My incredible trip to the UK:
My friend Amanda, the travel agent, won some tickets on US Airways for a trip to Europe. They were Coach + 1 upgrade tickets and we got to experience Envoy Class. Read on:
Well in order to use the tickets, we had to get to a US Airways city, currently they don’t fly to SLC. We chose LAX, because I have friends there and they had the most possible flight connections that worked with Southwest flights, so our first flight to LAX was on WN.
Sept 12, 2002
Southwest Airlines FLT:1498 Economy
Dept. SLC 6:45 PM
Arr. LAX 7:35 PM
We got to the airport 50 min early and checked in at the desk. We were in boarding group C. We walked through security, which was very tight. I beeped, which I never do, and couldn’t figure out why. Maybe they had the sensitivity turned up for Sept 11th. By the time we got to the gate, they were pre-boarding so we stood in line C for boarding. When I approached the gate, I was selected for prescreening, so again I had to take the shoes off and have my backpack searched. We actually got seats together, way in the back, but at least they were together. We took off on 16L and headed for LAX. I was surprised to see this flight quite full for the day after Sept 11th. There were only maybe 10 empty seats. There’s really a whole different clientele on WN. The people with the cutoffs, dressed like they just got done playing in the yard, and tons on people with small children. It’s a whole different experience.
The FA’s used their usual comedy, and we were even sung to after landing! We landed on 24L, which seemed quite weird to me, I’ve only ever seen heavies land on 24L, every other time it’s 24R or 25L. We grabbed our bags and took the shuttle to the Sheraton at LAX. I asked for a view room, but this was a dumb idea, because you can’t see much at night, and the planes taking off keep you awake. Oh well…
Sept 13, 2002
US Airways flight 64
Dept LAX 6:15 AM
Arr. PHL 2:34 PM
We got there plenty early so we could be on the list for first class, but it didn’t seem to help. There were too many “paying” customers that were upgraded… Oh well, we got seats 17 D & F, with the middle blocked out. This flight was quite full too, which surprised me for such an early flight. We backed out from the gate on-time, but when the Capt went to start the engine, it was giving them an error. Everyone stared out the windows, including the FA’s as the mechanics opened up the engine to work on it. We sat on the ground for about 40 min while they worked on it, but the good news is they got it fixed and we were off. LAX put us #1 for Departure, and within a minute we were blasting down 24L. We headed west, and then south towards LGB where we turned to the northeast toward Philly.
Breakfast was served, cheese omelet with ham (yucky!) and some wrinkly grapes. It was the typical, always gets made fun of, airline food. At least they kept the drinks coming! Approach was weird, because for the last hour and a half, we seemed to be turning all over, left then right, then left, then right again. If that was a holding pattern, it was a weird one! The path took us just to the south of Downtown Philly, with a beautiful view. We landed on 27R and pulled into gate 9. Although the food was gross, the service was very good and friendly. (It might be because our obviously gay FA might have had the hots for me, he was a little too flirty for my taste J ) But at any rate, it was great service.
US Airways flight 98
Dept PHL 5:55 PM
Arrive LGW 5:55 AM
Our original plan was to take the 8:30 pm flight on the A330, but somehow when the guy ticketed us at LAX that AM, he put us on the 5 pm flight. Well, it didn’t matter too much, and I didn’t want to wait in the airport forever, so we told the guy at the gate that we’d go on the 5 pm flight if he could get us seats in Envoy which he did. We got seats in 3 E & F. Of course while boarding, I got checked at the random security checkpoint (do I look suspicious?) and then I was stopped in the jet way by some federal guys asking all types of questions like “What are you doing in London,” and “What do you do in the US” I was like, “What do you mean, what do I do? My job? School?” I was confused and so was he. He then asked why I was traveling alone, which I replied that I wasn’t, my friend was already on board and he finally let me go… WHEW!
So I’ll admit this was my first time not flying coach, so I was in heaven. The seats in Envoy on the 767, although old, were very comfortable and I’ve never been treated better… Plus we had a great view of the front of the engine! Service started with Champagne, OJ, or Mimosa. Before take off, they asked for our drink selection and gave us our amenity kits and dinner menu. Then we were off. We took off from 27L and turned back to the east and headed northeast to the Atlantic tracks. Dinner started and the choices were, Filet Mignon with mashed potatoes and asparagus, Roasted Duck, and Scallops and Shrimp. I had the beef; Amanda had the scallops. Dinner started with a chilled Duck appetizer, followed by a salad cart. After the main course, cheese, fruit, crackers and wine were served. Following the cheeses, Opera Cake was served for desert.
After dinner, Amanda and I went to sleep. It is so much easier to sleep on those seats than in economy! We got about 3 hours of sleep before they started waking us up for breakfast. They gave us our immigration papers and cards for Fast Track Customs at Gatwick. They also gave us an invitation to use the Envoy/First Class lounge at Gatwick. We landed and pulled in to who knows where, but I do know it was a really long walk to customs. There seemed to be TONS of people getting in from all over, mostly UK residents cause the lines at Customs were forever long for UK Residents. We breezed right through with our Fast Track passes and headed to the lounge. They had a nice buffet of light breakfast items and coffee, tea, etc. We took a shower and relaxed a bit and then headed to the Gatwick Express train to the city.
The UK was wonderful. We spent a day in London and then headed out on a tour of England, Whales, and Scotland. If you want to know anymore about it, let me know and I’ll post more about our trip.
Sept 23, 2002
US Airways flight 95
Dept LGW 11:15 am
Arr CLT 3:22 pm
We got off the Gatwick Express at 9:00 am and went to check in. The lady at the counter was very nice and friendly and assured us we’d have no problem with our upgrade to Envoy Class. We went through the Fast Track Security and to our gate, 31. There were lots of great Aircraft to see at Gatwick, DL 777 and MD11, CO 777s, BA 777s and VS 747s. I got to see my favorite VS 747, Hot Lips!
When we checked in at the gate, the gate agent was very rude, demanding our upgrade certificates, which we didn’t need, because we’d already been issued a standby ticket with our upgrade already printed on it. In fact, at the top of our ticket was printed “No Upgrade Certificate Needed” She still said that we needed one and that we’d have to go sit down while she called around. We waited and waited and then went to ask her what was going on. She said that she had checked with ticketing, and we were OK, but that she didn’t think we were going to get Envoy class, and we should plan on a seat in coach. We explained to her that the ticketing agent said that Envoy Class was “WIDE OPEN” and that we should have no problem getting it. She said that we would have to wait until everyone had boarded, or she could print our coach boarding cards now. We elected to wait.
Lo and Behold, we were the last called for our upgrade, and she told us, “You must be extremely lucky people.” Oh well I didn’t care, at least we got Envoy Class. She stuck us clear in the back section on row 7 G& H. There were 4 other seats empty in the front cabin and two in the rear cabin, so I don’t know why she thought we were ”extremely lucky.” Maybe we were lucky that she decided not to be a bitch and gave us the upgrade. She was way out of line, acting like we were trying to steal something. Oh well.
When we boarded, I was talking to one of the FA s about the A330 and he asked if I wanted to take a trip to the cockpit. Of course I did! We got to meet the pilots, who were very friendly. The FA introduced us by name and explained that we were Envoy Class passengers. The pilots gave us the red carpet treatment, showing us the entire cockpit of the A330. We took our pictures with them and then the Capt. put his hat on me and said that I had to jump in the left seat for a picture! I told them if they needed any help, don’t hesitate to come get me, I’m in 7G! With a good chuckle, we went back to our seats in Envoy.
Service went much the same as our flight over, drinks and dinner menus with the amenity kit. We had a 15 min gate hold while waiting for our slot for takeoff. Not a bad wait though, because we had plenty to keep us busy, trying to figure out the electronic seats on the A330. Finally we were given clearance to push back, and within 10 minutes, we were #1 for takeoff on 08R. We watched a BA777 land and then we taxied into position. The A330’s engines seemed to spool up to take-off thrust really fast. The sounds in the cabin were very loud. Small changes in engine thrust were really loud in the cabin. The slats caused a ton of wind noise; it sounded like someone left the window open. Soon they were retracted and we bumped our way over a thick cloud layer. For being a fairly new plane, this A330 was really dirty--lots of marks on the seats and dirty carpet. It had lots of rattles too. It sounded about 10 years old with all the squeaks and rattles.
Lunched was served in the same manner as dinner on the flight over, except the main course choices were Roasted Lamb, Tuna, or some Mushroom Medley. I had the lamb and Amanda had the tuna. The lamb wasn’t so good, but the Tuna was excellent. Desert was a small cup of ice cream. I was hoping for Ice Cream Sundaes, which I’ve read in some of your posts in Bus Elite on Delta.
In-flight entertainment was superb, although USAir has no moving map program on the PTV’s. And speaking of that, there’s no video safety demonstration. It seems pretty weird that on this new of an Aircraft, with all its technology, the FA’s have to do the manual demonstration. I watched several movies and a few episodes of Friends. I got to say I love those noise-canceling headsets. My how the time flies in Envoy Class.
Service wasn’t nearly as good on this flight as it was on the way to London. The 10 of us in the rear Envoy cabin were sometimes overlooked with drink refills etc. Also, I never saw the so-called snack bar after lunch. But who can really complain about a free flight in Envoy class? Too soon (can you imagine that phrase after an 8 hour flight) we were landing in CLT. Of course Customs in CLT was no problem and we walked to D3 for our flight to LAX.
US Airways flight 193
Dept CLT 3:22 pm
Arr. LAX 7:24 pm
We checked in and were told by a very friendly gate agent that we were #4 and #5 on the upgrade list for First. He also said that he had 20 of 24 checked in, with one more confirmed passenger that hadn’t checked in. So our chances of 1st didn’t look so good. He offered to keep us on the list, or said we could have our choice of the remaining seats in Economy. We chose to take the Economy seats he had, and took 25 C & E and he blocked out D to give us a little more room.
We boarded late, about the time we were supposed to be leaving. The gate agent was correct, First was totally full, which made me sad… I wanted to try out the Domestic First class. Oh well. We pushed back late, of course, and headed for the runway. The flight seemed so long in those tiny seats, and of course our jet lag was starting to hit us. The movie on this flight was the Ya Ya sisters or something like that, and wasn’t about to pay $5 to see that! Dinner choices were Ravioli or Beef and Rice. The beef looked scary, so I had the Ravioli, which, much to my surprise, was quite good.
Our flight took us west over Tennessee, then by Little Rock, Arkansas, over the Pan Handle of Texas and the top of descent over Twenty-Nine Palms California. I mostly read my book and tried to sleep as much as I could. The captain expected an “Almost on-time” arrival, and sure enough at 7:28 we touched down on 24L at LAX. Service was ok on this flight, not great, but not bad either. There was one really mean FA that hit the cart on a guy’s elbow, and just said, “that’s gonna happen a lot if you keep your elbow there!” No apology or anything. Strange reaction!
Southwest Flight 1517
Dept LAX 8:55 pm
Arr. SLC 11:35 pm
We pulled into gate 13 from our CLT-LAX flight and right next to us in gate 14 was our WN flight to SLC. We checked in and got our A Group boarding card. Then we had to run to baggage claim, head back upstairs to the WN counter, re-check our bags, and go back through security. We had an hour and a half, and it proved to be just enough time. We had about 10 min to check out the magazine stand and then they began boarding. I’ve been on this flight before, and it usually sucks because there’s lots of families heading back to SLC with their screaming kids. I know it’s late for them, and I have to ask myself why parents choose this flight? So on board we went with the kid filled plane.
The “Pre-boarding” group filled the entire front half of the plane. There weren’t any seats until after the exit rows. Amazing… You never see this on a DL flight. It seems like only the Medallion members pre-board.
I really like WN’s seats on their 737-700s. They’re quite comfy, far better than those on the 767-200 we just got off of. They have the really thin back seats, and a comfortable shape. Very nice… I don’t remember much from this flight, because I was in and out of it between the tantrums of the all the kids on board. But I do remember landing on 16L, and getting my bag from the speedy baggage claim. Overall, not a bad flight, except the whiney kids. I’m sure mine will be 10 times worse, to make me pay for all my complaining… Amanda says she’s not going to have kids, after seeing these little chiefs run up and down the isles. We’ll see…
Overall, a great trip to the UK and boy do I hope to go back again soon! US Airways was great. I had very good service and I was impressed by the level of dedication given by their employees. For the most part they seemed to really enjoy what they were doing unlike most of the DL FA s that I’ve had lately. I think the whole Chapter 11 thing has really brought them together as a team, and I really hope they pull through. It will be sad to see this airline go if they don’t. We don’t need another defunct airline! Fly US Airways!
I’ll post some pictures of Envoy class and our trip to the cockpit when I get them developed. I welcome your comments!