August 31, 2001
USAirways Flight 961 CMH-PIT
Gate A4 Seat 22D
Scheduled time of departure: 4:00 PM EST
That day it rained in torrents. All morning and into the afternoon the rain came down in sheets. In order to avoid rushing to make my flight, I like to arrive at the airport at least an hour and a half before the plane is scheduled to depart. This would be my first time on USAirways. I was traveling with my younger brother, and this would be the first time we would be making a connecting flight without our parents. I picked him up from school at 2:00 PM, and left for Port Columbus International Airport at 2:15 PM. The drive to the airport was where the problems began. Due to the substantial amount of rain that fell, part of I-670 was closed due to a flooded highway underpass, resulting in a large traffic jam. Once we drove through the pond that had accumulated on the highway, we made our way to the airport, 15 minutes later than I had hoped. I parked at the airport's long term blue lot, and we quickly hopped on a shuttle bus to take us to the terminal. Once inside, we were greeted by a long line of people at the USAirways ticket counter. It was 3:00 PM, and I was starting to get annoyed. It wasn't until 10 minutes later that I noticed a sign saying that all passengers holding electronic tickets not checking-in luggage could proceed to the gate. This was the first time I had booked tickets online, so the procedure was new to me, but I was glad to get out of the line. My brother and I passed through security at Concourse A and walked down to gate A4. There we received our boarding passes. I was seated in seat 22D, and my brother was in 22E.
After a few minutes of waiting at the gate area, the Boeing 737-300 that would take us to Pittsburgh arrived from Philadelphia. The aircraft was still wearing the old silver color scheme. The plane deboarded, and crews boarded to clean the aircraft. The wait took longer than I expected, and everyone in the boarding area was later informed that the reason for the delay was that one of the passengers on the flight in from Philadelphia had defecated on one of the seats, so they had to get a replacement seat cushion. Once everything was taken care of, boarding commenced. After first class and passengers with special needs were boarded, my brother and I made our way on board the aircraft. I noticed the interior looked worn, but it was clean. The line moved at a moderate pace, and when we arrived at row 22 the last row on the plane, we found another family sitting in our seats. The family had requested to the flight attendant to sit together, where as I had requested that my brother and I be seated together the day before. The flight attendant informed me that I would be sitting in seat 20D, and my brother would be in 8C. I was not pleased, and regretfully complied with our new seating assignments. However, a lady seated in 20E had heard my conversation with the flight attendant, and offered to give up her seat and move to 8C. We thanked her very much for her generosity, and my brother and I moved to seat 20D and 20E. I sat down and noticed that it was her husband that was at the window seat, so now they had been spit up. Feeling guilty, I asked if he would rather have his wife come back, I and my brother would go to 8C. He seemed dismayed that his wife had been moved away from him, but he turned the offer down. Another dispute concerning seat assignments rose again in the middle of the cabin, apparently a group of people had been assigned the same row of seats. The aircraft was still on the ground at 4:00 PM and the flight attendants announced open seating for all passengers, just to get them into a seat. At the end, the lady and her husband moved to the row behind my brother and me, the people in the middle of the plane were shuffled around, one of the passengers in the middle moved to the back of the aircraft next to the couple in the back of us, and my brother and I sat in seat 20D and I sat in 20F.
After this session of musical chairs, the plane pushed back about 10 minutes late. We taxied to runway 28L, and passed a Spirit MD-80 doing a charter flight and an Aer Lingus 737-400 doing charter operations for Apple Vacations on the east ramp at Port Columbus. We were first in line for take off, and roared down the runway and lifted off. We made a quick turn to the left to avoid a large line of storm and headed east towards Pittsburgh. There was only a little bit of mild turbulence in the 28 minute flight. However in the middle of the flight, a high pitched noise, almost like a squeak, came from the rear of the cabin, and would not stop. It was extremely annoying, and finally ceased towards the middle of our decent. The plane began its decent through the grey clouds and the flight attendants began announcing gate assignments for connecting flight. Our connecting flight to San Diego was to depart from gate A10, and our aircraft was to arrive at gate B29. We made our decent into Pittsburgh and landed on a rain-soaked runway at about 5:05 PM. I looked at my watch and noticed my brother and I would have about 25 minutes to reach A10, as boarding for the flight to San Diego would begin at 5:30 PM. Our plane taxied towards gate B29 and stopped. We waited for a few moments, not sure what was going on. One of the flight attendants announced that another aircraft was at our assigned gate and would be pulling out shortly. I looked at my watch and watched as the minutes slipped away. As we waited I noticed that I could see Concourse A from my window, and was intrigued to see not an A321 at gate A10, which we were originally scheduled to fly into San Diego on, but an MD-80. I was not sure if there had been an aircraft change or a gate change for our flight to SAN. I then noticed an A321 at gate A14. I guessed that maybe that in fact was our flight. "Shortly" turned out to be about 15 minutes, and by the time the aircraft docked at the jetway, it was 5:30 PM. The flight attendant then announced that people making a connection to Richmond, VA had lost their flight and were booked on the next one out, but that all other flights were on schedule. While we were waiting to get off the plane, the aircraft lost electrical power, and the emergency lights went on. The cabin lights then turned on again for a few moments, and then shut off again. This happened about 4 times and needless to say, I was ready to get off the aircraft.
Since my brother and I were in the back of the aircraft, we were the last ones off the plane. We hurried up the jetway and found a USAirways representative there with a list of connecting flights. I asked her if she knew if flight 93 to San Diego was still on time, and she told me the flight would be leaving on time from gate A10. I looked at my brother and told him to run. We bolted down Concourse B and through the AirMall to Concourse A. Completely out of breath from the running and the fear that we might be late for our flight, we arrived at gate A10 to find not flight 93 to San Diego, but flight 1572 to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, PA! Quickly, we ran to gate A14, to see if that was our flight to San Diego. Instead, it was a flight to San Francisco. Panicked, we ran over to the departure monitors for USAirways to see if we could find our flight. Flight 93 to San Diego was not listed. So there we were, my brother and I, in the middle of a crowded terminal in Pittsburgh, with no idea if our connecting flight had departed, or where in Pittsburgh's over 100 gate facility our aircraft might be, and all the customer service desks were packed with agitated passengers.
I had been to PIT before, and remembered that there were more monitors in the atrium area. My brother and I ran over there and hastily looked for our flight. We finally found flight 93, set to depart at 7:25 from gate A1.
We breathed a sigh of relief, and figured it couldn't get any worse than what we had just gone through. Since the flight was delayed, we decided to just relax and forget about the whole ordeal we had just experienced. I took my brother to Sbarro for some pizza, then I showed him the tram that connected the E gates to Concourses A, B, C, and D. While on the tram, we heard a women exclaim to her boyfriend, "I would never take USAirways again even if you paid me!" Definitely not a good sign. I had not given up on USAirways yet, and we made our way back to gate A1. I was thrilled at the fact that this would be my first flight on an A321. We arrived at gate A1 to find it empty, and the board flashing that our departure time had been pushed back to 7:45 PM. So we sat down in the waiting area and I pulled out a USA Today I had bought earlier and my brother began to play his GameBoy.
August 31, 2001
USAirways flight 93 PIT-SAN
Gate A1 Seat 10B
Scheduled time of departure: 6:00 PM EST
At 7:45, the aircraft began boarding. I stepped on board the aircraft to find a very inviting cabin, which was clean and well lit. What I found interesting though, that the rows were not lined up straight. It was as if the D, E, and F seats were all pushed back just a little bit. So a person sitting in seat 12C, would not look across the aisle and see the person sitting in 12D, but the seat of the person sitting in 11D. I sat down in 10B, and my brother sat in 10C. Seated in 10A was a young man from Toronto, visiting his friend in San Diego for several days. The seats were comfortable, much better than the seats on our flight between CMH and PIT, and had a decent amount of legroom. The aircraft eventually began to pull away from the jetway, and the engines began to fire up. The aircraft proceeded to the taxiway and the safety video was presented. Darkness was setting in as flight 93 speeded down the runway and departed Pittsburgh at 8:30 PM. The intense "buzz saw" drone of the engines was very noticeable during takeoff and climb. Takeoff was very smooth, but lacked the impressiveness of the takeoff on a 757. After some mild turbulence, we reached a cruising altitude of 31,000 ft. The flight attendants began the beverage service, which consisted of a bag of snack mix and a cup of soda, juice, or other beverage. My brother and I were given each a bag of snack mix, however I found mine difficult to open. My brother jokingly offered to open it for me, and I jokingly declined his offer. I then pulled forcefully on either side of the bag. This resulted in the bag exploding, sending it's contents showering on me, my brother, the other person seated next to me, and the passengers in the rows in front, and in the back of me. After a moment of silence, we all burst out laughing. I looked inside the completely torn bag to find half a pretzel and a piece of bagel chip was all that remained. The flight attendant laughingly handed me another bag of snack mix and I promised him it wouldn't happen again. I let my brother open it this time. After that, the movie "Someone Like You" was played. Since the movie was not of interest to me, I did not buy the headsets. Dinner was later served in the main cabin. It was a choice between Yankee Pot Roast, or Ziti in meat sauce. My brother asked for the ziti, while I asked for the pot roast. I looked at my brother's pasta, which did not look appetizing at all. After I finished the salad that was also included in the meal, I unwrapped the foil cover to find not the pot roast I had asked for, but a steaming bowl of ziti with meat sauce. The noodles and cheese were the only edible part of the dish, as the little greyish-brown chunks of meat looked like something my dog vomited. Dinner was also accompanied by a roll with butter and a piece of cake with cream cheese icing. The flight was smooth and uneventful all the way to San Diego. There were a few bumps while the aircraft was descending and the buzz saw noise was noticeable again during part of the decent. The high point of the flight was the magnificent view of downtown San Diego as our A321 approached Lindbergh Field. The aircraft touched down in San Diego at approximately 9:50 PM PST. After a quick taxi to the gate, we disembarked the aircraft, thus ending our voyage to San Diego.
September 3, 2001
USAirways flight 86 SAN-PHL
Gate 19 Seat 14A
Scheduled time of departure: 6:45 AM PST
My brother and I arrived at Lindbergh Field at 6:05 AM, a little later than I wanted. The weather was mild and mostly cloudy. We found our flight on the information monitors and proceeded to gate 19. Gate 19 is in its own little corner of the airport, with its own security gate. It's also at ground level, so we had to use air stairs to board the A319. Boarding commenced promptly at 6:20 AM and we headed up the stairs and onto the airplane. The A319 interior was clean, well- lit, and inviting. Seat comfort was the same as in the A321, and an ample amount of legroom. I sat down in 14A and waited as the plane filled with passengers. The doors closed and a few moments after our A319 was being pushed back from gate 19. The flip-down LCD screens were lowered and the safety briefing was shown while we moved down the taxiway. In front of us was a United Express EMB-120 and a Southwest 737-700 in new colors. It was then our turn to takeoff. We sped down the runway and left the ground at 6:55 AM. I caught only a quick glimpse of San Diego as we climbed through cloud cover and into the early morning sunlight. We made a turn and then headed east. The mountain tops of California and Arizona could be seen protruding through the clouds from the plane. Beverage service was passed out, as well as headphones for the movie and music selection. The movie was "Dr. Doolittle 2". I thought it might be funny, so I decided to buy the headphones. The movie was pretty corny, but the audio selection was pretty good. Breakfast was served during the movie. It was a choice of either french toast or an omelette. I chose the french toast. The breakfast platter consisted of two small, thick pieces of french toast, two sausage patties, two pieces of zucchini nut bread (which was extremely good), a fruit platter consisting of orange pieces and grapes, and a chocolate mint. Overall, a very good breakfast. We were served one more beverage service towards the end of the close to 5-hour flight. The rest of the flight was uneventful, except for a few bumps around Illinois or Indiana. I did get a complete panoramic view of Pittsburgh, PA from the plane, including downtown and the airport. As we neared Philadelphia, the plane began to experience some nasty turbulence. The weather was clear, and we weren't jolted around or bumped up and down. Instead, we were continuously pushed into our seats and then pushed back out as if the plane was suddenly going down, and then straight back up again. I had never experienced anything like this in clear weather. This lasted for about 15 minutes, the aircraft then turned and made it's approach into PHL. We touched down exceptionally smoothly, and taxied towards the terminal. Visible from our aircraft were several USAirways A330's, a British Airways 747-400, and row upon row of USAirways narrowbody aircraft. We arrived at gate C20 right on time.
September 3, 2001
USAirways flight 873 PHL-CMH
Gate C18 Seat 7A
Estimated time of departure: 3:30 PM EST
We barely got to see any of Philadelphia International Airport, as our connecting flight to Columbus was boarding from the gate right next that we arrived at, and it was boarding once we arrived. From what I did see however, it looks like PHL is an exceptionally nice airport. Plenty of shops and restaurants, terrazzo floors, and lots of light, but the concourses are somewhat narrow, at least Concourse C. We boarded the F-100 and I sat in seat 7C, so my brother could have the window seat. The aircraft was clean, and seemed much larger than what I remembered from when I flew the F-100 for the first time with American Airlines. I looked around my surroundings and noticed that I was completely surrounded by little children, ranging from about 2 years old to about 6. All of them had little toys that made annoying noises, and all of them seemed to like to yell...a lot. The aircraft pushed back from the gate promptly and we began to taxi towards the runways. We turned around and began to roll down the runway, all the while one of the kids in the row behind me was squealing "One...two...three! one...two...three! Wheee, mommy, wheeee!" Being seated towards the front of the aircraft, the roar of the engines was barely noticeable as we climbed to cruising altitude. The flight attendants passed out the beverage service which consisted of a bag of "SkyMix" and a drink. The rest of the flight I spent doing the crossword puzzle in USAirways' "Attache" magazine. After about an hour we started our decent, and the child in the row behind be began to wail. I felt sorry for the kid, as well as the mother, who was trying to calm her son down. She eventually succeeded. We arrived in Columbus early, under mostly sunny skies and a warm 87 degrees. We touched down and taxied to gate A3.
Flying on the A321 was nothing special. If I had the choice, I would go with a 757 over an A321 any day. This was also my first flight on an A319, which I enjoyed immensely. Both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia I found to be very nice airports, though I admit, I didn't get to see much of PHL. As for USAirways, unless they have the best price, I probably won't choose to fly with the again. Though short, the CMH-PIT flight was one of the most horrible flights I have ever experienced, and the flight between PIT and SAN was a disappointment as well. The flight between SAN and PHL was comparable to most of the other major airlines I have flown on, and the PHL-CMH run was just fine.
On a scale from 1 to 10, 10 being the best:
On time performance: 8 (the PIT-SAN flight was weather delay, so I won't count it against them)
Customer service: 3 ( misinformation in PIT and overall uncaring flight attendants)
Aircraft comfort: 5
Connecting airports: 6