Here is a brief report on my recent transatlantic crossing and I decided to get on the inaugural Flyglobespan’s flight from JFK
to Liverpool, UK, but as expected, nothing much was happening as Flyglobespan is launching a number of transatlantic routes this summer. The service is basic in business class. The ground service is minimal and the Swissport staffs are not pleasant to deal with, but the onboard service is excellent and the F/As were really nice. Some of the guys are really cute too, so good for me! I paid $499 including tax on this crossing, so I could not really expect any fancy stuff. But of course, it will be nice if the ground service can be better and a lounge option (even if it costs a bit extra) will be good, as well as a nicer seat, then a typical US domestic 757 seat with limited recline and legroom. The return is on Austrian Airlines, which is really great in terms of onboard service and I found the new seats to be very comfortable (especially compared to the AA
’s new generation business class, which I flew days later) but Vienna airport Pier A left much to be desired. Really small and crowded and the agents were not directing passengers to the premium resting area, unless you spoke German, which was ridiculous. The onboard service thankfully improved, but lots of work to do in the ground department. Here is the full report!
May 25, 2007
Dep2000 Arr0745+1 Boeing 757-200 G-CEJM “Across the Universe”
The day began with a very unpleasant ride to JFK
on A train, which was crowded and lots of typical New Yorker attitude to deal with. Thanks to an a.net member and a late update on flyglobespan’s website (the updated info was posted on the morning of the first flight… too slow), I know that flyglobespan flew out from Terminal 4 and as of now, JFK
has not updated any signs at the airport or the air train or the directory sign. Also it was listed under Globespan airlines, so what is the full name of the airline? Is it just globespan or flyglobespan?
The ground agent was Swissport and the lines of check-in desks were deserted and the computer system seemed to be had lot of problems, as expected. They kept on giving 14F and SSSS to every single passenger, and thankfully I had a copy of my itinerary and asked to be put in business class. Despite a separate business class line, the staffs did not seem to know that Business is offered on this charter airline. After some shuffling between the check-in and ticketing desks, the correct boarding pass was printed out, and since I had a large lunch, I just headed directly to the much dreaded SSSS line, which was actually not too bad this morning. The staffs were more used to an assortment of International passengers. We used the furthest gate and I decided to walk around and did some plane-spotting. I saw the KLM heading back to AMS
and headed towards the window at the end of the B Concourse, and this Swissport agent, who was looking after the drink and cookies desk for the inaugural flight, decided to tell me that according to FAA, photo pictures were not allowed, and I gave her a “what are you talking about?” look and then I saw my flyglobespan 757 arriving and immediately headed back towards the gate to shoot more pictures. Sorry lady, I have not heard about such a ridiculous rule and you are possibly doing some power trip thing! However, I will like to ask you guys/gals, if FAA has forbidden picture taking of planes. So in the future, if I am ready for confrontation, I can ask this lady to show me specific FAA rules. But I really don’t know why FAA and TSA
have to be difficult… I don’t know if harassing passengers give them pleasure… JFK
ground agents really need to go through a sensitive training session. But as you can tell, I pretty much continue to take pictures of interesting planes: VS
744 G-VFAB, Airbus A340-600 G-VFOX as VS
4, LOT Polish’s Boeing 767-300ER SP
-LPE (Star Alliance livery), Aer Lingus’ Airbus A330-200 EI
-DAA, Emirates’ Boeing 777-300ER A6-EAR, VS
744 G-VHOT, Aer Lingus’ Airbus A330-300 EI
, TAM’s A330-200 to GRU PT
-SPH, Eurofly’s A330-200s I-EEZA to Rome, and I-EEZI to Naples, and a mysterious airline named CONSTELLATION’s 757 N740PA at the tarmac.
In terms of gate activities, cookies and complimentary soft drinks and bottled waters were available but no one cared to announce it till some passengers accidentally discovered that feature. I really don’t know, but communications seem to be absent between Swissport and its Flyglobespan’s passengers. I guess it is the first day of operation, but come on, common sense is even lacking here. If you don’t say anything, no one will do anything. I had some water and cookies before waiting for boarding, which began at 7:40pm with lots of Swissport staff at the jetbridge scrambling to know about the airline operation.
The loading was really light – around 50 in Y and 1 in J, and that was “me”, and I was asked to choose my own seat. There were five F/As working on this flight, and the lead F/A immediately got me a bottle of water and a pack of Kettle’s lightly salted chips. Boarding was completed at 7:58pm and we pushed back immediately and headed towards the really long takeoff line for R/W13R. As a JFK
familiar person, I was not surprised but the cabin crew seated a long time ago, and finally got up to get the captains some water and drinks, while waiting in a rather stuffy cabin. We took off at 8:56pm (yes an hour wait, which was typical for JFK
in that evening hours), and flying time was a quick six hours and nine minutes, at a cruising attitude of 38,000feet.
Entertainment system is the overhead monitors, but to give the airline credits, movies were shown nonstop and on our flight, Pursuit of Happyness, Employee of the Month, Ice Age, and the Catherine Tate show were shown, but no sky map and handheld entertainment units for J and rent for Y. Maybe they should work on this aspect and who knows, it could generate some revenues especially on the day flight returning to JFK
and night owls like myself.
No menus and my meal was pre-booked, and no surprise here! But the meal was more spread out than I had anticipated. A full three course meal was offered with a Cream of Broccoli and Stilton soup with Mesclun salad, olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette, and a white bread roll were served first, followed by the main course, which was an Asian style chicken breast with celery and fried potato dumplings. The chicken was really tough and tasteless. Then a choice of cheese plate or strawberry cheesecake to end the meal! For Y, it was all pre-ordered but they had many mix-ups and passengers also shuffled between the Premium and regular economy seats due to the light load and people have to show their itinerary to get their dinners.
The seat itself was a typical US domestic style 757 seat with legrest, which was not so useful. Since I downed three screwdrivers, I was able to nap for two hours, before getting up. A blueberry muffin was served around 2:17am New York time, and descent began at 7:35am Liverpool local time. We touched down on R/W27 at 8:05am and parked at gate 1 shortly after. There was no jetbridge and it was drizzling, so not fun on the deplaning part. However, the airport was really small and for the first time, I was the first one in line for the non-EU/UK residents line and got through immigration within five minutes. That was a record time, compared to previous unpleasant encounters at Heathrow and Gatwick. To give Stansted credits too, going through their immigration also took five minutes or less. That is one major benefit in avoiding LHR
, and MAN
. Bags came out slow though, despite this airport was really small and the distance between the baggage hall and the plane was really short.
To give Globespan credit, it is a nice trip and the onboard service is pretty good. I paid $499 for this one way ticket, and in terms of value, it is fair, but with increasing battles in discounted J fares, I think Globespan perhaps need to enhance the value a bit, perhaps by first removing one row of seats to give more space (especially J cabins were not popular), and enhancing the service by offering a handheld unit, and some form of lounge access and amenity kits (even for a nominal fee). The benefits are definitely flying into a less crowded airport, Liverpool, with good access to Manchester and some kinds of LCC connections to other European cities.
May 27, 2007
Dep0800 Arr0940 Fokker 100 OE-LVJ
The return was a typical Austrian Airlines’ flight and I paid around $2000 for this D class ticket back, which was a bit more than I am willing to spend. I will possibly do the DUB
-US flight on AA
in the future, which was cheaper, or go back to MAXjet or Silverjet. But Austrian Airlines is really good in terms of cabin service, especially food. Food remains high standard even after the merge/alliance with Lauda Air, which was famous for its DO
catering. I chose IAD
used the updated Boeing 777 on this flight, and both ORD
saw the older 767 planes with classic sleeper seats.
Check-in at Helsinki was efficient, as the business class line was empty and the SAS agents were really friendly. SAS handled LH
, and its own flights at HEL
. The agent even helped me to look up the IAD
flight and to look for a bulkhead window seat, but everything was blocked at VIE
, and even at VIE
, nobody knew anything and I ended up with an aisle seat anyway. More about it later!
I really like Helsinki airport and its layout is very pleasant and shopping is nice. I headed to the SAS lounge, which was also nice and enjoyed a cup of tea before my flight to Vienna. My Fokker 100 was parked at a bay and we need to took a bus over, which was okay with me especially I can take lots of plane pictures. J section was not full and most of us had our own row, and the flight was pleasant. We took off from R/W22R at 8:14am, and flying time was two hours and sixteen minutes. Breakfast was served after takeoff. The meal contained a fruit bowl of diced watermelons and orange segments (which were sweet), a plate of cold cuts including sliced ham and cheese, cherry tomato and some lettuce, a hot dish of egg frittata with mushrooms, red and green peppers, and seasoned potatoes (all very tasty), and a bread plate with marmalade and butter. Bread selection includes Kaiser rolls and wheat rolls, and breads were offered a number of times. The rest of the flight was rather pleasant, and the F/As came out with a final beverage and chocolate forty-five minutes prior to arrival. This Fokker 100 landed at R/W11 at 9:30am, and parked at bay 95 a few minutes later. The Boeing 777 towing to the hangar was OE-LPA
, while my IAD
Boeing 777 OE-LPD was heading the opposite direction.
May 27, 2007
Dep1110 Arr1435 Boeing 777-200ER OE-LPD “Spirit of Austria”
Vienna is opposite from Helsinki, and it was pretty chaotic at pier A with all the international long haul flights (Non-SCHAGEN) going out, and the space was not enough to contain large loads of 777s (not even A330 or 340s if you ask me, and the fact that you need to go through security at individual gates make the situation worst. The Austrian Senator lounge was crowded and I barely found a seat. The food selection was nice though with cold cuts, cheese, pastries, as well as warmed chicken omelette with potato pancakes, and nice drink selection, but a bigger lounge is obviously needed here.
Boarding information was not too good and to play it safe, I went to the security line for gate A4
a bit earlier, and of course, I was sent back to the transit desk, as the API information was not entered, but the process was quick enough, and my SAS boarding pass was replaced with an OS
boarding pass, and the agent made all passengers filling out another information sheet. No wonder, people find going to US is a big hassle these days. The gate holding room was way too small at A4
, and I tried my bulkhead seat again at the desk, which was no, but I was upset not because later I found out that there was indeed an open 1A, but the agent, even seeing my business class boarding pass, did not direct me to the premium holding room. Later some loud American passengers, who were flying business, found out that all business class passengers were directed to the other side of the gate and I just followed them. However, this kind of treatment was un-business class and totally uncalled for non-German speaking passengers. Definitely not a good impression!
Boarding finally began at 10:49pm and things were definitely a bit out of order and hectic for this Sunday morning. The purser, Monika, was scrambling to find upgraded passengers (using cash or points) seats using the passenger manifest and for some reasons, the gate agents did not know what empty seats they had, and this poor woman had to drag passengers and apologized to them, while finding them an open seat, which was actually quite plenty. I spotted an empty pair of seat at 3AC, but this German/Austrian woman beat me to it, but the F/A offered me an empty middle row at 4DEG for me, which was okay.
After a really crazy boarding time and not to minute a last minute effort to collect passports and entered their require information for US entry requirements, the F/As passed out pre-takeoff beverages (but champagne was warm), amenity kits, and menus and wine lists, as well as noise-canceling headsets. Door was finally closed at 11:26am and the pilot apologized for the delay, and soon we pushed back at 11:31am and headed towards R/W16. This brand new Boeing 777 came with nose view camera, which made an aisle seat an okay compromise, and I was able to read all the runway numbers easily. We took off at 11:41am and our flying time was eight hours and forty-three minutes. Unfortunately, the sky map function did not provide any speed and attitude information till descent, which was strange if you ask me. Anyhow, the routing was over Carlsbad, Czech Republic, Kassel, Germany, Amsterdam, Blackpool, UK, Douglass, South of Belfast, Donegal, before crossing Atlantic Ocean, and head towards Bartie Harbor, Labrador, Bathurst, New Brunswick, Frederickton, Bangor, Maine, Portland, Maine-Rochester, Springfield, Allentown, Lancaster, and York and descending into Dulles.
The new Business class seat is definitely an improvement over Lauda Air’s previous generation of J seats, and the sleeper seats went fully flat even with an angle, but not too bad. I did not feel the sliding factor at all and slept a good four hours on this comfortable seat with nice duvet blanket and good well-padded pillows. The seat was really functional and smartly designed, especially compared to the American Airlines’ next generation business class seat that I flew a few days later. (Slight off topic, AA
seats were better than I expected, but the cramped factor was notice, as well as the narrow width of a six abreast business class seating on a 767 was noticed…, and with this Austrian seat in comparison, I like OS
seat a bit better but AA
, you are certainly a generation behind and your seats are not innovative at all.)
There was still an onboard chef, who still wore the Lauda Air’s apron and also a young man, but he was the “galley” slave most of the time and busy prepping meals in the galley. The meals were served course by course, and no tray was used, and the table was setup individually first with a nice blue linen, and then bread plates, utensils, S&P shakers, butter, and wine glasses. Canapes – smoked salmon, marinated chicken with orange and strawberry, and tomato & mozzarella cheese, and bread roll – Kaiser rolls, sesame seed rolls, French rolls, wheat rolls, brown bread and crackers were passed out as the F/As began the beverage service after setting up the tables. Appetizers were then served and the F/As served from the trolley and there were six choices and you can have all of them, and then followed by soup served from a silver trolley, and then entrée plated individually in the galley, and the fruit/cheese/dessert trolley, followed by Viennese coffee orders and chocolates and cookies. The meal was excellent, but the only thing that I would change was a separate cheese/fruit and dessert trolley, instead of rushing everything.
Here is the full wine list, menu, and coffee list:
A Fresh Start
Duval-Leroy Fleur de Champagne Brut
Le Borgate Prosecco, Veneto
2006 WeiBburgunder Steirische Klassik
2005 Aura Verdejo, Rueda, Spain
2005 Sancerre, Loire, France
2005 Zantho Zweigelt, Burgenland
2003 Rioja Marques de Caceres, Spain
2003 Toscana, Firenze, Italy
Kracher Cuvee Beerenauslese 2005
Sparkling/Still mineral water
Coca Cola Classic/Light/7 up
Schwepps Bitter Lemon
Martini Extra Dry
Johnnie Walker Red Label
Gordon’s Dry Gin
Remy Martin VSOP
Sherry “Tio Pepe”
Bailey’s Irish Cream
Grappa di Chardonnay
Hors D’Oeuvres from our Trolley
Smoked Fuschlsee trout with chive cream
Austrian white cheese with cherry tomatoes
Salad of Mediterranean prawns
Prosciutto di Parma & Fresh Parmesan
Oriental style Cheese Borek
Saffron Soup with Carpaccio croutons
Fillet of beef with curry & mustard butter, gnocchi in lemon thyme sauce and oven roasted tomatoes
Pancetta wrapped monk fish with creamy celeric puree, grilled asparagus and baked potatoes
Spring Chicken with fresh rosemary, truffled gooseliver croquettes, sautéed leaf spinach and roasted pines
Assorted cheese & exotic fruit from our trolley
Nougat Mousse with homemade orange ragout
DEMEL’s baked poppy seed and plum “Buchtel”
’s Banana Split with hot chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream
Freshly Brewed Coffee or tea
Digestifs from our Trolley
Garden Fresh Seasonal Salad
Smoked Irish salmon & cream cheese
Homemade Mushroom Ravioli with sautéed asparagus, tomatoes and Parmesan Butter
Do & CO
’s Panna Cotta
Freshly Brewed coffee or tea
Welcome to the Viennese coffee house above the clouds!
Experience pure pleasure and choose from a selection of the 11 most popular Austrian specialty coffees.
Kleiner oder groBer Brauner
Delicious Black Coffee, rounded off with fresh coffee cream, served in a small or large coffee
Kleiner oder groBer Schwarzer
A short or large Black Coffee
The Classic Melange contains hot milk, foamed milk, and black coffee
This Viennese specialty made from black coffee is prepared with whipped cream and powdered sugar, and served in a glass.
Black Coffee magic served in the glass and refined with cognac and whipped cream
We douse fine black coffee with foamed milk, before adding whipped cream and cocoa powder
Black coffee in a glass, garnished with hot milk and foamed milk
An exclusive Viennese coffee variation, prepared from black coffee with delicious orange liqueur
Baileys, whipped cream and cocoa powder sweeten the black coffee, served in a glass
It was a very extensive menu, and throughout the flight, the F/As kept on refilling water and coming with OJ and water, as well as chocolates and little cookies. No individual-sized bottled waters were handed out, but it was okay as long as F/As made their water runs.
The biggest disappointment was the entertainment system because even with this brand new aircraft, no on demand functions were set up and we had to watch movies and short subjects based on cycle. It will be a problem, if I can’t fall asleep. With a new plane with good features, AVOD was definitely a must. I hope Austrian can update their audio-video systems very soon.
Second service began at 12:46pm IAD
local time with hot towels and a quick meal service. The seasonal green salad was not too impressive especially the wilted lettuce. It was a basic lettuce, cucumber, and tomatoes in balsamic vinaigrette dressing, but the Panna Cotta was magical. A great way to end the meal! A detailed Dulles arrival video was shown later too, but the transit system was just too complex for people to comprehend, as connecting passengers (or more specific – connecting passengers to other United Airlines flight) got off first at the new transit INS/Custom stations, and IAD
bound passengers got off next.
Descent began at 1:41pm and we landed on R/W19R at 2:24pm and parked at gate D30 minutes later next to a British Airways’ Boeing 747-400 G-BYGE. Our flights were definitely packed with connecting passengers, and the choice of Boeing 777 on the IAD
routes, instead of ORD
, made sense. Perhaps ORD
will see 777s, as loads improved. Of course, bags came out really slowly even compared with UA
flights, as Austrian obviously did not pre-sort connecting from IAD
bound bags advance, and the priority bags came out last. I had three hours connecting time, but the bags should come out faster. That is the reason why there is a separate transit section. TSA
at the connecting gates was a nightmare, as the TSA
agents were stressed and rude, while the non-English speaking passengers were struggling with these new rules. UA
needs to hire Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese and French-speaking folks there to direct passengers.
In conclusion, Austrian’s on board products and the new Business Class scored high marks, except the classic personal entertainment system and no on demand functions (which can be easily fixed), but the ground service at both Vienna and DC left much to be desired. Vienna airport was too small to handle 777 load passengers, and the premium passengers (non-German speaking ones) were ignored by your Austrian staffs. That was uncalled for and needed to be corrected. The computer system was also not working too well, as the last minute upgrade passengers were scrambling around the cabin looking for random seats. The Dulles situation is not good, as the waiting time for bags were too long.
Well here is the end to my report!
I hope you will enjoy it!