BUF to PHL
Departure 11:20 am
Arrival 12:30 pm
I left the lounge and arrived right before the 10:50 am boarding which gave me time to get my pink valet check tag. Despite a fairly full flight, boarding was quick and easy. The pilot came on and said that we would need 20 minutes for de-icing and that we would try to depart the gate early. He introduced himself as Steve and the first office as Randy and the sole FA
Fortunately the exit row remained empty and it gave me time to look around the cabin and take some pictures. I noticed the cabin was beat up and a little dirty, this was more like the USAirways I had expected!
The hearty BUF ground crew handling the valet checked bags.
The overhead panel, note the missing air flow adjustment on the nozzle head.
I really HOPE that is a coffee spill stain!
Sure enough push back was 5 minutes before our departure time and the pilot came back to announce we were second in line for de-icing. The FA
announced that electronics should still be turned off and that the flight time was only 43 minutes and that the de-icing was accounted for in the schedule so we should still arrive in PHL
Much to my surprise the FA
, Diane, proceeded to do a full beverage service on a 43 minute flight! I got a club soda and even got the whole can! There were no snacks, but at least the drinks were free! At one time USAirways was charging for drinks, even water!
My club soda and the in-flight magazine.
The flight was short and uneventful. The landing was smooth and we proceeded to our gate in the F terminal. Most passengers then had to do the valet check line-up in the jetbridge. This is where we all line up single file on one side of the jetbridge and wait for the valet checked bags to be brought from the plane and put on the jetbridge one at a time.
Jetbridge valet check line-up.
P H L A I R P O R T...and lounge hopping!
I finally entered the F terminal of the Philly airport. For those of you who have not had the pleasure, the F terminal is designed for regional flights, it is small and feels a lot like a large, nice, bus terminal. It is not physically connected to the rest of the airport. To reach the other terminals you can either walk, which entails leaving security and then re-entering or you can go to gate F10 and take a shuttle bus.
Heading towards F10, definitely has the feeling of a nice bus terminal!
One of many regional jet gates!
Arriving at the F10 gate area I saw the large information desk and the large number of displays that give all the flight information. Else where in the F terminal they only display the flight information for flights arriving or departing from the F terminal.
I noticed the large line and decided to visit the F terminal lounge up on the second floor.
Flight information for all the flights at the airport. You need to know which terminal your connection leaves from so you take the right shuttle bus.
Long line for the shuttle bus to the A and B terminals
View of F10 from the second floor landing leading to the airline lounge and crew lounge
The elevator up to the second floor looks like, well what you would expect for Philadelphia. The second floor landing has the entrances to the USAirways lounge and to a crew lounge.
The F terminal lounge dragon welcomed me to the lounge and pointed out that I would be able to visit the Envoy lounge when it opened at 1:30 pm. The F terminal lounge is small but nice enough. It does offer a view of the city of Philadelphia in the distance. In terms of food and drinks it was almost identical to what I saw in BUF
, except now they had party mix, chips, and cookies.
Philadelphia in the distance.
More regional jet gates, some aircraft in the old USAirways livery.
While I was in the lounge I ducked into the men's room and took some pictures, since it wouldn't be a Burj trip report without airport bathroom pictures!
After a little while I headed down to F10 which had cleared out and waited for a shuttle bus.
Parked a little ways off were two types of buses, the traditional ones and larger more modern looking buses.
New high-tech looking buses.
After a few minutes one of the new style buses showed up to take us to the A terminal. The trip took about 10-15 minutes but did allow for a nice view of the apron.
It was then quite a walk from the bus stop to the Envoy lounge! On the way I passed some artwork and the British Airways lounge.
A dark British Airways lounge.
Finally I found how to get up to the Envoy Lounge. There is an elevator, stairs that wrap around the elevator, and escalators!
Right next to the escalators is a HUGE lego replica of the liberty bell!
At the top of the stairs and escalators is a landing which actually has several rocking chairs and an EXCELLENT view of the aprons and runways. This little hide away is probably one of the best kept secrets at PHL
as this is a public area.
Fortunately I had access to the Envoy lounge which is USAirways international departure lounge. To access this lounge you must be departing on an international flight in addition to having normal lounge access. If you are connecting through PHL
on domestic flights, not matter what your membership or status you are not allowed in the lounge. You are also not allowed in this lounge if you arrive on an international flight. It is for departures only.
The Envoy Lounge is HUGE! This is just about half of the lounge.
Full bar with bartender.
Back wall with entrances to luggage storage area, work area, and bathrooms.
A VERY impressive selection of cold foods.
This half of the lounge was closed at first but was opened up later.
It isn't a good airline lounge unless it has at least one HUGE airplane model!
The lounge was excellent and really lived up to its reputation! Not only was the wifi free, but there was no need for a t-mobile card this time, just click on the "Envoy Lounge Guest" button on the t-mobile start page.
The lounge staff were all older women. For the first half hour after the lounge opened they were quite loud talking back and forth with each other from a distance. After a little while, when more passengers arrived, they fortunately quieted down.
As much as I wanted to stay, I eventually left and started the LONG walk to my gate which was at the very end of the A terminal East wing.
I arrived at the gate and was able to get a nice shot of the A330 that would be taking me to Frankfurt.
PHL to FRA
Departure 4:35 pm
Arrival 6:20 am
The gate area was not empty, but was not too crowded either. There was a large group standing in front of the gate. About 40 minutes before departure the agents called for people with children and those needing extra time. They repeatedly asked for people to have their boarding passes out and their passports open to the picture page.
Next was Envoy boarding and finally they called for the Dividend Preferred and Star Gold passengers. There were two lines and I managed to be behind a European woman go waited until she got to the gate agent and then took 5 minutes to find her passport and boarding pass. Upon entering the plane she then had to find her boarding pass AGAIN to show to the FA
who greeted everyone at the door.
She was in row 35 and I followed her down the aisle as I was in row 31. She stopped after a few rows and looked at the row number. It clearly said 10. She then went a few more rows and stopped AGAIN to look at the row number. SURPRISINGLY after going 5 rows it somehow only managed to be row 15! At this point I finally said.
"Row 35 will be at the back of the plane."
"Oh I know" she replied. After which she went about 5 more rows and STOPPED to check the row number! At this point I could see another FA
waiting further down the cabin who saw all this and just smiled and looked at me and gave a little "What are you going to do?" shrug.
I finally got to my seat and had a chance to look around the cabin. The blue leather was nice and the individual AVOD screens were small but a welcome amenity for a trans-Atlantic flight! A few years ago I flew Delta on a 767 from JFK
and there was no AVOD and that was a much longer flight!
I dropped off my bag and headed to the back galley and to find a few more FAs. As I usually do on long flights, I gave them boxed chocolates and they all seemed really surprised and really happy! They thanked me and asked me if I wanted anything before take-off. Being thirsty I just asked for some water and was surprised when they handed me an entire bottle and said "This should last you through the flight!" They then asked if I was a USAirways frequent flier and I admitted that I used to be but hadn't flown USAirways in a while but had been impressed so far. One asked me specifically to come back and chat after the dinner service so they could hear my opinion of USAirways versus other airlines.
When I got back to my seat it started to sink in that the seats were SMALL and the pitch was REALLY tight! Later I confirmed on seat guru that the USAirways A330s economy seats are only 17" wide, the same as a CRJ-200! Fortunately the flight was only about 1/3 full and the seat next to me was empty. I put down the tray table and noticed that even on the empty seat the tray hit the arm rests and never was completely flat!
Attractive blue leather and small personal AVOD screens.
View from my seat.
REALLY tight fit! Notice that tray can not lie flat because of the arm rests being so close!
Push back was on time and we were #1 for take off so after a short taxi we were off. The climb out seemed to be pretty shallow with lots of turns.
The captain came on and said there was good weather and we would probably be early into Frankfurt. The FAs came through selling headsets for $5 or 4 euros! The seats had two prong jacks so even people who brought their own would have to settle for mono sound unless they had an adapter or paid the $5! Ah, there was the USAirways from the past that I once knew so well!
The IFE ended up not being turned on until about 1 hour into the flight which was a little annoying. It is called "Overture" and uses controllers in the arm rests, not with touch screens. The choice of movies, shows, and songs were actually pretty limited. It was fine for a transatlantic flight, but if USAirways ever starts transpacific routes they need to greatly increase the selection!
USAirways Overature IFE, easy to use but limited selection!
The pilot came on again when the seat belt sign was turned off with the standard warning that belts should be worn whenever seated. He then proceeded to give the current score for the Steelers vs Ravens football game!
I noted that the same FA
was doing all the announcements in English and in German.
The food and beverage service then started from the very front of economy, not from the front of the cabin. However some beverage service was also started from the back of the cabin with an FA
going back and forth with drinks but without a cart. I was concerned that my special meal was not delivered first and was afraid it would be delivered after all the other meals were distributed.
However it appeared that the carts had all the normal meals and the special meals and they were handed out to the appropriate people.
Unsurprisingly USAirways uses the same special meal to fill in for several different requests, including vegetarian, Muslim, etc.
Meal tray. The special meal appeared to have the normal fruit slices for dessert but with some coconut shavings on top!
The multi-use special meal main course!
It is a good thing that I like asparagus and artichoke heart!
After the meal service I went back to the galley and chatted with various FAs. I found out that most of them had started with PSA
and had about 30 years of seniority. The youngest FA
had only 19 years of seniority but was able to hold this trip as she was the German speaker on-board. We discussed the history of USAirways and our experiences. They were pleased to hear that I had been pleasantly surprised by my experiences on this trip. Unfortunately the USAirways East vs West (east being pre-merger USAirways and west being pre-merger AmericaWest) divide was still alive and well. The FAs said they were seeing less animosity between flight attendants, however the pilots are still very divided and unhappy with each other.
Other topics included dealing with jet lag, commuting, and the importance of airline alliances. The FAs were well aware of what membership to Star Alliance meant to USAirways.
After a brief nap breakfast was served 1 hour before landing in Frankfurt. It consisted of a beverage service and a warm pastry. I was hoping they would throw in an apple or banana just to make it healthy!
"Breakfast" but at least it was warm.
The landing was smooth but it was still dark in Frankfurt when we arrived at 6 am. Fortunately passport control was quick and easy and I was finally at FRA
! Arriving this early in the morning meant I had plenty of time before I needed to be anywhere or before I could check in at my hotel so I got to see the airport. I'll stop now and post those photos later.
C O N C L U S I O N S
I have to admit that USAirways really surprised me! I had very low expectations. As I look back objectively now, the hard product definitely matched my low expectations. However the soft product went a long way in making up the short comings. USAirways serves as an excellent example that good customer service is easy and relatively cheap to provide but can make a HUGE impact. Am I ready to jump ship from Delta for USAirways? Not quite yet as Delta still has the superior domestic hard product. However if Delta fails to fix their award calendar it might make sense to jump ship for United/Continental knowing that I can take USAirways flights and have them count towards my United account.
Delta would be wise to realize they they don't have a monopoly and their "Southern Hospitality" is not as unique or special as they would like to think. Perhaps USAirways can make a go of being a hybrid LCC, something akin to Air Asia and Air Asia X, offering a lot flights and destinations at low prices. They could be a LCC with the advantage of Alliance membership and without the negative stereotype of Ryan Air or easyJet.[Edited 2011-01-24 01:45:48]
[Edited 2011-01-24 01:46:44]