I’m kicked back in seat 2A on US Airways flight 1180 from Orlando to Washington Reagan. This is my first flight in US Airways First Class in probably 4 years. When I checked in online Sunday afternoon, I was offered the opportunity to purchase an upgrade for the flight for $100 dollars. After my flight down in coach, where I gave up on getting work done, I had no real desire to repeat the experience. The $100 dollar price point felt about right for the length of flight, and after a weekend of booze cruising with a buddy to the Bahamas, I wanted the space for relaxation and getting a head start on the work week ahead. After processing my upgrade online, I checked in and printed my boarding pass using Royal Caribbean’s shipboard internet café. The ship’s internet isn’t exactly barn-burning fast, but it got the job done. In any event, I’m happy with my choice, even if US Airways’ product isn’t exactly world class.
Since I wasn’t checking any luggage, I bypassed the US Airways ticket counter at MCO, but did check it out since my friend was checking luggage. It was not terribly crowded at the time, but based on my view ExpertFlyer.com availability data out of town, US Airways was quite busy this Monday. In fact, the agent for my flight was soliciting volunteers in exchange for a $325 dollar travel voucher. I elected not to bite. One guy that I saw volunteer is actually sitting in front of me in First Class, so I don’t know if they wound up using any volunteers or not.
About the experience. Let’s begin with boarding. First of all, I can’t imagine why any airline preboards “small children” on a flight from Orlando. I did notice that the boarding agent placed an “age limit” of four years on preboarding, but wow…what a minor mess. It seemed like an awfully large number of people made a bee-line for the boarding door with the call for preboarding.
In any event, I made it onboard soon enough. Windows are never my preference but that’s the only choice I had when upgrading. Seat 2A is in the second of three rows of First Class seats on their Airbus A-319 aircraft. I’d heard that the reconfigurations of US Airways’ narrowbody Airbus aircraft had not been kind to the First Class cabin on these aircraft. While the seat pitch was certainly snug, I don’t think it was any worse than American’s MD-80s. There was overhead space in the row behind me, and I should add that I much prefer the overheads on US Airways’ Airbus product than their aging Boing 737s. My Samsonite 21” spinner will not fit wheels first on the Boeings, but does just fine on the Airbus.
We were offered pre-flight beverages by the very nice flight attendant, a gentleman I recognized from other US Airways flights, and remembered as a great flight attendant. He really was good at his job, and doing the best he could with what he had to work with, which on US Airways includes plastic cups in First Class on shorter flights. He explained to those that requested (no, I wasn’t one of them…this time) that US Airways could not serve alcoholic beverages on the ground in Orlando, but Cokes and water were plentiful and he was very good with customers. Soon enough, we were boarded up and ready to launch for an onetime departure.
Once airborne, the guy in front of me reclined and I had to suck it in a bit to fit my laptop and tray table in front of me, but it wasn’t all that awful. I still didn’t want to trade my upgrade in for a seat back in coach! The snack basket was passed around and then orders for drinks were taken. I went for a red wine, which flowed continuously throughout the flight. Those kinda tacky tray table adds are even available for First Class customers to peruse on US Airways. Here’s a shot for you.
And another shot of a seat that obviously needed a little TLC. I mean…I know they have deleted inflight entertainment, but come on!
But in spite of it all, the seat I was in certainly beat this!
The First Class attendant was continuously visible during the flight, and took great care of the customers as far as I could tell. No meal service, of course, but the snack basket was plenty to tide one over until landing. The flight was very smooth all the way from takeoff until landing. I even snapped a quick pic of the clouds and one of the CFM’s powering us towards home.
We landed right on time, and after a quick taxi to the gate, I was off the airplane and standing in the taxi line at DCA. Good times, and a good flight. US Airways got me there efficiently and on time. But still…something is missing. I’m just not sure what it is. Have I become spoiled by other airlines? Am I the only person alive that values in seat power, internet access, the availability of inflight entertainment? Or is US Airways the smartest airline in the room? I just don’t know. In the meantime, I’ll continue to fly them when the schedule and price make sense, but I’m not likely to ever consider them for a long-haul flight. I still can’t belive they offer no inflight entertainment or in-seat power on their transcon flights. Actually, I can believe it, I just won’t put up with it.