TRI-CLT-SFO roundtrip on US Airways 11-14 July 2011

This was a 50,000-mile first class award ticket redemption booked on continental.com. It was very easy to research and book and I was able to find the US Airways record locator by entering my flight number and passenger name at usairways.com. I was automatically assigned seats according to my preference (aisle).

The day I was scheduled to depart, I went to check in for my TRI-CLT flight and usairways.com wouldn’t let me. Then I checked my BlackBerry and my first flight had been canceled, according to the Tripit Pro alert I received. Since I am affiliated with a travel agency, I called the US Airways travel agent center to be rebooked. Luckily there was another flight option I could take so that I could make my original connection to SFO. However, I was never notified directly by US Airways that my flight was canceled.

The rebooked first flight was rather uneventful, except that it was blazing hot on the Dash 8-100 prop plane. The flight attendant said that US Airways almost canceled that flight due to the heat. It was in the 90s on the East Coast and she indicated that maintenance would be waiting on the plane upon its arrival in CLT. To help compensate for the heat, she offered us an unscheduled beverage service.

Upon arriving in CLT, I spent my time waiting in the club until I received a Tripit Pro alert, not a US Airways alert, that my flight was delayed until 6:40 pm. Around 6:10 pm, I headed to the gate and when I arrived, the gate agent announced that there was a weather/ATC delay into SFO and that he had not received any updates from operations except that the flight’s wheels-up time was estimated to be 8:45 pm. However, he advised customers to stay in the gate area. 6:40 pm came and went with no further updates, so I returned to the club and hoped that I could rely on my Tripit Pro alerts to keep me informed. When I reached the club, I overheard another passenger on my flight asking the club agent the CLT-SFO flight status and the club agent promised to contact the gate and monitor the flight. After that, there was no further information about the flight provided. The flight even dropped off the departure board, as operations neglected to keep the ETD current.  Finally at 7:45 pm, the club agent announced that customers should go to the gate for an 8:00 pm boarding time. The flight did board around that time and we pushed back and headed toward the runway. However, just short of the runway, the pilot announced that the plane was overheating and we had to return to the gate. We spent another hour at the gate while the plane was repaired and finally took off around 9:40 pm, three and a half hours late. In-flight service in first class consisted of two dinner choices and beverage service. There was no pre-departure beverage, no hot towel service, no snack basket, no in-flight entertainment, and the Gogo Inflight Internet was inoperable. It was a long five hours to SFO. We arrived three hours late. My bags arrived after about a 45-minute wait.

My return was scheduled for 7:25 am July 14. This was the one, near perfect flight of the trip. I was able to check in quickly and pass through the security checkpoint by way of a first class/elite line. I was not chosen for the full body scanner, but instead the metal detector, because apparently there was a problem with the scanner and the agent called for someone to “recalibrate it.” We boarded on time: specials, first class, then by zone. There was no pre-departure beverage service or snack basket service, as catering did not provide snacks. However, the Gogo Inflight Internet worked, the in-flight beverage service was plentiful, there was hot towel service prior to the meal, and there was a choice of two breakfast entrées. We arrived early, but were given an arrival gate change at the last minute, so we arrived at the new gate a few minutes late.

I hurried from gate B13 to E29 for my connection.  Around our scheduled departure time, 4:12 pm, the gate agent announced a delay until 4:40 pm due to a late-arriving crew. Finally the crew arrived, we boarded, and we took off close to our delayed departure time.  There was no in-flight service, but the flight attendant did have time to sit and chat with one of the passengers.

Upon arrival in TRI, my two bags, tagged Star Alliance Priority, arrived as scheduled.

Grade = C-

*Only one of four flights was not canceled or delayed; customer service and communication regarding the canceled and delayed flights were poor; there was simply nothing to do on the CLT-SFO flight with no in-flight entertainment and inoperable Gogo Inflight Internet. The saving grace was the one on-time flight.

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JFK-SFO-JFK 13 and 17 March 2011

JFK-SFO-JFK is a BusinessElite service route in the first class cabin and it was an outstanding experience, really top notch. It was one of the best upgrade scores of my frequent flying career since I started earning status in 1997. Both my boyfriend and I, Delta Gold Medallion, were upgraded at the gate both directions. The aircraft configuration was an international configuration with reclining seats with footrests, personal reading lights, and personal television monitors. The amenities and service were as follows: 

1. Dasani, larger pillow, lightweight comforter-like blankets, and a noise-canceling headset at each seat
2. Full pre-departure beverage service
3. Hot towel service
4. Beverage service
5. Warm nuts service (lunch)
6. Two-course meal service (breakfast and lunch)
7. Dessert (lunch)
8. Warm chocolate chip cookie service
9. Numerous beverage refills and snack basket service
10. Personal in-flight entertainment
11. Gogo Inflight Internet for a fee

The first 16 photos of this album were taken on this trip.  There you will find the meal and amenity photos.  The album is part of my public travel assistant company page on Facebook, so please take a look. I also welcome you to become a fan of the page while you’re there.

SFO-ATL-TRI on Delta 5 August 2009

DL 1070 SFO-ATL 12:50 pm-8:38 pm Seat 3E 767-300ER
DL 5154 ATL-TRI 9:50 pm-10:58 pm Seat 8B Exit CRJ-200

I arrived SFO around 11:30 am and checked in with the first class/elite agent, since I had a bag and wine to check. And wow, she was not very pleasant. She asked me twice if I was first/elite, as if she did not believe me. I gave her my flight information and passport and she claimed she could not find me on the flight, so I had to give her my confirmation code. Then she rolled her eyes and grumbled about me checking a wine shipper box and having to tag it fragile, although Delta accepts correctly packed special and fragile items at the customer’s own risk. After that unpleasantness was over, I went to the Sky Club outside of security to connect quickly to the Internet. I logged into T-Mobile with my SkyMiles number but the network kept booting me off and redirecting me to the regular T-Mobile login page, although the small login window said I was logged in. That was very frustrating. I gave up after a couple of tries of reconnecting, as I didn’t have much time. I proceeded to the first/elite security line, where I was subjected to a random pat down for no apparent reason, as my computer bag was not searched at all.

Boarding began with specials and passengers w/strollers/young children, then first class via the Breezeway, and then by zone. In first class, we received a full pre-departure beverage service, pillow, blanket, and mini Dasani. We finally departed at 1:31 pm, 41 minutes past scheduled departure. Shortly thereafter, the flight attendant took meal orders. The choices were a reuben sandwich or a green salad w/grilled chicken. The hot towel, beverage, and meal service followed in that order. The salad consisted of grilled chicken, romaine lettuce, cucumber, onion, tomato, olives, feta, red and yellow pepper, and olive oil balsamic vinaigrette dressing. The sides were pre-packaged breadsticks, fresh fruit, and a pre-packaged molasses cookie. For entertainment, I watched “Frasier,” the episode about when Frasier loses the wine club corkmaster election to Niles twice, resigns from the club, then tries his hand at hosting a new radio show, “The Wine Corner,” just to spite Niles. Hilarious! Then I watched “Friends” (The One with the Engagement Picture). After that, I watched an episode of “Law & Order: SVU” that somehow I’d never seen. The flight attendants offered a snack basket and beverage service about and hour and a half before landing. I wrote this trip report and listened to “Sting & The Police: The Best Of…”CD available on the in-flight entertainment system. We landed at Atlanta at 8:31 pm, seven minutes before scheduled arrival.

Upon arriving to Atlanta, I proceeded from the T gates to concourse D for my connection.  I stopped at a recharging station to charge my BlackBerry and made phone calls.  I made my way to the gate just in time for boarding by zone numbers.  We loaded up and were ready to depart, but we took a “volume” delay getting to the runway and waiting in line to take off.  We finally were airborne at 10:35 pm, 45 minutes past scheduled departure.  Although the flight attendant said no beverage service was supposed to be scheduled, she served snacks and ice water due to the delay.  We landed at 11:13 pm, only 15 minutes past scheduled arrival.

Ticket Agent and Sky Club (Non) Internet at SFO – D
Flights – A

TRI-CVG-SFO on Delta 31 July 2009

DL 6520 TRI-CVG 12:30 pm-1:33 pm CRJ Seat 8C Exit No Seatmate
Actual 1:23 pm-1:59 pm (36 minutes takeoff to touchdown)

DL 1162 CVG-SFO 4:50 pm – 6:37 pm 737-800 Seat 2B Aisle
Actual 5:16 pm -6:46 pm

The first flight was fairly uneventful except for the fact that it was delayed.  The weather was awful at TRI, high winds and pouring rain, so I assume that the inclement weather played a role in the delay.  The inbound aircraft arrived late, around 12:50 pm.  Deplaning and aircraft turnaround was rather quick all things considered.  However, for some reason, TRI only had ONE gate agent and ONE baggage handler for three flights, our flight to CVG, one to ATL, and a NW Airlink flight to either MEM or DTW, so it caused additional delay.  The ATL flight, then the NW flight, then our flight boarded, in that order.  And it was “all aboard,” no Breezeway or zone boarding.  I felt badly for the lone baggage handler, who kept running between checked luggage and valet.  I actually patted him on the shoulder and said, “It’s tough having to do it all, isn’t it?” and he shook his head yes.  We pushed back fairly quickly and were airborne by 1:23 pm, 53 minutes late.  There was no service in flight “due to the short duration” and we landed at 1:59 pm, only 36 minutes in flight and only 26 minutes late.

I spent my next two and a half hours in the Concourse B Delta Sky Club.  I have to say that I enjoyed my complimentary Internet and the peace and quiet, but the beverages left a lot to be desired.  I first tried a Bloody Mary.  Apparently there was no Mr.  & Mrs.’s T’s Bloody Mary mix, because it was made with plain tomato juice and lime and I had to “doctor” it myself with the provided salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and Tabasco.  I much prefer the mix.  So for my next drink, I asked if he could make a margarita, hoping for the Rande Gerber Signature version found aboard Delta flights.  Again I was disappointed, as the mix was not that and was not good.   One nice touch was the offering of mixed nuts, in addition to the standard Biscoffs, pretzels, dried fruit, and Nutella.  As I was leaving, the club had put out the evening fare that I love so much:  chicken salad, hummus, cheese and crackers, and olives.  I confess I took a few olives and ate them quickly before leaving!

Around 4:20 pm, I proceeded to the gate and as I walked up, the gate agent called first class to board.  Perfect timing!  In my seat were the standard pillow, blanket, and mini Dasani.  The flight attendant offered a full pre-departure beverage service.  I had a glass, not a plastic cup, of white wine, the Fetzer Sauvignon Blanc, which after having a few times on Delta, is a pretty “uneventful,” bland offering, but otherwise harmless.

We were ready to push back on time, but the pilot announced that we were going to wait a few minutes on a group of passengers that were coming through customs.  Honestly, if I were one of those customers, I would be eternally grateful to Delta for holding my flight.  We pushed back only about 12 minutes late at 5:02 pm and were airborne by 5:16 pm.

About 30 minutes in flight, the flight attendant offered dinner service, which consisted of hot towel service, drinks in glassware, and dinner.  I was sort of shocked, because the dinner offerings were the same as I had back in March 2009, the short ribs or penne pasta with red sauce.  I would have thought Delta would have changed the menu by now, five months later, but I guess times are tough all over!

The meal was served on different dinnerware than before, but the meal was essentially the same, a nice-sized portion of very tender, no knife needed, beef rib; salad, grilled squash, mashed potatoes, and a very rich, chocolate mousse-like dessert, similar in texture to cheesecake.  My seatmate, a wine geek turned businessman, and I opted for the “safe” Fetzer as the beverage, but wow, it did not taste very good with the meal!  So we inquired about the red offering, which was a 2008 Copperfish Shiraz from “Central Baja,” whatever that means!  We assumed it would not be very good.  It was slightly better with the food than the Fetzer.  To be honest, it tasted better after the rich, sweet dessert. I suggested to him that we needed to move away from the wine and on to the Rande Gerber Signature Margarita, with a soda water and lime in between as a break!

The flight did not have Gogo Inflight Internet, but it did have Dish Satellite TV and On Demand movies and music.  I watched some of WNBC NY local news and NBC Nightly News.  While writing this trip report, I opted to listen to Delta’s On Demand music offerings.  My seatmate tried to listen to the standard music channels, but the system kept resetting to Channel 1, so I suggested he try the On Demand offerings on Channel  1, which worked!

My seatmate actually told me in flight that this was his first transcontinental upgrade on Delta as he usually flies other airlines as per his company travel budget and policy, so he was not familiar at all with the Delta 737-800 first class service and amenities, and that I steered him correctly on the power outlets under the center console, the choice of the short ribs for dinner, and the music on Channel 1.  I think he was surprised I knew so much!  Being a travel geek does have its advantages!

The rest of the in-flight service consisted of the standard Delta snack basket and full beverage service.   The one disappointment was the margarita I ordered.  What happened?  The mixer for this one was the same as the Sky Club and it was not very good, so I asked the flight attendant to take it away and bring me an Amstel Light.  We landed at 6:46 pm, nine minutes late.

Virgin America 912 SFO-LAS 7 May 2009 by J. Augusta

I decided to book a Virgin America to give them a shot on this short flight from SFO-LAS. The times paired up well with my Virgin Atlantic flight, and the prices were cheap. I booked in First Class to get the true “experience.” Check in was a breeze and so was security. I hung out at the Northwest WorldClub (or whatever it’s called now) for awhile before heading to the gate. I was quite exhausted at this point, a full 19 hours into my day! Boarding was called about 30 minutes before departure. Upon boarding, I was impressed with the looks of this plane–purple lighting. It was very trendy looking! I took my seat in the 1st row which is separated by a colored plastic, semi see-through bulkhead. No pre-departure drinks were offered but we were given bottles of water. Boarding took the full 30 minutes as the flight was quite full. After a quick taxi we were in the air and the AVOD was turned on. (Wifi is also available, but I didn’t use it.) The seats were about the same as the Delta International 757 seats- recliner style with several angles and settings available. I reclined my seat back and popped out the TV monitor to watch some live satellite TV (which worked). Drinks and a snack box (yes for a 1hr flight!) were served. I had to try the absinthe which they serve with Sprite, just to say I did! I must say it’s an acquired taste and I didn’t come close to finishing my mini-bottle. We were all laughing about how it’s not the smartest thing to serve in the air, even if this version is “only” 100 proof! The snack box contained three small tapas type items, a couscous salad, a tomato/mozzarella salad, and something else that I don’t remember. It wasn’t the best but is a nice touch for such a short flight and beats the Continental bag of peanuts. Before I knew it, we were ready to land. VX uses the B gates now so it was a small hike to baggage claim. Bags were off in short order and I shortly was on my way to the hotel. Overall this was a great experience for a short flight, I’d like to give them a shot on a transcon to see how their service really holds up.