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PHL-SEA: Very First US A321 Flight Turns Ugly

Sat Jun 07, 2003 2:50 pm

I usually write my trip reports once the round trip is completed , but this one calls a special one, so here it goes :

US 115 June 6th 2003, PHL-SEA, A321 N172US, Seat 9A

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I booked this ticket about 2 weeks before the flight and it was whopping $430 r/t. I guess this being the summer season, SEA is a hot destination. This flight also had a special meaning for me , it was going to be my first A321 flight in Norht America. Before I travelled in Lufti A321s between FRA/MUC and IST.

One of the things I do I try to track the flight down as early as possible and thanks to the gate information, etc you can see the routing this airplane goes through before it gets to you. For instance this specific aircraft was making CLT-PHL-MHT-PHL-SEA-PIT that day starting at 10:00 am in CLT and going back to PIT as a redeye from SEA.

At any rate, I leave work at 3:30 pm for the 6:00 pm flight. My usual an hour long drive gets to be much longer due to traffic and accidents. By the time I go to the long term parking, wait for the bus, etc. I got to the SkyCap at 5:15 pm. I tell SkyCap that I have a reservation for a SEA flight that leaves at 6:00 pm, he goes and checks for it and comes back saying that nothing is under my name. Then he tells me to stay put, and shows up 10 mins later with a boarding pass jacket with a luggage sticker on it. I think , fine, then I can use the kiosks, but he tells me to go to the gate right away. This was odd.

I go through the security, with the similar routine like, take shoes off (they have metal they go off) , take the laptop out, etc. and rush to gate C27. When I was leaving work the flight showed leaving from B6, so I get nervous about equipment change.

I got to the gate around 5:45 pm, thinking that they may get some stand-by pax instead, but no one is boarding yet. Of course the F class is full , but I do have one of the best econ seats in the house, so I will save some $$  Smile

The first boarding is for F class people. The second announcement comes for Dividend Miles Elite people, but no Milage Plus high status. So I get to board with the Dividend Miles Elite people, and the gate agent gives me hard time because I don't have anything that I belong to the crowd on the boarding pass. I show her my Premier Exec card, and she shuts up.

While we are boarding I take a look at the cockpit as we are boarding from L1 door, our registration is N172US. Such an easy number to remember, to write it down on my little flight log later on. It turns out that the aircraft was going to board B6 but due to some technical problems they moved the aircraft to C27 and that was the reason for the delay/gate change.

We pushed back at 6:12pm , 22:13Z Crossed 27R at K3 . There were regular 6:00 pm push aircraft waiting for take off, a DL737-800 (N3748Y), a UAL 737-300 (6:00 pm ORD flight), AWE319 (I think this is PHX flight) and a NWA DC9 (DTW) . We gave way to two US A330s and F/O came on PA and said that they had to give way to "big guys" due to slot control issues at their destinations.

We took off on runway 27L at 6:34 pm / 2234 Z. It was a long run of 6000 feet immediately followed by "chainsaw" sound of engines.

I checked online before the flight about the movie, it was "About Schimit" (sp?) and I wanted to see it as I heard it was a good one. Interestingly , there were no announcements about the movie on the PA system. They just started to show the trailers right after take off, then a F/A came by saying "headsets, headsets" as if they were for free. As a matter of fact the guy next to me had to return them when he found out that he had to pay $5.
To my luck the screen on that part of the plane is right under the ceiling, very small and the angle was making it really hard to watch it. So I decided not to pay for it.

Major difference between UA and US on this, in UA movie starts after the meal service, on US it is the other way around. Personaly I like UA's way better.

After movie and the "headsets" ordeal they started to serve snacks. It was a bag of ham&cheese sandwich, Cape Cod potato chips and snickerdoodle cookie. I didn't eat ham&cheese as I don't eat pork, and had to content with the rest. I had sparkling water with the meal, if I can call that...

I couldn't catch any ZZs even though I was really tired. I went all the way to the back of the aircraft to have a glass of water after a quick visit on the midcabin restroom. I ended up chatting with this F/A and we talked about mostly airline travel. At one point I was telling her how America West started to use CRJs on PHX-SEA runs and she said "just wait. in couple of years will be mostly CRJs and you will miss the normal narrow bodies" . She also said how she likes A320 family vs. B737 and B757s both from pax perspective and her professional one.

After a normal "Come from northeast, fly the downwind and do a visual to the north" approach, we landed on 34R at 8:43 local / 3:43 Z.

It was a very long flight and I think except the ones that I have already pruchased, I will be using United from now on.

Everything went down hill after this point. I went to the luggage carousel #5 to pick up my bag, but it wasn't there. When I went to the US Airways baggage claim, the CSR was really surprised that I was on the non-stop flight with no connections. She ran the luggage number and told me that it was sent to PIT. She couldn't give me any explanation and I couldn't come up with one also.

I finally got my luggage back today , the following day, with some food items missing. A food jar was open leaving liquid all over my cloths also.. I am guessing the blame falls under TSA on this one, instead of US, but I am very upset about the fact that the luggage was put on the PIT flight that left the same time as the SEA one.

In a nutshell :
- US Airways' customer service is inferior to United.
- A321 doesn't have "stiff seats" I mentioned in the previous report on the A319.
- A321 is quiter compared to B757, but it gets really loud for some reason when the thrust reversers are engaged.
- United should offer better fares , so that I won't miss them too much  Smile

Earthbound misfit I
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RE: PHL-SEA: Very First US A321 Flight Turns Ugly

Sat Jun 07, 2003 10:52 pm

"US Airways' customer service is inferior to United"

Why? Because they lost YOUR bag?

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RE: PHL-SEA: Very First US A321 Flight Turns Ugly

Sun Jun 08, 2003 12:12 am

As far as I know, USAirways is VERY Friendly.
If the F/A Talked to you Big grin
What now?
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RE: PHL-SEA: Very First US A321 Flight Turns Ugly

Sun Jun 08, 2003 1:30 am

read my post carefuly. I am talking about just a snack on coach in 6 hr flight. I am talking about free headsets and Econ Plus in UA. Yes, losing my bag got me pissed off big time, but there are other areas where US is inferior to UA.

Hope this clarifies..

Earthbound misfit I
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RE: PHL-SEA: Very First US A321 Flight Turns Ugly

Sun Jun 08, 2003 1:32 am

I switched from UA to US as UA went downhill fast.I've never had a problem in my last 8 US flights,hopefully that will continue.


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RE: PHL-SEA: Very First US A321 Flight Turns Ugly

Sun Jun 08, 2003 1:45 am

As a US FF, I feel US showed massive improvement service-wise up until their financial woes, and then of course they were forced to massively cut back on service as part of their plan to try to lift them out of Chapter 11...hopefully now that they are out of Chapter 11 we can see the service levels begin to rise again...

Chief college football stadium self-pic guru
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RE: PHL-SEA: Very First US A321 Flight Turns Ugly

Sun Jun 08, 2003 7:37 am

It is very interesting to see the difference in people's experiences while reading these trip reports. I take between two and three trips to Seattle each year. I have taken DL, UA, and US over there. My last trip was on US and went TLH- ATL (on DL)- PHL (on US)- SEA (on US). The PHL segment was a 752. On the way back, I went SEA- CLT (on US)- ATL (on US)- TLH (on DL) the trip back I took a 321. But I digress. Anywho... my transcon trip on US has been the best I have taken. It seems as though the service was much better than on the other airlines I have flown. It seems on all my experiences with US, that they are just much more service oriented than other airlines I have flown. When I flew the transcon segments, they both had meals... and the meals were great. I do enjoy that US served the meal before the movie. when I watch a movie, I don't like to be interupted, it just gets you out of the movie mode. I am going back in August, this time on DL. I couldn't beat the $150 r/t FLL-ATL-SEA, and plus I never been on a 764, new type for me. Were it 100% my decision for the flight, I would have chosen US, but I got to please the lady, oh well, c'est la vie.
ASOS... Another Shi#y Observation Station
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RE: PHL-SEA: Very First US A321 Flight Turns Ugly

Sun Jun 08, 2003 10:25 am

I guess I am paying the high price for leaving out of PHL. July r/t's are $500 if you believe it or not. I won't fly TZ , and HP is really out of the way connecting in PHX and LAS. It is amazing that even with a Sat. night stay I get charged arm and a leg. I would like to fins out where you booked the $150 r/t.. I just have to leave on Thursday night and come back to PHL either Sunday night or the red-eye.. Too bad that I am paying for my own tickets..
Earthbound misfit I
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RE: PHL-SEA: Very First US A321 Flight Turns Ugly

Sun Jun 08, 2003 11:20 am

Why in the world wouldn't you fly on ATA?

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RE: PHL-SEA: Very First US A321 Flight Turns Ugly

Mon Jun 09, 2003 2:22 am

I heard nothing but bad things about ATA. Not from one person, but many different people. People who travel on business, people who don't know anything about airlines and airliners. No assigned seating is a big no for me. I want to know where I sit. 4:30 hrs MDW-SEA run on a 737-800 that is packed like sardines with the risk of not being able to secure a aisle or bulkhead seat and potential of screaming kids, etc. tells me to stay away from ATA.

A friend of mine who is half my size flew them to NY from SEA, she hated it. Another friend had to take them MDW-PHL hated it. Another guy came back saying "Wait until you fly ATA" when a lady next to her complained about seat pitch on a United flight from PHL to ORD.
Earthbound misfit I
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RE: PHL-SEA: Very First US A321 Flight Turns Ugly

Mon Jun 09, 2003 2:59 am

I'm sorry you haven't heard of a positive experience with ATA. In a former life, the company was a charter operation attempting scheduled service and this was a recipe for disaster. Long delays, cramped seating, doing things the "el cheapo" way, etc. However, in the last several years ATA has transformed itself into "an honestly different airline." The fleet is new, every gate in MDW is new, all employees are adorned in new uniforms and technology is making inroads everyday. It's my honest belief that we offer a very compelling product for all but those whose egos are too large (and wallets too fat) to fly a "one-size-fits-all" airline. As a CFI, I doubt this is your issue. None the less, the image problem of the former ATA haunts the new airline by the same name.

Seats are assigned. You can pick online when you book, through reservations, or when you check-in (either with a CSA, skycap or kiosk, in most markets). You can also check-in 24 hours prior to departure at ATA.COM and select a seat you can live with -- including exit rows. Seats 16AF on the 737-800 are very roomy (no seat in front of it in row 15 due to the exit door). Pitch is being addressed on the 757-200s by removing 16 seats this fall. There also is a frequent flyer program for customers who book online.

For what its worth, ATA was the first flight into PHL after the massive snow storm this winter. The schedules from PHL-SEA are quite reasonable, especially if you factor in a stop at the food court in MDW during your connection. We are the third largest carrier in Chicago, so apparently there are at least a few people who believe we are doing things right.

Our safety record is second to none. Fare and fees are low, you can stand-by for free on the day of departure or the next available flight, and you get to ride in a new aircraft with IFE ($2). No charge for the exhilarating take-off and landing in MDW, either! This is the most customer focused company I've had the pleasure of working for. I hope you'll consider giving us a try and help to dispel the erroneous perceptions of ATA that exist in the marketplace.

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RE: PHL-SEA: Very First US A321 Flight Turns Ugly

Mon Jun 09, 2003 3:21 am

I am sure ATA has great people working for them. I actually considered ATA last March when I started to commute from SEA to PHL. (I am a CFI but when I find an IT gig, I travel for the $$. Being CFI doesn't cover any living expenses). When I was considering ATA I did a lot of asking around. A guy who was commuting to the same position at PHL had to take ATA once. I also did some research online on a website where they do trip reports.

I don't have a big ego that has to travel on F class. Occasionaly I would get an upgrade on UA becuase I earn free upgrades, and it is nice to use it on ORD-SEA runs.

As I said before lately PHL-SEA flights have been soo expensive that I started to look for alternatives. If Airtran offered an afternoon flight I was going to take AirTran to BOS and Alaska to SEA, but FL offers only 2 flights a day.

I am glad that you mentioned about the online assignment, etc. I will be considering ATA for my July travels home. I am all set for June. If the fares do not go down, then I will buy ATA and give them a shot..

Take care..
Earthbound misfit I
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RE: PHL-SEA: Very First US A321 Flight Turns Ugly

Mon Jun 09, 2003 9:48 pm

As a UA premier, I feel I can add my 2 cents to this post.

Since the end of April, I've flown 6 flights on US and I must say, I am not all that impressed. While checking in online was nice, I got stuck on 4 out of the 6 flights on a 737-300 and felt cramped and uncomfortable. The seats/legroom fail in comparison to United, even on their now-ancient 737-300/500's. The other two flights were on 737-400 's where I found the seats to be a little more cushier, but still lacking in legroom.

As for the employees, I didn't find anyone at US going above and beyond their call of duty, however, this is a touchy subject since I'm sure if I flew long enough on US I would encounter some.

Nothing against USAirways, but I'm used to United and I'm going to stick with United.
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RE: PHL-SEA: Very First US A321 Flight Turns Ugly

Thu Jun 12, 2003 12:46 am

Hey Baha,

What's so "ugly" about this trip? To me its just a typical domestic run on a mediocre US major airline. Apart from the lost bag issue, which got resolved within a day I don't see anything else really wrong with this trip. I thought this would be one of those horror story TR's.

US is ok, although I'd have to agree with you that UA is a better airline. Still I can't say that I've had a bad flight with US, just average uneventful runs.

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RE: PHL-SEA: Very First US A321 Flight Turns Ugly

Thu Jun 12, 2003 2:43 am

I haven't flown US yet..but in the last year I've flown AA, HP, CO, and UA...and from those flights, I have to say that UA had the best service. They still give you the full can of coke (HP and AA didnt' do that), and of course, the free headsets and no one beats Channel 9!

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