Welcome to my multi-part review of our summer vacation. We spent 12 days abroad, predominately in Athens and Paris. We did squeeze in about half a day in Amsterdam before heading home. While I’m writing the series, I’m happy to answer any questions you have ahead of time. We traveled in mid-July, so right in the middle of the Athens financial crisis. Here’s most of what I expect to cover, including links to posts I’ve already completed:
- Planning Our Summer Vacation!
- British Airways First and Business Class Lounges at Philadelphia Airport
- US Airways Business Class from Philadelphia to Athens
- Arion: A Luxury SPG Resort (Various Posts)
- Flying From Athens To Paris
- Hyatt Regency Etoile Paris
- Eiffel Tower
- Arc de Triomphe
- Disneyland Paris
- A Study of Macaroons
- Various Restaurant Reviews
- Taking The Train From Paris To Amsterdam
- Sheraton Schiphol Airport
- US Airways Business Class from Amsterdam to Philadelphia
This my first time flying the US Airways international business class product (what they used to call Envoy). We were on an A330 nonstop to Athens and had redeemed AAdvantage miles for the seats in the business class cabin. While the hard product is a few years old it seems to be holding up well. When it was announced it was definitely a solid offering.
Before we got comfortable in our seats we took a quick walk up to the cockpit. The pilots could not have been more accommodating, letting both kids sit in their seats for a few minutes. They were one of the friendliest cockpit crews I can recall, though Charlie was still a bit shy. We also got to peek at the crew rest area, one of the smallest I can recall seeing. A member of the crew told me they had to get a waiver from the FAA for the size (smaller than normal). While I can’t verify that, they were really tiny beds. After a short visit, it was back to the cabin to get comfortable in a much more luxurious bed/seat.
Seats are all lie-flat in a 1-2-1 configuration that gives everyone aisle access. The middle 2 seats have a divider between them. The seat and configuration are similar to the new American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER, though the AA seat has a higher degree of privacy and comfort.
The US Airways seat has ample storage for a decent sized backpack. Most of the current generation of business class seats don’t allow for bag storage there, so this was a nice plus to have my backpack accessible. The table was quite sizable for eating and working and the seat even had a bottle holder, something I don’t recall seeing in the past.
The video screens for in-flight entertainment were a bit on the small side compared to current versions, but they worked just fine. The selection of videos is decent enough for this length flight.
The crew also passed out Bose noise-canceling headsets which work just fine. The downside there is that they collect the headphones before you land (and quite early on our flight), so you’ll need to use something else for the last hour of your flight. For the most part, we bring our own headphones with us. If you want to do the same, make sure you bring a 2-pronged adapter with you. Even though the headphones handed out onboard have 3 prongs, I’ve always had good luck using a 2-prong adapter to split the feed correctly. Here’s the one I carry in my bag (picture below):
Amenity kits were handed up and I got my first chance to see the new legacy kits up close. American Airlines launched a series of kits that recognize the airlines that are part of American’s heritage, such as TWA and Reno Air. I was lucky enough to score three different kits on this first flight, TWA, Reno Air and America West. More on those later. Our kids enjoyed the different colored items in the kit, especially our daughter.
While US Airways doesn’t offer kids meals in the domestic US, they do have that option for international flights. The children’s meal started with a plate of vegetables and grapes. Not very imaginative but certainly healthy. Still, Lufthansa nails this with airplane shaped gummy bears on their yogurt and other kid-themed items.
The starter for adults was a cold thai chicken with watermelon. It actually wasn’t bad. The Lanson champagne was just plain bad, so Michelle and I both switched to the Sileni Sauvignon Blanc, a typical and enjoyable New Zealand variety.
For entrees, the kids had chicken fingers, tater tots and corn. Simple and straight-forward, and better than the chicken fingers that United Airlines served the kids last year going to Italy. But, still pretty basic. Again, points to Lufthansa and British Airways.
I selected an almond crusted chicken breast as my entree and Michelle went with halibut. I was pretty close to choosing the halibut, and boy was that the right choice. My chicken was a greasy mess. Michelle’s halibut was the opposite of what I expected, tender and flavorful. Not a ton of imagination for the entrees here as compared to other airlines, but the halibut was a winner, so it’s clear they can do good food.
I’ve uploaded full copies of the menu for those that are interested.
Dessert was served from a cart and consisted of a cheese platter, ice cream or red velvet cake (though it was listed as chocolate mousse on the menu). The ice cream was mint chocolate chip, so not really the sundaes that American does so well with your choice of a variety of toppings. And, the cake was pretty darn awful.
I don’t really care about food on airplanes all that much, but I know it strikes a chord with many travelers. For what we paid (using only miles), the food was perfectly fine. If I had paid a few thousand dollars for the ticket and gotten a meal that was, for the most part, not even up to par with American Airlines’ domestic catering, I’d be a bit disappointed.
Shortly after finishing dinner we were able to coax the kids to sleep even though it was before their normal bed time. We were in the first two rows of the business class cabin. If you’re sensitive to light and noise, I would not choose these rows. As you can see, the curtain is see-through. The crew was hanging out in the galley so there was noise in the front of the cabin on a pretty consistent basis.
Michelle managed to pass out quickly as did our son. Our daughter fell asleep pretty quickly as well but woke up a little while later. Since she was awake I stayed awake myself to make sure there were no issues. We watched a few movies and read while everyone else caught a snooze. There were no snacks or drinks offers during flight by the crew but there was a small basket of snacks in the galley available for self-service.
Soon enough it was time for breakfast. The kids decided to skip breakfast and I opted for the quiche. American has started calling it a strata, which is technically correct. But, it’s quiche. I don’t mind quiche much, but if I’m going to raise my cholesterol I prefer other methods. It was supposed to be served with chicken sausage but mine didn’t come with that. Thinking back, I guess it could have been baked in the quiche, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t. The cinnamon roll was the dominant front-runner for the best part of the breakfast, which isn’t saying much given the quality of the cinnamon roll.
In the end, it was a perfectly fine flight over the Atlantic. While I enjoy a great meal and a quality glass of champagne, I don’t really crave such things on redeye flights. I want a seat I can sleep in, period. In that area, US Airways does just fine with this product. If you’re looking for glitz and glamour here, you won’t find it. But, there are a whole lot of less comfortable ways to get to Europe. And, for the moment, these flights still come very light on fuel surcharges.
Shortly after breakfast we were on final descent for an on-time arrival into Athens. The next part of our trip would be far more enjoyable than the flight over!