US Air… Decidedly un-American

Warning: Planes

Warning: Rough Flight Ahead?

There are three things that make for a good (or in this case, bad) airline experience: attitude, equipment and amenities. In my opinion,  being American means having a can-do attitude. It means having the best equipment for the job and being prepared. It also means offering amenities as a way of acknowledging  "We're all in this together!" Or better yet, "Thank you for your business!"

Recently,  I flew two airlines for business, and I had markedly different experiences. The first was Southwest Airlines. The gate staff was outwardly cheery and described the boarding process in a fashion that made me want to stand in alpha-numerical order. My boarding number was A-50 and the friendly attendant said, “Not to worry if you are not exactly between 49 and 51 in line. It was OK to be close.” This immediately took the stress of having to compare boarding passes with five other people for fear that I would be budging in line or losing choice seating.

In comparison, my flight through US Air was atrocious: boarding was haphazard and stressful. There were so many people standing at once around the gate that it made me feel like the plane was oversold. Before I was even half way to the counter I could hear announcements over the pager that carry on roller bags would have to be checked. The whole reason I carry on is because of the inevitable 45 minute wait at the Philadelphia baggage claim; which I will get to later. When I boarded the plane I asked if my luggage could be returned back to me like a baby strollers when you exit the aircraft. The response was, “I’m sorry, we can only do that for first class passengers." So much for a can-do attitude; let’s see how the equipment compared.

Southwest has modern, American made Boeing 737 jets. One of the best parts about this jet is the fact it has ample overhead room for carry-on bags. If you have larger bags, seek seats in the back of the plane as the overhead is larger than in the front. Lots of room is American. US Air, not so. The jets are Airbus, made in Europe. And for whatever reason, the overhead compartments are much smaller than its American made counterpart. How convincing is it to call yourself US Air when you fly foreign planes? The flight attendants must know this because the first thing they said upon my boarding was, “That bag will have to go under the seat. It must fit fully underneath.” Holy shit Batman, do you mean I have to fly across country with my feet pressed up against the bag? No way. I spent the next five minutes cursing, cajoling and outright embarrassingly repositioning other peoples’ bags to the side to fit my unwelcomed carry-on.

As for amenities, both airlines offer free water and soda. However, Southwest does still offer free snacks like peanuts and pretzels. US Air must be hard up to turn profits as it does not offer free snacks. They are eking out every penny possible offering only paid snack boxes or paid lunches. And for that matter, when I did whip out my credit card to pay for the ‘All-day fruit and cheese platter $8’ it must have been an Alaska summer night airspace crossing because, you guessed it, they were all out and it was sunny as day outside my window. Guess what? I did see some peanut bags in first class; how luxurious!

Southwest Airlines is American as apple pie while US Airlines is American as Heffeweisen at Octoberfest. I conclude this in flight comparison with the unattractive thought of having to navigate through the grungy Philadelphia Airport. Is US Air is nickel and diming me for peanuts?

I ask US Air is reconsider their service offerings from their customers’ perspective.  Their approach to flying leaves much to be desired for Philadelphia travelers.  We deserve better.  It’s the American way to want better.


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