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Ahhhhhhh...Envoy Class

Ahhhhhhh...Envoy Class

Old Dec 22, 99, 9:44 am
  #1  
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Join Date: Nov 1999
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Ahhhhhhh...Envoy Class

Not to copy US Airways' ads, but the title is exactly how I felt after my first Envoy Class experience. Since there I couldn't find any other Envoy Class trip report here, this is going to be long and detailed, so you have been warned!

December 15, 1999
I finished up my last minute packing and hopped in the car for the 15-minute drive to Tampa Airport. Went straight to the First/Envoy/Preferred line where there was no wait and an agent ready to assist. The agent quickly checked me in and issued my boarding passes all the way to LGW.

Since I had two hours before the departure to CLT, I went to TGI Fridays for quick snack. Then I headed to the US Airways Club at the airside to wait for the flight. Thirty minutes before the flight, I headed over to the gate, where I found a mob scene. There were three flights going out at once. Agent called special assistance passengers, and told First/Preferred to hold on. He came back and called First/Preferred and seemingly the entire plane boarded. There was a sea of white Preferred baggage tags, with a few PrefPlus or CP scattered around. I wish they would call First/CP/PrefPlus, then call Preferred.

US217 TPA-CLT 4:19P-5:54P B737-300
Seat 2C 1:05

The plane was an old 737-300 in the old metal colors. I took my seat, 2C, and settled in. About half way through the boarding process, the overheads were completely full. The Y flight attendant was in charge of gate checking bags. She was stressed in trying to get the flight out on time, so she would say, "Give me the bag or get off the plane!" Some pax were complaining because they didn't understand why she was taking their bag. If she explained that the overheads were full, I'm sure that it would be more effective.

Due to the masses passing through the FC cabin, no pre-flight beverage was offered. I wish they would put water bottles on the seats like Alaska if they can't do a preboarding drink service. We pushed back on time and were in the air within minutes of pushback.

Once in the air the FC FA did a beverage service, and then offered the snack. I turned down the snack because I just had my TGI Fridays snack and I was looking forward to the Envoy dinner, but it was a tray with turkey and cheese sandwish, and a piece of chocolate. The FA then came through with the typical basket of Milano cookies, pretzals, peanuts, etc. Flight was just over an hour, and we began our descent into CLT. The FA told the bulkhead passenger during descent, which I overheard, that the first officer was making his first landing. There was a check pilot aboard with him. He just finished upgrading from an ATR with Express.

The landing was perfect, despite low lying clouds causing some bumpiness. We had to wait a little while for a gate, and we arrived on time.

I headed to the US Airways Club for the layover. This is my new favorite US Airways Club, replacing Philly. It has several different work centers, two large rooms of sofas and chairs, and a separate, closed-in, bar/smoking section. I'm not sure which of the many CLT Clubs this one was.

After relaxing for a little while, I left for the gate. Boarding had just begun, so I went ahead and boarded.

US94 CLT-LGW 7:05P-7:55A B767-200
Seat 2E 7:35

I settled into my seat. US Airways did a nice trick: they closed the Envoy Class overheads so Y passengers wouldn't throw anything in them. You had to open the overhead, put in your bag, and close it. I guess Y passengers wouldn't have the nerve to open them, but if they were already open, they would just throw in their bag.

Two FAs came to me, one had OJ or mimosa, both of which I turned down, and the other had the amentity kit. In the kit was the standard stuff: toothbrush/toothpaste, eye shades, socks, lip balm, moisterizer, pack of tissues, etc. Pillows, blankets, and earphones were already on the seat. After boarding, a cart came around and you were given the menu and wine list, and you could pick from a selection of magazines and newspapers (local CLT paper, USA Today, NY Times, WSJ).

During our taxi to the runway, the lead FA came through the cabin and introduced herself, saying that if there was anything you needed just to let her or the other two Envoy attendants know. There were three Envoy attendants, the lead and one other served the cabin and there was one in the galley who ventured out to help out if she wasn't busy.

The other cabin FA came and asked what beverage I would like once in the air and what my entree selection would be. I ordered a Diet Coke.

We took off and at 10,000 feet the captain came on, told us the flight might be a little bumpy over the ocean, and gave us the flying time of 7 and a half hours. I looked around the cabin and of the 24 seats, ten were filled.

Soon after the captain's announcement, the FA came with my Diet Coke and a cup of nuts. Then they came to set the table. A while cloth was put over the tray table, and she placed a bread plate, salt/pepper shakers, cup of whipped butter, silverware, and a cloth napkin on my tray. At this time wine was also offered. Next the FAs brought out the appetizer plates on trays. The appetzier plate had three things: a cucumber cup with marinated mushrooms, a beef tenderloin canape, and black sesame-crusted tuna.

This was then cleared on trays and drinks were refreshed. Next came the salad cart. There was a bowl of lettace, and the FA showed the choices of toppings: grilled artichoke hearts, tomatoes, shredded cheese and croutons. Dressing choices were raspberry vinaigrette, blue cheese, oil and vinegar, or lemon. I had the vinaigrette with croutons and cheese. It was excellent.

This was cleared and again drinks were refreshed. A bread basket with a selection of breads from LeBus Bakery in Philly were offered.

Next the entrees were brought on trays right from the galley. The choices were:
-Le Bec Fin selection of veal medallions with wild morel mushrooms, in a morel souce, with stir-fried vegetables and garlic potatoes.
-Chicken prosciutto pasta in a marinara sauce
-Filet of orange roughy, with leek and tomato compote, served with portobello mushrooms, red potatoes, and bell peppers.
I had the Le Bec Fin veal. It was filling and tasty.

The entree was cleared, more bread was offered, and drinks were resfreshed. Then, the bread plate, shakers, butter, and any remaining silverware were removed.

The cheese and fruit cart now came through.
Selection of jarlsberg, Port-Salut, and Brie cheese, served with crackers, grapes, and apples.

And finally, the dessert cart with after dinner drinks. The two choices were St. Nizier chocolate cake or pumpkin cheesecake. Both had the Le Bec Fin logo on the menu. I had the chocolate cake. It was topped with a piece of white chocolate bearing the Le Bec Fin logo, which was a nice touch. The cake was excellent, but a little too chocolately for my taste. Coffee and tea was also offered.

The entire setting was cleared, and a box of Godivas was passed around, a nice touch.

There was a choice of an express meal, which two people selected. It was lobster tail with a side salad, bread, and dessert, on a single tray.

After dinner the lights were turned down and the lead FA came to "turn down" the beds. She walked through the cabin and if people were ready to sleep, she helped recline their seat all the way, lift their legrest, and covered them with a blanket. After she turned down my seat, I decided to play with the PTV. I was unimpressed with the movies to Europe, the movies from Europe looked much better. But I wanted to sleep on this flight anyway.

I slept very well. So well, in fact, that I was not awake for the breakfast service! When I awoke, I looked around the cabin. Everyone but me was finishing breakfast or already finished breakfast. There was a glass of OJ and water, and a customs card on the armrest. I got up and went to the lav. There is only one lav for Envoy, which was not a problem in this less than full cabin. I wonder if it is a problem if there are 24 people. I stood and streched in the galley, and glanced at the manifest on the wall. There were only three status passengers in Envoy, all PrefPlus. Two were traveling together and were transferring to Heathrow and continuing to FRA. The lead FA offered me a cold breakfast (too late for the hot), but I turned it down. I asked her how well Envoy was selling, since I was surprised how empty it was. She said they run full usually out of Philly. She also said the CLT flight is always full in Y but pretty light in Envoy. US has a strict policy of no upgrades whatsoever to Envoy. This means that everyone up here paid with miles or money.

The breakfast service according to the menu is:
An "a la carte" cart with:
OJ, seasonal fresh fruite, croissants, bagels, cream cheese, preserves, orange marmalade, honey, butter, cereal with milk, yogurt, bananas, spinach, mushroom and egg quesadilla, coffee, and tea.

We began our descent into LGW. The lead came through and thanked each passenger for flying with US. Then she offered wine to the three PrefPlus passengers.

We landed and taxied to our gate. Upon deplaing each Envoy pax was given a pass to use the Fast Track service. The Fast Track lane was separate and closed off. The wait for immigration was rather long, due to several planes arriving at the same time, but there was no line at Fast Track. At baggage claim, the priority tagged bags came out fast.

Not wanting to suffer an hour plus taxi to London, I opted to try the Gatwick Express. Trains ran every 15 minutes for the 30 minute trip to Victoria. There was plenty of room for all the bags, because the train was empty. A cart of drinks and snacks came through for purchase.

After arrival in Victoria, I wanted to grab a taxi to the hotel. There was really long line and NO TAXIS there, so the wait was lengthy. It took at least a half an hour.

I'll spare you the details of my London trip, unless you want to hear about them. If you do, just post. Brown's Hotel was great!

I'll post the return trip report later today. I apologize for possible misspellings, but I'm suffering from jetlag!

BizJet
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Old Dec 22, 99, 10:00 am
  #2  
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Very enjoyable report---thanks!
QuietLion is offline  
Old Dec 22, 99, 2:52 pm
  #3  
dg1
 
Join Date: Aug 1999
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Many thanks for a great trip report. Like you said not many USAirways reports on here and even less on Envoy class.

I guess it's kind of a double edged sword about 'absolutely no upgrades' to envoy. While I would like some way to upgrade there, as long as it really is absolute (ie no operational upgrades, etc) I think it's fair -- we can see how much when rules aren't absolute pisses off our United compatriots.

I have 250,000 miles on USAirways and still considering a trip for my wife and I in Envoy . I'm still hoping that things fall into place for PIT-LGW service soon. I will try my best to be on that first flight, and in Envoy would be even nicer.

Thanks for the detail, also. I flew PIT-CDG last year in Coach. My wife and I were both very pleased and would do it again. The 2-4-2 configuration worked well since my wife and I had the two window seats to ourself, and we were amazed how during our seven hour flight there the flight attendants nearly NEVER sat down -- they just kept serving us food and drinks. On my way there they went through the cabin over a dozen times .. The only bad thing was one of the bathroom's light blew out nearly immediately -- and us men have bad enough aim with the lights on!
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Old Dec 22, 99, 4:30 pm
  #4  
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December 21
Woke up early and checked out of the Brown's Hotel. The doorman got a taxi for me, for the short ride to Victoria Station. I called US Airways the day before to see if they had a baggage check at Victoria. Unfortunately, they didn't. At Victoria, AA and BA do have baggage checks. I left Brown's at 7:13, and arrived at Victoria at 7:25. I ran down with all my bags and hopped onto the 7:30 train just before it departed. This train was packed with every seat filled. I though about moving up to Club for a seat and pay the surcharge, but I finally found a seat and space for my bags.

The train ride was uneventful, and a short 30 minutes later, the train rolled into Gatwick. The train station is in the South Terminal, which is great for everyone but BA flyers and the flyers of the other north terminal inhabitants.

The US Airways check-in desk was found easily enough. It was deserted, despite being just under 2 hours before departure. I guess that all Y passengers already checked in. There were two lines, Envoy Class, and coach. I was surprised that there was no Preferred sign on the Envoy line. Before checking in there was a full security questioning, much more thorough that its US counterpart. After security, I went to the friendly agent who checked me in. All US Airways ground handling at Gatwick is handled by CGI, a company that handles just about every foreign airline at LGW. The agent quickly issued my boarding passes, and switched my seat to the bulkhead to avoid anyone reclining on me. He gave me a pass to CGI's lounge in the South Remote Terminal.

I passed security and spent some time looking around the duty free shops. I then took the shuttle to the remote gates and headed to the lounge. The lounge was small, and I was with only one party in there, but they were on a different flight. There was a self serve bar of soft drinks and coffee and tea. There were also some light snacks.

The agent came and said the flight was boarding, so I headed up to the gate. There were two lines, Envoy and Coach. There is a final security questioning, then you are permitted to board.

US95 CLT-LGW 10:25A 3:05P 767
Seat 1B 9:30

I boarded and took my seat. An FA then came with OJ and mimosa, and the amentity kits. I noticed that the galley FA for this flight was the cabin FA on my last flight (not the lead, the other one). Later in the flight she said hi and asked how my trip was.

There were 9 people in Envoy today, and coach was maybe 2/3s full. We were delayed because there was a passenger who did not board the aircraft. Repeated announcements were made aboard and in the airport. Since he did not board, his luggage had to be found and removed. This took about 45 minutes. I assume that the bags were opened and searched for bombs/explosives, and if something was found we would not have departed. For this reason, I assume that nothing was found.

The captain came on, explained the reason for the delay and that it was necessary due to the security of the aircraft. He also said that we lost our slot, and ATC would be making us wait for maybe as long as an hour. There were many grunts, and the captain's voice sounded annoyed. He said flying time to CLT would be nine and a half hours due to strong headwinds.

Twenty minutes later, the captain came on and said that we would be moving to a remote area because our gate needed to be used. Then, he told us that we were cleared for departure.

We got in line and eventually departed. Delay of one hour because some moron missed the flight. I was beginning to worry about my 4:45 connection when the captain said our ETA was 4.

During the delay, we were asked for our beverage preference and entree selection.

I won't go into detail as to the service, since it was the same as last time. I will copy the menu, though:
Hors d'oeurve
Sauteed wild mushroom canape
Prawns in creamy Marie Rose sauce
Chicken and spinach roulade

Seasonal Salad
Offered with choice of mushrooms and tomotoes. Tomato herb vinaigrette or creamy chive dressing, oil and vinegar, cheese, and lemon.

Selection of breads

Entrees
Pan-fried salmon filet with veloute sauce presented with potatoes, spinach, and Kenya beans

Breast of chicken enchanced by tomato basel sauce, with potatoes au gratin, carrots, and broccoli

Grilled filet of beef in a Yorkshire sause with mashed potatoes, zucchine, and yellow squash

Cheese and fruit cart
similar to last flight

Dessert
Champagne fresh berries with mango coulis
Lemon tart wedge
Coffee or tea

Godiva chocolates

I used the PTV a lot during this trip and watched Sixth Sense, Big Daddy, and Mystery Men.

A snack cart with drinks and snacks was in the galley. Snacks were Milano cookies, Snackwell breakfast bars, nuts, etc. I was surprised that the crew doesn't get rest seats like on other airlines. They are required to be up and working the entire flight. This includes the flight crew also. I'm not sure if they get rest seats on the overnight sectors either.

I overheard from the galley that there was a problem passenger in Y. One of the Y flights was saying to the lead that he was angered and bitter the entire flight. She gave him chicken, and he claimed it wasn't hot enough. So she went and reheated it and gave him two from the oven, and he was still upset. She said that he was a foreigner and was probably trying to nit-pick and find everything wrong with US Airways as a US carrier. She ended up giving him an Envoy meal. I don't know what happened.

Midway through the flight Haagen-Dazs Strawberry ice cream was offered, which was refreshing.

About two hours before landing, afternoon tea was offered. There was a cart of various types of sandwiches, scones, and jellies, as well as teas.

The captain announced that we would be arriving at CLT at 3:30, later than scheduled, earlier than first thought.

After landing, I deplaned and headed through Customs. CLT gets only two int'l flights a day, my US and a BA flight to London. Immigration was a breeze. There are two belts in the baggage hall. All the priority luggage came out on one belt, so I got my bags quickly. The customs officers were very tight, either because of the threat of terrorism in the US due to the millennium or because since we are one of their two flights they wanted to make the best of us. The lady at the green line asked "Why are you going to Tampa?" Me: "Uh...I...live there". She made me go through the immigration scanner thing. After that, I walked to the US Recheck Desk, and the agent looked at the tags and threw them on the belt.

For some reason, you must go through security before being released into the US Express area at Terminal D. Why did they make you do this? Shouldn't you still be sterile?

Anyway, you are dumped at the US Express gates at Terminal D. I walked to Terminal B (?) and stopped at the Club. Then I went to the gate. The agent came on and said that there was a flap problem and this plane was going to be looked at. We were delayed from 4:45 to 5:00. Then it kept getting pushed back 15 minutes to 5:30. At 5:30 they said that this plane was being taken out of service and a plane from DFW would be arriving at 5:50, and they would take us to TPA. I got a bite at the food court and came back at 5:55. At 6:00 the plane from DFW arrived. Not until 6:30 did they begin boarding.

When they began boarding, they said there would be no FC boarding. Rows 15 and up were called. Didn't matter. Just about every person on the plane got in line.

I waited till the end of boarding and then boarded.

US2162 CLT-TPA 4:45p 6:16p MD-80
Seat 2D 1:25

The plane was jam packed and I took my seat. The FA couldn't do a preflight drink, but she gave each FC passenger a bottle of water. I think that they should just always give a bottle of water before departure. I choice of drink is unneccessary in my opinion.

The captain came on and apologized for the delay. We pushed back and got in a really long line. We ended up getting caught in the push after the push we were supposed to be a part of. After 20+ minutes waiting, we finally took off, 2 hours after scheduled departure.

The FA served drinks and a light snack the same as the TPA-CLT leg. We arrived into TPA, I didn't notice the time. I got my bags at baggage claim and headed home.

A great trip overall. After Envoy Class, it was hard to go back to domestic First Class!

Some points about Envoy:
-If you show your Envoy boarding pass at the US Airways Club instead of your US/AA card, you will be given drink passes for the bar
-The legroom and recline was generous. No one was in front of me, but on the outbound flight, the seat next to me in the row infront was occupied, and when fully reclined, it seemed that it could be uncomfortable. Bulkhead is best bet.

Ahhhhhh...Envoy Class!

BizJet
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Old Dec 22, 99, 5:01 pm
  #5  
 
Join Date: Feb 1999
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The reason for the second security check after customs is b/c you have access to your checked baggage which could contain items not permitted in the airport / cabin baggage. For example you can carry knives in checked baggage but no chance of allowing this in the airport.

We have the same deal at PIT where the customs area opens up into the level below the general gates but after the main security area. You have to go through security to get out of the customs area.
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Old Dec 28, 99, 10:57 am
  #6  
geo1004
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BizJet: Thanks for the detailed report. Just out of curiosity, what wines were offered? Do you remember?

As much as I hate the "no upgrade to Envoy" policy, the one time I did fly in Envoy, I appreciated that there was not a shuffling of upgraded passengers prior to departure.

I am thinking about booking an Envoy ticket this summer once the new A-330's get online... I'll surely post a report if I do.

Cheers...
 
Old Dec 28, 99, 11:59 am
  #7  
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
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BizJet: Great report, nice to read a little about Envoy class. Thanks for posting.
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