US1053 CLT-NAS B737-400 seat 13A

In the gloom of rain CLT looked like any other older American airport, all scuffed linoleum, white-on-black signage and acres and acres devoted to parking, but next morning proved sunnier and the terminal looked rather more modern and welcoming. US Airways made amends by checking me in speedily (although I had to assist the check-in lady with punching in my EuroBonus card) and allowing me into the US Airways Club which, to damn it with faint praise, was the best I’ve seen in the USA to date. Clean, spacious, free ice water, a powerplug-equipped cubicle to compute in and more free T-Mobile goodness was all I needed.

Today’s airplane was a bog-standard regional B737, which didn’t even pretend to offer frills like headphones or movies for this two-hour flight. The seat pitch was as bad as previously, but my seat was a window over the wing and thus a marginal improvement on yesterday, especially as I had no seatmates in my 3-seat row and was thus able to sprawl out freely.

No matter how many times I’ve done it, I still love the first few minutes of flight. Hitting the throttle, feeling the aircraft accelerate to Ludicrous Speed(tm), the moment of takeoff — and then as the aircraft banks, twists and turns on its way to its flight path and level, the cabin moving around in three dimensions, you remember that this is not a bus and you’re flying, an idea so magical and captivating that the entire state of North Carolina still commemorates the first successful attempt on its license plates.

Signs you’re in a country where people don’t do too much international travel: the pilot spends 10 minutes announcing line by line how to fill in the Bahamas immigration form and how to fill out the US Customs form for the return leg.

 

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