US Airways - Via Charlotte to Florida - Orlando / Florida Guide
Florida Guide > Travelling
Looking at some of the prices for direct flights out of the UK to Florida I was wondering if we would ever get out to Orlando and our Villa. Getting withdrawal symptoms and a lack of sun pushed me over the edge into really trying to get alternative options for flights that were both competitive on price and not too long waiting or transferring through the airports.
I started my search for a flight around 12 weeks out (probably a little too late), but as the dates were during the UK school half term there seemed to be a lot of options available if I wanted to fly indirect. Prices were anything from £480 – 600 to fly via one of the main US hub airports (Charlotte, New York, Washington & Miami). To fly direct would have cost in excess of £850 per person.
We had the option of going out of either Gatwick or Heathrow, but decided on US Airways out of Gatwick due to the good departure time 10am and the good arrival time into Florida (5pm local). The flight itself went via US Airways main hub at Charlotte with a 2 hour stop over. Coming back the stop over was 1hr 15 min. Having never done a flight like this before I must admit to being a little sceptical and not too sure we had done the right thing or not. Was 2 hours going to be enough to clear customs and collect bags to then re-check them in?
Before I actually talk about the in flight service from US Airways I wanted to put peoples minds at rest with regards to the 2 hours stop over at Charlotte. When you get off the plane you are then sent to immigration to get access into USA. What is different about doing this at Charlotte airport is there are only a few planes arriving from outside the US and as such the queues are not as long as you would experience at Orlando or Miami airports. In total we waited 30 minutes to get through immigration and customs where our bags came out on the conveyor belt. Once you collect your bags there are 2 dedicated check in desks for people making onward journeys (the majority going to Florida). Bags are taken and then re-checked in to your next flight. Coming back bags are checked straight through to the UK. After bags are checked in you make your way from terminal 4 to terminal 2 where you then connect with the Orlando flight. We had around 1 hour to get a drink and use the toilets, which was plenty of time to stretch your legs.
Now onto the in flight service. US Airways are now running a new Airbus A330 on the London – Charlotte route and this aircraft is full of nice tech gadgets. The seatback TV’s are 9 inches touchscreen. All movies are run through their brand new on demand system. To say this blow BA and Virgin into touch is an understatement! In total there were 30 films to watch and around 5 hours of other documentaries. You certainly won’t get bored on the flight! A nice touch was the USB port on the side of the chair (economy as well). This can charge IPODS and other USB devices which I thought was really nice.
Food and service were very good, the outward meal you had 2 choices and on the return leg it was the same. Outward meals were much better than inward and breakfast was just a muffin, so not that great. Apart from this all food was good and there was plenty of it. No worse or better than BA and Virgin here. On the Charlotte – Orlando route you only get a small bag of nuts and drink, but this is enough as most people had eaten already at the main food outlets within Charlotte Airport.
We arrived in Orlando 15 min early and our bags came straight out without too much of a wait. We also found car hire to be less busy as normally they have to deal with a whole 747 or airbus full of UK passengers all wanting car hire.
In summary the journey was very good and would be a route I would definitely look into again. The fact you got off the plane, stretched your legs, had some food and then arrived into Orlando feeling rather fresh was a plus. In total I reckon we saved around 30 minutes at customs and around 15 minutes at the car hire desk alone, so actually we did not arrive that late compared to taking the direct flights from the UK.
What was the best part of this was the fact we paid £525 for flights during the school holidays in June. Direct flights were almost £300 more expensive, so in total we saved £900 as a family and put this money to good use when in Orlando and at the parks. All for the trade off of having to get off a plane and onto another one. Certainly in my view well worth the money. Would I use US Airways again, yes I would!
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