Getting from Spokane to Los Angeles on a Sunday after Bloomsday, a major running race in Spokane, was not as easy or as cheap as I would like. My options were fairly limited as I had to fly out after the race had finished and get to LAX in time to connect to a flight to Australia. I could either travel with Frontier via Denver, Alaska via Seattle and US Airways via Phoenix. None very cheap! I chose US Airways which is a big step for me! I had studiously avoided them for years after some terrible flights. More recently, I have been surprised by the improvements in US Airways service.
Booking 10 out of 10
I could not fault US Airways fare finder and booking engine. I ended up using United points to “pay” for the flight. This flight cost me 25 000 points and $80 for First Class as opposed to $342 in Coach. Getting the frequent flyer point seat through United.com was just as easy except that I could not use the paypal option to pay the fees and taxes etc.
Check in 7 out of 10
I was unable to check in using the USAirways online system. There was no explanation why I could not check in online. I assumed because it was a United reward ticket? Check in at the small Spokane airport was easy, however. I chose seat 1A (bulkhead seat) on both sectors.
There was no priority line at the screening at Spokane airport. The screening line was also very slow.The guy in front of me was sent back four times. He had left his mobile, his wallet, coin purse and chewing gum in his pockets, his computer in his bag and his shoes on. I am not sure he listened to one instruction!
Boarding 6 out of 10
As a result, I reached the departure gate after boarding had started. As I approached the gate area, an announcement was made for “All Rows, All Zones” to board. The entire lounge stood up and surged forward. I saw no priority access line for First at Spokane. There was such a line at Phoenix for my Los Angeles bound flight.
As I stood in the long jetway line, one of the flight attendants popped her head out of the plane. She advised the ground staff that there was no overhead bin space left. They in turn advised us that all carry on bags would need to be checked in. The six people in front of me all turned to the ground crew members who began writing out check in labels for the bags. As checking bags is against my religion, I snuck around them and boarded the plane. I asked the FA if First was really full. She said “yes”. Glancing up, I saw a small space and said “Can I try?” She invited me to try and said “we will just check it if it does it fit”
I had to find space for two bags as you cannot have luggage on the floor, in the front bulkhead seats. Bag rearranging to me, is like playing Tetris, a game I love. First of all I moved (with its owner’s permission) a small blue bag that was taking up half an overhead bin. In slid my roll aboard bag. The blue bag fitted neatly with a brown bag in the other half of the bin. On the opposite side, I moved one bag three cm (about an inch) to the right, another two centimetres to the left (less than an inch) and reversed another. In went my computer bag. The FA watched and when I was done expressed how impressed she was. “Flying 110 times a year has trained me well! I smiled back. I am interested that in some airlines in the world, the flight crews do the luggage rearranging and on others, they just watch the chaos unfold. Is there a pattern to this?
As I sat down, the flight attendant, offered a drink. On neither sector did they say what was available. I actually asked on the second flight and found out there were both alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks.
On the first flight, I had an orange juice and a water. On the second flight I ordered a glass of Red wine and ended up also having my neighbour’s glass of white wine (Yes, there is a story there!). All drinks came in plastic glasses.
Take off: 10 out of 10
We pushed back quickly and efficiently. There was no pause as we entered the runway and we immediately began our take off run. Initially it was a very smooth take off. There was a bit of bounce from the winds as we climbed. Overall, it was a very smooth flight with a bit of rough air, over what I presumed was Nevada. Both flights landed a little earlier than scheduled.
On Board: 7 out of 10
The Airbus A319s on both sectors were groaning with passengers. On my first sector seat 1B was empty. (I had showered after my race) but on the second sector, all 12 First Class and 112 Coach Class seats were filled.
The First Class seats are arranged 2/2 have a 37″ pitch (distance between seats) and are 21″ wide. Down “the back”, the seats are arranged 3/3 and have a 31″ pitch and 18″ width. Be warned: Row 9 in Economy in the emergency exit which is arranged 2/2 is one of the worst seat options on any plane. Not only do they not recline but they actually lean forward and there is no extra leg room.
On the first sector from Spokane, the captain welcomed us on board and encouraged us to enjoy the fantastic on board service. Fantastic? That is how I would describe Emirates or Air New Zealand service! I am saddened at the on-going devaluation of air service in our price competitive world but also guilty of wanting to fly over a thousand miles for $80 and get great service. This is highlighted by the devaluation of the word “First class” in this context. A definition of First Class is: Of the foremost excellence or highest quality. This rarely applies in a US airline context anymore.
Having said that the flight attendants were all fantastic. I found them friendly, warm and considerate. My drink glass was rarely empty on the two flights. -Thank you.
Meals: 4 out of 10
In the modern world of US Airways First Class, the meal is choice of nice snacks from a small basket brought around by the Flight attendant. These snacks included cookies, pretzels and crackers. There seemed to be no limits as to how much we could have from the little basket. This is not quite the meal one gets on a Virgin Australia Business Class domestic flight. I understand that full meals are available on day time US Airways flights over 3.5 hours.
The economy passengers were offered free drinks and the option to buy snacks or snack boxes. I was interested that first class were neither offered the option of buying the snack boxes or getting one for free. Some of the options sounded nice. Only credit and debit cards are accepted for meal purchases.
Entertainment: 0 out of 10
There was no wifi available either.
My rating: Overall 67% (3.85 out of 5)- my overall rating of US Airways flights: 3.3 (based on 19 flights) so this year’s flights are much improved on the past
Skytrax Rating of US Airways: 3 star
Positives: Cabin Crew, Website
Negatives: Meal and Entertainment
Would I fly them again? Yes
My last trip Report: May 1: My controversial American Airlines post on JFK to Buenos Aires