SNATH From United States of America, joined Mar 2004, 3232 posts, RR: 24 Posted (5 years 10 months 6 days 23 hours ago) and read 10263 times:
So, why did I fly from BOS to FRA through PHL on US and not direct on LH? Ticket prices this summer had reached ridiculous levels and LH was asking for $500 over US' prices, which was already the highest prices I've paid for that route. So I decided to keep the money and fly through PHL.
This trip had many firsts for me:
First transatlantic trip on US,
First time flying to/through PHL,
First time with AVOD in economy,
First time on an ERJ-190 (I had been on AC ERJ-175s before), and most importantly
First time on a plane with my new camera (Canon EOS XTi + EF 17-40mm f/4 L USM lens).
Sat, Jun 23, 2007: US1034, BOS 1130am to PHL 1256pm, ERJ-190, N946UW, Seat 7F.
On Saturday mornings, the Logal Express bus runs every hour on the hour so I had to get on the 9am bus which brought me to Logan's Terminal B just before 930am. It was a bit too early, but I thought that if I had got the next one it might be cutting it too close. I went to the check-in desks to find a very long queue. However, as a *A Gold, I went to the Premier desk and I was next in line. The agent was pleasant. I gave him my suitcase to check in and, in exchange, he gave me my two boarding passes. Clearing security was very quick and I then made my way to the US lounge, which is probably the nicest lounge I've been to at BOS.
I relaxed, made a coffee, and made a few phone calls. It was getting close to boarding time, so I made my way towards the gate (B12 in this case). Boarding was called shortly after I got there. So, don't get me wrong, I love the ERJs. But what's with the out-of-sync windows? I had a “window” seat but the window was so forward from where the seat was, that it was totally impractical to take any pictures. Bummer! So much for having my new camera with me!!! Something that I did see out of the window, however, was the luggage being loaded and in particular my suitcase! Cool. I can't really remember seeing my luggage being loaded on the plane before.
We pushed back on time and took off from runway 33L around 1140am. Shortly afterwards, the crew announced that, because is such a short flight (around an hour), the available beverages would only be coke, diet coke, sprite, and water. Eh? The US shuttle flights to LGA offer hot coffee and tea and they are only 40 mins. I've been offered a full hot breakfast on BA on a 55-mins flight from MAN to GLA (see this trip report for more on that). Anyway, it was all B/S. Whatever...
The flight was quite smooth. A bit later, and as we were approaching the New Jersey coast, I decided to at least attempt to take some pictures. Considering how inconveniently placed my window was, these did not turn out that bad (I really like that second one actually).
Minus the lack of window and the pathetic service, this was a comfortable flight and I can't recommend the big ERJs enough.
Sat, Jun 23, 2007: US700, PHL 405pm to FRA 6am, A330-300, N278AY, Seat 8H.
I had three hours to kill before boarding my flight to FRA. I walked around the airport a little bit to stretch my legs. First impressions were mixed. Some parts of it were old and not very nice, some others (e.g., around the international gates) were newer and quite nice. Also, there were a lot of shops and restaurants, so at least there were several things to do. I decided to have a quick lunch at the food court and had a pastrami sandwich, which was overpriced and not great. I then walked towards my gate and did some shopping at the duty free shop near it. I still had over an hour to kill so I went to the US lounge (the one near the international gates), which was nicely located high up in the building. Here's a view from in front of its entrance (apologies for the reflections; the sun was at a really bad location and I couldn't avoid them).
The lounge was not amazing but, much to my surprise, it had a great selection of snacks, including some veggies, fruit, cold meats, and breads. Bummer, I shouldn't have had that sandwich. I killed about an hour at the lounge but then it was time to move towards the gate (A19). When I got there, boarding was called (on time too) and I got on the plane quite early, given my *A Gold status. My seat was quite forward into the economy cabin (3rd row in fact) and I had a good view of the engine.
I should say that the legroom was OK for economy (similar to AC I think, better than LH) and the seat was quite comfortable. There was also an in-seat power outlet, which can be handy on long flights. Boarding took forever, given that the flight was totally full. After that we waited at the gate for quite a while for reasons I can't quite remember (they did include a passenger not turning up and their luggage needing to be unloaded). We eventually pushed back about just over 30 mins behind schedule and taxied towards runway 27L.
and carried on due east. The F/As came out with the first beverage service, very quickly I have to admit (much faster than LH), and dinner followed shortly afterwards. I decided to skip it and try to relax instead (it really didn't look very appetizing anyway; it was similar to the lunch we got on the way back, so see the return for a description). Around this time the AVOD system was switched on. I was pretty surprised that US sells their headphones on long-haul international flights (they were the really small and crappy ones and they even cost $5; yikes!). I had my noise-cancelling Sennheisers, so I didn't care. But, I thought this was really bad taste (last time I flew them, AC gave headphones free on the BOS-YYZ route).
So, I played around with the entertainment system and I found it quite confusing at first (even though I got used to it pretty quickly). For starters, the controls are divided in three different places: brightness next to the screen, volume on the armrest, and the rest on the detachable remote. Clearly, it's well thought out... not! Having said that, the system was quite responsive (much better than the LH one I had tried when I flew F last Xmas; responsiveness of that one was totally horrible). The movie selection was OK. I decided to watch Music And Lyrics with Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore. This was the perfect in-flight movie: light and quite funny (and Cora was awesome in it!). Here's the man himself:
I should have tried to get some sleep, but instead I decided to watch Stranger Than Fiction. This was pretty good (Emma Thompson was outstanding in it), but I thought the ending was a total cop-out. After the movie I tried to get some sleep and snoozed on and off for a couple of hours while listening to my iPod.
I woke up around the time breakfast was served. And I use the word “breakfast” here in its loosest sense. Apart from the usual beverages, the only thing that US offered was a donut-like sweet that was so dense and so rich that one of them could probably sustain a small army in the Arctic for several days. Easily. Anyway, I was massively unimpressed.
around 610am local time. Unfortunately, there was no gate for us that day and we parked at a remote stand about 5 mins after landing (so we ended up being only 15 mins behind schedule, not bad really).
I managed to get on the first bus to the terminal. Unfortunately, instead of letting us enter the main area of B, where there are lots of immigration desks (and where there's also the biometric immigration, for which I have signed up), we ended up being led to a small area, next to the luggage reclaim area, with only a few immigration desks (I think it was in A). I went through quickly, given I was there early but, as more buses arrived, a long long queue formed. Routing a full A333 through a small number of immigration desks was not very well thought out. Anyway... My suitcase eventually arrived and I was on my was to the S-Bahn.
Despite the extra connection and three-hour layover at PHL, these two flights were OK and, at least, they went mostly smoothly. But I will say more on the trip verdict in the end of the report.
While in Germany, I did a trip to the UK with my girlfriend, during which we were caught up in the terrorist attacks in London and Glasgow. If you're interested, you can read about our Odyssey here:
Wed, Jul 4, 2007: US701, FRA 1110am to PHL 155pm, A330-300, N276AY, Seat 8H.
So, given all that happened during our UK trip, my girlfriend and I got home around 11pm on Tuesday. I was supposed to finish packing and get up at 630am or so to catch the morning flight to PHL. So, not only I didn't get much sleep, but I also picked up a cold while in the UK (I assume) and I spent the night coughing and being miserable due to a sore throat. In the morning I was feeling like crap: I had a sore throat, blocked nose, and a bit of fever. But I just had to tough it out. The main thing I was worried about was the blocked nose. Once I flew BOS to FRA with a blocked nose and I had spent the second half of the flight in extreme sinus pain. I really didn't fancy going through that again and I had to find the pharmacy at the airport to get some medication (nothing else was open that early).
I jumped on the S-Bahn and I was at the airport about 2 hours before departure. I found the US check-in desks, went through the usual security screening, and stood in line for one of them. I really do not understand why some airlines want to have separate lines, one per check-in desk. At the front of our line, there was a family with two kids and I don't know what the f**k they were doing, but they took absolutely forever to check-in (20-25 mins). The passengers in front of me just moved to other lines and, eventually, I did too, when one of them emptied. I checked in within a couple of minutes and, again, I got my two boarding passes.
My next concern was to find the pharmacy. It was quite a walk from the US check-in desks, but I found it and the very helpful lady there gave me some medication to keep my sinuses clear (it was a German version of Sudafed I assume...).
Our departure gate that day was C8 and I had never been to the C part of Terminal 1 at FRA before. I cleared security quickly and Oh. My God. What a dump that place was. The terminal looked tired, there was nothing much to do, and there was no lounge . The only consolation was the fact that there was no second security check (I assume that there were no connecting passengers there, so it was not needed). I joined yet another line in front of the gate for more screening and eventually I got in and took a seat. The gate area was quite busy, but not totally packed, as it's been the case when waiting to board a LH B744 at FRA.
Boarding was called on time. The gate area was actually on the ground floor and we had to go up the stairs to get in the jetway. I had the same seat as on the way out, so the view out of the window was very familiar. The flight this time was almost, but not totally, full (I saw a couple of empty seats). We pushed back and taxied towards FRA's runway 18. We took off a few mins after 1130am local time (so, mostly on time). There was some condensation in the air and our winglet created a nice little vortex during take off.
Again, the beverage service came out very quickly and lunch was served shortly afterwards. This time I decided to have it. I went for the pasta, which is usually the lesser of the two evils (I can't remember what the other option was; beef maybe).
So, I was massively underwhelmed by the meal. The pasta was OK, but the whole thing just looked cheap. It didn't even have a salad and the “dessert” was a tasteless pudding thing. LH and AC, the two airlines I've flown most across the Atlantic, have way better meals than this.
Around this time, the IFE was switched on (it took some time as they needed to reboot the system; how typical!!!). I had missed Breach when it was out in the theaters so I decided to watch it first. Very good movie, I have to say. Chris Cooper was awesome. Here's a shot of the screen with the controller (which had a cable running to the armrest).
A little bit later we were over the UK and then on to the Atlantic! After Breach I looked around at what else there was on and I decided to watch Wild Hogs. Yeah, I know. I wouldn't really go out of my way to watch it at home, but it was fine to pass the time on a plane.
When the movie ended we were still over the Atlantic.
So, remember: I had spent the previous day waiting at airports, due to the delays in the UK, I hadn't got much sleep, and I was also feeling really ill. So, by this time I was pretty wiped out and I decided to try to get some sleep. I chose a random History Channel documentary on the IFE (something about Ancient Egypth and Pharaohs; OK, I enjoy that stuff, but I was too zonked out to appreciate it). It worked like a charm, as I snoozed on and off. I woke up and we had already reached North America. We hit landfall at the North of Canada and moved south towards PHL while hugging the coast (I looked up the route on flightaware afterwards...).
It was OK. Much better, at least, than the horrible donut thing they had given us on the way out. I was still zonked out so I snoozed a bit more while watching cartoons. A bit later, the F/As switched off the IFE and we started our descent towards PHL. It was overcast and raining a bit, so not a great day. The approach was very similar to the one we did on the ERJ on the way out. We passed south of Philly again
Well, the part that's the most unpredictable durning such a trip was coming up and it's passing US immigration. I tried to move as fast as possible to maybe minimize the amount of time spent waiting. Unfortunately, the immigration hall looked very full and the officials got us to queue at the door: US citizens and permanent residents on the left, the aliens (including me!) on the right. We stood there for some time, 10-15 mins perhaps. The US citizens were allowed to go first and, 10 mins later or so, the rest of us.
So, I was really annoyed to find out that we were asked to form individual queues in front of each immigration desk, instead of having a single long queue that feeds all the desks. Of course, processing some passengers in the queue in front of me took much longer than usual, for some reason, making us move twice as slow as the others. At some point another flight arrived and more passengers joined the different queues. To add insult to the injury, when all US citizens were processed, the people who were managing the queues (what would you call them? they were not INS guys) decided to move some passengers from the other queues to the desks for US citizens... however, they took passengers from the back of the queue, not the front! I.e., the ones who were waiting for 10 mins or so, not us that we had been there for over 45 mins. I mean, f**king f**k! Isn't that totally infuriating or what? There are some straightforward ways to ensure that people are treated fairly... and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work them out! Oh, I'm sorry, those idiots were definitely not rocket scientists... my bad.
Well over an hour later I was “welcomed” into the country (the INS guy was pleasant and polite enough; but I had smoke coming out of my ears by then). I next had to find my suitcase on the luggage reclaim belt. Immigration took so long that they had stopped the belt, they had unloaded all bags from it, and had piled them up on the floor (charming). Thankfully, I found mine, passed customs, placed it on the connections belt, and went on to my next task: security! The queue here was pretty long too; it took me 20-30 mins to go through and left me with about 30 mins or so before boarding for my next flight. I decided to go quickly to the US lounge. I could have really done with a shower, but unfortunately the lounge didn't have showers; oh well. I had a quick coffee and a couple of snacks and made my way to the gate (C31).
There were not many people at the gate, but there was no plane either! At this point, I felt even worse than before, due to the cold, and I just really wanted to get home. N944UW arrived just before boarding and I thought that we would be late. However, even though we started boarding late, the plane was half empty so boarding completed soon and we were on our way pretty quickly. Apologies for the lack of pictures, but I was pretty zonked out by this time and I didn't have the energy to take any. The flight was OK, we again got a choice of coke, diet coke, sprite, and water , and arrived at BOS 10-15 mins early. The only amusing part from this flight was that I sat on the wrong seat! And I only realized it when writing this trip report. I had noticed that I was again on row 7 and, given that I was on the same seat when flying to FRA and back, I also thought I'd be on the same seat on this flight too. So I sat on 7H. However, when collecting the data for this trip report, I realized that I was supposed to seat on 7A! Oh well. Not a big deal.
At BOS, my luggage arrived pretty quickly and I was on my way home. Finally! And, BTW, the German Sudafed stuff did a great job in keeping my sinuses clear all day; for that I was thankful.
I have to say I have mixed feelings about this trip. Did I regret saving $500 and flying US? Absolutely not. It was the right decision. I just found the US product inconsistent. Both planes were great; I love the ERJs (minus the out-of-sync windows) and the seats on the A333 was very comfortable (for economy at least), the PTV was very good, the legroom decent and, even though I didn't get a chance to use it, an in-seat power outlet can really be handy for prolonged laptop use. However, their food offerings were massively substandard, in my opinion, compared to my other experiences across the Atlantic. It's a shame, since with a bit more effort, they could have had a product to rival all their competitors. Having said that, if I had to choose between a good seat with in-seat power and good food, I'd take the former any day.
As for connecting through PHL, again mixed feelings. On the way out, it was fine. There was lots to do at the terminal and the US international lounge was nice and comfortable. However, on the way back, immigration and security were total shambles (and easily the worst part of the trip). Again, with a quick re-organization on how passengers proceed to the desks, and with a tad of common sense, things could have gone much smoother; they did it at Logan actually and things just go smoother than they used to. I hope someone from there is reading this.
Anyway, thanks for reading up to here and I hope you enjoyed the report.
Nikon: we don't want more pixels, we want better pixels.
Osprey88 From United States of America, joined Jul 2007, 330 posts, RR: 1 Reply 1, posted (5 years 10 months 6 days 21 hours ago) and read 10046 times:
It is sad that you flew on probably the best aircraft (the A330) in the US fleet and still experienced the same bad food service. I'm with you in that, if US started offering better food choices and better service they could really compete with the likes of CO and DL in their trans-Atlantic product.
"Reading departure signs in some big airports reminds me of the places I've been"
SNATH From United States of America, joined Mar 2004, 3232 posts, RR: 24 Reply 2, posted (5 years 10 months 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 9753 times:
Quoting Osprey88 (Reply 1): It is sad that you flew on probably the best aircraft (the A330) in the US fleet and still experienced the same bad food service.
I suppose it must be really rought on the B767s: bad food and bad seat!
Quoting Osprey88 (Reply 1): I'm with you in that, if US started offering better food choices and better service they could really compete with the likes of CO and DL in their trans-Atlantic product.
I haven't experienced DL or CO recently. The last time I flew them was in 1997 and 1999 respectively (interestingly, they were my last Tristar and DC-10 rides respectively too!). But, yes, compared to who I've flown recently, US' food service was totally pathetic. Even AA had distinctly better food last October.
Nikon: we don't want more pixels, we want better pixels.
Cgnnrw From Germany, joined May 2005, 1077 posts, RR: 2 Reply 3, posted (5 years 10 months 6 days 17 hours ago) and read 9552 times:
I flew US from FRA to PHL back in 2002. Boy has their service gone down hill. I thought the A330s were great back then. The earphones were free and the meals were probably not much better than yours but definitely not served in a box! What is that all about???????
Yes, entering the US through PHL is never a pleasant experience. I've learned to just grin and bear it.
I agree the new Terminal A-West where most of the int'l flights are handled is quite nice. The rest of the place is a dump.
LACA773 From United States of America, joined Nov 2004, 3749 posts, RR: 2 Reply 5, posted (5 years 10 months 6 days 6 hours ago) and read 9073 times:
Thanks for the informative, sincere TR, Tony!
The food does look horrible. I've heard they are going to upgrade, improve their inflight catering on the long hauls. It really needs to be done from what it looks like. Maybe one of our friends from US can let us know what the prospects of this happening are.
CV990 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR: Reply 7, posted (5 years 10 months 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 9010 times:
I really enjoyed your report with all those great pictures! Regarding US I share the same feeling has you, I flew last October FAT/LAX/PHL/LIS with them and the LAX/PHL leg was great...the A321 is an amazing airplane with a very generous legroom, the rest was standard but that's what we mostly get flying US airlines inside USA! The leg PHL/LIS was in an ex: ATA 757 and if leaving PHL was fast ( it only took about 15 minutes to pushback, taxi into position and take-off...compared with more than 1 hour flying out of EWR with CO!!! ) the US service was really poor, the food was very, very cheap, they WANTED to charge $5,00 for headphones ( were in this world you see that on a transatlantic flight???? ) and the seats were very narrow ( well at least on the plane I flew, N203UW ). But like you said, price rules and then what can we do??? Will I fly again US??? In USA yes! Internationally? Well maybe....it depends on the price!
Thanks for sharing the reports! The pictures were a total deja-vu! A couple of points. First, the second report has an excellent picture of the breakfast "donut thing" (ah, buttermilk bar; that's what it's called...) for anyone who's interested. Second, I have a question for you: why is it that you got special treatment for carrying binoculars and I sometimes get crap for carrying my camera.
YYZYHZ From Canada, joined May 2006, 96 posts, RR: 0 Reply 10, posted (5 years 10 months 5 days 8 hours ago) and read 8248 times:
I flew US on their A330 last January. While the food and service wasn't the best, their AVOD I found really good. I also found immigration a breeze at PHL (which after my experience at YYZ pre-clearance, wouldn't be hard to do!) but maybe that's the time the flight from MAN gets in. I'm sorry to hear about your experience. My biggest beef about PHL? Having to wait for 4 hours at Terminal F.....it felt like days.......
On another note, I can BELIEVE that US charges $5 in economy for headphones! Those things probably cost them 50 cents at most. And yes, AC does give them out for free on all their flights (I have quite the collection, well I did before I lost a bunch of them!)
Quoting YYZYHZ (Reply 10): I can BELIEVE that US charges $5 in economy for headphones! Those things probably cost them 50 cents at most.
It's not that they charge $5 for them. It's just those headphones are almost disposable. I can't see them lasting more than a few uses. Maybe, from the money they make from the headphones they fund the Y catering.
Quoting YYZYHZ (Reply 10): And yes, AC does give them out for free on all their flights (I have quite the collection, well I did before I lost a bunch of them!)
They still do? Good. FWIW, I never take them as I always carry my noise-cancelling ones. But it's good that AC still gives them out for free.
Quoting N710PS (Reply 11): Have no fear the product will be getting a huge and great upgrade very shortly.
Looking forward to hearing the details.
Nikon: we don't want more pixels, we want better pixels.
SNATH From United States of America, joined Mar 2004, 3232 posts, RR: 24 Reply 14, posted (5 years 10 months 3 days 1 hour ago) and read 7174 times:
Quoting KL1291 (Reply 13): This must be the coast of the Netherlands definetly. I was just checking aircraft movements above the Netherlands on www.geluidsnet.nl and US701 was just tracking over Amsterdam area, heading East.
Thanks for letting me know! Without an in-flight map it was hard to work out where we reached the channel so I had to guess. And a warm welcome to the forum!
Nikon: we don't want more pixels, we want better pixels.
Quoting SNATH (Thread starter): the US lounge (the one near the international gates), which was nicely located high up in the building.
- Nice lounge, does or used to have a great selection of snacks.
Quoting SNATH (Thread starter): US offered was a donut-like sweet that was so dense and so rich that one of them could probably sustain a small army in the Arctic for several days
- Hmm, sounds pretty nasty.
Quoting SNATH (Thread starter): So, I was massively underwhelmed by the meal. The pasta was OK, but the whole thing just looked cheap. It didn't even have a salad
- Looks like the meal service has gone down hill since my last US Transatlantic flight.
I've had a fair number of transatlantic flight's on US 333's and 1 on a 762, all were excellent in both 'Y' and Envoy, though the last flight was aout 2 years ago, looks like service is taking a dip, such a shame.
ChrisNH From United States of America, joined Jun 1999, 3805 posts, RR: 2 Reply 18, posted (5 years 9 months 3 weeks 14 hours ago) and read 6271 times:
Long flights deserve good food. And with all the crowing about how airlines make their money on the transatlantic runs, it is the epitome of greed that they make good money on your flights and then twist the knife even more by offering very, very mediocre food.
Quoting BA319-131 (Reply 17): - Nice lounge, does or used to have a great selection of snacks.
It still does!
Quoting BA319-131 (Reply 17): - Looks like the meal service has gone down hill since my last US Transatlantic flight.
I can't tell you how the food on US changed, but I can tell you that I was on LH HEL to FRA to BOS last Monday and the food was leagues better. It's not even funny. Even the meal we got on the HEL to FRA leg was better than what US offered transatlantic. And I ain't kidding!
Quoting ChrisNH (Reply 18): And with all the crowing about how airlines make their money on the transatlantic runs, it is the epitome of greed that they make good money on your flights and then twist the knife even more by offering very, very mediocre food.
Hi Chris, I hope you are well! Given that I travel a lot transatlantic, I wish they heard you!!! But I ain't holding my breath!
Nikon: we don't want more pixels, we want better pixels.
OA260 From Ireland, joined Nov 2006, 24894 posts, RR: 60 Reply 21, posted (5 years 9 months 1 hour ago) and read 5196 times:
Well your TR sums up US Airways in all aspects. Food drab , charging for headsets!!! How LCC . Everyone I talk to says the only thing that saves them a bit is the IFE. I would only take them as a last resort on T/A.
Just some points about FRA. I have to say I love this airport . Did you check in at the J class desks or Y desks??? If your Star Gold you can use F/J desks. I was just wondering why the ques were so long. Also there are lounges scattered around the place in FRA so maybe you should have gone to the nearest Senetor lounge or were you unable to get to those areas?? The breakfast sounds disgusting. Why do American carriers have to throw out such crap for breakfast???
Anyway Nice TR and I totally agree with your feelings re: US Airways.
[Edited 2007-08-26 14:32:28]
OLYMPIC AIR - ΟΛΥΜΠΙΑΚΗ "Η ΕΛΛΑΔΑ ΨΗΛΑ" "GREECE FLYING HIGH"