USAirways Flight 1118
Airbus A319 N711UW
Departure Time: 7:20AM
Photo © Michael Licko
I arrived at Port Columbus at exactly 6:00 that morning. The weather was good, with the sun appearing on the horizon with scattered clouds. I opted not to use the self-service kiosks, as the counter line was short and moving briskly. I received my boarding passes and stopped for breakfast at one of the restaurants in the terminal. After passing through security, I made my way to gate A3, where my flight to Philadelphia was waiting. Boarding commenced with the standard procedure. Upon boarding, I noticed that the aircraft was very clean and well lit. First class was full, and coach was about 70% full. Luckily, there was no one seated in the middle seat next to me, though there was a gentleman sitting at the aisle seat.
Push back was on time, and we taxied to runway 28L. We passed an American Eagle ERJ-145 waiting for clearance to Chicago, turned onto the runway, and in a few seconds we were airborne. We made a deep left turn east of the downtown area and headed east towards Philadelphia. After passing 10,000 ft., a video presentation was shown letting everyone in the cabin know that portable electronics were now permitted to be used, plus information on how to become a Dividend Miles member, plus information on USAirways' new codeshare with Lufthansa. The cockpit crew also announced our cruising altitude to be 37,000 ft. and conditions in Philadelphia were overcast but with good visibility.
We made several large turns throughout the flight dodging pockets of weather, however the entire flight was quite smooth. Cabin service consisted of a drink only in coach, I had an orange juice. Before beginning the final descent, connecting information was given over the public address. Of the few connections being made, most seemed to be going to cities in New England, though there was a group traveling to Montego Bay. My connecting flight to San Juan would be departing from A25. We broke through the cloud cover as we descended into the greater Philadelphia area, and in moments we touched down smoothly in PHL. We parked at gate C25, at the complete opposite end of the terminal to where my connecting flight would be departing. As I only had a 40-minute connection in Philly, I made a beeline to Concourse A.
USAirways Flight 1470
Airbus A330-300 N670UW
Departure Time: 9:40AM
Photo © Joseph K. Wagner
After walking the entire length of Concourse C, scurrying past people and hopping on various moving sidewalks past Concourses B, and A-East, and then walking the entire length of A-West, I made it to my connecting flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Boarding had already commenced, so I waited for my row to be called. My row was called, and I boarded the massive aircraft. One of the flight attendants looked at my boarding pass and courteously pointed me to the direction of my seat. The aircraft was clean and quite comfortable, with winged headrests and PTVs at every seat. My seat 20H turned out to be a bulkhead seat, yet I was still able to recline the seat.
Pushback was delayed slightly as cargo was still being loaded onto the aircraft. Meanwhile, I talked with my seatmate, who was traveling with his wife and family to Puerto Rico for a cruise through the Caribbean. Their 3-year old daughter was a bit rambunctious, but the flight attendants handled it masterfully. During the safety announcement, one of the flight attendants asked the child to help with the demonstration, having her hold the bag of safety items while the flight attendant demonstrated procedures. Afterwards, the daughter was presented with a nifty certificate granting her the title of an honorary flight attendant complete with a set of plastic wings. I was, however, a bit surprised that the safety briefing was done by the in-flight crew and not shown on the PTVs. But no matter, I thought to myself.
We taxied to runway 27L, where we were second in line for takeoff. We turned onto the active runway and after an extremely powerful takeoff, made a quick left turn and broke through cloud cover into the deep blue sky. Once we leveled off, the entertainment systems were turned on. Much to my surprise, my PTV, nor my seatmates, would turn on. After fiddling around with the remote control device, we discovered that none of the seat amenities, such as the call button, reading lights, or other functions worked at all. After brining it up to one of the flight attendants, she immediately made a note of it and offered to have us re-seated. Given the fact that the flight was quite full and I was in no way going to give up my window seat, I declined. She was very apologetic about it, but my seatmate and I took it in stride. We ended up holding a decent conversation through most of the 4-hour flight.
A little after reaching cruising altitude, breakfast service commenced. Now, given the cost cutting most airlines have done, I was not expecting any type of meal service on this flight, and if there was going to be one, I thought it would be the In-flight Cafe, which was of no interest to me. Much to me surprise, we were given a meal. Granted, the presentation could have been a bit better, as the contents came in an opaque, non-descript plastic bag, but I wasn't complaining. The breakfast consisted of a frigid, yet good Sara-Lee cinnamon-raisin bagel with Philadelphia cream cheese, a packet of dried fruit, and a strawberry breakfast bar. Since I had eaten in Columbus, I wasn't all that hungry and only ate the bagel.
The rest of the flight went by very quick, and in no time the cockpit crew announced we would be beginning our descent into San Juan. I starred out the window as we flew through the large puffy-white clouds hovering over the island and soon the suburbs of San Juan came into view. Hato Rey and La Milla de Oro were in clear sight as we neared Luis Munoz Marin International Airport. We touched down on runway 10, and a few scattered claps could be heard throughout the cabin. We taxied by the cargo ramp where a MartinAir DC-10 was standing and then taxied to gate 38. I made my way through the concourse and down to the baggage claim area, where my grandparents were awaiting my arrival. SJU has changed quite a lot since the last time I had visited Puerto Rico. The airport now has a very nice new parking garage and crossover taxiways on the main drive leading up to the terminal.
November 12, 2003
USAirways Flight 791
Boeing 757-200 (registration unknown)
Departure Time: 4:15PM
After spending a few days visiting relatives and enjoying the natural beauty that is the island of Puerto Rico, not to mention an escape from the cold Novembers in the Midwest, it was time for me to leave. The past two days were very rainy, with flood warnings issued for much of the island. My departure day was no different, with a steady rain falling and an overall cloudy day. My grandparents dropped me off at the curbside and I made my way into the terminal. Since I had no checked baggage, I did not have to pass through the USDA inspections and went straight to the counter. I decided to use the self-service check-in, even though the line was short, and proceeded past security to gate 36. My flight had not yet arrived, so I sat and watched the bustle of aircraft activity in SJU. Interesting aircraft included a Continental 767-400 as well as a Copa 737-700 equipped with winglets. The multitude of American Airlines 737-800s, 757-200s, A300s, 767s, and ATRs that fly into SJU were also in clear sight.
Once the 757 that would be taking us to Charlotte arrived and was prepped for its next trip, boarding was started. Upon finding my seat, I saw that I was seated at the bulkhead again, sadly this time the seats did not recline. However, I had no one seated in the two seats next to me, so I had plenty of room to stretch out, and the aircraft was about 90% full. The aircraft pushed back ontime, and the safety video was shown during our taxi to runway 8.
We trailed an American Eagle ATR-72 as we turned onto the runway and rocketed into the sky. We broke through the clouds quickly, and soon were on course for Charlotte. The in-flight movie shown was Freaky Friday, which I didn't have any interest in viewing, so I just listened to my CD player. Dinner service commenced shortly after the movie began, also presented in the same white plastic bag. The meal consisted of a deli sandwich of turkey and cheddar cheese on a sesame seed bun with a packet of mayonnaise, a bag of barbeque flavor kettle potato chips, and a bag of mini chocolate chip cookies. The meal was actually quite tasty and was not served ice-cold like the breakfast service on my flight to San Juan. We were also given a full can of the drink of our choice. The sun began to set as we neared the coast of the US mainland, creating a beautiful orange, then red, then purple sky on my side of the aircraft. Night fell as we approached the Charlotte area. We landed uneventfully at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport amidst a large USAirways bank. We taxied to Concourse B and parked at gate B7.
USAirways Flight 854
Boeing 737-300 (originally scheduled as a 737-400)
Departure Time: 8:10PM
My departure gate was only a few yards away at gate B15, so I decided to walk around CLT. Overall I found it to be a very nice, large airport, although completely dominated by USAirways. I strolled back to gate B15, to hear an announcement that people seated in rows 23, 24, and 25 needed to go to the counter to have their seats reassigned. I knew that meant the equipment had been substituted with a 737-300. It was disappointing, since I had specifically booked the return flight for the chance to fly on a -400 series 737 before they're sent to the scrap yard. But it was better to have the -300 and arrive back in Columbus ontime than have the flight delayed until who knows when and fly on the 737-400.
Boarding commenced, and I found that I was seated at an exit row. The extra legroom was definitely nice. The aircraft pushed back on time and we made our way onto the busy taxiway to runway 18R for takeoff. The captain warned us before takeoff that the ride would probably be a bit bumpy, as turbulence had been reported and winds in Columbus were upwards of 20 mph. As we reached our cruising altitude of 31,000 ft. and the flight crew began the beverage service, the plane hit a large pocket of turbulence. Heads were bobbing up and down as the crew searched for some clear air. We ended up going down to 25,000 ft. and the turbulence subsided for a while. The beverage service consisted of a beverage without the entire can and a bag of pretzels, which I can't remember the brand. The flight continued on smoothly until we made our final descent and we hit a bit of turbulence again. We touched down on runway 28L at the same time as a Delta Connection ERJ-145 took off across the field on 28R. We parked at gate A2, marking the end of my trip.
Overall, I was very pleased with my experience on USAirways. All aircraft were exceptionally clean and well kept, the flight crews were all extremely courteous and professional, and all flights were ontime. The connections at PHL and CLT went very well also, though it would definitely be nice if they constructed some sort of people mover at PHL. Very well done, USAirways.