US Airways A330-300’s. Are they really that bad?? Part II
US Airways A330-300’s. Are they really that bad?? Part I:
US Airways A330-300's. Are They Really That Bad? (by MSS658 Oct 16 2010 in Trip Reports)
This report contains:
17022010 US 0704 Charlotte-Frankfurt Airbus A330-300
18022010 LH 4576 Frankfurt-Brussels Airbus A320-100 (Ticketed as US5700)
In November I decided I needed to see some family in Anderson, SC. in the Belgain “Krokus” vacation. And since prices usually are down at that time of year. I went for it, after a search it looked like UA (BRU-IAD-CLT) and BA (BRU-LHR-ATL) where the winners for about 550 Euros. United had a late departure out of Brussels but on the way back I had to leave at noon. British Airways had the late night flight back to London Heathrow, but arriving in the late afternoon in Atlanta would make me loose a day. Suddenly, I remembered US Airways had a direct flight from CDG to CLT. But could not find it. However it’s routing via FRA was cheaper then UA and BA. I wondered if I would find the same price on BRU-FRA-CLT. I did found something strange, it’s best match gave a ridiculous high price of 5000 euros on United’s code share thru IAD. However looking further down there was the 412 euros Brussels-Frankfurt-Charlotte match. It looked like a win-win, giving an arrival in the afternoon in Charlotte (15h30) and leaving back at 20h10, allowing me a whole day before I left home. After booking I started searching and found the ‘horror’ stories about the A333 and the US crews I knew I was in for something. Two years ago I flew from AMS to PHL with US and thought they were pretty fine. Lets see how they do now?
After a quite negative experience a few days earlier on US Airways 705 I was not looking quite forward to this trip. A few good points, I was informed I would have a different crew since the set I had was making the trip a day after and the seat next to me would be empty. But things can change quite fast. Before leaving Anderson at 1500 I noticed the slight change, the seat next to me was occupied, but could not change the seat anymore. Now I was really looking forward to this …
I left home a little earlier than needed because I wanted to do some spotting before night fell. After a smooth ride I was at the airport at about 1645. I would take this ride over the ride to ATL anytime.
@ the Airport
When I arrived in the airport there was no line to the international check in desks. I opened the seat map of US704 right away, but by now all the two seaters were gone. My bag was checked to BRU but I was only given the seat on the CLT-FRA segment, thankfully the agent gave me a boarding pass for the FRA-BRU leg. I was in 31F, which seemed weird to me since I did not know that they can fit 31 rows in an A320? Next was the breezy security lane. By 1710 I was ready to do some plane spotting. Traffic in CLT is almost exclusive US. First off I went to the D-concourse to see the wide body action. I was just in time to see LH 429 to Munich being pushed back from gate D10, D-AIKL was today’s A330 making the trip to Germany today. Besides it there was N253AY, a 762 parked going to Philadelphia. A little more down the concourse there was a US A333 preparing to leave for LGW as US 732. This plane arrived earlier from Frankfurt, as my flight arrived from London. N273AY was being prepared for the trip today. Unfortunately there was no window near the gate that I could see which plane was taking me to Frankfurt tonight. But thanks to ACARS I found out it was going to be N272AY and when I walked over to the c-concourse, I had a perfect view of our plane. As the B and C concourses are exclusively for US, I continued over to the A-concourse. Underway I did get to see the Piedmont retrojet, coincidentally this plane is always in CLT when I’m there. In the A-concourse you will find most domestic carriers (except jetBlue who is in D) with flights to their hubs. It was hard to see any registrations but did get a nice sunset view with an AA ERJ going to ORD. By now it was 1815 and it was dark so I went back to the gate area. At the meantime the LGW flight was pushing back and I went to the GA to ask if it was possible to change my seat two an open twosome. But again, no success. In the gate area I noticed a larger woman with her boarding pass clearly visible and noticed she was in the same row as me. Nothing against obesity, but on a plane that cramped. Hmmm no.. I was offered a payed upgrade to J-class for 600 dollars but I declined. Finally at 1925 the boarding process started. I was to board in zone 5. next to us at gate D13 there was a flight boarding to PHL and the gate agent had some humour. He made the announcement making everybody from my flight get up. And ending his announcement with “This is for the flight to ….. Philadelphia”. Zone 5 was due to board at 1940.
Wednesday 17 February 2010
Charlotte (CLT/KCLT) – Frankfurt (FRA/EDDF)
US Airways 0704 (Codeshare: Lufthansa 1417)
Airbus A330-323X N272AY. Economy 26A
20h10-20h00 (Gate D11; wheels up on runway 36R at 20h24)
10h40-11h02 (Gate C06; wheels down on runway 25L at 10h54)
Cruising Altitude: FL 350
Load factor: 85% in Y
Est Flying Time: 8hours08minutes.
122nd registered flight.
3rd flight in 2010
6th flight on US Airways
3rd flight on the A330
3rd flight on the A330-300
1st flight on N272AY
Boarding was thru the 2L door again and got greeted by a friendly ‘welcome on board’. My seat tonight was in the second Y cabin. When I arrived at my seat my neighbour was already in his seat. Thankfully it was not the larger woman that I have seen earlier. But, still no empty seat next to me, thank goodness this was the only negative aspect of the trip. My seatmate was an older man from Germany who was very pleasant, one of the best seatmates I ever had before. I noticed that there was boarding music, something jazzlike, any ideas which music this was? A full 15 minutes before our scheduled departure the doors closed and we pushed back. Then we listened to another ‘southern accent’ safety demo. Then we started our quite long taxi, did not know that CLT could get that busy. But 25 minutes later our A330 lifted up from runway 36R.
In flight entertainment was the same as on the FRA-CLT segment, however having flown this route a few days earlier. The selection was of course the same. I (tried) to watch it’s al about Steve. Later on the flight I switched to my own mp3.
Meal selection was the following:
1 hour into the flight: Dinner, chicken or pasta. Chose the pasta again but this time I was surprised about the quality: The best Y-meal ever
1 hour before landing: Breakfast, a Danish roll, not much but quite filling.
The first thing I noticed was that the plane looked much fuller than showed on the seat map. After doing a second inspection I found out why, the middle block of the last 4 rows had cups and napkins with reserved for crew written on it. I have nothing against crews taking a deserved rest break, but taught it was awkward that they moved paying pax for their rest. The normal crew rest is the best row on the plane, the emergency exit. The F/A’s themselves were friendlier than the US705 crew I had a few days earlier. After meal service completed I tried to sleep (wanted to watch the movie, but sleep beated me). As the “generous” seat pitch has been well discussed in part I. The guy in 27A was quite tall so recline was almost impossible and the person in 25A could stretch him in 2 seats so the armrest was up making it even tighter. First of all I leaned against the wall, then I tried putting my head on the seat in front of me, then the tray table. Before giving up I tried sleeping in a upright position. After 2,5 hours I gave it up and stretched my legs, as on the flight over the rear galley was off limits to passengers. By this time it was 730AM in FRA or 130AM in CLT. For the next two hours I spent my time playing with the IFE and my own mp3, taking pictures and talking with my neighbour. He gave up on sleeping as well, I did feel sorry for him being even taller than me he had to sit on the top of his toes. Finally breakfast came.
After the Breakfast was cleared I made my final stretch. When I left the lavatory in the rear galley (the only thing that was not off-limits to passengers). A F/A recognized me from US705 a few days earlier and started to talk, suddenly I was allowed in the rear galley :p. After a nice chat I went back to my seat. A few minutes later the ‘turn off electronic devices’ sign came on again. Once we got below 10 000 feet several passengers still wanted to use the lavatory. One got away with it, the other not. While taking pictures my neighbour offered to take a picture of me, which I accepted. Suddenly I heard the gear go down quite early. A few minutes later we stopped our descent and the flaps came up. This would mean we will be making a go-around and I was right. We went around the block and 10 minutes later we were down on runway 25L. A short taxi later we docked into gate C6, the exact same gate we left from on US705. We parked in besides a TAROM 737 flying to Bucharest and another company A333 (N270AY) flying back to Charlotte as US705. This time, there were jetways attached to the 1L and the 2L. We disembarked thru the 2L as the other aisle disembarked thru the 1L door, However I wished I could have past the Envoy cabin so I could at least snap a quick pic.
As soon as I left the aircraft I noticed a screen with the connections for passengers arriving from US704 from Charlotte. But there was no connecting flight to BRU listed, after a few minutes I found another screen with my connection to BRU listed, but this time there was no gate listed. After walking thru a few corridors I was back in the main hall. I asked the agent at the desk which gate LH4576 was suppose to leave from, first he did not want to give the info. But as soon as I showed him by boarding pass issued in Charlotte he said the gate was unchanged. At this point I discovered I was landside, so I took a walk to the train station and back before clearing security. My gate was B6 which boards by bus. Upstairs I had a nice view of my A333 being prepared for it’s journey back to Philadelphia. The other A330 to Charlotte was pushing back by now. While waiting in the gate area I noticed the Privatair crew who just operated the BOM-FRA segment waiting for the flight. They would be deadheading to BRU. Around 1230 boarding was announced for:
Thursday, 18 February 2010
Frankfurt (FRA/EDDF) – Brussels (BRU/EBBR)
Lufthansa 4576 (Codeshare: US Airways 5700, Brussels Airlines 5004, Air New Zealand 4522, Air Canada 9320, Aegan Airlines 1428)
Airbus A320-200 D-AIQT “Gotha”. Economy 14F
12h55-12h57 (Gate B6; wheels up on runway 7R at 12h59)
13h50-13h44 (Gate A53; wheels down on runway 25L at 13h39)
Est Flying Time: 45mins
Cruising Altitude: FL 200.
Load factor: 50% in Y
123rd registered flight.
4th flight in 2010
2nd flight on Lufthansa
7th flight on the A320 family
2nd flight on the A320
1st flight on D-AIQT
When I showed my boarding pass to the gate agent she looked at it and gave a weird look. Then she told me my seat assignment changed because a smaller aircraft was scheduled and was given 14F. My first thought was that they had put an A319 or a 737 on the route. After a small wait on the bus we finally left and drove almost to BRU :-p where we parked next to an A320. At around 1255 I found my seat with a wonderful surprise, 14D and 14E were empty. Now that’s more than welcome after a cramped US Airways flight. By 1257 the doors were closed and since we were almost parked at the threshold, we were airborne at 1259
As soon as we reached 10 000 feet the seat belt sign pinged off. Immediately I was up to count the rows and indeed row 31 did not exist. After some searching when I got home I found out that only the A321 goes up to row 31. Why did they give me this row back in CLT? Or was there a one day equipment swap to a A321? Back to the flight, service consisted of a beverage and a cookie, just enough for a 45minute flight to Brussels. I was just so glad to be able to stretch my legs without hitting the seat in front of me.
Before I even noticed it we were starting our descent into the Brussels area. The approach was very straight, quik and fast. Before we knew it we where already down on 25L at 1339, and after a quick taxi to the gate we were parked in position just a few minutes prior to our scheduled arrival. After making a last flight deck shot I left the plane.
If you arrive in the A-terminal in Brussels you are awaited by a long walk to the baggage claim, always fun if you had a redeye flight from the US the night before. The good thing is that once you arrive in the baggage claim your baggage is on the belt. In this case it was so by 1410 I was outside, just missing the 1404 connection home. So it took the connection via De Pinte back to my hometown. Underway the flags were hanging halfway as the big train disaster happened just a few days earlier. Finally by 1700 I made it back home.
As I mentioned in the title the focus of the trip would be on the US Airways A333. Are they really that bad? Lets start off with the good things, I was quite surprised by the quality of the catering (especially on the CLT-FRA leg). The entertainment system was older but I was surprised by the choice offered that was very good for a US based carrier. The bad points was the seat pitch and the crew sets (Especially the on FRA-CLT, CLT-FRA was better). Sure, I know that flying is not that glorious every time. But is that a reason to bark at pax? Enough bashing for now. There is one thing we cannot forget about US Airways, US haves fares that is usually much lower than it’s competitors and promotes itself as an airline that gets you from A to B for a cheap price and in this point they succeed. I have never had a delayed US Airways flight yet, most of the flights were even earlier (including previous flights not reported in this trip.). Will I fly US again? If prices are way cheaper than the rest and a nice schedule like this case could convince me to come back, but will try to avoid the A333 (I hope the 332 has a better seat pitch in Y). However I have found fares to be similar to Continental and Delta on transatlantic flights many times.
There is not to much to say about a short flight from Brussels to Frankfurt. Flight attendants, service and seat pitch was just fine. I wonder why US can’t do on a 8-hour flight what LH can do on a 30 minute flight. I have found FRA not that hard to connect, sure it’s a maze, but there is a clear signage.
US Airways 0704: (Total 71%)
Departure: 90% (Very friendly and clean airport, even TSA screeners are friendly)
Aircraft cleanliness : 60% (Plane looked a little worn)
Seat Comfort: 40% (Cramped for a 8hour (red-eye)flight, still 40% for the headrests and Lumbar support)
Crew: 60% (Better than the US705 crew but still mediocre)
Catering: 90% (Best Y-class meal ever, breakfast was not bad either.)
IFE: 90% (quite surprised by the choice)
Arrival: 70% (Clear signage, but you will have to turn a lot)
Lufthansa 4576: (Total: 75%)
Departure: 70% (Liked the last minute seat-change)
Aircraft cleanliness : 80% (Nice well maintained A/C)
Seat Comfort: 80% (Nice enormous seats, loved the little coat racks)
Crew: 70% (Friendly crew)
Catering: 80% (Enough for a 45minute flight)
Arrival: 70% (Very long walk to the baggage claim, however baggage was waiting when I got there.)
As a bonus I would like to give a list of regs I spotted in CLT, FRA and BRU
My Total travel time was about 20hours
2 new registrations (N272AY and D-AIQT)
Thank you for viewing and stay tuned for the next trip report:
A hop with a rare blue bird.