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Old Feb 6, 12, 8:00 am   #1
 
Join Date: Feb 2012
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US Airways Envoy Suite Off-Peak travel to/from CDG

Let me preface this by saying that when I first booked my Envoy tickets, I searched high and low for a good trip report, but was only able to find one (here on FlyerTalk) and I didn't feel like it explained much, so I decided to write my own. It's a bit long, but I didn't want to leave out any important details. Thanks for checking it out.



After racking up some US Airways miles on my fairly frequent business travels, and then topping them off with a new US Air Mastercard bonus, my wife and I booked our off-peak award trip to Paris. Since I didn’t have quite enough miles until early September, our choices for the 60K RT Envoy tickets were somewhat limited, but we were still able to book tickets for a 10 day trip. It ended up being $282 total in fees, and 110,000 miles, due to the 5k/ticket discount for US Air credit card holders. Direct flights from PHL-CDG were sold out, so we traveled in First to CLT, then Envoy to CDG. Overall, the good parts were quite nice, while the bad parts were a bit annoying.

Part 1 – PHL Check-in, Envoy Lounge
We were obviously excited about our trip, but unfortunately hit the first small annoyance at check-in. We arrived at PHL Terminal A just after the Caribbean flights departed, but before check-in got going for the European departures, so the entire check-in area was deserted. Great, right? Well, apparently that was shift-change time for the employees, so the woman at the Envoy check-in was less than enthusiastic. I tried to engage her in some friendly banter, which she didn’t even acknowledge, nor did she respond when I said I was having trouble with the check-in kiosk. So, after poking at the screen for a bit, I got it to work, and then she said simply “bags on the scale”. We put the bags on the scale, she printed out our tags, and started to put them on the conveyor without the proper Priority tags we are entitled to, as not only were we flying in First/Envoy, but I am also a DM Gold member. When I asked for them, she seemed like she couldn’t be bothered, and literally rolled her eyes at us, but she did end up affixing them (not that it mattered much, as our bags all stayed in CLT as we continued to Paris. We got them back about 30 hours after arrival). After this, we headed to security, where there was also zero line, so we were through and on our way to the Envoy lounge in about 3 minutes.
At the lounge, we were informed that we were not entitled access during the domestic portion of our flight (which I should have known, though I think it’s still a silly rule) but fortunately, I had a comped lounge pass from my US Air Mastercard, so we sat there until boarding. I learned two interesting things during our stay in the “Envoy” lounge – first, it is no longer exclusively an Envoy lounge. They have changed it to a normal US Airways lounge, so anyone with a membership or day pass can use it, which is very nice, as it is by far the largest lounge in PHL. Second, there used to be an annoying rule because of Pennsylvania’s arcane liquor laws that alcohol cannot be given away, and therefore, even house beer/wine cost $1. According to the bartender, they have now found a way around the law (“a bookkeeping issue” she called it) and now house beer (Bud, Bud Light) and wine are free. Premium beer/wine/spirits are still available for purchase. Our 1.5 hours flew by, and it was time to go to Charlotte.

Empty Terminal A check-in area

No longer just an Envoy lounge



Part 2 – PHL- CLT, US Air 767 First, CLT US Air Lounge
A few weeks prior to our departure, US Air changed our aircraft from an A320, which has the standard domestic first cabin (2-2) to a 767, which has a 2-2-2 configuration and the old Envoy seats. I have previously flown in the 767 Envoy from CDG-CLT, and while it was nice, the seats aren’t lie flat, and not all seats have isle access. However, for a US domestic flight, it was top shelf. Same service, just nicer seats and more legroom. The only slight annoyance was the other side of the plane was offered the snack basket twice before our side got any, though my Glenlivet was delivered as a triple without asking, so that was pretty nice. I just wanted my Kettle Classic Cracked Pepper & Sea Salt chips, because they are oh so good! After the short fight, we were in Charlotte and headed to the lounge.
I have been in a US Air lounge in CLT before, but not the one in Terminal C/D. If you can get there, that’s the lounge to go to. Same food and service as any other lounge, but this one is HUGE. It has a large lobby, two enormous regular seating areas, and a quiet room with about 50 seats. We only had about a half hour before our flight boarded, so I made the most of it, and then we jumped into the fray and boarded our A330 to CDG. TSA was doing random bag checks at the gate, which I’ve never encountered before, but it was no big deal. Time to experience the Envoy Suite.

One of two rooms in the CLT lounge

The quiet room


Part 3 – CLT-CDG, US Air A330 Envoy
My wife and I had seats 1C &F, which have about 4” extra space when the seat is fully reclined. We didn’t need it, but it was nice all the same. The seats lay fully flat, and there are AC and USB ports. I didn’t use the IFE, though a quick browse through the approx 14” screen showed 7 pages of TV shows (though with only one episode of each show) and 9 pages of movies to chose from, plus music and games.

My Seat

Christie enjoying a pre-departure beverage

Amenity kit


Unlike some other airlines, we were not greeted by name upon boarding, which wasn’t an issue, but I thought I’d point it out. Our coats were taken and hung up, our pre-departure sparkling wine (an ok Prosecco) was delivered, and then menus distributed. Orders were taken shortly after, and I waited to see what my wife ordered so we could try different things. She got the filet, so I ordered the crab cakes. The flight was on-time for departure, and soon we were in the air. The warmed nuts snack was delightful with my second scotch of the day (hey, I’m on vacation), hot towels were distributed and collected, and the appetizer of cold shrimp with a sweet Thai chili sauce was set down. Presentation was wonderful, and the shrimp fantastic. The salads with dinner were standard, but it turned out that I made quite the mistake in ordering the crab cakes. While my wife’s filet was delicious (she described it as “better than any steak I’ve had a wedding”), the crab cakes were extremely bready and mushy, and I was only able to eat one of the three. However, the sautéed zucchini side was cooked to perfection. Presentation of both plates was beautiful, and the accompanying warm rosemary rolls were splendid. With dinner, I enjoyed a Domaine Lafage "Coté Est" that was, in my opinion, adequate, though admittedly, I’m not a wine connoisseur. Both of us had the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream dessert. Overall, it was a great meal, though as we’d find out on our flight home, the food in Envoy is really hit-or-miss. Later in the flight, my sleep was interrupted by the FA’s talking loudly, and I had to put in ear plugs to finish my sleep. My fresh fruit and espresso arrival snack was just fine, and upon disembarking, we received the Priority Access customs voucher that all premium cabin passengers get upon arrival to CDG. If only they had those when returning to the States.

A wonderful cold shrimp appetizer

Christie's filet meal

My crabcakes - not the best choice, but amazing zucchini

A nice dessert

CDG Priority customs access pass


One other thing to note is that two weeks prior to the flight, I had called US Air to request a gluten-free meal for my wife, which I was told was available. (If you’re not aware, gluten is a naturally occurring substance in wheat and cereal grains). However, during the flight, it was not acknowledged or brought up. First, I realize we could have asked again, but we shouldn’t have to. Second, the filet meal was inherently gluten-free already, so there were no problems. The odd part, however, was that on our return flight to CLT, and after our meal orders had been placed, a second FA approached my wife and said that she had a gluten-free meal for her, and insinuated that my wife had to take it because “they go to a lot of extra trouble to prepare these meals.” My wife accepted (we had pre-ordered it after all), and it turned out to be a chicken salad meal with vegetables that she said was very bland. Also, US Air and their FA’s seem to be unaware of what constitutes gluten-free; all three meals that she was served were simply salads (snack, meal, arrival snack), when she could have eaten a number of things that were already available in-flight (filet, potatoes, rice, etc). Also, after insisting that she take the special meal, the FA then came around and offered her the bread basket, a big no-no for a gluten-free diet. Then, the topper was that with her third salad of the flight, it was served with a package of – you guessed it – breadsticks! It even said “contains gluten” on the packaging. C’mon guys…
Other quick notes about the return flight to CLT (which I am on as I write this):
-As many know, a FA can make or break the quality of your flight. Well, ours not only broke it, but then drove over the pieces. Kathleen didn’t seem to want to be on the flight at all, and acted very indifferent to us. Service was slow and unfriendly, and less than attentive, even though the Envoy cabin was only half full. She twice tried to take my drinks away when they were only half finished, and once I was finally done with them, let the empties and trash sit there for over two hours (no exaggeration) until I had to ask her to remove them. She also (twice!) leaned in over both my wife and I to shut or open our window shades, which just felt like an invasion of space. She could have simply asked us to lower/open them.
-The “warm nuts” were not warm, and my Glenlivet was only a double. I know – the horror! – but I’m just commenting on what happened.
-My meal (the filet this time) tasted good, but was only lukewarm, and the desert was plain ice cream with sundae toppings, not Ben & Jerry’s.
-We chose the window seats for this flight to try them out. They feel a lot more private than the middle seats. Because of the divider in the middle seats, it’s sort of difficult to converse with a traveling partner anyhow, so being 3A & 4A wasn’t much of a change. Personally, I like the window seats better. Legroom was fine, though I’m only 5’11”, so a taller person may prefer the longer bulkhead seats.

Overall, for the total miles and cash outlay for both of our flights, we received a good value. The Envoy Suite seats themselves are very comfortable and roomy, and the IFE selection is great. Food on the outgoing leg was the best I’ve had on any flight so far. The disappointments really only came with the (quite frankly terrible) service we received in the airport and on our return flight. Had we paid the full $4500/ticket, I would be bothered by it enough to not fly US Airways Envoy in the future, choosing another airline instead.


My return seat - a bit more private than a middle seat
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Old Feb 6, 12, 10:15 am   #2
 
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snowfilmer, thank you so much for your report. You are right, there are very few reports about US airways. I have been thinking about taking bizz flights on american carriers. I must say you are braver then me cause after all these years I still spend more money NOT to fly them. Thank you for a great report.


you did well
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Old Feb 6, 12, 10:49 am   #3
 
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Thanks for a great report - and welcome to FT at the same time! I had much the same experience (I flew LGW/CLT/SAN and back) where a good product could very easily be let down by indifferent service.
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Old Feb 6, 12, 10:57 am   #4
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Welcome to Flyertalk snowfilmer and thanks for posting this report!

You may want to visit the US Airways forum if you plan to fly US even a little in the future:
http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/us-ai...end-miles-612/


Just a few comments on your post--

Quote:
At the lounge, we were informed that we were not entitled access during the domestic portion of our flight
This is incorrect. You are entitled to same-day access to any Star Alliance lounge as a Star Gold or higher. Many times I've gone to the US lounge here in PHX prior to a PHX-PHL-Europe flight, and have still visited the Envoy lounge at PHL. The same has been true when I've flown UA, I've been able to use their PHX lounge before flights to LAX and ORD (when the flights were same-day and were international).

As to this and your other issues, I think you should send an email to Customer Relations. Not sure if you think any are miles or $$ worthy, but I'd certainly ask for something. I think the going rate for a day pass at the club is $40, so I'd at minimum ask for that, and probably more for both your crabcakes meal and your wife's return meal. Always ask for more than you think you want since they'll probably cut the amount you request in half.

Definitely poor showing for the FA to reach across and close or open the screens and to leave trash for so long. Many times I've been asleep or close to it, and my trash has magically disappeared.
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Old Feb 6, 12, 11:22 am   #5
 
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@aztimm

in regards to lounge access, perhaps you know a secret I don't but my understanding is that Star Gold or higher is entitled access to SA lounges inside the USA, except for Dividend Miles or UA members for some reason, unless departing internationally immediately from that airport (a Gold or higher with LH, for example though, is entitled to access to all). I disputed this with the lounge attendant in PHL, showing her both my First (PHL-CLT) and Envoy (CLT-CDG) boarding passes, as well as my US Gold card, and she wouldn't budge. Using the SA lounge finder tool with my class of service and status also seemed to indicate that I wasn't entitled access on the PHL-CLT leg. I mean, it worked out because of my day pass, but we had arrived to PHL early specifically to check out the lounge.
I sent a link to this trip report to US Air - do you think I should send another email in addition? We were quite displeased with the FA service on the trip home - like I said, so much so that I wouldn't ever pay full fare for a US biz seat in the future.
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Old Feb 6, 12, 12:47 pm   #6
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Most definitely send them details. They probably won't even follow the link. Avoid anything too personal, and put it in bullets so it is easy to understand.

Maybe I've gotten access when I shouldn't have, but as I said above, I've had lounge access on the day of an international flight, regardless if it was immediately before or after the flight. Heck, last Nov I did a mileage run to/from Hong Kong. On the return leg I bounced around from ORD, PIT, IAH, and I went to lounges at both ORD (UA), and PIT (US).

I've flown US in Envoy just a handful of times (4 or 5 I think) and each was extremely top drawer. I saw little difference between the old US Envoy seats and the UA Biz. The new US Envoy Suites are miles and miles above any other premium cabin I've been in.
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Old Feb 6, 12, 1:56 pm   #7
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snowfilmer View Post
@aztimm

in regards to lounge access, perhaps you know a secret I don't but my understanding is that Star Gold or higher is entitled access to SA lounges inside the USA, except for Dividend Miles or UA members for some reason, unless departing internationally immediately from that airport (a Gold or higher with LH, for example though, is entitled to access to all). I disputed this with the lounge attendant in PHL, showing her both my First (PHL-CLT) and Envoy (CLT-CDG) boarding passes, as well as my US Gold card, and she wouldn't budge.
This is generally true for *A pax in Coach, but [C|B|J] or F pax should have no problems getting into *A lounges regardless of where they are in the system.

I've experienced much the same thing however.

Leaving SFO/IAD in coach as *G on a flight that will terminate outside the US: Admitted to *A lounges including RCC.

Leaving SFO in coach as *G w/ a connection in ORD, JFK or IAD ?---No RCC access until I get to my internationally departing leg, but I was able to get into the SQ lounge in SFO.

Traveling domestically on US while *G ?---Forget it. Also kicked to the curb.
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Old Feb 6, 12, 2:56 pm   #8
 
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Thanks for your excellent report.

Envoy looks like a decent product from the photos shown here. Definitely better than the UA business class (probably the worst business class configuraiton in the US - 777 and 747 lower deck) that I have flown the most.

I have never considered flying US premium cabins internationally. May be I will consider it as part of my next RTW itinerary.
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Old Feb 6, 12, 3:48 pm   #9
 
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@UA_Flyer
Like I said in the report, for the total miles and cash outlay, it was definitely worth it. The Envoy suites are only about 2 years old, so everything is in real good shape. As part of a RTW trip on *A, it may be the best option for flying into/out of USA (I hear the LH biz is not too good, if only because there are so many seats). Well, at least on the Europe to/from East Coast route - I'd much rather fly on NZ biz from AUS/NZ across the Pacific.

@Jet'Dillo
What do you think will happen for lounge access next month when I fly in First PHL>PHX>YVR on US? The SA lounge finder says access in PHX only, but from what you say, it seems as though I should be able to get into the lounge in PHL as well
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Old Feb 6, 12, 4:15 pm   #10
 
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This report brings back the memories of my first and last Envoy round trip to and from FCO and PHL. On the outbound (FCO-PHL), I didn't get the row 1 (used to be first, but at the time sold as regular Envoy and elites got the first access), but on the return, I was able to try row 1 on their 333s! That was back in 2005, I think and I remember being quite impressed with US's Envoy service (I was very much used to UA C service). I used those US space available upgrade certs (which are long gone nowadays, I think) on a very cheap (~500 USD or so RT ticket).

Thanks OP for your detailed report. Glad to know that you and your wife enjoyed the trip. 55K mile for RT in Enovy is a steal!
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Old Feb 6, 12, 6:12 pm   #11
 
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Wait a second...with a US c-card, it's only 55k miles roundtrip in J? Can you add a stopover? Is this rate applicable on *A partners or only on US metal?
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Old Feb 6, 12, 6:42 pm   #12
 
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@GetSetJetSet

Only on US metal. They have discounted Biz and Coach flights to Europe Jan 15 - Feb 28 each year (also to S America in April, I believe) for 30k/60k RT. If you have a US Air cc, subtract 5k miles per ticket (applies to all award travel on US, not just during off-peak times). Not sure about stopovers, but probably - I think all normal award rules apply. You have to book a bit in advance though if you want to be particular - award seats open 330 days ahead of time.
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Old Feb 6, 12, 9:51 pm   #13
QBK
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aztimm View Post
This is incorrect. You are entitled to same-day access to any Star Alliance lounge as a Star Gold or higher. Many times I've gone to the US lounge here in PHX prior to a PHX-PHL-Europe flight, and have still visited the Envoy lounge at PHL. The same has been true when I've flown UA, I've been able to use their PHX lounge before flights to LAX and ORD (when the flights were same-day and were international).
Quote:
Originally Posted by snowfilmer View Post
in regards to lounge access, perhaps you know a secret I don't but my understanding is that Star Gold or higher is entitled access to SA lounges inside the USA, except for Dividend Miles or UA members for some reason, unless departing internationally immediately from that airport (a Gold or higher with LH, for example though, is entitled to access to all). I disputed this with the lounge attendant in PHL, showing her both my First (PHL-CLT) and Envoy (CLT-CDG) boarding passes, as well as my US Gold card, and she wouldn't budge. Using the SA lounge finder tool with my class of service and status also seemed to indicate that I wasn't entitled access on the PHL-CLT leg. I mean, it worked out because of my day pass, but we had arrived to PHL early specifically to check out the lounge.
Quote:
Originally Posted by aztimm View Post
Maybe I've gotten access when I shouldn't have, but as I said above, I've had lounge access on the day of an international flight, regardless if it was immediately before or after the flight. Heck, last Nov I did a mileage run to/from Hong Kong. On the return leg I bounced around from ORD, PIT, IAH, and I went to lounges at both ORD (UA), and PIT (US).
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jet'Dillo View Post
This is generally true for *A pax in Coach, but [C|B|J] or F pax should have no problems getting into *A lounges regardless of where they are in the system.

I've experienced much the same thing however.

Leaving SFO/IAD in coach as *G on a flight that will terminate outside the US: Admitted to *A lounges including RCC.

Leaving SFO in coach as *G w/ a connection in ORD, JFK or IAD ?---No RCC access until I get to my internationally departing leg, but I was able to get into the SQ lounge in SFO.

Traveling domestically on US while *G ?---Forget it. Also kicked to the curb.
Quote:
Originally Posted by snowfilmer View Post
@Jet'Dillo
What do you think will happen for lounge access next month when I fly in First PHL>PHX>YVR on US? The SA lounge finder says access in PHX only, but from what you say, it seems as though I should be able to get into the lounge in PHL as well
Confusion about *G lounge access is one of the great FT traditions. The Star Alliance website is fairly clear:
Quote:
Star Alliance Gold Customers Travelling in Any Class: Customers have access to any Star Alliance member carriers' owned lounges with the Star Alliance Gold logo at the entrance.
  • Customer must present proof of Star Alliance Gold level status via a valid frequent flyer program Star Alliance Gold level card or other valid indication of Star Alliance Gold level status
  • Customer must also present a boarding pass for travel on a Star Alliance flight departing from the local airport
  • Customer is entitled to one guest
  • Continental, United and US Airways Star Alliance Gold customers may only access the United Clubs and US Airways Clubs within the U.S. when travelling in conjunction with a Star Alliance international flight.
While the phrasing "in conjunction with..." is slightly ambiguous, note that every other entry on that page -- e.g., "International Business Class" -- specifically states "Customer must be departing from the local airport in International Business Class" or the equivalent. Since the *G entry does not state that the customer must be departing internationally from the local airport, I think the intent is clear.

However, some of the US clubs (especially the Envoy Lounge in PHL) are notorious for ignoring this policy -- see this thread. There are other threads about similar issues, but the consensus is clear that *G gets you access to every lounge with the *G sign outside if you have a same-day international flight downstream (you do not get access at your terminating airport). This is respected by most *A airlines. Unfortunately, US famously ignores the rules, and SQ famously makes up their own rules.

And, for what it's worth, United's policy specifically allows international F/C customers lounge access at every domestic connection if they are departing that airport in a premium cabin.
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Old Feb 6, 12, 11:23 pm   #14
 
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Nice reports and trip Report Snowfilmer, sounds like you got a bad crew on your particular flight.

I know you mentioned you went to bed, did you have a chance to get an initial impression of the IFE system on US Airways?
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Old Feb 7, 12, 3:01 am   #15
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by QBK View Post
Confusion about *G lounge access is one of the great FT traditions. The Star Alliance website is fairly clear:


While the phrasing "in conjunction with..." is slightly ambiguous, note that every other entry on that page -- e.g., "International Business Class" -- specifically states "Customer must be departing from the local airport in International Business Class" or the equivalent. Since the *G entry does not state that the customer must be departing internationally from the local airport, I think the intent is clear.

However, some of the US clubs (especially the Envoy Lounge in PHL) are notorious for ignoring this policy -- see this thread. There are other threads about similar issues, but the consensus is clear that *G gets you access to every lounge with the *G sign outside if you have a same-day international flight downstream (you do not get access at your terminating airport). This is respected by most *A airlines. Unfortunately, US famously ignores the rules, and SQ famously makes up their own rules.

And, for what it's worth, United's policy specifically allows international F/C customers lounge access at every domestic connection if they are departing that airport in a premium cabin.
It's also worth noting that UA doesn't consider Canada an "International Destination".
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