Little back story here, when U2 (the band, not easyJet ) announced the Vertigo Tour back in February my dad and I (both huge fans) knew we had to go. So come ticket sales, all the shows sold out within seconds due to errors with Ticketmasters online encrypting, allowing brokers to get in and snatch up all the tickets before fans. So we did the next best thing... eBay! Eventually finding a good deal for a couple tickets for the 5/28 Boston show, upper level but with a decent view of the stage, he purchased them. About a month later, my parents and I decided to let me stay in Charlotte for the summer for a few reasons: summer classes, work, girlfriend So after registering for classes, housing, etc... we realized that we had the U2 concert... so my eyes lit up knowing I would get a couple flights in, on my favorite carrier US Airways. Found a decent deal, Charlotte-Hartford usually is pretty decent for a hub O/D route, probably because both are big business cities. Friday May 27 eventually rolls around and as I hung out with my girlfriend, I packed and got psyched for the flight and the show
scheduled 3:30pm-5:25pm, actual 3:30-5:15pm
Having become a veritable frequent flyer over the past 2 years, I've got my timing down to a science. Left school at 1:30 to get to CLT at 2pm, about an hour before boarding. Took the usual drive over to the $2.75/day satellite lots, only to find them full, and the overflow lots full; I thought great... but realizing that the new daily fee garage was recently opened, there's a whole lot of new parking, drove over there to find it wide open, with tv crews filming inside (must have just opened... lol), got a spot, quickly jumped out of my car, grabbed my roller and my carry-on and made my way to the shuttle bus. Usually I would walk the distance (about a 1/2 mile), but on this day it was very humid; didn't feel like being a saturated sponge. Hopped aboard the shuttle and we cruised around to departures, had a driver in training, there was an instructor giving directions to the driver and tips on how to deal with traffic, kind of interesting. There was a huge traffic jam leading into arrivals, over the bus's radio it sounded like there was a fender-bender blocking traffic. No problems getting to curbside, checking my bag pretty quickly; Skycaps seem surprised and happy when I give them my usual $2/bag; maybe people aren't tipping that often anymore, or maybe they're not used to college students tipping... lol. Through security quickly, no SSSS yet since 9/11 (knock on wood!) The CLT TSA are a good group, haven't had any problems and they do their work efficiently and smoothly. Over to Starbucks to get my ritual pre-flight soy white mocha, where in waiting for my drink I look over and just next to me waiting is the professor I just had the night before for Psychology of Personality; we talked for a couple minutes, met his wife, found out they were heading to Washington DC for the Memorial Day weekend. Got my drink and headed down to C17, flight ontime (I had been worried the plane was coming in from ORD ) I was in zone 5, I like US's Zone boarding method, it seems like its an even amount of people spread throughout the plane in each zone, not in order back to front. Flight was absolutely full (lots of people requesting upgrades... only to get the usual CLT-BDL response "sorry first has checked in full"... and coach (well a couple middle seats were blocked off to help a couple elderly passengers, and a mother with a toddler, who requested it at the gate... kudos to US on helping them out). Got to my seat 10A (exit row... I love how with US you can request exit rows when checking in online). Sat down and soon found that my seatmate in 10B was not a man for personal space, elbow jutted into my side for the whole flight. Pushed back ontime and got underway to 18L. We were one of the first flights in the 3:30pm bank, so we were second in line when we got up, behind another US 733. Took off with the usual 737 takeoff- efficient. Pretty bumpy as we climbed out, and got up to 35,000ft quickly enough. Pulled out my iPod and put my U2 library on shuffle, only listened to U2 for a few days before the concert Drink service started, got a diet coke and the usual Snyders Snaps; seatmate in 10C requested a full can and got it no problem. Listened to U2 as we cruised up the coast, read the current Spin magazine too. The interior of N340US was clean, no seat tears, stains, etc... the paint job on the outside needed a little work though, but when you're flying who's looking at the paint? Followed the usual route CLT-ORF-ACY-JFK-HVN-BDL (don't know the VORs, so I think by airports...lol) Began the descent around ACY, skirted the Jersey shore and got a good view of JFK, and then up past New Haven. According to our captain we would be landing to the northeast (runway 6). Flight got pretty bumpy again as we descended past the Hublein Tower and Farmington, flaps down, gear down, and we came in pretty high to runway 6; firm touch down, and used the whole runway! (first time in my life using all of 6, all 9800 ft of it, usually planes will taxi off using the closed runway 1/19, but we just kept going and going...) Maybe the pilots were trying to kill time as we landed a good 20 minutes early. I take advantage of the fact that as passengers we can use cellphones as soon as you turn off the runway (don't want to see the inflight usage idea go through though..) Called my parents to see if they had gotten to the airport yet, they had; called my girlfriend to tell her I got in safe; by that point we were pulling in. Present at BDL were a couple birds of interest: DL 738 in Ron Allen scheme, and WN 73G "New Mexico One" (photo'd this before, and now after winglet installation ); plus a DL MD88, UA A319, and a couple cargo 727s. Into gate 29, deboarded shortly after (US is pretty quick with getting the door open... lol). Met up with my parents (big reunion with mom- she gets emotional; whereas my dad stays low-key, especially in public) retrived my bag, and off to home.
Photo © Jeremy Carlson
Photo © Jeremy Carlson
Show was absolutely amazing, the lighting job, the setlist, the energy, everything!!! Even now at 5 days later, its still sinking in; great job Bono, Edge, Larry and Adam!!! Used the next 3 days to visit family (grandparents anniversary, and grandpa's birthday), dentist appointment, haircut, and some good old rest, as I've had really none since Spring Break. But my rest was cut short as the climate change reaked havoc on my sinuses; and I'm now left with a nice sinus infection. Anywhoo, Wednesday June 1 rolled around, and it was time to get back to my school life!
Scheduled and actual 12:20pm-2:25pm
Seat 10A changed to 4F
Checked in online the night before and was able to move my seat from 10A to 4F- my first time in US's little coach cabin on the 757! US reconfigured their 757s to 2 rows of First, moving coach up all the way to row 3, so they could place the birds on high density routes, i.e. Florida and Las Vegas; but what they're doing on a heavy business route is beyond me... but hey it works out, I love 757s, and especially the little cabin... we'll see why in a minute, (As a result, to the dismay of many people looking for an upgrade, first "has checked in full today") Left home around 10:30 to get to BDL around 11, said bye to mom, and checked in at curbside; again the skycap was happy with my tip, the woman in front of me checked 3 bags and didn't tip a dime. On through security quickly and without a problem. Like the CLT group, the BDL TSA are efficient and do their job (haven't had a bad encounter yet... so I don't see what people complain about) I was in one line that was moving very slow because of a couple people making a fuss about taking off their shoes and jackets; but an agent caught my eye and called me over to other line, he shot me a look of "yeah... I know what you're thinking about those two"... lol. Made my ritual walk over to the new terminal, usual fare was present: WN 737, Song 757, DL MD88, UA 733, and an NW 319; got a bottle of water from the CNBC store, my cold was leaving me dehydrated (fun stuff), and headed back over to A. Flight coming in reportedly late, so I texted my gf who was luckily on break at work, half hour of texting; and then I watched the action, couple US 737s: one to DCA and one to PHL; in that time all the planes I spotted over at the new terminal departed. Our 757 ultimately landed 15 minutes late, but a quick turn and we were boarding on time. Crew change too, so I listened to the conversation of the pilots- incoming and ours, a little reunion too, came to figure out they were old friends; the incoming captain said it was somewhat bumpy the whole way, so he had left the seatbelt sign on, and all was fine; our pilot was complaining about some ALPA rule that keeps changing, couldn't hear what it specifically was. Boarded in Zone 3 (first time to board in the first regular zone, I'm usually in 4 or 5, I've preboarded with my US Visa Signature, but didn't bother this time). Got to the door and did my ritual skin rub of the plane and made my first left turn (US boards at 2L on 757s), felt good, but knew I was still sitting in coach lol. Plopped down and took in the view, able to see inside the engine, a first for me, I could watch the blades start up! Seat mate in 4D was busy working on his palm pilot, 4E remained empty, so it became our communal table.. lol. During the time a Colgan Saab 340 from Buffalo came and turned around, very light load both in and out; my dad used to fly the route a lot for business and said it was usually full, must have been an off day. 12:20pm rolled around and we pushed back, I watched the blades start up... so cool, really gives an impression of how powerful the Rolls Royces really are! Funny incident ensued for the next 5 minutes, the F/As attempted to get the safety video to work, but it kept cutting out, so ultimately they rebooted the system; but an odd version played, it played in English up to the "Unexpected turbulence may occur" when the audio changed to Spanish, and stayed that way. Because of the reboot, we had to pull into the penalty box to allow the video to finish. We quickly got onto runway 6 and took off with a great 757 stomach-in-the-back-of-your-seat, powerful, buzzsaw noise from the engines... take off; love it! Climbed through the low hanging clouds, kind of gloomy and as the incoming pilot had said, bumpy. Quickly through the clouds, I love the initial climb above clouds, it really gives an impression of how fast and glorious flight is! Our pilot was pretty quiet today, didn't tell us the cruise altitude, I'm guessing 36,000 as I've had that on a previous 757 BDL-CLT flight. F/As quickly got the beverage service started; this is what I love about the little cabin, it turned into semi-First service! The coach F/As started the beverage service behind the mid lavs, around row 9; and the First Class purser came back and took our drink orders and delivered the pretzels from the First class snack tray. It was pretty unique, and felt pretty good The purser was very friendly, I guess its a small thing; but since I never get the chance to ride in First, it was cool to get the attention. I read for World Literature for a bit, in the meantime we overflew IAD just to the east, got a good view of some DH CRJs buzzing around; but then the altitude and my sinus infection started catching up with me, and I got a nasty pressure headache... not fun. So I leaned on the wall and closed my eyes, ultimately falling asleep for about 20 minutes; only the 3rd time in over 80 lifetime flights that I've fallen asleep. But when I woke my headache was gone, we started the descent a few minutes later. Cloud tops were pretty high, and the weather report in CLT from the captain was clouds and rain. As a result the descent was mostly through clouds, spoliers were used quite a bit through the descent. The cieling was pretty low today, maybe 3000ft by my guesstimate, so not much time to get my bearings to figure out what runway we were on approach to; but it wouldn't have mattered, as we landed on a seldom used runway for landing, 18L. Usually when the the 18s are in use, 23 and 18R are used for landing, but today it was just the parallels. We floated over the runway for a bit touching down softly on the wet asphalt, but then broke quite hard... fun! Pulled off about 3/4ths the way down the runway and taxied back to the terminal. We held for a little bit to allow some traffic to pass heading to 18L, and with the all clear continued to gate B8. Pulled in quickly enough, at the time we were the largest passenger plane at the airport lol, all Airbus and 737s otherwise. Walked back to 2L and deboarded, ending my trip home. On to baggage claim, CLT takes forever, at least 15-20 minutes regularly. On to the shuttle, again a sweltering day, not fun, and on to my car which somehow was covered in pollen, even though it was in a garage... hmm. Back to campus, and college life began again.
Photo © Jeremy Carlson
Aside from the occasional surly CSR or FA, I've never had problems on US Airways, and they will continue to be my airline of choice; except my next trip is on United lol... staying in Star Alliance though! I have a trip home in August, connecting in IAD, which will see my first time on a CRJ700, and my first time on a United Express EMB170 (flew a US Airways Express 170 last year and loved every minute of it).