For my daughter’s second birthday, we decided to take the whole family out to see my in-laws in North Carolina. Their place is in a fairly remote area that’s about 45 minutes south of Wilmington, an hour north of Myrtle Beach, or just shy of three hours from Raleigh/Durham. Having played the connecting game with little kids before, we decided it was a bad plan to go into Wilmington. Instead, we opted for Raleigh/Durham on the nonstop from LAX. I expect this was my last trip on US Airways before the name officially disappears in October.
When I flew to Raleigh last November, American still had 737-800s on the route, and it was not doing well. So to try to stem the losses, they switched this route to be on a US Airways A319 with a lot fewer seats. Good plan. This also worked really well for me, because my very last companion certificate from the US Airways credit card would get me 2 companions for cheap. My wife and I paid $578.20 per person, but the kids? They were only $127.20 each. We booked this back in May.
The day arrived, and I was dreading this. You might remember that flying with my kids has not always been the easiest thing. We had filled up a carry-on with toys, food, and iPads to keep them at bay for the 4+ hour flight, and things started off well. We parked the car at Quikpark as usual (those online rates have gone WAY up), and took the shuttle over to Terminal 6 where we checked our bags quickly.
The security setup is really strange. They have someone standing at the bottom of the escalator regulating who can go upstairs. This isn’t the document check, and they don’t care if you’re elite or if you have Pre Check. You just wait. Once through, then you go upstairs to another person who points you toward Pre Check or other lines. We went in the Pre Check line and that’s where the document checker was.
Like every friggin’ terminal at LAX, Terminal 6 is a mess. The concessions in the neck of the terminal, where US Airways flies, are still a work in progress. Bathrooms require going into the rotunda area (where Alaska is) and there’s a ton of work being done there as well. It’s pretty terrible and very crowded. I was more than happy when the time came to board.
July 24, 2015
US Airways 699 Lv Los Angeles 1020a Arr Raleigh/Durham 625p
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 61, Runway 25R, Depart 1m Early
Raleigh/Durham (RDU): Gate D11, Runway 5L, Arrive 17m Early
N825AW, Airbus A319-132, American gray colors, ~95% Full
Seat 15E, Coach
Flight Time 4h25m
This former America West airplane had already been painted in American’s colors, but it looked like US Airways on the inside. I’ll miss when they move these airplanes to the torture-chamber American A319 configuration. This was way more comfortable.
My son decided he wanted to sit with mom, and I was fine with that. He keeps closing the window shade every time, so it would have come to blows between us quickly. I sat with my 2 year-old daughter, who didn’t care about the window but REALLY didn’t want to put her CARES harness on.
Once I got her settled in, the airplane was nearly boarded and ready to go. We had a short taxi and were soon airborne on our way to Raleigh. This flight was a complete dream. Our son is finally at an age where the iPad is like baby crack.
He watched it the entire way (and I’m proud to say I didn’t try to stop it). My daughter, however, well she’s not there yet. She was much more fidgety, though it was still manageable. It helped that my seatmate on the aisle was about to become a grandmother and loved talking to my daughter. It also helped to have a strategically-placed Sofia the First doll available at all times.
We had a nice ride until about Arkansas when the bumps picked up and the seatbelt sign came on for the duration. My daughter did not like that. But I bribed her with cookies, and that seemed to work. Soon we were on the ground, and I couldn’t believe what a nice and easy ride it had been. My relief immediately soured once I remembered that we had a 3 hour drive ahead of us. But hey, at least if they got out of hand, we could pull the car over. And nobody else would be inconvenienced. (We did have to stop several times.)
The week went by quickly, and on Thursday, we drove back up to Raleigh/Durham so we could stay at an airport hotel for the night and be ready for our insanely early wake-up. More importantly, it gave me the chance to go see an old buddy of mine.
My wife and I woke up at 5, showered, threw the kids into clothes, and pointed the rental car toward the airport. We were in the terminal by 550a, which I thought was pretty impressive. Unfortunately, we were greeted with chaos. The US Airways check in area was a mess. There were three banks of kiosks for people to use to check in, but there was only one line for them. Then one of the lines broke off, and another group of people just started an end-run to the other side. There was nobody from US Airways guiding or policing any of this and it was terrible.
We found ourselves in the splinter line and got to the kiosk around 605a, but the kiosks fed into two separate lines to get to the ticket counter to drop the bags. We waited. And waited. There was one group that stood at the counter the entire time we were there. Meanwhile, the other agent who was working our line just decided to start calling people from the other line instead (despite them having 2 agents of their own). Someone with a vest on that said “manager” told her she was calling from the wrong line. She ignored him, and he just sort of threw up his hands. Once she finished helping the next person, she walked away and the manager stepped in.
He was good, and got people processed quickly. Our bag tags were printed and put on our bags right around 615 or 620a. Then we finally got out of the mess and made it to security.
Security lines were fairly long, even for people with Pre Check, but it moved quickly, and we were soon on the way to the gate. The agent was just beginning boarding announcements when we got there.
July 31, 2015
US Airways 569 Lv Raleigh/Durham 7a Arr Los Angeles 928a
Raleigh/Durham (RDU): Gate D10, Runway 5L, Depart 5m Late
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 61, Runway 25L, Arrive 11m Early
N747UW, Airbus A319-112, Final US Airways colors, ~85% Full
Seat 13E, Coach
Flight Time 4h47m
We boarded and were surprised to see a very empty airplane. My wife said she overhead the gate agent saying that they were going to close the door in a couple minutes and were still missing 22 people. Clearly this terrible baggage problem had impacted many others.
That’s why we ended up taking a 5 minute departure delay. People kept boarding until the plane was actually pretty full. My wife did end up with an empty seat next to her, however, which was a nice bonus.
Once we were in our seats and strapped in, I realized just how tired I was. I couldn’t keep my eyes open while we waited. Even when we were taxiing, I was out of it. We got into the air and headed toward LA via a southerly route.
The flight attendants were great and very friendly on this flight. The kids? Not so much. They were fussy. And though they did nod off in the beginning, we were in a row where the PA system was unusually loud. So anytime an announcement was made, they would jump.
This trip was more like the other trips we’ve taken where it felt like we were trying to ride a bucking bronco. The kids did not want to be contained, and they were happy to let everyone know it. At first, my daughter was livid at having to keep her seatbelt on. (The sign didn’t come off until we were well into Tennessee. But nothing would keep her attention. Once the sign went off, she climbed back to her mom a couple times and hung out back there, but nothing really lasted for long.
After trying toys, food, and more, my daughter finally passed out somewhere around El Paso. That was good, because even though we veered far south to avoid a massive storm in the panhandle, we still had a little weather which brought the seatbelt sign back on. She stayed sleeping until that stupid credit card-hawking announcement jolted her awake. She wasn’t happy, but she was distracted by a new sticker book. Whew, crisis averted.
We started our slow descent (the pilots said we’d been slowed down due to the runway construction at LAX) and came through a thick marine layer before landing a little early. We got off that airplane as fast as we could.
Other than the experience with bags in Raleigh, US Airways did a good job here. The flight attendants were friendly and attentive. The flights were on time. Not much more I can ask for (except for a slight depressurization to get my kids to sleep a little more). But honestly, very little of this was US Airways. Other than the flight attendant uniforms, most things say American now. It should be a pretty easy thing to flip the switch in October when the US Airways name goes away for good.