Had to do a quick trip to ATL
last week, where the only palatable fare had me routing YYC
, and ATL
with US. This would have been my first trip on US post merger with HP
: AC146 0025 - 0607, A320
This is a regular flight I take out YYC
when heading to the Eastern part of the continent. Convenient, saves travel during the day which could be spent at the destination. Can be annoying if you're the type that does not sleep well on airplanes, but ideal for the procrastinator that packs at the last minute upon return from work.
Last minute preparations done, headed up to the airport, parked at Park N Jet, took the shuttle to the terminal. Had checked in online, printed boarding passes at the machine, headed straight to the gate. As it turns out, A gate entrance blocked off, redirected to B. Canadian Air Transport Security Authority related annoyances later (seriously, the guys at YYC
are the worst I find in terms of being so anal), was at the gate. Yep, full flight, as always, had us thinking about too many people for one aircraft. I have always noticed a large number of standbys for AC146 over the years.
Boarding was civilized, and I chose to ignore the anger I felt for getting assigned a middle seat. It did not help that I got the ticket less than 16 hours prior to the flight. As always, we had to do that long taxi to the runway at YYC
, and took off to the North. I do not recall anything from this point to just before we landed at Toronto. Landing was smooth, taxi to gate was short.
: AC8619 0725 - 0938, CRJ
I have been burned a few times at Toronto following the red-eye out of western Canada bound for a US connection. The US Immigration and customs pre-clearance eats into available time for the more ideal connections that leave YYZ
between 7 and 8AM. The fact that all of Air Canada's ops are now out of Terminal 1 greatly improves this, but if the red-eye comes in late, chances are, the connection is missed or can come very close to that.
The process with connecting from the red-eye, based on experience, is to get out of aircraft, walk fast, exit the gate area and walk straight to US customs - leave all distractions and nature calls for after dealing with the Americans. If you remember, grab a US customs form before you leave your initial departure point and fill it out on the plane to YYZ
. Just before the desks is the connecting luggage pick up, where many stood around waiting for their luggage to come in (the red-eyes from the west coast all come in around the same time). Whipped through them with carry-on and got to US Immigration where no lines existed (this is one of very few instances I have seen this). Process was a breeze, giving us full 35 minutes for breakfast. The Molson eatery is the usual stop, where one should never order the eggs benedict. Had an omelette (that's one thing that no one could ever mess up), and headed to the gate to get there as the last person in front of us was getting on. Flight is half full at most, sat toward the mid-back of aircraft: even the exit row was empty!
Never a good sign to see maintenance folk coming in and out. I bet it was the woman co-pilot that messed something up (okay okay I am kidding). Anyways, half an hour or so into troubleshooting, including the rebooting of the aircraft's power, we were advised of the need to get a new aircraft. A few minutes later, the announcement came as a bump to the next flight which was after 10AM. They'd rebooked us automatically.
: AC8621 1000 - 1212, CRJ
Roamed around the place a bit, and we were at the gate for our flight. A few people from the previous flight had developed some camaraderie, which is fine. We boarded, I was at the very last seat where I could hear how well the bathroom flushes. This is where that camaraderie I mentioned gets annoying: buddy sitting in front of my is the ADHD type, with the guy next to him chanting him on (these are not young guys btw). Anyway, ADHD guy yells, throughout the entire flight, calling out a guy some 5 or 6 rows ahead, going "Eddiiiee or Teddyyyy" throughout the flight. He did not take a hint when Eddie or Teddy chose to ignore him. It did not help either that the airline offers drinks for sale in the morning, as that seemed to have worsened the idiocy. It helped that I had a window seat, and that I had little sleep overnight, as I dozed off between yells and toilet flushes.
Landed in Atlanta in time, as I was awakened by the shopping cart wheel sounds that the CRJ wheels make when they hit the tarmac. Taxi to gate was somewhat lengthy but still shorter than that at YYC
(you can tell my peeve about YYC
now). Gate checked hand luggage delivered, we were off.
: US656 1745 - 1906, A320
As mentioned earlier, had not flown the new US since merger with HP
. I had flown each airline prior to that, where I found US as being better than HP
in service, image and overall experience (not talking USAir era here). Sadly, it appears that the HP
side of the company has prevailed.
Got to the airport just in time, checked in earlier in the day and had selected seats then based on seatguru suggestions. Printed boarding passes at checkin area, then headed to gate via the ATL
train. Security prior to that was pain-free. Got to the gate as boarding was already in progress. Waited it out since we were to sit at bulkhead. Boarded aircraft, to only find that overhead storage in completely packed in my sitting area, including the upper class. FA
says I should check it in, I refuse citing the 40-something minute connection I have at PHX
. I find a spot a few rows to the back. To my disapointment (no thanks to seatguru), bulkead has a wall in front of me. AC
's A320s don't have it, bulkhead on AC
allows one to stretch well. Seatguru claimed the same for US, but definitely not the case. At least I had a window seat, and had a prime seat to exit aircraft considering tight-ish connection.
Not impressed with the US experience. IFE is pay per use, but appears to have varied content. FAs are salespeople, yelling "would you like to buy..." a number of times throughout the flight. One FA
even tapped on my travel partner to wake him up and ask if he would like to purchase a drink/snack. Are they on commission? Something about the US ambiance that I cannot get my fingers on ... having flown AC
quiet a bit, and even DL
in the US, there's this lack of style/comfort/warmth that exists with HP
and now US. Is it a southwestern thing? Or it could be a LCC thing.
Uneventful flight, watching descent into PHX
was great, with a Frontier aircraft coming in parallel to us. A quick time scare occured, not knowing that Phoenix (and maybe the entire state of AZ
) do not observe Daylight Savings Time. Good landing, no announcements re: connecting gates. The last HP
flight I recall had me going from the one prong of the fork to the one farthest away.
: US244 1953 - 2359, A320
Oh my god. I have not been at an airport terminal as old and run down looking as what PHX
is in a long time. MSP
was the last one, and it has cleaned up a bit recently. The flight display screens remind me of trips from at least a decade past. Either this terminal needs a face lift, or it is the southwestern thing I mentioned earlier where it all seems fine to US. Connecting flight to YYC
was to leave from two gate area prongs away from this fork shaped terminal building. Walked to prong, grabed stuff to eat, and got to the gate just in time to board.
I have to say, the heat that I experienced when deplaying and enplaning at PHX
is what I need right now. Had me questioning why I live in Calgary.
Boarded onto another A320, where I was greeted by white haired Grandma at the door. Another lady one or two years junior than her was the other FA
. A third one kept to the rear of the aircraft so I could not guess her age. I tried not to guess the pilot's age - I did imagine Family Guy's Mr Herbert at the controls however. The aircraft was not IFE equipped and showed its age too. We were held up for a few extra minutes as late connections from Mexico came in, still leading to an almost half full pax count. A quick takeoff later, we were headed up to YYC
, where they let us know that it had been snowing. I chose to ignore that bit as well, having had a taste of PHX
Landing at YYC
was smooth and on time. Walked fast through terminal to get to Canadian immigration expecting a line up as I saw another US aircraft landing, and that is also when NW
come in from MSP
respectively. Only a couple of people in front of us at the line, and we were done. Customs was a breeze as the rest waited for their luggage. Headed straight to the shuttle as I shivered a bit, then to the car and drive back home.
So what was learned from this trip?
- While AC
started it all with all kinds of fees and on board service for pay, it has now become a more attractive of an airline compared to the rest. When AC
started nickle and diming, I turned to US based airlines, with UA
being the better choice due to my affiliation with Aeroplan/*A. UA
, now US with their fees including checked luggage fees are unattractive. AC
no longer charges such fees, and even dropped phone reservation fees and instituted a lowest fare guarantee this week. The overall product including connection points is great, save for the Jazz CRJs which I hate.
- Never fly US again, unless arm is twisted. The routing via PHX
seems longer, and the whole experience just ain't that great.
- Don't trust Seatguru