Line up of planes at FLL – Photo: Maarten Visser | Flickr CC
Although Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport (FLL) is a mere 21 miles north of its huge cousin, Miami International Airport (MIA), itâ€™s worlds apart in its focus and business model. FLL is a hub for low-cost carriers (LCCs) and ultra-low-cost carriers (ULCCs), and funnels passengers to nearby Port Everglades, one of the busiest cruise ship terminals in the world. In 2014, FLL saw almost 25 million passengers use its facilities, led by ULCCs and LCCs Allegiant, JetBlue, Southwest, Virgin America, and Spirit, which is based at FLL.
Trans-Atlantic LCC, Norwegian Air Shuttle, also serves FLL with Boeing 787s. A number of U.S., Canadian, and Latin American airlines also provide non-stop scheduled service to FLL, along with seasonal charter carriers.
â€œWe complement MIA,â€ says Allan Siegel, FLLâ€™s Community Outreach Coordinator. â€œBut our landing fees are lower, so our airlines are saving significant costs. That makes us attractive to the LCCs, and in 2014, LCCs handled 62% of our total traffic.â€ The airportâ€™s traffic has grown steadily, up 25% in 10 years, but that growth led to capacity issues, driven by FLLâ€™s configuration.
Photo of the US Airways A320 from @han_horan
US Airways flight 1702 from Philadelphia (PHL) to Fort Lauderdale (FLL) slid off the end of the runway at PHL after an aborted take off. The flight was scheduled to take off at 5:50pm EST with 149 passengers and five crew.
The airport has reported via their Twitter account that the “Nose gear of plane collapsed on runway. The incident is under investigation. All passengers safely evacuated. No reported injuries.” The airport has done a great job keeping passengers up to date with their their situation.
This incident once again shows the power of social media and how stories and photos can quickly circulate around the internet. There has even been a selfie of the wrecked aircraft posted, which has gone viral in both mainstream media and social media.
The airport was on a ground stop while handling the situation.
Just before 8:00pm, US Airways posted on Twitter, “InitialÂ reports flt 1702 PHL-Fort Lauderdale blew a tire on takeoff & takeoff wasÂ aborted.Â We are taking care of our customers & crew.”
The Association of Flight Attendants reports that, “there are no crew injuries and only minor injuries to passengers.”
US Airways released a statement: â€œInitial reports indicate Flight 1702 from Philadelphia to Fort Lauderdale blew a tire on takeoff and the pilot elected to abort takeoff. Our crew safely evacuated the passengers and one person has requested medical assistance. We are re-accommodating passengers on a new aircraft, which is scheduled to depart later this evening.â€
Image of the plane off the runway by @JimmyStyle
This story is developing…
Bahamasair Dash 8 300 at Fort Lauderdale.
Who wouldn’t be excited about taking a press trip to the Bahamas? Of course, for an AvGeek, getting there is half the fun. I wasn’t super excited about my red-eye from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL). I was excited about flying onÂ Bahamasair from FLL toÂ Lynden Pindling International Airport (NAS). This was the first time flying on Bahamasair and I hadn’t been on a Boeing 737-500 in quite sometime (note: The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, which also oversees the airline, covered the cost of my trip).
Before leaving Seattle, I did some research on the airline and found that many passengers have publicly complained about their flights being consistently delayed. Many of the reviews were older and the airline had recently upgraded from the very aged Boeing 737-200 to the newer (but still old) 737-500 and I was hoping most of these issues would have been resolved (foreshadowing? yup).
Trying to find an outlet and being able to hear announcements was not easy. I ended up sitting on the floor in a busy hallway, but whatever.
By the time my flight landed at FLL, I was pretty tired from getting three hours of sleep. It was about 7am and I was supposed to have a two hour layover before heading to the Bahamas and it was time for me to find my way to my new gate.
I had to transfer terminals at FLL, which requires a short shuttle ride that was supposed to run every 15 minutes, but I ended up waiting almost 30. This was not a huge deal since I had the time, but if my connection was close, that would have surely caused additional stress.
Once getting off the shuttle I had to wait in a short line to check in at the ticket counter since the airline does not currently have a web check-in option. I received my boarding pass and then had the “privilege” of going through security for the second time that morning.
After finding my gate, I moved down towards the end of the terminal to try to get a good photo of the 737-500 taxiing. The flight status board showed the arriving flight was on-time, but time passed and no plane showed. The status board continued to show “on time,” even after it reached 8:55am, when my flight was supposed to be departing. Odd.
How many Dash 8’s does it take to replace a Boeing 737? Two. The first one wasn’t as colorful as the second (this is the 1st). Notice the air stairs going up to the jetway.
I can handle flights being late. However, I have less patience for lack of communication. The fact that there was not even a gate agent present was pretty bad. Needless to say, there were quite a few passengers pacing around who were getting quite frustrated.
Time kept rolling along before the board finally showed our new departure time was at 11:30am. Our gate had also changed from E3 to E1 where amazingly there was a gate agent there. I had no connecting flights to make, so I wasn’t too worried about the delays. Unfortunately this was the time that I really started to regret my decision to put my laptop in my checked bag — I could have been blogging.
After a while, it was announced that our Boeing 737-500 had broken down and they were trying to get two Bombardier Dash 8 300s to FLL. Some passengers showed their anger that they now had to fly on a small prop plane instead of a jet. As an AvGeek, I was pretty excited for the wings being up high, flying lower, no middle seat, and tarmac boarding.
Not the most spacious, but for a 45min flight, it does the job.
At about 11:30am the first Dash 8 showed up. It was announced that people with connections, people with kids and those who needed additional assistance could board plane 1 and the rest would take plane 2.
As our flights (plural now) became more delayed, some passengers got very angry and unfortunately took it out on the gate agents. It is best to judge an airline’s employees not when things are going smoothly, but when things are going wrong.Â Yes, they dropped the ball by not being at the gate during the initial delay, but their ability to handle the angry passengers in a calm manner was quite impressive.
The four gate agents worked non-stop for hours trying to help while keeping their cool, manually boarding passengers one-by-one for the first flight and then they re-booked everyone for the second flight. They also had to work with those who would miss their connections getting them on alternative flights.
At around 12:15pm (3hrs 20min after original departure time), when the first Dash 8 left the gate, most of the remaining passengers were calm. Those who were previously upset has already missed their connecting flights and were finally ready to accept reality and chill out.
After a short 45min flight (made shorter by sleep), we were flying close over the blue waters and landing at NAS.
At about 1pm (4hrs 5min late) I boarded the second Dash 8 (which had the more colorful livery). Most people boarding with me felt like they just had one of the most horrid experiences known to man. By no means is sitting around in E-Terminal, at FLL for almost six hours, enjoyable, but this stuff happens and getting angry doesn’t make things any easier.
I had a window seat secured on the original 737 flight and got another one for the Dash 8 — seat 8A. I was hoping to get some amazing photos with the high-wing and flying low, but was disappointed to see that the windows were dirty (I assume from salt water). At 1:20pm, we (finally) took off from FLL, heading to paradise.
Previously, I have flown on Alaska Airlines and Porter Airlines Bombardier Q400s (the newest version of the Dash 8) and the difference in age and cabin interiors showed. The only carry-on that I had was my camera bag and it even had a hard time fitting in the crazy-small overhead bin (it is free to check in your first bag on Bahamasair).
Yes. A pirate in the airport welcomed me to The Bahamas. How cool is that?
I was hoping to enjoy the blue waters during the flight, but with my lack of sleep I quickly passed out and woke up just in time to enjoy the view during landing.
I deplaned on the tarmac and was able to walk through the new international terminal at NAS. Before hitting customs, I was greeted by a pirate (yea, a frek’n pirate) who was more than happy to have his photo taken.
When dealing with a challenging travel scenario, I find it always important to find the positives. I was now in the Bahamas, I just met a pirate and my bag had made it on the first Dash 8, so it was waiting for me when I arrived at baggage claim.
My original schedule was to interview the man in charge of the airline, Van Diah, 4.5 hours earlier and I wasn’t sure if he would still was able to meet with me. I felt very privileged that he was able to work me into his packed schedule to sit down and talk about his airline. Obviously one of the big questions on my mind at the time was the airline’s reliability and on-time performance. Surprisingly, he was more than happy to discuss these and other aspects that I will share in a future story.
I have to say that just a few short minutes of getting away from the airport and seeing the beautiful blue ocean quickly made me forget the long journey it took for me to get there. I felt like the difficulties might have been worth it and I was looking forward to exploring Nassau (which will also be shared in future stories).
ADDITIONAL PHOTOS OF MY BAHAMASAIR FLIGHT
Southwest's new Boeing 737-800 sits next to a 737-700 at FLL. Photo by Butch Brown.
The relationship between Southwest Airlines and the Boeing 737 has gone back a long way. Recently, Southwest took delivery of their first Boeing 737-800. For the average person this might be a non-event. For those who realize that previously the airline only operated the smaller aircraft, this is an event worth celebrating. The 800 will allow the airline to operate more capacity on routes and the ETOPS certification will allow the 737-800 to take on destinations, like Hawaii. On the 800’s inaugural flight from Chicago Midway Airport (MDW) to Fort Lauderdale (FLL) my father was able to join along.Â
My dad, Butch Brown, is a huge Southwest Airlines fan (I think if he ever got a “B” boarding pass he would be so ashamed), so it made sense for him to check out the new plane, with the Boeing Sky Interior. Here is his report in his own words:
Folks from Southwest Airlines, AvGeeks and media get ready to board. That is my father in the black sweater. Photo from Southwest.
The technical facts on the new aircraft are well know: 28% more passengers, quieter and more spacious cabin, larger improved overhead storage bins, durable and comfortable seats, and of course the LED (light emitting diodes) that can portray different color schemes like a soft blue sky and a relaxing pallet of sunset colors. I was anxious to see for myself if these new innovations in look and feel will make a significant difference in my flying enjoyment.
I woke up at 4:30 am with great anticipation of my flight on Southwest’s new Boeing 737-800. Â This particular aircraft was dedicated and named “Warrior One” in salute of the Southwest Employees’ Warrior Spirit that reflects a “can-do” attitude.Â My flight aboard “Warrior One” from Chicago’s Midway Airport to Fort Lauderdale was the the aircraft’s maiden scheduled flight. It was to be a day of celebration.
The 737-800 will have mini-beverage carts. The Sky Interior has new buttons and LED lighting.
Arriving at the Midway Airport departure gate for Warrior One was a scene made for a party: balloons, roulette game for passenger prizes, special breakfast treats and drinks, cheers from enthusiastic passengers and the opportunity to have your photo taken with “Little Miss 737”. On board the festivities continued with a raffle for prizes ranging from Warrior One ball caps to a free flight on Southwest Airlines.
There was a similar scene when we arrived at the Fort Lauderdale Airport. There was a water cannon salute as we taxied to our gate, followed by a walk through a forest of balloons and rousing applause and cheers from Southwest staff and departing passengers at the arrival gate. This was a very memorable flight indeed.
Now, to answer the question I originally posed before the flight, “am I a fan of the Sky Interior and Southwest’s new 737-800?”
Warrior One sits in Fort Lauderdale.
The volume of living space has increased with the sky interior and it is notable. Sculpted ceiling, sloping storage bins, and reshaped window recesses make the cabin appear larger and add to the feel of spaciousness. These literally change your perspective on the real estate airline travelers call home for long periods of time. The Sky Interior has a way of making the narrow body 737 feel almost like a wide body.
I was a little skeptical with the new seats having less seat pitch, but the seat pockets have been moved upwards providing an increase in knee room, and life vests have been moved to the overhead so both legs fit comfortably under the seat in front of you.
Pivoted overhead bins means passengers don’t have to bend to prevent bumping their heads as they leave their seats. Another feature that passengers (and flight attendants) will appreciate are the intuitive placement of switches and call buttons. The reading-light switches and flight-attendant call button are easily identifiable and make it much less likely to accidentally press the flight-attendant call button.
Now this is how you do a cake!
Flying on Warrior One made you almost forget you were flying on a Southwest flight, but in a good way. The one factor that remains constant with Southwest and brought back the reality that this was indeed a Southwest flight was flight-attendants’ impeccable customer service. I have been on other Boeing 737-800s flying with other carriers, but what really made this one unique was the “Warrior One” Southwest Airlines crew.Â Am I a fan? Absolutely! How can one not be with this combination of new plane, great service and oh yes, bags still fly for free.
More Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-800 Good Stuff
*Â Video, words and photos from Southwest’s blog
*Â More Photos via NYCAviation.com