Saying Good Riddance to Mesa — and Goodbye to American — in Long Beach (Trip Report)

PHX - Phoenix, Southwest, Trip Reports

With the Cranky Network Awards only a month away, we are deep in planning with our presenting sponsor Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. I had to do a day trip to Phoenix to do some filming with them, and I was excited to see that American’s flight times fit my needs perfectly. Why was I excited? With American’s announcement it will leave Long Beach at the end of February, this was probably my last chance to fly the airline on a route that I’ve flown many times over the last 2+ decades, dating back to my America West days.

How did it go? This was a textbook Mesa kind of flight, and it’s something I won’t miss. At least it was on time, but those interiors are just… not good. Get ready, United fliers.

We had a film crew set to be at the airport from 10am to 2pm, so that meant I could take the first flight out in the morning on Mesa which would put me in just after 9, and then I’d take the 3:45pm back. It was just under $300 for the roundtrip booked one week out, but I had a credit on file to cover most of the cost.

Since it was a day trip, I was able to leave home an hour before departure, drive myself over and park on the street just across from the airport. I had a nice brisk morning walk in and saw that the terminal was feeling pretty blue that day as it continues to undergo renovation.

The security line looked longer for TSA Precheck than the regular line, but that was deceptive since the regular line was inside while the Precheck line was outside. I got in the Precheck line and it took about 5 minutes to cruise through before heading over to gate 3.

Sitting at the gate was our chariot, a nearly 19-year old aircraft that has been repainted in Mesa’s house colors: white with a black tail.

There’s nothing quite like that first flight in the morning out of Long Beach. American annoyingly schedules it for 6:50am even though departures can’t happen until 7am with the noise limits. Inevitably, these flights board up early, they push back early, and then we sit. That’s exactly what happened on this trip.

I boarded when my group was called, and noticed the faded name of a maintenance manager on the nose. If he’s in charge of paint, he clearly hasn’t been doing his job.

Onboard, I took my seat way at the back. This was a Mesa kind of airplane.

American 5854 operated by Mesa
January 18, 2023

From Long Beach
➤ Scheduled Departure: 650a
➤ Actual Departure: 642a
➤ From Gate: 3
➤ Wheels Up: 708a
➤ From Runway: 30

To Phoenix
➤ Wheels Down: 903a
➤ On Runway: 7R
➤ Scheduled Arrival: 915a
➤ Actual Arrival: 913a
➤ At Gate: B2

➤ Type: Mitsubishi CRJ-900ER
➤ Delivered: April 22, 2004
➤ Registered: N920FJ, msn 15020
➤ Livery: Mesa Black Tail

➤ Cabin: Coach in Seat 18A
➤ Load: ~65% Full
➤ Flight Time: 55m

The seats were uncomfortable and seemed to have worn out their padding.

There were scuff marks and cracks all over the sidewall and seatback. I know it’s not unsafe, but it just looks like it is. It’s pretty disgusting inside.

We did push back 8 minutes early and got to the runway threshold 10 minutes before 7. We waited. Apparently there was an additional flow control delay, so we had to wait a few more minutes to depart. Meanwhile, people just decided to get up and wander back to the lav, as if they had never been on an airplane before. The joke was on them… the back lav was broken anyway.

The flight attendant firmly but politely told everyone to sit down. We were airborne at 7:08am.

It was a nice day to fly, but unfortunately it was somewhat hazy around so the views weren’t as good as I’d hoped. Still, I did get some nice shots of the mountains full of snow.

The flight attendants came through with a drink service, and I had water. They also handed out the customary Biscoff. I opened my tray table to put the water down, and well, it was not in great shape.

One side fell down much further than the other, and it was not stable, so if you put any weight, it pushed it down into your lap.

As usual, we landed to the east on a straight-in approach and I watched our awards venue pass by, just across the street from the arena.

We did have to do some long taxiing around the airport, and we blocked in at 9:13am, two minutes early.

I was off to romp through the airport with the film crew. I never left the airport itself, but I did have to go through security a couple times, so that was fun. Oh, and imagine going through security wearing this costume…

Our filming schedule required a whole lot of things to go right, and somehow they all did. We finished up at the rental car center, so I took the train back to Terminal 4, and I was at the security line just about an hour before departure back home. Perfect timing.

This airplane was a VERY slightly newer vintage, about a year younger. It was, at least, still painted in American colors, but I did see at least one aircraft that day which was all gray in American’s base color and had no markings. I assume they’re just slowly preparing to flip these to United, and I have little doubt that the interiors will not be touched. That’s Denver and Houston’s problem now.

The airport was pretty quiet — not a surprise since it’s a Wednesday in January — so I grabbed a seat and waited to be called to board. It was not long before I headed down the jet bridge.

American 5748 operated by Mesa
January 18, 2023

From Phoenix
➤ Scheduled Departure: 345p
➤ Actual Departure: 341p
➤ From Gate: B20
➤ Wheels Up: 354p
➤ From Runway: 25R

To Long Beach
➤ Wheels Down: 354p
➤ On Runway: 30
➤ Scheduled Arrival: 411p
➤ Actual Arrival: 358p
➤ At Gate: 3

➤ Type: Mitsubishi CRJ-900ER
➤ Delivered: January 31, 2005
➤ Registered: N928LR, msn 15028
➤ Livery: Ugly Flag Tail

➤ Cabin: Coach in Seat 11A
➤ Load: ~65% Full
➤ Flight Time: 1h

As I boarded, one of the flight attendants was complaining to the other about how she didn’t like being in Billings for a layover. I walked on just as she said it, and I couldn’t resist, saying “well, you’ll have a whole new list of cities to lay over in soon.” As I walked back to my seat, I could hear her saying “everybody else seems to know more about it than we do. Some United flight attendant said we’re going to all fly 5am flights up to San Francisco.” She seemed a little overwhelmed by the change.

I was further forward on this flight which made a big difference in terms of the noise. The interior still had the usual Mesa scuffs, but it seemed to be in slightly better shape. There was a little more padding in the seats this time, and they looked better, at least.

We pushed back early and made our way to the south side to depart, as usual. As on the way out, the flight was smooth but again the seat belt sign never went off.

The flight attendants came through a couple times, once with drinks and another before landing to tell everyone to bring their seats to their upright and locked position. There were a lot of confused faces when they did that, because many of these seats clearly seemed to have self-reclined, mine included.

Though we were in high clouds for much of this trip, we began descending early enough for me to snap this beautiful shot of Mt San Jacinto, home to Idyllwild and better known to many as that giant mountain to which you can visit by taking a tram from Palm Springs to the top.

As we descended over Orange County, I just kept thinking about all the times I’d flown American, US Airways, and America West between these two airports. This really is the end of an era for me.

Practically, the loss of American doesn’t mean all that much. I rarely found a connecting option from Long Beach via Phoenix that made more sense than going up to LA and flying nonstop. And now that Southwest is in the market with higher frequency and generally lower fares, I likely won’t miss it much.

But as we glided to a smooth landing on runway 30, I still couldn’t help but feel nostalgic. I won’t miss those Mesa interiors at all, but I’ll miss seeing the ghosts of America West at my hometown airport.

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36 comments on “Saying Good Riddance to Mesa — and Goodbye to American — in Long Beach (Trip Report)

    1. I really want to hear how Brett’s kids react(ed) to seeing the pictures/video of him in that costume.

        1. Hahaha, nice.

          Shame they didn’t send the costume home with you… Would have been a great embarrassing Dad thing for you to wear it while picking up your kids from school, preferably while holding a sign with their names on it. ;-)

    2. Oh no doubt, but would you expect anything les from him? That’s what makes cranky… cranky & we adore him for it.

    3. Agree. The trip report is great as always; my favorite Cranky content. But the photo of Brett in that costume and the look on his face are priceless. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall to hear what the TSA Agents in PHX had to say when he came through in that getup.

  1. Aren’t the self-reclining seats an actual safety problem that should be fixed? That’s clearly more than cosmetic unlike the cracks and scuff marks.

    1. Jason – You’d think so, but maybe they don’t self recline enough to be a problem. Or maybe there’s just not enough oversight.

  2. This struck me funny… “As I boarded, one of the flight attendants was complaining to the other about how she didn’t like being in Billings for a layover. I walked on just as she said it, and I couldn’t resist, saying “well, you’ll have a whole new list of cities to lay over in soon.” As I walked back to my seat, I could hear her saying “everybody else seems to know more about it than we do. Some United flight attendant said we’re going to all fly 5am flights up to San Francisco.” She seemed a little overwhelmed by the change.”


    What you said there is something I too would say, but the retort as you walked away was priceless including the 5am flights up to San Francisco.

  3. Brett, any speculation who will get those AA slots at LGB? I’m hoping Southwest, but I know there are some differing restrictions for RJs vs. 737s – can only RJ’s replace the AA/Mesa flights?

    1. Tory – These are full air carrier slots, so anyone can use them. With LGB already increasing the number of slots this year, it’s a lot of slots flooding the market. Southwest is the only one I can imagine wanting them, but I’ve been wrong before.

      1. Thanks. Really glad to hear they are increasing the number of slots. SNA is constrained and needs more competition in the OC market to bring fares back down. SWA seems to be getting slowly displaced from SNA and shifting to LGB. Their HOU service has already mostly moved over. It is just so silly to have LGB so underutilized while LAX and SNA are so jammed. But I love the airport – such a breeze getting in and out!

          1. Carter – They are on the waiting list and have repeatedly turned down the offer for slots, so they clearly don’t want them.

    2. A lot of speculation that WN got 5 of the 8 available slots. 1 permanent and 4 supplemental slots.
      People are saying Avelo threw its hat into the ring at the last minute and was awarded 2 permanent slots and 1 supplemental slot. LGB should also be reallocating 3 of Delta’s permanent slot on March 1 ,2023 for not meeting the minimum usage requirements.

      1. Thanks for the update Runway30. My personal preference would be more SWA and less Avelo, but maybe they’ll provide a little price competition for SWA. Hope they truly enforce against Delta (and SWA gets those!). I hate it when airlines get away with underutilizing slots.

        1. Delta will apparently be returning 4 of its 7 permanent slots. Going back down to just 3 daily SLC flights.
          So that makes 12 available Slots.

        1. BWI would definitely be a great option for them, especially since there is no competition to the Washington DC area from SNA (I don’t know why UA doesn’t fly to IAD). Otherwise I would just expect them to keep adding more frequencies on existing routes. I personally would like to see more HOU service, which tends to be 1-2/day now.

  4. A little insight into the 650 am departures. At my airline, we would schedule this way also (at the airports with quiet hours to 7am that would allow it) to maximize the available connections at the hub, and to keep our departures listed higher on the database. Since the quiet hours applied to takeoff, not pushback, we’d try to get our actual departure to be 7 on the dot if possible.

    The first bank at the hub for East Coast flights was timed to connect with 6am departures from the West Coast, i.e. SFO. LGB is not as far West as SFO, so a 650 dept still allowed for some connections, just not the longest East Coast flights like BOS that were first out on the bank.

    1. Bravenav – I get why they do it, but then stop boarding and pushing so early. It’s just an annoyance that doesn’t help the airplane arrive earlier.

      1. Especially at an airport like LGB, where I’m guessing there’s not much competition to be the first airplane off the runway at 0700.

        Same thing happens at San Diego. Used to be the first plane off the runway at 0630 would be the 0618 (or something like that) American Eagle SAAB up to LAX, where the early departure time plus the Commuter Terminal’s location closer to the end of the runway put them first in line. For a while I lived in Point Loma and heard every takeoff, and when I heard the SAAB going over I knew what time it was. And the SkyWest Brasilia to LAX would be not far behind.

      2. The pilots want to leave early also. The coffee is flowing and from it a hurry up and wait mentality stems. Besides, maybe they’ll get 7 minutes of over block. After a few years of overflying they get hired sooner at a Legacy and curse at the Regional Airline Association and those damn Billings layovers on the way out the door. ??

  5. The name on the side of the plane is a memorial to a decreased employee. So he doesn’t care about the paint.

  6. United flyers will gladly take those CR9’s and give you a train load of CR2’s in exchange.

    The work done on the CommuteAir E145’s really helped them. We’ll see what they do with the CRJ9’s.

    I believe United also gets to re-activate a few E-175’s as well.

    Winner winner, chicken dinner

  7. I wonder how long it’ll take Southwest to jack up the fares between Long Beach and Phoenix.

    On a different regional airline note, once Mesa departs, American will be about 40 frames below its scope limit regarding 76 seat aircraft. It’ll now be able to sell the 66th seat on its “new” E-170s. I’ve also seen where PSA has sent a number of CRJ-700s to Kingman, Arizona for storage. I’m wondering if any of them will migrate to Air Wisconsin.

    In a world where profitability is more important than market share or lines on a route map, something had to give. Still, it’s sad that American couldn’t make LGB work. But that’s life.

  8. Great report! I only non-revved once to LGB, but I am really sorry to see it go. I am not sorry to see that crapcan of an airline Mesa, go to someone else. Such a poorly run and shabby airline. I once interviewed for a management job at Mesa, during the interview, the recruiter told me that as a part of the job I could expect Jonathan O. to yell at me and berate me from time to time, was I OK with that? Happily, I didn’t get the job and went to a much more lucrative and stable workplace. Good bye Mesa, don’t let the door hit ya on the way out.

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