US Airways has long been the black sheep of the American airline industry. I remember back when they were called UA Air, people referred to them as US Scare (They had a couple of bad crashes). Today it is all over the web. “Friends don’t let friends fly US Airways’ is the signature of a user on FlyerTalk.com. Do a search on US Airways on Twitter and you find tweets such as ‘I hate US Airways’, ‘US Airways is the worst’ and others I cannot repeat. But how much of these ‘smears’ are really true? I fly US Airways a lot and here are my thoughts and observations.
- On Time performance: The DOT noted that US Airways has the #1 ‘On-time’ performance of all the major airlines in the US. That is a biggie. Critics do note that DOT does not include the performance of US Airways Express in their data. I can tell you from personal experience that if they had included the Express data, US Airways would have lost the #1 slot. That being said, the performance for their mainline operations is impressive.
- Upgrades: US Airways has the most liberal upgrade policy for their Elite travelers – bar none! They upgrade their Elites with no ‘instrument’ needed, if there is space in the upper class cabins. So, it is truly a free upgrade. This is unlike most other airlines. For example, United requires an upgrade instrument such as miles, an e500 or an SWU to be upgraded. These instruments can be earned only by flying or paying money. I have been upgraded by US Airways multiple times for being a Star Alliance Gold, even when I have no Elite Status on US Airways itself! They have my appreciation for that.
- Aircraft: Their older aircraft, especially the 737s are, well, old. They have bad seats, very little leg room and even the first class seats are nothing to write home about. Their newer aircraft, on the other hand, especially the Airbus 330s are impressive. They are also in the process of introducing flat bed seats in the A330s for their long haul flights. What they need a modernization of their entire fleet. And oh yes, their pilots really do know how to do a water landing!
- US Airways Express: US Airways Express is the commuter/regional carrier wing of US Airways. Like the ‘express’ parts of many other airlines, it is not operated by US Airways but a collection of regional carriers such a Mesa, Wisconsin Air, etc. They really do suck. I hate to lump them all together. I have heard great things about Republic Air, but you really cannot tell them apart. Most gates for US Airways Express are operated more like a bus terminal rather than an airline gate. Just go hang around gate 35A (thanks Geoff for the correct gate #) at DC’s Reagan National Airport (DCA) and you will know what I am talking about. Their customer service at the gates is really not worthy of being called a major airlines’ customer service.
- Customer Service: That brings us to the customer service of US Airways itself. They are pretty good. I have had nothing but good experiences with them, including getting an expiring unused ticket extended by a couple of months. They are prompt, courteous and professional.
- On-board service: No, you do not have to pay for water anymore on a US Airways flight. They have done away with that blunder. Their service on board is no different from that of any other airline like United or American. Nothing like Virgin America, but no complaints. I have always found their in-flight staff to be courteous and ready to help. They do though need to bring back in-flight entertainment on their domestic flights.
- Public Relations: If there is something US Airways sucks at, it is Public Relations. Perception is reality and US Airways does not seem to be making a concerted effort to change the perception. People still think US Airways charges for water on their flights! I noticed that their Twitter account has a grand total of 3 tweets! Why bother? They really need to respond to the chatter on the web and blogs.
My parting thoughts – I myself do and will let my friends fly US Airways!
Agree or disagree? Leave a comment.
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