XNA-MSP-YYC on Delta 10 June 2012 by Bruce

I wasn’t going to write a trip report for XNA-MSP-YYC because I thought it was boring. But I like writing and maybe someone will get some enjoyment from my experience.

As mentioned elsewhere, DL is not my carrier of choice. After switching to CO from US in 2008, I’ve been happy. And now with UA, no problems. But for this weekend trip to XNA, UA wanted $1200 and anything over $1000 has to be approved by the customer. The only way the client’s travel agent (I have a client who has a customer. I’m a third-party provider) could book it under the limit was to break it into 2 one-ways, outbound on AA and the return on DL. So while I don’t get to earn for Mileage Plus, I at least get to refresh the several thousand miles I have in these other two programs.

XNA is Northwest Arkansas Regional and exists mostly to serve Wal-Mart vendors and the few people who work for Wal-Mart that fly commercially (they have a massive private fleet that is based at a regional air strip not far away). Tyson Foods, JB Hunt and the University of Arkansas (Soooooie! Pig!) are the other three very large employers in the area. The airport recently completed construction of an extended 12 gate concourse, complete with jetbridges. Some of the carriers have moved over to these. Very nice, very modern, very spacious, very comfortable with plentiful power and free wifi. Five stars.

The inbound arrived a few minutes late, but the crew turned it quickly and boarding for Group 1 was called manually. With no status, I had a Group 3 boarding pass so I waited out of the way. A few minutes later, my boarding pass was scanned and beeped. I was ready with my passport and I entered the jetbridge with my very small rollaboard. It easily fit into the overhead and I took 10A on this ERJ-145. It’s the same configuration as the CO/UA ExpressJet with one on the left / two on the right and exit row in 12. Barely 25% filled. We pushed back 2 minutes late and were first to depart. Beverage service (half-can) with two bags of peanuts. Hmmm… US doesn’t offer anything with their drinks. AA didn’t offer anything. UA doesn’t offer anything. On the way to the galley after serving the rows behind me, the flight attendant offered me the rest of the can.

The approach into MSP was one of the bumpiest rides I can recall in some time. We managed to get on the ground and stopped about 50 feet from the gate. The captain announced that there was an electrical storm in the area and we would be waiting at least 10 minutes and possibly 25 minutes until the lightning stopped. Looking out the window, I could see the wind pushing the standing water and the rain. The plane rocked from side to side, as we were sideways to the wind. After 20 minutes, still with a bit of storm in the air, the engines spooled up and we finished into the gate.

A very long walk from gate A12 to gate C4, at least a mile with scattered slidewalks and a repeated overhead announcement, “emergency response teams – activate your severe weather plans.” Arriving at the gate, the gate agent was answering questions to passengers saying that there would be a half-hour delay. She didn’t make any overhead announcements. As it turned out, we boarded only ten minutes late in one of the fastest boards I’ve seen. Again in Group 3, but after paging Group 1 and getting no response (I don’t think anyone was ready at this point), she called all rows.

Seat 16A on this ERJ-175 is a two-by-two behind the exit row and behind the wing. Almost all rows were occupied, but my seatmate was too slow to go grab the empty row just in front of us before another passenger got it.

We pushed back 13 minutes late and had a very bumpy climb, which continued for about the first hour of flight. I was surprised to see the flight attendant do beverage service (“Peanuts, pretzels or cookies?”) as she nearly fell down at least twice. Gogo Internet was available for $12.95 which I didn’t use. I tried sleeping or reading but was mostly just bored for three hours from Minneapolis to Calgary (I had no idea it was so damn far). We ended up arriving only six minutes late.

Customs and Immigration to enter Canada, I had my rollaboard and did not have to wait for the carousel.

Summary: Good flights and good service. I really liked that the captain came out of the cockpit to greet (with eye contact!) passengers for both flights (is this normal for DL/DL express?). I thanked the first one for a great approach under what were certainly challenging conditions. Beverage service with a nibble (it’s not quite a snack but much better than nothing) from friendly flight attendants. The planes were clean and well-kept. Wi-Fi on the second segment (a regional!) even though I didn’t use it. An F section on the ERJ-175. Organized boarding. Delta earned an A. They did well.

In the last four months, I’ve flown mainline on three of the legacy carriers. US for CLT-EWR, UA for ORD-YYC and AA for YYC-DFW. DL for XNA-MSP-YYC was not mainline but skywest and Compass. I’m not having second thoughts about my choice to stay with UA out of CLT, but I’m certainly thinking that DL might know what they’re doing.

Total Trip Cost: $ 318.50
Actual Airfare: $ 220.00
Actual Miles Flown: 1648
Yield: $ 0.133 per mile
Taxes & Fees: $ 98.50, 30.93% of ticket price

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American Airlines: YYC-DFW-XNA 8 June 2012 by Bruce

Fri., 8-Jun
AA694 dep YYC 14:25 arr DFW 19:15 (MD80)
AA2917 dep DFW 20:30 arr XNA 21:35 (E145)

On AA because they were way cheaper than UA. It’s crazy how expensive it is to fly across a border. I wonder how many people aren’t coming to the US because of the taxes.

Calgary has US Immigration and Customs – it only took about 25 minutes. Then security screening, though not the TSA. Initially only magnetometers, anyone who alerts gets to go through one of the “old” ProVision full body scanners. I didn’t alert the magnetometer, but somehow earned a random secondary. They directed me to the machine but I opted out and got a pretty lame pat-down. Into the terminal, decent food options and a lot of comfy chairs. There is an Air Canada Maple Leaf lounge, but that’s not in the same concourse as the AA flights.

I have no status on AA, so my boarding pass was Group 4. Very organized boarding process, they called each of the groups and passengers didn’t rush the line at all. Despite being in the last group, as the flight was only half full, I had no trouble putting my small roll-aboard in the overhead above 21F on this MD-80. Thankfully, D and E never arrived so I was able to stretch out. If they hadn’t, it would have been an extremely uncomfortable three hours with my knees rubbing the seat in front. Once reaching 10,000 feet, I put my seat back and zonked out. When I woke up an hour later, I had missed the beverage service. During cleanup, the flight attendant stopped by, said he noticed I had been asleep when he came by and asked if I wanted anything. Nice touch.

Gogo inflight available. $14.95 for three hours (90 minutes after my nap) wasn’t worth it.

We arrived DFW 25 minutes early. I took the opportunity to visit the United Club in Terminal E. It’s a small one and they close at 7:30 p.m., which I assume is around the time that the last UA flight departs. I had a beer, a few nibbles and then took the Skytrain back to Terminal B. DFW is a massively huge airport – it’s a long ride to go around.

Another Group 4 boarding pass, I was one of the last to board this ERJ-145. It’s the same configuration as the United Express aircraft, but I was in 10A, not 12A. Short flight with a beverage service, we arrived on time. Nothing unusual.

Total Trip Cost: $ 528.10
Actual Airfare: $ 471.16
Actual Miles Flown: 1804
Yield: $ 0.261 per mile
Taxes & Fees: $ 56.94, 10.78% of ticket price