Have you taken a real-life flight lately? Tell us about it.

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Post by Dennis » 06 Jun 2010, 02:22

Around mid April I was sent an email that I had been selected for an internship with the National Weather Service in Memphis, TN. You can imagine how excited I was. I had never been selected for an internship and it would be my real first trip to the US (I had been to Orlando, but I mean come on…There was also a brief layover in EWR back in 2005 when I went to Europe). I was booked on US Airways for June 5th.

Suddenly I became somewhat uncertain. US Airways has a not so good reputation from what I’ve read and heard. I read almost every trip report with US and apparently everyone had a good time, yet other reports I found had terrible experiences (there’s one in Facebook where a woman was forced to check her carry-on. She refused and she was deplaned just for saying Jesus Christ…). Anyway, I decided to see if US would be a good airline so regardless of the experiences others have written, I was determined to find out for myself.

Before long, June 5th arrived and it was time to head off to MEM. I was traveling with another person booked on the same reservation so I unfortunately could not do web check in because I didn’t know how many bags he would check and whether I would be charged for them, so I decided to check in at the airport instead.

The counter was not so full. Two flights were departing today at noon: one for PHL and another for CLT. I went through USDA and decided to wait for my companion. At 10:45 I decided I could wait no more and checked in. I asked for a Choice seat but there was only one available and it was a center seat…not good for me, so I remained at 16D. I then asked for emergency exits…all taken. Boarding would begin at 12:00pm but I wanted to spend time with the folks. After all, I have never been apart for six weeks, the longest being 3 weeks in Europe alone with a tour group. What I did notice before going to kill time was that a bus load of soldiers arrived. They too were going on the flight. I wondered if an A320 could accommodate so many people.

US celebration
US Airways counter
Boarding passes

I ran into a friend of mine that works with CO and I asked him if he could print a pass for my mom. I knew that she would have a tear fest so I wanted her to be the one to go with me to the gate. Security was a breeze (though there was a pretty LONG line at Terminal B while Terminal C was pretty short). To my surprise at Gate 37 there was an A321…sweet. I’ve never flown with any Airbus aircraft (save AA’s A300), and the A321 had wi-fi.

Up front
Outdated Star Alliance sign

US Airways FLT 1175
Airbus A321-200


“Zone five is ready for boarding”-I heard at around 12:30. I hugged my mom and went for my seat. I was glad US’s economy seats have good legroom, but I don’t know if this is standard in all Airbus aircraft. I remained seated while my companion took his seat at 6E.

Good legroom
We pushed back and taxied to runway 8 where the captain wasted no time opening up the throttle and took off for CLT. One thing I found a bit interesting is the slow climb rate of the A321. The little trooper struggled to climb but eventually we made it.

Those of you that have been to Puerto Rico before will know that during the late spring to early fall months we get Saharan dust clouds. The Thursday before the trip a VERY dense cloud settled in and I could swear visibility had been reduced to less than one mile, so once we climbed I could not see the coastline. That’s how dense the cloud was, but I didn’t take a picture (aisle seat).

Oreo and apple juice
Service started and I was already equipped. $3 for a cup of Mini Oreos? I bought a cup for $1.19 at Kmart!! I was thirsty so I asked for a drink. The wi-fi, unfortunately, did not work for my flight as we were beyond the coverage area (about 500 miles from the coastline), so I had to wait until we were near the SC coastline to use it (which I did). The remainder of the flight was spent reading about meteorology, City of Ashes, iPod apps, and speaking with a sergeant who was going to KY to train with the troops on board the flight.

Java error...
Tracking our flight with FlightAware

At about 4:10pm we touched down in CLT for what was quite a long landing roll. We pulled up at gate B11 and I proceeded to my Express flight, but not before speaking with the co-pilot and taking a picture of myself at the pilot’s seat…maybe someday!!!!
Captain einsteinboricua

Charlotte Airport layover= 1:07
I had never been to another airport in the states other than MCO and EWR. I was completely in awe at how amazing CLT is. I wish SJU was just like it. Since I had not eaten lunch, I decided to eat at BK and wait from my flight in front of gate E28. Just as scheduled, at 5:00pm boarding began.

US A330-200 departing
US A319 I think
The Wright Flyer
US A330-300
LH A346 and US CRJ-200
My CRJ-900
DL DC-9-50
My CRJ again

US Airways Express FLT 2671 (Operated by Mesa Airlines, former America West Airlines aircraft)

The first thing I saw upon boarding was the AWE logos in each seat…bet few people there know that this was an ex-America West aircraft. Reading stories about the CRJs made me a bit uncomfortable. I’m not claustrophobic but I need space to stretch out my legs and I was worried that the CRJ would not give me that space…WRONG! Just as much legroom as my US mainline flight, though the overhead bins were a little small. My backpack had to be stowed under the seat in front of me.

We pushed back and again the pilot did not hesitate to go down the runway as we were number one for takeoff. In just 10 minutes we must have climbed to over 15,000 ft. because that jet climbed super fast.

At around 6:00 complimentary beverages were served (nice, I needed water), so once I had my small dose of H2O, I reclined and tried to sleep. I had such a massive headache from skipping lunch that it almost seemed like a migraine so the fact that cabin lights were turned off prior to departure was very comforting. About 20 minutes before landing I went to the lavatory. Right after bumping my head with the overhead compartments, I stepped in this cramped space where I barely fit (and I’m a skinny person)…wow. Never had I seen such a small space. How would a tall person go inside?

Someone was very hungry
America West logo

Anyways, as quick as we went up, we landed in MEM. I was fascinated by the FedEx hub and if I’m not mistaken I think I saw some stored Saab 340s: two in Delta livery and one in Northwest livery. We pulled up at gate C8 and went to baggage claim. Again, another new airport so I found its infrastructure to be above expectations.

After two flights, and nearly seven hours, I made it to my hotel where I’ll stay during the next six weeks.

Conclusion: US Airways beat my expectations by a long shot. The only drawback would be no IFE whatsoever aboard its A32X fleet which made the 3 ½ hour flight to CLT boring. I definitely think that Wi-Fi should be expanded to all the fleet since it was what entertained me for the latter part of the flight. But service, space, and overall quality were very good and it’s possible that US will find a frequent customer in me. They are no CO nor DL, but they exceed AA in everything. I'm looking forward to my return trip on July 17th.

EDIT: pictures added
^^Courtesy of Fraser Jeffery. To It's been a blast!^^
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Post by sanins192 » 06 Jun 2010, 12:18

Great report Dennis! I'm glad US Airways worked for you.

I've never been on a plane with wifi access, but I would imagine that it would make the flight a lot quicker and more enjoyable.

Good luck with your internship!

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