458
May 10, 2022

Depart Long Beach
➤ Scheduled: 755a, Actual: 755a
➤ From: Gate 10 on Runway 30

Arrive Phoenix
➤ Scheduled: 910a, Actual: 902a
➤ At: Gate C2 on Runway 7R

➤ Type: Boeing 737-8H4
➤ Delivered: June 28, 2012
➤ Registered: N8313F, msn 38810
➤ Livery: Hot Dog on a Stick

➤ Cabin: Coach in Seat 3A
➤ Load: ~50% Full
➤ Flight Time: 51m

Once onboard, we were told the flight was only half full. That was good since the slow boarding meant anything longer and we probably would have been late. We buttoned up right on time and made our way to the runway.

It was a gloriously tranquil morning and there was barely a ripple as we wound our way out over the Pacific before heading east. The flight attendants came through with a drink service as we flew in and around some high clouds.

I had to do some prep work that fortunately didn’t need wifi, so I pulled my computer out and worked until we began our descent just after passing over what’s left of the Colorado River.

We came in from the west, as is usually the case in the mornings, and it was a quick taxi to one of my favorite gates… C2 which is right next to the exit from security.

On this trip, I did something I’d never done before. I took the SkyTrain to the Metro light rail train to head to downtown Phoenix. It was easy getting to the light rail, but the train was a mess with big delays, slower service, and random stops while they do major work on the system in downtown Phoenix. This will be a much better option once that work is done.

After a busy day and a half, it was time to come home. I was booked on the 5pm flight on American, but we finished up meetings just before 2pm, and I decided to take a swing at making the earlier flight home at 2:53pm.

The flight was sold out when I looked, so I figured I’d just go standby at the airport. Not wanting to waste time waiting for a rideshare, I took a cab that was ready to go at the hotel. It took 10 to 15 minutes, and the driver dropped me off right where I needed to be at the B gates.

The line for regular security had a little wait, but the TSA Precheck line was empty. This was a first for me… At the ID check, they scanned my ID and took my picture. Then some algorithm confirms I’m actually the person on the ID instead of relying on the opinion of a person looking at the photo. I wonder how accurate this is.

Once through, I went to the gate but nobody was there despite being only about half an hour or so from departure. I went on to the customer service counter, and I asked an agent if she’d put me on the standby list. She did, and I went to wait it out. It was just like the old days as an airline employee. I don’t miss that.

I sat there as the agent began boarding, and that’s when I realized what was going on. This is American’s new plan to board some flights with a single agent, and it couldn’t have been a better example of just what a bad idea that really is.

I assume the agent wasn’t there when I first came up, because she was down the jet bridge, and there was nobody else to remain up top. Once boarding began, it was like watching a juggling act. She was trying to board people while tagging bags for gate-checking, figuring out a wheelchair situation, and sitting on the phone talking to someone to work out an issue while a line of people waited to talk to her. Just look at this photo.

Boarding was incredibly slow, but I was overjoyed when I saw my name flash on the screen as being the only one to clear. I waited while she tried to square everything, figuring she’d call me up at the end.

Eventually one other person came over to help tag bags, and that helped to some extent. But there was still a lot to do. A woman ran up out of breath and wheezed, “I can’t believe I made it.” She then told a story about how she raced to the airport so she could get home to see her son get an award.

After a couple minutes, I realized that she was traveling standby, and she probably wasn’t going to make it. I thought about offering my seat to her, but it wouldn’t have worked that way. There were others on standby who I think were ahead of her. Meanwhile boarding was done, and they were ready to go, so I thought better of it and just took my seat. I hope she ended up making it on another flight.

American 5849 (operated by Mesa)
May 11, 2022

Depart Phoenix
➤ Scheduled: 253p, Actual: 253p
➤ From: Gate B3 on Runway 25R

Arrive Long Beach
➤ Scheduled: 417p, Actual: 410p
➤ At: Gate 3 on Runway 30

➤ Type: Mitsubishi CRJ-900ER
➤ Delivered: Apr 30, 2007
➤ Registered: N950LR, msn 15119
➤ Livery: Ugly Flag Tail

➤ Cabin: Coach in Seat 15A
➤ Load: 100% Full
➤ Flight Time: 1h4m

I hopped onboard and took my seat toward the back. As is usually the case on these airplanes, this row had a misaligned window, but at least I could look forward to see something… and not just the dirt and grime.

We pushed back right on time, and had the usual quick taxi to the runway for our flight home. The captain had told us to expect bumps on the way out and during landing, and he wasn’t wrong. The winds were blowing on departure, so we bounced our way up to 10,000 feet where it smoothed out.

We again found ourselves up in high clouds as we headed west. The flight attendants came through with drinks and Biscoffs. I just had some water. I couldn’t help but notice that one of the flight attendants looked like he was 15 years old. I’m getting old.

Around Palm Springs we started descending, and they told everyone it would likely be bumpy. Winds at the airport were at 25 knots gusting to 35. Though we did have some minor bumps in our descent, it was surprisingly smooth most of the way down. I guess it just wasn’t very gusty as we chugged ahead into the winds.

As we passed over into Orange County, I could see plumes of smoke coming from near the coast. This was the fire that ended up burning down 20+ mansions by the coast.

During our taxi back to the terminal, we passed a wind sock sticking straight out.

We had a short taxi and blocked in a few minutes early. I watched as a crowd gathered on the ground waiting for all those gate check bags to show up. As you can see in this shot, the winds had not let up. It felt like landing in Hawai’i.

I made my way out to the curb where my family picked me up and took me home.

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25 comments on “Phast Phlights To and From Phoenix (Trip Report)

  1. One gate agent for a full 737 flight? Unless American is really padding schedules, I don’t see that working out hardly ever.

    Even in the best case or with a flight that was only half full it would be tough to run the boarding process with a single person, and often it seems like even 2 people aren’t enough for 737 or 320 flights.

    1. In this case it was a CRJ900 but I wouldn’t put that past American who continues to expand its lead in the race to the bottom.

      1. Thanks. I believe it was noted as a 737 in the original post (I tend to read the posts shortly after they go live) and later corrected, but regardless, the point remains… Seems awfully penny wise, pound foolish, at least to this outsider.

        1. To correct myself, the mistake was more likely mine than Cranky’s. Caffeine takes a while to kick in sometimes, especially after a long weekend. Thanks everyone for the gentle corrections.

  2. Brett, was the flight on American or Delta? Photos and post seem to imply American, but the tag at the bottom says Delta.

    I normally associate Biscoff cookies with Delta, but apparently American is serving them now as well… I’m somewhat surprised Delta didn’t have an exclusive arrangement negotiated with Biscoff, but I guess I may be a bit of a Biscoff fan; most pax probably don’t notice/care, nor do they associate Biscoff with Delta like some of us do.

    At least this means that you can now fly American with Cranky Jr., given that they serve his favorite Biscoff. :-)

    1. American has served Biscoff for awhile now. Even United as well. They just don’t have the personalized ones with the logo on the cookie

      1. It still seems wrong somehow to get a Biscoff on other airlines, I’ve always looked forward to them on Delta…and nicking them from my roommate and his girlfriend when they fly back on Delta. (Yes, I can buy them at the store, but I like the widget on them.)

    2. Kilroy – Oh I hate those tags, always fail to update. It’s American, and they’ve served Biscoff for years. Also, it was a CRJ-900, not a 737.

  3. The light rail delays in Phoenix are due to the new, giant South Phoenix Light Rail extension project. Downtown Phoenix is limited to one set of rails, so both directions have to share the same track. It impacted Phoenix Comicon as well. They should be done with the problematic overlappy portions in August, I think.

    1. Kyle – Well, sort of. LA County still requires masks in airports, and I kind of forget that I have it on, so I just leave it. But on the way back I didn’t wear one. It was fine, just like being anywhere else without masks.

  4. “This was a first for me… At the ID check, they scanned my ID and took my picture. Then some algorithm confirms I’m actually the person on the ID instead of relying on the opinion of a person looking at the photo. I wonder how accurate this is.”

    The real question is… are they data harvesting. My local hospital is doing the same thing when you visit someone.

    1. If you have a passport, Homeland Security already has your picture, and they already know where you’re going from flight manifests. Not much else for them to harvest.

  5. Customs is doing the same ID stuff now. You walk up to the agent, and the system takes your picture, then it pulls up your information for them.

    They compare the info from the system to your passport to make sure it’s you, and you move on. It was actually quick and simple, and it lets them save agents’ time for people they might have questions about.

  6. Every international departure from SEA in the last three or so years has been a face scan to board, courtesy of the US government. And Global Entry is now just a face scan for me as well. No more scanning of passport and finger prints.

  7. WN just recently relocated all of its flights activities to gates 5-11 leaving Hawaiian at gates 1-2 , American at gate 3 and Delta at gate 4.
    During the day time Turn flight operations WN use’s gates 5-8. Gates 9-11 are only being used for Orientating morning flights and end of the day terminating flights.
    I’ve heard WN will paying to refresh the seating and Boarding arrangements to normal WN system layout during the fall of 2022.

  8. A quick check of the Southwest tail number reveals you were an aircraft type rarer than a MAX. You were on a 737-800 ETOPS aircraft. I believe WN has fewer than 30 of those. So you scored!!! Perhaps the airplane was going to fly PHX-HNL after your flight.

    1. Saw – It’s true, the ETOPS airplane came in from HNL the night before. So yes, it was ETOPS but it’s no different for the average traveler than any other NG.

      1. You make a good point about the “average traveller.” To that end, would the average traveller know the difference between a 737-800 and a MAX? I would say probably not, unless they actually looked at the title page of the safety information card. Would the average traveller notice the extra leg room, scalloped engine nacelle or the quieter (than a -800) ride? I would opine no, they would not. You, of course, are not the “average traveller.” At any rate, I hope you get a MAX next time!

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