Transtar
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US Airways' PHL-Tel Aviv Ben Gurion

Wed Oct 07, 2009 6:58 am

October 1, 2009

My partner and I had decided to visit his brother’s family in Israel for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, the Feast of the Tabernacles. It is an early Fall holiday that is not too restrictive in terms of observance and offered a good time to visit with his relatives and other friends in Israel. It was my fifth trip to Israel and our first visit since the Spring of 2004.

In the past, we have always traveled through Europe, due to the price advantages of tickets from Washington, DC to Tel Aviv, our preference for European/international carriers on international flights, and the advantages of breaking up the flight with at least a few hours to walk around. Our previous itineraries had been as follows:

Washington Dulles (IAD) - Paris Charles De Gaulle (CDG) - Tel Aviv Ben Gurion (TLV)
Air France Boeing 777-200ER/Airbus A320-200

Washington Dulles (IAD) - London Heathrow (LHR) - Tel Aviv Ben Gurion (TLV)
British Airways Boeing 777-200ER/Boeing 767-300ER(RR)/Boeing 747-400

Washington Dulles (IAD) - Amsterdam Schipol (AMS) - Tel Aviv Ben Gurion (TLV)
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines Airbus A330-300/Boeing 737-900/Airbus A330-200

Washington Dulles (IAD) - Paris Charles De Gaulle (CDG) - Tel Aviv Ben Gurion (TLV) -Amsterdam Schipol (AMS) - Washington Dulles (IAD)
Air France Boeing 777-200ER/Airbus A320-200, El Al Israel Airlines Boeing 757-200, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines Airbus A330-200

The latter routing had included a seven-day stopover in Paris, where we stayed at my partner’s boss’s apartment and included a trip to the Loire Valley. We then flew on to enjoy a week in Israel. It was a multi-airline ticket that included my first flight on El Al and interconnection between international airlines.

When evaluating options for our trip this year, we initially looked at a British Airways itinerary. However, it offered a six-hour layover at Heathrow in both directions, not really long enough to go into the city, but long-enough to be grueling waiting at the airport. We noticed that US Airways was offering an itinerary through Philadelphia on what was obviously a new flight.

I was a bit wary as I understood the routing was brand new and would utilize a yet-to-be-delivered aircraft. I had this horror looking forward to a brand new Airbus aircraft only to be enduring a long flight on a Boeing 767-200ER or a rerouting on another carrier with bad seat assignments in the process because of a aircraft delivery delay. However, the ticket was much more reasonable, and the timing for the flights was much more preferable to, the BA connection.

Ultimately, I was pleased to discover, through Airliners.net, that US Airways did begin to receive their five Airbus A330-200s ordered for 2009 in the weeks leading up to the launch of the Tel Aviv flights in July. They were apparently initially given trial runs on the PHL to San Juan route for crew and pilot orientation. I had very much enjoyed my flights on KLM’s Airbus A330. However, I was not looking forward to the long-duration flight from Philadelphia. It would mark the first time I had flown to Israel non-stop from the United States.

From: Washington National Airport.
To: Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)
Airline: US Airways Express
Aircraft: Embraer ERJ-175

Another benefit from our US Airways routing was the fact that we could leave from Washington National instead of Dulles. Although I enjoy the variety of international airlines/aircraft more at Dulles, it is wretched airport, with contemporary check-in and security facilities crammed in a beautifully-designed terminal set up for prop planes and jets in the 1960s.

National, by contrast, is a beautiful and functional airport with incredible views of the city that I now call my home town. Cesar Pelli’s great design still looks modern and elegant, although I have to admit the color scheme in the interior is beginning to look a bit dated with the yellow accents and colorings of the 1990s. Regardless, it is a great airport designed for airliner watching.

Check-in was very quick, although that is pretty much the norm at National. US Airways, like all the carriers, uses the automatic kiosks and the traffic at the airport has never really returned to its pre-9/11 peak. Security was not bad at all and we proceeded to the gate. I was nervous to notice that the flights to PHL before and after our flight were significantly delayed. However, they were CRJs or prop flights, while ours was departing from a traditional gate.

Despite some confusion with our heavily accented German gate agent, who abandoned his gate post and was actually tracked down by the copilot who had come out to tell him that the crew was ready for boarding, we boarded at ten minutes until the scheduled departure. Push-back went smoothly and we started to taxi out to the gate, only to roll over to a holding position because a hold on arrivals into PHL due to traffic.

At this point it was 6:15 pm. Our departure was scheduled at 5:59 pm and scheduled arrival was at 7:10 pm. Given that our flight was about a 20-25 minute duration, I had my strong suspicion that we were simply early for our slot departure from DCA and that US Airways simply padded their schedules. As I suspected, the pilot switched the engines back on at 6:35 pm and we took off a couple of minutes later.

Our flight was very short with no cabin service, roughly on par in length with my inter-island lights on Hawaiian Air. We did not go higher than about 20,000 feet. As always, I love the Embraer ERJ-170/-175 series. The cabin is sleek, functional, and very comfortable, with a giant window and reasonable seat-pitch. I have almost no complaints about the aircraft. My only complaint was a constant vibration from below my seat, which felt like some type of fuel pump operating.

Our routing took us over the Chesapeake Bridge and northern Delaware into New Jersey before a slow descent from the West into PHL. Not many interesting aircraft at PHL to comment on. However, I did notice our A330-200 parked at the international terminal.

Transit in Philadelphia was reasonable pleasant. The older domestic terminals are hideous and cramped. However PHL’s Terminal A is a brand-new facility, obvious built within the last decade with its sleek grey metal, stone and glass design. My only complaint was the distance entailed in traveling between the domestic and international areas. Even with the people-movers, it was quite a schlep.

We purchased some duty-free Woodford Reserve and chocolates for my partner’s brother and family and had a light meal at this european cafe. Not too bad food, although pricey.

From: Philadelphia International Airport
To: Ben Gurion International Airport Tel Aviv
Airline: US Airways
Flight No. 796,
Scheduled Depart/Arrive 9:00 PM/2:30 PM (Actual Flight Time, 10.38 hours)
Aircraft: Airbus A330-200 (RR Engines)
Seats: 26 G & H

The Tel Aviv flight waiting area was segregated from the rest of the international terminal by security panels (opaque glass), with a security ticket/boarding pass/passport check and another round of x-ray and metal detectors. Passengers were greeted by an obviously Israeli US Airways cabin crew member who was answering passenger questions and a Philadelphia airport security officer who checked passports and boarding passes. Both were overseen by an older bearded man from what was likely an Israeli security company. Bags were scanned with some hand searching.

I have always found it interesting how carriers treat security on the Israeli flights. British Airways and Air France, for instance, had no additional security for their Tel Aviv flights, which concerned me. However, they appeared to make the location of the Tel Aviv gate confusing (intentionally?) and bussed their passengers out to the jet. KLM, by contrast, had Israeli security personnel doing full-scale profiling interviews (just like at Tel Aviv), followed by a full round of bag checks and scans. US Airways was somewhere in the middle, with no interview, but full scans and inspections.

Most of the passengers in the waiting area and later on the flight were secular Israelis. We were arriving on Friday afternoon and, although we were scheduled to arrive well before the Sabbath, it appeared that religious travelers were avoiding the flight out of caution of any delays complicating their arrival. Our aircraft looked resplendent in the tarmac lights, shiny in new. According to the gate agent it was about a month old, not one of the newest A330-200s (one was delivered a couple of days before our flight) but still shiny and clean.

Boarding went smoothly and was well organized. Entry was through the second door and there was not a hint of grease or wear on the door mechanisms. And that nice clean smell of a new aircraft! US Airways has fitted their -200s with a rather dense configuration, 20 Envoy Seats (very plain and simple and probably not even competitive with El Al, but reportedly, to be refitted with a lie-flat design. However, the flight attendants I talked to seemed quite skeptical about this) and 238 coach seats. Northwest and KLM have fitted business class seats in the forward cabin and about a third of the second cabin, but US Airways only has its Envoy seats in the first cabin. The rest, both the second and third cabins, is all economy.

The seats are all blue leather, without adjustable headrests (disappointing), but have the larger, touch-screen IFE systems. There are no controls in the arm rests at all, with the FA call-button and light controls being located on the IFE panel itself. Not too uncomfortable a seat pitch. The carpet is a dark grey with light grey accents, the wall panels a light grey and the cabin dividers have the US Airways red-white-grey color scheme motif. Compared with the domestic aircraft I’ve endured on US Airways (most of the time dingy, torn, and filthy), it was quite pleasant.

We were sitting in 26 GH in the third cabin a few seats back from the wing’s trailing edge. On my flights on the KLM A330, we had always sat in the rear of the second cabin directly over the wing. My only other modern Airbus wide-body experience was on a Lufthansa A340-300, but I did not have a window seat. From our vantage point, the A330 wing appears quite large. Again, it was absolutely immaculate, with no grease streaks and every single mechanism brand spanking new.

Our departure was delayed a couple of minutes because of difficulties getting passengers seated and out of the bathrooms. I never understand why the FAs do not lock the bathrooms prior to taxiing as this would solve a lot of difficulties with passengers not following directions. Cabin announcements were made manually in English, with recordings (strangely a mix of male and female voices) for the Hebrew announcements. The flight attendants were split between aged American male and females, the one Israeli flight attendant, and one American male FA who spoke Hebrew.

The crew rest for the FAs consisted of the outer two seats (on both sides of the cabin) of the first row of economy in the main cabin. Once we were airborne, the flight attendants pulled a curtain around both sets of seats. At one point, they had a curtain drawn aside at the end of the flight and it appeared that the seat cushions pulled out of the seats, allowing the flight attendants to lie fully flat on the floor in front of the seats. My understanding is that there is a flight crew crew rest consisting of proper bunks right behind the cockpit.

We pushed back and taxied on one engine to the runway, with the second engine starting up shortly before our takeoff roll. (Noticed a US Airways A330-300 departing to Manchester and a British Airways 767-300ER to Heathrow.) Take-off was to the Northeast with a routing directly over New York City, Connecticut and Massachusetts and then over the Atlantic. We were unfortunately on the wrong side of the aircraft to see Manhattan and only got a view of the Long Island coastline before we crossed over cloud cove. The rest of the flight was over broken clouds with a sky of stars.

We were served a full meal service about an hour of take-off. Choices were chicken or pasta, accompanied by a very small lettuce salad, a dinner role, and a small piece of chocolate cake. I had the pasta which was quite good, with a little dab of pesto on top. I have to say, the quality was very good for a US carrier (wine and other alcoholic drinks, of course, were not free), although I believe the quantities were smaller than what we would have gotten on British Airways or Air France.

There was then a coffee service and duty free. After that, however, the flight attendants disappeared behind their crew rest area. A couple of flight attendants stayed in the rear galley and would respond to call signals from seats or to drink requests if you went in the back. However, there was no pass through of waters, something that annoys me because how difficult (or costly) can that be.

The new IFE system is very sleek and provides AVOD, but is not fully loaded to its potential. US Airways has loaded its system with about 5-8 movies and a collection of TV shows, but it clearly can hold more. It appears to be the same system as the KLM A330-200, which had an extensive list of new release and classic movies and TV shows. Even the music selection was quite limited. I did enjoy watching State of Play and Angels & Demons and a few episodes of Big Love.

The cabin lights were turned off after the duty free service was completed. However, sleeping was not easy, given that the passengers right behind me were two high school age kids who talked incessantly for about four hours straight, including a period when a seat-mate from another area of the plane came and stood over them to chat. They proceeded to spill a bottle of wine on their seat tray, which required the flight attendant to be called and everyone around to be disturbed during the clean-up process.

Other comments about the cabin: I didn’t venture back to see the rear galley. However, US Airways nicely configured their aircraft with four mid-cabin bathrooms, including one handicapped facility. There was not a serious problems with lines, despite the long duration of the flight. Nice modern toilets with LED lighting above the sink and nice color scheme. However, I do not like the position of the crew rest areas, as it makes it difficult for passengers waiting for the toilets to maneuver around each other.

The sun began coming up shortly before we hit the European coastline and I do not think that the cloud cover broke throughout the transatlantic crossing. Daybreak allowed me to view the immaculate wing (I’m disappointed that US Airways did not put their logo on the inner side of the winglet, although it is colored dark blue). Our routing took us south of the tip of Greenland and Iceland before we made landfall at the northern Scottish coast. We proceeded down through the UK and France, through Italy before veering towards Greece, Crete and then over the Mediterranean towards Israel.

About two hours before arrival, the FA team awoke from their crew rest and bathroom breaks to turn on the cabin lights (the nice LEDs give a nice gradual effect that is far less jarring). There was a drink/coffee service followed by another full meal service, which was a pleasant surprise. I assumed breakfast would be the traditional US carrier European arrival banana and yogurt, or perhaps a muffin. However, US Airways offered a full-scale breakfast, with the choice of a cheese omelet or french toast, served with fruit, a roll and a breakfast cake.

After breakfast was cleared, I finished up watching Angels & Demons and then switched on the flight map (now called GPS in the new US Airways menu). Passengers continued to line up for the bathrooms. However, about 45 minutes out, the pilot came on the air to inform everyone that they would have to be in the seat 30 minutes before landing due to security requirements. I did not remember this procedure from my last flight in in 2004, but I may simply have forgotten. A similar requirement was in place for flights into and out of DCA, but this was eliminated a couple of years ago.

As usual, we came into Israeli airspace from the West, reaching landfall slightly north of Tel Aviv. It’s always interesting how the approach to Israel is clear blue ocean and suddenly you hit land; there are no islands or other land masses before the coastline. The landing process is quite quick. Flaps were extended and almost immediately thereafter the landing gear went down (my experience is that normally flaps go down several minutes before the gear). We came in diagonally south of the airfield and then did a sharp left bank and descend until we were aligned with the runway. Rather dramatic (my last arrival, I swear, included a nauseating corkscrew landing.)

We came in over the old air terminal and Israel Aircraft Industries’ work area (lots of old 747s and 767s going through cargo conversions). Landing was quite smooth and I got a view of immaculate spoiler and flap mechanisms. It looked like a GeminiJet model wing, fantastic! As we approached Ben Gurion’s newer terminal (Terminal 3 I believe), I notice Swiss’s A340-300 arrival and Austrian Airlines 767-300ER with winglets. The El Al wing of the terminal had a couple of 737-800s, a 757-200, and a 777-200ER. Otherwise, no other US carriers.

Deplaning was slow as usual. However, I love the new Tel Aviv terminal, as incoming passengers get a grand view of the aircraft below and the departure lounges as they proceed to passport control and customs. The lines weren’t long, but we got behind a passenger with a French passport who was held up for at least half an hour. Not sure what the problem was, although I suspect he was a Palestinian living in Paris and, as is usually the case, is given more scrutiny. My partner and I are usually let through very quickly. I suspect they have us on file as being together and having visited family before.

Anyway, not much else to discuss. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised about the US Airways flight and service. The real test will be how well they maintain the cabin of their aircraft and if they keep the full meal service as a permanent practice on their Tel Aviv routing. The plane was immaculate, so no complaints there. It appeared they had a full load of passengers, but given it is a new routing I have no idea how well it is going for them.

One comment on US Airways cabin crew uniforms. They are almost indistinguishable from the passengers, only slight more formal than a casual outfit. I had trouble sometimes figuring out who was cabin crew and who was not. I would suspect that in an emergency situation, it would be confusing for passengers. Also, their uniforms are not very fashionable at all.
 
AALuxuryLiner
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RE: US Airways' PHL-Tel Aviv Ben Gurion

Wed Oct 07, 2009 4:38 pm

Thanks for posting this well written and descriptive trip report. Great read! I was wondering how US was doing on their new route to TLV. What were the loads like?
 
roseflyer
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RE: US Airways' PHL-Tel Aviv Ben Gurion

Wed Oct 07, 2009 5:15 pm

I agree with you on the uniforms. Delta hired a designer and their uniforms look spot on. They might fall out of style, but they do a good job of representing the brand and having enough variety to look good on most people.

US Airways went to hell. They look comfortable, but that is about it. Some of the uniform pieces are so casual that I think you could get denied boarding as a non-rev in them.
If you have never designed an airplane part before, let the real designers do the work!
 
EWRkid1990
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RE: US Airways' PHL-Tel Aviv Ben Gurion

Wed Oct 07, 2009 5:59 pm

What were the flight attendants wearing? Even if it was semi-casual, I'm sure a passanger would be able to figure it out, given most uniforms have the airline logo and a pair of wings on them.
 
daviation
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RE: US Airways' PHL-Tel Aviv Ben Gurion

Wed Oct 07, 2009 10:13 pm

Transtar, thank you for the very informative report, although pictures would have been greatly appreciated! I travel to Israel every year or so, and have always preferred (by a huge margin) the nonstops over the European stops. My first trip was in the 1980s on TWA via CDG. My latest trips have been on LY, AF, CO, and LH. In-flight service was excellent on all of them, but the European stops, especially FRA, were awful. I have been thinking a lot about that nonstop from PHL because there are frequent flights from my home airport, SWF, to PHL. I'd rather get the short flight out of the way, and then go nonstop to TLV. But US has lost my luggage a few times during the PHL transfer, and it took a couple of days just to get them in Florida. I'd be horrified to lose my luggage on an overseas trip. Anyway, thanks for the report, it gives me some good ideas.
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caleb1
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RE: US Airways' PHL-Tel Aviv Ben Gurion

Wed Oct 07, 2009 10:22 pm

Thank you for compiling this report, however pictures are almost a must considering how interesting your itinerary was.
 
USAirALB
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RE: US Airways' PHL-Tel Aviv Ben Gurion

Thu Oct 08, 2009 12:03 am



Quoting Transtar (Thread starter):
However, US Airways offered a full-scale breakfast, with the choice of a cheese omelet or french toast, served with fruit, a roll and a breakfast cake.

Really? Interesting! Lets hope this doesn't go to the warm danish..What does CO offer in back for Breakfast

Quoting Transtar (Thread starter):
Cabin announcements were made manually in English, with recordings (strangely a mix of male and female voices) for the Hebrew announcements

For boarding or the safety demo? I know for a fact that during boarding US plays its "Boarding Presentation" on the supplemental monitors, which just rotates music and pictures of beaches to a plane and titles saying Welcome Aboard and a recorded lady speaking bout expediting the boarding process.
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KL642
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RE: US Airways' PHL-Tel Aviv Ben Gurion

Thu Oct 08, 2009 12:44 am

I enjoyed reading your report. Btw, KLM flies the A332, not the A333.
Alex
 
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IrishAyes
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RE: US Airways' PHL-Tel Aviv Ben Gurion

Thu Oct 08, 2009 2:07 am

I actually enjoyed reading your report without the pictures. Sometimes they can be distracting. Very well written and enjoyable to read. US seems to have a decent product for the price on their longhaul flights.
 
Transtar
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RE: US Airways' PHL-Tel Aviv Ben Gurion

Thu Oct 08, 2009 8:23 am

Sorry about the lack of pictures. To my horror, I got on board and realized I had packed my camera in my checked luggage in my rush to get to the airport. Luckily, all our bags arrived safe and sound at Ben Gurion. I went ahead and wrote up the trip report without them for my own record and then decided to post it anyway w/o pictures as it does not appear that anyone else has posted a trip report for US Airways' new route.

The passenger load appeared to be quite good. There were only about 1 or 2 empty seats in coach. However, that said, it was right before the beginning of the Sukkot holiday week, which is a popular time to visit. When we booked in June, the seat map was very open. US Airways has not been heavily marketing the route in Israel, according to my partner's family here and most were unaware that the airline had started service.

Sorry about the A330-200/-300 error for KLM. That was simply a typo.

As for the uniforms, for the men, it was open collar shirts and a very casual blue coat. The women were quite varied, sometime looking somewhat "uniformish," but in other cases, it looked like a casual shirt with pants.

They did not use a video for the safety demonstration at all. It was just a pre-recorded message in both English and Hebrew, with no accompanying video. They did have the boarding video with soothing music (rather annoying actually). Annoyingly, they shut-off the inflight map system well before actually landing and takeoff.

Hope I addressed everyone's question. Let me know if you would like me to comment on anything else.

TranStar
 
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chepos
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RE: US Airways' PHL-Tel Aviv Ben Gurion

Thu Oct 08, 2009 2:10 pm

Thank you for sharing, great trip report, I am glad you enjoyed your US experience.
The new flight to TLV is doing better than expected (from what I have been told), I would not be surprised if by next year we see a second flight (at least in the summer). The crew rest area is for pilot use only (for this flight). I do agree with you, at times it has hard to distinguish who is a Flight Attendant and who is a passenger. Regarding beverage service, there is to be a beverage run I believe every 2 hours, I guess F/A assume most passengers are sleeping, so they skip it.
And yes, San Juan was the first route the 330-200 operated on. (however, it no longer flies there) Next up is LHR, which this fall (Nov) will see the 330.

Regards,

Chepos
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jlbmedia
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RE: US Airways' PHL-Tel Aviv Ben Gurion

Thu Oct 08, 2009 11:28 pm



Quoting Transtar (Thread starter):
the passengers right behind me were two high school age kids



Quoting Transtar (Thread starter):
They proceeded to spill a bottle of wine on their seat tray,

I enjoyed your trip report very much. Dose the legal age to drink alcohol change when you enter international air space. In the United States high school kids are usually not old enough to drink.

I have a rule of thumb, no pictures = no read. But because it was a new route for USAirways I dove in. I am very glad I did, your descriptive stile of writing allowed me to forget there were no pictures. Thanks for sharing. John.
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USAirALB
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RE: US Airways' PHL-Tel Aviv Ben Gurion

Thu Oct 08, 2009 11:47 pm

Thats weird how they would use a pre-recorded safety message in both English and Hebrew but no video to go along with it. I wonder: was it the same as the video with the music and and same speech. Maybe they haven't loaded the video on yet?

And I believe this is the only flight wher US provides a hot breakfast in Y.

Glad to hear they might add a second flight.
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chepos
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RE: US Airways' PHL-Tel Aviv Ben Gurion

Fri Oct 09, 2009 3:01 am

It is the only flight were a hot meal is provided in Y and J, all other TATL eastbound flights have the yogurt and pastry in J. Coach gets a pastry.

Chepos
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Charles79
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RE: US Airways' PHL-Tel Aviv Ben Gurion

Fri Oct 09, 2009 4:46 pm



Quoting Transtar (Thread starter):
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised about the US Airways flight and service

Nice report and very detailed. Israel is certainly on my list of places to visit and it is nice to have a new alternative from the east coast. I have only experienced US domestically (most recently on a DCA-PBI leg operated by an A319) but haven't had any bad or negative experiences with them. Glad to hear that their long-haul product offers good value.

Quoting Transtar (Thread starter):
Another benefit from our US Airways routing was the fact that we could leave from Washington National instead of Dulles. Although I enjoy the variety of international airlines/aircraft more at Dulles, it is wretched airport, with contemporary check-in and security facilities crammed in a beautifully-designed terminal set up for prop planes and jets in the 1960s.

As a fellow DC resident I share your views! My partner works at IAD (as an ops agent for AF) and every night he has a laundry list of complaints about the airport (though it is an improvement in working conditions over LAX!).
 
JFKMan
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RE: US Airways' PHL-Tel Aviv Ben Gurion

Fri Oct 09, 2009 10:50 pm

Very nice TR! I was happy to hear that US is serving two full meals.

I saw the extra security measures for this flight as when I went to Oslo on US in August, Tel Aviv borded right next to my flight.

I would have loved some pictures...but still a very nice TR!  Smile
NYC
 
Transtar
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RE: US Airways' PHL-Tel Aviv Ben Gurion

Mon Oct 12, 2009 11:43 am

From: Ben Gurion International Airport Tel Aviv
To: Philadelphia International Airport
Airline: US Airways
Flight No. 797
Depart/Arrive 10:39 PM/5:17 PM (Actual Flight Time, 12.38 hours)
Aircraft: Airbus A330-200 (RR Engines)
Seats: 13 A&B

My partner and I enjoyed our nine day visit to Israel. Besides visiting with family and two days of Sabbath/Sukkot observance, we had the opportunity to:

Spend an afternoon at the Tishbi Winery and Zichron Ya’akov, a quaint town on the slopes of Mount Carmel;
Explore the Roman era ruins at Tzipori, an uncovered town with intact mosaics and a Byzantine-era synagogue;
Enjoy the blue warm waters of beaches at Michmoret, north of Netanya, and in downtown Netanya;
An afternoon exploring the Old City, including the Christian, Arab, and Jewish Quarters and the Davidson Archeological Museum at the foot of the Temple Mount walls.

In contrast to several our previous departures from TLV, our US Airways flight actually left at a decent hour. KLM and El AL flights to Amsterdam were the worst, as they left in the wee hours of the morning, which, combined with the early check-in for security, required us to get to the airport at 1 or 2 in the morning.

The US Airways flight in the evening departs at 10:15 PM, which means one needs (or at least should) get to the airport 2-3 hours before departure. I am always paranoid about giving extra time for unexpected delays and tried to insist on us getting to the airport by 7:15 PM.

However, all our family good-byes delayed our departure until about 7:10 PM. After filling up our car in Kfar Saba, where my partner’s family lives, we took Highway 6, the relatively new toll highway that parallels the barrier wall/1967 Green Line and got Ben Gurion about 7:50 PM.

Dropping off our rental car took only a few minutes and we took the elevator up to Level 3, the normal check-in hall. However, we were surprised to find that the Star Alliance carriers, US Airways, Lufthansa, and Austrian Air, utilize a check-in/security check area on the 1st floor near the arrival hall.

The line was virtually non-existant, as US AIrways was the only evening departure. As usual, our security screening went very quickly, given that we are domestic partners and are visiting family in Israel proper. Check-in was quick, with the Envoy check-in counters taking people from the coach lines whenever they were open.

Passport and secondary screening was also swift. It is clear that the evening is not a rush hour time for departures from Ben Gurion. We had been advised by the US Airways check-in staff that purchased liquids in Duty Free would not be allowed on flights to the United States, so we didn’t bother much with Duty Free shopping (this was incorrect, as we later found out. We could have purchased duty free liquids and carried them on board to Philadelphia. However, we would have had to place them into our checked luggage before re-checking them on our connecting flight).

Boarding was from B-7, next to an El Al flight utilizing a Boeing 767-300ER (I did not catch where it was going) in full livery. Boarding for our flight did not utilize boarding zones, and everyone simply boarded at once after pre-boarding for families and Envoy Class. We entered through the second entry door and our seats this time were in the second cabin in 13 A/B, just behind the lading edge, giving me a nice view of the RR engine nacelle. Again, an immaculate aircraft inside and out.

While we waited for everyone to board, I watched the ground crew finish loading cargo into the El AL 767 next to us and watch it get pushed back for taxi. Also say a Belavia 737-500 taxi up behind us, obviously waiting for us to push back, and an Ethiopian Airlines 757-200 taxi in to park. This time, on our flight, there was boarding music but not soothing video.

Push-back was delayed by some confusion over missing passengers in the Boarding Pass count. It turned out that, in several cases, the gate agent had not torn the Boarding Pass and kept the stub. However, one passenger was late getting to the gate and was glared at by the Cabin Crew and passengers as he walked back to his seat in the rear of the aircraft. Almost immediately thereafter, the door was shut and we were pushed back.

Again, the safety briefing was done manually in English, with no accompanying video, and was followed by a Hebrew translation recording. As always, taxi out to the runway was very long. It seems that landings typically occur on the runway paralleling the terminal, while departures are from the runway that runs northeast to southeast. After the El Al 767-300ER departed, our takeoff roll commenced.

The A330-200 has a much more vigorous climb-out, it seems, than the A340-300 or A330-300s on which I have traveled. We flew straight out over the Mediterranean and I watched as the lights of southern Tel Aiv faded into the distance. The rest of the flight was in total darkness. Our routing took us over Southern Greece and Italy, northern Spain, and directly across the Atlantic to the New Jersey coastline.

The only scenery on our trip was the lights and coastline of Barcelona and Northern Spain. Otherwise, the only view was of a field of stars punctuated by our plane’s beacons and strobes. We started our transatlantic flight from the Galician Coast. A much more southern route than the flight over to Israel.

The cabin crew immediately turned on the IFE and set up the crew rest in the rear cabin. I now realize that instead of using the seat cushions on the pair of seats used as a crew rest area, they utilize some sort of angled cushions that are stored in the second galley. These are placed on the floor of the bulkhead area in front of the emergency exit and a curtain is drawn around this.

The first meal service commenced relatively quickly after takeoff and we benefitted this time from sitting at the front of the plane. Our choices this time were Moussaka or beef served with a cucumber and tomato salad, a roll, cheese and crackers, and some sort of fruit crumble. I had the moussaka, which was quite good. Light were shut off after duty free.

Unfortunately, despite two Tylenol PMs, I did not sleep much. The lack of an adjustable head cushion and the gap between my seat and the cabin wall, which is significant on Airbus widebodies, precluding me from leaning into a semi-comfortable position. Given that we were traveling within the same month, the movies were the same as flying over. I watched The Proposal and then rewatched a number of shows I watched on the way over.

Some further comments about US Airways’ configuration on its A330-200s....absolutely no room to stand when waiting for the bathroom. On the way over, I had thought the cramped situation around the toilets was due to the crew rest set-up, but now it is clear that it is due to the fact that the carrier opted not to put a pass through near the toilets. There is a lavatory available to coach passengers at the front of the front coach cabin, but the business class curtain keeps one from standing in that vestibule while waiting.

Anyway, the lights came on about 2 hours before landing, this time utilizing a nice pleasant pink/white option that was even more pleasing to the eye. Breakfast service was a choice of blintzes or scrambled eggs/turkey canadian bacon and potatoes served with fresh fruit, a roll with butter and jam, and unsweetened Israeli yogurt. The turkey canadian bacon smelled so much like bacon that I heard several passengers ask with concern that there was bacon in the meal. I had the scrambled eggs, which were actually quite good, not dry as they sometimes are in coach.

As I noted, we did not make landfall until we hit the New Jersey coastline, just north of Atlantic City, which was clearly visible on our side of the aircraft. Descent was straight in from the East with a final turn to make a landing from the North. We taxiied up to Terminal A and parked next to another A330-200, which was being pushed back to a remote stand near the maintenance terminal.

One note about the TLV-PHL flight, it appears that it the only international flight into PHl i the morning. We talked briefly with the passport officer who noted that US Airways had to pay extra to have a team of passport agents brought in to service the TLV flight. I wonder how much that costs them?

Anyway, that is all I have. Our flight to DCA was uneventful on a boring CRJ-200 and not worth mentioning in writing. Sorry about the lack of pictures, but the night flight really constrained my pictures taking.
 
MCOflyer
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RE: US Airways' PHL-Tel Aviv Ben Gurion

Mon Oct 12, 2009 9:00 pm

Well written trip report. Good job and please post pictures when you get a chance.

Hunter
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JFKMan
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RE: US Airways' PHL-Tel Aviv Ben Gurion

Tue Oct 13, 2009 2:16 am

Another great addition to your trip. Thanks so much! It was a great read. Pictures would be great.
NYC
 
EL-AL
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RE: US Airways' PHL-Tel Aviv Ben Gurion

Tue Oct 13, 2009 12:26 pm



Quoting TranStar (Reply 16):
Spend an afternoon at the Tishbi Winery and Zichron Ya'akov, a quaint town on the slopes of Mount Carmel;
Explore the Roman era ruins at Tzipori, an uncovered town with intact mosaics and a Byzantine-era synagogue;
Enjoy the blue warm waters of beaches at Michmoret, north of Netanya, and in downtown Netanya;

If you tell any Israeli that those places are tourists attractions he/she will never believe you.

Quoting TranStar (Reply 16):
I am always paranoid about giving extra time for unexpected delays and tried to insist on us getting to the airport by 7:15 PM.

Even at the busiest days in mid August, 2 hours if enough in TLV.

Thank you for both TRs. First about that route if I am not mistaken. Interesting that you have good experience, I have good friend who came to Israel from LAX this summer with US Airways via PHL and he told me it was horrible, not enough leg room and that the PHL transit is not very friendly. don't forget that when flying the A330 to the US you fly one extra hour camper to the B777/B747.
every day is a good day to fly
 
smi0006
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RE: US Airways' PHL-Tel Aviv Ben Gurion

Tue Oct 13, 2009 12:51 pm

Great report there, no need for pictures your words were enough for me!

I can't believe that the crew slept on the floor around the exits, are there some form of restraints? Seems very dangerous if not, QF normaly make an announcement stating that it is forbidden to sleep on the floor even children in case of unexpected turbulence, I would imagine US have a similar policy or the FAA even how can crew enforce it when they themselves are sleeping on the floor?
Besides with someone lying on the floor really limits these seats to two people at most on rest as opposed to four... I would have thought it a better look anyway to have the crew rest seats at the back of the aircraft where no one can see them.... QF have a couple of rows of seats at the back of some of their A332s with extra pitch but these seats can't be occupied for take of or landing as they have not been certified for these changes...
 
Transtar
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RE: US Airways' PHL-Tel Aviv Ben Gurion

Tue Oct 13, 2009 2:23 pm

Thanks Smi0006 for your comments. Over the years, trip reports have increasingly become picture-only affairs. While I do very much appreciate the shots, I also like when people provide descriptions, because photos cannot capture impressions and little nuanced details.

Quoting Smi0006 (Reply 20):
Great report there, no need for pictures your words were enough for me!

I can't believe that the crew slept on the floor around the exits, are there some form of restraints? Seems very dangerous

I am not entirely sure, but I think so. Once, on the flight to TLV, I went to the bathroom towards the very end of the flight, the curtain on one of the crew rests was pulled back and there were two fairly long cushions with blankets on them on the floor in front of the crew-rest designated seats.

At the end of the return flight, I saw one of the flight attends carrying an angled cushion thing out from the crew rest to the galley area. It looked like something you would either rest you back up against or something to put your feet up when sitting in the seat.

User named Chepos commented on my Civil Aviation post regarding US Airways A330-200 operations that US Airways originally planned on installing a formal bunk arrangement for its cabin crew rest but opted to go with designated seats and curtains to allow for more seating.
 
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chepos
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RE: US Airways' PHL-Tel Aviv Ben Gurion

Wed Oct 14, 2009 7:26 am

Thank your for sharing the return portion of your trip. Yes, this is the only flight arriving into PHL at that time of the morning. All other international flights start arriving by early to mid afternoon-most Canadian flights pre-clear in Canada.I am not sure what arrangements US had to do to have the immigrations officers there at this early hour, however, I am sure the city of Philadelphia would have cooperated to have these officers there, as the city is very eager for more international service. Anyways, hope you enjoyed your visit to Israel.

Regards,

Chepos
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Transtar
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RE: US Airways' PHL-Tel Aviv Ben Gurion

Wed Oct 14, 2009 11:45 am

Chepos,

Thanks for all of your input. It is very interesting.

One more question. We really enjoyed our meals on both flights, quite tasty and fresh, especially for a US carrier (sorry about the bias, but I have usually found the European caterers to spend a little more on their catering, especially British Airways).

Is the food on the TLV flights typical for US Airways' international service?

I actually have a few pictures of the return flight. I will try to post them soon. I have never done that before. However, several of the cabin shots have people's faces in them, so I would suspect Airliners.net would require me to fuzz out their faces.

TranStar
 
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chepos
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RE: US Airways' PHL-Tel Aviv Ben Gurion

Wed Oct 14, 2009 1:41 pm

Thre menu for TLV is different fromm other TATL destinations, additionally there are an extra number of kosher meals in casepax forget ot order them in advance. I do agree with you, we should add additional items to the try set up in coach, it is a lengthy flight (after a couple of hours pas start getting hungry).

Regards,

Chepos
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Transtar
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RE: US Airways' PHL-Tel Aviv Ben Gurion

Wed Oct 14, 2009 3:31 pm

Chepos,

Have you served on the A330-200 yet? What have been your experiences?

TranStar
 
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chepos
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RE: US Airways' PHL-Tel Aviv Ben Gurion

Thu Oct 15, 2009 2:56 am

Im not a flight attendant, however,until recently I worked int he In-Flight department. I still work for US but in another area. However, I tell you this, to hold a line on the A330-200 you have to be a very senior F/A (uness you are a LODO), TLV usually goes with a very senior crew (unless you are a F/A who speaks Hebrew), due to the lengthy flight. I myself have never flown on the 330-200, but evryone I know who has flown on the aircraft loves it. I

Regards,

Chepos
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AAairplane
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RE: US Airways' PHL-Tel Aviv Ben Gurion

Thu Oct 29, 2009 12:00 am

I don't really know whether to hate the interior of the new A330-200, or love it. On the one hand, it at least has PTVs, on the other hand, it looks so much less comfortable than the A330-300, which doesn't seem right because it is 10 years older! Confused Great trip report anyway, and I understand why you couldn't post pictures. Thanks!

AAairplane
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Transtar
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RE: US Airways' PHL-Tel Aviv Ben Gurion

Thu Oct 29, 2009 10:36 pm



Quoting AAairplane (Reply 27):
don't really know whether to hate the interior of the new A330-200, or love it. On the one hand, it at least has PTVs, on the other hand, it looks so much less comfortable than the A330-300, which doesn't seem right because it is 10 years older!

You know, I saw pictures of the interior before I left and really thought I would hate it. But, in person, it looks a lot slicker, professional, and modern. The PTVs are superior to other US carriers that I have flown on and are in line with the size of KLM's PTVS on their A330-200s (although not in the selection in movies/entertainment).

The bathrooms on US Airways' 330-200 were very nice and up-to-date and the interior color scheme/fabric choices are much better than what I have seen on US Airway's other aircraft (although I have not flown on their 330-300s). Being a new aircraft, yet to become soiled and duty through use, also helped.

My main complaint was regadring the configuration of the bathrooms in economy class. There is no room for passengers to stand while waiting for a bathroom, like a pass through aisle. This is especially the case when the crew rest areas are set up. It was very unpleasant to stand in line and very bad for the passengers sitting near the lavatory area.

For instance, Continental's 767-400s have a very nicely laid-out central lavatory arrangement in the economy section, with a pass through area and other spaces that allow passengers to stand while waiting.

I think US Airways was seeking to maximize the seating on the 330-200, to compensate for the smaller cabin/fuselage. (This appears to have been their motivation by not having a separate crew rest area.) Their 330-200s are fitted out with a much higher density than NW or KLM.

TranStar
 
AAairplane
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RE: US Airways' PHL-Tel Aviv Ben Gurion

Sat Oct 31, 2009 9:05 pm



Quoting Transtar (Reply 28):
You know, I saw pictures of the interior before I left and really thought I would hate it. But, in person, it looks a lot slicker, professional, and modern. The PTVs are superior to other US carriers that I have flown on and are in line with the size of KLM's PTVS on their A330-200s (although not in the selection in movies/entertainment).

The bathrooms on US Airways' 330-200 were very nice and up-to-date and the interior color scheme/fabric choices are much better than what I have seen on US Airway's other aircraft (although I have not flown on their 330-300s). Being a new aircraft, yet to become soiled and duty through use, also helped.

That makes me feel a little better about it. The A330-300 has winged headrests and mechanical lumbar support, even though I'm sure the entertainment is better on the A330-200.

AAairplane
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rjpieces
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RE: US Airways' PHL-Tel Aviv Ben Gurion

Sun Nov 01, 2009 1:08 pm



Quoting TranStar (Reply 9):
As for the uniforms, for the men, it was open collar shirts and a very casual blue coat.

Ughh, I hate this! I recently posted on A.net complaining about US's uniforms, and somebody responded that ties are required on international flights...But I guess not!

Quoting Transtar (Thread starter):
Another benefit from our US Airways routing was the fact that we could leave from Washington National instead of Dulles. Although I enjoy the variety of international airlines/aircraft more at Dulles, it is wretched airport, with contemporary check-in and security facilities crammed in a beautifully-designed terminal set up for prop planes and jets in the 1960s.

I understand why anyone living in DC would prefer National, but I wouldn't call Dulles wretched though. Check-in is a tad cramped for certain airlines. But Dulles has seen amazing improvements in the past few years: Completion of Concourse B extension, opening of the new TSA area so that it is not on the main level of the terminal, fourth runway open, etc. Any airline you would fly to Europe and on to Israel leaves from Concourse B (unless you are flying United to FRA) which is quite lovely.

Looking forward, the aeroTrain will be open within a few months. And the Silver Line construction has begun....So IAD has some things going for it!

That being said, United's Concourse C and D kind of suck. It's a shame as United has a wonderful operation at IAD, but its facilities are inadequate. I know it is not likely to happen in the immediate future, but United or MWAA really needs to build a new concourse soon!

Quoting Transtar (Thread starter):
National, by contrast, is a beautiful and functional airport with incredible views of the city that I now call my home town. Cesar Pelli’s great design still looks modern and elegant, although I have to admit the color scheme in the interior is beginning to look a bit dated with the yellow accents and colorings of the 1990s. Regardless, it is a great airport designed for airliner watching.

Agree. DCA is simply lovely. I haven't ntoiced the colors looking dated. My only hope is that 10 or 20 years from now the Terminal holds up nicely.

DC to Israel options are not great. You can obviously fly European carriers from IAD. From DCA, you can connect at PHL, EWR, or JFK. But all usually require flights on RJs to turboprops, and I would hate to start a long journey that way. Plus connecting at EWR or JFK or PHL is always a little risky regarding weather delays...
"Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon"
 
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RE: US Airways' PHL-Tel Aviv Ben Gurion

Mon Nov 02, 2009 7:24 pm



Quoting RJpieces (Reply 30):
DCA is simply lovely. I haven't ntoiced the colors looking dated. My only hope is that 10 or 20 years from now the Terminal holds up nicely.

On that note, I noticed during my flight back from TLV that they have renovated the bathrooms in the gate concourses in an entirely different design from the rest of the terminal.

It is very out of context, all dark browns and dark granite. It's quite an odd decision, given that it is a dramatic contrast from the very sleak, modern, and light colors of the main part of the terminal.

Probably the result of someone in the Washington Airports Authority micro-managing the design process and having a favorable preference for conservative design schemes.

Quoting RJpieces (Reply 30):
I understand why anyone living in DC would prefer National, but I wouldn't call Dulles wretched though. Check-in is a tad cramped for certain airlines. But Dulles has seen amazing improvements in the past few years: Completion of Concourse B extension, opening of the new TSA area so that it is not on the main level of the terminal, fourth runway open, etc. Any airline you would fly to Europe and on to Israel leaves from Concourse B (unless you are flying United to FRA) which is quite lovely.

I've read about the new TSA and international arrival areas and saw hints of it on my last trip. I do agree that it will improve things immensely. I also agree about the mid-field terminal being nice. Unfortunately, the last few times I have flows out of IAD it has been on UUnited through it's terminal which is awful and cramped with very few windows. When we flew to Buenos Aires on UA, I couldn't even see our plane or the tarmac from our gate.

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