Topic: CLE-LHR-CLE Via PHL And CLT In Envoy On US
Posted 2011-02-23 12:45:14 and read 13688 times.
Hello all, you might remember my report about trip to London last November. If you don't, you can view it here.
CLE-CLT-LGW And Back On US In Economy (by dimoko Jan 31 2011 in Trip Reports)
This time, my wife was working in London for the entire month of February, so it was time to head over to keep her sane once more. This time i had wanted to try something unique for my trip. I considered Virgin Atlantic, but couldnt make the connections work. I considered Air Canada, but they raised their fares right before I booked, I was about to give up and use some Continental miles when i did one last Hipmunk search.
CLE-PHL-LHR and LGW-CLT-CLE for $570 after all fees. This was too hard to pass up, even though i had already experience the US A330s. This time however, my wife, as a valentines present gave me half of the cost to upgrade to envoy class. And due to the PHL layover, the transatlantic leg would be on a new A330-200 with the new Envoy Suite...that is, if there was still one available. I watched online agonizingly until 24 before departure when the upgrade became available...
I called US international ticketing, and she had some problems with the computer accepting the upgrade, and while i was on hold i did the upgrade online. the agent was VERY nice and she was happy i got the upgrade i wanted.
So, after a half a day of work on Wednesday i headed to CLE. The trip to PHL was also nice, because although this was an entirely economy flight, it was operated by an EMB-175, a type i had yet to fly on, and had wanted to.
so my first flight
This was fairly uneventful, except the CSA at the gate made an annoucement ahead of boarding that this aircraft typically fills its overhead bins about halfway through boarding, so anyone with a large roller bag should check it at the gate free of charge. of course, most ignored her until halfway through boarding she announced that the overheads were full and that people needed to leave the line to get their gate check tags...
boarding was smooth after that.
here is the lovely bird.
Here is the takeoff from CLE
window was slightly off
ample leg room
very spacious cabin, especially for an RJ
This flight was uneventful, other than the pilot announcing that "ted and diane" were on the flight and they were air traffic controllers, and due to their trip, we had gotten direct routes to PHL...which put as at the gate 20 minutes early.
This was nice because my connection time of an hour and a half seemed on the edge of my ability to enjoy the Envoy lounge at PHL
The lounge had a decent selection of finger foods. Cheeses, dips and crackers, and a nicely stocked bar
this bar had yuengling, i had a few of them while waiting.
there were flights to Tel Aviv, Manchester and Dublin that all boarded before my flight to London, so the lounge cleared out a bit.
elevator headed back down to the terminal
these chairs are before the check in at the lounge, and could be accessible to anyone i would guess.
My flight was called, i gave a tip to the bartender at the lounge and i headed for my gate. When i got there i had missed the pre-boarding and there was no separate line for Envoy customers. I didn't want to be rude, but this was my first flight "up front" and i wanted all the perks, so i went to the desk and asked the agent if there was a separate envoy boarding area, she said there wasn't, but i could follow her to the gate and skip the line. I felt bad and good at the same time, strolling past the line and turning LEFT for a change at the bottom of the jetway. i stopped to snap this shot of the A330-200
This is the 2nd flight
When i boarded, i walked up to 1A and found someone in my seat...i was horrified, had someone snagged the last envoy seat?!? then the man realized he had 1C and apologized profusely, he moved his things out of the suite and let me have it...unfortunately this meant i couldnt get a picture of the seat and how it was presented. This really is a lovely little "suite" and has a lot of great features besides the extra foot-space. Number one, it has a few cubbies and areas for your stuff...between my ipod, my cell phone, my camera and my passport, i have a lot to keep track of that i dont want in my pockets all night...there were good spots for everything in this seat.
stretching my feet before takeoff.
my pre-flight mimosa and some of the aforementioned storage space
the provided water, and the technology area, featuring universal outlet, usb power, a light, and the controller for AVOD.
there was also a nice DEEP waterbottle holder that i forgot to snap a picture of.
here are the menus, which were handed out shortly after boarding.
and a special insert on featured wines offered.
I felt a little strange taking pictures of everything, not wanting to embarrass myself and point out myself as the Envoy class "newbie" but i have seen pictures of $10,000 first class suites on here, so i know that others do it.
here is the amenity kit, and its contents
view of my 2 windows
I am about 6' and here is my leg room
Takeoff from PHL
shortly after takeoff they came through with hot towels and provided headsets.
shortly after that some warm mixed nuts, and my coke zero...i also had a glass of the pinot noir to go with my steak (that comes later)
The salad was very nice, although the dressing (a creamy Parmesan) was very sharp. The salad was served a nice temperature (which will come into play later)
also the onion french rolls were wonderful.
i chose the beef, which arrived slightly overdone (to my tastes), but it remained juicy because of the sauce.
after the mains it was time for dessert, i picked the white chocolate mouse, which was lovely
I leaned back and started to watch Inception on the screen, and made it a good deal though, and then nodded off and awoke to find them in a gun battle in snowy mountains...i figured i had missed a plot point or two, so i turned it off and went to sleep. the beds are lie flats, but i chose to keep it slightly angled, which is just my taste.
I awoke a few hours later, and was asked if i wanted a wake-up drink. I had a coffee and an orange juice. Shortly after my coffee was delivered however we hit some turbulence and i had a bit of a spill problem. which you can see in the picture of my breakfast. I opted for the lighter option of yogurt with granola and fresh fruit. everything was very nice
the sun is up
landing at LHR
We arrived on time, and then began the walk back to the terminal...i later joked that we landed at gatwick and walked to heathrow...eventually i headed thru passport control. This was relatively painless and i found the tube to take me into central london.
While in london i visited the RAF museum in Colindale which was very very cool, if you want to see picture of that click any of my other pictures and look at the main gallery.
Now, my return trip left from LGW, and i was familiar with this, as i had flown from LGW before. I headed to Victoria station and took the gatwick express to the airport.
I was originally going to only upgrade the outbound leg of my journey, as the A330-300 that flew to CLT still had the older Business class product, seat-wise...but i broke down the night before and went ahead with the upgrade anyway. I enjoyed the envoy check in, and having arrived early accepted the invitation to the Gatwick 1 lounge. This was an odd place, i guess a few airlines use it. There was a table with continental breakfast items on it, cereal, yogurt, fruit, croissants, etc...and a waitress asked if i wanted one of 3 hot options, a bacon sandwich on toast, eggs Benedict, or a poached egg. I ordered a bacon sandwich and noticed a sign on the table offering champagne and other cocktails for purchase...i started to wonder if the bacon sandwich was going to come with a bill for 6 pounds...but it did not. Other than the fog, i had good views of some gates and the active runway.
i left the lounge after a bit, and headed towards the gate. i bypassed the Marks and Spencers food-shop on the way, figuring "i am in envoy, they will feed me well." I should have had a back-up plan...If you haven't been to gatwick, in this terminal there are many shops in the center, and there is a sign saying that there are limited services available beyond this point...which is true.
I boarded from the same gate as my last flight, and it is an area with separate passport checks, and additional light security. I went thru and sat down. about 10 minutes late they began pre-boarding of people traveling with children, etc...then they called Envoy passengers and on i went. I had seat 5A, which according to flight aware is too close to the galley and lavatory, which is somewhat true, but it didnt really hinder my experience on this trip.
Before i get into the fun of the trip i must comment on the seat. First off, in its upright position i think that it seats you too far back. i prefer to sit more straight than this, especially if i am going to be eating. Secondly, the tray table seemed to be a bit too low over the legs. I know i am a big guy, but i couldn't use the tray table in my own seat because my legs were too large...i imagine others have this problem, luckily the seat next to me was vacant on this flight.
Now the fun of the trip, this was flight 733, due to depart at 11:35, making our boarding time around 10:45 or so. Upon boarding i was greeted with a menu, an amenity kit, and began to settle in. After sitting there for about 15 or so minutes, the flight attendants announced that the flight was not close to being full, but we were still boarding, do not move seats until we had finished. About 5 minutes after that the flight attendant said that boarding was complete, and people were free to move to unoccupied seats. I got up to grab something out of my laptop bag when i noticed the door was still open, and a man in a green reflective vest came onboard.
He headed for the cockpit, then i saw the head flight attendant tell another something in a hushed tone and i knew we were in for it...
Long story short: This aircraft is supposed to have 2 megaphones on board in case of emergencies. They found one of the megaphones broken and misplaced, and had to try to find another one. I guess there were no other US A330s there that day, because this process took 2 hours. so there we sat at the gate for 2 hours, my connection time dwindling and my spirits souring. They came thru with drinks, and a snack-basket that was usually reserved for during the flight. If anyone saw the recent 30-rock where Liz's pilot boyfriend explains the 30 minute rule (if you say the wait is 30 minutes people know they have to wait but wont get mad) this turned out to be true. It wasnt until after the 1st hour that he mentioned that it was a megaphone that was the problem, he had just said "paperwork" and when he DID mention the megaphone he said it would be another 10-15 minutes...which turned into an hour. We finally got underway and we were assured by our flight attendants that our flights would be re-booked. On to the flight.
Here is the Envoy cabin
Miles of legroom
finally they take the jetway away and we can be free!
ahead of the engine shot
takeoff from LGW
After takeoff there was a lunch service, there was the choice of beef, chicken and a cheese filled ravioli, i went with the chicken this time.
The salad was an iceberg wedge, which was good, but it was served ICE cold...which made it a bit difficult to eat. It came with a pretzel roll.
the appetizer was cold chicken breast slices, that again were ICE cold...a bit too cold if you ask me...a cold dish is meant to be slightly cold, not as if you just took it out of the ice-box.
then the main, the chicken breast.
the chicken was very good, and the rice was well cooked. notice this is all on the tray table next to me...
this time i did accept the cheese course as well as a custom ice-cream sunday.
pilot crew rest was next to me.
cabin during the flight
the pre-arrival snack was an antipasto salad, and some cold pasta. the antipasta only had one type of meat and two hard blocks of cheese, and was ok, but the pasta, again was ICE cold, and had zero flavor...i hate to complain but this was simply not up to par...i would have been happier with whatever cold-cut sandwich they were serving in the back...
the only redeeming thing was the truffles.
parallel landing at CLT
Nice and easy landing into CLT, and we unfortunately had not made up any time in flight as we had a headwind. My flight out was supposed to leave at 5:50pm, but it was 5:00 when we landed and 5:20 by the time we got off the plane. Immigration was abandoned as we got there, which meant as the first 2 off the plane, another gentleman an i breezed right thru...getting our baggage was another story. Again, i hate to complain, but the "priority" tag placed on our bags meant nothing as they came out nearly at the end of a long line of bags from the flight...by this point i had missed my connection and headed thru customs to re-check the bag and book a new flight.
The agent quickly rebooked me for another flight and took my bag. I would have to wait about an hour and a half at the airport which was not too bad all things considered. I headed back upstairs and through security, where i received my first full body scan. I didn't enjoy having to put my hands on my head like i was a criminal, but it wasn't so bad i guess.
I then headed to the Envoy lounge as i had some time to wait, and i wanted to see if i could get a better seat than the middle seat i had been given.
The lady was very nice, but said the only seats better than mine were "choice seats" and i would have to pay for one of those. This is where US Airways has started to lose me. I was an envoy customer that was delayed for 2 hours as to miss my connecting flight and get myself home 2 hours later than i had planned. You re-book me on a new flight but still have the *male genitalia* to try and charge me $5 to get a window seat...
The lady said there was nothing they could do, the computer wouldnt let them do it without a payment...until 45 minutes before departure...so i set a phone alarm, killed some time and headed back. She got me a window seat, seat 7F, and i went and got something to eat, because there was very little food available at the Envoy lounge.
I didn't have my camera for my last flight as i had limited space in my cramped little economy seat on an aging 737-300. The flight was slightly unpleasant, but that might just have been my mood, the fact i had been up for going on 20 hours and that i really wanted to be home.
awoke to the sound of the gear hitting the pavement in CLE, taxied to gate, grabbed my bag and headed home.
Congrats if you have made it to this point, here is my conclusion. If you are considering an upgrade on US Airways, and it is the Envoy suite, GO FOR IT, it is a great product, but without that seat, the food and service don't really offer enough for the money in my opinion.
[Edited 2011-02-23 12:50:24]
[Edited 2011-02-23 13:02:23]