It first started for me at about this time last year. I had been planning a trip for a conference in Philadelphia and thought, "People say I don't shut up about how much I love Southwest, but yet I have never flown them." Within ten minutes, I had canceled my refundable trip on American and booked Long Island to BWI, where then I would head to the BWI Amtrak station and continue to Philly. I forget how long this trip took from start to finish, but I know what you are thinking - yes, I know it took much longer than driving from New York City to Philadelphia. You are missing the point! (I later used the AA flight credits to book my first round trip on a Boeing 737 MAX 8).
"I had not always been this way." In fact, for some time, traveling made me anxious. In hindsight, I am not entirely sure why. I was never afraid of the plane crashing (despite the thousands of hours spent watching Mayday!). As I matured, I began to see it as the obstacle standing in my way and my desire to travel. I knew it was an issue I wanted to address and conquer finally. Even before the Philadelphia trip, my way of getting comfortable was choosing to fly home whenever I visited. I am in the Greater NYC area, 2-2.5 hours away by car from my home in Worcester, MA, but only a 25-minute flight by air. To make things easier, Delta, American, and JetBlue all launched service from NYC to ORH at a very affordable price - yet still, I chose to drive home.
At some point, I finally decided to pull the trigger. I think there can often be a random moment of enlightenment with anything from time to time, and that for me was on a trip to Burlington, VT. Just before the trip, my brother (who, keep in mind, does not work in aviation) had reminded me in passing once again that, although I even worked on Embraer 190s, he had still been the only one in the family to fly on one. I had the freedom to book my conference flights, which is a dangerous privilege. I could have chosen a Delta Connection CRJ-900 or United Express Embraer 175; instead, I opted for the larger jungle jet operated by JetBlue as a shuttle connection to JFK. Once I flew to and from the conference and didn't die, I began flying home for good. JFK to Worcester is now my most-flown flight segment to date!
The new commute to see my family [dogs] continued, but even then, I was left curious after some time. You can only fly on so many Embraer 190s until you start wondering, "What else is out there?" After the Philly experience, I began investing finances and free time into short excursions on my days off. To keep costs low, I only book segments at their base fare during lulls and make trips where I leave and return the same day. This is usually where I start to lose people in conversations, but when done properly these days, trips can be pretty fun and cheap.
I hope you don't mind as I share my newfound traveling hobby from time to time. I will be sure not to turn this into a travel blog. My goal is to be maybe the push someone else needs to start traveling themselves. Especially for us in aviation, the world is at our feet - there are so many incredible places (and planes) to see. If you are wondering, I have flown Southwest twelve additional times between August of last year and today - I have to make up for lost time!
2023 Has Been Quite a Year!
The goal may not always be to get a glimpse of a city I have long wanderlust for. Anyone who knows me will tell you that the airplane and the airport are reasons enough for me to justify some of these endeavors. For example, to get on a Boeing 777, I flew JFK-MIA, never leaving the airport, and back on the stretched Boeing 777-300ER. That was mission accomplished for me, but I can also see why I should probably not make these primary talking points with strangers. I also have the unique goal of trying every commercial airline in the country this year - one that I am on pace to complete. In 2024, I hope to get on Canadian carrier Porter Airlines with their Embraer E195-E2 and Bombardier Dash 8-Q400.
Below is a list of day trips I have done:
Fort Lauderdale, FL.
Los Angeles, CA.
Palma de Mallorca, Spain.
San Francisco, CA.
San Juan, PR.
I also enjoyed taking a ten-day course in Madrid this semester for my post-grad studies. Essentially, we met with 15-20 various companies spread across Madrid. At its conclusion, my assignment was to write a twenty-page research paper developing insights and recommendations for our industry based on what I learned with companies and the general Madrid experience.
Me being me, instead of taking the same Delta flight three-quarters of my class took from New York-JFK to Madrid (booking travel was our responsibility), I saw this as a unique opportunity to experience both the Boeing 747 and Airbus A380. Leaving Washington-Dulles, I connected in Frankfurt on Lufthansa to fly a Boeing 747-8i and connected through London Heathrow on an Airbus A380 in return. This was the foundation of my trip itinerary - I took eleven flights in ten days on carriers such as Vueling and Transavia. I even found a way to experience Air France's brand-new Airbus A220-300.
F-HZUK, the A220-300 I took from CDG to MAD, was spotted by yours truly the day before at Barajas.
I have developed some traditions most people find humorous. For example, I will always swipe the safety card if it's my first time flying an aircraft type. You can imagine how annoyed I was when I boarded my Ryanair flight to see them plastered on the seatbacks. Also, if you are reading this, I assume you have the FlightRadar24 app installed on your phone. If you don't, ask yourself, "Do I really like planes?"
One of the many reasons aircraft are fascinating to me is the places they go. To see where they are now, I created a filter with all the aircraft I have flown and followed when airframes moved to different owners. For example, Australia's Alliance Air currently operates two former American Airlines Embraer 190s I flew on in 2019, and they will be taking delivery of several JetBlue Embraer 190s graced with my presence shortly. Further, an old Boeing 737-400 I flew on over a decade ago is now a converted freighter flying for QantasFreight, also in Australia!
This Week's Trip to Toronto
It had been an idle couple of weeks, but I took a rare trip with company to Toronto on Friday. A fellow plane nerd who works as a line service technician on the field mentioned how he gets similar travel anxiety to what I felt before I started traveling. To get the ball rolling, we booked Canadian ultra-low-cost carrier Flair Airlines from New York-JFK to Toronto to spend time in The Six before heading back later that night on Air Canada to New York-LaGuardia. This is and will continue to be a popular day trip for me so long as Flair keeps charging USD 27 base fares one way! Not to mention, I have always been interested in Flair with their unique livery and, of course, a fleet of Boeing 737s.
I was particularly excited about this trip even though I had done it twice. The reason? I had flown Flair twice to get on their own Boeing 737 MAX 8. The first time, the Boeing 737 MAX 8 got tail swapped for one of their few Boeing 737-800 aircraft, and then the second was a hybrid aircraft they acquired from Smartwings of the Czech Republic. I would not expect you to understand, know as a collector of flight experiences, that it mattered to me! A beautiful day for flying; we landed on time in Toronto, giving us four or five hours on the ground before our flight back.
This is enough time for simple people to plan a few activities - specifically the CN Tower. There was a time I was afraid of heights, but now I can confidently say those days have passed. The CN Tower elevators are equipped with windows both next to you on the walls and under your feet on the floor, so keep that in mind if you ever go. Once at the top, we took the sights and relaxed for an hour or so. After, we walked around the Rogers Center, home of MLB's Toronto Blue Jays, before heading back to Pearson.
I did not expect the surprise in store for us coming home. None of the 113 flights I had been on to date had been on a "special livery." Earlier that morning, I noticed our flight home was scheduled for Air Canada's Trans-Canada Airbus A220-300 - but, especially since that flight is the last of the day to LGA, it is often tail-swapped, sometimes even for different equipment, to ensure the flight makes it in before the curfew which begins at midnight.
My hopes were low - this was one of my favorite liveries out there, and I had already been tail-swapped off Alaska's "West Coast Wonders" aircraft. Too good to be true. Finally, our day ended as the retrojet took us back to New York right on time. I should not have been such a Negative Nancy.
Some observations I have made during my trips:
Most of my life had been spent viewing the world on a much larger scale than it is.
Sometimes I appreciate a place more if I know I have limited time to explore. For example, before my class in Madrid, I spent a few days in Barcelona. Being a big European soccer fan, I wanted to see Camp Nou (home of F.C. Barcelona). On my own, I felt it enjoyable just walking through the grounds and taking in the moment versus purchasing a full tour with a group of people. The total time? Maybe thirty minutes, but the half-hour was well spent.
I am always listening to something. Silence makes me uncomfortable, so it is a therapeutic experience for me - whether it be for entertainment or white noise. The time spent traveling has given me an excellent chance to "multitask" by reading or doing schoolwork, especially listening to podcasts. Let me tell you, podcasts are incredibly entertaining! I have plenty of recommendations if needed.
Window seats >>> aisle seats.
It is never okay to clap when the plane lands. Ever. I know you may have a different opinion, which is okay; know yours is wrong, and mine is right.
Unless to make a tight connection, I cannot understand why people insist on flooding the aisle the moment it parks. Are we all going to the same place? Especially if you checked a bag???
Not quite an observation, but incredible and worth sharing - my trip from Newark to San Francisco on a Boeing 777-200 experienced a compressor stall around the top of descent and performed a single-engine emergency landing. Maybe 45 minutes out, I had noticed some vibration and funny sounds but had not thought much of it. While touching down, I saw a sea of fire trucks spread across the airport. I initially figured they were for maybe another inbound aircraft until we turned off Runway 28R away from the terminal. The pilot then informed us of what happened and that they shut the engine down as a precaution. You may already know, but United's 777s are somewhat known for compressor stalls which can make for some ugly situations. However, this one failed adequately, and no significant issues were detected. I found it humorous if anything.