First of all what the hell is an airline named Frontier doing flying that route? They also go from St. Augustine, FL to Newark. Perhaps I bring a personal bias about the term “frontier,” having grown up in the desert, the real "frontier." The word connotes the vast underpopulated regions of the unknown—like Yuma, or Death Valley—or California--whatever comes next if you travel west from Tucson. Back in the day, Tucson had a tiny little airport with about five airlines. One of them was Frontier. I envisioned a pilot in jeans, boots and a cowboy hat casually strutting across the dusty runway climbing the stairs two at a time before jumping into the saddle-fitted cockpit to take control.
|Grizwald Got Us There|
|Foxy Got Us Home|
But it turns out this Frontier Airlines is NOT your father’s Frontier Airlines. The new Frontier was launched in 1994, is based in Denver and serves 76 locations.The old Frontier Airlines existed from 1950 to 1986 and the first president and co-founder was my husband’s namesake, Harold (Hal) Darr. We discovered Frontier when looking for cheap flights from Washington DC to Memphis, TN where my son attends college.
The Frontier flight I was on was a brand new plane, out for its third excursion. When the flight attendants were wheeling the cart near me I heard one of them inhale deeply and say “Ahh, I love the smell of new airplane” with much the same relish as Lieutenant Colonel William "Bill" Kilgore when he said “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” in Apocalypse Now.
Frontier Airlines name their planes after animals. Oh yes they do. Per the company website “Our spokesanimals represent our character, commitment to service, and humor. Each airplane carries a unique spokesanimal from their "stable” of 50. Read their bios at Frontier's stable. My favorite is Oscar the Otter whose quote is: "Mi aeroplano es su aeroplano."
We flew on Grizwald the Bear outbound and Foxy the Fox on the return. Their images are on the tail and disturbingly, also on the wing. If you are seated on the wing and look out the window, it appears an animal is there. It’s a bit like that 1963 Twilight Zone episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” where the man was convinced that he saw a "gremlin" on the wing of the plane. [Millenials, please refer to Nightmare at 20.000 Feet]
Humor in air travel is a core value of mine. It helps me forget I am flying. One of the best lines was when a Southwest flight attendant, during the safety announcements, said: “If you are traveling with a small child today, what were you thinking?” So when I received a thin paper napkin with an image of Grizwald the Bear saying that the napkin could also be used as an eye mask, I thought that was pretty good. Plus the staff refers to the plane as said animal throughout the flight. Gotta love airplane anthropomorphism.
Alaska Airlines: Washington National Round-trip to Seattle
Alaska Airlines, on the other hand, has a “smiling Eskimo” as the logo on the tail. We don’t know his name, his likes or his dislikes. He represents the no-nonsense nature of this airline. When I booked my reservation I was slightly disturbed by the low flight numbers. DCA to Seattle was Flight Number One and the return was Flight Number Three. Really? Why do all the other airlines have flight numbers in the thousands?
Are we the virgin flight for this leg? Reading the history, there is nothing virgin about Alaska Airlines. It started in 1932 with a Stinson single engine three passenger aircraft. Glad I missed that. But not so glad I missed 1967, when to celebrate the Alaskan centennial, the flight attendants dressed in Edwardian outfits. Alaska gets nothing but praise in the industry—in 2010 it was ranked the most efficient airline operating in the United States. In 2014, JD Power and Associates ranked Alaska Airlines highest in customer satisfaction of traditional airlines for the seventh consecutive year. I can see why.
Alaska Airlines flights are all-business and yet the pilots are kind enough to keep you informed and reassured about the progress. I find this comforting. I hate radio silence from the cockpit. It makes me think something is wrong.
I liked the airline as
soon as I boarded because the two flight attendants greeting me told
me I was cute and fawned over me. I was wearing my red winter hat with a black
flower pinned to side.Who cares about complementary drinks when you can get
|Was it the Hat?|
My seatmate was a Millennial. When he saw that I was reading David Foster Wallace, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, he warmed to me right away. There’s no better way to bond with a Millennial than to be reading a book by a drug-addicted suicidal author. We talked about the writer's brilliance and went immediately to the big DFW question: “Have you read Infinite Jest?” He said he had not but he knows someone who has. I doubt it. I don’t think anyone has finished it. That’s why it’s called Infinite Jest, suggested one writer friend of mine—David had the last laugh on us. I asked The Millennial if he had flown Alaska Airlines before and how he liked it. He said no, and he didn’t much care for the cold attitude of the flight attendants. I said: “They liked me. They told me I was cute.” The Millennial said: “It’s the hat.” After a suitable interval of witty repartee, we parted ways to sink into our isolated activities of choice for the next seven hours.