Over the weekend, I took my first flights on US Airways in a few years. I didn’t leave US Airways, I left DC and moved to Atlanta. I fly a bit on business, supplemented a reasonable amount of personal travel too. Delta was and is a logical choice for me, their well-publicized mileage program issues aside. Delta remains my first choice of airlines, but I’ve wondered aloud in the last several months, “could a 30 minute flight to Charlotte be a cost of doing business?” With that question, I mean could I become so disenchanted with SkyMiles that I might just have to look at the 30 minute flight and an extra connection as a necessary aspect of my travels so I can participate in a loyalty program that works? After my weekend in flight, the short answer to that question is….. “yes, but….” 🙂
US Airways treated me pretty well this weekend, in spite of the snag I encountered with them recognizing my American Airlines elite status. My trip began in Atlanta with a stop at the American Airlines Admirals Club. Suffice it to say, things were relatively quiet so early on a Saturday morning.
The Admirals Club is located on the T Concourse near legacy AA gates, so I had to depart early for my US Airways flight from the D Concourse. I arrived to find a beautiful A321 in new American colors. When we boarded, that new plane smell was still there.
The Charlotte Hub
We launched on time for a fast morning flight to Charlotte. Our flight went a little too swimmingly and we had to wait for a gate upon landing, but still managed to block in early. I purposely booked a slightly longer layover than necessary to check out the lounges and the Charlotte airport itself as it had been a few years since my last visit. It was much as I remembered – a remarkably pleasant place to change planes. The regional gates on the E Concourse can be a bit of a hike if you have a tight connection, but other than that….heck, even with that, I still find the Charlotte terminal to be a superior travel experience.
The clubs at Charlotte have been rebranded as Admirals Clubs. I checked into the primary club at Charlotte, the C/D Admirals Club. It’s a big lounge with very nice views of the ramp and one of the runways. My general feeling is that if you’ve been in one US Airways Club, you’ve been in most of them, so I didn’t bother with pictures. My primary interest was asking an agent if they could fix that “snag” I mentioned. The agent really spent a lot of time trying to figure out what was wrong, even taking the initiative to grab available upgrade space on my return flight. But no luck… as far as US Airways was concerned, I was just a “plain vanilla” AAdvantage member (my term). Oh well, off I went to the main terminal to check out some of the options for lunch.
I elected to dine at First in Flight. The sushi was OK…certainly not bad….just not mind blowing. Good enough….perhaps even pretty good for an airport. I didn’t much care for the plasticware they used, but this is probably the world’s coolest plastic wine glass.
If I’d really been paying attention before sitting down at First in Flight, I might’ve chosen to dine at Beaudevin Wine Bar (emphasis mine). Since I’d eaten already, I did not bother to look at the food menu. Perhaps I wouldn’t have eaten anyway. They had me at Caymus Cabernet. I went for the Old World Red flight at $23 as opposed to the 9 oz. pour of Caymus at $40. Whether I topped my flight off with a small pour of Caymus or not shall remain between me and my Maker. Suffice it to say that if connections in Charlotte were to become a fixture in my travel life, I would spend a lot of time here. That is all.
My four weekend flights on US Airways were operated exclusively by A321s with the exception of one leg from Charlotte to Raleigh which was operated by an E190. I found the A321 to be very comfortable in both F and Y. My Y seat over the wing was comfortable….and by any standard, including my 5’11”, 235 frame, much preferred to most any narrowbody aircraft. I usually like the E17X/19X products, but for some reason, even my short flight to Raleigh was a challenge. I think it may have had more to do with the weekend clientele than anything else, including the angry old coot sitting in front of me who griped about everything and everyone. In all cases, the aircraft were clean. What was missing? The same thing that is missing from every US Airways flight – power outlets and IFE, not that I missed either on these short flights.
I’ve bragged on the RDU Admirals Club before, and I’ll do so again. Very pleasant staff. Nice facility. In fact, RDU’s Terminal 2 may be one of the prettier airport terminals in the country. RDU is one of the cities that had both an AA and US club previously. They’ve closed the old US club and consolidated to the original Admirals Club, but have placed a US representative in the club. She tried to help me with my status issue too. No luck, so I just enjoyed a coffee before my flight….almost alone so early on a Sunday morning.
A quick repeat of my flights, minus the E190, in the reverse direction, and I was home. No issues on the return other than the RDU agent being unable to list me for the upgrade due to my “non status” status.
A Question Answered
Could a 30 minute flight to Charlotte just be a cost of doing business for me? Heck yes! My small sample of flights was fine, the aircraft were clean, service pleasant, etc. But will it? The answer – not yet. The ability to fly nonstop to nearly anywhere I could possibly ever want to fly is powerful. Not to mention, Delta runs a really good airline. SkyMiles is a secondary consideration for me at the moment. That said, if American and US Airways can get to a consistent elite experience across both airlines, they could be a compelling option if SkyMiles really becomes too much to tolerate. I’ll keep you posted on my luck with getting AA and/or US to fix my elite status snag.
-MJ, November 19, 2014