US Airways USA1061
Scheduled 7:15AM EST
Departed 7:35 AM EST
Terminal B – Gate B10
Flying Time – 1 Hour 5 Mins
April 11th, 2008
FL280 @ 431KTS
My wife and I previously visited Sint Maarten two years ago and we immediately fell in love with the Friendly Island. So when the opportunity to rent a friends timeshare for $700 a week came up, we quickly booked our flights on Orbitz! The last time we flew to SXM was on UA via Dulles from BDL. I really enjoyed UA’s service, especially when they upgraded us on the return flight to Economy Plus without even asking.
This time the cheapest flights we found were out of BOS on US for $461.65 R/T each. This was okay since we have friends that live right in Boston, so we left our car with them vs. paying for parking. I booked our tickets via Orbitz.com and selected our seats based on the best views arriving and departing SXM. I had selected row 5A/B going down and row 5 E/F for the return. The day before leaving I went online to print our boarding passes and no seats were selected. I called US and they indicated that the only seats they had were in the row 30’s and were not together. Damn you Orbitz, why ask to select seats if you don’t keep record of them? The representative said to check with the counter as they block off certain seats together.
Our flight was scheduled to depart at 7:15 AM EST, so I wanted to be at Logan no later than 5:15 AM EST. We were up at 4 AM and at the check-in counter at 5:15 on the nose (pays to have friends in Everett!) We were fortunate enough to get seats 3A/B from BOS-PHL and 4A/B from PHL to SXM. Check in was a breeze as well as the security check. Soon we were relaxing at gate B10, both excited for our upcoming week in paradise. Boarding began promptly at 7:00 AM EST and we were soon settled in to our bulkhead seats. I’m a pretty “big-boned” guy, so I do not suggest these seats to the larger crowd. The center armrests are fixed; therefore it is a bit snug on the hips. Our neighbors across at 3 D/E/F had an unstill toddler with a cold as he was continuously coughing. Thankfully, it was only an hour flight as I did not want to get sick too. We pushed back on time and taxied out to 33L. There was the normal morning ramp traffic so we didn’t begin our takeoff roll until 7:30 AM EST.
Lining up on 33L
A quick blast of the RB211s, then V1, Rotate!
View of Downtown Boston
The Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge
Fenway Park – GO SOX!
Cape Cod passing off to our left
Soon we were at FL280 in smooth as glass air and the friendly US crew offered us juice, water or coffee. It was nice having a bulkhead seat as you don’t have to stare at the top of someone’s head. Before long, our little neighbor started running around and yelling, so I fired up my iPod and cracked open Tucker Max’s, I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell. It only felt like mere moments before we started our decent into PHL. It was overcast, so there were no good views or photo/video opportunities. We quickly broke the cloud layer and were on finals for 9R, enough time for me to snap this one of the Ridley Park Boeing facility.
Wheels were on the ground at 8:37AM EST, right on time. I was relieved because PHL is not known for “on time” performance and our SXM leg was leaving promptly at 9:35AM EST. I silently wished a fond adieu to our toddler neighbor and made our way to our next leg.
US Airways USA1209
Scheduled 9:35AM EST
Departed 10:31 AM EST
Terminal A West – Gate A20
Flying Time – 3 Hours 25 Mins
April 11th, 2008
FL370 @ 457KTS
When we got to A20, there was no one there. My wife and I turned and looked at each other with that &$!@ look on our face. Upon reaching the agent, we were happy and relieved to learn that they just boarded the aircraft early. Looking out the window, I noticed that this aircraft was equipped with the blended winglets, cool. Once on board, I was also happy to see that N205UW had a “newer” interior with leather seats. We quickly found that 4A/B were also bulkhead seats. But with this interior configuration, the bulkhead was “cut-out” at the bottom allowing our legs to stretch out more. Nice. There was also a LCD monitor on the bulkhead too. The seats again were a bit restrictive, but comfortable, more comfortable than the last leg. I quickly learned that the windows were too filthy for any photography. It appears that the jet way canopy rubs on these windows, leaving them marked and dingy. I was looking forward to videotaping our SXM approach; I guess it won’t be as clear as I hoped.
As we waited for more passengers, my wife elbowed me and motioned towards the door. It was our neighbors from the last flight! Would they turn and go towards the rear? Nope, they moved to the front and sat again directly across from us in 4 D/E/F. Oh well, you can’t win them all.
We pushed back on time and taxied out into the PHL traffic. About five minutes into our taxi, the captain came on the PA and advised that the tower was reconfiguring the runways, so we had to turn and make our way across the opposite side of the field. After about another 20 minutes of taxing, he then came on again and said there were some more delays, so we wouldn’t be airborne for another 40 minutes or so. No problem, as long as I was on board, I had expected delays anyway. I just kept my head in my book and imagined the white sandy beaches awaiting me.
At 10:31AM EST, we spooled up and departed PHL. Once we got up to FL370, the once again friendly US crew offered some drinks and pretzels. Then they offered some food for a small amount, so my wife and I ordered some chicken sandwiches with sun dried tomatoes. I believe they were $6 each and were very, very good. Entertainment soon went underway as they played the movie, “The Devil Wears Prada”. I paid the movie no mind and went back to my book and iPod. The crew on this leg was very upbeat, probably because this was a “holiday” flight. I recall one of the crew members on the PA announcing that if you looked out the left side of the aircraft (which everyone did) you’d see the “Black Pearl” from the Pirates of the Caribbean. Remember, I said they were upbeat, not funny. Halfway into the flight our young neighbor decided how many times he could open the stowable tray table and then slam it back into the armrest. I proceeded to crank up the volume on my iPod some more.
The flight was very smooth and calming. The soothing sound of the RRs turning behind us and the deep blue Caribbean Sea and small puffy white clouds below made for a tranquil trip. The occasional yell and fuss from our neighbor didn’t even faze me.
Before I knew it, we began our decent into SXM. You could see Anguilla off in the distance, then Sint Maarten! We then tuned for our finals and I tried my best to capture our approach.
Back on terra firm at 2:56PM EST, thirty minutes after our scheduled arrival time. We were finally, back in SXM! We taxied past the Air France A340 to the new Princess Juliana International Airport terminal, which is very beautiful and efficient. We spent only about 30 minutes total to clear customs and get our bags (which both made it) and didn’t sweat our arses off!
I’ll have the return leg written for a.net tonight, but in the interim, here are some photographs from Maho Beach:
Great report, My brother wast at SXM few yrs ago for his spring break and he did have chance to spot at that beach as it was popular one due to many airlines flew past it. I would like to go there one day.
US Airways USA1422
Seat 32 E/F
Scheduled 4:25PM EST
Departed 4:35PM EST
Flying Time – 3 Hours 43 Mins
April 18th, 2008
We arrived at the new Princess Juliana International Airport terminal at 2:40PM EST expecting a large queue for the busy Friday afternoon traffic. Surprisingly there were only a few people in line at the US Airways check-in counter. Once we got our boarding passes (not able to get better seats) we made our way upstairs to gate A4. Another quick queue at security gave us ample time to shop at the many boutiques upstairs. On our previous flight down, the FA announced there was no catering for US on the way back, so to grab some food before the flight. Heeding his warning, my wife and I had some delicious pizzas at Trattoria Pizza in Maho Beach before we headed to the airport. But there are plenty of places in the new terminal to grab a bite. There was a Quiznos, a Teriyaki place, Dominos Pizza, etc. All in all, I was very impressed with the new PJIA.
After some spotting from the terminal window, our 757 arrived.
Before long, we began boarding and I became very sad to be leaving Sint Maarten. I really do love that island. The flight was full, I’d say 95%. My wife took the window seat at 32F and I took the middle and we had a seat mate in D. Once the FA buttoned up the aircraft, I noticed that the row in front of us, 31 E/F, was empty. So I moved to 31F so we could spread out and relax. I got my camcorder ready and noted that again, the windows were very dirty. What is with US and dirty windows? One of the windows actually had dust bunnies between the plastic and window! This a/c was showing its age, as it began service with Eastern back in 1983. The panels and overhead bins all were definitely from the 80’s. We eventually pushed back and made our way to Rwy9. I rarely sit in the rear of a 57, and I’m not sure if it was just an issue with this particular aircraft, but when the captain applied some thrust, the whole rear end shook. My wife even asked if it was normal, I just shrugged and said “I think so?” We made our turn to the Maho beach crowd; hopefully the F/O waved. Then we spooled up and sandblasted the onlookers.
Once we got to FL340, the crew started beverage and snack service. They had meals-in-a-box for $5 that consisted of crackers, cheese, a fruit cup and cookies. They also started the entertainment/movie. I believe it was “The Golden Compass”. I jumped right back into my book and iPod as I was not interested in talking animals and Nicole Kidman. Turns out that are neighbors from last weeks flight were back, this time the in the last row. I could hear the boy screaming, but this time both the mother and father were yelling back at him. It was quite noisy back there. The seatbelt light remained illuminated the entire flight as we kept picking up some light chop and it got progressively worse as we traversed the coast of South Carolina. I glanced out my window a few times, at one point catching our plane meeting up with an A310 about thousand or so feet above us. Watching the A310’s contrails form from such a close distance was splendid! Once the aircraft passed I glanced up to see that the CRT monitors were showing “Friends”. I though to my self, “Can’t US get some more recent programming to watch? Friends went off the air four years ago!” There was some more drink service from the pleasant US crew.
About 7:30PM EST we started out decent into the Charlotte area. We passed over the Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Here is some footage of our decent and landing into CLT.
We kissed the tarmac at 8:18PM EST on 18L. We deplaned, in the D Concourse, made our way through a swift queue for Immigration and picked up our bags for the next leg.
US Airways USA790
Seat 20 A/B
Scheduled 10:30PM EST
Departed 10:45PM EST
Concourse B – Gate B11
Flying Time – 1 Hour 37 Mins
April 18th, 2008
After rechecking our bags for the final leg of our trip, we needed to make our way to the B Concourse. There are multiple security checkpoints at CLT and you can access all the concourses from each one. The first large security queue we approached was in front of the C Concourse, which was labeled “C, B, A Concourse. Looking down the terminal, I could see that there was no queue at the B Concourse, so we headed down there. After a quick x-ray, we headed to B11. At 10:15PM EST, we began boarding.
When we stepped into N918UW, I could tell that we were back in an older aircraft. It turns out that this aircraft was the 7th one down the 757 line back in 1982. Amazing! Just think, I was eight years old, watching E.T. in my Dukes of Hazard t-shirt when this bird was being bolted together. My wife and I settled into 20 A/B, ready to get home at this point. No sight, or sound, of our neighbor friends. And the window appears to be pretty clean, but it is also 10:30 at night, so I could have been wrong. I’d say this flight was about 95% full as well.
The old bird lifted off of 18L at 10:50PM EST and flew to the south of Downtown Charlotte providing some excellent scenery. The flight was smooth and uneventful. There was your typical beverage service, no snacks. I turned on my iPod and just watched the eastern seaboard’s skylines and lights below. Here is some footage of us passing off to the south of New York City.
We started our decent right after passing New York City, making our way over Long Island and then over Providence into the Boston area. We lined up for a 4R approach and had a wonderful view of Downtown Boston. Too bad the wing blocked most of it.
We were on Beantown soil at 12:27AM EST, a minute ahead of schedule. Once down in the baggage claim, it took a good 30 minutes before the first bags appeared. Our neighbors made a final appearance at the claim; junior was still going full steam at midnight. Thankfully both our bags made it and we safely and successfully completed yet another remarkable vacation!
In this time of cattle-car typical service on US airlines, there are no airlines that I can say really leave me bowled over. I’ve been satisfied with UA, WN and DL and impressed with F9. I would say that I was satisfied with US’s service. Noting too extraordinary, but nothing terrible either. It is just unfortunate that for US flights, we have to rely on PHL as a hub as that is an awful airport. In the end, I can say that the old adage of “US Scare” did not apply for this trip. Nice job US!
Quoting StarAlliance38 (Reply 4): Great TR! Finally, somebody who doesn't hate US. I love them. I've been maybe around 20 flights with them and I use them the most too. Never had a problem
No, never bashed US before, actually, rarely fly them. So I have no reservations on flying with them again. My wife does fly US quite often for work as that is the only direct flight from BDL to PHL. They typicaly charge over $700 R/T for BDL-PHL! Thanks for the positive feedback!
Quoting KPWM (Reply 1): I rarely sit in the rear of a 57, and I’m not sure if it was just an issue with this particular aircraft, but when the captain applied some thrust, the whole rear end shook. My wife even asked if it was normal,
Quite normal, the 757 is one overpowered aeroplane!! nothin more fun than a deafening ride across the pond in a 75!