Excuse my newbie-ness (is that even a word?), as this is my first TR after lurking here for a while. I had booked a trip to JAX for Monday, 3/16 through Friday, 3/20 to visit family on the southeastern GA coast. This was my first time flying out of PHL, as you can see by my username I primarily fly CO out of EWR. Unfortunately, fares for CO out of EWR were unusually high and I was able to find a much cheaper fare on US out of PHL. I had only flown US once before (out of LGA to BUF), and was wary as I have heard many complaints of US, especially out of PHL.
I was booked on US 1099, scheduled to depart PHL at 7:35 AM. I reluctantly made the hour and a half drive down to PHL at 4:30 AM, and soon found out that the long-term parking is much less convenient than in EWR. As any frequent PHL travelers would know, it takes you on this maize out to the long-term parking lot, through the terminal area, and then there is a shuttle bus to take you back to the terminals. Said bus supposedly runs every 5 minutes, but was completely packed at 6 AM. Unfortunately, my camera battery had died and I forgot my charger, so I could not get any pics.
I had checked in online and decided to carry on my one bag, and thus went right to security. The one bright spot of PHL were the surprisingly friendly TSA agents, even at that hour of the morning. However, I found the airport outdated and extremely bleak. Not that I had much time to explore, but this is what I found in the B/C area. Boarding began slightly late with no explanation from the gate agent and no announcement until pre-boarding was called. The entire boarding process seemed to take longer than usual as the limited overhead space on the E-190 quickly filled up. Bags were moved around, but eventually the last few passengers (including yours truly) ran out of room and had to take our carry-ons to the front. The very friendly flight attendant took care of the issue with a smile and I took my seat in 14C.
I found that the E-190 had a very small feeling. From the overhead space, to the non-existent legroom, I was not a fan. One plus was the rather comfortable leather seat, and 2x2 formation, eliminating middle seats. The takeoff was loud and steep after a very long taxi, and the flight was very uneventful. Both female flight attendants provided excellent service and seemed friendly and upbeat. Free drinks (!) were served, and I got an orange juice. The flight was entirely smooth, and after a long descent, we landed in cloudy, quiet Jacksonville. Upon disembarking, the flight attendant who took my bag in PHL told me that she didn't want me to have to go the baggage claim, and showed me my back sitting right outside the door of the plane. Props to US on the service on this leg.
After a relaxing trip in beautiful weather, it was time to fly back to PHL, and eventually return home to northern NJ. I arrived rather late to the airprort (1 hour before departure) and proceeded to the US check-in desk, as I planned to check my bag and avoid having to repeat the situation in PHL (I was in zone 4 again), even though it was handled wonderfully by the FA. I am used to checking in at CO in EWR and elsewhere, where friendly agents will either check you in, or let you know in a friendly manner to proceed to the nearest kiosk. I walked up to the passenger-free US counter where there were 4 US agents all talking amongst themselves. After standing there for 5 minutes with absolutely no acknowledgement from any of these agents, finally a woman looked at me with a blank stare and I said "I'm checking in?!?". She then told me rather harshly that I was standing right in front of the self-serve kiosk (I don't know how I missed it, but I thought she and the other 4 agents could have at least acknowledged me while they stood in front of me talking for 5 minutes). She proceeded to take me through the check-in process as if I were a 6 year-old child who had never seen one before, which I found strange and annoying. Anyway, I checked my bag and was on my way.
Anyone who has flown through JAX knows that it is a small, mostly quiet airport. There is a nice atrium with a few shops/restaurants before security, and a recently renovated terminal which US occupies. I like JAX but it is not a good airport for spotting as there is very little action. Also, terminal C (CO and Southwest) has nothing but a hot dog stand and a small bar, which is painful with a 4 hour delay and no President's Club access (I experienced this 4 years ago heading back to EWR). Anyway, security was hectic and took about 15 minutes, and I was on my way. I was on US 1648 which was another E-190, scheduled to depart around 10:40 AM. The plane was about 20 minutes late coming into JAX, so we ended up departing at around 11:00. The gate agent kept us apprised of the situation, despite the very short delay (the same cannot be said about the CO agents in JAX for that 4 hour delay 2 years ago, who flat-out lied about the situation, when they said anything at all).
This flight was not very memorable. Takeoff was once again loud and steep, this time after a short taxi (obviously). The flight was completely uneventful and entirely smooth once again. I found the FA's forgettable. Drinks were served but I couldn't call the service anything but basic. They seemed unprepared as once again boarding was troublesome with the limited overhead space. We landed at PHL as the plane continued on to Hartford, and I had a long wait at baggage claim combined with a hour and the half drive home ahead of me. Once again I am sorry for the lack of pics (honest mistake!), as I know these can be rather boring without them, but there were really not many interesting pic opportunities.
Overall, my feelings on US Airways for this trip are mixed. The FA's on the way down were excellent, while on the way back were forgettable. The flights were mostly on time and completely smooth, but once again I found the US check-in staff at JAX rude and unprofessional. Thanks for reading and all comments and criticisms are welcome!
[Edited 2009-03-21 20:16:40]
[Edited 2009-03-21 20:17:15]
[Edited 2009-03-21 20:50:00]