My experience flying US Airways’ Envoy Suite on the A330

Hello from Paris! As part of my quick 72 hour round the world journey I just flew US Airways from Charlotte to Paris in Envoy Class. While I’ll share lots more details about my flight when I write the trip report, I figured I’d share some initial impressions right away.

This flight was operated by an A330 featuring their newest business class product, the Envoy Suite. As much as we (or I?) like giving US Airways crap, they actually innovated business class given that they were the first airline to install a reverse herringbone seat, which I find to hands down be the best hard business class product out there.

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Other airlines followed and slightly modified US Airways’ reverse herringbone seats, so I think American or Cathay Pacific’s business class hard product is a bit nicer in terms of the finishes, but US Airways still has a phenomenal business class hard product. If I had to compare the difference between the Envoy Suite and the slightly newer versions of the reverse herringbone seats, I’d say the difference is like an iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 5 – there are a few minor differences, but nothing huge.

As far as the food goes, it was okay. The service began with nuts, followed by a bland but edible salad and appetizer.

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For the main course I had talapia, which was extremely chewy, so I only ate a few bites of it.

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Then for dessert was tiramisu.

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I really don’t even know where to begin regarding the service, because it was actually hilariously bad. It’s a bit ironic since I’ve always found service on US Airways to be really good domestically, even if they don’t have much to work with. So I figured it would be the same type of service internationally. Instead the crew was possibly the worst I’ve ever had on a transatlantic flight. Let me take it a step further – I went to The Wiener’s Circle in Chicago on Saturday night at 4AM, and I think I received more refined and friendly service there (minus the chocolate shake, which was a bit much for me).

Working the aisle in Envoy were two older ladies, perhaps somewhere between 60 and 70. Usually I like more senior flight attendants, especially in bases like Charlotte, which I usually find to have some of US Airways’ best flight attendants. Carolyn was working my aisle, while Ms. Peggy (as every other crew member called her) was working the other aisle.

There were no “hellos” or smiles when we boarded. We were served pre-departure beverages shortly after boarding, and then a full 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time one of the flight attendants came down the aisle and barked at everyone that still had a drink, saying “drink up, I need yer glasses back.”

When she came around to take meal orders she simply said to everyone “what for dinner?” Yeah, those three words. I said “the tilapia, please.” She responded in a loud voice with “WHAT?!”

Oddly I don’t think I was ever actually served anything on my tray, but rather whenever I ordered something the flight attendant handed it to me so I could place it down.

The flight attendant noticed my iPhone was sitting close to the side of the seat, so she said “don’t put it there, it can fall through the crack and if it’s gone it’s gone.” I guess I appreciate the warning in theory, but surely there’s another way to communicate that, no?

Then between the main course and dessert, after all main course plates had already been cleared, the two aisle flight attendants literally stood in the forward galley for 20 minutes without once checking on anyone. This wasn’t the galley where they were actually working (since that’s the behind the cabin), but rather they were just chatting in the forward galley. On a seven-hour transatlantic flight I sure wish they’d get the service done efficiently rather than take chatting breaks.

And it only got more entertaining when the meal service finished. As if we were eight year olds in summer camp, the flight attendant made a PA just to the business class cabin, along the lines of “this is now your allocated rest period, so you can sleep. If you want something to eat or drink you can help yourself in the galley.”

About two hours out of Paris I wanted some more water so pressed the flight attendant call button. No one responded, so I pushed it again. Still no one responded. Finally a flight attendant walked by, looked at my light, and kept walking past me till I stopped him. Meanwhile the other flight attendant and a passenger were sitting in the jumpseats talking loudly (so much for passengers not congregating in the galley, let alone sitting in a jumpseat) for the better part of a couple of hours.

As I was waiting for the jet bridge door to open one of the flight attendants started talking to me. She mentioned she loves Beijing, and I said if the merger happens maybe she can fly there again. She said “oh no, if a merger happens I’m taking my buy out and leaving.” Hear that, DOT? There may actually be some customer friendly changes that happen if the merger goes through. 😉

As is always the case with US airlines, service is consistently inconsistent. This by no means represents service on all US Airways flights, but it simply amazes me how bad service can be on US airlines at times. I did recently have a pretty negative experience on Singapore Airlines, so I guess it’s not limited to US airlines, but still…

Ultimately as I’ve always said business class is all about the seat, and this is a phenomenal seat. So I’d still choose this over an airline that had angled flat seats in business class with great food and service.

Has anyone else flown US Envoy, and if so, how was the service on your flight?

Comments

  1. Here was my experience with US Airways last year from Dublin to Boston:
    FA: what do you want for desert?
    Me: What do you have?
    FA: It’s on the menu.
    (what? cannot you just tell me? is it that hard?
    Me: Actually, you never gave me a menu?
    FA: oh. you must have used your neighbour’s for main course. Cannot you use that again?
    Me: But you took that back after you took his desert order.
    FA: whatever, I will get you one.
    Then he walked back to the galley to get me one.
    Me: )(&^*&%(*&

  2. I flew the same route a year and half ago and the service was terrible then as well. They were complete indifferent and did not care at all. Their personal conversations in the gally were terribly inappropriate and loud.

  3. That sounds awful, but typical I guess. US carriers are just crap all around and the entitled attitude of some of the FAs is just amazing!

  4. Usually I don’t fly US Airways but took a flight to Jamaica back in January. Terrible FA’s. Not friendly at all, they didn’t smile at all. One of them was chewing gum all the way to Jamaica. Ordered a diet coke (which she had to go back to the gallery to get it) then a snack. She made an statement that I should have ordered them at the same time so that she didn’t have to go back to gallery again. She was clearly agitated and not enjoying her work at all. Seems like all the FA’s on that flight just wanted to collect a paycheck and didn’t care. One of the many reasons, I tried to avoid US Airways as much as possible.

  5. I’ve the CLT-CDG route both ways several times. The service can swing widely. I’ve had great FA’s that tried to have me eat and drink everything on board. 2 that have been similar to your experience (Making me feel bad for a second glass of wine with dinner) Most have been so-so. nothing out of their way but fairly good when I’d ask for something. I really like the product though and look forward to my flights on them. I’m CLT based if that might skew my answer.

  6. wanna be treated like a king?
    with charming smilling crew ?
    & not a granny that looks like ur old math school teacher
    travel with ANY asian airline
    or any of the Big 3 in the middle east
    period

  7. I’ve flown US Airways Envoy a couple times in the last year and the service is always ok/good. Sometimes I get service how you described and sometimes I get some nicer chilled older ladies and it’s like they just “happen to be there to help”, but they are friendly and sincere, just a bit too “chilled” in my opinion.

  8. That seat looks nice enough but it does look much more cramped than the Cathay version, which has many more storage spaces and seems to have more room around the footwell.

  9. “don’t put it there, it can fall through the crack and if it’s gone it’s gone.”

    Wow. I actually was the shmuck who put his phone in a stupid place on my TK flight from JFK-IST. Sure enough, it fell behind the seat. After me, the flight attendant, and the “chef” all tried in vain to reach it, they said they’d have to call tech on our arrival. The two techs boarded as soon as we reached the airport, and eventually dismantled the seat to get me my phone. I was sufficiently embarrassed by the whole incident, but also tremendously impressed at the lengths they were willing to go to!

  10. “It’s a bit ironic since I’ve always found service on US Airways to be really good domestically, even if they don’t have much to work with.”

    I don’t think we’re flying the same airline then. I lived in CLT and still made a futile effort to avoid US as much as possible. Top to bottom, they make sure passengers know they don’t want to be there either.

  11. @Lucky – Regarding “perhaps somewhere between 60 and 70” – LOL. Remember, looks can be deceiving. Are you sure or just guessing?
    They would have been long gone & retired if these were on Asian or ME carriers

  12. We flew PHL-MAN earlier this year on US, and my husband lost his cell phone down one of those seats! Luckily we were able to retrieve it with some help from the flight attendants and ground crew.

    Service was ok….definitely a senior crew, but they were all pleasant enough, if a little brusque and informal at times. Fine for an east-bound flight since you’re mostly sleeping, but more annoying coming back to the US.

  13. I flew Envoy CLT-CDG last year, and service was fine. Nothing above and beyond, but the FA’s were friendly and helpful.

    I’m CLT based and fly ~75 US Airways flights per year, mostly domestic, and I really can’t think of a time where I’ve had “bad” service. I’ve flown a dozen or so flights on UA/DL this year as well, and the service with them has been no better or worse than US.

  14. I’ve been avoiding US for years. Initially this was because they weren’t based anywhere near me and later it was because of their merger with America West which had tiny aircraft, lousy service, and common delays. However, I had heard good things about the new US from time to time and was genuinely interested in how they’ve held up more recently. Apparently it’s still a total mess.

    The vast majority of my travel on US airlines has been on AA, UA, and WN. Out of those I tend to find WN easier to use and more professional than AA or UA, which may sound nuts if you haven’t flown WN since the early years, but for my dollar WN has the best coach product, best coach service, best domestic routing, best service fees, and best rule structure. It takes almost no effort to understand the WN system once you get the hang of it, and while it may be difficult to “game” their rules there’s really no need to.

    The WN loyalty program isn’t all that great, but neither are most domestic programs at this point. The only way we’re able to make domestic loyalty programs worthwhile is by laundering our points through networks and alliances that allow easy to earn but hard to redeem domestic points to be used on hard to earn but easy to redeem foreign programs. Unfortunately those loopholes probably won’t last forever.

  15. Ben,

    This time last year I flew PHL – MAN – PHL on US Airways A330 Envoy on similiar seats to you as part of an ANA award ticket.

    Our service was just the same. It is a shame. Without a Union, there is no way people would be employed as flight attendants for 30 years. It is a rough and mundane job. But in the presence of a Union, the only way to make big money is to grind it out.

    It is a shame to see this but it doesn’t surprise me.

    Tocqueville

  16. OK – I complain about my primary carrier US all the time but on my last SIX TATL segments on US Envoy (since Feb) the service has ranged from perfectly adequate to well above average for TATL business class to Europe. Distinct improvement over the last 12 years of flying Envoy but certainly not like Asian or Middle East airlines.

    I am sure I’ve had Carolyn and Ms. Peggy a few times over the years (I can picture them) and it was painful. However, recently I had some younger FA’s out of CLT were more like VS — cheerful, friendly, constantly up and down the cabin checking, hell — they DID dig out my iPad from behind the seat, using coathangers and kitchen tongs! I know it’s always roulette with US but they’re averaging much better in my book this year.

    Beyond the service issues, meals are barely passable on a good day. Wines are truly horrid. My suggestion is to order the “Express Meal” (almost identical to multi-course) and pick out the edible bits. You’ll be sleeping/working before anyone gets the amuse bouche.

    All this said, I still opt for AC, TK or LX over US when it makes sense.

  17. I cannot recall the last time I had a pleasant experience on a long-haul flight operated by a US-based carrier.

  18. Suggest you forward this review to both USAirways as well as the DOT.
    Passengers sitting in crew jump seats is a BIG NO-NO. That in itself should be concern enough to warrant US Airways to actually do something about it.

  19. NYBanker said,

    “I cannot recall the last time I had a pleasant experience on a long-haul flight operated by a US-based carrier.”

    I can.

    April 2003.

    On an AA TPAC 772 DFW-NRT with a total of about twenty passengers on the entire aircraft. If you want good service on a domestic carrier then you’ll need some sort of epidemic to wipe out all the half dead zombies that currently own those routes. The issue isn’t the union involvement per se, so much as allowing a blind seniority system to trump virtually everything else, but that should have required agreement from both sides in enact. Thus I see plenty of blame to go around.

  20. Last spring I flew Business CDG-PHL on USAirways and actually had a very pleasant experience.
    My special meal was not delivered but the flight attendants went above and beyond to make sure I go enough things to eat. Service was prompt, with a smile, frequently walked through the cabin. Definitely met my expectations.

  21. Flew the same flight two months ago and actually had decent service, food is a bit sad though but the seat is really stellar, and the warning about the phone being destroyed is something I would appreciate no matter how it was positioned, you’d likely not get that warning on most foreign carriers.

  22. I flew the Envoy Suites Business from PHL to Madrid and the service was terrible. Rude and inefficient. The attendants spent more time discussing union issues than attending to passengers. Even with a late flight out, dinner still took over 2 1/2 hours to complete. Ridiculous!

  23. Hi Ben!

    I have flown Envoy with my husband on the Paris route (going to again next month). Sitting in the center two seats together, we each had a different FA. Mine was super accommodating, chatting and smiling. His was matter of fact, all business and unpleasant in general. So you just never know.

    The seat is comfy, just wish US carriers would upgrade their turndown service…or actually offer one.

  24. I’ve flown them a few times and the service is marginal. I loved the FA who would lock the front left toilet (she used her fingernail to slide over the lock button) and only allowed the crew to use it for much of the first hour or more of the flight. It was pretty disgusting to watch.

    Oh and I forgot about this. On our way back from CDG we encountered two of the FAs at security and they didn’t have the correct passes to go through the automated barrier so they told us it wasn’t working. They were annoyed when it worked for us.

    Then they tried to push by us and the female FA was getting scolded by the French security because she wasn’t following the rules. She was a real winner.

    At the time I didn’t realize I would see them again but of course one of them worked Envoy class.

  25. I flew Envoy from PHL to CDG and back earlier this year, and had good experiences on both flights. I don’t have the basis for comparison that you have, but the service was definitely friendly. One FA spilled a bunch of seltzer on me, but at least she was very apologetic. (I also definitely dropped my cell phone in a difficult-to-reach place at one point.)

    Next month I’m doing Envoy from PHL to LHR, so we’ll see how that goes.

  26. Welcome to US airlines!!!!! I guess you are so used to flying Asian airlines that you forgot how US airlines treat customers. It is all about business. “Sit back, relax and enjoy your flight” meaning eat quick, go to sleep and don’t bother me again untill I have to serve you breakfast. I will never forget a flight on biz class on Delta to Asia where the FA was giving out bottle of water. She had Dasani “crappy” water and Evian mineral water. She was giving those at random and I got a Dasani one. I asked if I could get a Evian and I got the look from the FA and she told me:”why you want to be fancy about water. It is water and they all taste the same”. Well, that tells a lot about customer service when you are paying close to $10K for that treatment.

  27. Alex said: “Top to bottom, they make sure passengers know they don’t want to be there either.”
    Bingo. I avoid this airline at all costs. When I did fly them, there was not one single flight with a friendly or helpful crew. Not one. Granted, I haven’t flown them a lot (7-8 times) and only domestically, but have twice sat next to US FA crews on flights (that were deadheading home) that loudly discussed amongst themselves all of the ills and headaches of working at US, using vulgarities, etc. It’s a miracle this airline remains in business or the flying public has become gluttons for punishment.

    I am also not a fan of WN, but will fly them over US any day.

  28. With the exception of the “Cactus” part of US Airways – Friends don’t let friends fly US Airways.

  29. Lucky, that SQ trip was 2 years ago…and none of your TRs about SQ have been this bad.

    Do other airlines occasionally have sub-par service? Sure. But it seems like US Airways just isn’t as consistently good as the others. Yes, it’s about the seat but…if someone had a choice between this and, say, Cathay or AA…why would they choose this airline?

  30. This post just made me laugh a lot. I am sorry you had bad experience with US Airway. Hopefully the EVA Kitty jet will made up for you!

  31. I’ve flown Envoy four times and never had terrible service, but it was never great either. Honestly I just love the seat so much, and the flight is short enough, that I’d rather just eat before my flight, put headphones on, and lie-flat the whole way to Europe without ever interacting with a flight attendant. On “ultra long-haul” flights, this isn’t possible, but PHL-LHR/CDG/etc., it sure is.

  32. This reminds me of US Airways PHL–>ATH. The crew was loud and brash, walking up and down the aisles yelling the food options row after row: “Chicken or pasta!” Since I’m a vegetarian, and no description of the pasta had been provided, I asked what was in the pasta, to which the annoyed flight attendant replied “Noodles!” Riiiiight.

    A woman had brought a service dog on board and the flight attendants were loudly gabbing about how the dog was so big it was actually a horse.

    Also, on my US Airways flight ROM–>PHL, the departure announcement actually THREATENED anyone who smoked with arrest and jail upon landing. Not sure if that’s a standard warning for Italy-departing flights, but it felt very much in keeping with the tacky, loud US Airways service I’ve seen repeatedly.

  33. @ wwk5d — Whoops, linked to the wrong post about a subpar Singapore flight. Meant to link to the negative flight on them I had a couple of months ago, so just updated the post to reflect that.

    But totally agree, non-US airlines are MUCH more consistent than US airlines.

  34. Yup thats US long distance for you.

    My last (and it will stay that way) TATL US flight was in Eco. Rude old FAs (if they hadn´t been so rude, I would´ve felt bad for them as they seemed to have trouble pushing the carts), I did not finish my meal as fast as they wanted, so I had to return my tray myself, only to be scolded for disturbing a game session on their iPads. Really, they are the Ryanair or Spirit of long distance flights.

    Interestingly, domestic they seem to be, as you say, a completely different airline.

  35. never flown us air but from reading(& that’s plenty & enough) it parallels my experience with other domestic airlines, old & older attendants that want to mummify you so you dont ask for anything. small batch of isolated, positive reports only confirm it. no arguments the asian airlines have much much better service all the time. rarely find age 40+, most of them 30s or under, no comparison in their physical capability between a grandma & a 30s, not even have to mention the night-and-day attitude. even their toll booth operator (on highways) are better in the same aspect than our FAs. Its a social factor, the large population puts the young and capable at these positions. also the grandmas & grandpas should have stayed home if not for this economy.

  36. This is pretty much every experience I’ve had on US Envoy. Surly FA’s who want to be done w/ their meal service as soon as possible so they can game plan ground time or otherwise ignore. Great hard product, lousy FA’s.

  37. I guess I was just lucky…I am a solid UA [original UA] flyer, so I am used to service swinging wildly in either direction, but I am also used to 3 cabin service, which can bump it up if you are in F…I have avoided US the entire time they have been in *Alliance, until this summer…PHL-VCE nonstop vs connections in Europe that were awful just made it impossible to say no…My point: I was totally shocked at how awesome the food and product were…Yes, the f/a’s were a tad, ummm, casual lol, but the product was better then I expected from US, and the food blew me away…I actually came home and wrote a letter to UA, which, since the CO influence has done nothing but cut cut cut back on food variety, and celebrity chef influence, which used to be awesome…Sorry your experience was so bad…Maybe a strongly worded letter to the CLT manager will score you some bonus points…

  38. I’m taking my first USAir flight soon, PDX-CUN in F. I’m now overflowing with enthusiasm for the flight. : ) I’m sure I’ll enjoy it regardless, whether or not the service is a train wreck. Any USAir executives read your blog?

    (I saw that someone commented on your stay in Seattle post it would be worth it to have you move somewhere you hate, just to make your posts from home more entertaining. Like this one! At the same time I’m very happy to have your ‘heads up’, we’ll see if I ever fly/collect points on them again.)

  39. Counterpoint re service on U.S. airlines. Three of my four long-hauls on UA this year have had excellent service. Two were truly outstanding, better than recent experiences in long-haul J on SQ and LX.

  40. @ Lucky — My very worst onboard experience with Delta isn’t nearly so bad. When are we going to see a proper BusinessElite review?

    @ Food Wine and Miles — I was once on a transatlantic Delta flight when a newlywed across the aisle somehow lost her ring in the seat. She was crying and making a scene, but thankfully a flight attendant was able to disassemble the seat and retrieve the ring.

    @ joe — Once had another Delta crew announce three or four times shortly after takeoff that smoking in the lavatories would result in jail time or fines or whatever. Since I was flying CDG-PIT, I assumed that a Frenchman had ignored the initial warning upon pushback.

  41. Living near Amsterdam, I flew Envoy CDG-CLT in 2012, and the two older southern ladies couldn’t have been nicer or more charming, and had great senses of humor. In February, this year, flew FRA-PHL, and had great service from a really nice guy. I asked why the pre-departure drinks were brought to the seat rather than the previous practice of two individual small bottles. He said they had changed this, but still had them onboard. Prior to deplaning, he presented me with a small package containing six of them.
    This coming February, I am flying US AMS-PHL-FLL, with the TATL a 757, in economy, which I am not particularly looking forward to.

  42. Did the US PHL-MAD, PHL-FCO in their old biz. class. Once boarded you’re back in the USofA. Style-wise the FAs are indeed Americans. What you see is what you get, sometimes friendly, sometimes not, but sincere nonetheless. In a way it’s a comforting feeling when returnign from overseas a time for reaclimation at 35K feet.
    Service wasn’t bad, food was OK. I’ve found USAir to be reliable (as in getting me there) over the years and with the Envoy Suite I’ll try them again. Better hurry with that before the merger.

  43. I work for company in Barcelona, Spain. I travel from US 4 times a year. I found USAIR the best to Barcelona. No complaints, good envoy seat in the 330.

  44. Had a miserable US Airways experience a little over a year ago. Was supposed to fly Aer Lingus DUB>BOS and then US BOS>PHL. Got bumped from my flight and re-routed the next day, Aer Lingus DUB>LHR then US LHR>PHL. I had never flown US TATL but knew in my gut it wouldn’t compare to the out of this world service I got on Aer Lingus TATL. I was in the last row of coach, thankfully all to myself. I had actually wound up getting really sick the night before and just felt awful about the whole thing. I had plenty of room but was adjacent to the rear galley and had to put up with FAs moaning the entire trip. Like, talking really loudly and were pretty inattentive. And then, at one point, I think they must have been crushing ice. There was this incredible racket coming from the galley for about 5 minutes, like they were chipping the ice off a freaking block. This was only my second trip overseas. Luckily, British Airways and Lufthansa both have comparable coach fares from PHL to UK and Europe so I can probably avoid US in the future.

  45. I have flown Envoy multiple times from PHL>LHR. I personally love the service. I find US to be a much better and friendlier option than United. Delta is good too, but I personally choose US because I love their Envoy lounge in Philly. The bartender is one of the nicest people ever and even remembered our conversation from when I had been through 4 months earlier.

  46. My wife and I are flying US Airways Envoy Class to Venice in a few months.

    Anyone that has flown with the 1-2-1 configuration….

    Would you recommend the two seats in the middle or across the aisle from each other? In looking at pictures it looks like seating in the middle seats would make it difficult/awkward to have a conversation.

  47. @ Jackson — I’d suggest choosing two window seats behind one another. That way you maximize privacy while still being able to talk to one another by getting up and “leaning over” the seat.

  48. Omg. I can’t believe this.. I just got into Brussels on the usairways flight from Charlotte. It is an old 767 so business class was horrible. Having millions of miles behind me, I must say this was the worst business class service ever. U mentioned Carolyn .. Well she was the flight attendant in business class. She has to b pushing 70. What in the world is usairways thinking? Can’t they offer her a package? Worst service ever. Funny that u wrote her up here. I was so rattled by the end of this flight that I’m gonna put it in writing to usairways. International flights in business class should b a pleasure. They have much nicer folks on domestic routes. This flight was full of geriatric flight attendants.

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