Review: US Airways Business Class A330 Frankfurt To Philadelphia

Introduction
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US Airways Business Class A330 Frankfurt To Philadelphia


I’ve flown US Airways’ business class twice before, and had sort of opposite experiences in terms of service:

So I was curious to give them a third try, especially flying to a different base (Philadelphia rather than Charlotte).

Since I stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn Frankfurt Airport the night before, I showed up in the terminal just 75 minutes before departure, and headed straight for the gate.

The flight was leaving from gate D1, and at 12:10PM boarding started, which was about 50 minutes before scheduled departure.

US Airways 701
Frankfurt (FRA) โ€“ Philadelphia (PHL)
Saturday, January 17
Depart: 1:00PM
Arrive: 4:05PM
Duration: 9hr5min
Aircraft: Airbus A330
Seat: 2H (Business Class)

At the door I was welcomed by two friendly flight attendants, who pointed me left towards the business class cabin

US Airways’ A330s feature reverse herringbone seats in business class, and they were actually the first airline to offer such a seat, which has since become my favorite (though other airlines, like American, Cathay Pacific, and Qatar Airways, have slightly “evolved” versions of the seat).

The cabin consists of a total of 20 seats, spread across five rows in a 1-2-1 configuration. I had assigned myself 2H, which is the window seat on the right side in the second row.

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US Airways A330 business class seat

Already waiting at my seat was a pillow, blanket, and amenity kit.

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US Airways business class amenity kit

Once settled in an older guy with the thickest Boston accent imaginable welcomed me aboard and offered me something to drink. I had a glass of sparkling water.

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US Airways business class seat pre-departure water

Shortly thereafter the other flight attendant working my aisle, “Pepper,” brought me the menu for the flight. To clarify, “Pepper” is what it said on her nametag, including the quotation marks.

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US Airways business class menu

This was a rather unique flight in that there were a total of ~75 passengers aboard, including only about 10 passengers in business class. Most other business class passengers seemed to be employees, and there was lots of picture taking, etc. I don’t remember the last time I’ve seen a transatlantic flight so empty.

I wouldn’t call the crew on this sector the most professional, but they were really fun, and I appreciate that. Throughout the entire boarding process they were cracking jokes and laughing at the top of their lungs. Ultimately I’ll take a happy/fun crew over an angry/disinterested crew any day.

At around 12:40PM the captain came on the PA to say that boarding was complete, and that we’d have a flight time of 8hr52min. While that’s a bit longer than usual, he explained that we should be able to depart a bit early and still arrive in Philadelphia on schedule.

At that point the German speaking flight attendant made his announcements in German, which were cringe-worthy. He could have actually been a doppelganger for Han in “Two Broke Girls.”

Anyway, shortly before we pushed back an Emirates A380 pulled in at the gate next to us.

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Emirates A380 Frankfurt Airport

We pushed back at 12:50PM, at which point the safety video began to play. As usual, I was glued to the window to enjoy the views. While I love Lufthansa and Terminal 1, I do also love the variety of traffic at Terminal 2.

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Frankfurt Airport traffic

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Emirates A380 Frankfurt Airport

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Vietnam Airlines 777 Frankfurt Airport

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China Eastern A330 Frankfurt Airport

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Frankfurt Airport traffic

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Frankfurt Airport traffic

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Lufthansa 747-8 Frankfurt Airport

Our taxi to the runway took less than 10 minutes, and shortly before 1PM we were clear for takeoff on runway 25C. The takeoff roll was extremely quick, probably thanks in no small part to the light load on this flight.

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Taking off Frankfurt Airport

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View on climb out Frankfurt Airport

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View on climb out Frankfurt Airport

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View on climb out Frankfurt Airport

You’ve gotta love how huge Frankfurt Airport is — you’re airborne for a good 30 seconds before you’re not flying over the airport anymore.

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View on climb out Frankfurt Airport

After takeoff I brought out the entertainment screen and took a look at the airshow.

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US Airways airshow enroute to Philadelphia

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US Airways airshow enroute to Philadelphia

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US Airways airshow enroute to Philadelphia

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View enroute to Philadelphia

US Airways doesn’t have wifi on their longhaul flights, so I decided to watch a movie. I watched “This is Where I Leave You.” It was good for an airplane movie, I thought.

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US Airways business class entertainment

About 30 minutes after takeoff meal orders were taken. The lunch menu read as follows:

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US-Airways-Menu-1

And the wine/beverage list read as follows:

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Due to the light load all of the service was done by tray rather than cart. The service began with drinks and hot nuts. I had a Diet Coke to drink.

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US Airways business class lunch — Diet Coke with lime and hot nuts

The next course consisted of the starter and salad. I was also offered bread from the bread basket — I chose pretzel bread.

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US Airways business class starter & salad

The hummus and pita starter was okay. It was remarkably similar to the appetizer I had in American first class from London to New York a couple of weeks prior. Once you’ve flown the Middle Eastern carriers, the mezze selection on US airlines really can’t compete. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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US Airways business class starter — hummus and pita

The salad was decent as well. I appreciated that it was more than just iceberg lettuce.

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US Airways business class salad — fresh seasonal greens with feta cheese and toasted almonds

For the main course I ordered the vegetable korma, which was surprisingly decent. It wasn’t the best Indian food I’ve ever had, but it certainly was a nice change of pace from the inedible beef/lasagna/chewy fish I’m used to on US airlines.

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US Airways business class main course — vegetable korma

For dessert I had the ice cream sundae topped with Baileys, which is something that American and US Airways always get right.

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US Airways business class dessert — ice cream sundae

Lastly, to finish off the meal I had a cappuccino. US Airways offers cappuccino in business class on the A330, while American only offers it in first class on the 777-300ER and A321. I do wonder long term whether American will offer cappuccinos in business class on other planes, or if cappuccinos will exclusively be available in business class on A330s.

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US Airways business class cappuccino

Service throughout the meal was attentive. The entire service took about 90 minutes, and drink refills were frequent. While informal, the crew was very friendly.

After the meal I decided to get some shut eye, and managed to sleep for almost five hours.

Once I woke up we had a bit over two hours to go to Philadelphia, so I decided to watch a sitcom.

About 75 minutes out of Philadelphia, the pre-arrival meal service began. The menu read as follows:

US-Airways-Menu-2

I chose the grilled vegetable flatbread, which was served with a side salad and chocolate chip shortbread cookies.

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US Airways business class snack — grilled vegetable flatbread

While the “main” meal on American and US Airways is rarely “gourmet,” it blows my mind how cheap they are with the light snack pre-arrival. I mean, seriously, you couldn’t find a soggier and more cardboard tasting flatbread in your local grocer’s freezer aisle if you tried.

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US Airways business class snack — grilled vegetable flatbread

About 40 minutes before landing the captain came on the PA with updated arrival information, saying we’d be landing at around 3:55PM, and should be at the gate right on schedule.

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US Airways airshow enroute to Philadelphia

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US Airways airshow enroute to Philadelphia

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US Airways airshow enroute to Philadelphia

It looked like a beautiful day outside, though I knew it’d be freezing cold.

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View on approach into Philadelphia

We had a smooth approach, and sure enough touched down in Philadelphia at 3:55PM local time.

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View on approach into Philadelphia

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View on final approach into Philadelphia

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View on final approach into Philadelphia

After touching down it was just a 2-3 minute taxi to the gate, at which point I cleared customs & immigration with Global Entry, and headed to the US Airways Club for my connecting flight to Tampa.

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Taxiing Philadelphia Airport

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US Airways A330 Philadelphia Airport

US Airways business class bottom line

I’ve long said that business class is all about the seat, and I think that’s an area where US Airways really shines with their A330s. While we don’t usually think of US Airways as an innovator when it comes to premium cabin products, they were actually the first airline to offer reverse herringbone seats in business class. And while there are more advanced reverse herringbone seats out there nowadays, US Airways’ are still extremely comfortable.

Getting five hours of sleep on a daytime transatlantic flight is pretty awesome.

As far as the soft product goes, the crew was quite friendly and professional, and the food (at least for the main meal) was edible. The only offensive part of the business class experience is the pre-arrival meal, really.

So bottom line, US Airways business class is a comfortable way to fly across the pond.

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Comments

  1. I know Pepper ๐Ÿ™‚ Former FA for Eastern, then Trump Shuttle, then USAirways Shuttle. Nice lady, a “seasoned” FA ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. A very timely review for me as I have a US operated a330 next week. I would have appreciated more comments on the seat, though.

  3. When are the US operated flights going to get rid of that horrid bedding and switch over to the AA bedding? The US bedding is really pathetic for a transatlantic business class.

  4. As a long-time US business class flyer I’ve run into “Pepper” a few times too. Last week did US on a330, MAD-PHL and was pleasantly surprised by some merger-associated improvements. AA-style “concierge” at check-in at MAD with perfect English who helped with the luggage, communication with local personnel (IB staff) and gave detailed and accurate info regarding lounges, time to gate, status of passport control lines, etc. Primary meal definitely improved (edible salmon) but pre-arrival is still an embarrassment. Seat 2H is my favorite for daytime with its 3 windows and right-handed drink ledge. Thanks for reviewing a domestic C cabin.

  5. Do & Co also does a fantastic mezze. I flew coach (horrors) back from Vienna on Austrian in December and ordered that as my a la carte meal. It was outstanding. I would definitely spend 15 euro for that again rather than get what they hand out for free.

  6. Lucky, this is how the Big 3 American airlines plan on competing with the Big 3 Arab airlines…by offering a shitty version the Arabic mezze starter in business class! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. Lucky, I ‘m always impressed how you can distinguish all these airplane varieties (A330 vs 777 for example) when you’re in some cases hundreds of meters away. Any suggestions on how an interested novice like myself could train his/her eyes to tell planes apart. thanks!

  8. Congratulations on finishing this report. With 29 installments, was this your biggest? (you should have made a conclusion section just to round the number to 30 ๐Ÿ™‚ )

  9. Ben, thank you for all of your posts…I love your blog. Your pictures are always so sharp. What camera do you use?

  10. Funny about the “cringe-worthy” German. As someone who speaks German pretty decently, I also find that on United’s flights the German-language announcements are just awful. But it seems like Germans generally take Lufthansa-operated flights despite the “metal-neutral” joint-venture with United. Also, I wonder if the very low load on this flight is a result of the end of US Airway’s Star Alliance membership and partnership with Lufthansa? I imagine LH would have provided a lot of the feed for this flight.

  11. @Francisco C – thanks for the question regarding airplane types.

    @Lucky – looking forward to your post!

  12. @Francisco C – Also, the tail cone of a 777 has a unique fin/blade-like shape with exhaust on the left-side only.

  13. Lucky, wasn’t Virgin Atlantic the first to offer reverse herringbone seats? And yes, I know that the VS seats are not from the same seat manufacturer as those on CX/US/AA/DL/BR or QR/AC/VA

  14. @lucky whoops, you’re right. Not sure what I was thinking there.

    And for a little self-assurance, I checked and VS was the first to install herringbone seats.

  15. just an observation, maybe you have covered this before, how come you mainly go for the seafood or vegetarian option in your meal choice?

  16. @ Jim — My first choice is usually fish, since it’s healthiest. I find that beef is rarely well prepared on planes. So with if the fish dish doesn’t sound good to me I usually go with the vegetarian option (which it’s tougher to screw up).

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