US Airways CRJ-900, operated by Mesa Airlines

US Airways CRJ-900, operated by Mesa Airlines. This is one slick looking plane.

Recently I flew from Seattle (SEA) to Tucson (TUS) with a stop in Phoenix (PHX) on US Airways. The first leg was on an Airbus A320 and then a very short layover before heading down to TUS on a CRJ-900 regional jet. Since my flight out of SEA was at 5:15am and I woke up at 2:30am to catch the flight, I slept the whole way down to PHX. That makes for a pretty poor review, so I decided to share the shorter of the two flights: PHX to TUS on US Airways Express (operated by Mesa Air). The flight is very short, only 23 minutes, meaning no beverage service and very little time to even turn on your electronics.

This was my first flight on a CRJ-900. Being based on the west coast, we really didn’t see many regional jets until recently. Even now, we don’t see nearly as many regional jets as folks over on the east coast. Not too long ago, I flew a CRJ-700 for the first time and had mix feelings about the aircraft.

First off, the gate agent was probably the best I have ever experienced. It seems that so many gate agents are hardened by annoying and demanding customers that you don’t see too many who are genuinely friendly. She was welcoming everyone by last name, “Welcome Mr. Brown, how are you today?” – and then actually interacted with each passenger as they boarded.

When getting on the aircraft I could help but notice there were America West emblems on the seats and the bulkhead. (I forgot my camera, so the photos are from my iPhone). Most people probably didn’t notice, but as an airline nerd, this was very odd. US Airways and America West merged in 2005, giving over five years to re-brand the regional fleet. I am big on airlines having consistent branding and although fun to see the old America West logo, it does no good having passengers stare at that logo during their flight. I contacted US Airways via phone and email, but as of posing this story, I have not received a reply.  I assume this must have to do with Mesa Air (which operated the flight) filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January 2010.

The next issue were the windows. On the CRJ aircraft, they are widely spaced out meaning that many of them are in odd positions. For most of us in the front, we really didn’t have a window. I had one blocked by the seat in front of me and one behind my shoulders. Sure, most aircraft have a dead spot in a row or two, but most seats on the CRJs have this issue. Just like flying on the CRJ-700, my neck was sore by the time we left the gate from looking out the window. I understand that the windows need to be spaced out for structural integrity and it is up to the airline to figure out seat spacing, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

The flight was only going to be 23 minutes so what did it matter, right? Well, the flight itself did only take about 23 minutes, but it took us over 40 minutes to take off after leaving the gate. It is difficult when you have in your mind that you will only have to sit on the plane for 23 minutes and it ends up being over an hour. Especially when you can’t be on your phone or laptop during that whole time on the ground.

This must be a common occurrence for this flight, since it was scheduled to leave at 9:56am and arrive at 10:55am. When you consider it only takes two hours to drive between the airports, if you need to rent a car in Tucson, it might be better just to rent the car in Phoenix and drive. I can’t believe I am saying that, since I would normally take any opportunity to fly when I can, but sitting in a plane not being able to see out the window for so long on the ground, with people from Arizona who think 75deg is cold (I was sweating the entire time) is just frustrating.

Most times on smaller aircraft I feel more connected to the flying experience, but this time I felt disconnected. It could have been the heat, the large guy sitting next to me or the odd yellow interior lighting of the airplane (lack of sleep might have been a factor as well). All I know is having a real window can make a huge difference and I will be double checking my seat placement before I fly on another CRJ.

Image: Willamor Media

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me:
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rich (arizona)

I live in Scottsdale and while I personally haven’t made the drive to Tucson I’ve heard it can be a big bottleneck (hours) if anything goes wrong (i.e., accidents). Of course we know there are never bottlenecks with flying 🙂

If you can reasonable drive 2 hrs from Phoenix then driving makes sense.

You’re welcome, eh! 😉

Just be glad you were not flying a CRJ-100/200 as I think you are about my height and the floor is higher on those (ie. even lower windows).

Have flown AC/QK’s 100’s and your neck plus back get sore ducking down to look out. The 705’s (a 900 in 2 class w/ 75 seats only flown by QK are way better except for the window bit. But they have AVOD.



There are still Northwest logos on quite a few CRJ-200s in the Delta Connection fleet. I flew US Airways Express for the first time recently and though D was a window when it was an aisle. I think the windows on the -700 and -900 line up though that might be because I’m used to flying ones with a First Class configuration.

H Turner

DENIED us access to our final destination!!!! The WORST airline ever!!!!! Flew from New orleans to charlotte and was then supposed to continue to cancun. Upon checking into our international flight they were asking for volunteers to give up their seats because they OVER BOOKED the flight. Us having the worst timing ever walked up so they could check our passports at which point US airways employee Debie Novak told us that one of our passports was in unacceptable condition for travel (bent in the bottom left hand corner… not torn, faded, or suspicious looking) and it was her call whether or not to allow us to board the flight and she “would say no”. We’ve been traveling internationally frequently for the last four years, our last trip was in april 2010, and had never previously had ANY problems. She scanned the passport (which was perfectly legible) and said that because one number was coming up as a “z” instead of a 2, she could not allow us to board our flight. We were told that we would have to be re routed back to new orleans and would be issued a full refund (not that our hotel would give us one since we were cancelling with less than 24 notice) and told we would be put on standby. we waited 3 hours for the first flight to n.o. and approached the desk to be told we weren’t put on standby… waited another 2 hours for the next flight to find out they split up our names and only one of us could board that flight… waited another 3 hours to finally board. Tim, the international supervisor at charlotte wrote up an absolutely USELESS report for us to give the hotel saying that the passport was in “unacceptable travel condition and would not scan…. WHICH IT WOULD. The report suggested that the passport was in horrible condition and that we shouldve known better. There is NO ONE to speak with about getting a refund… you have to submit an e-mail and wait for the airway to get back to you at their leisure. They must be the only company in the world that doesn’t have a PERSON TO TALK TO in customer relations which might explain why it’s such a horrible airline. They didn’t offer us any resoultion, not a voucher, not airline miles, couldn’t even put us on standby! Spending the day at the airport I heard complaint after complaint to the special services desk where sat a man who could only offer unhappy travelers shoulder shrugs and unsimpathetic apologies. Over the course of they day I heard four other travelers being denied the flight they purchased tickets for, for one reason or another. I will NEVER fly US airways again and I strongly advise others to avoid their airline at ALL costs.

Over the last 15 years I have had the displeasure of flying US Air, US airways, or as I prefer to call them “Useless Air” several times. It is ALWAYS my last choice and only go with them as a matter of “have to”. I had real hope that they would change when they merged ( were bought) by America West. America West was a class outfit, and I stupidly believed Useless Airways could become a decent airline. It was not to be so. Instead everything good about America West was drug down to the accustomed level of US Airways meaning: bad service, dirty airplanes, inferior airbus equipment, surly attendants, really stupid gate agents, fees for everything, low class first class acommodations, unhappy pilots ( I personally spoke to 4 former America West now Useless pilots), etc etc. Did I mention the ugliest flight attendants on earth? The airline will eventually get you where you were scheduled to fly, but if anything goes wrong like a maintenance issue or the weather- you may well be stranded for a couple of days trying to get a flight out. I speak from the experience of two trips like that. My advice : Only take Usless is you absolutely have to.

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