q Heading to Phoenix for the NLCS (Trip Report) – Cranky Flier

Heading to Phoenix for the NLCS (Trip Report)

Southwest, Trip Reports

It was twenty five years ago when I fell in love with baseball. I had started to show interest during college when I’d sit there studying next to my die-hard Orioles fan of a roommate as he watched the games, but it wasn’t until I spent a summer interning at America West that I was fully hooked. The summer of 1998 was right after my junior year, and I went to a lot of games during that inaugural season for the Arizona Diamondbacks. America West was a big sponsor, so there always seemed to be tickets to be had. I have been a fan of the team ever since.

It’s been six long years since the Diamondbacks have made the playoffs and 16 since they last made the league championship series. Once they made it to face the Phillies this year, I just had to go. With game 5 on a Saturday, I decided to have faith that they would at least get that far and I bought tickets. Plane tickets were a lot pricier, but I was able to use 7,500 BA points to get me to Phoenix on Saturday morning on American. I had an expiring American credit to get me back home. With American having left Long Beach, this meant it would involve a trek to LAX but otherwise I’d be looking at somewhere around $500 roundtrip to outright buy a ticket at such a late date.

On the way out, I parked my car at QuikPark and had a little extra time. So, I decided I would walk over to Terminal 4. This is not a short walk, but I could do something that only became possible recently. Now that the connector between Terminal 3 and Bradley is open behind security, I was able to go through security in Terminal 1 and walk the whole way to Terminal 4 without leaving the secure area.

Starting the trek post-security in Terminal 1

It’s actually a fun walk. You go through Terminal 1, by the buses to the Bradley gates in Terminal 1.5, past the Delta SkyClub, and then in the connector from Terminal 3 to Bradley.

The entrance to the new Bradley connector from Terminal 3

It’s no surprise, but just like on the connector from Terminal 4 to Bradley, it’s a bit of a zig zag to get between the two.

The views are great, and I particularly love the suspended tunnel that looks down on the ticketing and security area (above). This matches the one on the Terminal 4 side.

In Bradley, you stay one level above the ground and walk by the lounges.

Once at Terminal 4, I walked around to see how construction was going and then I headed to my gate, I was in group 6 now that my credit card is canceled, and I waited until toward the end of the group since I had no overhead bin space needs.

American 335
October 21, 2023

From Los Angeles
➤ Scheduled Departure: 926a
➤ Actual Departure: 922a
➤ From Gate: 42A
➤ Wheels Up: 937a
➤ From Runway: 25R

To Phoenix
➤ Wheels Down: 1032a
➤ On Runway: 7R
➤ Scheduled Arrival: 1101a
➤ Actual Arrival: 1043a
➤ At Gate: A11

➤ Type: Boeing 737-823
➤ Delivered: January 28, 2014
➤ Registered: N945NN, msn 33233
➤ Livery: Ugly Flag Tail with Painted Winglets

➤ Cabin: Coach in Seat 23A
➤ Load: ~90% Full
➤ Flight Time: 55m

This airplane looked like every other American 737 with a sea of seats.

I took my window seat on the left side and stared out the window.

This was the first American aircraft I’ve been on with the painted winglets, and I found it maddening. Why is the logo not aligned with anything? Who designed this? What is the meaning of life?

I’m convinced American has taken a page from the Emirates playbook. Emirates tries to numb its coach passengers into forgetting they’re crammed in there by giving a mind-boggling variety of entertainment on a big glowing screen. American has none of that, but this misaligned logo kept me from remembering I was on a plane as I tried to unlock the mystery in my mind.

We pushed back a bit early and made our slow crawl to the runway. I looked at the progress of the rebuilt end of Terminal 4 (above) and then went back to that winglet as we took off. It was still there as we passed over Long Beach. That’s the problem with winglets. They don’t get out of your sight.

It was a hazy but pretty morning. Soon after we got above 10,000 feet. The flight attendants said that due to the short duration of the flight and the turbulence (of which there was none), they wouldn’t be able to serve hot beverages on this flight. This was very strange. I mean, the pilots turned off the seatbelt sign at altitude. I’m not sure why they blamed turbulence.

After a glass of water and Biscoff, well, you know what I did. I went back to staring at the logo for awhile which led to a deep existential crisis.

I was only snapped out of it by the absurdly lengthy credit card pitch. On a flight that’s less than an hour, it really seems rushed and particularly obnoxious to squeeze that in there. This made me realize American had missed a great opportunity. Instead of painting the logo askew on the winglets, why not just put a QR code for the credit card on there and then shut up while we’re enroute?

After landing, I took the train out to the 44th St station where my parents picked me up. My dad and I went to the game that night, and wow, did it suck. Other than a single home run by Alek Thomas, there wasn’t a Diamondback highlight to be had. There was no tension either. It was just a terrible game, but so be it. I regret nothing.

The next morning, my parents dropped me off at the 44th St station again and I rode the rails into the terminal. I needed to go to gate A2, but how should I do it?

The security lines were very long, stretching into the middle of the concourse. I looked at the sign, and it said the A line was 7 minutes, the D line across the way (which is just a slightly longer walk to the A gates so it’s a good alternative) was 17 minutes. A it was. Even though the line was long for TSA Precheck, it moved fast. I was going to be through in about 5 minutes until I got randomly flagged. TSA swabbed my cell phone and then let me through after it cleared.

The gate area was a mess. We were boarding our 737 next to another 737 heading to JFK. The seats were all very full and there were hordes standing around the gate and into the hallway even though boarding hadn’t begun. This is just not meant to handle the 350ish passengers at the same time between the two aircraft.

JFK started boarding just before us, but when we started, there were apparently a ton of wheelchairs. The agent seemed flustered and kept apologizing for the delay. I’m guessing she was worried about not getting out on time, because she’d probably be in trouble.

By the time they called group 6, there were still a lot of people in the gate area. I guess we had a number of people who weren’t even AAdvantage members or in basic economy.

American 1160
October 22, 2023

From Phoenix
➤ Scheduled Departure: 827a
➤ Actual Departure: 826a
➤ From Gate: A2
➤ Wheels Up: 910a
➤ From Runway: 7L

To Los Angeles
➤ Wheels Down: 1009a
➤ On Runway: 25L
➤ Scheduled Arrival: 959a
➤ Actual Arrival: 1019a
➤ At Gate: 53B

➤ Type: Boeing 737-823
➤ Delivered: June 16, 2000
➤ Registered: N937AN, msn 30082
➤ Livery: Ugly Flag Tail

➤ Cabin: Coach in Seat 24F
➤ Load: ~99% Full
➤ Flight Time: 59m

Onboard I again found my seat, and I noticed that while the seats were all the same, the windows looked different. They had that old squared off look unlike the rounded ones from the flight out (which you can see if you scroll back up). This photo came out terribly, but you get the point.

This was an older 737, delivered back in 2000. I guess the side walls were of a different vintage, and they didn’t bother changing them when they retrofitted. But the best part? A blissfully unpainted winglet awaited me.

I was in no mood to interact with people, so I put my headphones in and read my book. Shortly before closing up, a woman showed up next to me with her squirmy lap child. Then behind me was another woman with her kicky lap child. I certainly felt bad for them having to deal with this, but I also wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of kicking and screaming. I opted to just keep my head down, hoping they could handle the kids and knowing we’d be done soon enough even if the kids wouldn’t cooperate. We’ve all been there.

The gate agent succeeded in getting us out there on time, 1 minute early actually. We started taxiing down to the west end of the runway when we turned around and parked in a penalty box. Uh oh.

After a couple minutes, the pilots came on to say that after we started taxiing, a maintenance issue popped up. We would sit there until they got a response from Dallas. At least, that’s how I heard it in English. I think in baby talk it translated to “go absolutely nuts,” because squirmy next to me got really squirmy, and kicky behind me found new superhuman leg strength.

Fortunately, it wasn’t all that long until the pilots came back saying that the issue had been cleared up and we were were going to head back on our way. Huzzah.

We took off to the east and circled around to the south. It was a smoggy day, but I still got a nice view of the airport as we went by.

The good news is that the babies got the message that we were in the air and they passed out the whole flight. If I seemed relieved, I wasn’t even half as relieved as the mothers were. The one next to me passed out from exhaustion. Good for her.

This flight was four minutes longer than the way out and again turbulence-free, but the flight attendants didn’t do any service at all. I didn’t hear them announce anything about the reason, but maybe I missed it with my headphones on.

Don’t worry. They did find enough time to do the credit card pitch, so that’s what’s really important. Maybe that’s why they didn’t have time to do a drink service. They wanted to really nail that pitch this time.

I was so engrossed in my book (Firewall by Henning Mankell) that the top of descent actually surprised me. We had a nice view making our way into LAX. After landing, we had a somewhat convoluted taxi until we got toward our gate. I guess our delay had made them relocate us from Terminal 4 to Terminal 5, so I’m sure there was some scrambling involved. We blocked in about 20 minutes late.

I got off the airplane into the teeming mass that is gate 53B. If you’ve been to that gate or read past trip reports, you know it’s wedged in a corner with entirely too little seating. I fought my way through the crowd waiting to board the aircraft to go to Chicago and decided I’d walk back to QuikPark.

This time, I walked from Terminal 5 to 6 and then 7. I was so close to finishing my book that I actually found a quiet spot in the connector between 6 and 7 and just read for a few minutes. That’s a great place to pass the time. Once done, I dropped the book off at gate 71A where United 2237 to Houston was delayed an hour. Hopefully someone picked it up and will pass it on when they are done.

I then played a little Frogger walking from Terminal 7 over to QuikPark but it all worked out fine, and I headed home.

American’s focus has been about D0, departing on time or earlier. On that metric, they succeeded on this trip. I can think of a few other things that should matter a little too, like a drink service or a shorter (dare I dream, non-existent) credit card pitch but that’s most certainly not American’s concern these days.

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31 comments on “Heading to Phoenix for the NLCS (Trip Report)

  1. For a quick trip, surprised you didnt fly out of a smaller airport such as SNA or BUR for faster transit times. I agree the CC pitch should be condensed. As a frequent AA flyer, I feel I can do the pitch if an FA is unable to:) I can not remember getting a CC pitch whe flying Southwest, so other airlines have figured out how to avoid it

    1. BUR is quite a trek from Long Beach, negating the potential time savings versus LAX. SNA is a good alternative though, with LGB being basically halfway between SNA and LAX. I presume fares and award ticket availability swayed the decision for LAX over SNA.

      1. David – Yeah, that’s right. LAX is the closest to me besides Long Beach.
        Orange County is a little further but obviously easier to navigate, so I’d consider it. Nothing else is worth thinking about. But this had award availability going out that made it a better option from LAX. On the return I was just using a credit, but since I’d flown out of LAX and was leaving a car, I had to return there as well.

    2. Yep, Southwest doesn’t pitch their CC on the plane at all. Kinda refreshing, and unnecessary for me anyway as I have their Priority card.

    1. Isaac – Yes I did, in all rounds, but I was at games 1 and 2 for the WS.
      That was incredible. Maybe even better, I was at a wedding in New York during game 6 with a lot of unhappy Yankee fans. I flew home during game 7. When we landed, remember how agents used to stand at the jet bridge and tell you connecting gates? When I got off that flight, the agent was just standing there saying “0-0, top of the 2nd”

      1. That’s amazing. I feel blessed just to have seen Curt pitch against Pedro at Fenway the following year; I can’t imagine seeing him and Randy pitch back-to-back gems in the WS.

  2. Those winglets with the logo look so awful that every time I see a picture I’m convinced they’re photoshopped. And then I see an AA 737 in person an I’m sadly reminded that they actually exist.

    1. I was just going to say that they look like VERY BAD photoshop. WTF?

    2. Almost as ugly as the Arizona Diamondback uniforms throughout the years!

      (I kid, I kid…sort of.)

  3. The livery has never grown on me. I detest it less than I initially did, but that’s about it. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why they didn’t just mimic the tail art on the winglets if they were insistent on adding something there. I think that would look slightly better than the misaligned logo.

    1. AA did that to drive cranky even Crankier & it worked.

      Sorry for the Dbacks as they lost to the Rangers in the WS.

  4. As an AA captive (CLT) I fly them each month to DCA. The drink service is hit or miss but on a flight of an hour or less, who cares. Some crews maybe feel guilty for not feeling like doing the service on a 1 hr flight so they mention “possible turbulence”. Other crews just don’t show up (don’t ask, don’t tell). And yet again on other flights they deliver drinks and a Biscof (thanks!) or Pretzels (hard pass!).

    Flying is no longer a premium experience. The prices don’t warrant it. The service levels don’t allow it. I don’t expect a drinks service on a bus or a train. Airlines are struggling with the “downgrade” their service has had to endure (because cost is everything), and the fact that many of their passengers are now old enough to remember when it was different. Unfortunately, many of the passengers that remember it are also the ones that are frequent flyers who love to share (lament) what has been lost.

    The next generation of frequent flyers will not lament what used to be. It is the same as growing up in the digital age. Only if you lived before it do you know what finding your way with a map was like. Or making calls on a rotary phone. Or finding someone’s phone number in a book!!!

    Life is a matter of perspective and context.

    But we can all agree that the logo on the winglet is a crime against humanity, regardless of your age.

  5. I agree that AA livery is just so ugly. One of the worst livery ever. Don’t understand how the marketing team or whatever dept within AA got this livery to go through.

  6. OCD (with good reason), baseball and trip reports — more reasons we love Cranky. The winglet logo looks like someone got impatient while putting a sticker on a model. The D-Backs had a great run; sorry it didn’t work out for them this year. I’m a long-suffering KC Royals fan. Other than 1985 and 2015, that 2001 D-Backs win in Game 7 over the Yankees is my favorite and most memorable World Series game.

  7. Wow, the only reason why I never fly AA anymore that you did NOT seem to experience was the horribly cramped seats in economy. Total lack of legroom for a 6’5″ guy. And their domstic “first” class isn’t all that great either. I think an average economy seat on JetBlue has as much pitch as AA First. Deal killer for me. But the indifferent service, endless credit card pitching (which UA doesn’t do nearly as much of) and general lack of customer service are not missed by me, a former AA Plat who’s now UA Gold.

    And, OMG, that logo on the winglet! Had you not written about it, I would have been sure it was photoshopped as a (cruel) joke. Seriously, that’s criminal. What idiot greenlighted this?

    1. Come on man. UA has the same seats and pitch as American. Blame the passengers that decide ONLY on cost for the cramped seats.

      Ain’t nobody flying with much room today.

      So much crying about American on this site now.

      1. That’s simply untrue. AA’s Oasis interiors have quite a bit less room between rows than anything UA offers. They have some economy seats that are so bad that I literally cannot sit straight forward; I have to sit at an angle, which only works if the middle is empty. And there’s no comparison up in the front of the plane. AAs seats are tight up there, while UA has ample room.

        I’m based near ORD, so believe me: I’ve flown both quite a bit. It ain’t even close, so don’t pee on my foot and tell me it’s raining. I avoid AA when I can.

        BTW, only a shorty who never deals with this would make light of the lack of room.

        1. I am no shorty. I am not 6-5, but I have 34” legs myself and I’m well over 200 pounds. I know what it’s like to be squashed into an airline seat too.

          I’m sitting in seat 32A of an AA 321 as I type. According to Seatguru, these seats are 18” wide and have a 31-32” pitch.

          AA’s 738s have a 30” pitch and are 17.7” wide.

          United’s 319 has 30” pitch and 17.7” . wide. Exactly the same.

          United’s 738s have a 30” pitch and are 17.8” wide.

          Where is the difference, other than in your mind? All these planes are tight in the back. Ain’t none of these guys going to put fewer pax in and miss out on revenue.

    2. “What idiot greenlighted this?”

      It would be even more hilarious if AA spent money on a “brand consultant” who told them to put the logo on crooked.

  8. I would rather walk than fly American. It is up there among the worst airlines, EVER. How they stay in business is beyond me.

  9. The Rangers were the better team during the World Series. And the D-backs have nothing to be ashamed about. It might also be mentioned that the Rangers; payroll was more than twice that of the D-backs. That’s not an excuse, The Rangers simply played a bit better when it counted.

  10. Been a Rangers fan since I was 9 years old (and I turn 60 in a month). Last night was a looooong time coming.

    My son (almost 30) was sobbing and so were some of my friends.

    Texas fans have dealt with some of of cruelest twists of fate. With respect to Bill Buckner and Red Sox fans, losing after not once but twice being one strike away from a title will haunt you.

    Demons…dispersed. Fitting on the day after Halloween.

    Sorry Brett, we needed this one as bad as a fan base could. And y’all already got one. Flags fly forever and I can still Luis Gonzales celebrating.

  11. I’ve always liked the current AA livery (to the dismay of those on this website), but WOW are those winglets bad. I rarely find myself on AA so this is the first time I’m seeing it, and it would absolutely drive me crazy too.

  12. The apparent reason for the offset logo is hinted at in the story. I’m guessing that fewer people would notice them if they were centered on the winglet.

    1. Much like Brett, there is literally no explanation that could justify that on my mind!

        1. That’s akin to the “any publicity is good publicity” credo which I do not subscribe to either.

          Is it better to notice something because it annoys you or not to notice it at all?

          I’m already on their plane so simple “brand awareness” is pointless.

  13. American’s reputation is intact. I always use Southwest for flights up to three hours, but I realize you were burning miles and it was last minute.

  14. The issue with the logo/winglet misalignment has to do with the logo itself. Because the “beak” is part of the logo, the width of the entire logo is from the left tip top of the wing to the beak, so the whole thing looks wobbly on a tight space. And honestly, I think someone forgot to add the logo safespace so the left tip top of the wing is not right at the edge of the winglet.

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Cranky Flier