It was finally time for our final flight. We finished our time in Iceland, had an overnight in Oslo and had a quick stay at the T1 Oneworld lounge at LHR. As much as I try to avoid flying on American-based carriers internationally, it's a bit tough to avoid sometimes when everything you do is with miles. I have flown the USAirways "Envoy Suite" product on their A330s, but this was to be my first long-haul flight with USAirways since the merger with American began. I wasn't expecting much (to be honest), but even with my low expectations I was pretty unhappy.
The seats themselves are actually very comfortable. They're private - especially if you take one of the single seats along the windows - but also offer the ability to travel well together. Funnily enough, the inability to communicate easily with travel partners is among the biggest drawbacks of the uber-private suites many airlines are now unveiling in first class. Thankfully though, there was no issue with that here. I also found the "foot-cubby" more roomy than on Lufthansa's new business class seats.
USAirways doesn't offer a touch-screen feature with their personal monitors, but everything related to the IFE (in-flight entertainment) is easily accesable via the controller. That being said, even when I am offered touch-screen controls, I never take advantage of it because it's way more cumbersome to sit up straight than staying in a relaxed position with a controller in hand. There is also a full-service outlet, a USB port and a headphone jack.
As is usually the case, seat controls were easily identified and quite simple to use. Let's back up a minute though, allow me (if you will) a quick story about the headphone jack I mentioned above.
Just as the flight attendants were passing out the inflight beverages, I noticed something new (for a USAirways flight that is) - a cart being pushed which had brand new Bose noise-cancelling headphones. In the past, USAirways had given out "regular" (albeit large) headphones. These were far superior to the offerings in economy, but failed in comparison to other airlines (such as American) who offered Bose noise-cancelling headphones to their premium passengers. To give you an idea of the difference, here are two pictures: The first is of the old USAirways offerings, and the second is of the American Bose headphones which USAirways are now distributing to their Envoy passengers. Sorry for the poor quality on the second photo - you can thank Google for that.
As you can imagine, I was quite excited to see this change in place and eagerly awaited the cart to arrive at my seat. The following conversation I had with the flight attendant (FA) is really what set the mood for the rest of the flight however. Please note, everything in plain text is an exact quote from our conversation, while everything in bold is what my inner voice was screaming at the time.
Me: Wow, you guys are now giving out the American Bose headseats? This is exciting!
FA: Yes, we are. Would you like a pair for today's flight?
Me: Is that a serious question? I am on a six hour flight with little else to do but watch movies and you're really unsure - especially after my previous comment - as to whether or not I'd like to use these headphones? Yes, I'd love a pair. Thank you!
FA: (Prior to handing me the headphones) OK. Let me just notate here that I've given you a pair. Please keep in mind that we'll be collecting these an hour before arrival.
Me: WTF?! "Let me notate that I've given you a pair?!?!" Are you implying that you think I'm going to steal these? Is this a normal treatment for business class passengers who - well, most of whom at least - pay thousands of dollars for these seats?! What are we, criminals? Don't you know that most other international airlines just leave them for passengers on their seats or hand them out without "warnings?!" Oh, and what's this "an hour before arrival" talk? Are you seriously expecting me to go 20% of my flight without the headphones? What's next, I'll need my seat straight, tray up and belt buckled at that time as well?" Wow, an hour before landing? That seems a bit early, no?
FA: Well, this is a new innitiative we're rolling out so we are still working on the timing. You know, it takes a long time to collect all the headsets and put them back in the packaging before we land. We just need to make sure we have enough time.
Me: Is it not possible to just have the business class passengers leave them on the seats as they leave? That's what every other &#$%'n airiline lets their business and first class passengers do!!!
FA: I'm really sorry, but that's just not an option. Would you still like them? (Remember, she still hasn't given me the headphones!)
Me: Sure, thank you.
Well, at this point, I'm not happy and the flight attendant knows it. I'm always one who advocates trying to get (and stay on) your flight crew's good side, but this was a losing battle from five minutes after I boarded. Fast forward now to one hour and thirty minutes before landing. Sorry, we're not talking about food in this trip report; I can assure you, you're not missing much. At this point in the flight - remember, 90 minutes until we are scheduled to land - the same FA comes back and says they must collect the headphones. At that point, I couldn't hold it in any longer and just started laughing. "Seriously? You had said an hour, which was crazy enough. There's still 90 minutes left in this flgiht - that's another full movie!" She was not very apologetic and wouldn't move until I gave her the headphones and case. She then offered me the economy ear-buds (which are really, really crappy for those who've never used them) as an alternative. Of course I took them, because without them I had no entertainment. Needless to say, I wasn't happy.
Overall, USAirways has a split-personality when it comes to their long-haul flights. Their seats are actually above par and very comfortable. Their food hovers around "average," but I certainly wouldn't complain. Their service however - and this includes their attitudes and their "rules" (see the headphone conversation above as Exhibit A) - is right at the bottom of my list of least favorite airlines. So, as I mentioned above, I try to avoid them internationally whenever I can. After all, I'd much prefer to fly on their partners; clearly, the attitude and service on Cathay, British Airways and even TAM are far superior. At least the seat was comfortable (and the headphones were great... for the 2/3 of the flight I actually got to wear them).
Has anyone else had a similar experience? I'd love to hear!
Well, this concludes this trip report. Hope you enjoyed it! Want to read back to some of the other posts? Here is a full breakdown: