While in the USA in October-November, I flew a number of legs on Air Tran and jetBlue, my first time on either of these LCC's - although I had previously flown on Southwest. I will give you some of my thoughts and observations from an Aussie perspective.
I had booked on these carriers because of price and convenience, but also because they made it so easy to book direct on the net - unlike many of the majors, and sites like Orbitz, who got you the whole way through the process only to tell you that they wouldn't accept credit cards with an address outside of North America. So if they didn't want my business, that's fine, the discount carriers surely did!
All the bookings (including accommodation, etc) went smoothly, and my seat requests on jetBlue were also exactly as selected on the net at the time of booking.
We flew Air Tran MIA
, all on 717s, except for the Air Wisconsin-operated services to and from SAV
, which were on CRJs. The Regional Jet flights were short and good - no inflight service into Savannah because of really bad weather - in fact we only saw the ground a few seconds before touchdown. The return flight to Atlanta was much smoother, with the snack service - and an FA
who did the safety briefing so fast that I literally couldn't understand one word. Nice views of Atlanta on approach.
All of the Air Tran 717 flights were excellent, with friendly crews, comfortable seating, nice snacks - what more can I say? On the BOS
flights we scored an exit row. The FA
on the first leg took a lot of trouble with the exit-row passenger briefing, even making us repeat all the instructions to him. However, the (sorry, but I have to say it) dopey-looking FA
on the second leg didn't even mention that we were in an exit row, let alone give any special briefing or instruction. He didn't seem too interested in anything, actually - but he was the only disinterested Air Tran employee I encountered on the whole trip. I have to say that all standard safety demonstrations by crew were excellent - very clear and precise. They really made sure you understood what they were demonstrating. Congratulations.
There was only one delayed flight (delay of around 25 minutes). Probably the greatest highlight was the evening flight, in clear weather, from PHL
, where we flew right by Manhattan Island, with the greatest views of Manhattan with all the lights blazing. We were only at around 20 000 feet, and it was a truly memorable sight - I could pick the Chrysler Building quite clearly, as well as other landmarks and bridges. So beautiful! The pilot made sure we knew it was coming up.
It was my first experience of boarding passes printed out like a receipt from a supermarket checkout. Guess it saves lots of money, but then why staple it to a multi-page color folder? Anyway.
Just one query, and I know it's often a point for debate on these forums. Boarding was generally pretty fast, but any time advantage was lost because of the total shambles and major delays while people tried to find places to stuff their carry-ons. I love America and I love Americans, but just how much stuff do they feel they need to carry on board with them? I swear most had practically all of their worldly possessions they were trying to cram into everyone else's overhead bins and under adjacent seats. Why? Luggage retrieval times were pretty fast on every leg that I flew - usually around five minutes was the maximum waiting time for bags to arrive at the carousel. Just what is so damn urgent in their 4 large pieces of oversized baggage that makes it essential to cram the cabin. Please, Air Tran, make them stick to the carry-on limits! End of rant. But it's a great airline. The only time it actually felt like a LCC was trying to find the luggage carousel in terminal C at BOS
- it's pretty well hidden in what appears to have once been someone's office!
JetBlue, on the other hand, seemed to make sure people only carried on the fairly generous legal limit of carry-on baggage, and no more.
I flew jetBlue BUF
, on A320s "Blue Moon" to JFK
and "Deja Blue" on the 6-hour-plus haul to Long Beach. Good seats in row 4, but oh boy, did they get cramped after about 4 hours! The FAs were outstanding, and the service (two separate service runs) was great - huge range of drinks, and good snack selection. Also a nice range of stuff to take and eat on board at the JFK
terminal. I had my first experience of being de-iced at BUF
, and we took off covered in orange goo, looking like we had been zapped by Men In Black. Spent time talking to one of the FAs, who said that having passengers come and chat was great, and really made the flight a pleasure for her. That was nice! And hehehe the Aussie accent gets 'em every time
The connection at JFK
was smooth, the flights were excellent, although six hours is a long stretch in an all-economy close-pitch configuration. Maybe the new seating arrangement with some extra leg room will ease this. Liked their in-flight exercise leaflet, and really appreciated the seat-back TVs. And like I said, great crews!
Can't finish this report without a major thank-you to some buddies - all originally met through a.net - who made the USA visit a total pleasure. I built part of the itinerary around visiting them, and they are my friends for life ... and they had better get to Australia sometime soon so we can reciprocate. So many thanks to the former Rogue Trader in Texas, who flew to Miami to meet us; to AT85 in Philly; to Flpuck6 in Rhode Island, and to KROC in Crapchester. Through them and their families we experienced the best of US hospitality, and saw some great sights. Well, apart from Crapchester of course. Only kidding KROC, it was all sensational, and we will be back!
Hope this is of some value to those of you who are unsure about US LCCs. I will certainly continue to fly with them, and congratulate them for the friendliness of their FAs. Good on ya from a very satisfied Aussie customer!!