Seat2A From United States of America, joined Nov 2002, 81 posts, RR: 2 Posted (12 years 2 months 1 week 10 hours ago) and read 5159 times:
Following is a short report from a First Class flight I did last Autumn between Seattle and Detroit aboard an ancient Northwest DC-10-40.
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I arrived at Seattle’s airport to find no one in line at Northwest’s First Class check-in counter. Even the Economy Class queue looked quite manageable. Traveling on a Saturday morning does have its advantages. Check in was swift and efficient and I was pleased to see the addition of Priority tags appended to my baggage even if the baggage handlers only occasionally acknowledge them. I proceeded quickly through security and boarded the train out to the Northwest gates, located on SeaTac’s South Satellite.
With 45 minutes to spare before departure, I headed over to Northwest’s World Club. The lounge was spacious, bright and well stocked with newspapers, coffee, juices, breakfast breads and even a cappuccino machine. Another fine feature of this and other Northwest World Clubs I have visited is the large number of work stations available, providing well lighted desk space, telephone and internet connections.
Boarding was efficient as well – no long queues to be found either outside the gate or more annoyingly, inside the jetway. I must try to travel on Saturdays more often. The equipment for this flight was a DC-10, an aircraft introduced almost thirty years ago. I believe Northwest is the only major airline in America still operating this venerable equipment aside from charter carriers and Hawaiian Air. Even so, I have always enjoyed flying aboard the DC-10. It is a fairly quiet aircraft in the cabin and has what surely must be the largest windows of any commercial jetliner.
The First Class cabin on this aircraft was comprised of thirty-six seats, upholstered in an attractive dark blue patterned fabric. I very much prefer fabric to leather seats, which often seem stiff and squeaky rather than soft and supple. At first glance, these seats appeared quite small by First Class standards ~ about the size of DC-9 First Class seats. This is because the seatbacks are totally separated by the wide armrest dividing each seat pair leaving a space of about 8 inches between seatbacks. Once sat however, the seat cushions are as wide and soft as most any First Class seat and the overall impression was one of reasonable comfort. Though the large number of seats did not lend an air of spaciousness to the First Class cabin, it appeared otherwise clean and inviting. There were no in-seat phones however, and Northwest no longer provides movies or music on domestic flights within the contiguous United States.
A flight attendant appeared, took my jacket and offered a pre-departure beverage. I asked for an orange juice and settled in for the almost four hour flight into Detroit.
Upon reaching cruising altitude, little time was wasted in getting the breakfast service under way. I have always looked forward to the inflight meal service, if only for the diversion that a good meal offers to a long trip. Despite this being a nearly four hour flight, no menu was presented. Coffee and juices were offered followed by the breakfast cart. Today’s choices were cereal, French toast or an omelet. I chose the omelet. A tray was presented with an unopened container of fat-free yogurt, a bowl of fresh fruit and my entrée with the tin foil still affixed to the top of the dish. Silverware was of course plasticware rolled up in a linen napkin. Individual salt and pepper shakers were not in evidence, having been replaced by individual packets which proved insufficient for both the omelet and potatoes. The omelet itself, though small, was tasty. Unfortunately, my serving of O’Brien potatoes were more onion and peppers than potatoes. A single slice of Canadian bacon was halved and tossed in on the side. Almost as an afterthought, we were offered either a muffin or a bagel. I chose the bagel which was served cold. Later in the flight, my three attempts to get a glass of water via the flight attendant call button went unheeded.
I have logged well over two million miles in the air aboard over one hundred airlines and have eaten hundreds of First Class meals in that time. I, more than most, appreciate the difficulties in preparing and serving top-flight food aloft so I certainly don't hold the airlines to the same standards I would for a restaurant on the ground. Nevertheless, based upon my experiences aloft, the meal and presentation aboard this flight would have been appropriate had the flight time been two hours or less. On a flight of nearly four hours however, I would have expected a nicer meal with a better presentation. Even on a domestic flight in America. In years past, Northwest accomplished this with an enhanced service for longer flights called Regal Imperial Service. Certainly there was ample time to serve this meal course by course. Based upon this and several other flights on Northwest in the past year, it is obvious that little emphasis is placed upon either meal quality or presentation. The complete disappearance of the flight attendants over the latter half of the flight was hardly professional.
This best part of this Northwest flight was on the ground. Pre-flight check-in and lounge facilities were excellent and my luggage was delivered in a timely manner upon arrival in Detroit. Overall, Northwest delivers a fairly reliable product. Most all of my recent flights on them including this one have been on time. While many of their aircraft are older (though they appear clean and well maintained) and the inflight service is negligible, this airline is certainly acceptable for domestic travel within North America. I would not, however, pay top dollar for their international Business Class product.
SR 103 From United States of America, joined Sep 2000, 1741 posts, RR: 38
Reply 4, posted (12 years 2 months 5 days 14 hours ago) and read 4719 times:
Nice report. My report is also on SkyTrax and I have a different opinion than you. I do pay top dollar for their World Business Class and would certainly do it again.
I respect your opinions and I was just like you till recently. Flying is no fun these days anymore in the US. I find NW's Business Class product better than many airlines such as LH, AA etc... Sure it is no CX or BA but I am not expecting that when I buy NW tickets. I will admit, recently I had a choice between NW/KL across the Atlantic this Christmas. I have ended up booking DTW-AMS-MIA on KLM just to avoid NW. The main reason is the service is inconsistent. Its either great or horrible. I prefer not to take chances.
Would I ever hesitate to fly NW's WBC? Not one bit! They are great when they want to be and I consider them a notch above many other US airlines.
Just out of curiosity, what flights did you have with them in WBC? I just want to know why you feel this way about NW's WBC. These are just my opinions, I don't want to start a war, just genuine curiosity. That's all!
Seat2A From United States of America, joined Nov 2002, 81 posts, RR: 2
Reply 5, posted (12 years 2 months 4 days 2 hours ago) and read 4609 times:
Thanks for your response! I wrote this report about a year ago and the reservations I expressed about Northwest's WBC were based upon what I felt was their very average service within America. It's worth noting however that I have never flown NW's WBC internationally.
Per my thinking at the time, surely the odds were that an airline that provided such a lackluster First Class product in the US would not likely provide a much better service on their international routes either.
Still, the odds can be beaten on occasion. If you are happy with NW's international service up front, more power to you and Northwest! I would add however that based upon reports that I have read of other's travels upon other airline's international Business Classes, amongst US carriers at least, CO and DL seem to offer superior seating and especially meals. If you were to compare NW's meal offerings with some of the menu transcripts I've seen in reports over at FlyerTalk, AA definitely offers a better meal service. CO's Business First seat most certainly seems superior to NW's WBC seat.
I definitely welcome your further thoughts/comments on this. I certainly don't consider opinions contrary to mine warlike. To the contrary, I welcome a good debate and exchange of information and experiences. Indeed, I may well be wrong about the quality of NW's services. Again, my suppositions were based not upon actual experience in WBC but rather upon my experiences with NW's so-so domestic product.
Next you say CO. I assure you the seats are virtually the same. CO may be better on the 777 but the 767's and 752s provide nothing extra than NW. (Yes I have been in these seats as well!)
Regarding food. I have always found the food to be excellent and as I have not traveled AA Internationally I can not comment, though my brother has plenty of times. He does say they have great food and I have heard the same from others. The seat on the other hand leaves much to be desired.
Basically all I am saying really is, don't judge till you experience it yourself. I believe you have to experience the service on NW's WBC to actually offer an opinion. Comparing domestic First Class to international Business Class is totally off. If you want to follow that path, CO,AA,DL etc... have very different domestic F classes to International C classes. I hate UA for domestic flights. Yet their International service is far superior to all the others and even some European airlines.
Express your opinions by all means, but don't assume. I suggest you give NW WBC a try for yourself. All I am going to say is don't board the aircraft thinking this is Cathay Pacific. Otherwise I am sure you will be more than satisfied.
Have any more questions or suggestions? I hope we can continue to discuss this in a appropriate fashion.
Seat2A From United States of America, joined Nov 2002, 81 posts, RR: 2
Reply 7, posted (12 years 2 months 2 days ago) and read 4522 times:
In my report, I'm not comparing NW's domestic First Class to theirs or any else's international Business Class product. I said that I would not pay top dollar for their Business Class product and that statement was based upon what I perceived as NW's mediocre domestic First Class service.
As an analogy, let me put it this way:
Imagine you had an important business meeting with someone at a really nice restaurant. The kind of restaurant where it goes without saying that you'd dress appropriately. You show up in your suit and tie, the person you're planning to do business with shows up in shorts and a sweatshirt. As such, you might have some real concerns about this person's good judgement based upon their casual approach to an important meeting, much less their disregard for established social convention. And the odds are your concerns would be well founded in the long run. NW's domestic First Class is that guy. Compared to AA or CO's domestic First Class, NW's is mediocre. To me, the odds are that their business class product would likely be behind carriers like AA and CO as well. That's where I was coming from when I said I'd not pay top dollar for NW's WBC.
And, as I've stated, the odds can be wrong sometimes. First impressions can also be wrong. Sometimes. You say you've had some good experiences with NW's WBC. So have others. However, I have seen more reports coming from experienced travellers whose opinions I also respect (in places like Business Traveller magazine, FlyerTalk's Trip Reports forum, SkyTrax, Epinions, etc.) describing NW's WBC as mostly average. I don't think they were expecting CX either but rather giving objective opinions based upon their experiences with other airlines vs. NW.
As such, without benefit of personal experience in WBC, I'm going to fall back on those reviews along with my own gut instincts and go with the airlines that seem to consistently get the best reviews. Granted, I may be missing out on some possibly fine WBC service in doing so and I'll admit that even the acknowledged best airlines like SQ, CX, LH and BA lay an occasional egg in their J class services but until I start seeing consistently good reviews on NW's WBC, not just the occasional good one, I'll reserve the right to form a reasonable suspicion if nothing else and take my money elsewhere.
P.S. I've sat in CO's 777 and 767 BF seats as well as UA's, DL's and AA's. It's just my personal opinion that UA and CO have a much nicer seat. AA's feels inferior and I'm not overly keen on DL's either. But, that's just me and my body size/shape. One man's comfy chair is another man's bench...