I recently completed my first roundtrip on US Airways mainline flights in at least 3 years. It was such a monumental occasion that I felt like sharing a trip report on the experience. Once upon a time, I was a US Airways Dividend Miles Chairman’s Preferred flier. After their minor meltdown following the US – HP merger, but mainly because of changes made to Dividend Miles, I pledged to avoid the airline at all possible costs until things improved. Since then, I’ve been reading about their various improvements with muted interest. Most recently, I haven’t really avoided US Airways as much as I’ve just not had any reason to fly them.
In the past month, I’ve had the need to travel to Charlotte (both flights on US Express), and of course Boston (mainline Shuttle), the subject of this trip report. Admittedly, I first considered flying American (Eagle) for this trip, but their schedule didn’t match up to what I was looking for. And truth be told, while I don’t “mind” a regional jet on a short flight, I’m going for something bigger if I have a choice. On this route, US Airways Shuttle and their A319’s won my business.
MrsMJonTravel accompanied me on this trip, and I made the arrangements myself via usairways.com. US Airways’ website is vastly improved from a few years ago. It’s clean, simple, and I don’t feel like I’m staring at a carnival ride when I’m looking at it. I booked the trip without “logging in” with my Dividend Miles information, as I intended to credit the trip to our United Mileage Plus accounts. I suppose I could’ve booked the trip by logging in, and changed our frequent flier information later, but I didn’t try it. In any event, it only took a few minutes, and I found the booking process easy to navigate.
US 2032, DCA – BOS, 4 Sep 2010, 12:30PM – 1:55PM
We arrived at DCA around 11:15AM for our flight via Red Top Cab. After a quick visit to the Airport Wireless store in search of an iGo power tip for my BlackBerry, we proceeded to TSA. They had exactly 2 lanes (out of 5 or 6) open, and the line looked a little long. However, we were through the whole process in 10 minutes or so. MrsMJonTravel and I made a quick stop at the US Airways Club which I can access through my Amex Platinum Card. The DCA club has a great view of the ramp and runway, and is also home to my favorite thing about US Airways’ Clubs in general, the Flavia Coffee machine. There wasn’t much in the way of snacks, so we didn’t stay long. After a quick lunch at Gordon Biersch, we walked to gate 44 and onboard our flight as it was in the middle of boarding. Our seats were 12 B and C, a couple of rows aft of the exit. We made it most of the way through boarding until 12A joined us. 😀 Oh well, life goes on. The flight was packed as far as I could tell. We pushed back 5 minutes early, and soon enough, we were airborne and on our way to Boston.
A couple of things I noted, the armrests had emPower outlets installed from the old US Airways days, but they appear to have been deactivated. And of course, US Airways has removed inflight entertainment from all flights except the 757/67, and A330 fleets. This is one reason I would NEVER consider US Airways for a transcon flight. A colleague of mine recently traveled on a brand new US A321 from SFO to CLT with absolutely no inflight entertainment. At least the A321 has inflight wi-fi, but apparently no domestic aircraft has music, movies, or in seat power. No thanks!
Our short flight to Boston, however, was fine. I noted that US has switched from the old grey seats to blue leather, which I believe is mostly standard across the mainline fleet. The seats were comfortable, and the pitch was average domestic. Inflight service was pleasant enough, and MrsMJonTravel and I enjoyed a glass (ok, cup) of wine) as wine and beer is complimentary in coach on US Airways Shuttle flights. We had a quick flight north due to a tailwind, and soon enough, we were pulling into the gate at Boston, something like 20 minutes early. All in all, a perfectly acceptable short domestic flight. We did not check luggage, so I can’t comment on luggage delivery in Boston.
US 2035, BOS – DCA, 6 Sep 2010, 1:00PM – 2:28PM
Our return flight on Labor Day Monday went fairly well. I checked us in on my iPhone the day before, and foolishly did not select seats, so we were automatically assigned to 5D and E, in the second row of coach. In any event, we arrived at the airport around 11:15AM for our 1:00PM departure with the intent of grabbing a leisurely lunch before our flight. I retrieved our boarding passes at a kiosk, and proceeded through security. There was a small line, but we were through the whole process in less than 5 minutes. The Shuttle security line is equipped with a “walk-through x-ray” machine, and I played the game politely. After a quick pat down I was cleared to go. I don’t really care if I flash an unsuspecting TSA image reader or not, but the more times I pass through one of those things, the more I wonder what the hell they’re seeing. I digress.
After lunch at Legal Sea Foods, MrsMJonTravel and paid a visit to the Boston US Airways Club. The polite desk agent gave me a T-Mobile card to access the internet free of charge, something I wish AA’s Admirals Club would do for it’s Amex Platinum customers. The club was almost deserted early on a holiday Monday. I strolled around by the bar area to investigate whether or not the Boston club had reattained its liquor license which was lost during a vendor change, I understand. The bar was unattended, but I did see a certificate, which I believe was the license. I didn’t want anything, so I didn’t hunt down the bar server who was busy stocking the snack area.
Soon enough, it was time to head down to gate 21 for our flight. We arrived to find quite a throng as both 1PM Shuttles (DCA and LGA) were boarding at adjacent gates. Unfortunately, most of the throng was for our flight to DCA, and I’d failed to ask about different seats at the Club. We were stuck with 5D and E. Not a problem most days, but on this day, the flight was full of tourists, not well-traveled business people. And they’d brought everything on earth with them! We started boarding late, and of course, the Shuttle does not pre-board status customers, you board strictly by row number. By the time we got on, the overhead bins were full, so I had to gate check my carry on. Not the end of the world, but my experiences with US Airways baggage delivery in DCA have been uniformly lengthy.
Even with the late start in boarding, we pushed back essentially on time, and taxied out for takeoff. Within minutes, we were blasting off into the beautiful early fall sky, and heading south to DC. Inflight service was quick, and soon enough, we were descending to pick up the river visual approach to landing at DCA. Our flight blocked in 1 minute early, and we booked it to baggage claim. Fortunately, the bags were delivered in 15 minutes or so. Not the best, but certainly not the 45 minute wait I had for checked luggage the last time I flew US Airways into DCA. Of course, if I’d done my due diligence and gotten us different seats, I would not have had to check the bag in the first place. Next time!
In summary, I found my return to US Airways to be perfectly fine. The airport experiences were acceptable, the aircraft were clean, and the inflight crews were all pleasant. Flights were on time, or even early, which is a big change from my other summer pleasure trips. US Airways, you are formally removed from my no-fly list. Congratulations.