Friday, March 30, 2007

Trip report - Air Canada Flight 34 SYDHNL March 2007

This was my return trip on Air Canada back to Honolulu. I watched the inbound flight arrived, and noticed it was the new Air Canada livery.

I waited for my flight in the Air New Zealand Club which is on the upper level providing some very nice views of the runways. This club is MUCH better than the Red Carpet Room which is located on the lower level and is basically windowless. Since I didn’t have my 2007 United Premier Exec (Gold level) membership card on me, the Air Canada check in agent advised me to "talk them into letting you in". Luckily there wasn’t much of an issue, plus I was traveling with a co-worker who was traveling First Class on Air New Zealand, so they just wrote my name on a list and let me in.

After a bit in the Club, I headed down to Gate 53. Unfortunately, Air Canada shares the gate area with the United Airlines flight headed to Melbourne.

United has a policy of a no liquids taken on board (even those bought after Primary Screening). All passengers get a "pat down" and have their carry-ons physically searched by security after entering the gate. Not sure if this is Air Canada's policy, but since it’s the same gate area all AC passengers went through the same process. Oddly they did let me retain my small toothpaste tube.

Upon boarding the AC34, I noticed that this was a newly refurbed 767 Boeing aircraft, including the new Executive seating in a herringbone pattern. It did seem like they had more business class seats compared to the old seating layout, but I am not sure if that was the result. The seats looked good and the new cabin interior seemed much brighter and inviting.



Air Canada 767 - New Coach Seats

The Coach cabin also had new seats with a winged-headrest and On Demand enRoute Video screens -- PLUS an 110 volt Empower and USB port. Oddly the Empower ports are only on seats A, D, E, H -- it seems odd that the center E seat has them and the aisle (F) doesn’t. Of course I sat in an F aisle seat without the Empower plug. As it turns out the EmPower plugs were not working on this flight, not sure they have been completely installed yet.

After takeoff, the cabin crew said they were starting the On Demand system. Everyone around me quickly touched the screen and started to select a movie. However, my unit was stuck on the "Touch anywhere to begin, or press enter" screen. Urgh.

The middle seat next to me was open, so I used that screen -- it was fine, but annoying to look left for 2+ hour movies. The flight attendant did re-start my unit, but after re-booting it was still stuck on the Begin screen.

The service was fine, the flight attendants seem a bit more cheerful on this segment -- maybe since it left at a normal hour (8:15am) versus the inbound departure out of Honolulu at 11:10pm.

On this aircraft there are Mid-cabin lavs -- which is nice, instead of having to walk all the way back to the aft to use the bathroom. However, people do hang out near the mid-cabin lavs a bit which is also located at the emergency exit row. This would be a bit annoying if you are seated in the Emergency Exit Row.

Again not very many children on this flight compared to the United flights I have been on recently.

All in all, this was a better experience than flight AC33 HNLSYD and much better than service on a packed United 747.

Notes

- No liquids allowed out of Sydney on Air Canada or United (secondary gate screening)

- As of 31 March 2007, All International flights leaving Sydney will have the "Ziploc" liquid/gel restriction in place at the Primary Screening area.

- Air New Zealand Club in Sydney is very nice and large (Free WiFi using the "Business" or "First" wifi networks -- although it was fairly slow)

- OnDemand EnRoute System now on some 767-300s, with EmPower and USB ports

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Trip Report - Air Canada HNLSYD Flight 33

After taking the SFO SYD non-stop on United Airlines a couple times last year, I decided to break up the trip this time by going SFOHNL and then HNL to Sydney on Air Canada. I am sure this is not a well traveled routing, since there is a bit of a layover in HNL -- in addition, the check-in staff did not have me on the "list" since I was a local departing passenger.

The flight orignates in Vancouver and simply "stops" in Honolulu for fuel and a crew change. Almost all the passengers on the HNLSYD leg are continuing on from Vancouver.

I like the 2-3-2 seating of the 767, since there is only ONE middle seat per row. In addition the center section allows the middle seated person to exit on the right or left -- reducing the up and down for the aisle person.

I did notice that there is Audio/Visual equipment in the overhead bins above seats 24AB and 25AB. There is no overhead space on these seats and the flight attendant has to lean in to operate the equipment. These would probably be the worst seats on the 767-300.

The flight was about 3/4 full, so the middle seat next to me was open -- making for an enjoyable flight. Although when sitting in the middle section in row 25 or higher, forget about seeing the big movie screen. There are some TV montiors at row 29 in the Aisle, which might help the folks in the back see the movie.

The service was consistant (which is good) -- but not very friendly. The flight attendants are very senior -- as this is probably a nice work routing to get with HNL and SYD layovers.

One wierd thing is they spray the cabin upon landing in Sydney. They say this is due to Austrailian Regulatations, but is seems odd since other flights I have been on to Sydney dont get sprayed.

Even though this routing takes longer, it still makes for a more enjoyable flight experience in my opinion (ie 767 seating, HNL Stopover, etc). However, this flight will go away in Dec 2007, according to an Air Canada Press Release.

The airline also has cancelled plans for other US- Australia flights per the press release - "With the introduction of non-stop service to Sydney, the carrier has suspended near-term plans to operate flights to Australia via Los Angeles in view of the lack of necessary authorizations at this time to operate the route."

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Trip Report US/HP LASSFO Flight 575

I was scheduled to take a later US/America West flight, but tried to fly standby on this flight. After being told it would be $25 to change. Since it had been a long day I decided pay the $25 and get on the flight. The Agent was chomping on some gum, but was pleasant enough.



The flight pulled in, but it was clear things were not quite right. Since it was delayed arriving, we should have boarded right away after the arriving passengers deplaned -- but they closed the door. Soon I noticed a discussion in the cockpit with the pilots and the ground staff.

There were no announcements made (Bad!) about the delay or the reason we werent boarding. After about 15 minutes the gate agent came down and starting pre-boarding -- since there were only 40 people on the flight and most of the passengers had been waiting for hours, everyone starting boarding.

The aircraft was a HP 757 (ETOPS) plane -- it had seen MUCH better days a long time ago. I was seated in 5F which is a cool seat since you are right behind First Class with some leg room under the cabin divider.
I think 5A would be best since you dont have a large metal box blocking the room under the divider. In either seat you are ahead of the engines and can get some cool views.

America West/US Airways 757 are configured with only 12 seats in First Class, so there is a mini coach cabin where the rest of First Class should be places.

This plane needed a cabin rehab in a fairly bad way. The bathroom was very "worn" and the TV screens on the bulkhead didnt work at all.

The service was friendly but very brief -- its only a 1.25 hour flight, so you cant expect more than a drink and pretzels.

I like using America West to fly LAS-SFO since the security lines in Vegas can be VERY long for the "D" concourse that United usually flies out of. Las Vegas does have an express lane for security BUT its only for First Class seated customers -- Not for any Elites.

All in all, not a bad flight...but US Airways needs to spend some time, money and TLC on the Aircraft appearance.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Trip Report UA EWRSFO Flight 95

United Airlines Newark to San Francisco (nonstop 757) - Flight 95 (March 2007)

EWR Gate Area: (D) This concourse has not been in proved in YEARS!!...Security line was minimal (this was around 4:30pm). The concourse also has Air Canada, Alaska, Air Tran, and Jet Blue. There is no fast food - only a small Starbucks and tiny TGIFridays which is packed. There are very few power outlets and the terminal has that "stuffy" feeling when full. Wireless access is not free and its from some random company -- not Tmobile or ATT.

Boarding: (C) The inbound flight (UA 90) was a couple minutes late so this created a bunch of eager travelers trying to get on the flight. Normally I expect to see 10-15 people getting in line for Boarding Group #1 -- but this flight was FULL of Gold Boarding Pass holders...there must of been at least 50 people all trying to get on when they called Group 1. The gate agent even went on the PA saying "There is no need to crowd, we wont leave anyone behind"...well thats fine, but I am concerned about want getting my Carry-on bag checked! I think they could have had the line more organized and called 1k/Premier Exec first and then the rest of Group 1.

Sure enough I had to put my bag in Row 16, one row behind me...ok, but this flight was PACKED with real frequent flyers.

Inflight: (B) The started the first movie very quickly (Happy Feet), drink/meal for sale service was ok -- but they ran out of Chardonnay and Sandwiches by Row 15 -- on the first pass through the cabin! One inflight was very good about bringing water by on a regular basis. They played Casino Royale after Happy Feet was completed, since it was a 5 1/2 hour flight the two movies helped it go by fairly quickly.

Flight: (A) Although we sat waiting at EWR waiting to take off for an Hour, we arrived a couple minutes early. The captain (Capt. Barhart) was a bit chatty, but was clearly one of those "good" United pilots. He handed out his business card to all the Premier Execs and 1Ks -- which was alot of people, I saw the stack of 30 or so cards. Only complaint - the fasten seat belt sign was on for WAY TOO long after we took off.

Seating: (A) I got 15A in the Exit Row on the 757, seatmate was normal. From this seat its a strain to see the movie if you have bad eyesight, otherwise this is a great seat with plenty of room and a restricted recline on the person in front of you.

Overall: (B+) Good solid United experience, with issues at boarding in Newark.

Fly Safe!

Monday, March 5, 2007

United - First Class Oversold - Care to change?

I got a call from "Joan" from India from United this morning....

"Joan":
Mr OutFlyer.com, I am calling about your flight from SFO to EWR on Tuesday -- everything is ok, but First Class is OVERSOLD due to an aircraft change. Would you like to fly at a later time?

Me: Is there First Class available on an earlier flight?

"Joan": Yes - I can confirm you via DEN in First Class

Me: Ok, what compensation are you offering?

"Joan": (pause) well at this time we arent offering anything, just the chance to change

Me: Umm, No thanks then...just asking what type of Plane is it Changing to? (its scheduled to be a regular 757)

"Joan": (pause) Its going to now be a 757-200. Thank you Mr OutFlyer.com I appreciate your time.

Me: Ok thanks for letting me know!

Dear United Airlines - if you are going to call FIRST CLASS/Upper Elite passengers to change a flight due to being oversold, you should offer something! I would have gladly switched for a couple upgrades, regional upgrade, $300...something.

btw- I quickly checked in on UAL.com so I could make sure I had a seat in the morning. Hopefully things will go well.

!! UPDATE !!

So I checked in at a kiosk, knowing my 4C seat was invalid. It quickly printed out a boarding pass with "3D" on it...but wait 3D is a window. I re-checked and all the aisle were taken, with 2D left for the last person.

I think "Joan" from United should have done a better job of getting me a valid seat...but at least its not oversold.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Free Gold from US Airways?

So I found that I was not alone in getting an upgrade to US Airways Gold a couple weeks ago. A couple weeks ago, I got an email from USAirways saying "Your New Gold Preferred Benefits". At First I thought it was SPAM.

I havent flown US/HP only twice in about 5 years...and both times I credited my United Mileage Plus account.


After checking FlyerTalk I realized I was not alone. After contacting Ben at USAToday.com he was nice enough to track down an answer...kinda.

"Here's what spokesman Phil Gee tells me:

"1.) The Everything Counts Promotion was public and did not require registration. You could qualify through over 100 partners when you include the Dividend Miles Shopping mall, so many people had no idea their purchases were counting towards status. These bonuses are on their e-Statements online at usairways.com."

"2. The Gold for the Gold Promotion also was public and did require registration. Some folks did qualify early on and pleasantly surprised they achieved status."

"3. Phil tells me the carrier does an "annual 'sweep' ... for customers that purchase very expensive/high value fares automatically. While we have done this every year, we did not tell them in advance why we targeted them for this promotion. We will probably do this in the future.""

Well Phil may have been told those were the reasons, but I dont think any of those were the reason I was given free gold status. After checking Flyertalk and other boards, I think they had a computer glitch and -anyone- who register for the "Go For Gold" promotion was upgraded to GOLD.

Of course I did register...but never flew US/HP during the promotion.

Plus if it was an "annual sweep" I would think they would give free SILVER away -- not gold.

Anyway -- I guess it pays to register for ANY promotion.

Have a safe flight!