US Airways’ has two and a half hubs within driving distance of each other. The time difference it takes for a flight to connect into Philadelphia or Charlotte is negligible. Most US Airways flyers I know default to the Charlotte airport. It is easy to get around, has great food selections, and has rocking chairs. Philadelphia has multiple terminals that can take upwards of a half hour to navigate (though their terminal F, previously a complete eyesore, has improved).
But there’s more to connections than just the airport layout–and it gets important sometimes. Here are some things I think about when deciding where to fly through. None of them are absolutes (though aircraft type tempts me the most), but they are trade-offs you should think about, price considerations being equal.
In the winter, snow can throw a wrench into your plans. Airports that are used to it, however, don’t get affected as much as other ones. Philadelphia can have some pretty bad weather in the winter, but they are used to it. This doesn’t mean it won’t affect connections, however. When it’s snowing, I’ve had delays of about 40 minutes into Philly.
That isn’t terrible, but it could also mean the difference between making or not making a connection. So when I connect in Philly, I made sure my connection is two hours. If don’t have the time luxury of having a two hour connection, I connect in Charlotte so I’m more confident I’ll make it in case of sudden weather situations. For other airlines, the weather difference is HUGE (Houston vs. Chicago for example), so consider the time of year and weather when booking.
2. Aircraft Type
There can be huge differences in aircraft depending on where you connect. Especially for service to Mexico, the Caribbean, and Puerto Rico, you could end up with vastly different first-class experiences.
For example, I went to book a flight to Cancun. My options for connections were out of Philly or Charlotte.
The Charlotte flight would have been a bit shorter, but when I looked at the Aircraft, I saw it was an Airbus 321–which don’t get me wrong, I like! But when I looked at the Philadelphia Connection, it was an Airbus 330.
This is the difference between the two flights:
Envoy suites in first class? Heck yes! I booked this flight and upgraded with miles.
3. Meal Service
US Airways only stocks fresh meals on flights over three and a half hours–whether you are in first class or coach. So if you were hoping to eat on the plane, you should try to stack the connections so you take a short flight and a long flight, rather than splitting it between two shorter flights.
But for coach, I’m not sure anyone is making purchasing decisions on being about to buy a lavosh sandwich on-board a US Airways flight.
Meal service in first class, on the other hand, could really make or break the experience. Using the Cancun example again, a flight from Charlotte to Cancun is just under the 3 hour and 30 minute guideline. A flight from Philadelphia to Cancun is just over. You’ll get full meal service on the Philly flight, but not on the Charlotte.
I get this when I travel to Dallas a lot. If I connect in Philly, I get a meal. If I connect in Charlotte, I don’t. This past trip, I decided to go sans meal, but because I was planning on eating at the Centurion club when I landed. But Philly and Charlotte are so close together that, especially when going west, it may be worth it to do that connection that will get you meal service in first class.
What do you think about when booking a connection?