As promised, I wanted to share some details of my US Airways flights over the weekend. Not only were these my first mainline US flights since the website and frequent flyer program merger, but this was also my first trip since the implementation of new security restrictions.
Lady Astrojets and I traveled from Washington Reagan to Myrtle Beach this weekend with connections in Charlotte each way. We flew down on 8/25 and returned on 8/27. Our flights were booked via the phone with the elite desk 3 weeks prior to travel, so I can’t comment on the new website for this trip. I have booked a flight on the website, but I don’t travel on this particular reservation for a while.
I checked us in on the usairways.com website 24 hours in advance of our Friday departure. I was able to locate our reservation with the record locator, and successfully checked us both in for the trip. This is a change from previous experience where I would’ve been unable to check in online with an upgraded companion, and is a positive development in my opinion.
On travel day, we proceeded to the US Airways check in counter at DCA in order to check our bags. There was a lengthy line for coach check in, and a shorter but still far too lengthy line for Dividend Miles Preferred/First Class/Star Gold check in which appeared to be serviced by only one agent. Being a little pressed for time having arrived later than I like for our flights, I went out to curbside to check our bags where I found no waiting. The courteous skycap took our information and had our bags checked in less than a minute. Four bucks well spent if you ask me.
Security was a non-event. Five minutes max. The only odd thing was being in the line for the new “puffer” machine at DCA. It’s a walk-through device that uses forced air to detect explosive residue. After clearing the puffer, I then went through the regular walk-through metal detector. We arrived at the gate shortly before boarding.
The aircraft for our flight was a Boeing 737-400. The interior appeared clean, or at least as clean as any other U.S. based commercial airliner cabin. Nothing but my opinion, but the cabin appeared to have undergone a “refresh” as the seat covers were very clean, lacking in the standard pen marks of many leather covered first class seats, and the sidewalls and overhead bins appeared to be spotless. The carpets even looked good. We were greeted upon taking our seats by a very nice flight attendant who offered us a pre-departure beverage which was served promptly.
After takeoff, drink orders were taken and served efficiently and courteously. The standard US Airways first class snack basket was passed around several times. Refills were plentiful and always offered with a smile.
We landed in Charlotte slightly ahead of schedule so we headed for the US Airways Club. I’m not a member, but my United Red Carpet Club membership offers access to US Airways Clubs when traveling US Airways. The B Club in Charlotte is the smaller of the 2 US Airways Clubs in CLT, and was a bit crowded. No surprise on a Friday afternoon. We were able to find seats and relax prior to boarding of our flight to Myrtle Beach which was parked almost directly across from the Club, so no long walk for the flight.
We were the last first class customers to board the connecting flight to Myrtle Beach, which was operated on an Airbus A319. Once again, pre departure drinks were offered as soon as we were seated, and we departed the gate on time for the 136 mile flight to Myrtle Beach. The actual air time on this flight is barely 30 minutes, but drinks were served in first class along with the snack basket on the short flight.
Lacking access to a computer, I was unable to check in online for the return, so we checked in at the airport ticket counter in Myrtle Beach. The elite line at Myrtle Beach was blocked off and all passengers were directed to the group of kiosks at the counter. I don’t mind kiosk check-in at all, but I do believe that the elite line should be opened as it is a benefit offered to elite frequent flyers of US Airways as well as Star Alliance frequent flyers. There was no line, and kiosk check-in went quickly. Our bags were tagged and we were on our way to the gate with plenty of time to spare. There was no waiting at security either, and they did manage to locate the spare vial of insulin I had. No problems in having it with me for obvious reasons, but hey…at least they were looking.
We boarded our flight, operated by a Boeing 737-300, right on time. Just like the trip down, pre departure beverages were offered to the first class cabin and swiftly provided. We pushed back 6 minutes early and launched for the brief flight to Charlotte. Once again, beverages were quickly offered to the first class cabin after takeoff and the snack basket was passed around for those who needed a quick snack. Service was efficient and courteous.
Our 6 minute early departure resulted in a 14 minute early arrival in Charlotte, but our gate was waiting and we were off the aircraft promptly. We had a little over an hour to kill so we proceed to the C Concourse US Airways Club. This is the much larger of the 2 clubs in Charlotte. It is a nicely appointed club in my opinion, and I’ve always found the front desk staff at both Charlotte clubs to be very courteous and helpful when I’ve needed them. We enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine and some cheese and crackers during our layover.
Our final flight of the trip was aboard one of US Airways’ Airbus A321 aircraft. US Airways version of this aircraft is equipped with 26 first class seats and the cabin was full. I understand that US Airways provides bottles of water at each seat in lieu of a pre departure beverage service and this was what we found upon arriving at our seats. We pushed back right on time and the flight attendant came through the cabin to take post departure drink orders even before we took off. She was a very nice lady, and I grew more impressed throughout the flight.
Shortly after takeoff, the flight attendant began the in-flight service. She was working a full 26 seat cabin alone. Not insurmountable, but still a lot on a one hour flight. Our flight attendant worked hard, got everyone served, the snack basket out, and provided two rounds of refills before we had to prepare for landing in Washington. I was impressed enough to write a brief note of thanks on one of US Airways’ “Above and Beyond” certificates and hand it to the attendant. These certificates are provided to elite members to provide compliments about US Airways employees. She seemed very appreciative of the gesture, and speaking from some experience on the subject, hearing someone say thank you from time to time really does matter to most people.
We landed right on time, but our gate was occupied. After a brief wait we were at the gate and headed for baggage claim and the only minor blip of the entire trip. About 5 minutes after we arrived at baggage claim, an announcement was made that the baggage load on our flight was very heavy, and it would be about 20 minutes before the bags were delivered. Never good news, but 20 minutes later, the belt started moving, and we had our bags 25 minutes after arriving in the claim area.
In summary, our flights were about as good as they get nowadays. All were on time, and every employee I had any contact with was pleasant, friendly and seemed to be reasonably happy to have us as customers. I experienced no difficulties with ticketing or check-in and I tried both online and with a kiosk. The understaffed elite check-in at DCA and the lack of any real elite line at all in Myrtle Beach would be my only negative comments about check-in. The flight attendants on all of our flights could not have been better. Frankly, they were as good as I’ve seen on a domestic airline lately. They reminded me of Piedmont people….and those of you who know what I’m talking about will know that there is a difference. All were unfailingly polite, and I’m highly impressed that US Airways managed to provide a pre departure beverage service on all 4 flights, something that American just can’t seem to do anymore. Granted, my trip did not include a flight booked on the new website, and it was a pure US “East” trip ticketed on 037 stock (the original US Airways ticket identifier for the uninitiated). 🙂 But overall, US Airways did a good job on this trip, and I’m happy to share my experience with you.
**As an aside, I did note that boarding sure does seem a lot more pleasant without the kitchen sink sized carry-ons.**