14 July 2012 YBG-YUL [AC] YUL-EWR [UA] EWR-CLT [US] by Bruce

Returning from three weeks onsite in lovely Bagotville, Quebec. A nice little town, I was pleasantly surprised. Lots of French speaking, but almost the entire time I was able to get by with English or I could fall back to pointing. Lots of restaurants (smoked meat is basically pastrami) and good beer. I was sad to learn that I missed this weekend’s wine festival and next weekend’s beer festival.

Bagotville (YBG) is a very small airport, with one departure gate area. I checked two bags which did not get a Priority tag on them. I didn’t really want to be one of “those” people at this point, so I let it slide. I waited in the main area about ten minutes before the flight was called.

Their version of the TSA only opens up when the arriving flight is on final approach. Just as well, as there is not even a Coke machine in the waiting area. Magnetometer and baggage xray only, we get to keep our shoes on. I did not alert and was not selected for a wanding.

Three flights a day from Bagotville to Montréal are served by Air Canada’s Jazz Express on a DH-1. Eight rows of two-by-two and a ninth row that is five across. It’s a one-hour flight, but the flight attendant managed to dispense half-can drink service and a small bag of AC-branded pretzels. There are no decent seats on the aircraft – the exit row has a bit more legroom but it is right behind the propeller so there is more engine noise. I had 6F and fortunately no seatmate. If you can choose, 9A and 9F are the best only because they are the furthest from the engine.

Arriving at YUL, we used the “domestic jetty” area and the aircraft’s own stairs. It’s a long walk to the US departures area. US Customs and Immigration at YUL is staffed by US agents. I had my immigration card ready and was not queried extensively. From there, it’s another good walk to the gate areas.

AC has three Maple Leaf lounges at YUL and somehow I thought that one of them was where I was headed. I was mistaken. There is the Domestic lounge (which I used when I came down to YUL a couple weekends ago), an International lounge and the Transborder lounge. None of these are in the USA departures area where UA, AA, DL and US have their gates.

The flight was called for “All elite 1K, Platinum, Gold, Silver and Zones 1 through 5 may board at this time.” The gate agent here is an airport employee and is not UA. UA upgraded me on this ERJ-170 and I had seat 3F. A pleasant flight attendent served a half can (with a lime!) with a bag of snack mix and offered a refill. An hour flight, we were on the ground in Newark before the battery on my laptop even reached 50%. I spent the two-hour layover in the Club, eating single-wrapped cheese, yogurt raisins and drinking Sam Adams.

Over to the gate, there is no transfer shuttle between the two concourses, you have to leave the secure area. Security took 20 minutes, including 7 crew who showed up at the head of the line. I don’t begrudge them, but 7 in a row is a bit much. I did not set off the magnetometer and there is no advanced screening at this particular area.

Very few power outlets in this area, so I people watched. Especially the US-operated EWR-LAS flight at the next gate. The gate lice here are extreme. Even the one guy who I thought was cutting through the crowd when they called Zone 1 came to a screeching halt in front of everyone. And then he stood there through Zone 2. And Zone 3. And finally moved forward for Zone 4. Twit!

It was the same again for the Charlotte flight, but I was past caring. At least the FA turned away a Zone 5 and a Zone 4 that tried to board with Zone 1, but she had no enforcement of carry-on bag sizes. I had seat 3F on this A320, a bulkhead. This gave me a bird’s eye view of the massive luggage being carried on and lugged down the aisle. Two of them came forward again as they wouldn’t be jammed into an overhead.

After departure, the dude in 3D put his feet up on the wall. It’s no longer carpet, it’s some sort of plastic that must be easy to wash if they ever get around to it. I caught his eye and told him to take his feet down. “This isn’t your house.” Half can beverage service was interrupted by brief turbulence and then discontinued for the remainder of the flight. The FA’s had already done their last patrol and then they pulled out their electronics again. I caught the eye of the guys in 3B and 3C and told them to turn off their electronics. “Why?,” they asked. “Because they said so,” I replied. I was now going to be one of “those” people.

We arrived CLT 25 minutes early (pad your schedule much?) but our gate was ready. B1. The carousel areas were very crowded with a couple of flights in the B areas waiting. EWR’s took 25 minutes to appear on the carousel. Even though I did not have a Priority tag, my two were among the first to appear. Amazingly, there was a Long Term 1 parking shuttle just pulling up as I stepped outside.

Summary: I was expecting my luggage to get screwed up with a three-carrier itinerary across a border, but it somehow made it. Kudos to AC, UA and US on that. The travel itself was good. Nothing to complain about, though I would prefer UA was using a mainline for YUL-EWR. US was just fine. Grade of B all around.

Side note: Flying three carriers in a day gave me a good look at their in-flight magazines. Of course, all the cover stories were on London. Air Canada’s enRoute had the most detail with three reporters filing stories on the city, but United’s Hemispheres was the best read. Their “Three Perfect Days” column has always been useful for me when visiting a new city. Having spent two years in the London area, I thought their recommendations were pretty solid. US’s in flight magazine (no special title) was more of a sales tool with more stories about the Piedmont Triad area than London.

Total Trip Cost: $ 1,285.21
Actual Airfare: $ 1,102.24
Actual Miles Flown: 2191 (3058 EQM’s with 500 mile rounding)
Yield: $ 0.503 per mile (0.360 per EQM)
Taxes & Fees: $ 182.97, 14.24% of ticket price

Advertisements

US Airways: CLT-EWR-CLT 16 Apr-20 Apr 2012 by Bruce

Thanks to my compadre in travel, Bruce, for reviving my blog!

Mon., 16 Apr 2012
US1972 dep CLT 15:10 arr EWR 17:06 (737-400)

Fri., 20 Apr 2012
US1291 dep EWR 13:15 arr CLT 15:09 (737-400)

It’s been five months since I was last on a plane, so I got to the airport extra early to soak up the atmosphere. As is normal at Charlotte, the shuttles from the long term lot bunch up – nothing for ten minutes and then three in a row. I was finally at the terminal at 12:00 where I easily printed a replacement boarding pass at one of the US kiosks. This flight will be credited to Mileage Plus and my Star Gold status meant that it printed with Zone 1.

Security was a breeze with no queue at the B terminal where I used the priority lane even though there was no one waiting in the regular lane. There are still none of the advanced screening devices there, so I emptied my stuff into bins, removed my shoes and belt and pulled my laptop. I did not set off the magnetometer and did not earn any additional screening. The TSOs were friendly.

A 20-minute shoe shine ($5 plus $2 tip) and then I spent two hours in the C/D Club. Free soft drinks and the snacks were good – fruit and a big bowl of pretzels. I liked the individual packs of Milano cookies and grabbed a handful for later.

At the gate (the last one in the C terminal), they were offering $250 vouchers for volunteers. I was tempted, but the next flight wasn’t until 9 PM. Boarding was called right on time with F and then by zone. The gate fleas were not too bad.

Seat 5A in Y is the second row in coach. There was plenty of room in the overhead when I got there but the seat was far from Choice. No premium economy and a tight pitch. A married couple exchanged with a guy across the aisle so that they could have B and C. I did not see any empty seats in the aircraft.

We pushed back on time, were first for takeoff on 36L and there was a beverage service (half can, no lime) that was picked up a half hour later. Decent into Newark was from the north and the landing was good. We were at the gate a few minutes later, which was 14 minutes ahead of schedule. I was out at the taxi stand a few minutes later.

For the return, more of the same. The ID check for the concourse was well backed up, even for priority passengers. That took ten minutes and they pulled a few people forward who were headed to Miami. There was a whole body scanner being used for one of the security lanes, but I bypassed that and went further in where there was not one of those. I did not set off the magnetometer and was not selected for additional screening. Security took about 20 minutes from start to finish.

The concourse where US has its gates is served by an Admirals Club, so I had a sandwich at Phillips Seafood and then waited with the rest of the cattle. Boarding was again F first, then Zone 1. The usual obliviots with Zone 2 and higher were standing in the flow.

Otherwise, the flight was the same. It could well have been the same aircraft as the outbound with the same tight pitch and lack of power or IFE. Smooth flight, half can, and we landed 15 minutes early on runway 23.

Summary: I’m glad I decided to keep my UA status and not return to US. The lack of premium economy, power, and IFE would make this a very uncomfortable flight for anything more than a short trip. There’s no way I could do a transcon in that seat. When we talk about a bus in the sky, this is it. The rest of my flights to Newark on this engagement will be on United metal. Grade: C.

Total Trip Cost: $ 406.10
Actual Airfare: $ 359.07
Actual Miles Flown: 1057
Yield: $ 0.340 per mile
Taxes & Fees: $ 47.03, 11.58% of ticket price