My First Southwest Flight from Long Beach (Trip Report)

This wasn’t supposed to be this way. I had to be up in Sonoma for a family event, and initially, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to fly JetSuiteX. Yes, getting to Burbank with my son (just the two of us were flying up together) was going to be a pain, but Concord Airport is well-placed for me to get to Sonoma. The fare was cheap, and I bought it. Unfortunately, JetSuiteX seems to be struggling. I received a note saying my morning flight up had been canceled. (I was later told the service just hasn’t ramped up quickly enough.) With the next flight not until the afternoon (awful schedule), this just wasn’t an option. That meant I had to hitch a ride with another airline, and that airline was Southwest thanks to cheap fares on its new Long Beach service.

An intro sale had flights at only $39 each way, even on peak days. Huzzah! I snagged the tickets and then didn’t think about it until it was less than a day before travel. As you know, that’s bad if you’re on Southwest. See, I forgot to check in for the flight and that meant I had a low B boarding pass. Fortunately I was able to family board after the A group with my son.

Strangely enough, when I got the airport, the Pre Check line was open. There was nobody around, so I was really shocked. My son and I made our way to the gate, which is the furthest one on the south side. It was pretty crowded in there. Our airplane was an ex-Air Sahara airplane that Southwest picked up on the used market years ago. (All the N5xxWN aircraft that are 737-700s came from random former homes.)

As we boarded, a gate agent handed my son a certificate for taking the flight. (He loves this thing, but he already knows that it has the new Southwest colors on it and our airplane didn’t. I’m training him well.)

I haven’t done Southwest boarding from the front and back of the airplane in a long time, and it reinforces my belief that a lot of people are not smart. Everyone crowded around the ramp going to the front door while my son and I just cruised back to the empty rear stairs. We had our pick of a bunch of empty seats.

We pushed back on time, and I noticed that this airplane looked pretty dingy. In particular, the overhead bins were various shades of yellow, and they definitely didn’t match each other. But no matter.

Flying from Long Beach to the Bay Area is an interesting experience because you stay low while dodging LAX’s flight path. Only on the other side do you climb up and pass through 10,000 feet. That’s when the service began, and it’s when I turned on the free TV. Unfortunately, TV pickin’s were slim, so I went to the moving map. It appears that Southwest hasn’t bothered to include Long Beach in its moving map system, because both up and back, this was the image I had.

I assume that’s just the default if it doesn’t know where you’re going.

Drinks came by, and my son’s orange juice came with a lid and a straw, always a nice touch. Soon we were descending into the Bay Area.

We had some good views, and I kept pointing out landmarks to my son, barely getting him to take his eyes off the tablet. But as we got closer, he got more interested. And he really seemed to like almost landing on the water on runway 30 in Oakland. He’s been playing with a model Lufthansa 747 (for some reason, his favorite airline) doing the same thing ever since.

We landed and headed to the gate. Then it was off on the rental car bus to get a car. Budget seemed to have a rough time, first sending me to a space with no car in it. But we eventually got out of there and headed out into the country.

This was my first Airbnb experience, and it was great… until the owner tried to ding us for $500 for dried blood stains which we most certainly did not make. This could have turned me off from Airbnb for good, but when the company intervened in the dispute, we were told we weren’t liable. That was great.

My wife came up the next day with our daughter, and we took the kids into San Francisco to do the usual touristy stuff – Lombard Street, Ghirardelli Square, etc. I hadn’t done those things for years, and the kids seemed to enjoy it. But all too soon, it was time for us all to head home.

We had checked in online but had B boarding passes so again we knew we’d do family boarding after the A group. We pulled into the rental car center only an hour before our flight, and I was anxious about the length of the security line. I got even more anxious when the rental agent asked if we had told them about the damage to the car when we picked it up. What?! Once I rubbed the “damage” off and showed him it was just dirt, he let us go. But we were losing precious time.

The ride from the rental car center in Oakland seems to take forever, though it’s really about 10 minutes to Southwest’s stop. When we pulled up, we grabbed a kiosk and printed all the boarding passes. Then I saw a fairly empty security line and I knew I could relax. We made it through with no problems and our gate was right at the top of the stairs. We even had time to kill.

Since the night before, they had changed our airplane 3 times. (One of our internal Cranky Concierge tools allows us to see tail numbers.) The night before it had showing up as a 737-300 (at one point, the Arizona plane. N383SW), but by the morning it had shifted back to a -700. And then when the inbound flight was delayed, they found another -700 in Oakland to keep us on time.

I like the gate areas in Oakland where pre-boarding and family boarding happen on one side while regular boarding is on the other. It seems to flow pretty well.

Once on the airplane, we took seats just behind the wing and watched as the airplane nearly filled up entirely. We taxied out to the runway and took off to the north. I had forgotten how aircraft tend to route on this flight. First we headed out over San Francisco and then stayed out over the water until we were over Monterey Bay. We then hugged the coast down until we passed over Point Conception.

The problem with this route is that it appears to be at the edge of the satellite service area. I was trying to watch the nightly news (on east coast time) getting caught up on both Nice and Turkey, but it kept cutting out and freezing.

In the meantime, the flight attendants came through with drinks and snacks. It wasn’t long before we were back over the water heading toward Catalina. From there, we had great views of a somewhat hazy day in Southern California. We threw our lasso around Catalina and whipped around for landing in Long Beach.

At the gate, I was again surprised to see people standing at the back of the airplane and not using the rear stairs. We ended up going through the front for that reason. Go figure.

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Muscat,  Oman
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