British Airways Club World: Milan - London - New York

Airline: British Airways
Aircraft: Boeing 777
Class: Business / Club World
Route: Milan - London Heathrow - New York / Newark
Date: November 2010

Saturday morning, 4:30: my mobile is ringing. Wake up call. How could I be so stupid? After 2 minutes I remember: Getting up 3 hours earlier saved me more than 700 Euros. This makes appr. EUR 240.00 per hour of sleep. Good deal.

After some coffees I went to a small train station near my house, took a regional train to Cologne and from there the Intercity Express within to Frankfurt Airport (took 57 mins). Total distance for 57 mins: 205 kms (appr. 125 miles). The price for a First Class return ticket was appr. 120 EUR. Same for the next connecting flight, so total savings compared to a flight from DUS were (incl. the not needed parking ticket) in total 600 EUR. Still good enough.

I arrived in Frankfurt in time, rushed to gate A 34 and took my slightly delayed flight with Lufthansa to Milan / Linate. When I arrived there, I saw that between my arrival and my scheduled connecting flight to London Heathrow there was another BA flight. I thought that it would be better to wait in London instead of Linate and asked if my (non flexible) ticket could be rebooked to the earlier flight. Otherwise I would have only 1 h 5 min transfer time in London which could be a little bit too short. After a short phone call BA told me that the rebooking was ok, however I could not expect a meal onboard, because it was 55 mins before departure.

No problem. I took my boarding pass, went to the BA lounge and after a cup of coffee my flight to London was ready for boarding. The flight to London was uneventful. Of course there was food enough, also for me. We landed in time and after some smokes I went to the Galleries Lounge North. The food there might not have changed since the first time I flew Britsh Airways, however, it is not bad, and you don't stay hungry. Boarding was announced for gate A10, door D. Everyone who knows LHR knows what this means. Bus gate!

This flight needed four buses to board everybody. I arrived at my seat in the first row of Business Class 10 K (facing backward). At there is a warning about this seat because of a misaligned window. That's nonsense. One window on this side is indeed missing, but it's a bit behind of that seat, so 10 K has a window. I changed clothes directly before departure and made myself comfortable in this private little cabin which I really love.

Shortly after departure the regular service started. Drinks were served (I do not consume alcoholic beverages when flying) and lunch a little later. The salad was fresh (sorry, no pics) and I chose the duck confit as main course. It was perfectly cooked. Delicous. One of the best airline meals I have ever had. And definitely the best I've ever had onboard British Airways.

IFE is still old fashioned. No video on demand, but 12 channels per language instead (so some more if you take the different language options into consideration) where all movies start at the same time. This is not state of the art anymore but it didn't really bother me. Normally I watch one movie during a flight and after sevice I
try to sleep. So I did this time as well. Seat down, fully flat and I had a good 4 hrs. sleep. When I woke up we had a bit more than 90 mins remaining flight time to EWR and the crew started another snack service. Nothing special. They came with assorted breads similar to the servings at English tea time. Simple, but good.

We landed at EWR in time and the only small delay we had was waiting for a truck to push us to the gate. After First Class had left, Business Class also left the plan and the usual rush to immigration started. We had only a very short way because we docked at the first gate and there was the next surprise. NOBODY there. I went to a waiting immigration officer and because I travelled with hand luggage only I was outside
for my first smoke exactly 10 minutes after the door opened. This might be my personal record for US immigration.

Overall: A bit difficult with the morning flights, but departing from Italy was so much cheaper than from Germany. Bus gates for long haul flights are nightmares. But the long flight itself was nice, smooth and exactly what I expect from British Airways.

After a smoke I went to Hertz. As a member of Hertz President Circle I usually expect upgrades, but this time I had reserved a car from the Green Line Collection (Toyota Camry hybrid or Nissan Altima hybrid), so there are actually no upgrades available for this car group. The bigger the surprise (and smile) when there
was a C 300 Mercedes waiting for me. Brand new, I was the first renter. But there's one thing I don't understand. How can somebody in the purchasing department from Hertz be so crazy to buy such a car in this terrible colour?!


Ethiopian Airlines Cloud Nine: Dubai - Addis Ababa

by DariusTR

Airline: Ethiopian Airlines
Aircraft: Boeing 767-300ER
Class: Business / Cloud Nine
Route: Dubai - Addis Ababa
Date: November 2010

Check-in was in DXB Terminal 1. Long queues in front of the security checks, average check-in at one of the 4 desks (1 for Business “Cloud Nine”, 1 for “Silver/Gold” and 2 for Economy). Took quite long, because they needed to check the credit card I had used for the booking. A really unnecessary procedure that took more than 10 minutes. Passport control and security checks were empty, so I could quickly head to the departure Level and the Plaza Lounge. I was really impressed, because the lounge was exactly next to the departure gate. The Lounge is nothing to write home about, lots of food and drinks, but the quality of the warm and cold dishes was really poor: hot food was overcooked, biscuits, salad and Danish pastries were quite old and hard ! Disgusting ! WiFi was for free. The staff in the lounge was neither friendly nor courteous to the guests. I just had a coffee and some snacks there and went to the gate for immediate boarding.

I was welcomed by a flight attendant in a traditional Ethiopian dress and was escorted to my seat. This B767-300ER was quite old, but kept in average shape, although the Business Cabin needs to be refurbished, because of the not properly working entertainment system and the very old, not fully operating seats. I had to change the seat 3 times, as the other two seats were broken. This was no problem as there were only 5 passengers in the Business Cabin. The toilets were always clean, here you could see the former owner of this aircraft: KLM.

Welcome drinks were quickly served after boarding. Champagne, juice and water. The menu, headphones and an amenity kit were handed out. After take-off, a drink and some snacks were served.
The meal was served on a tray, although cheese and dessert was on a trolley service. The quality of the food was quite good, especially the appetizers were quite delicious.

Cabin crew were friendly and did a good job, although I would have preferred them to ask more if everything was all right, or if I would have liked to have another cup of tea etc. The captain made his announcements 3 times and he was able to speak really good English. Cabin crew spoke good English, too.
Although the departure from Dubai was late, we had an on time arrival in Addis Ababa. Business Class disembarked first and was taken to the terminal in a separate bus.

All in all a good experience. If ET refurbishes the Business Cabin they will have a good product. The aircraft on the DXB-ADD route will be replaced by a new B777 in a few weeks, so this will be a great experience to travel from DXB via ADD to FRA.


US Airways Envoy Suites: Philadelphia - Paris

After the big disappointment on inbound flight with old Envoy Class (although sufficient for a day flight) we hoped to get Envoy Suites on the night flight back to Europe. But first we had to get from the American countryside to Philadelphia...

It worked quite well despite of changing planes in Charlotte and New York La Guardia. The Dash-8, Airbus A319 and Embraer 145 were in good shape. Between Charlotte and New York we got an upgrade to First Class again. The seats are really wide, but seat pitch is only a bit better than in Economy due to the thick upholstery. Beverages are made to order and small snacks (biscotti, shortbread, chips, nuts, etc.) are offered during the flight.

Airline: US Airways
Aircraft: Airbus A330-200
Class: Business
Route: Philadelphia - Paris
Date: November 2010 

Having arrived in Philadelphia we had a quick look at the assigned gate for Paris to check out the aircraft. A330-200: good! Registration 285: better! Checking with FlyerTalk that only numbers 281 (the one of inbound flight) and 283 haven't been refurbished yet: priceless!

A big smile came up and we decided to spend one hour in US Airways' Envoy Lounge at Philadelphia before boarding. You need to take the elevator to the lounge. And it's big, really big! With nice view over runway and A-gates, by the way.
Well, I was prepared for the USual lounge snacks (chips, nuts, cookie) I had only seen until then (however, I hadn't been to the Envoy Lounge before). Eyes got bigger when I saw what was offered here:
- huge platters with fresh fruit (pineapple, melons, strawberries, grapes...)
- tomatoes / mozzarella
- huge platters with fresh vegetables (cherry tomatoes, sliced tomatoes, cucumber, sweet peppers ...)
- antipasti
- different sauces and dressings
- small cakes
- bowls of apples
- various breads and crackers (also European bread!)
It really tasted very good! We drank juice and tea, but there was also wine etc. available.

Five minutes before official boarding time we were informed about boarding being about to start (loudspeaker).
At the gate a crowd was in front of the door. No priority line for Envoy. They were boarding zone 1 at that time, but we only found that out by asking. Some passengers' hand luggage was manually checked again.

On board we were greeted and shown the way to our seats. Sorry, suites! First impression was WOW. It looks really spacious. The combination of wood and grey and blue seats is really nice and they are soooo comfortable. There are four seats in the row (1-2-1) and so every seat has direct access to the aisle. They are turned away from the aisle (to the window and to each other in the middle section). The front part of each suite holds the video monitor and provides lots of space for (computer) bag and shoes under the footrest. There is also a hook for your coat and a small space in which the amenity kit fits perfectly. There is also a bottle holder in the seat, so the bottle won't be in your way when you sleep, but it is always at hand. (A 0,5-liter bottle was given to every passenger.)
Moreover you have the traditional light above, but there is also a dimmable LED reading lamp next to the remote control for the video screen. Additionally, there are outlets for earphones, USB and power and the seat control. The seat itself is very comfortable to sit in and it goes totally lie flat, so there is no angle.
We were offered a pre-departure drink (served again in plastic glasses) and orders for other drinks were taken. After take-off warm nuts and beverages (from now in in glass and porcelain) were served. The movie system was started as well. You have a wide choice of movies in many languages and with subtitles, if wished. If you want to pause in between, you can decide if you want to set a marker or not. The headphones really blocked noice excellently and were comfortable to wear.

Then time for dinner. Here the menu:

Warm mixed nuts with your preferred cocktail or beverage

Classic shrimp cocktail with tomato mozzarella skewer

Mixed greens with hearts of palm, artichokes and grape tomatoes
Choice of peppercorn ranch or balsamic vinaigrette dressing
Selection of warmed breads

Our Signature Selection
Filet of beef with demi-glace served with red skin mashed potatoes and steamed asparagus

Herb Marinated Chicken Breast
Served with portobello mushroom demi-sauce, rice pilaf and sautéed spinach with shallots

Eggplant Cannelloni
Served with tomato ragout and Mediterranean couscous

A light quick meal complete with an appetizer and dessert, to give you more time to work, relax or sleep
Ahi Tuna Nicoise Salad
Ahi tuna served on a bed of mixed greens with baby potatoes, kalamata olives and haricot vert
Dijon vinaigrette dressing
(May be served without ahi tuna upon request)

Assorted petit fours
Lemon mousse
A selection of fine cheeses

A selection of refreshments are available in the galley between meal services

Prior to arrival, a choice of the following will be offered:
Scrambled eggs with cream cheese, tomato provencale and seasoned potato wedges
Fuit yogurt with crunchy granola
Both selections are accompanied by seasonal fresh fruit and wamed breads.

It was served quickly and was of good quality. An express meal was available, so you had more time to sleep. However, the flight was much too short anyway. The captain had announced it would only last 6:05 hrs, so we would land one hour too early in Paris. The flight attendant asked if we wanted to have breakfast, she would wake us up then one hour before landing.
After dinner, we put table cloth and table wear away (the dividers between the sets can be used as little tables) and went to sleep. The seat is great and offers plenty of space as the armrest can be pushed into the seat so that there is additional space provided. Unfortunately, the blankets were not upgraded. It's still that nasty plastic thing that makes you feel like set on electricity. But once settled we fell asleep in a second. A really good sleep (unfortunately too short!). This time it was great to have a warm cabin (at some point really almost too warm) in contrast to the outbound flight when the cabin was - American style - almost a fridge.

Breakfast was served about 1:15 before landing. From then on the cabin was cooled down again within minutes, unfortunately. The food was delicious, a really big fruit plattern. Granola came in a little plastic box and yogurt was also served in plastic (like in supermarket), but you could mix as desired in porcelain. Tea and coffee came in a big porcelain cup. Unfortunately there were only sweet warm breads (croissants and muffins) served, no toast or normal bread.

Afterwards freshing up, brushing teeth etc. The lavatory was still super clean and well maintained. We noticed that row 1 is a little different to the other seats in the Envoy cabin: the video monitor is fixed and doesn't need to be swiveled. It also looks a little bit roomier, but actually it isn't. There is also no coat hook in row one. But as your coat is anyway stowed by the flight attendants, it doesn't matter.

We indeed landed one hour too early. Luggage was delivered quickly. Ehm, half of the luggage. One bag: missing. And we were not alone with that problem. Five other passengers of our flight also missed a bag as well. It was 6:15 in the morning and the lady at the baggage tracing desk told us she could not access the system. The service is open from 9 till 18, and then her colleague could access the system. She couldn't as the colleague had the access rights. Strange. We had to fill in the obligary form, were provided with a bunch of contact details and were told that details and tracing details would be e-mailed to us. Then we would be called where the bag should be delivered to. Annoying. Well, but can't be helped. (We were not offered an amenity kit with tooth brush etc. or buy clothes. US Airways lost a bag of mine in New York in 2006 and the amenity kit was given out immediately without having to ask for it, and the bag was delivered to the hotel within 10 hours.)
So we just waited for our connection flights home. As it was on Austrian, we could use the Air France Lounge in Teminal 2. Really nice one.

One day later the bag was found (still in New York as we suspected) and sent directly to Frankfurt (where we will pick it up anyway tomorrow).

US Airways has really taken a great leap forward into upper class seating. The seat is really top, and number three after Air New Zealand (offers guest seat, huge table) and Turkish Airlines / Air Canada (open foot area might be more comfortable for really tall people). But the blanket really has to be changed. It doesn't fit the elegant style of the cabin and it's pure plastics, so not comfortable for ladies with long hair (it jus will fly!). The food was quite good and the service was very friendly and efficient. Improvements have to be done at boarding (priority line to speeden the process) and baggage tracing counter in Paris as well.


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