Yesterday I flew from Charleston to Brussels through Philly on US Airways. The day ended up longer than anticipated due to long weather delays. Living in Charleston, SC means a connection no matter where I go and sometimes connections mean long layovers, delays and frustration at the airport.
Last year, I only earned Platinum Status on US Airways and in a last minute move, bought up to Chairman last week. It’s not something I had planned to do, but rather, found myself in an interesting position. When I travel for business, I have to buy coach, but can use my miles to upgrade myself to business, envoy or first. With only international travel on the agenda for this year, I didn’t see myself needing top status with US Air since most of my trips would be on other Star Alliance Airlines.
However, for this trip, I found myself booking US Air from Philly to Brussels, direct. However, I quickly learned that US Air doesn’t offer complimentary upgrades on flights to Europe. Status wasn’t going to do anything for me here. So I had to decide, use miles to upgrade, pay cash for an upgrade or fly coach. In my opinion, using miles to upgrade to Europe is a bad use of miles – I wouldn’t use miles to upgrade from the East coast to West Coast and that’s the same flight time. And I really didn’t want to pay for an upgrade.
That’s when the US Air representative I was working with gave me a bright idea. She suggested I buy up to Chairman Status before February 29th and by doing so, would get 2 System Wide upgrade certificates – which can be used to upgrade to Europe. She also noted that on March 1st, I would get 2 more certificates to use in 2012. For the cost of buying up to chairman – which varies based on the # of miles or segments you need to reach that level (in my case it was $450) – I got 4 system wide upgrades. I’ve used one for the flight yesterday and I’m hoping a seat opens up before Feb 29th on my return so I can use the 2nd “2011” certificate. Either way, I have 2 more to use between March 1 and Feb 28 2013. That will come out to about $112 per upgrade. Good deal!
Now, the flight – As I said, I was quite delayed due to weather and my original 3 hour layover in Philly turned into a quick 30 minutes to get to my next gate. Unfortunately, the flight to Brussels also ended up delayed. After spending 7 hours in the airport already, I wasn’t looking forward to 6 hours in the air. We finally boarded and I was seated in row 3 of Envoy. The flight crew was very friendly and helpful. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say it was the best service I’ve ever had on US Airways (I’ve been Platinum or Chairman now for 7 years).
Before taking off, we were offered sparkling wine, OJ or sparkling water. After takeoff we were given, a warm towel (it really wasn’t so warm when I got it), an amenity kit and a dinner menu. The menu offered a choice between an herb encrusted chicken, beef tenderloin or a vegetarian lasagna. I selected the Chicken. We started with an Asian marinated beef, which was okay and a salad with feta and red peppers. The salad was good. When the chicken arrived, I was surprised by how good it actually looked. And, I was even more surprised by how good it tasted. For desert, a choice of flan, Ben & Jerry’s Cookies & Cream Ice Cream or Cheese and Fruit.
After dinner, I turned on my entertainment unit to discover the headset didn’t work. I turned on my laptop and quickly found that the light in my seat was also not working. The flight attendant helped me move to an open seat where the light worked. I didn’t bother with the entertainment center since there was only about 4 ½ hours left and I had my laptop. Unable to sleep, I watched a movie.
I quickly realized that I didn’t find the Envoy seats very comfortable. After sitting in one for a few hours, I found them rather hard and lacking room. Aren’t Envoy seats supposed to offer more space? Well, the US Air Envoy seats lose space due to the shape of the center console and the position of the arm rests. I prefer the Business Class seats on Lufthansa or Thai Airways.
About an hour before landing, the flight attendants offered “breakfast” at 1:30 in the morning. The plate had a spinach and mushroom quiche and fruit. The quiche was tasty and the fruit was good too.
Overall, I’m definitely glad I upgraded to Envoy, was very pleasantly surprised by the food and a bit disappointed in the seats. I’m hoping I get to use my upgrade for the return and we’ll see how that flight goes. I’m still not convinced I’ll do much more international flying on US Air though.