It was time yet again to go visit my parents in Florida. Mr. Poe wasn't coming with me, which made me very sad because nothing is much fun without him. I decided to take a red eye because that would get me into Orlando in the morning instead of at night which would be easier on my parents. Sadly, Southwest doesn't fly red eyes from the Bay Area. I don't think they fly red eyes at all. The legacy carriers were shockingly expensive so I decided to fly an airline I'd never flown before-- AirTran. When I think of AirTran I think of their previous name, Valujet and a particularly horrific crash in the mid nineties which you can read more about here. However, since tickets on AirTran were a couple hundred bucks cheaper than Delta and AirTran hadn't had an aircraft slam headfirst into the Florida swamp at nearly the speed of sound in at least a decade I figured what the hell. The AirTran website is pretty easy to use. They charge $6 each way for assigned seating. I was reading something about how airlines are making pricing less transparent by charging extra for services like this. You have to really pay attention with a la carte pricing if you want to compare fares among airlines.
I managed to get everything I needed into the backpack I use to commute for work which made everything a lot easier. I had checked in online and already had my boarding passes. AirTran offers $100 upgrades to first class for their longer flights and $50 upgrades for their shorter ones that you can book when you check in if they are available. I almost took them up on the the upgrade from SFO to ATL but in the end concluded I was too cheap. Mr. Poe dropped me off at the airport after dinner at about 8:30. Security lines were blissfully short and I was through them in no time. AirTran is in Terminal 1. I was in the security line behind these super cute boys in Virgin America uniforms. Oh, when will they start flying to Orlando??
I walked around Terminal 1 and got a few pics. This is Phillipine Airlines and Cathay Pacific 747's. I had forgotten that Phillipine Airlines even flew to San Francisco. Love their tails:
This piece is an collage of various materials bolted onto the wall. It's from the 80's and I don't like it. It's such a meh:
Nobody was at the gate counter when I first showed up and we didn't have an aircraft. This didn't bother me because I knew that it was incoming because I'd checked before I left for the airport. What I did notice was our fellow passengers. I happily fly Southwest. I think they're a great airline and that they make all the right moves. I've never rolled my eyes in pity or disgust at my fellow passengers when flying on Southwest. Not true of AirTran. This was the surliest pack of trash I'd seen assembled since that day I rode my bike past the methadone clinic on Golden Gate Ave ten minutes before it opened. Then the pilots showed up and I was waiting for one of them to start humming "dueling banjos". I didn't see new flight attendants so I think the ones that had arrived from Atlanta were the same ones taking us back. That seems like a really long day. They looked it. Certainly not the fresh faced Virgin America boys. They looked like they'd be played by Joan Van Ark should their lives be made into Lifetime Original Movies. The gate agent took the boarding pass I'd printed and kept it. This meant I had to remember my seat assignment. I thought that was odd.
AirTran 38 SFO-ATL DEP 10:00 PM ARR 5:20 AM 737-700
AirTran's fleet consists of 737-700's and 717's. As the 717's don't have to legs to fly to Atlanta, we get the 737's. Here is a look at our rides:
The interior was new, but dirty. The seat covers were slipping off of the seat cushions which I'd never seen on an airplane before and looked terrible. The seats were designed by Recaro. I know this because there was a logo on the plastic piece used to hold the tray tables up. The seats although not uncomfortable were very thin. The tray tables seemed flimsy and the fabric looked cheap. The seat pitch was pretty tight but not tighter than other airlines I've been on. The load was very light on our flight and I had a whole row to myself which must be quite rare in our age of 98% load factors. Here is a the view of the cabin:
Right before we left one last passenger stumbled on who like he was taking fashion cues from Blake Fielder Civil. I nodded off right after we took off. I was woken by this guy arguing with the flight attendent about whether he had been promised free drinks by a mysterious third party in the airport bar and then by a second argument when she explained to him that it was company policy that she could only serve him one drink at a time. Classy! Her demeaner was polite and organized and I got the definite impression that this was not the first time she'd had this conversation with a passenger. Today. I tried to sleep as best I could but I can't really sleep well on airplanes. Thankfully, Cracky McCrack passed out after his cocktail and wasn't heard from again throughout the flight. Had the flight attendent crushed a valium into his cocktail to ensure that she didn't have to deal with ass til they landed?? I hope so. It was a great idea. They gave us a full can of soda for free and then walked around with water for the rest of the flight. Take that, USAir, who charges for both of these things on domestic flights. They also had free peanuts but no other food either for free or for sale. First Class was similarly food free.
I headed to the rear of the aircraft and noticed two things. First, the rear on the AirTran 737's don't have any kind of galley at all. It was a large, spacious hallway with nothing in it at all. The only galley they have on the aircraft is at the front. Second, they have the smallest restrooms I've ever seen on an aircraft. I couldn't figure out why they were so tiny given that there was all that space back there but they were.
We landed in dense fog in Atlanta. I mean really dense. We made it to the gate and walked out into the airport. San Francisco Airport is bustling at 5AM. Atlanta is not. Not a lot was open and the whole scene was a little Dawn of the Dead for me. I had a three and a half hour layover (regretting itinerary in 3-2-1) so I walked around. There wasn't much to look at and it was pretty boring so I finally got some food and watched TV for a while. Finally it was time to head over for my flight. It was still really foggy. Here are a bunch of AirTran 717's in a line. You can also see how foggy it was:
AirTran 865 ATL-MCO DEP 8:40 AM ARR 10:02 AM 737-700
I only got about an hour or so total of sleep on the flight to Atlanta so I was a total zombie by the time I got on the flight to Orlando. Luckily they didn't take my boarding pass this time. The guy in the middle seat was already there when I got to my aisle. He was a hefty man who had both the arm rests up. No. No. A thousand times no. I made it to window seat and promptly put the arm rest down so that he could keep his largesse to himself. He needs to cough up the extra $6 and get himself an assigned seat the next time he flies. We had the obligatory screaming baby in the aisle ahead of us. The parents were alternately trying to reason with and scold the baby. Does that ever work?? Here's the view of our cabin:
Atlanta might have been foggy, but the weather in Florida was gorgeous. I got a shot of the Orlando area as we were coming in:
Orlando airport is a little boring because there's not as much variety as you see in San Francisco but the airport itself is well laid out and comfortable. I got a few pics. US Airways in the old livery. It's N176UW, an Airbus A321:
Delta, Delta, Delta:
I got this cool view of this N931DL, an MD-88 from the tram taking us to the main terminal:
Orlando airport has a lake. With an island in the middle. Which is where I'm guessing all the lost luggage goes:
Orlando Airport also has a Hyatt attached. Sadly for Hyatt this beautiuful atrium is now the line for security. Ouch!
I thought all of the spider man stuff at this store was ugly and the statue looks more like he's bustin' a move than fighting crime. And his crotch seemed creepily enhanced. Yes, I checked out his junk. Don't judge:
I had some time to kill because my parents were going to be a little late picking me up because my mom had a softball game. One of their neighbors runs an airport shuttle service but they decided to come pick me up. "Daddy doesn't want a strange man picking you up at the airport", my mom said. I don't even know where to start with that. We went home and hung out for the afternoon and then I went to the grocery store for them and then promply went to bed after dinner. It was a really long day.