Star Alliance to Phoenix, oneworld Back (Trip Report)

Each of the last several years, I’ve gone to Phoenix in the spring for both US Airways media day and the Phoenix Aviation Symposium. But this year, US Airways is now American and headquarters isn’t in Phoenix. So it was a strange feeling preparing for this trip knowing that most of the US Airways folks I know wouldn’t be around. I bought my ticket from Long Beach for $209 roundtrip, and I’d fly a Star Alliance carrier out but a oneworld airline back thanks to the planned switch on March 31.

It was an early morning so my wife wasn’t going to drive me to the airport. I thought I’d try UberX but there was nothing in the area, so I just cabbed it instead. Unfortunately, the cab got to my house a little early and I was at the airport about an hour before departure. At Long Beach Airport that’s way too early.

I had Pre Check on my boarding pass, so I sailed through security. Has anyone else seen the TSA stamping process get out of control? My boarding pass had 6 imprints from 3 different stamps.

TSA PreCheck Boarding Pass

Once through, I had time to kill so I just logged on and sifted through emails that had come in overnight. Soon we were boarding.

March 29, 2014
US Airways Express 2727 Lv Long Beach 645a Arr Phoenix 811a (operated by Mesa)
Long Beach (LGB): Gate 2, Runway 30, Depart 5m Early
Phoenix (PHX): Gate B19, Runway 7R, Arrive 8m Early
N249LR, Bombardier CRJ-900, Standard US Airways colors, ~75% Full
Seat 11F, Coach
Flight Time 55m

It was a light load of about 60 on our ex-PLUNA CRJ-900 and boarding was pretty leisurely. I strolled on and saw plenty of empty overhead bins – a fun side effect when everyone brings roller bags that won’t fit. My duffel, however, went right in.

My streak of having people sitting in my seat continued as a girl had already parked herself in 11F. I smiled and told her it was my seat. She asked, “11A”? Nope, not quite. So she gladly moved over to the other side. I, meanwhile, cursed myself for picking this seat.

11F is a non-reclining row in front of the exit. That doesn’t bug me at all on a sub-1 hour flight (or on most flights for that matter since I rarely if ever recline in coach). But in an airplane with nearly all windows misaligned with the seats, this was one of the worst. My view:

Window View on CRJ-900 Seat 11F

After all the safety announcements and the spiel about being a “proud member” of the Star Alliance, we pushed back 5 minutes early. That was stupid because airplanes can’t take off until 7a in Long Beach. We got to the end of the runway and sat for about 15 minutes for that reason. Finally, we were airborne.

It was a surprisingly bouncy ride at altitude considering the weather looked so benign. At one point, the flight attendants came on and asked people to make sure everything was secured. But once we started descending it smoothed out. We landed and soon I was on my way to seeing family and friends for a few days before the main event.

The Symposium was great as always. I was on a panel about “the digital age” in air travel and the customer impact. I’m still working on figuring out which posts to write from the entire event.

The conference was at the Westin Kierland, and I can’t say I was overly impressed with the property. It seems to be showing its age a little, and the signature things I usually expect from Starwood (most notably, power outlets everywhere) were not to be found here.

The last night I stayed at the Aloft right near the Phoenix airport. They have a shuttle but the property is only a half block away from the Sky Train which goes right into Terminal 4. I decided to take that.

Phoenix Sky Train

The train is what you’d expect it to be. Driverless and frequent, it, so far, only takes you from the 44th St station (where the Phoenix light rail meets it) to the East Economy parking lot and then on to Terminal 4 where both Southwest and American/US Airways fly (among others).

The stations seemed pretty extravagant with many artistic touches. Of course, I spent almost no time there as I headed to my flight. I had Pre Check once again and there wasn’t a line at this time of day on a Saturday. Still, I was slowed down by the couple in front of me who decided to argue that since one person had Pre Check on the boarding pass, the other should be able to go with. That didn’t get them very far.

I got to the gate and noticed that all oneworld signage had gone up. (This apparently happened systemwide overnight on March 30/31.)

US Airways oneworld

Shortly, we were boarding.

April 5, 2014
US Airways Express 2819 Lv Phoenix 747a Arr Long Beach 909a (operated by Mesa)
Phoenix (PHX): Gate B3, Runway 7L, Depart 2m Early
Long Beach (LGB): Gate 2, Runway 30, Arrive 4m Early
N244LR, Bombardier CRJ-900, Standard US Airways colors, ~99% Full
Seat 9A, Coach
Flight Time 1h1m

The was another ex-PLUNA aircraft, and it has a different configuration than the non-PLUNA ones. Most noticeably, the first row in coach has a single seat on the A side and the row numbers are different. The night before, seat 9A showed up when I checked in so I gladly switched and the view was certainly better than on the way out.

We pushed back and made our way to the western end of the runways for an eastbound departure. The flight was routine, though we seemed a bit further south on approach than usual. I had a great view of Orange County Airport. We landed, parked quickly, and I was glad to be home.

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