Anyways, I called up US Airways to make a reservation from the phone number on their website. Well of course that was US Airways east and I needed US Airways west, so they had to transfer me over. The good thing was the first reservation agent I spoke with was probably in India and did not understand me well, but I was ecstatic upon being transferred to get an American. I am willing to pay a few extra bucks on a ticket to know that I am speaking with Americans that can understand me. I booked the tickets, however the only flights available were STL-PHX-LAS-SEA. Flying STL-PHX-SEA would have cost $200 more, and I did not want to spend that much money. So I decided to visit both America west hubs. Yay!
US Airways (operated by America West)
A320 Seat 2D
Photo © Ben Wang
I was driven the 2.5 hours to St. Louis, did some shopping, got my Audi repaired and got to the airport. It was a less than desirable airport upon entering. The ceilings were so low that I could touch them with my hand. It seemed not that pleasant and it was really hot inside. I found the US Airways check in line, and got myself in the Phoenix First Class line. I find it interesting how there is a dedicated Phoenix First Class line, since there are only 12 seats on the plane to PHX. US/HP have not fully integrated their reservations systems yet. I got my 3 boarding passes and the gate agent did not seem surprised that I had such a stupid itinerary. I then go and sit with my friend to have a drink before my flight. Yay for paying $8 for a beer! I like airports that regulate prices.
As I walked to the bathroom I was stopped by some man in a somewhat official looking booth. He calls me over and then says that I get this free book and asked me if I believed in reincarnation. I was confused said no, and then he goes and says how sorry he is and pretty much made me feel that my religious values were meaningless compared to his. I felt insulted and walked off although I think he deserved a punch in the face.. I could not believe that they let people in an airport like that. I proceeded to security 45 minutes before departure time, said goodbye to my friend and waited in line. Security was pretty easy. There was no priority screening for first class. Strike one for US Airways/America West.
I stopped by the bathroom and made it to the gate about 2 minutes before boarding. People were still getting off of the plane. They had the door shut for maybe 90 seconds before boarding began again. US Airways certainly has some quick turnarounds! Preboarding was for those that needed assistance, and then I was welcomed on board. I took my seat which looked rather pleasant and comfortable for this flight. There was the America West logo on the headrest, but the seat looked new and clean. There were America West markings on the plane as well. It was clean until I looked in the seat pocket and found a pile of trash. I pulled that out and left it on the armrest for the flight attendant to pick up. But other than that, the plane seemed spotless. Plus 1 for US Airways. A flight attendant promptly asked me if I would like something to drink, and I asked for some diet coke. I received it and sat there and watched people board. They announced that the temperature in Phoenix was 85 degrees. That made everyone happy, although I only had a 40 minute layover, so I would not enjoy it.
Boarding finished on time and the flight attendant came by to take drinks away. I relaxed as the door was shut and the safety demo featuring US Airways planes was played. I thought it was cool to see the slide deploy in the video. I had not flown America West since 1999 and my last trip on US Airways was in 2003. I like United. They are good although ORD is not. We pushed back and started our taxi out to the runway. I was glad to get out of the airport in STL. It is not very pleasant. It was hot and felt confining. We taxied out to a runway and of course there were no delays. The airport use to handle a super hub with TWA, so things are quiet now.
We were number one and started our takeoff roll. When we started to get up to speed, a door in the galley flew open and there was a crashing sound. I saw a flight attendant get out of her jumpseat right before rotation to fix it and latch the door shut. We rotated as she was standing and then she was able to strap herself back in as we climbed. It was a beautifully smooth climb as we made a slow turn to the right. I got a view of the airport as we climbed in to the mostly set sun.
They played a little video as we climbed and then played the trailer for Pirates of the Caribbean 2. I liked that movie in theatres, so I was happy to see it again. Shortly thereafter headsets were handed out. They were cheap ugly ones, but that is ok I guess. At least they have IFE and movies. I watched the movie as the flight attendant asked for drink orders. I had a rum and coke for myself. I was hoping for dinner, but no dinner came. Just a snack basket. I was not very hungry, but could not understand why there was no food. I had another cocktail and more chips that came in ½ oz bags. I got up to use the lavatory and asked the flight attendant if US Airways serves meals. Our flight left at 5pm and was 3 hours long, so I definitely think we deserved some food. She said that they only serve them on flights over 3.5 hours and that flight attendants and passengers complain about that a lot. Our flight was blocked at 3hours 28minutes, which is just ridiculous. I am sorry, but I paid for a first class ticket, so I expected food! My normal airline of United serves food on all of its midcon flights. 3.5 hours is too long when you factor in all the time spent boarding, getting to the airport and everything like that.
I sat back watching the movie as my stomach started to stir. I had some scotch which put me in a better mood as the flight passed by. The flight attendant serving first class did a pretty good job of making sure people had drinks and offering the snacks that she did have. The seat was comfortable enough. The only thing really missing was dinner!
We eventually started our descent after a completely smooth and uneventful flight. There was nothing exciting happening whatsoever. The movie finished during descent and I flipped through the magazine some. There were some announcements made and the seatbelt sign came on. We only made a single left turn before arrival, so I would guess that there was not too much traffic in to the airport. I did see the lights of a few other planes around. We made a smooth touchdown and taxied off the active runway. I turned on my phone to listen to a message and then waited for us to reach the gate. I noticed that most of the planes in PHX had been repainted, which is impressive, but rightfully they should be faster than say Northwest which still has planes in the old livery 5 years after repainting began. But it makes sense since they want to get rid of the America West brand. We pulled in to a gate in a flock of A320s. I jumped up and grabbed my bag and made my way out. I was one of the first off the plane and found a tv monitor to see when and where my flight to Las Vegas would be leaving. I saw it and noticed a nonstop flight to Seattle leaving 15 minutes after my flight. Oh well, I saved $200 bucks, and there is nothing wrong with more planes.
US Airways (operated by America West)
A320 Seat 2D
Photo © Ben Wang
I get to the gate and see a heard of America West employees waiting outside. This seemed more like an employee shuttle bus, than a regular flight. I believe there were about 20 flight attendants, pilots and other uniformed crew members on this flight to HPs other hub. People were deplaning still, but I had a feeling this would not take long, which was true. After a few minutes, it was time to board the next A320 in my journey home. After preboarding, I was the first of the first class passengers to get on the plane. The plane looked exactly the same as the previous one. I had the same seat as well. This one was spotless though, which is always a good thing. I like clean and spotless planes. No stains anywhere. People continued to get on and a nice lady sat next to me and we chatted. She was on her way to Las Vegas to visit her son and had come from BWI. I had some water as offered by the flight attendant.
After boarding was complete, the flight attendant took drinks away and finished the safety checks. The door was shut and we were off again on time. I liked the ontime performance of US Airways. Again the same safety video played and I flipped through the same magazine some more.
We pushed back quickly thereafter and started making our way to a runway. I could not be sure of which one it was. We were number 2 behind another US Airways/HP A320. We pulled on to the runway and made a fast takeoff in to the desert night sky. I watched the lights pass away as we made a few turns. I pulled out some papers from work that I had to go through and ignored what was going on around me. I had a Heineken and sipped that some on our 45minute flight to LAS. It was rather smooth and uneventful. Everything was on time and moving as it should have been. It was a little annoying to get on that plane knowing that I was not getting much closer to my destination and still and another flight to get on. I am not sure what altitude we went up to, but I do not think that the seatbelt light went off.
Before I knew it, we were on our way down in to Las Vegas. We had another relatively straight in approach with few turns. We passed over some lights and then made another smooth landing in LAS. I will say that at this point I was feeling the effect of casually drinking the free liquor of first class, so I was not paying much attention to the world.
We pulled up to a gate in terminal 1 and there were more 737s here than there were in PHX. It was not Airbus land, but the jets were mostly repainted as well. There were a ton of WN 737s buzzing around too. I am guessing they were doing their last hops to California for the day. We pull in to a gate and I say goodbye to my friendly seatmate and make my way in to the terminal.
US Airways (operated by America West)
Departs: 8:58pm (Actual: 10:30pm)
Arrives: 11:33pm (Actual: 1:15am)
737-300 Seat 2D
Photo © Nathan Zalcman - AirTeamImages
I am really tired at this point since it is quite late and I had been flying for quite a while. Just one more flight. I look at the gate next to the one that I exited from and notice the plane is headed to Seattle, which is nice since I will not even have to pay attention to the television monitors. As I walk by however they announce that there is a mechanical delay and there is no estimated departure time. Yuck. At least this was my last flight so I would not have any more connections. I flight a power outlet and plug in my cell phone and whine to a friend about being delayed although he did not want to here it much and wanted to go to sleep. I do some text messaging. They then decide that we will be switching gates. I think they decided to give us a plane that was supposed to RON in LAS. A tail swap hopefully would be no big deal. They gave us a departure time of 10:30pm. I go and have a taco from taco bell which had a long wait. I then gambled away a dollar at a slot machine for the first time in my life. This is the first time that I have been of age in Vegas.
I was sitting around and waiting for the flight when finally a plane came to gate B25 where our flight would now be leaving from. It took the passengers a while to get off of the plane, but I did notice that there were three US Airways agents meeting people at the gate to tell them about connecting gates and to point them in the correct direction. I thought that this was a kind thing to do. I have not seen this for everyone of my flights, but it was good to see here.
By the time we got around to boarding, I was tired. They finally boarded priority passengers and those needing assistance. I get on and notice some differences with the 737-300. The seats were of an older generation. They were extremely comfortable, but lacked headrests and were fatter, which restricted legroom even more. Seat pitch is only 36 inches, which is definitely on the low side to begin with. That is the same pitch as United Economy Plus and on the lower end of first class offerings on other airlines.
Everyone boards and I notice that the second row of first class is full, but the first row is empty. I was hoping that the person in 2C would move, but they did not. Oh well, I was tired. I had my eyes clothes, but was paying attention to what was going on. We got everyone on the plane, but there was no catering. They made three different calls and it was ensured that it was on its way. We were about 2 hours late at this point. The couple in 2A and 2B were joking with the flight attendant about us having a vote on whether we should wait for catering. The flight attendant was very confident that we needed it and said that this is not a democracy. After about 15 minutes, a supervisor at the airport gets on the plane and says that catering will take 1.5 hours and asks if we could go without it. Apparently we urgently needed ice, which I so did not care about, but they ran off to get us some ice. Yay! 15 minutes later, we finally had our two bags of oh so important ice, and then we were ready to go. The captain made an announcement apologizing for the lack of beverages on the flight.
We finally pushed back and the safety demo was done by hand as is required on these older planes. The plane is older, but in good condition. America West operated planes seem to be in such good condition when compared to United and other airlines with planes of the same vintage. We taxied out as I was mostly asleep. We were in a classic painted plane and I noticed the lack of divider between the crew jump seats and row 1. America West 737s do not have closets, which provides for more seats, but less room for things. The lack of a divider would make row 1A&B to be a bit uncomfortable for me.
We make it on the runway and throttle up and I watch the strip go streaming by. The last time I had been in Vegas, I had flown on Hooters Air from Chicago/Rockford. That was interesting, but Hooters Air is no longer an airline.
We had a smooth climb and I nodded off. I found a relatively comfortable stop to sleep in and curled up for the entire flight. I woke up periodically and checked my watch thinking that we were closer and closer to Seattle, but it seemed to take a while to get there. I was thirsty at one point, but did not dare ask for something to drink because we were not catered.
I finally noticed us descending. It was cloudy as we descended and I was nodding in and out. Seat belt sign came on and then we were told to put electronics away and raise our seatbacks. I was looking out the window and not feeling too tired now that I had rested for a couple of hours. It was 1:15 in the morning and we were supposed to have arrived at 11:33pm.
We popped out of the clouds and I noticed a port and was thinking that it was Tacoma, but it ended up being Seattle. We made two right turns and then were on final in to SEA. There were no other planes to be seen, and only UA offers channel 9, so I could not here air traffic control. If you have not realized it yet, I like United a whole lot more than US Airways. We seemed awfully high only a few miles out, but the 737 can drop like a rock if it needs to. We made the smoothest touchdown of the day and finally came to a stop to end my whirlwind tour of the western half of the United States. We slowly taxied over to gate A1 where it was time to get off. I got off, went in to the cool terminal and walked to the taxi stand in the parking garage to grab a taxi to my parents house on Mercer Island.
US Airways is ok, but I was very dissatisfied with the lack of meals. I would like a bit more seat pitch. The planes were clean though with one exception. The flight attendants made quite a bit of effort to have people give them trash during the end of the flight rather than to stuff it away so it has to be cleaned. I prefer United, but US Airways is pretty good if I do not feel like eating.
One particular thing I noticed that no flight attendant seemed particularly personable or friendly. The STL-PHX flight attendant did the best job of keeping passengers in first class happy, but overall, there were no outperforming customer service staff at US Airways. No one had a smile. I'm not sure if they don't train the staff to be friendly or smile, but I noticed that on this journey, people were less friendly than what I typically find at other airlines including those within the United States and those from other countries as well.