Flying to Dallas to Honor Herb (Trip Report)

I already wrote up my impressions of Southwest founder Herb Kelleher’s “Celebration of Life,” but I still haven’t written up my flights out to Dallas and back home. While the flight out was fine, the return was… less enjoyable.

[Disclosure: Southwest provided the flights for me]

I figured if I was going into Dallas, I’d take the opportunity to pack in as much as possible in a short time. That meant I’d take the first flight out in the morning on Monday from LAX. I checked in right at 24 hours and got the abnormally good A41 boarding pass. Slightly fearing that there might be security delays thanks to the government shutdown, I left home a little early at 545a. There was no traffic (it was MLK Day) and I was on the shuttle from QuikPark and in the terminal before 630a.

There was a short line for the regular people, but since I had Pre Check, my line was almost non-existent. Once through, I headed over to the gate and looked for a seat. It was pretty crowded at the gate, and the big retail area took away what could have been more seating. I did eventually find a seat, and I almost fell asleep waiting for boarding to begin.

January 21, 2019
Southwest 818 Lv Los Angeles 730a Arr Dallas/Love Field 1235p
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 14, Runway 24L, Depart 2m Early
Dallas/Love Field (DAL): Gate 7, Runway 13L, Arrive 21m Early
N737JW, Boeing 737-7H4, Hot Dog on a Stick colors, ~99% Full
Seat 3A, Coach
Flight Time 2h27m

We boarded N737JW (the JW is for Jim Wimberly, former Chief Operating Officer for the airline), and I was pleased to see seat 3A open and waiting for me.

We pushed back on time and headed into the clear blue sky. It turns out it was a clear, bumpy, blue sky and the flight attendants were kept seated for the first 45 minutes. They then got up, but it got bumpy again and they were told to sit back down. They finally had enough time to finish drink service somewhere over West Texas, I believe. We had a brief smooth ride from there, and I spent the time just watching the map. I did notice that they are really promoting that all entertainment is free. Since internet isn’t free, I assume that means it doesn’t count as entertainment. But I could imagine that being confusing to some.

We descended into Dallas on a mostly sunny but windy and again slightly bumpy day, and I found myself sitting on the wrong side of the airplane. We headed northeast of the airport before turning south, then back west, and then came in on final.

Sitting on the left side, I saw nothing but farms and suburbs until the very end. We landed and had a very short taxi to the gate.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Love Field, and I had forgotten just how easy that place is. I was at the curb very quickly, and it was a busy 24 hours.

After Herb’s celebration, I headed straight back to the airport and arrived with a little over an hour before departure. It was a gray and drizzly day outside, but on the inside it was nice and quiet. The ticketing area was pretty empty.

The security line was a ghost town.

Once on the other side, I went to my gate and waited.

January 22, 2019
Southwest 1806 Lv Dallas/Love Field 205p Arr Los Angeles 340p
Dallas/Love Field (DAL): Gate 5, Runway 13R, Depart 2m Late
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 17A, Runway 25L, Arrive 13m Early
N8675A, Boeing 737-8H4, Hot Dog on a Stick colors, ~90% Full
Seat 11A, Coach
Flight Time 2h47m

We boarded and I saw this was one of the old 737-800 configurations with the weird half bulkhead at the front. I walked back and took seat 11A, skipping row 10 and its terrible windowlessness. I almost kept going since my row was a complete mess, but I didn’t.

I’m guessing there must have been some kids in this row on the previous flight.

The captain came on and said they’d just flown in from LA and it was a bumpy ride, so the flight attendants would remain seated for awhile. We took off into the murk, but we were above the clouds fairly quickly. The bumps hung around for about half an hour. Then the flight attendants were allowed up to begin service.

Wifi wasn’t working (at one point they tried to restart the system). I decided to browse movies, and quickly settled on one. I wanted to have a little Wild Turkey to salute Herb on my way home. Unfortunately that didn’t happen.

The flight attendants came through with drink orders, but skipped my row. The guy on the aisle was sleeping, and the middle was empty. I was watching a movie, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that they just mistakenly thought I was asleep as well. I don’t really know. So when they came back through with snacks, I spoke up.

Me: Did I miss drinks?
Flight Attendant: You must have. If you snooze you lose.
Me: But I wasn’t snoozing. I was just watching…

That’s when I stopped myself knowing it wasn’t going to help things. Instead, I just asked if they would mind coming back to take my drink order after snacks were done. The one flight attendant said she would. She never did.

She did walk by quickly on a trash run, and I thought about stopping her. I also thought about ringing the call button. But I feel conflicted when I’m traveling on a pass provided by the airline. I don’t want to start any trouble, so I just sat there hoping they’d do a second drink pass. They did not.

Instead, she came back and stood with her back to me for probably 15+ minutes talking to someone in the row behind. I got the feeling there were several employees on this flight who had come out for Herb’s celebration and were heading back home. I resigned myself to a drink-less flight and just watched my movie.

After the wifi reboot, I was nervous that I wasn’t going to catch the end of the film. It didn’t help that I kept getting disconnected about every 30 minutes so I had to reconnect. When we crossed over the Colorado River, sun reflecting off its winding banks, I knew it was going to be tight.

Soon, the captain announced we had begun our initial descent. The flight attendants came on right after with their “final approach” spiel, telling everyone to put tray tables up, seatbacks, etc. I chose to ignore them so I could try to see the end of the movie. Besides, we were really just on the initial descent anyway. When they walked through the first time, they didn’t make me put my laptop away, so I breathed a sigh of relief. The movie finished as we descended over the Inland Empire, and I buttoned up.

I was surprised to see us land on the south runways, but it didn’t matter. We were early and our gate was occupied. We sat on a taxiway near the Bradley Terminal for maybe about 10 minutes. (I wasn’t really counting.) The gate freed up, and we still arrived several minutes early.

Back on the ground, I waded through the terminal, grabbed a long-needed drink of water, and made the smart move of walking back to Quikpark. That took less than 10 minutes, easily beating the shuttle which would have slowly wound its way around the horseshoe.

I headed home in bad traffic. Fortunately, Waze took me on side roads, and when I passed a liquor store, I stopped and grabbed a bottle of Wild Turkey.

I might not have been able to toast Herb onboard, but I would certainly do it that night.

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