I have a dirty little secret to share. I made it around the sun 30 times before stopping to pick up a passport. For most of my adult life I could easily explain this away: “My airline doesn’t fly internationally.” Then came the May of 2011 announcement that Southwest would acquire AirTran, and as a result would become an international carrier. Fast forward a few years and AirTran had been fully integrated into Southwest, yet I was still without a magic blue book. What seemed to be my last valid excuse (aside from pure laziness) was gone. It was time to join the majority of my AvGeek brethren (and 35% of the U.S. population) in securing a passport.
BONUS: Photo Tour of Hobby’s New International Terminal
At a dinner with fellow AvGeeks, a friend of mine who recently interned with an airline in Chicago mentioned that he had applied for, and received, a same-day passport in downtown Chicago just hours before he took his first non-rev trip abroad. I was intrigued. I had discovered a way to make a task I had put off for years more interesting than filling out paperwork and sitting around for weeks waiting for a response. Not only that, I now had a completely valid excuse to board a LUV bird to jet up to Chicago for a day trip. I was fully on board for a same-day passport challenge.
Mockup of how Southwest’s new seats will appear on the 737 MAX 8 aircraft – Image: Southwest Airlines
I recently flew Southwest Airlines for the first time in a while. I love the airline, I love what they have done for domestic air travel in the US, and I love so many of the people who work there. But I do also LUV having a seat assignment — which you cannot get with Southwest. I feel there is much added stress having to check-in early, making sure you are in the right place in line at the gate, and the worst of all: not knowing where you will sit. However, I have spoken to so many huge fans of Southwest, that actually like the process (mainly my dad and JL).
If you have flown Southwest Airlines before, you probably know the drill. When you check in, beginning 24-hours before the flight, you will be given a letter (A, B, or C) followed by a number between 1 and 60. A1 boards first, followed by the rest of the A group in numerical order. The process is repeated for the B and C groups. While the first fifteen seats are generally reserved for premium fare classes, frequent fliers, and paid upgrades, most positions are assigned in order of check-in time. End up in the C group, you will likely get a center seat (easy to remember – C for Center).
Boeing Field in 2005
King County International Airport, or Boeing Field (BFI) as it is commonly known, is the largest business and general aviation airport in the Seattle area. If you are flying your Gulfstream or Challenger in to Seattle, this is the place you are likely going to be landing.
The line up of brand new Boeing 737s at BFI – Photo: Bernie Leighton
There are a few scheduled services in and out of this airport, which include Kenmore Air Express and cargo flights with UPS & DHL (FedEx is based at SeaTac). The major traffic at this airport comes from general aviation, business jets via the Fixed Base Operators (FBOs), and Boeing test flights.
Because of this diversity, BFI is a great place to go aircraft spotting.