UA: GSO-ORD-(LAX)-PHX 2 Dec 2011 by Bruce

When I booked the ticket, I needed 2517 miles* to reach and maintain my Gold status. A search through the Matrix for flights to places where I wanted to go (LAX, SEA, FLL) suggested that the cheapest itinerary would be to go to PHX with two outbound and two inbound stops from GSO. VanMetrics at the bottom of the post.

For the 06:00 departure, I let my alarm clock wake me at 02:15. There was very little traffic on the highways at that crazy time of the night, so I arrived at the airport and parked at 04:45. It was still dark and I ended up in the $6 a day long-term uncovered lot. I’ve never been to GSO before, so I was impressed with the size and modernity of the place when the two mega-hubs CLT and RDU are nearby. It sort of reminded me of PBI (though I haven’t been to that airport since 2001). I did not need to check-in, but the departure boards did not show my flight. The ticket agent pointed me in the right direction, since the two halves of the terminal are not joined up.

Security was a breeze and my transportation security officer was friendly. I did not alert the magnetometer, I was not randomly selected and my bags did not need any additional attention. With a short bathroom detour, I was at my gate by 05:00. Or at least I thought it was my gate – there was still a lot of confusion with the departure boards. Even the crew was wondering if they were at the right place.

Boarding was called about ten minutes late (at 05:45) with military in uniform and special assists. No takers. 1K, Platinum and Gold were called together and I was second onto the plane. An ERJ-145, I was in 12C (the first guy was 1K and was in 12A). Operated by Trans States under United Express, it’s the same configuration as the ExpressJet flights I’ve taken that were Continental Express livery.

At 06:10 (about ten minutes past scheduled departure), the captain announced that there was an issue with the floor panel where the handle hides that allows manual deployment of the landing gear. He updated us constantly on progress and said that if it looked like it was going to be an extended delay, he would allow us to leave or anyone who wanted to get off now was welcome to do so. The flight attendant came down the aisle to help passengers understand if they had connection problems. 12A called the 1K service line from his phone and I overheard him decide to stay on the plane rather than head to the other gate where an IAD flight would allow him to connect to SEA about four hours late. At 06:30, seeing that I would now only have a half hour instead of a full hour to connect at ORD, I called and learned that I was protected onto a direct ORD-PHX flight (instead of my scheduled ORD-LAX-PHX) that would actually get me to Phoenix 90 minutes earlier. Bonus!

More announcements about the missing handle and such, before we were informed that it was resolved and we were just waiting on signoff. Doors closed about ten minutes later and we pushed back at 07:10 and immediate clearance to take off. As soon as we reached altitude, I put on my sunglasses and my noise cancelling headphones and slept the rest of the flight, only waking for descent into O’Hare.

A very short taxi to the last gate of terminal B, we used the aircraft’s stairs to disembark. Nearly ten minutes of standing in the freezing cold waiting for our gate-checked bags. Ugh.

Inside the terminal, the first kiosk I found said to pick up the phone and in turn that told me that I needed to see someone at special services in order to be rebooked. So now I got to walk all the way to the main concourse where the special services guy helped me with my new boarding passes. (He insisted on having my original ones, which made zero sense. Maybe someone can explain this one?) Sadly, the only Economy Plus seats available were middle ones, so I kept the seat he gave me and crossed my fingers to get the middle seat open.

Over to the C terminal and with 45 minutes until boarding, I headed into the United Club for coffee and a bagel and also topping up the charge on my phone. This is a really nice club with a lot of seating in “noisy” and in “quiet” areas, as well as a TV that seemed to capture the attention of several. After stocking up on a banana and some other snacks, I headed to the gate.

Flight 661 is an A319 operated by United with only six seats in F. I was number 23 for the 2 available seats, so I didn’t have my hopes up (I hadn’t been upgraded on my original ORD-LAX either). I was well back into the crowd when 1K, then Platinum and finally Star Gold were called. Waaaaaay to the back of the plane, seat 37F is the last seat before the lav and rear galley. There is a space behind the seat and it did offer some recline. The middle seat remained open and we pushed back on time. Smisek did his thing to introduce the video and it’s just as “fake” as ever. I don’t know why, but I don’t feel any connection with him like I did with Larry.

Channel 9 was awesome as usual. It was very bumpy for the first hour and I listened to our Captain searching for weather reports from other altitudes. We eventually got up to 36000 before it smoothed out some.

By that time, the in-flight entertainment started. Flip-down monitors revealed an episode of “Big Bang Theory” I hadn’t seen, followed by “Our Idiot Brother” (Paul Rudd with a beard) and then Suits. Frustratingly, the in-flight entertainment system does not pause when there is a PA announcement so I missed a good amount of the movie and the show.

Buy on board was offered which I declined (I had my stuff from the club) and then a full can beverage. A few water services and before I knew it, we were descending into Phoenix for a good landing and then taxi to the gate.

Summary: Our crew in GSO did a great job of handling the potential mechanical. I was pleased with the communication that was at least every ten minutes. UA did a good job of rebooking me onto another flight that saved me a bunch of time, but I would have preferred to get the job done at the kiosk instead of having to find special services. I didn’t need those 500 miles for the LAX-PHX segment. My ORD-PHX seat was bad but would have been unbearable if I had to share the armrest and floor space with a middle-seat. It was nice to have in-flight entertainment, it could have operated better. Grade: B-.

Original itinerary:
Total Trip Cost: $ 288.20
Actual Airfare: $ 221.40
Actual Miles Flown: 5601
Yield: $ 0.040 per mile
Taxes & Fees: $ 66.80, 23.18% of ticket price

Updated:
Total Trip Cost: $ 288.20
Actual Airfare: $ 221.40
Actual Miles Flown: 4296
EQM’s earned: 5318
Yield: $ 0.042 per mile
Taxes & Fees: $ 66.80, 23.18% of ticket price

*I’ve since earned 2000 Flex EQM’s, so would only need 517!

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Day 11: Dear Delta

Dear Delta,

I am a frequent flyer of 14 years and I love to travel, but travel days like August 15 are exhausting, stressful, and exasperating. May I say that I am glad to have a month off from air travel?

On a positive note, I would like to offer my praise to the pilots and flight attendants of the flight from LaGuardia to Atlanta. They performed above and beyond under conditions beyond their control. I especially appreciated the lead flight attendant who came to each first class row and thanked us for our loyalty, business, and patience. Sincere appreciation can do a world of good.

However, that being said, my travel day with you was very frustrating.  Our inbound plane at LaGuardia arrived late, so we boarded and pushed back late. The weather in the area was not good, so we spent an hour or so on the tarmac waiting to depart. Just as we had been given clearance to depart, the pilots discovered an electrical problem with the navigation system, so we lost our place in line and had to return the gate. We spent almost two hours on the plane waiting for maintenance to determine the problem, locate the part, and replace the part. We pushed back again and spent another hour waiting to depart due to weather and air traffic control. In total, we spent almost four hours aboard the plane and never got anywhere. That was followed by a two-hour flight with the usual inflight service: beverages, lunch (well, it was almost dinnertime!), on-demand inflight entertainment, and optional Gogo Inflight Internet.

During the mechanical delay, we were told that agents were working on rebooking us. I must advise that your personnel should only say that if it is true. I always proceed with caution and check for myself. I discovered that my itinerary hadn’t been touched, so I contacted my boyfriend prior to departure and asked him to have Delta back me up on my connecting flight. By the time we reached Atlanta, I had missed two possible connections, was on standby for another, and was confirmed on the last flight of the day. I must request from you to never subject me to a six-hour LGA-ATL flight again, OK?

Our plane arrived at concourse E and it was a sign to spend time at One Flew South, where I enjoyed their amazing chicken noodle soup and a glass of 2010 Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc.

I headed to the gate of the standby flight and luckily, I was cleared to board. Amazingly, this flight went off without a hitch, nor a wait on the runway, and we arrived at Tri-Cities (TRI) early. Even my bag made it.

In closing, I’d like to say thank you for the crew on the first flight and the good connecting flight. I am still exhausted, but perhaps a bit less exasperated today.

Sincerely,
Beth

TRI-ATL-LGA, LGA-PWM-LGA, LGA-ATL-TRI on Delta, June 2-6, 2011

This is going to be very brief. I flew six segments on Delta and Delta Connection June 2-6 and all of the flights were consistently good, even the flight with the mechanical delay at the gate (ATL-LGA on June 2, a 757-200). The pilot kept us updated every 20-30 minutes, the flight attendants served us snacks and drinks, the plane was kept cool, and we had full use of our portable electronic devices. A few passengers asked to deplane to try to get on another flight and were accommodated. The pilot went back to coach at one point and spoke to some who were getting restless, which I thought was a nice move. I believe his gesture and explanation caused some of them to stick it out. We were at the gate about two hours, from boarding until pushback. Once we departed, we received Delta’s consistently good service in the air. I am glad that the pre-flight safety check yielded a leaky hose in the hydraulic system BEFORE we took off, the TOC (Technical Operations Center) had the part(s) needed, and the mechanics repaired the leak quickly and safely. I received a survey about the delay a day or two later and completed it, saying the delay was handled as well as could be expected.

Follow up to when Beth Effect strikes 29 June 2010

Below is the US Airways Customer Relations response to my mechanical delay, baggage misroute/delay (it was misrouted to LaGuardia, not JFK), and return flight tarmac delay.  Is it me, or does 8000 miles come across as too little compensation?  Please post your thoughts.

Dear Dr. Smith:

Thank you for contacting Customer Relations. I’m sorry your flight was delayed/canceled from Charlotte to LaGuardia.

Please accept my apology for the disappointing service you received on Flight 1630. Our customers deserve a pleasurable experience each and every time they fly with us, and I am sorry this trip did not meet your expectations. Your comments regarding our service are important, and we appreciate your taking the time to tell us about your experience. Through your feedback, we will be able to isolate and correct the problems you described.

We would appreciate another chance to earn your business. I have authorized 8,000 Dividend Miles to be added to your account as an invitation for you to travel with us again. Please allow 10 to 14 days for the miles to post in your Dividend Miles account. Your comments regarding your luggage not arriving with you have been documented and will be shared with the John F. Kennedy station manager. We are sorry that you had an unpleasant experience on this trip.

We have sent notification to the maintenance department regarding the temperature on your flight. The maintenance department appreciates your feedback and will look into this issue.

We appreciate the opportunity to address your concerns and hope you continue to choose US Airways as your preferred carrier.

Sincerely,

xxxxx
Representative
US Airways Corporate Office

Geni Gore
Representative
US Airways Corporate Office

Dear Delta Air Lines Customer Care

August 8, 2010

Dear Delta Air Lines Customer Care,

On August 4, 2010, I was scheduled to fly from Tri-Cities, through Atlanta, to Daytona Beach. I arrived at 10:00 am for my 11:17 am flight, DL 5462. I passed through security and 15 minutes later, I received an e-mail and telephone update that my flight was delayed and I had been re-accommodated. There was no gate agent past security to assist me and the other customers, so I had to call Delta to obtain a seat assignment, and my boyfriend waiting for me in Atlanta had to “re-check me in,” so that the system would put me in the upgrade queue. I also contacted @DeltaAssist via Twitter for re-confirmation of my new flight and to find out that the delay was mechanical. For nearly two hours, Delta-Mesaba did not provide a gate agent, nor were any announcements made about the delay until 11:53 am, 36 minutes AFTER the original departure time, when a gate agent arrived to deplane and board a flight from/to Detroit. At that time, she announced that the inbound plane from Atlanta was due in at 12:10 pm. That was it. At the time she arrived, she was not immediately busy, so I asked her if she would print my new connecting flight boarding pass and she refused, saying, “It would mess up my itinerary.”

I thought that not providing timely announcements, nor the reason for the delay, nor a gate agent to assist, was in violation of Delta’s Contract of Carriage.  The mechanical delay did result in me misconnecting in Atlanta and arriving in Daytona Beach three hours after my originally scheduled arrival. I was very disappointed in the lack of information, assistance, and the poor attitude of the gate agent, once she did arrive the gate area.  I hope that Delta will retrain the personnel at Tri-Cities, so that they perform in a more proactive, customer-friendly manner, in accordance with Delta’s Contract of Carriage.