US Airways through Charlotte20 Apr 2008
For our flight to Orlando this week, we looked more at price than comfort. Direct flights to Orlando were full for the dates we wanted, so we ended up choosing US Airways in coach from Frankfurt with a stop at their hub in Charlotte.
I've heard that US Airways has been having service problems since their merger with America West, so we weren't expecting any luxury. We weren't disappointed. The seats were tight on legroom, and there were charges for headsets and alcoholic beverages. Most annoying, however, was the check-in system, which separate our seats on 3 of the 6 legs, despite having reserved seats together. We weren't able to check-in online (because the Hamburg-Frankfurt leg was on a partner carrier), so we were at the mercy of the airport attendants. We were able to trade seats in the plane to sit together, but it's still a pain. Our colleagues in business class, however, were happy with their flight.
In contrast, our experience changing planes in Charlotte was wonderful. Customs and immigration was quick and efficient, luggage transfer was easy, walking distances from gate to gate were short, and the airport was comfortable for waiting, even when our Orlando flight was delayed for 2 hours, with plenty of shops and bars to pass the time. The central throughway is outfitted with wooden rocking chairs, for a Southern front-porch feeling which we thought was cute.
Coming back, we were slightly late coming into Frankfurt and had only 45 minutes connection times. We ran from Gate C to Gate A and just made it... our luggage, however, did not, and was delivered to our home by taxi that evening. But you need to plan at least an hour for any transfer at Frankfurt, or longer if changing terminals and not just gate areas.
All in all, if flying to the States with a change of planes, we advise planning the change in a smaller airport like Charlotte, and avoiding huge hubs like LaGuardia or O'Hare. Too bad the only airline flying to Charlotte is US Airways.