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
➤ 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
➤ 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.