Posts: 369
Joined: Wed Aug 23, 2000 3:32 pm


Wed Jan 24, 2001 9:53 am

I had to make a quick business trip from Washington to San Francisco last weekend. I usually fly out of IAD or DCA (more convenient), but I never realized BWI was a hub for US, so they had a direct flight to SFO, and at a reasonable price ($286 r/t, booked a few weeks in advance).

I decided to try a new long-term private parking facility at BWI. It's run by Pre Flight Parking (http://www.preflightparking.com). Their introductory rate is $4/day, which is very good. I found the lot using the directions provided on the web. Once you make the exit off I-195, it's easy to miss the left turn, so look carefully for it (it's not at a light).

At the lot, they greet you and direct you to an aisle with available spaces. Then you just wait right there in the parking lot and the bus drives by to pick you up (they also provide you with a slip denoting the location of your spot and the phone number of the lot, so you can remember when you return).

The bus dropped me right in front of the entrance for US, and I was faced with a long check-in line. After waiting for a few minutes, the greeter suggested I head straight to the gate, as my flight was due to depart in 24 minutes. I headed to the gate (no shuttle buses or trams involved, nor was it a long walk, which I appreciated over IAD) and boarding hadn't commenced yet.

After 5 or 10 minutes, boarding started. The flight had arrived from CLT and was delayed by weather, so my flight (same equipment) was a little late getting off.

I was on US flight 117, with a 757-200 as the equipment. I was seated in Y-class.

The plane was less than 50% full, so once the doors were closed, I switched to a more comfortable seat in Y. I had the window seat and another lady had the aisle, but no one in the middle.

Taxi was short, and we were #2 for take-off. I get the feeling that BWI isn't nearly as busy as IAD or DCA, which can be a good thing in terms of making it anywhere on time.

Take-off was swift, and once we reached cruising altitude. The FAs offered headsets for the movie for $5 each. The price seems rather high considering I can rent a movie at Blockbuster for less than that. Anyway, I had no interest in watching a movie, so I declined to get a headset, and I didn't really notice which movie it was. A beverage service started after this.

Dinner service started around 45 mins into the flight. Choices were beef or chicken. I had beef. I must say I wasn't impressed with the meal service at all. I expected much better from US, but maybe I've just been spoiled because nearly all dinner flights I've been on are transatlantic, that those have a better quality of meal.

Anyway, the beef was a few slices of beef with some sauce, on rice and some green beans. Then a side dish of small salad and a cheesecake-like dessert. The meal trays were some strange contraption which was mostly air, and had about 1.5 inches of height. I can't describe them well. The portions were small too.

After dinner, another beverage service. Landing in SFO was unremarkable, and the airport wasn't too crowded, though we did wait in the taxiway a few minutes for our gate to clear up (we were a little early).

I returned Monday evening. If I recall, US has 4 night flights out of SFO, all to their hubs (PHL, CLT, PIT, BWI). They also had an arriving flight that was LGW-PIT-SFO. I wonder if they use an Airbus for the PIT-SFO or do an equipment change?

I was on SFO-BWI flight 46, in Y class, departing at 9:30pm (red-eye), B757-200. Again, the airplane had less than 50% load factor. I had a set of 3 seats to myself, and again took the window seat (hey, I'm a spotter too!). I saw a Hawaiian DC-10, I think bound for HNL. I also saw a China Airlines 747 in the distance. I couldn't quite make out what type (it was poorly lit -- not sure if this was due to power restrictions in CA), but I did notice it had winglets. The US jets flying trans-con all appeared to be 757-200s in the new livery, but it was a bit hard to see.

Take-off/taxi was normal -- we were #2 for departure. FAs did headset and beverage service, and most people went to sleep at this point.

Flight was uneventful. We landed at 5:05am, ahead of the planned 5:23am arrival time. Uneventful taxi to the gate. Most shops at BWI were just getting ready to open up, but hadn't opened yet. When I got to the arrivals level, I called Pre Flight Parking from my mobile and they had a bus out to me in 5 minutes.

They dropped me off right in front of my car, and waited to make sure it would start.

Overall, very impressed with Pre Flight Parking. If they keep their rates low, they'll definitely steal lots of business from the normal airport long-term parking. I was also impressed with BWI. I've flown through it before, but not often. It's well organized, and not too crowded. I wonder if all US flights out of BWI have such low load factors. If so, it's worth the extra drive versus flying out of IAD.


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