Mesa Makes It Harder to Choose Long Beach (Trip Report)

Trip Reports, US Airways

I’m still on the road, so how about a report of the last time I took a trip? This was from earlier this month when I went to Phoenix. As a reminder, I will be slower at approving any flagged comments and responding to any emails. I’ll be back as usual on Monday.

Are you tired of reading trip reports? Well I’m tired of traveling. But alas, this is the busy season, and only two days after returning from Boston, I was off to Phoenix for one of my favorite conferences, the Phoenix Aviation Symposium. Since my brother, who lives in Phoenix, recently had his first child, my wife and kids decided to tag along and make a whole family trip of it.

The tickets weren’t cheap. Each ran $306.20 roundtrip. I didn’t even look at LAX to see if it could save money, but it’s hard to keep acting that way when the only thing American/US Airways brings to Long Beach is a tired and dirty Mesa CRJ-900.

We all checked in online, and thanks to the US Airways credit card, we didn’t have to pay for the one checked bag we brought. Knowing we still had to drop it off at the counter, we added a little buffer and left home an hour and 10 minutes before departure. We didn’t need it.

It took no time at all to check the bag and go through security. As always seems to be the case, we had time to kill before our flight even started boarding.

US Airways Mesa Long Beach

May 6, 2015
US Airways Express 5632 Lv Long Beach 435p Arr Phoenix 557p (operated by Mesa)
Long Beach (LGB): Gate 2, Runway 30, Depart 4m Early
Phoenix (PHX): Gate B19, Runway 25L, Arrive 7m Early
N243LR, Bombardier CRJ-900, Final US Airways colors, 100% Full
Seat 16C
Flight Time 1h1m

Once we had walked up the ramp, we headed toward the back to grab our seats. This airplane only joined the Mesa fleet a little over 2 years ago, but you wouldn’t know it from the way the interior looked. This one had worn and cracked leather all over. But even worse than that was the disgusting state of the windows.

Dirty Mesa Window CRJ-900

I wish photos could do this justice, but they can’t. In my row, in between the two panes I found all kinds of dirt and grime that had built up. And the windows themselves were so dirty that it obscured the outside view dramatically. It was a very clear day outside but you wouldn’t know it.

Another Dirty Mesa Window View

I understand that this has nothing to do with the safety of the aircraft, but from a customer perception standpoint, it makes people feel less confident that the airline is taking care of its airplanes. I tweeted American about this, and they asked me for full information so they could investigate. Hopefully someone over there tells Mesa to get its act together.

I had my son next to me on this flight with my wife and daughter behind us. He didn’t want to sit down, and I was nervous that this would be a long flight, but I was pleasantly surprised. We pushed back a little early and when that happened he all of a sudden was happy to buckle up. It wasn’t long before we were airborne and above the scattered cloud layer. I couldn’t see much, but it looked like a nice day.

Son Reads Safety Card Mesa CRJ-900

I was able to keep my son entertained for awhile. We started with a thorough review of the safety card. Then we moved on to a sticker book. Once he got bored, I whipped out some snacks. When the flight attendant came through, I let him have some apple juice, so he was happy. (That’s a treat, since we don’t often give him juice.)

By the time he had finished, we were already beginning our slow descent into Phoenix. I was fighting the beginnings of a cold, so I had some trouble keeping my ears cleared as we came down. But they didn’t stay clogged for long, and soon, we were circling around to land back to the west.

It was a postcard-perfect day in Phoenix, and I got a great shot of the lineup in Terminal 4. That new American tail makes the airplane look bigger, doesn’t it? I still don’t like it.

American US Airways Phoenix

My wife and kids went off with my family as I made a beeline direct to the symposium. After a couple days there, I joined the family for the weekend. I even squeezed in a Diamondbacks game on Saturday night. But Sunday morning came and it was time to head home.

We got to the airport about an hour and 15 minutes early and it was pretty quiet. We had checked in online, but had to drop the bag again. That took all of a minute or two. Then we headed upstairs and went through security, which was also empty. (The kids were given Pre Check both directions, which didn’t matter, but was still interesting.)

Once through, we found our gate and waited. The aircraft showed up on time but there was some commotion in the gate area as the single agent looked frazzled. First he made an announcement that there was one First Class seat left, and if anyone wanted it for $65, they could have it. Someone took him up on the offer.

Then I heard him on the phone. There were a couple of broken seats on the airplane (hooray, Mesa!) and the flight was full so it was time for musical chairs. It sounds like he emptied one seat by getting that other person to pay for First (give that man a raise for bringing in that revenue, American). But as for the other? No clue what happened to that person.

Either way, we got on board and took our seats.

May 10, 2015
US Airways Express 5563 Lv Phoenix 1035a Long Beach 1159a (operated by Mesa)
Phoenix (PHX): Gate B7, Runway 25R, Depart 6m Late
Long Beach (LGB): Gate 2, Runway 30, Arrive 7m Early
N934FJ, Bombardier CRJ-900, Final US Airways colors, 100% Full
Seat 17C
Flight Time 56m

The seats looked pretty worn on this airplane as well, and the sidewall was dirty. Here’s a shot of both, though the light and shadows on the seat makes it tough to see how worn it is.

Dirty Mesa Walls/Seats CRJ-900

Once we were settled in, I remembered that US Airways had an online baggage tracker. I pulled it up and sure enough, it showed our bag as having been scanned as boarded on the airplane. That’s a great relief. It’ll be nice when they bring that to American as well. (I’m told it’s coming.)

Though the official record shows us leaving 5 minutes early, that’s a lie. We actually started moving 6 minutes late, but they kicked the brakes early and we just sat at the gate for awhile. While we waited I looked around. I couldn’t help but notice the emergency exit handle cover that had fallen down on the right side. They kept trying to put it back up but it wouldn’t stay.

Emergency Exit Handle Problem Mesa CRJ-900

Air traffic was already heading west, much earlier in the day than it normally flips, so that meant a quick taxi and we were airborne in the right direction.

We shook things up this time with my wife sitting with my son, and he promptly fell asleep. Lucky. Meanwhile my daughter was wide awake but she was in a good mood.

The seatbelt sign never came off despite it being a nice ride the whole way. Well, it wasn’t a nice ride for me. That cold had developed further, and my right ear promptly plugged up. It started to get uncomfortable, but I did get it to equalize at altitude. Once we started coming down, however, it got worse and hurt a lot.

Service was fine with just a beverage and snack cart passing through. I wouldn’t expect anything more. Once we landed, I took one kid to get the car while my wife took the other to grab the bag. We were home within half an hour of landing. I love this airport, but can we get a different express carrier, please? Or at least make Mesa pay better attention to the interiors of its airplanes.

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26 comments on “Mesa Makes It Harder to Choose Long Beach (Trip Report)

  1. Mesa has taken over a lot of the American Eagle flying DFW to HOU Hobby. I’ve flown it several times. Their operations are horrible. Massive delays if it runs at all in the evenings back to Hobby. In fact I had three of these trips in a month and two of the three flights back to Hobby were cancelled and the third was seriously delayed (3+ hours). Mishandled luggage even after those massive delays. I’ve recently switched from UA to American but I’ll be avoiding those Hobby Mesa flights on AA at Hobby and I’ll be making the much longer trip back to IAH hoping to get AA mainline. Mesa “killed my dreams” of more convenient Hobby flights.

  2. I was just on a CRJ-900 from Endeavor that was in decent shape but the last time I was on a 50 seater it was pathetic and tired. Most of the time I try to avoid regionals just to get on larger (more comfortable) aircraft but hadn’t thought about the general housekeeping aspect. Those tiny aircraft have no place for the filth to hide, whereas they should be extra aware of the cleanliness. Just my 2 cents.

  3. I took Mesa from LAX to RNO and back this month. Both planes were very late (outbound 3+ hours no announcement at the gate as to why, inbound 1.5 hours late and the first flight of the day)and dirty. The next time I’ll take SWA and brave the experience. I am learning to avoid anything marked “Eagle”. What a horribly run operation. It reminds me of Vanguard Airlines

    1. This is why AA needs to be careful about each of the operators under the Eagle brand. One cruddy operator ruins the whole brand.

      IMHO, Mesa should be watching out for this themselves. Their US Airways/American contract runs through 2021, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they just got dropped at that time. Leaving them solely flying for United..

  4. I flew a Skywest CRJ-900 recently. The aircraft was clean and the cabin appeared to be well maintained. Delta Comfort+ helped make the long 3 hour flight tolerable.

  5. I always just assumed that CRJ’s came off the assembly line pre-dirtied and with 10% of the trays and wall panels pre-broken. Personally, I’ve yet to take a flight that would disprove my theory…

    1. Grichard, you got it backwards. The plane isn’t airworthy unless 10% of the trays and the wall panels are pre-broken. Its a strange Volkswagon-eque interaction of the whole system.

  6. I LOVE the fact that PSA is taking over the Charlotte base. I travel 150 flights/year, and Mesa is the lowest quality operation in the US/AA family. You know quality when you see it, and they don’t have it.

  7. “Operated bys” are a travesty that should not be tolerated in modern-day airliner travel. DOT: Shame on you for you allowing this to happen.

    If US wants to operate from LGB to PHX, let them do it using their own planes and crew. If they want to farm the service out to Mesa, then call it a Mesa flight and have it marketed and sold as a Mesa flight and I will consider and decide on that type of service as a Mesa flight, not that of US.

    This practice of farming out service to a regional and having it operate it as a US-marketed flight to me is and always will be an abomination that should not be tolerated.

    1. What’s the difference? Either way you are informed ahead of time, and either way Mesa operates the flight. Travesty? Abomination? Its just sub-contracting, get over it.

  8. I drive between PHX & LA … that way I know the grime and grit is all mine :) … call me nostalgic, or sentimental or cheap, but I struggle with the concept of paying $1,200++ to haul the family of 4 in lieu of a 5 – 6 hour drive. Back in the day, one could do that trip for $450 – $600. I know, I know, inflation, fuel, gotta pay the staff, etc. etc. etc. Yes the airlines have to make a profit, but it is tough to swallow the current cost of air travel. Ok, here is a TBT memory … $9 airfare PHX ONT on either HP or WN!!! those were the days!

    1. John E – I tend to agree. We drove to Phoenix last time, but this time we had time constraints and really didn’t have a choice. It’s not easy doing that drive with 2 little kids anyway. It takes a lot more than 5 or 6 hours with them.

  9. I’m wondering if the dirty windows are because Mesa (or whoever) are paying attention to our California Governor’s edict about water conservation in our drought-ridden State? I’m probably kidding myself, but one could hope….
    Personally, I hate all CRJ’s…fly them only when absolutely necessary, or to save AT LEAST a ton of money!!

    1. I doubt airplane windows are cleaned with water.

      and if they were they could just fly it to HOU or DFW and clean them there..

  10. Re seatbelt signs: it’s ridiculous. I’ve had two transatlantic flights on US Airways in the last few weeks (overnight PHL-FRA and daytime LHR-PHL). The seatbelt sign did not come off once on the entire flight in either direction; both flights were smooth nearly the whole way. When it’s that absurd, the captain has given up any ability to actually use the seatbelt sign to convey useful information; obviously no one pays any attention to it.

    1. At least as far as the overnight goes leaving the seatbelt sign on is good customer service. If the sign is off, then is turned on the flight attendants have to check to make sure everyone is buckled up, including waking sleeping passengers where they can’t see their seatbelt.

  11. I stopped flying US Air out of GSP 2-3 years ago because most of the flights were flown by Air Wisconsin, whose regional jets were nearly always filthy. I sent an e-mail to US Air saying that I was tired of flying on disgusting Air Wisconsin jets. I got some lame non-response from the airline, and nothing ever changed. I switched to Delta where I now mostly fly mainline metal and have been very pleased.

  12. I have felt like I died and went to heaven when PSA replaced Mesa with the CRJ-900 at my local airport. It’s like night and day. It’s not just the cleanliness, but the FA’s are more professional with PSA. Sorry CF, but I’m glad Mesa is leaving CLT to PSA. I only get to PHX once a year. One person misery is another’s fortune.

  13. Mesa is always horrible. I did a last minute non rev switch to an earlier flight a few weeks ago and went on an American flight run by Skywest. Much better, cleaner and professional. But, the American commuter flight area at LAX is just nasty.

  14. You should stop complaining about Mesa. We at DFW would trade you Envoy for Mesa in a heartbeat. AWFUL operation.

    They have been struggling to get half their flights to arrive on time. Half.

  15. This conversation seems to mirror a discussion a few weeks ago about on-time performance of the regionals – in that case, mainly Envoy. This is the same issue – the mainline contracts out the service and is responsible for supervising the quality of the product. It is the mainline’s name painted on the plane.

  16. Not sure how close to departure you purchased your tickets. Of course, that makes a big difference in the fare, but so does local versus connecting flights. AA over the years preferred traffic connecting beyond the hub instead of traffic terminating at the hub. And despite the disappointment of many old time AAers, it’s US (Parker) calling AA’s shots! Point being, I’m not sure if US prefers more local hub traffic or connecting traffic. Living in the DFW Area, getting off at DFW on AA’s flights sometimes, I’m the only person at baggage claim despite the flight being full – most go beyond DFW.

    BTW, I’m surprised to see several AA/Mesa Flights at DFW!

  17. I know this article is almost two years old, but I felt compelled to add- we flew to PHX on Mesa this past week. Left Tuesday morning, came back Saturday afternoon. Nothing’s changed, down to a broken cover on the emergency handle. Frayed seat belts, inoperative lavatory (N934FJ), dirty floors and windows, overhead compartments that hadn’t seen a cleanser in forever. Trouble is, if you want to go LB to PHX, it’s the only option. Why Southwest hasn’t at least tried it is a mystery.

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