I am somewhat tired as I right this, as I did not get a good nights sleep. So I reserve the right to edit this to correct any omissions or errors... no matter how awfully funny they might be.
This is my first time flying in almost a year. Being stuck in school with no money and no place to go pretty much meant I was grounded... until my parent's offered to pay for my trip to Phoenix. Additionally this is my first trip on USAirways, so I will be making a lot of comparisons with Continental, which I have flown a lot with in the past few years.
21 December 2003
US 181, Airbus A319
Washington National to Pittsburgh International
As this flight was only all of 35 minutes there really isn't too much to say. But I will start off with the pre-flight experience. Check-in was quick and painless thanks to the lack of lines for the e-Ticket self-service kiosks at DCA. Though the non-self serve line looked to be moving quickly. From unloading my luggage from the car at curbside to handing over my bags to the friendly folks at TSA took all of 5 minutes. The line at security getting into C was longer than I had expected. Which made me glad I was standing in line @ 8:40 am for a 10am flight. However I managed to get through that in roughly 15 minutes without a hassel.
This flight went out less than full, most of the middle seats were empty in coach... while nice is somewhat useless on a 35 minute flight. Because of the DCA 30-minute perimeter rule no in-flight service was offered.
My arrival in Pittsburgh was on-time, and with barely an hour before my next flight I quickly made my way towards the airmall to find a bite to eat. I was pretty impressed with the facility. The concourse is wide and airy, though the waiting areas could be bigger. I was particularly impressed with the Airmall. I have not been in a US airport with such a facility. The only thing that I could compare it to would be the departure area/mall at Gatwick South. But on the other hand the shopping choices are a bunch of overpriced boutiques filled with stuff I cannot afford nor need.
US 1002, A321
Pittsburgh to Phoenix
After finishing my cheese and spinach stromboli from Sbarro and draining the snake I proceded back to my departure gate in time for general boarding. This trip was my first on the long bus. My initial impression was that the plane was kind of long and narrow, but not really. It doesn't have the narrow tube effect that one gets in some 757s. I suppose the shorter cabin length plus the mid-cabin lav and emergency exit doors help to break up the visual space. I found the cabins of both of USAir's Buses to be very nice. I like the subtle gray stripe pattern and found the seats to be generally comfortable. However I really do like the winged headrests that Continental has, if the buses only had those as well I would be like pig in stink. One thing I did notice was that the overhead bins were the older smaller size. I do not know if Airbus has a comparable bin to the current Boeing Big Bin, but given all those roller boards being brought aboard it would be nice.
This flight featured the in-flight cafe, buy-on-board, program. I decided not to buy this time. The stromboli from Sbarro with a drink ended up being on $5.76 (cheap for airport food), and ten bucks for something I didn't really want did not appeal to me. I'll wait to pass judgement on the meal offering on my return trip.
Now I did have some issues with how the meal service was done. Typically on Continental the F/As come around and do the drinks before passing out the meals. However USAirways, at least on my flight, did the buy-on-board first. But given the amount of time it takes to pass out these meals, the drinks did not come out for a good 20 minutes after the meal service was completed. I think that if this is how all meal/drink services are done, then perhaps they need to rethink the process.
This flight featured a movie, "Matchstick Men," which was something that I really wanted to see. Unfortunately sitting in a full airplane is probably not the best place to screen a movie for the first time. Secondly this movie seemed a little too off-color and dark for an airplane flick, odd choice if you ask me. What struck me as even odder, is that there is no audio entertainment. Just the movie and shorts. I mean the plane is setup for it. The licensing costs of having a half dozen music channels cannot be all that high, considering that US still has IFE.
And just some random little tidbits. My flight crew, at least the captain as the FO was never identified, was the same person that flew the short bus on my flight from DCA, as was one of the flight attendants too. Not to mention that everything was on-time... which you would hope for on a reasonably quiety Sunday with good weather.
Now... I really like the in-cabin feel on USAirways' Airbus fleet. Seems there might be an extra inch of legroom vs. Continental's MD80s, 737s, 757s. However the inflight service just seemed a little off, out-of-sync if you will. Drinks should have been served first IMO. Secondly I think I only saw 3 f/as working coach... I may have missed one, but it seems that the A321 probably needs 4 people to get the meal and drink services done quickly.
I would certainly fly them again if I needed to and the price is right. But I still feel that Continental still offers the superior product when it comes to domestic mid-cons.