First I will start off with a brief background of USA 3000 airlines (U5) for those of you who are unfamiliar with them, and I’m sure there are quite a few of you. If you already know about them or simply don’t care, skip this paragraph. U5
is mainly a charter airline, operating a fleet of very new A320-214s. Their main purpose is operating charter flights for their parent company Apple Vacations from the Northeast and Midwest to Florida, Mexico, and the Caribbean. A few years back (I think 2003) U5
started operating scheduled flights in addition to their charters. Since then they have been slowly expanding. They offer very low fares but their routes are limited and very irregular.
Well my family and I were not sure where we wanted to go for spring break this year so we didn’t get our tickets right away. First we were throwing around PHX
or SOCAL but by the time I started looking the fares were in the 300+ range which we didn’t really want to pay. Since our only real requirement for vacation destinations is golf, we decided on our old standby, FL
. The year before we had taken U5
r/t and were extremely impressed by them, so I checked their website to see what they had.
What I found was MKE
r/t for about $140 per person. This was a new route that they hadn’t offered the year before so I was very happy to find it. Not only is MCO
closer to where we were staying but MKE
is closer to my house in Appleton,WI. We immediately booked it and a couple of months went by.
Then one day in November we got a message on our answering machine that our flight was canceled and our money would be automatically refunded. When my dad called to ask why it was cancelled, they told him that it was because it didn’t look like they were going to fill all of the seats. First off, how can they make that prediction so early? Secondly, shouldn’t they try to put us on an alternate flight? Well we thought so. So my dad asked them to give us the same price for ORD
on the same days. They gladly agreed and aside from the added hassle of the bigger airport and the extra hour of driving time, we were pleased.
The weeks leading up to our trip were hardly bearable and I’m surprised I made it through them. About 3 weeks before our departure we had a record blizzard for the month of March.
Record blizzard that dumped over a foot of snow throughout the day. It was pretty tough to drive that day
The very next day we had a record low for that day with wind chills of 45 below. When it’s that cold frost actually forms inside your house.
When we left we were averaging temperatures of about 20 degrees every day, which is just cold enough that you cant really do anything outside, especially golf. I can’t tell you how much I miss golfing over winter. It’s sad.
Well being that this is a trip report I should probably talk a little about it.
I had to go in to school the morning that we left to take some tests. I got home at about 11:00am and everything was already packed. It took us about 3hr and 15min to drive down to ORD
. Usually it would be around 3hr but we hit a lot of traffic around the airport. We found our way to Park N’ Jet and parked our car. Park N’ Jet is one of the many off-airport parking lots around ORD
and our lot of choice. It is so much easier and cheaper parking at these lots and getting shuttled right from your car to your airline’s check in counter than dragging your luggage 5 miles from your car to the ATS to the terminal.
When we got inside T5
we had about an hour and a half until departure. For some reason U5
operates from the international terminal at ORD
, I don’t know why. Maybe there were not enough gates open in the other terminals, I don’t know. Either way, we got in the check in line, which was pretty long by this time. I thought we were looking at about a 15 or 20 minute wait but to my surprise the line moved very fast and we were to the front in about 10min. I think the simplicity of U5
actually helps them in this regard. On the big airlines, everything is done on computers including the printing of boarding passes. At U5
records are stored on computers but when you check in all of the boarding passes have already been made so all you have to do is give them your ID
and they go match it with a ticket.
Well we gave them our Ids and the lady came back and told us we still owed money. We tried to explain to her that we had gotten these tickets (which cost more) for the same price as the MKE
tickets. She really didn’t seem to know what to do so she brought her supervisor over. He was a very nice man and told us to check our bags while he made a phone call and not to worry. We checked our bags and the lady gave us our boarding passes. U5s bps are on colored cardboard paper and could easily be recreated by a 10 yr old with a computer and printer. Nonetheless, we did have an exit row, which is always nice, even on a 2 hr flight. In about 5min he came back and apologized that he had held us up. Apparently their computers weren’t updated or something, I really didn’t care.
Here is a picture of a U5
boarding pass. Instead of writing out all of the flight details you can just look at this. The flight was on 3-22-06 with a schld. Dprt of 4:55pm and a schld. Arvl. of 8:15pm
We headed for the single security checkpoint in T5
and found it to be extremely long, like it always is at 4pm. Added to that, my dad had gotten the SSS’s so we had to wait even longer while he was checked. It took about 25 minutes or more to finally get through and by that time we only had 10 minutes before boarding. I was hoping to go down towards the other end of T5
and watch traffic landing on 27L but I didn’t have enough time so I took a right at the security checkpoint and took some pictures as I walked to gate 2.
is basically just a big curved hallway and sadly I was on the side facing directly into the sun
KLM bound for Amsterdam
Rome or Naples maybe? I don’t remember.
Just arrived from somewhere, couldn’t tell you where though
Shot across to T3
- stupid sun
We arrived at our gate and waited about 5min before pre-boarding began. I looked around and could tell that this flight was full, like all U5
flights seem to be. I took my beautiful exit row seat (11A) and watched this parked LOT 762 getting ready for her trip to Warsaw.
We pushed back a few minutes late and began our taxi to 22L, right past the length of T5
A fellow U5
A320 bound for Ft Meyers pushing back
Missed the nose on this one
At this point we paused and the pilot came on and told us that debris had been spotted on the runway so we had to wait for them to clear it off. It took about 7 or 8min before departures began again. We were number 4 behind some ERJs and CRJs. Then we turned onto 22L and immediately began accelerating towards the southwest. Almost instantly after takeoff we passed over this familiar railroad yard and began a slow turn to the south.
For some reason we stopped our turn short and headed straight south for about 20 min before turning more to the east. Here are some pictures of Chicago, though they are not as nice as they would have been if we had turned to the east right away.
Midway from a distance
Here is a shot of mid- Illinois a few days after a big snowstorm passed by. They have been having some weird and unsettled weather this spring with this snowstorm occurring in the middle of 2 tornado outbreaks.
After we leveled out a bit the LCDs were dropped and a real-time flight map came up on the screens. The maps included airspeed, altitude, and outside temp; just like the ones on PTVs for 777s A340s. Pretty cool. After a couple of minutes the FAs began playing Friends on the LCDs and started service. On my U5
flights the previous year we were served whole meals with sandwiches, chips, and drinks. This year however, only the drink and chips were served, and it was a weak bag of chips at that. After my weak bag of chips I happened to look outside and see these contrails. I’m not sure exactly what it is but if I’d have to guess I would say it’s a small business jet like a citation.
Pretty soon after, the sun began to set. Sadly though, I was on the east facing side of the plane and only got a taste of the nice sunset. I wish I could have got a picture from the other side of the plane but oh well.
After that it was too dark to take any more pictures but I can tell you that we had a very smooth landing and parked at gate 3 right on time.
I just wanted to throw in 2 pictures that made me very proud. First is this picture of a duck I saw sitting in a pond on one of the golf courses we played. It turned out so well that I thought I would include it.
On that same course this happened. I took my fist shot on this par 3 and it landed about 4 feet from the hole. I was pretty happy with it because I hadn’t been hitting my irons very well all day. To see if it was just a fluke or not I took another ball out and tried again, with even better results.
Well after 10 great days we had to leave. We returned our Dodge Charger-very nice car by the way, and headed for the USA 3000 counters. We made one huge mistake however; we didn’t call ahead to the airline to check our flight status. When we got to the counter it was about 6:30pm, which would have been ok for our 8:45 flight, except that that wasn’t when the plane was leaving. We arrived to find a lady arguing with the reps and her family trying to calm her down. I wasn’t paying very much attention so all I heard was one pf the reps saying that the FLL
flights were both full. I didn’t really know what they were talking about until I looked up at the flight info board. It showed at departure time of 1:05am. We walked over to one of the guys and asked him what was up. He told us that the plane had been delayed on its charter flight from somewhere in Mexico to ORD
so it wouldn’t be getting to MCO
Being the go with the flow people that we are, we took are $10 meal vouchers and found a place to sit in the main terminal area. Sadly, we had already given back our car and couldn’t think of anything to do away from the airport so we just “hung out”. We checked out some shops, got food, did homework, had elevator and escalator races, and basically wasted 4 and a half hours. My brother and I checked out every single inch of MCO
’s terminal (at least the parts that were permitted) including all 3 parking garages. I was actually a bit disappointed that I didn’t go up to the roof-top parking garage sooner. It is 10 stories high and right in the middle of the airport. There is an excellent view from up there but by the time I went up it was very dark out and not much was happening anymore. Needless to say, next time I fly to MCO
I will be sure to go up to the parking ramp during the day.
Here is a shot of our seats in the main terminal that we called home for around 5 hours. Don’t be confussed by all of the flights on those screens, they are all for the next day. At this point we are the only departure left.
Well at about midnight we went over to the security checkpoint and were the only ones there. It took around a minute to get through before we headed to the elevated train to take us to gate 3. When we got to our gate there were quite a few people waiting for or flight but nobody else anywhere. I sat down and read my book for a while before being interrupted by an announcement. The guy talking was the same guy that had checked us in. He said that the flight taking off from ORD
had to go back to the gate because of an intoxicated passenger and the police needed to be called to remove the man. For this reason, our departure time was switched to 2:20am. Everybody kind of groaned but most people were either sleeping or too tired to complain. I, on the other hand, was not tired at all so I took a walk around concourse A.
Here are the passengers on our flight. This was taken at about 1:15am.
Never been at an airport this late before, or I should say early.
Then I walked down to the other end of the concourse. Usually this room is full of passengers waiting for departure but not at this time of day. It was really weird being in here, almost like a ghost town. There wasn’t a single person around, not even a cleaner.
I took this and a couple other pictures knowing that they wouldn’t turn out good.
Here is a look back towards our gate. Not a single person can be seen.
Then I went down the third “arm” of concourse A where AA
operates out of. It was just as empty as the rest of the concourse but a bit darker. Here is a parked AA
757 taking a break before flying all across the country in a couple of hours.
When I returned to our gate the flight from ORD
had not arrived yet so I decided to take a nap. When I woke up the plane was parked outside, and in a few minutes we boarded. After I took my seat (5A) I fell asleep and didn’t wake up until just before landing. We arrived at the gate at about 4:00am, about 5hr and 40min late. The waiting room was already full of people at this point for an early departure to somewhere in Mexico. By the time we got our luggage and left the airport it was 4:30am and the sun was already peeking on the horizon. We took our Park N’ Jet shuttle back to our car for our 3hr drive home.
Service 4/5 – In flight meals weak but no different than what you get on all the other airlines. FA
s were very friendly and ground staff was pleasant and informative.
Timeliness 2/5 – Flight to MCO
was perfect but obviously not on the way back. Not totally U5
’s fault though.
IFE 4/5 – Good selection of music and good movies and shows to watch. Also liked the real-time flight info maps.
Florida 19/5 – Great as always; probably going for 2 weeks next year.
Overall, I think we will fly U5
again, especially if they keep their prices where they are right now. Although the delay was inconvenient, it wasn’t awful like some people’s flight delays and cancellations over spring break. Delays are going to happen on every airline so you cant really use that as a basis for deciding to fly them or not. I think that if U5
keeps its flights full and prices low, it will continue to expand and take its place as the main leisure travel airline at the airports it flies to.