Trip Report: Flaaaaaaridah

And so begins the wedding season. Fortunately, the first wedding of six this year happened to be a couple hours away from a conference I was attending near Tampa just a few days earlier.

Jackpot!

I ended up flying into TPA on US for $169.30 and back out of MCO on AA for $297.90. With the exception of a very, very bad bathroom and some talkative seatmates, the trips all went well.


March 25, 2007
US Airways #1490 Lv Los Angeles (LAX) 710a Arr Charlotte (CLT) 236p
LAX: Gate 8, Runway 24L, Dept 6m Late
CLT: Gate B8, Runway 36L, Arr On Time
Aircraft: N183UW, Airbus A321, Old Navy US Airways colors, ~99% Full
Flight Time: 4h16m
Seat: 21A, Coach
07_04_01 US321The 5a alarm came as a rude awakening, but within a few minutes I was showered and ready to go. There was no traffic at that time of the morning and I made it to LAX within an hour of rolling out of bed. Security took about 10 minutes, but a lot of that was due the fact that I had a laptop, a sweatshirt, and shoes to pull out.US recently switched gates with Southwest so that now US Airways has most of the even numbered gates and Southwest has all the odd ones. Unfortunately I couldn’t figure that out in advance because the flight information displays weren’t working. So, I wandered down until I saw the gate.07_04_01 US AlcoveWe boarded on time and the flight attendant gladly let me hang my suit in the closet. This was an A321 in the old configuration. US Airways is in the process of cramming in more seats and the closet is disappearing as part of the process. Then I took my seat in what should be called the alcove. Seats 21 A, B, and C are right behind the mid-cabin lav where the exit door is located. There is a ton of legroom, and unlike the 757, there is no slide bulging into the window seat’s personal space. The only downside is that there isn’t a window in that row, but it’s worth it for the space.

We took off into the marine layer and I promptly conked out. I woke up an hour or two later as we bounced our way over Texas. The flight attendants were friendly and set up a little cart outside the lav with a trash bag, some water, and a pack of pretzels.

We landed at 230p but our connecting flight wasn’t until 530p. I knew there was a 415p flight, so we went over to the customer service desk to ask to be put on the standby list. The agent was hunched over her computer with a scowl waiting to jump out at the next victim to approach her position (that’d be us). She typed awhile and then growled that it would cost $25 a person to confirm a seat. I told her we didn’t care that much and we just wanted to go standby. She said that since there were seats available, she couldn’t do that. We had to pay. Instead, we walked away knowing we had been told a lie.

07_04_01 CLT BathroomAt that point, I was lucky enough to find the worst airport bathroom I’ve seen in a long time. Now I’m used to the graffiti-filled bathrooms of LAX, but this was worse. As you can tell, the floor was flooded, and I’m not sure whether it was actually all water on the floor. You can see the gentleman staring at a stall toward the back. He probably followed his nose. That stall in the back looked like a bomb had been dropped on it. It was extremely clogged and there clearly was no attempt to fix it. The custodian in the bathroom hadn’t even closed the door to block the view. Half the stall doors didn’t lock right and the others had trouble opening. The sinks were dirty and there were paper towels all over the floor under the sinks. Good times.

So with that beautiful view stuck in my head, I headed over to the gate to find a nice-looking US 757 in the new colors waiting for us. We went up to the podium, asked to go standby, and were promptly given boarding passes for middle seats (there were only 4 available seats on the whole plane) without having to pay a cent. It was tough giving up my confirmed first class window seat on the 530p for a middle seat in coach on the 415p, but for a one hour flight, I’d rather have the extra time in Tampa.

I soon had second thoughts about that decision.


March 25, 2007
US Airways #1751 Lv Charlotte (CLT) 415p Arr Tampa (TPA) 556p
CLT: Gate B12, Runway 36R, Dept 28m Late
TPA: Gate F87, Runway 36L, Arr 3m Late
Aircraft: N939UW, Boeing 757-200, New US Airways colors, ~99% Full
Flight Time: 1h1m
Seat: 10E, Coach07_04_01 US757We boarded to find a very dirty aircraft on the inside. There were crumbs all over my very worn and dirty seat. Though the ashtrays were permanently sealed, one of them was covered with what looked like aluminum foil. I won’t even try and describe the strange sticky liquid on my tray table. After taking my seat, my seatmates soon arrived.Torturer #1 was a very large man. He wasn’t fat, but he was thick. I’m glad I had pulled down the armrest because it was the only thing keeping him from spilling over. As if that weren’t bad enough, he smelled like he had just smoked 150 cigarettes in a row. He took the aisle.Then Torturer #2 arrived. She took her seat in the window and with her wraspy New York accent began telling me how she had almost missed her flight. She then proceeded to talk for the rest of the flight as I tried to open my book and read. Of course, that didn’t work, and I learned far more than I’d ever need to know about her. By the time we landed, I was ready to hang myself from the ceiling.

On the bright side, the crew was good. Before we left, the captain announced he was going to keep getting updates on the Florida/Oregon basketball game throughout the flight. The first update came while on the ground. The flight attendant said she didn’t want to announce it because some passengers were recording the game so she walked up and down the aisle whispering the score to those who wanted to know. We got the final score in flight and she did it once again but this time she had it written down on a paper.

We sat on the ground for a loooong time waiting to depart. It seemed like the time between departures was really long, so I imagine we were being spaced in between arrivals as well. I didn’t pay much attention though because I was busy talking to my new best friend sitting next to me.

Once airborne, the flight was routine. I had a Ginger Ale and an anemic pack of pretzels. (Bring back peanuts!) Florida was clear and we had a great view in on the mostly smooth descent. After landing, we parked next to the BA 777 and picked up our car – a burnt orange Mitsubishi Eclipse.

In between the conference and the wedding, I was able to squeeze in some cool things. Thursday I headed to Dodgertown to see them play the Mets. Saturday before the wedding, we went to Fantasy of Flight, a pretty amazing collection of aircraft. We showed up at the right time and saw a P-51 demonstration flight.

A week after I arrived, it was finally time to come home. The wedding was a lot of fun, and I was feeling the after-effects in the morning. Ugh. Even though I flew into Tampa, I decided to fly out of Orlando because there was a midday nonstop flight and those are hard to find from Florida to the West Coast.

The drive took about an hour, and it only required 2 different toll roads. I challenge anyone to get to the Orlando airport without taking toll roads. I’m guessing it can’t be done. Once we did get there, we had trouble finding the rental car return. Either the signage was poor or I was too hungover to be able to figure it out.


April 1, 2007
American #247 Lv Orlando (MCO) 120p Arr Los Angeles (LAX) 355p
MCO: Gate 14, Runway 18L, Dept 8m Late
LAX: Gate 48B, Runway 25R, Arr 6m Late
Aircraft: N690AA, Boeing 757-200, Silver colors, ~99% Full
Flight Time: 5h2m
Seat: 25A, CoachI had already checked in online, so I headed to security for a brief 10 minute wait. Then, I went to the gate agent and asked if I could get an exit row window and she said that unfortunately the flight was full. When I went to board about half an hour later, she took my boarding pass and apologized for not being able to get me a better seat. I was surprised she even remembered.Once onboard, it was a nice and easy flight. The flight attendants were very good and spent plenty of time serving drinks and selling food. Apparently American doesn’t even offer free pretzels anymore.We bounced through the cloud tops until we hit Houston. Then it cleared up and we had a nice ride the rest of the way. For the first time I can remember, we flew right over Phoenix at cruise altitude. It’s definitely a different perspective on the city, but unfortunately my picture came out worse than my normally bad pictures, so I didn’t upload it.After landing, we had to wait about 15 minutes before our gate opened up. Air Traffic Control kept bouncing us around the taxiways since there wasn’t a place for us to park and wait. We finally docked a few minutes late and I was on my way home.

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5 Responses to Trip Report: Flaaaaaaridah

  1. Where is the carpet picture?

  2. CF says:

    No interesting carpet to point out this time. The flooded bathroom floor will have to do!

  3. Patrick says:

    Yep, that flight to Tampa sounds like a pretty typical east coast flight from Charlotte for US Air… I know on the feeder flights between Charlotte and Raleigh, you never want to be on the plane in the evening, because these days it seems like they don’t bother to clean it at all during the day.

  4. flyingcat says:

    Actually it is not a lie that you have to pay to move up. Because there are seats available they confirm you right then and there. If there are no seats available then you are put on the waitlist and you do not pay.

  5. Zach says:

    Sorry for the delayed, long-winded comments on old posts (as you know, I just recently discovered your blog), but here’s a bit of FL-related airline minutiae that you and your readers may find useful.

    So I flew an interesting airline this weekend: USA 3000. It was my first attempt at this strange little airline, and I give it a mixed report card.

    This all A-320 operation is actually a holding of Apple Vacations and specializes in flying snowbirds to international destinations in the Carribbean, but it is a diamond in the rough for frequent travelers from the east coast and midwest to FL. Airfares are nearly fixed, harkening back to the days before deregulation. For instance, it’s always $174 RT Chicago-St. Petersburg (that’s right–PIE is still alive and well, with Allegiant Air and USA 3000 representing the bulk of the commercial traffic, and all boarding is done via airstairs).

    What’s bizarre is exactly how they cut corners. First, there is no online check-in, and boarding passes are actually hand-written (this leads to frustratingly long check-in lines). Also, if you’re flying out of ORD, all flights–even domestic roundtrips–leave from terminal 5, which is normally reserved for international flag carriers (interestingly, USA 3000 is permanently blocked in at this terminal and is the only domestic airline to operate out of it).

    Also, the route structure is more like a city bus than an airline. The outbound flight to from ORD makes a quick stop to offload the Disney World crowd and take on Chicago-bound pax in Orlando, then makes the 15-minute hop to PIE to drop off the Tampa Bay-bound passengers before flying back to Chicago for its last leg of the night.

    Anyway, the point of this is that, despite the fact that you feel as though you’re entering a bygone era of commercial aviation, USA 3000 is not a horrible option for those who frequently travel to FL (if you’re like me, you have a girlfriend/grandparent/other elderly relative or some combo thereof down there and are obligated to make an appearance at least a few times per year). Just be able to stomach the long check-in ordeal, the hoards of first-time and leisure flyers, and the somewhat out-of-the way terminals that the airline uses.

    Sorry again for the length of this comment, but perhaps it’s helpful to the FL crew out there.

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