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US Airways: UK to Florida

Noel

Noel Philips

07/11/03
US095 LGW-CLT
N674UW A330-300
STD: 12:15 ATD: 12:00
STA: 16:30 ATA: 16:25
Flight time: 8hrs 55mins
Seat: 15H

We arrived at the airport at 09:00 for our 12:15 flight, and went through to the US Airways check in desks in the South Terminal. We noticed there was a line for check in, with some guys on the end checking passports/asking security questions etc. These weren’t US Airways staff, but worked for ICTS – presumably the security team from LGW? As we had an E-Ticket, the guy went to the ticketing desk to print out our ticket, and took our passports. He had been gone a while and we didn’t know at this stage where, so I asked another security guy really nicely if there was a problem. He said “He’s gone to print off your ticket – he’s only trying to help you and if he wanted to he could have made you queue yourselves”….sorry for asking!!!! The security guys seemed really arrogant and not happy to be there – so we were happy when the other chap came back with our passports/tickets – he was the nicest of the lot!!

We checked in and as the security questions had already been asked our boarding cards were processed really quickly, we were given our green cards and we were on our way to security!

There was a long line at security, but it was being processed very quickly and efficiently and within 5 minutes we were airside! We went shopping, grabbed a breakfast and sat in the airside viewing area – a very nice area with comfortable sofas where you can watch all the activity from the warmth of inside the terminal! There were 2 US Airways A330s on the satellite, as well as 2 Virgin 744s and a Northwest DC10. On the main terminal were numerous easyJet 733s, Continental 777s and a Delta 767.

We caught the monorail thing to the satellite, and went to gate 38. As we waited, the arsy ICTS guy came and sat opposite – he eventually took care of security on the gate as well – but this time he helped us fill in our green cards – a complete opposite of when we checked in!

Soon our ship, N674UW, was ready for boarding, and as we were in row 15 we were in the last group to be boarded. We sat and waited, laughing at the hoards of people trying to board before their rows were called and getting turned away! Gate staff must get really fed up of all these people!!

We boarded and took our seats, and soon we were on our way 15 minutes early. The safety demo was done manually, with no video, which surprised us for a modern A330!

We taxyed right down to the far end of the runway (08) and after an Air Luxor A320 landed we lined up and began our slow run down the runway with full load and full fuel! We lifted off in a typical A330 style graceful takeoff, and took a series of left turns before climbing over Southampton, Cornwall and Southern-Ireland, overhead Cork and off across the North Atlantic.

The seats were very comfortable, plenty of leg room for even me at 6’3!! Wrap-around headrests and a pillow/blanket made the flight very comfortable!

The captain announced that our cruising altitude would be FL390, and shortly afterwards the crew bought round lunch. We had a choice of Pasta or Beef, we took the beef which was a curry type meal. A full can of Pepsi, but subsequent drinks rounds we only got one cupful!

I watched half of The Matrix Reloaded, but got bored halfway through, and watched Finding Nemo instead! After that I watched Down With Love, and then Friends, The Drew Carey Show and then listened to a few CDs. The P@ssport entertainment system is cool!!

Drinks rounds were frequent, and we crossed the Canadian coast at Newfoundland, before flying across Boston, New York and Washington DC. Somewhere near NY, the crew bought everyone a paper bag with a sandwich, crisps and a drink in it!

The weather cleared overhead Washington, and we got a good view over the Appalachian range before we landed at CLT. We taxied past the North Carolina National Guard station, and then past a US Airways 767, DHC-8 and finally loads of 737s and A319s!

We deplaned at CLT, and then had a half hour queue to clear US immigration. The airport seemed empty apart from our flight, which caused all the queuing! The female officer was very friendly and asked if we would say hi to Mickey Mouse in Orlando!!

After this, we collected our baggage, took it through US customs and then had to check it in for our connection. We were then in the check-in hall again, and had to clear security to get airside again. There was quite a line but it moved very quickly, with officers walking up the line to make sure everyone had their coats/shoes off to go through the checkpoint. We cleared security, put our shoes back on and then went to Burger King for some tea! The line there was very long, and after we eventually got our burger, ate it and made our way to gate B4, our aircraft was already boarding!!

07/11/03
US1244 CLT-MCO
N434US B737-400
STD: 18:16 ATD: 18:15
STA: 19:49 ATA: 19:40
Flight time: 1hr 30mins
Seat: 6E

We boarded very quickly and into the cramped (compared to the A330) 737, and as we were among the last to board our carry-on baggage was spread across the cabin! The flight was full, mainly with business people going home for the weekend. The safety demo this time was all on the screens, with no demo by the crew, and we taxied past the cargo ramp in the dark for a quick departure toward the South.
The captain didn’t come over the pager at all throughout the flight, but this must be because this flight was so regular to the businessmen on board that he didn’t feel it necessary! We climbed to FL330, and the crew came round with snacks to buy, but we were given a cup of coke (only half the can), and a small bag of pretzels. No IFE – I was spoiled on the A330!! Our route took us south towards Jacksonville before overflying Sanford Intl, and we soon began our descent into the Orlando area. Before I knew it we were touching down on runway 18L. A quick hi-speed taxi to the terminal, and we arrived at gate 56.
We deplaned, caught the shuttle train to the terminal, got our bags and took the short ride to International Drive in a Lincoln Town Car!

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2 weeks at Orlando passed mighty quickly, we had a fab time doing Universal parks, Seaworld, swimming with dolphins, and watching Air Force One take climb out of MCO right over our hotel!!!!

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21/11/03
US535 MCO-PHL
N613AU B757-200
STD: 14:05 ATD: 14:05
STA: 16:30 ATA: 16:30
Flight time: 1hr 25mins
Seat: 8F
We arrived at the airport in our Town Car at 12 noon to check in – but as we were very early we asked the check in agent if we could be moved to an earlier flight. Flights to PHL from MCO are hourly on US, and with three flights departing before ours I thought we could try our luck on one of them and wait longer in PHL rather than MCO before our connecting flight at 8.20pm. I also thought that an earlier flight may be on an A319 or A321 rather than a 757!
She was happy to oblige, and advised there was room on the 2.05 flight. She transferred us over and asked us for next of kin details – strange I thought as nobody has done that before! Presumably this is because we’re changing our flight details? US Airways international baggage allowance is cool – 2 bags per person at 32kg each – 64kg in total in coach EACH, plus hand baggage on top! We had one bag each which to be honest was pushing toward the limit, and another holdall full of the gifts/clothes we bought back!! She didn’t weigh any of the bags but advised us to take them over to the security screening area and leave them there. A friendly TSA agent took the bags from us and we went through the short queue to security. I didn’t set the alarm off but my wife did – but even as she was searched the security agent was very polite and friendly, and was making jokes with my wife – why can’t they be that friendly in the UK?? Smile/happy/getting dizzy
We went through to gate 56 and waited – on stand on our ‘finger’ were a US Airways A319, two 737s and a 767. We only waited a few minutes and our aircraft, a 757 pulled onto the stand. Ah well – it was only what we were booked on in the first place!
We watched the passengers deplane, and then saw our luggage being loaded. It wasn’t long before our aircraft was ready for boarding, and we walked down the jetway onto the aircraft in the last group again! We were told we had an exit row, but it was at the front of the economy cabin, where on the right hand side there was a 2 seat row then our 3 seat behind it – but my seat by the window had the 2R door sticking right out so it wasn’t very comfortable!
Matters weren’t helped much by Rachel having a HUGE person sitting in the seat left of her. Now I’m not usually one to complain about larger people, but this man took up not only his seat, but stuck out into the aisle and took half of Rachel’s seat as well, with his foot in her footwell. She spent the entire flight leaning across to me and was in a lot of pain with her back at the end of the flight. A good job the flight was only a couple of hours long!
We took off on 36R, and climbed over Sanford Intl and out toward the coast. We overflew Jacksonville, and flew alongside the east coast all the way to Pennsylvania, when we took a left turn towards Philadelphia.

Our approach was fantastic from the east, we headed towards downtown Philadelphia, before turning left and flying along the river. We got a great approach alongside the docks and the shipyard, before touching down. As we taxied in there were plenty of US Airways A330s, 737s, 757s and A319/A321s, as well as a lot of AA aircraft (mainly MD80s/ERJs). Behind us landed a Delta 732 in the new colors, and a private BBJ.

We deplaned the aircraft through 2L, and made our way to McDonalds for some tea!

21/11/03
US126 PHL-LGW
N677UW A330-300
STD: 20:20 ATD: 20:15
STA: 08:25 ATA: 08:30
Flight time: 8hrs 15mins
Seat: 9H

After a couple of hours wait and several pretzels, our aircraft was ready for boarding. The aircraft was booked as full, but they still let a few standby passengers board so obviously a few no-shows!

We pushed back a few minutes early, and with no word from the captain taxied out to the runway. The captain came on then to say we were number 10 for take-off, but then ATC re-ordered the line and we were number 2. A typically slow full-load takeoff ensued, with a slow climb towards the north.

We climbed out towards Washington DC, with New York passing on the left hand side as we were eating dinner. This time it was Chicken or Pasta, we took the chicken but it was very spicy and not really our cup of tea! Again a full drink, we were just given the can and a cup! We got a really nice view of Boston, MA, as we headed toward the Atlantic. I watched The Sopranos and Home Improvement on the PTV, and then switched it off to sleep. The purser announced that the wake-up service for our voyage would be at 6.30am London time. The lights went out, and I went to sleep at about 3am GMT. I woke up at 6am and it was still dark, and at 6.30am the lights came on and the crew started to go around the cabin giving breakfast. We got a donut and a cup of coffee, the Envoy passengers got what looked like a cooked meal – a shame we couldn’t afford that luxury on this flight! The stars looked beautiful over the Atlantic!

The sun rose on the horizon, and we flew over Ireland and the Isle of Man, before turning south over Manchester. It got very cloudy and we descended into thick cloud. The captain announced that the weather in London was foggy and raining – great! We positioned onto the ILS, and the captain came on again to say that the aircraft was going to land automatically due to the fog. We saw the ground as we were about 30 seconds from touchdown, and we landed smoothly onto runway 08R. We taxied in the rain past easyJet 737s, Virgin 747s and MYT A330s. We pulled onto stand 38 and deplaned. This time it was quickly through customs with our British passports and we were soon collecting our baggage and out to the courtesy coach to the car park!! All three bags had been searched by the TSA and had tags on them, with about half a dozen leaflets in each case (one in each plastic carrier bag in each case!) explaining they had done a random search – but nothing was really disturbed!

Generally, US Airways were a FANTASTIC airline, the staff were all really helpful and friendly, and at the end of each flight the chief purser came on and announced that they really were grateful for our business – I got the sense that they really were. The staff all helped each other and there seemed a real ‘team’ atmosphere on each flight, and always smiled (even when people kept catching the call button accidentally they didn’t complain and just said you press it again to cancel it – different to when BA told me off a few years ago because I forgot to cancel it!)

Comfort was great, IFE brilliant, meals okay but regular service (drinks passage every half hour) was good!

I would give them on the whole 10/10 – and won’t hesitate to fly with them again!!