Arrived at Sea-Tac Airport at about 9:35 for an 11:20 departure. There was no line at check-in, so I was able to shed my bags and get my boarding pass quickly, bagging a seat in the exit row on both legs.
Boarding commenced about 10 minutes after the plane arrived and all the passengers from the previous flight were off. Boarding was efficient, with no problems, although the flight was completely full (overbooked; the agents were asking for volunteers). We were handed a small plastic snackbox as we entered the jetway.
The 737-300 was in the old livery, but the interior was in pretty good shape and clean. Curiously, the seatbacks were shorter in the exit rows than in the rest of the plane. Nonetheless, the seats were thinly padded, making them very hard and not terribly comfortable. It was not terribly warm outside, but the APU seemed not to be functioning properly, as there was little air circulation, and the cabin quickly became uncomfortably warm until we took off.
We pushed back 10 minutes late (no explanation or apology given by the flight crew) and taxied to runway 16L, and after a brief wait for a UAL 757 we took off. Climbout was smooth, and after leveling off at 27,000 feet the seatbelt sign was turned off and beverages were served. The snack box contained grilled chicken strips over marinated corn and black beans and topped with cheese and a tangy salsa. It was actually quite tasty, but left me wishing for something more. The salad was accompanied by a small piece of french bread with caraway seeds and Lorna Doon cookies. Cabin staff were unfailingly friendly, cheerful and very helpful. When the plastic box slipped out of my hands spilling the contents all over the floor, the flight attendant graciously offered to clean up the mess at my feet (I had already finished the snack, so there was no mess to speak of).
Our decent into Phoenix was rather bumpy, landing on runway 26L and arrived at the gate only 5 minutes late. After a long walk to my connecting flight to ORD I arrived at the gate just in time for boarding. Boarding once again was orderly and efficiently handled. The interior of the A-320 was absolutely filthy. When I tossed my magazine on to the seat, two napkins floated down to the floor. There were pretzels all over the seat and the floor, and the seat pocket had a bunch of junk in it, but no in-flight magazine to be found. The cabin seemed slightly more narrow than the 737; I felt I was pinned between my seatmate and the sidewall, with my right shoulder up against the window behind the exit door. Again, the APU seemed totally unable to cope which can be understandable in 103 (36 C.) degree heat, but puzzling judging from the previous flight. It got uncomfortably hot in the cabin with the flight attendants suggesting that the safety cards make terrific fans.
We pushed back on time, and taxied out to runway 26L, but had to wait about ten minutes as the aircraft ahead of us took off. Once we were airborne things began to cool off. There was some mild turbulence during climbout which subsided once we crossed the Rockies. Headsets were offered for the film (the name escapes me, but it’s a film about a woman having a baby in a Wal-Mart) for a $5 fee. The film had to be stopped part way because of sound problems, which were eventually rectified. After the seatbelt sign was turned off, drinks were served, then dinner. Dinner was a meat cannelloni accompinied by a good size salad (with a puny-size cup of dressing), a gourmet chocolate chip cookie and a small bottle of water. It was pretty good, as airline food goes; the thin Italian breadsticks were the best part of the meal. Curiously, there was no coffee service after the meal. Service was generally efficient and friendly, thought not quite as gracious as the previous leg.
We made our decent into Chicago, landing on runway 4R. After a long taxi to Terminal 2 we arrived at the gate bang on time at 8:25 PM.
Impressions: Painless. I’ve found HP to be about on par with other airlines. The flights were on-time, and my bags arrived with me. Service was fine both on the ground and in the air, though the food was slightly better on the outbound leg last May, and the state of the cabin on the PHX-ORD leg was definitely sub-par. Therefore, only 6.5 out of 10. (I gave the outbound leg a 7) In my limited experience, I wouldn’t say HP is America’s Worst, indeed I found them quite reasonable.