Well it was time to head home for the Thanksgiving break. From school we get a week off, so I booked to fly home on Sat the 20th, and return on Sunday the 28th. Going to school in Charlotte, there is really only 1 choice, USAirways, for nonstops at least.
Sat Nov 20
Load- about 80%
Woke up at 5:45am to finish packing and make sure that I got to Douglas Int'l with enough time to spare thinking lines would be long... ohh was I right. Parked in Satellite 1, at $2.75/day, I think it's a great parking deal, made it to the terminal around 7am to find huge lines at curbside, and inside too. Then I remembered one of the perks of have a USAirways Visa Signature, being able to check in at the first class desk, and well, the line for that was quite short, and made it through in about 10 minutes, versus what looked like could have been a half hour or more in the regular line. The CSA this morning was speedy and efficient, and quickly tagged my bags after I checked in using a kiosk. Made my way to the Concourse C security. My favorite TSA agent was working this morning, not sure of her name, but she is the friendliest agent I have ever encountered, adressing passengers by name, wishing them a good flight, etc... and the passengers I see always have a smile after having their boarding passes checked by her. Made my way down to the screening, and I felt really lucky, the person in front of me was selected, but not me, again, I've only been once since 9/11 (knock on wood). Got through without any problems, and made a beeline for the Starbucks. I was wearing my Starbucks hat as it had been raining, the Host Marriott employee saw this, asked me if I worked for Starbucks, which I do (East Blvd here in Charlotte), and gave me the HM employee discount, so cool! Got my soy white mocha and called my dad to tell him my flight was on time. Headed to gate C4, and read the current Spin magazine (U2 cover), before boarding was called. Another perk of the Visa is you get to pre-board, in Zone 2, and I was one of the first pax on and was already seated when the masses boarded. Pretty full flight for an early Saturday morning, coach was about 75%, and first was full from what I could tell; 7B and C were empty though. We backed out a few minutes late, some late baggage I believe, but we got under way by 8:25. We taxied really fast, WN style! Not sure if it was our pilots' style, or just trying to make up the time, but we were really cruising. We were second in line for 36R, and took off with the usual 733 take off, steady. Got up to cruise altitude and the beverage service started. For the morning flights US just serves a drink, but that's fine for the duration, got some orange juice and settled in, got my iPod out and listened to R.E.M.'s new album "Around the Sun" (very underrated), read the Attache magazine a bit, and then Spin again. Wasn't much to see outside, cloudy below for the ride up. Saw a COEX ERJ145 cruise by heading south, and some private jet, I think a Citation, cruise above and perpendicular heading east. Soon enough the descent started, and we got down pretty quick. Coming into Hartford the pilot came on to say the weather, Sunny and 40 degrees, and that we'd be landing to the northwest, this meant runway 33, Bradley's shorter runway, fun! Came in low over Hartford and made a nice sweeping descending turn to line up for 33. Cruised over I91 and touched down a little late, so heavy braking and thrust reverse, very fun!!! Got into the gate and deboarded pretty quickly. Exited the concourse and met up with my dad. He said he was coming up I91 and saw our plane cruise right overhead, so in his words "perfect timing". Got my bag quickly and headed home for the break.
After a week long break; had a lot of what would be nuisances for some, but normal stuff for my family, and overall it was relaxing, and good to be home after over 3 months, had been since Aug 18; it was time to get back to Charlotte.
Sun Nov 28
USEX2365 op by PSA BDL-DCA
Got up at 6am for the flight, finished packing and said goodbye to my dog. Dad and I left the house around 6:30, we left early guessing that the lines would be pretty long post-thanksgiving, wrong this time! Got to Bradley around 6:45 to find very short lines at curbside, and only a handful of people inside, I'm guessing most travellers flew out later on in the afternoon. Checked in via kiosk, and thought briefly about changing to the 9:30am nonstop back the Charlotte, but the aviation enthusiast in me said "I've never been on a CRJ, and I've never connected through DCA with a substantial layover", so I stuck with what I booked originally. The CSA this morning was efficient, tagging my bags while reminding me to bring them over to the TSA, at Bradley the xray screening is in the lobby, the TSA agents were very friendly as usual at BDL. Headed over to security to find a short line there too. Got through without any problems, once again It's got to happen sometime! Ventured over to the new terminal to see a couple of photo-worthy planes, a UAEX EMB170 N634RW, and a Southwest 73G in the old scheme with winglets, N780SW; along with the hordes of other Southwest, Delta and Song at BDL in the early morning. Got some breakfast at McDonalds and headed back to the older Terminal A for my flight. I still had about an hour before the flight, so I found a nice seat facing the tarmac and watched the SJU bound AA A300 taxi out and take off, along with some Delta, and a US 757 heading to PHL and AUA. Eventually our CRJ came in from DCA, just a little late, but was turned around quickly and we boarded on time. The gate agent called for people needing extra time, and Zone 1, but no one boarded, she called Zone 2, and I boarded; she laughed and said "I knew there had to be someone". Given that I was the first down to the tarmac my camera was put into use and I snapped a quick pic as I walked towards the plane I got on, put my carry-on in the overhead, 1A, bulkhead, and sat down to observe the infamously low windows, I'm 5'9" and I must say they're low but not as low as some people claim. Boarding continued and my seatmate arrived, he was a talker, but not just talking, there was something just not right, he seemed very fidgity, talking to the FA, making comments about the PA system, reading every little thing in the safety card, talking to the people around our row, etc... Maybe he was just a first time flier, but I don't know really know, actually he did surprise me, he saw that the flight was operated by PSA, he said "isn't that Pacific Southwest Airlines?" Well after him finding out my life story, and I his, we finally started to taxi out, a few minutes late, but our pilot taxied quite fast probably trying to make up time. Made a nice steady take off from runway 6, and we were off, the climb out was quite bumpy but the chop cleared as we got above the clouds. Given the half hour rule into DCA, and that most pax were sleeping, the beverage service was by request only. Surprise, the only person who requested anything was my seatmate. As I dug into a book, he started to write something on a napkin in a foreign language, now I was starting to get suspicious. The flight continued and we started our descent. We descended pretty slowly at first, but then we got steeper as we got towards DCA, we made an almost dramatic sweeping tight turn to line up for runway 1, coming in over the Patomic was somewhat startling, getting reaaallly low over the water, but then ground appeared and touchdown followed, thrust reverse and brakes were used, heavily! and managed to get off in front of the USAirways concorse. We were scheduled into gate 35, yay a jetway, no shuttle bus! But surprise, it wasn't ready yet, a delayed flight was in it. So we taxied up to the remote spot by 14, and sat. Some people were starting to get ancy about missing connections. Our FA, Pat, asked how many people had 10:30am connections about 15 people did, so Pat requested that they get priority when we got to the gate. Eventually around 10:15 we started to move, and got into the gate shortly thereafter. Those with tight connections deborded first, and then the rest of us. So glad to get off that plane. It wasn't the plane that bothered me at all, I liked the CRJ quite a bit, it was that seatmate! So in the end we got in about a half hour late, which was perfectly fine, I originally had a 2hr 15min connection, and that shortened it a bit.
Headed over to the gate to see if the flight was still on time, which it was, 12:15pm. Headed over to Ranch 1 Chicken to get an early lunch. Plopped down at a nice window seat, ate lunch, and took some pics of the action. Saw a Midwest 717 land on runway 32! The usual DCA stuff was happening, lots of US and DL Shuttles, DL Connection, American Eagle, USEx, Air Canada CRJs, etc... I pulled out my iPod again and listened to U2's new album "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" (its an awesome album, U2 have been my favorite band for about 10 years, and it ranks up there with Achtung Baby and The Joshua Tree).
Sun Nov 28
Load- just about full
Our 737-400 pulled up to gate 42 and to my amazement of all the 737-400s that US has it was N780AU, I snapped a pic of it at BDL last April, and then used the registration in FS2004 for a 737-400 US repaint I downloaded; what's also odd is that I used Gate 42 used last August heading up to BDL from a trip to Nashville; and these are the only two times I've flown out of DCA! Boarding was called around 11:45, I got on in Zone 2 as per the Visa and plop down in 5A. Boarding continued and my first seatmate arriveed for 5B, he didn't get the idea of personal space, falling asleep pretty quickly, with his left elbow jutted into my side, ugh. Seatmate #2 arrives for 5C, a young father with a baby in his lap, yay. Boarding took a good while, there were a lot of families with young children on the flight, returning from Thanksgiving no doubt, it's "Black Sunday" after all. Our FAs were helpful with reseating people to allow separated families to sit together. We backed out a few minutes late at 12:20pm. Our captain was very friendly and chatty today, telling us the usuals, but then telling us the departure runway, that our first officer would be at the controls today, etc... overall a very nice captain, a nice sign of "yeah, US is in financial trouble, but that's not going to let that affect our attitudes." We taxied down to runway 1, and made a quick rolling take off. This was my first time using 1 out of DCA (the other time was 19), so I got to experience the infamous low left turn, pretty cool, especially with being on the left side! Passing 10,000 ft I pulled out my iPod and a book, and settled in, somewhat contorted due to my seatmate in 5B, luckily this was a short flight! The beverage service eventually started, abiding by the 30 minute rule; I got a diet coke and read, while listening to "Around the Sun" again. The flight took us over central VA, and we started our descent around Greensboro, NC. I picked out GSO from seeing the Tradewinds A300s parked way down below. We followed I77 down towards Charlotte. Passed over Cocord Airport and the Loews Motor Speedway, we were still pretty high so I figured we would be on 36L or R today. Passed by downtown Charlotte and cruised straight south towards Fort Mill, SC. We made the full turn just south of the Charlotte Knights baseball stadium and cruised over the Carowinds Amusement Park descending to 36R. We came in pretty fast, and landed hard with a good jolt, and bounced once, was pretty fun touched back down, lots of braking and thrust reverse was used. Turned off 36R and on to runway 23 for part of the taxi, and then off 23 and up to gate C12. Deboarded pretty quickly, called my parents to tell them that I got in safely, and headed to the baggage claim. Charlotte always takes a while with baggage, and not just US, I've flown AA into CLT once and it took a while for them too, I'm guessing its just the large size of the terminal, BDL's pretty small compared. Got my 2 checked bags, headed for the shuttle, back to the parking lot, and back to school. Flight was smooth overall, the baby in 5C stayed really quiet, only cried once during turbulence, the father said before leaving DCA that the baby was a good flier, and he was!
So overall another pleasant trip on US. So even if the end comes sooner than later, I'm staying dedicated to them till the end. If they do go under I'll probably go to United, can probably transfer my Dividend Miles there, and their IAD hub isn't out of the way for my usual CLT-BDL-CLT/school-home-school commute. Next trip is winter break- CLT-BDL on Dec 16, with the return on Jan 9.