A surprisingly nice US Air experience

Friday, August 17, 2007

I’m in Florida this week on business (in fact, I’m enjoying the free wifi in Fort Lauderdale airport right now), and because I booked late, the only decent flights for price and schedule were on US Airways. I stopped flying US Air several years ago when their service was crappy and their on-time record — at least when I was on the plane — was even worse. And every flight into the US seemed to stop in Pittsburgh. As an Air Canada regular, I didn’t even consider flying them again until they joined the Star Alliance (which allows me to accumulate Air Canada points for a US Air flight), and even then it’s taken me a few years to return to them because of my previous poor experiences.

The flight down here on Wednesday was a really pleasant surprise. Except for leaving from Toronto terminal 3, which seems so outdated compared to the newer terminal 1, everything went smoothly. We flew to Charlotte on a 737-400 — an adorable little airport with rocking chairs instead of benches in the main concourse — then I changed concourses to board an identical 737-400 on to Fort Lauderdale, only to find the same flight crew on board, a weird coincidence. Both flights landed early, which means that they’ve likely set their schedules overly long to account for any delays, but at least that way there’s many less missed expectations. [I think that this is common practice now; I was on a flight back to Toronto recently that arrived 30 minutes early, which meant that I had to wait around for my ride since he was counting on the flight being on time.]

Even the in-flight magazine was great, with several articles of interest: ferry trips on BC’s inside passage, luxury “camping”, designer purses made out of auto upholstery fabric. I took it with me to the hotel to finish, and grabbed a few references out of it for future travel plans.

One last really nice thing: when I booked the flight at the last minute (less than 24 hours before I flew), only centre seats were available on the online seat selection. However, the online purchase process ingested my Air Canada Aeroplan number, and sometime between then and a couple of hours later when I did the web check-in, it had detected that I’m an Aeroplan Prestige (silver level) member and put me into better aisle and window seats. Bonus.

Although I prefer Air Canada because they tend to have more direct flights to places I’m going, I’d definitely fly US Air again.

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