We got back on Sunday from a trip to Connecticut for a good friend’s wedding.

To get there and back, we took Southwest Airlines, which we had never done before. It was an experience, certainly. If you’ve never flown Southwest, you really don’t know what you are missing. While I wouldn’t go so far as to classify the experience as bad, it wasn’t good. I probably wouldn’t fly Southwest again unless it was a family emergency or some such and it was the most affordable fare I could find. Southwest has a couple of quirks that one who hasn’t flown with them may not know.

  • Southwest does not assign you a seat number when you check in. Once you board the plane, you can sit anywhere that an open seat can be found.
  • You actually check in twice if you have luggage to be checked. You check in once at the desk in the ticketing area. At this point, all they do is take your luggage and make sure your ticket is valid. Then, one hour before your flight, you have to go to the gate area and check in again to get your boarding pass.

What these two things mean is that you engage in a lot of waiting inline. Every time you transfer you have to wait in line to get another boarding card. The boarding card you get has a number between 1 and137 on it. This number symbolizes the order in which you are allowed to board the plane. People who have numbers between one and thirty are allowed to board in a group. Then people who have 31 through 60. Then people with 61-90. Finally, everyone left is allowed to board. So, you have to stand in line to get a low number, but the number is also somewhat irrelevant. For instance, there is no more advantage to getting one than thirty since they don’t board you in the order of your boarding card, but rather in a group. So, the person holding boarding pass one can actually end up boarding the plane after the person holding boarding pass thirty. All of this leads to a good deal of gathering around the gate and generally just being in the way. It’s rather like cattle gathering around a food trough. Also, Southwest doesn’t seem to fly a single flight that lasts more than four hours. As such, they don’t serve meals. The most you’ll get is a sausage stick, a few breadsticks, some spreadable cheese, and a granola bar-esque thing. Also, given that the airline’s colors are brown, orange, and a slightly different orange, everything they have looks left-over from the Seventies. In reality, many of their planes are very new, but the color scheme looks old. So, even though I probably wouldn’t fly with them again without a good reason, they weren’t awful. Most of what I didn’t like about them was all the standing in line every time you even thought about changing planes.

Our flight to the East coast was a flight out of Oakland to Nashville,where we were supposed to change planes for a flight to Hartford. As we came into Nashville, the pilot brought the airplane (a reasonably new737) down on what appeared to be a standard approach. I was looking out the window as we came over the runway and flew over the approach end. We then kept flying several thousand feet down the runway. And then kept flying. It was at this point I realized that if the pilots didn’t get this bird down in about the next five seconds we were either going to:

  1. Crash into the trees as we landed long.
  2. Execute a go-around.

Apparently, the flight crew was thinking the same things, and they opted to drop the plane onto the runway. Oops. The plane came down on the main gear, bounced off the runway, and then came down hard again. The pilot then applied maximum braking and reverse thrust. We stopped about fifteen feet short of the runway’s end. Normally when you land,you might sit on the plane for a minute while the pilot taxis the plane down the runway to the next taxiway. The pilot of this flight executed an immediate ninety-degree turn on to the last available taxiway because he didn’t have any more runway to use. That was an interesting experience, certainly.