Arrival Airport: Buffalo, New York USA (KBUF/BUF)
Airline: US Airways Express (Chautauqua Airlines)
Flight number: 3523
Aircraft type: Embraer ERJ-145LR
Date: 5th January 2005
Class: Y (Economy)
Flight time: 1hr
Photo © Art Brett
Following on from my trip report on United out to New York, here is the next part of my trip. About a week before departure to the US, we started looking at trips over to the Niagara Falls as it's somewhere I always wanted to visit. This time using Expedia simply to guage fares and not making the mistake of booking via them, I noticed that US Airways and American were offering reasonable fares to BUF. The thought of a drive to Niagara wasn't too appealing, especially when I could get another flight under my belt!
There wasn't a great deal to separate the fares between AA and US, though US were a negligible amount cheaper. However US were offering better times so we leaned towards them. The price on their website came to just $115.20 each return including tax, and at the current USD-GBP exchange rate, that made it a mere £61 return - the cheapest way I'll have ever got on an ERJ! I had to select the flights carefully as my mum has a thing about very small aircraft (especially props) and didn't want to end up on a little bugsmasher! I would have been happy with any of their fleet, but I quite fancied the ERJ145 (well I actually wanted the ERJ170 but they don't fly it on that route ). Luckily the outbound time we wanted was an ERJ, but the return was on a Dash 8 or a Saab 340 and though I told my mum that the Dash 8 was not a bugsmasher, she insisted I found a flight on a jet aircraft. I tried the flight before and it was the ERJ again, so that was settled. I'd have liked to try one of the others (as they'd both be new types for me, but you can't have it all!)
I went to make the booking on usairways.com but every time I went to make the payment, it said that there was a problem. This carried on for a day or so until I emailed US Airways support for help. I got a reply within 10 minutes of emailing - very impressed. They tried a few things with me but couldn't work out the problem, so gave me a call centre number in the UK I could call to book.
I made the call which was answered very quickly (on Boxing Day) and I was through to a helpful man, who looked up the flights for me and confirmed the price would be £59 each (cheaper than paying in USD with my banks exchange rate!). I told him that one of the draws to booking online was that I could use the seat selector, and asked if he could assign seats for me. He said that he could and asked which ones I wanted (a far cry from my UA experience!). I commented that they were both ERJ flights and he asked if I was an aviation enthusiast and we then went into a chat about MAN (his local) and I told him that I did aviation photography. Nice to speak to someone at a reservations centre who doesn't think you are a total freak for specifying your seats for the purpose of what view you will get Anyway, he assigned us 2 blocks of 2 on the right hand side (seats are laid out as 1-2) and I got an email confirmation about a day later.
Our flights fell 4 days into our New York trip and the night before we were due to fly, I went down to the internet PC in the hotel and tried to check in online. Not only because I like to have my seat guaranteed (and possibly changed at the last minute), but also because my parents wanted to get to the airport as late as possible so we didn't have to get up at stupid o clock. I simply entered my name, departure city, flight date and confirmation code, and it brought up the details. It offered me to change seats or accept the preassigned seats that we'd been given by the reservation agent. As I fancied a few window shots, I opted to move us back to near the wing. This was done easily and I clicked to check in and it brought up our boarding passes on the screen and then they started to print off. I did the same for the return flight, but left the seats as they were as it was a dark flight.
We had asked a few NYC cabbies how long it took to get from central Manhattan to La Guardia and they had all said about 30 minutes if we left about 7:30am. We managed to get out the front of our hotel for about 7:40am and the traffic was stationary along 57th Street, so it was easy to get in a cab. I had visions of the film I watched on the way over where a man gets into the cab and says 100 bucks if you get me to the airport in XXX minutes, but realised it wasn't going to happen The traffic moved pretty slow, but once we got out towards the bridge it sped up. Our flight departed at 8:40am and we pulled up outside the terminal at LGA at 8:20am! We checked the gate (which had changed) and went straight to security. There was a small queue but nothing too bad. Luckily I was the only one who didn't have to take my shoes off because they were just trainers, though I did have to remove my belt. We walked energetically to the gate which wasn't far away, and just as we arrived they called the flight for boarding. It was hammering down outside and we had to walk across the tarmac to the aircraft! There was a lady just outside asking if we needed something to shelter us with, which was a nice touch, but we just opted to run.
We boarded our ERJ145 and quickly took our seats. It did feel very narrow inside (like a pencil!) but the seats were comfortable and had a reasonable legroom. I like the seats on their own - would be great for travelling on business. The flight was about 1/2 full with one flight attendant working and 2 female pilots and everyone was boarded quickly. Soon the doors closed and we pushed back in the pouring rain with a recorded safety announcement playing (no visual display). We had to wait for a few taxying aircraft to pass and then headed out to runway 13. They were landing on 04, so we had to wait in a queue of 4 aircraft to cross the active landing runway. I had no idea just how busy LGA was - it took us over 5 minutes just to get across the runway. We then approached runway 13, and they were holding departing aircraft in 3 lines - we joined the back of the last one. There were about 4-5 aircraft in each one, plus a few where the 3 merge. There must have been in the region of 20 aircraft all holding for one runway that was intersected by the landing runway and could only allow a departure when the landing aircraft had vacated and there was no conflict. We arrived at the hold around 9am and after 15 minutes I was getting bored so I whipped out my camera and snapped a photo. Excuse the quality of these LGA pics not being my usual a.net standards but the wind was lashing rain on to my window and it was so dull It shows a few of the aircraft around us and how bad the weather was - you can see 6 aircraft holding just in this photo.
The Captain spoke to us and apologised for the delay and said that we were currently number 8 for departure (who knows what we were when we arrived at the hold) .Finally at 9:24am (no I'm not being sad, I'm reading camera EXIF data ), after almost a 30 minute wait at the hold, we lined up on 13 and paused briefly before applying takeoff power. I was very impressed with the ERJ145 takeoff performance. It felt really powerful and pinned me back in my seat - it was also pretty good on noise levels. The terminal area flashed past and we rotated just after it outside a maintenance area and the US Airways terminal we had left behind. Saw a Song 757 taxying along and soon the airport disappeared and we were over water making a right bank passing the Shea Stadium.
We were soon in cloud and this continued for pretty much the rest of the flight - there was a stationary front over the northeast which was causing a lot of cloud, and snow for most places, but sadly not New York City itself. The pilots called over the PA that the flight attendant could start work, and she explained that she'd be offering complimentary drinks and snacks. We were soon served and I went for a Diet Pepsi and also got a pack of Pretzel snacks again, as well as everyone elses
I took a couple of boring window shots and also one of the cabin from my seat (I'm not one for standing up and blatently taking a photo of the cabin during flight - moreso not on a US based airline)
The flight was smooth and was over pretty quickly - we started our descent after around 40 minutes and the captain came on to say that the weather in Buffalo was 29F and light snow This was backed up when we broke through most of the cloud and the snowy ground below could be seen!
We made a turn over some water and then established on our approach to 05 at BUF. There was a fair bit of snow laying on the ground (well to an English person there was - it was more like a dusting to locals!) which made for a nice scene. I found that you can really feel the power coming on and off in the ERJ145 - more like a car than an aircraft. In most larger aircraft you hear the engines running up and down on approach but don't feel it that much. The ERJ was quite pronounced when the power was applied and reduced.
We passed over lots of houses on short final and I grabbed another photo showing the snowy scene on the neighbourhood below
We touched down smoothly on 05 after 56 minutes in the air, and reversers and medium braking were applied before we vacated and made quite a short taxi over to the stand. There was quite a lot of snow on the taxiways - I bet it looked great when aircraft with low wing pods taxied along!
As we walked down to get off the aircraft, the flight deck door was open and the lady Captain called out goodbye to me. I seized the opportunity to ask if she minded if I took a photo. She was very kind and invited me inside the flight deck and we had a little chat. She said she enjoyed flying the ERJ and I can see why. The flightdeck was very modern (glass cockpit) - it reminded me a bit of the Airbus flightdeck aside from the control column. She was telling me that they are off to Boston next and went through a bit of the programming of the FMC. Once everyone had deplaned, she offered to get out so I could take a photo Watch out for one like this airliners.net soon (I need to level and edit it first), but here's a little preview
I had to leave because the ground dispatcher was getting tetchy and the (also female) first officer had returned and wanted her place back on the flightdeck. I thanked the kind Captain and wished her a great day and rejoined my (unimpressed) family in the terminal
We then hired a car and spent the day at the Niagara Falls, which was one of the best things I've ever done. The snow was an added bonus - shame it wasn't clear skies with snow laying though
Departure Airport: Buffalo, New York USA (KBUF/BUF)
Arrival Airport: New York La Guardia, USA (KLGA/LGA)
Airline: US Airways Express (Chautauqua Airlines)
Flight number: 3184
Aircraft type: Embraer ERJ-145LR
Date: 5th January 2005
Class: Y (Economy)
Flight time: 45 mins
Photo © Marty McGuire
Photo © Daniel Wojdylo
After the day at the Niagara Falls, we drove back to BUF and dropped our hire car off. We were about an 1.5 hours before the flight (unlike the way out ) and made our way through security. The BUF terminal is quite nice and after buying some sweets, we headed to get a coffee before the flight.
We were soon up for boarding and with no wait we went straight through the gate and out to our aircraft. I had seat 4F near to the front. This time we had nearly a full flight though (I'd seen that when we checked in). The one flight attendant turned the safety briefing audio on but this time we actually got a demonstration to accompany it - I don't know if the F/A on the way out was lazy or the one on the way back was just enthusiastic.
Aircraft are parked on stand so they don't need pushback, so we just started our engines and made our way out to 05 again. Once again the takeoff performance of the ERJ impressed me and we were soon up and climbing into the night sky.
Once airbourne we were served with drinks and snacks (alcoholic drinks cost $5 but soft drinks were free). I once again opted for Diet Pepsi and Pretzel snacks. I felt that the F/A had a high workload for the short flight and it took practically the whole flight to serve 50 drinks and clear up the rubbish - as a result there were some people at the front who were still pouring their wine on finals! The captain (once again female) came over the PA and told us that the flight would only be 40-45 minutes and that the weather in La Guardia was 32F (freezing) with some sleet and light snow forecast
It wasn't long until we started our descent and were told that we would be able to see New York City out of the window. We made our approach to 04 at LGA and touched down smoothly. After taxying in, the crew pointed out that we had arrived so early, our stand was still occupied and we'd have to wait a few minutes.. Soon we were on stand and prompty deplaned.
I was impressed with my flights with US and would definitely use them again. Though that was a US Express route (Chautauqua operated), so I couldn't comment on regular US Airways. The crew were all very friendly, the aircraft was clean and comfortable and we were pretty much on time, save the LGA caused runway delay outbound. The price was also very appealing. Sadly I don't know if they will even be around when I'm next in the USA.
I'll finish off my trip with the JFK-LHR flight on UA soon. The fact that I flew on 2 Chapter 11 airlines was purely coincidental (well OK, I wanted my Star Alliance FF miles on my BD Diamond Club card!) and I must say that I never felt any attitude from any staff, even though working for airlines that are in deep financial trouble.