Browsing Tag: DEN

Frontier Bombarider Q400 (N502LX) sits at Denver, waiting to take me to Aspen.

Frontier Bombarider Q400 (N502LX) sits at Denver, waiting to take me to Aspen.

Being based in Seattle, I have had plenty of opportunities flying on Bombardier Q400s via Horizon Air Alaska Airlines. When I had the opportunity to recently fly from Seattle to Aspen, for a ride on a Beechcraft Starship, I did not have too many choices on what to fly from Denver (DEN) to Aspen (ASE). I could either fly on a United Airlines CRJ 700 (operated by Skywest) or a Frontier Airlines Q400 (operated by Lynx Aviation). Being the aviation fan that I am, I chose my airline based on the aircraft type and wanted to experience the Q400 flying into Denver — lucky for me, it was the cheaper of the two tickets as well.

When landing at DEN from Seattle (SEA), I had about an hour and a half layover. This was a good thing, since the Q400s are located pretty much at the end of the airport, down some stairs and at the end of a very long and narrow hallway. I kind of wish I would have spent more time in the main terminal, since the waiting area for regional flight do not have too much to offer.

The Q400 is not known for being very roomie, but this flight was almost empty, so I had plenty of room.

The Q400 is not known for being very roomy, but this flight was almost empty, so I had plenty of room.

Our flight was pretty empty, with about 20 people flying on the 70 passenger aircraft. Boarding was easy with one announcement made for people to start boarding and it only took a few minutes. One of the attractive parts about flying on a regional carrier is the increased chance of boarding on the tarmac. Although most air travelers probably hate boarding this way, for an airline fan, nothing can beat it.

When boarding there was a cart that passengers could put their carry-ons to be placed in the cargo-hold and not in the cabin. All I had was a back-pack, so I opted to bring that on board… bad call. Even though it was small (in carry-on standards) it still wouldn’t fit in the overhead bin. Lucky for me, I had no problems storing under an empty seat, but if the plane was full, stuffing a back-pack under my seat would have really taken a lot of my space.

For weight distribution, everyone sat near the back of the plane. I was in row 7 and I was the farthest to the front and there was no one even around me.

Many passengers might not enjoy this view when looking outside, but I love it.

Many passengers might not enjoy this view when looking outside, but I love it.

Unlike Alaska’s Q400s, Frontier’s have sun screens and the seats are able to recline. Sure, nice touches, but this flight was only about 45 minutes, so these features meant little to me.

Engine start up on a turboprop is always my favorite part of the flight and those sweet Pratt & Whitney PW150A engines did not disappoint. Being in row 7, I had a favorable view watching them slowly start up and hearing the growl of the engines. Again, maybe not something the majority of passengers would enjoy, but it is one of the reasons I choose to fly on a Q400 when I have other options.

The views flying from Denver to Aspen were prettying amazing. Flying low in the Q400 sure helped.

The views flying from Denver to Aspen were prettying amazing. Flying low in the Q400 sure helped.

As I normally do, I had my camera at the ready to take photos as we took off. Yes, you can yell at me for keeping an electronic on while taking off, but there is no way that a camera is going to affect an airplane. It is very rare for a flight attendant to say something, but this was one of those flights. I was told that I had to turn off my camera and had to wait until we reached 10,000 feet before turning it on… sigh — okay fine. I may not agree with the rules, but I am not going to argue with the person just trying to do their job.

We were also told that we would not be able to turn on our cell phones during the entire flight. Not just airplane mode, but it couldn’t be on at all. My guess is that since we never flew very high, we would still be able to get reception during the flight and possibly cause interference. Either way, I listened and kept my phone off and enjoyed the view out the window.

This wolf pup's name is Wolfgang and he looks pretty much at home in Aspen.

This wolf pup's name is Wolfgang and he looks pretty much at home in Aspen.

The short flight was pretty bumpy, especially near the end. Again, most people probably wouldn’t like the idea of flying on a turboprop in turbulence, but I actually kind of enjoy it . It was obvious that this plane had been in turbulence before. Even when the bumps were not that bad, but the overhead bins were shaking like it was a huge storm and competed with the engines on making the most noise.

The weather got worse as we got closer to ASE and with the rapid descent, the flight attendants did not even get up to do their final safety check, but asked us to make sure our seats were up and belts buckled for landing. Okay, I can understand that, but they never got up during the entire flight anyhow. Not that I need a drink during a 45 minute flight, but at least getting up once to check on the passengers would probably be a good idea, instead of sitting in your jump seat chit-chatting with each other.

Flying into Aspen was quite beautiful and a bit aggressive. We bounced around as heading down at a steep angle to make it into the airport. As an aviation lover, this flight was great, but I could see how most people would not think the same way. But, if you are looking to fly into Aspen, you do not have much of a choice, other than flying on a CRJ700 or a private plane. Good thing I love flying and most people are willing to do it to experience Aspen.

A few more photos of my Frontier Q400 flight…

Aircraft lined at up Schophol Airport (AMS) in Amsterdam

Aircraft lined at up Schophol Airport (AMS) in Amsterdam

Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport (AMS) is the 5th largest airport in Europe and the 15th largest in the world. Already the airport is busy and they only expect it get busier. The problem is there isn’t a whole lot more room to expand the airport and one of the biggest challenges is handling all the luggage. Since they can’t grow bigger, they have had to grown smarter. The airport has been working with IBM to create a futuristic way to handle bags.

The system is housed at the new South Baggage Hall where they hope to increase bag capacity by 40% before 2018. The new system is important, “to create an efficient, reliable and fast baggage handling process,” said Mark Lakerveld, Senior Manager Baggage at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport.

No matter where your bag might be in the 13 miles of conveyor system or 4,000 bag positions, the new system can track exactly where it is at. The new baggage operation has 36 cranes and 60% will be handled by robots (yes, robots). After you check in, your bag will be placed into the bag storage. Then a robot will take your bag when needed and place it on the conveyor belt, reducing overload in the system. The new luggage process is connected to real-time flight information, meaning your bag will only be pulled when your plane is ready for it.

Is this the future of airport baggage systems? Possibly. When asked if we might be seeing this system at other airports, IBM spokesperson stated, “There are a couple of similar efforts that are happening internationally that can’t be named specifically.  This example is indicative of what is beginning to happen and we will see more of in airports across the world — focusing on being smarter about how they utilize the space that they have.”

Although great on paper, let’s how this is not a repeat of Denver International Airport (DEN) attempted at a similar high-tech airport luggage system in the early 1990s. Let’s hope that Schiphol has a little better luck.

Check out this video from IBM on how the system works.

Frontier Airlines Airbus A320 (N204FR) at snowy Denver with "Freedom" the Bald Eagle on the tail.

Frontier Airlines Airbus A320 (N204FR) at snowy Denver with "Freedom" the Bald Eagle on the tail.

I was hoping to do a review of Frontier on an Airbus A320 from Seattle (SEA) to Denver (DIA) and then on a Bombardier Q400 from DIA to Aspen (ASE). However, life doesn’t always work out how we plan it. I was heading to Aspen to fly on a Beechcraft Starship, but snow had other plans and while in Denver, my flight to Aspen was canceled. Instead of taking a low-level flight on a Q400 to beautiful Aspen, I got to hop on another Airbus A320 back to Seattle (Note: I paid out of pocket for my flight on Frontier).

Not being able to fly the Q400 into Aspen and not fly on the Starship was bad, but for reviewing the Frontier Airlines experience, this actually worked out better. For my flight to DIA, I had to get up at 3:45am to catch my 6:15am flight out of Seattle. Before we left the gate I was asleep and woke up during the final 10 minutes. The flight back to Seattle provided me a better opportunity to review the flight and service.

When booking my flights 99% of the time I end up purchasing the tickets on the airline’s website, since it is normally the cheapest. In this case, it turned out to be about $20 cheaper to get my ticket through Orbitz — whatever, it works for me. When buying a ticket you have three choices: Economy, Classic and Classic Plus. The more you pay, the more features you get like free checked bags, free TV, and the ability to sit in seats with more legroom (check out the differences). Check-in and printing off the boarding pass were pretty standard and I was lucky enough to get a window seat, 27A, on the flight to DIA.

Every seat back has a little TV to watch movies and television, for a fee.

Every seat back has a little TV to watch movies and television, for a fee.

One of the fun parts of flying on Frontier is wondering what animal will be on the tail. Every airplane in Frontier’s fleet (well, those with a Frontier livery) have a unique animal. If you don’t catch the animal on the tail or can’t view the animal on the inside of the winglets, there is a nice big image of the animal when you walk into the door and the flight attendants make sure to announce which plane you are on. I got Mustang Sally on the flight down and Freedom the Bald Eagle on the flight back. I think it is pretty neat for each aircraft to have a different overall livery and I would have to imagine it is even cooler for kids.

The airline was extremely helpful and quick with helping me with my canceled Aspen flight. I wasn’t sitting at the gate for my flight, but kept updating my phone with the flight status. The second I saw it said “canceled” I headed to one of the many customer service desks located around the airport. I imagine this was much better than going to the gate, since no other flights were  canceled at the time and there was no line at the customer service desk. The woman confirmed there were no other flights to Aspen from any airline going out that day and started looking for the next day. I asked if I might be able to just fly back to Seattle and she got me on the next flight — which was scheduled to leave in 45minutes for no charge.

Even at 6'1" I had PLENTY of room in Frontier's STRETCH seats which give an extra 5" of room in the first four rows.

Even at 6'1" I had PLENTY of room in Frontier's STRETCH seats which give an extra 5" of room in the first four rows.

With boarding they have an “express boarding” phase. These are for people that have carry-ons that will only be put under the seat in front of them versus taking up overhead space. The concept of this is simple and genius. However, I saw quite a few people lined up that had bags I questioned if they would put under their seat and when checking it out when I boarded, they did not. The idea is great, but I am not sure how well it can be regulated.

Frontier has all economy seats that are leather with fancy headrests and a small TV screen in the seat back. The first four rows give you five more inches of legroom, but the rest of the seats have a decent 31″ seat pitch. Although I was in the back of the (air) bus on the flight down to Denver, I ended up in 3A on the flight back which was a STRECH seat. Although a little extra legroom is nice, even at 6’1″ I don’t think I would be willing to pay anymore for the extra room. I felt super lucky since I could have been trapped in Denver for quite some time, but not only did I get the next flight home and a window seat, but also one with bonus legroom.

Having LiveTV is pretty sweet, but it will set you back money. To watch the TV it will cost you $6 or $8 for a movie. Part of me whats to be like “what the heck?” knowing I can watch TV for free on other airlines like jetBlue and Virgin America and why should I have to pay on Frontier? However, it does cost them more money and on a three hour flight, $6 for entertainment would be greatly worth it. If you are flying Frontier internationally, the TV is free, but movies still cost money.

Before we left the gate at DIA the whole window ended up being blocked with snow. Kind of cool and kind of lame.

Before we left the gate at DIA the whole window ended up being blocked with snow. Kind of cool and kind of lame.

On the plus side, you are able to get ear buds for free. It worked out for our flight, since TV ended up being free since the football playoffs were on (although I think it might have had more to do with being over an hour late due to weather).

When watching the TV, I found the controls on the arm rest quite annoying. On more than one occasion I ended up changing the channel with my elbow and I could imagine if you are in the middle seat, it being worse.  I kind of wished they had the controls on the seat back, but of course that could make people pushing on your seat back a bit too hard. Not a deal breaker by any means.

On the flight south I was sad since I thought I missed my warm cookie because I was sleeping. However, it turned out they don’t give out the cookies for flights that leave before 10am. Oh yes, I did get my cookie on the way back home and it was delicious.

The only real bad part of the flight was leaving about 1.5hrs late, but I can’t hold that against the airline. It was snowing quite a bit at DIA and it took us awhile to get de-icded. I have to say I was quite impressed with how quickly DIA got planes moving. Of course there were passengers who weren’t so understanding and started to get pissy, but I would much rather wait for de-icing than not and deal with the consequences. It also provided a fun experiment in social media. I had been Tweeting about being in Denver and turned out one of my Twitter followers (@CruiseNerd), was in the plane next to me and sent a photo.

They were both a nice and comfortable flights, but since Frontier doesn’t fly to many locations out of Seattle (Denver, Kansas City and Milwaukee) I don’t get to fly them very often. I end up flying through Denver quite a bit, but Frontier doesn’t end up being the cheapest at the time. I hope I get more opportunities to fly on Frontier in the future.

What? You want to see 17 photos of the fun weather at DIA and the flight? Sure!

 

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 sitting at Denver International Airport, waiting to take me to Tampa.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-300 (N655WN) sitting at Denver International Airport, waiting to take me to Tampa.

Airline: Southwest Airlines
Trip: Seattle (SEA) to Denver (DEN) to Tampa (TPA)
Planes: Boeing 737-300 (N655WN) and Boeing 737-700 (N747SA)
Seats: 20F & 24A, in the back but both windows

Back on the road again. This time it was to head east to visit my father for Father’s Day. I got tickets on Southwest Airlines leaving on Thursday June 17th. I haven’t flown Southwest in quite sometime and I forgot the importance of checking in as soon as possible.

I am sure most of you know, but Southwest does not do assigned seats. Instead when you check in, up to 24 hours before take off,  you are assigned a letter (A,B or C) and a number (1-60). People are boarded by group and number where A1 goes first and C60 pretty much gets the worse seat in the house.

During check in time, I was working on covering the Boeing 787 ZA005’s first flight, so I was rightfully distracted. I could have checked in at 12:35pm, but didn’t get to it until 4:00pm. Dang it, B28. At least I didn’t get the much dreaded C group.

Passengers in Seattle seemed to have a harder time getting the Southwest boarding process than those in Denver or Tampa

Passengers in Seattle seemed to have a harder time getting the Southwest boarding process than those in Denver or Tampa

Some people LOVE the check-in game, seeing what the best letter/number combination they can get, but if you aren’t into the game and care about where you sit, you can pay a bit more to secure a seat.

You can purchase a Business Select ticket, which gets you a boarding pass in the A1-A15 range, a free drink (is free, really free if you pay more?), additional rewards credit and by-pass security lines at participating airports. If that is too rich for your blood, you can also do Early Bird check-in and pay $10 extra. Southwest will automatically check you in 12hrs before the general population, securing you a better seat. I say a “better seat” not a “guaranteed good seat” because there is no knowing what you might get. Southwest does not limit the number of people that can sign up for Early Bird check-in, so hypothetically if a lot of people pay the extra $10, you could still end up in the B-group (oh the horror). But to most the $10 is worth not having to remember to check in and making sure you don’t end up in the middle seat.

I love those winglet shots. While landing at DIA

I love those winglet shots. While landing at DEN

My father is in love with Southwest and that is pretty much all he flies. His goal is to still get the lowest number possible. Even though he doesn’t get Business Select, he sure gets the Early Bird special every time. When I told him I didn’t get the Early Bird check in and had B29 I felt he was almost going to disown me (ok, not really).

He admits it doesn’t really make sense, but he just needs the lower number. He feels special having a lower number and is embarrassed to get in the B-group. I don’t think he has ever been in the C-group. I often wonder if he did get in the C-group if he would actually take the flight or just cancel. The $10 is well worth it to him and I assume to others as well.

Through my years of flying on Southwest, the process of getting people in their A, B or C groups has changed quite a bit. Back in the day passengers wouldn’t be given numbers, just A, B or C plastic cards. People would line up hours before the flight. And I mean hours. It was like people camping out for the newest gadget or the hottest movie, just crazy (and I normally love camping in my VW, but not this sort of camping). Now Southwest boarding areas have poles that tell you where you should stand based on your number and TV screens that tell you when those numbers are for A, B or C.

While coming into Tampa we hit some lightening. It was super impressive to see from the air, but hard to get photos.

While coming into Tampa we hit some lightening. It was super impressive to see from the air, but hard to get photos.

After experiencing this a few times, I have it down, but the first time I saw this new system, I was quite confused. For some reason passengers in Seattle seemed to have more problems with it than in Tampa. Even at all three airports, there were quite a few people that really had a hard time figuring it out, but we all managed to board the plane in a timely manner.

Some people really have an entitlement of their placement in line and I guess I can understand that. However, I am pretty laid back, but I seem to upset people if I have B15, yet I am standing where B17 should. I am actually letting people go in front of me, but that isn’t ok because I am messing with the system. Almost every Southwest flight there seems to be some passenger whose duty it is to make sure people are lined up perfectly.

It seems a lot of people really love the way Southwest boards the plane.  Although it is not a horrible method, I enjoy having my assigned seat. I want to know I have a window seat and I will be sitting next to my travel partner. If I get my ticket late, I know I might be in the center seat and I can prepare for that. If I have a middle seat at the front of the plane, I might check my bag, since I don’t want to risk not having the room. With Southwest, no matter what your boarding assignment might be, there is no guarantee for where I will be sitting and I don’t like that.

Even though I feel I am being jipped in some way, it all worked out. Even though with all four legs I had bad seating numbers (from B15 to B49) I was always able to sit next to my girlfriend and I got a window seat. I spoke with Brad Hawkins, a Southwest communications person, over the phone to see if Southwest was looking at ever going to assigned seats. He told me that they never say never, but when they last asked passengers what they wanted 2:1 wanted to keep the open seating, but quite a few voiced concerns about the boarding process. That is when Southwest started their pole boarding, making it a little more organized.

Boarding in this method, also provides them with additional revenue, which lets them keep prices lower and not charge the fees we see popping up with other airlines. It would also cost Southwest additional money, to set up a seat assignment system, against raising fares. No matter what you opinion is, it looks like open seating will be around for quite some time.

It is not just peanuts anymore. Those tomato wheat thins were amazing.

It is not just peanuts anymore. Those tomato wheat thins were amazing.

After going through the line up process, passengers started to back up in the jetway. The captain from the SEA-DEN leg came out and was talking to us. He ended up talking to me about what turbulence we could expect from SEA to DEN and why. It was pretty awesome he was out there. Those sort of things are what make the Southwest employees well known for their customer service and I always wonder why more airlines don’t encourage the pilot/customer interaction that Southwest pilots seem to have (plus I always love the ties they wear).

So, not only do I like to get a window seat, but one where I can easily get those winglet photos. You know those ones right? Photos with the airline’s logo/name on the winglet with other stuff in the background. They are extremely common, but dang it, I like to take them.

Not 100% sure where this was, but this is one of the reasons I make sure I have the window seat.

Not 100% sure where this was, but this is one of the reasons I make sure I have the window seat.

The gate location of the plane from SEA to DEN was hidden and I wasn’t able to check out what model it was (well duh on a 737, but what hundred?). When I got on the plane, I could easily tell it was an older Boeing 737. The seats looked brand new, it was very clean, but the aged bins, stark white walls and old lights and air vents gave it away. Sure enough it was a classic Boeing 737-300.

On both legs to Tampa, flight attendants told passengers the flight would be completely full and make sure to share. They made multiple statements to the fact that no one will be sitting with an empty seat, so be sure not to try to save it (each announcement was done in a friendly and fun manner). However, both the flights had quite a few empty seats (lucky to get empty middle seat from DEN to TPA, but in VERY last row). Maybe the flight was booked, but not all passengers made it or maybe it is a good motivator for people to share and get seated as soon as possible. Either way, not a big deal, but I have found when other airlines say it will be a 100% full flight, it is.

Unfortunately none of my flights had wireless internet. Southwest is currently installing Row44 on to their entire fleet. If I have internet access, I could care less what seating letter/number I have, but I will have to wait a little bit longer, but it will be happening.

Not that long ago Southwest was known as the “no-frills” airline. Yet now, they seem to be the “frills airline.” When others are charging for checked bags, carry-ons, getting an exit row, etc Southwest is doing what they always have been doing, providing cheap and friendly transportation to destinations around the United States. They have a very loyal following (including my father) and I think they really build a strong and positive relationship with most passengers. I look forward to flying with them again, but I will remember to check in a bit earlier next time or maybe even shell out the extra $10.

Additional photos of the trip.