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FLL-JFK-FLL: Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue

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  • FLL-JFK-FLL: Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue

    (No I didn't get married!) Obviously a flight on B6 (the old is the plane I returned on (N519JB - one of B6's older planes). The new was the outbound plane (N708JB - in service for less than 2 months when I flew!) The blue is of course jetBlue, and the borrowed is a piece of luggage I borrowed from my mom for the trip).

    Originally, My mom and I were going to fly to Boston in October and then go on a tour of the New England states, arranged by her alumni association. Ultimately, the trip plans fell through--but after we had already booked the B6 flight to BOS. So jetBlue gave us a voucher for the tickets (minus the penalty, of course). However, the fare for those tickets was pretty high, considering how far in advance we were booking (I guess B6 was counting on an influx of ppl flying in to Boston in early October to see the annual Red Sox appearance in the MLB playoffs) Anyway, we booked a weekend trip to NYC to see some friends and relatives and had some $$$ left over, so we booked another trip in October (around the same time of the Boston trip) to CLT (to see another relative who lives about 60 miles north of Charlotte).

    OUTBOUND: Flight 4, FLL-JFK 6/13/08

    I had taken this flight in May of 2006 for a day trip to NYC. With a 6:05 AM departure time, getting to the airport early is a must. So we arose at 2 AM (!) and left for the airport before 4 AM. The FLL departure level doesn't open until 4:30 AM, with the security screening area opening at 5 AM. Not a whole lot of lead time, considering that B6 had that 6:05 flight, and WN had a 6:15 to MCO and BDL (I think). Anyway, by the time I dropped my mom at the departure level, then went to park the car and got back to departure, it was close to 5 AM. My mother is somewhat mobility-impaired, so she uses a wheelchair to get to the gate. And off we went through the TSA gauntlet, where there was a brief delay as one of our bags was re-screened (Mom had forgotten to take out the “Ziploc” items). We got to the gate around 5:30 AM, and in a few minutes we were boarding. It was an early arriving crowd, as we closed up at 5:59 AM, and pushed back at 6:02, 3 minutes early. After a lengthy taxi (B6 uses Terminal 1 at FLL, which is the eastern-most of the 4 terminals, so we had to taxi the length of the airport to the end of the runway (generally, flights take off (and land) west to east, unless wind conditions dictate otherwise). We were “wheels up” at 6:16. Before we left, one of the crew announced that some of the IFEs were not working, so that they were going to make the pay movies free for the ones that were working, and provide a voucher to everyone for the inconvenience. Of couse, mine was one of the ones not working Seems like the whole right side of the plane was out, as well as some on the left. My mother’s was working, so I stole glances from time to time, rather than stare at a guy holding up a squid for 2 ½ hours (promo for some cooking show on one of the channels). The flight was uneventful, reaching a top speed of 525 mph, and altitude of 39,081 ft. We were wheels down at JFK at 8:35, and arrived at the gate 7 minutes later. Once there, there was a delay with the jetbridge deployment, so it was close to 9 AM when we finally got out of the plane. Fortunately, we had a great wheelchair attendant, who whisked us all the way to the Airtrain station, and therefore we were able to catch the 9:58 train to Queens Village, where we were staying w/ a friend.

    The plane was N708JB, a brand new A-320! One of the pilots said that it had gone into service on 4/24/08. Plane was named “All that and a bag of blue chips” Interesting that a brand new plane would have IFE issues, but these things happen, I guess. One unusual thing about this flight is that the entire crew was male—the 2 pilots(not unusual) and the 3 F/As (very unusual—I don’t think I’ve ever, in over 100 flights had all male F/As on a flight. I guess B6 does things differently).

    INBOUND: Flight 47, JFK-FLL 6/15/08

    We only stayed Friday night in NY, Saturday morning we took Amtrak down to Wilmington, Delaware to visit our cousin. Sunday morning, we got on Amtrak back to Penn Station, then LIRR to Jamaica, then Airtrain back to JFK. We got there around 4-ish, in plenty of time for the 7:05 PM departure of flight 47. Once in the terminal, I went to Special Services to request the wheelchair. 15 minutes passed, so I went back and asked the agent again, who seemed surprised that they hadn’t come yet. He called again, and a few minutes later, it arrived. The boarding passes said that flt 47 was leaving from gate 22, which didn’t mean anything to me at the time. We headed for security, and got through w/o a hassle. I then found out that gate 22 was in a satellite terminal which would require a ride in a shuttle bus! So we go down the ramp to the bus area on the apron (fortunately it was covered, as it was threatening to rain) and onto the bus (which was a fully accessible minibus). After the short ride over to the satellite, we finally got to the gate. Fortunately, the satellite terminal (which housed gates 18-24) had the usual amenities (restrooms, couple of places to eat, etc). We informed the gate agent that my mother would need early boarding, and he assured us he would take care of it. The plane (N519JB “It had to be blue”, one of the older B6 planes) arrived shortly before 6, not sure where it was coming from). The boarding started around 6:30, and the gate agent, much to our displeasure, boarded a wheelchair that had arrived after we did. I ended up going boarding before my mother so we wouldn’t lose the overhead bin space (though since we were seated in row 20, no one had really gotten back there yet). We closed up at 7:01 and pushed back at 7:03 PM, 2 minutes early. I lucked out and had no one in the middle seat (I was on the aisle). Before we pushed back, one of the pilots came on the air and told us frankly that it would probably be an hour delay before we took off, due to volume. I had heard that the 6-8 PM hour is one of the worst times to leave JFK, mostly due to all the European red-eye flights leaving at that time to have an early morning arrival in Europe. Great! The flight was scheduled to arrive late enough as it was, now would be even later. Good thing I had taken the 16th off at work. The tug disconnected, but we sat on the apron near the gate until 7:26 before we got moving. 1 hour and 9 minutes later, we left the ground :P
    The flight was uneventful; this time all the IFEs were working. We had a more-traditional 2-woman, 1 man F/A crew, as well as the 2 male pilots. We touched down at 11:03 and were at the gate 2 minutes later. I had read that B6 was going to flying slower to save fuel, but due to our 90 minute late takeoff, the pilots were “speeding” as we ended up only being ½ hour late. The captain had announced we would be cruising at flight level 340, but I think there was some turbulence at that level, as we ended up around 370 or 380 (and briefly at 390).
    Once the door opened, the cattle call exit began. We got to the door of the plane to find that the w/c was up in the terminal (usually they come down the jetbridge). So my mother made her way up the jetbridge, but once in the terminal, the idiot w/ the w/c (who was not a B6 employee, but a contract employee from some outfit called Superior, which is the worst-ever naming of a company!) was saying some nonsense about we had to wait until all the other w/c ppl were off the plane, so we left.

    In summary: B6 is an OK LCC, and the flight crews are pretty good, the planes are very comfortable, and the IFE (when working) is great, but the ground staff leaves a lot to be desired, particularly in their dealings with the mobility-impaired. I didn’t know about this when I took my flights in 2006, because I am fortunate enough to not require assistance. Because of this bad experience, my mother has vowed not to fly B6 after the October trip. I myself, would probably use them to get to NY, but might consider other carriers to other locations. I’ve read opinions on some boards (maybe this one?) that B6 will be gone in 5 years. I can’t offer an opinion on that, but I can’t say I would miss them all that much if that did happen. I do know that they can’t keep going on with JFK as their only real hub, because they will just get killed in the winter during a bad storm. They need to develop a secondary hub in the southern middle section of the country, where the winter weather isn’t quite as bad. (With the DL/NW merger, I speculate that CVG and MEM will be devalued, so might be an opportunity there, though winters at CVG can be brutal at times). We shall see.

    Oh, forgot one thing. Once we finally started taxing on Sunday, we passed by N582JB “Mystic Blue” parked at a gate. This just happens to be the plane I took on flight 47 in 2006! Small world