I took my first trip on the newest discount airline carrier this weekend: Independence Air. My wife and I were heading out to Chicago this weekend to catch a Cubs game with some friends. We were on a scheduled 9:15 PM departure on a Thursday night. As usual, we hit some traffic getting out to Dulles (leaving during rush hour will do that to you), but while listening to XM, we heard that there were 2 hour departure delays due to weather. So we weren’t in that much of a hurry.
We got to the airport with plenty of time to spare to our original departure time to find out that our place is schedule to leave only 20 minutes late! Great news! Oddly enough, our flight is scheduled to leave about 10 minutes before the 5:30 PM flight was (remember: our original flight time was 9:15 PM!).
There were a lot of delays on the east coast due to weather. I overheard some people that had been there since 1 PM and still hadn’t gotten on a flight. So we kept getting pushed back as well. At about 45 minutes late, our equipment had arrived, but our flight crew was still not here. And this is where I started to get frustrated with Independence. I can understand that the equipment was late because of weather, but I started to get a bit frustrated by the fact that we had to wait around for the crew to get in from another location. Southwest doesn’t have this problem as the crew and equipment pretty much stay together throughout the day…
We ended up leaving only about 1 1/2 hours late. Not to bad at all. But we made a mistake in our seat selection on the plane. Don’t sit in the back of the plane! We spent most of the flight out holding our breath because the toilet STANK! It was barely noticeable with the lavatory door closed, and it almost knocked you out with the door open.
There are many things that Independnce does to reduce cost. They don’t hire a ground crew to clean the plane in between trips, and instead ask you to take your trash off with you (and it seems to work so far, as the plane was clean). They also don’t really have many gate personnel. All your check-in is done electronically. If you are having problems, you pick up the phone nearby and it will connect you to someone at a call center who can help you (I added my frequent flyer information to my trip this way).
Our return flight was a lot less eventful. It left on time and we were sitting in the front. The food service was pretty good (they could be a little stingy on the drinks, ie. they didn’t always leave the can) and the cookies they served were much better than any snack I’ve gotten on any other airline. The Stewardess on the way back was entertaining, and it seems like Independence goes out of their way to be entertaining (even hiring a comedian to deliver the safety instructions). But I was warm the entire flight. And it just got worse once we landed and they shut off the air conditioning for the entire time we taxied.
In short, I would fly them again. They had the lowest fare for our trip, but even with some fresh coats of paint, they are still a discount airline and they cut cost everywhere they can.