Aug 012012

I know I normally write about international travel, things that are confusing or more difficult to figure out…or places that many people haven’t been to.  However, I had a rather “typical” domestic trip this past week that I thought might be worth sharing.  I was originally planning on driving down to Charlotte due to it only being six hours or so, but when US Airways had a weekend sale it was definitely worth it.  See, unlike Delta and United, the US Airways weekend fares allow you go to go on Saturday and return Sunday.  The others make you stay until Monday.  Flight times planned around flights that were two cabin, and I was off!

Got to DCA about 70 minutes before my flight, which was more than enough.  I’d had my boarding pass sent to my iPhone, and I’d estimate total time from metro to the other side of security at 10-15 minutes absolute max.  I was at the centre pier at DCA, so there was no US Airways lounge there – only the American one and the closed United one.  With no way to get in, I waited a few minutes in the common areas recharging my phone and guzzling water, and soon it was time to board.  Just one note:  in the past week the United club has been converted into a second US Airways Club at DCA, so there’s now another option for people with access here.  This will be nice in the future!

US Airways Express operated by Republic Airlines Flight 3183
Washington National (DCA) to Charlotte (CLT)
Depart 10:55, Arrive 12:21, Flight Time 1:26
Embraer E-175, Registration N116HQ, Seat 3A

Boarding was completely on time, friendly, and efficient.  Took the flight attendants a little time to take pre-departure drink orders, but they were more than happy to do so.  Can’t really say anything out of the ordinary here.  Crew was friendly and polite, everything was on-time, and my upgrade cleared at the time of booking.  All in all, what I would consider an absolutely perfect domestic experience.  Now, a quick pic of the hair of the dog, aka bloody mary #1 of 2 on this flight:

Landed in Charlotte a couple minutes early, quick taxi, and to the gate a few minutes ahead of schedule.  Had an hour to kill before my brother arrived on Delta with the car reservation, so had a quick lunch at BoJangles.  Mmmm, can’t go wrong with chicken and biscuits, especially when you don’t have access to it all that often.  Can’t be THAT bad for you!

Had a nice day and night in Charlotte, as well as a nice morning, and soon it was time to head back.  I’ve flown to Charlotte several times, but never in the past year.  Decided I’d get there 90 minutes in advance just in case.  Again, had my boarding pass sent to my phone, was dropped at the kerb at T-90, and was ready to roll the dice.  TSA folks must have sensed I’ve traveled a few times, and advised me there was TSA Pre-Check at Checkpoint B…so off I went.  A quick scan of my iPhone, a cursory glance at my ID and I was sent to a special security line.  iPad and liquids still in bag, shoes still on, walked through the metal detector, and it was kerb to other side of security in 5 minutes maximum – I suspect it was closer to 3.  Best security experience post-9/11 by far.  I am loving pre-Check!

Now, over an hour to kill and what to do?  I was hungry, but not thrilled with any of the options.  Decided to settle on Chilis and at least have a hangout with my friend El Presidente.  Here’s where it gets fun – seems he’s cooler than ever, since there’s now El Presidente Platinum margarita!  WIN!  However, one small problem.  “Sir, you’re not from here…are you?”  Um, no, why?  “We can’t serve you until after noon on a Sunday in North Carolina.”  Wow, I assumed living in Virginia I’d seen it all, but nope.  She couldn’t even take my order…but did show up at precisely 12:00:01 to take it…and it was delicious.

Off to the gate, got there maybe 5 minutes later just as boarding was about to start.  The eight seats in first were two elite members and six US Airways employees.  Shocking a hub to hub flight wouldn’t have more elites on a Sunday!  If this were United or Delta…forget it!

US Airways Express operated by Republic Airlines Flight 3188
Charlotte (CLT) to Washington National (DCA)
Depart 13:10, Arrive 14:35, Flight Time 1:25
Embraer E-175, Registration N117HQ, Seat 3A

Like the previous flight, boarding was quick, pre-departure beverages took 5-10 min, but everything was good.  I asked the flight attendant for a new magazine since the crossword was done in mine, but unfortunately despite going seat to seat she couldn’t find one.  Being the 29th of the month, I shouldn’t be surprised.  Again, everything was on time, blah blah blah, and exactly what you’d expect on an upgraded domestic first experience.  Can’t say much, so I’ll let the Bacardi and Diet do the talking:

Landed 10 minutes early at DCA, were at the gate two minutes later, and less than 10 minutes later I was on the worst part of the trip:  the Washington Metro – where it was 24 minutes until the next train.  Giant embarrassment to capital of the “free world.”  Enough said, I don’t want to get started on a metro rant!

In summary, US Airways Express:

  • On Time
  • Decent munchies and drinks – equal to mainline of the same distance
  • Friendly staff
  • Comfortable seats
  • Wouldn’t hesitate to do the exact same thing for the same price on the same route

I’m a fan of saying all domestic airlines are the same these days, but US Airways Express at least lived up to that, and were maybe a little better.  At least there were two classes, which as an elite member really does make all the different in your experience!


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