Not Another Routine Trip to Oakland… (Trip Report)

Southwest, Trip Reports

… is what you’ll probably be saying as you read about this routine trip to Oakland. I know, I know. That’s quite the clickbait-y headline, but there are only so many times I can come up with a unique angle for a short hop up north. I will say, however, that the return was my second flight on a MAX, and I had the chance to explore it more. It is really a fantastic ride as a passenger.

This trip was booked just over 3 weeks out which got me the $80.98 one way fare out of Long Beach. I was on a 737-700 going up but a MAX on the way back, so I looked forward to the comparison.

This was a one-night trip, and that’s when it gets murky whether to take a rideshare or pay for parking at $19 a day. This time I opted to pay for parking. I left home an hour before departure, parked, and walked into a very slow-moving Precheck line. I don’t know what the agent working the machine was doing, but that belt was not moving. The ID checker had to stop the line for awhile because the belt was so backed up that there was no more room for him to put people. In the end, it took me 10 minutes to get through, which is a lot in Long Beach.

On the way to the airplane, I had to stop and stare.

That Herb plane in the desert gold is a looker. My airplane, however, wasn’t in any special colors. It was just your run-of-the-mill delivered to Malev then flown by Transaero… Southwest 737.

I had checked in the night before and got boarding pass B28, a somewhat alarmingly low number on a 737-700, but I still knew that I’d get a window thanks to dual boarding. See, everyone just waits on the ramp that goes up to the front door, but if you go to the back and walk up the stairs, you’ll get on well before them. I did and took a window right behind the wing.

Southwest 2606
May 30, 2023

From Long Beach
➤ Scheduled Departure: 750a
➤ Actual Departure: 748a
➤ From Gate: 9
➤ Wheels Up: 757a
➤ From Runway: 30

To Oakland
➤ Wheels Down: 847a
➤ On Runway: 30
➤ Scheduled Arrival: 910a
➤ Actual Arrival: 901a
➤ At Gate: 32

➤ Type: Boeing 737-7Q8
➤ Delivered: November 22, 2004 to Malev
➤ Registered: N7876A, msn 29355
➤ Livery: Hot Dog on a Stick

➤ Cabin: Coach in Seat 16A
➤ Load: ~90% Full
➤ Flight Time: 50m

We departed on time and made our way down to Runway 30. This runway had been closed on Tuesday and Wednesday for the previous six weeks due to maintenance work, but it was in good order on this day. We took off into the marine layer and found ourselves above it in short order.

The ride up had some light chop much of the way, but it was very quick at only 50 minutes runway to runway. I had a glass of water and was hungry enough to down the salty death mix. I didn’t feel the need to log on and do any work. Instead I just stared out the window at the sun since we haven’t seen much of it for a few weeks here in Southern California thanks to the usual May Gray/June Gloom. The Bay Area (below) wasn’t much better, but it did clear out for us later in the day.

After landing, we taxied to the furthest gate in Oakland, 32. I walked off, made my way outside, and hopped on BART to head into town. It was a productive trip that mixed work with a couple of A’s games. Gotta get those in while they’re still there, and yeah, this was a good day…

After the Wednesday matinee finished, I headed back to the airport for my flight home. This time, my airplane would be parked in Terminal 1. That used to be the cats-and-dogs terminal, but Southwest has slowly taken over more and more gates in there. Security was completely empty in Terminal 1, and airside was only slightly busier.

My airplane pulled up after a flight in from Kahului (Maui), and it was one of what I’ve been told some people internally call the Spice Girls. There were about a dozen MAX aircraft that were destined for SpiceJet but they were rejected. So, Southwest picked them up. If you’re curious if you’re on one, just look at the registration. Anything that starts with N18 is one of those, and I was on N1806U.

Strangely enough, they all end in U, so that means they share registrations from United DC-10s of old. The previous N1806U was delivered to United in the Friendship colors in 1971. It went to Fedex in 1997 where it became N367FE and was retired in 2014.

Anyway, I digress. I waited until we were told to line up for boarding. I had checked in and got A58 this time, so I was feeling good about that. I felt even better when the agent said the airplane was less than half full. Huzzah.

Southwest 2192
May 31, 2023

From Oakland
➤ Scheduled Departure: 520p
➤ Actual Departure: 519p
➤ From Gate: 10
➤ Wheels Up: 528p
➤ From Runway: 30

To Long Beach
➤ Wheels Down: 628p
➤ On Runway: 30
➤ Scheduled Arrival: 645p
➤ Actual Arrival: 641p
➤ At Gate: 7

➤ Type: Boeing 737-8 MAX
➤ Delivered: October 14, 2022
➤ Registered: N1806U, msn 60652
➤ Livery: Hot Dog on a Stick

➤ Cabin: Coach in Seat 16A
➤ Load: ~45% Full
➤ Flight Time: 1h

The MAX interior really does feel a lot nicer than the old -700s, probably especially since the seats look and feel so much better. (Oh yes, the mood lighting and big bins help too.)

The crew had asked people to spread out for weight-and-balance, so I kept walking until I realized not a single person had taken an exit row. I snagged one of the windows with endless legroom and no seat in front.

We had a quick taxi and took off as the marine layer was starting to return for the evening. All I could think about was just how quiet this airplane was. It was a remarkably smooth afternoon for flying as we climbed our way to altitude. The flight attendants came through and I decided to have a Wild Turkey. The flight attendants brought it to me, and then I opted to take a walk.

I couldn’t believe how quiet it was over the wing, so I curious what it was like elsewhere. I walked to the back and was surprised that it was even quieter behind the wing.

I then walked forward and it was equally quiet. The flight attendants up front asked me if I needed anything. I told them no I was just listening, and one of the flight attendants lit up saying “we love our MAXs.” She said the quiet was nice, but the MAXs don’t get hot up front like the -700s do. All around, they just love working that airplane.

Before I left, she told me that there were a few leftover snack packs from the Hawai’i flight in and asked if I wanted one. I was glad to take it to the kids. I then went back to my seat and enjoyed the rest of the flight.

I’ve been playing with time lapses on my phone, so I took this one coming into Long Beach. I should have slowed it down, but oh well… next time.

We made it in early and then taxied by a soon-to-be-rare sight. With Virgin Orbit failing, the 747 has been sold off to Stratolaunch in a fire sale, so these colors will be gone soon enough.

I was ready to go home, but our gate was taken. We had to wait a few minutes until the gate cleared and then we were in. I saw the brand new baggage claim facility on my way out.

It has a roof, but the sides are open. It reminded me of what you find on Maui, and it’s a big improvement over the tiny shelf that was being used before.

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32 comments on “Not Another Routine Trip to Oakland… (Trip Report)

  1. Ironic wheels up time on the first flight was 7:57 & these were Boeing planes.

    Love how you describe Southwest’s color scheme as “hot dog on a stick.” Is that in honor of the fast food restaurant?

      1. Thanks to these comments, I now know what the “Hot Dog on a Stick” reference is about. I checked out the company’s website and immediately saw the rationale. I’m not a fan of corn dogs, and the company isn’t in Arizona (yet?), so I doubt I’ll ever eat there.

  2. I love a plane with a back story – was recently on a Lynx flight that was a Norwegian NTU, with no effort to change livery
    Was not expecting that bright red nose pulling up to the gate

  3. I have to agree on the MAX-praise. I fly WN plenty out of BNA, which gets examples of most of the fleet coming and going. Recently had a -700 out, MAX8 back trip and the difference was striking. I actually got a quick nap in on the MAX, a rarity for me. (Also my first chance to use the new “D” concourse at BNA, which is WN-only. Nice, modern look, very clean, un-cluttered.)

  4. I’m curious do the Max planes also have a more effective pressurization system, like the 787s? Because I swear I just feel less tired after a flight on a Max than on a regular 737.

    1. Hov – I’m not sure of any pressurization changes on the MAX. It’s not like the 787 which is pressurized to lower altitudes.

    2. I wonder if the quieter interior makes for less fatigue. Constant excessive noise can lead to fatigue. Have you tried ear plugs on a standard B737 to see if it helps with fatigue?

      1. Oh interesting point. No I haven’t tried ear plugs because airplane noise doesn’t bother me, per se, but it would be an interesting experiment.
        But definitely on the 787 I walk out of there significantly better than a 777. Did that experiment last summer.

  5. Meh. They’re just another 737, and just as uncomfortable (in the back) as their predecessors. I’m gutted UA have gone all-in on 737/787’s to replace a huge chunk of their fleet – makes it really difficult to avoid flying on 737s in the future (they are so dull and uncomfortable). I have no issue with the 787, btw.

    1. I’m with you, Bobber. I find the 17″ 737 seats very uncomfortable. That extra inch on Airbus makes a big difference.

  6. WN related question. Since they have open seating, why do the bother putting ABC row number placards up since it makes no difference to the passengers? Is there some federal rule that requires them or do they only come with the numbers?

    1. It’s for drink orders. WN often comes through with a pad of paper and takes drink orders by seat position.

    2. As a Southwest FA, let me chime in on this….

      Definitely, as JB-Hrbek14 said…. it makes taking drink orders easier.

      It also makes communication about Customers between crew members easier…. “The Customer in seat 17A asked for….” “Do you mind running this out to 24B while I take care of something else….” etc etc.

      It also believe it is required for maintenance reasons. When we have maintenance come onboard to do anything to a passenger seat (including something as simple as replacing a soiled seatbelt), it has to be logged in the aircraft’s Maintenance Log.

      I am sure there are other reasons, but these are the ones I see most often.

      On a side note…. Brett is correct…. The vast majority of us love the MAX. I am sure there are a few that don’t…. but they are the minority!

      1. Makes sense. Never thought about the maintenance part. In a highly regulated industry all Ts must be crossed and Is must be dotted. Thanks to both of you .

  7. Trip reports are still my favorite Cranky posts! Envious of your field access at OAK and your Max trip. Southwest is my most-used airline, yet in all my WN travels I’ve still not had a chance to get a ride on a Max. Hoping to change that later this year.

  8. Looks like a great time at the A’s game. Fun but sad. I hope Vegas is a spectacular failure and Fisher is forced to sell the team because he has to finance his $1B portion of the stadium using his continually plummeting Gap stock as collateral.

    John Fisher = Kendall Roy


    1. Don’t blame the A’s. The people of Oakland and the Bay Area didn’t support the team. The stadium is a dump, and they won’t spend public money on a new one. And as a result they have not been above the league average in attendance in 20 years.

      You can complain it’s not right for billionaires to expect public financing, but that ship has sailed. If you won’t build a nice stadium for your franchise, there are multiple cities waiting in line to do so. Cost of having a pro sports franchise in 2023.

      1. John – It’s much more complicated than that. Suffice it to say there is plenty of blame to go around between the A’s and the city of Oakland.

        1. Brett, there is blame to go around, but the bottom line in 2023 is if you don’t commit public (tax) money to build stadiums for these teams, someone else will.

          When a city loses first the NBA, then the NFL, then MLB, it’s not on the teams.

          A lot of people don’t like that it costs tax money to keep pro teams now, but that is reality.

        2. I felt like John G a year ago until I started reading about the history of this ownership and their failed negotiations not just with Oakland but multiple other jurisdictions in the bay area. The fact they are already on their second stadium site in LV in a matter of a month speaks volumes.

          The last time ownership tried this hard to sabotage a team and its fan base was in the movie Major League. So I guess there’s only one thing left to do…

  9. I just flew on two Alaska MAX-9s from BUR to SEA and back, and was also really impressed with the low noise level. I had a seat in row 8 going up and row 26 coming back, and couldn’t tell a lot of difference.

  10. I’ve flown MAXs a couple times, and I don’t recall the quiet, but it’s harder to notice what isn’t there particularly if you aren’t looking for it. But I recently flew transcon n an Alaska 737-900 and man-oh-man was it loud in the back row. 90 db, according to my smartwatch, triggering a warning.

  11. I especially love the large overhead bin sizes on a Max. They’re one of the few planes where the flight attendants aren’t having to constantly hound everyone to gate check or reorganize the overhead bin, which makes it a better experience for everyone.

    1. Dale – That’s a strange question, but I couldn’t tell you. My friend had the tickets and I’m guessing it was in the ballpark app. We did have passes to go watch batting practice that we wore around our necks, but I don’t remember what color those were.

  12. I no longer take the “prized” exit row seat on longer flights since the arm rest tray table is too small; too small for a drink and a tablet/Chromebook.
    I’ll take another seat in the same row, the row ahead or across the aisle.

    1. rick – I agree with that on longer flights and full flights, especially since Southwest’s legroom is generally good anyway and I’m not tall. But if it’s an hour and the airplane is empty? I love it, especially when I can just use the tray table next to me.

  13. Got to use LGB for the first time the weekend of June 10th. It is a cute little airport like you describe it in your trip reports. My mom has been using it regularly since WN started flying in there and nonstops were added to the midwest. Much easier for her to navigate than LAX and much quicker to the San Pedro/Harbor City area.

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