The FlyAway arrived in front of terminal 1 at LAX around 7:30 PM after snapping couple pictures of the aircrafts parked between terminal 1 and 2, we headed inside to check our luggage and print our boarding passes. I used one of the automated kiosk and then dropped off our luggage off with an agent who tagged and checked our ID’s before putting them on the belt. Our boarding passes showed that we received TSA Pre Check, and also paying the $15.00 per person for Early Bird checkin, while not guaranteed, got us Group A boarding.
Going through security, while no dedicated Pre Check line was open, went fairly quickly and soon we were past security and looking for a place to sit at Gate 11A. Terminal 1 is currently going through a massive renovation, which currently makes the interior and the exterior of the building an eye soar. Hopefully when all the constructions is done, all of the nuisances will have been well worth it. I am not sure what the final look of the finished terminal is going to be, but I hope this isn’t just another lipstick on a pig situation.
It was not long before we got the bad news, that our flight would be delayed, by just under 2 hours. My parents and I were already at the airport early since this was 4th of July weekend, so the extra 2 hours really made the wait tedious. If we had flown United, I could have gotten into United Club with my Amtrak Select Plus status, but all I could do was walk back and forth in the terminal and try to take as many pictures as possible to kill time. While we do try to keep all our flying within Star Alliance / United Airlines, United’s schedule to Albuquerque NM was dismal hence why were flying Southwest Airlines.
After the delay was announced, I first called our hotel to inform them that our flight was delayed and asked them not to mark us as a no show. The front desk agent went ahead and checked us in over the phone, since according to the agent, after a certain hour in the early AM, the system will automatically mark the reservation as a no show if the reservation does not show as checked in. Next, I called Enterprise Rent-A-Car to inform them of our delay and to also find out if they were still going to be open by the time we arrived. After some 15+ tries calling the local office in Albuquerque Airport, I was finally able to get ahold of someone. I was informed that the latest anyone would be at the airport location was 2AM, and that we could still pickup our car later in the morning when the office reopened. Oh well, we would have to use plan B and hail Uber when we got into Albuquerque.
My mom did ask if Southwest Airlines had a lounge to which I just laughed. Soon, another announcement was made that our flight would now depart from Gate 9 instead of 11A. We along with rest of the people waiting for flight 566 gathered our belongings and headed to the new gate. I continued to pace back and forth waiting for our our aircraft to finally arrive. I watched aircraft after aircraft arrive and park but our aircraft was nowhere to be seen. For an airline that uses only 1 type of aircraft, you would think they could have just easily swapped one of the aircraft that was done for the day and just being parked for flying the next day.
Finally, our aircraft showed up and slowly taxied into Gate 9. I went back to the holding area for Gate 9 and lined up with the other passengers who had already begun lining up according to their boarding group and position number. After everyone deplaned, and the new crew boarded, the usual announcements were made and pre-boarding started for those with disabilities, followed by Group A. By the time we got onboard the aircraft, the plane was still practically empty. I grabbed a row about 1/3 of the way back from the front of the aircraft and tried to snap couple of pictures of the cabin before it filled up.
It was going to be a full to nearly full flight today and I can say that the $15.00 per person paid for Early Bird checkin was well worth the price paid, after watching people boarding in groups B and C struggling to find overhead bin space or seats together. My seat made a lot of squeaking noise which I’m guessing was due to wear and tear. The cabin looked clean but their were definitely signs that it has been a while since this aircraft’s interior was new. Legrooms were quite generous and even if it was not, for a 2 hour flight would not have mattered to much.
As soon as everyone boarded, luggages load, manual safety demonstration performed, and etc. we were on our way. Our aircraft departed from the northern runways, which for airlines in terminal 1 and 2, like Southwest Airlines, is a quick taxi to the end of the runway. We roared down the runway and was soon airborne. Once the 10,000 ft chime went off, the flight attendants went into action. Drink orders were taken along with pretzels and peanut packets handed out. In the typical Southwest Airlines style, drinks were delivered in a tray instead of a trolley.
My parents had to take their medications so I flagged down one of the flight attendants and asked her for couple glasses of water to which she obliged with a smile. After I finished my ginger ale and all the trash collected, I got out my iPad to try out the BYOD entertainment offered on todays flight. I watched couple Food Network shows and half way through the second one, it was time to prepare for landing in Albuquerque.
We landed in Albuquerque and when we deplaned, it looked like we were the very last flight of the day, or the first one of the day depending on how you look at it. The terminal in Albuquerque has a Native American style and motifs. The terminal was also airy and bright, which was a welcome change to the stuffy rundown terminal buildings (Excluding Tom Bradley Terminal) at LAX. After collecting our luggage, I hailed Uber to take us to our hotel.
While a coach only low cost airline, Southwest has friendly staff and a boarding system which has improved big time from the “cattle call” boarding system days. I thought the position numbers within the boarding groups made the experience much more pleasant eliminating the need to stand in line hours before your flight boarding time. United Airlines also uses a group boarding system, but without a position number within the boarding groups, United’s group only boarding system causes quite a bit of headache for frequent fliers or premium cabin passengers. On Southwest, if you pay the highest fare, then your pretty much guaranteed positions A1 – A15 while on United, you may have paid for first class or business class but end up in Group 1 line, with 50 people ahead of you.
Southwest Airlines is great for flights 2 hours and under. I'm not sure how comfortable the seats will be for a 5+ hour transcontinental flight. I found the boarding process, has improved tremendously from the "cattle call" boarding process days, and I believe the $15.00 per person I paid for Early Bird Checkin was well worth the cost. Southwest isn't always the cheapest airlines anymore but when they have airfares on sale or if you book way out in advance, good deals can be found.
Airfare Paid (Excluding Extra's)
Value Of Extra Add-ons
Cabin Visual Cleanliness
Baggage Retrieval Time