When planning this trip, Malta was a pretty obvious starting point. It was close to Libya, I hadn’t been, and it seemed most logical to combine it with Libya and Tunisia since flight schedules were good. Plus, it would keep my award as a US to Europe award, instead of the extra miles required for a north Africa award. Initially, I’d booked my award from home in DC, routing DCA-YYZ-FRA-MLA and I was excited to try Air Canada business class transatlantic for the first time. Later on, MSP-ORD-YYZ opened up, and I was able to change the award to depart directly from Minneapolis after visiting family. One thing I didn’t think of at the time…the departure from MSP was at 8am. Ug.
Weather was also not looking good on the 24th. There was a major storm headed towards the east coast, and it was unclear if it would be snow, ice, or some slushy nasty combo of the two. I played around for two days, and eventually settled on a MSP-PHL-FRA-MLA routing on US Airways. FRA-MLA had been sold out for over a month, so I was shocked how willing agents were to retain the segment and just change the start. Plus, this left MSP at 11:00 which would allow a bit of a lay-in and time for breakfast before heading out. Also, I’d never flown US transatlantic, so it would be a chance for a new experience…albeit with VERY low expectations. I knew US had refreshed the seats on their A330s, but I figured service would still be more miss than hit.
Check-in was a piece of cake at MSP, and I had time to grab some unhealthy kibble at the Red Carpet Club in the MSP E Terminal before boarding.
US Airways flight 1834
Minneapolis/St Paul (MSP) to Philadelphia (PHL)
Depart 11:00, Arrive 14:31, Flight Time 2:31
Embraer ERJ-190, Registration N947UW, Manufactured 2007, Seat 1D
One thing I found unusual is that US Airways operations their ERJ 190s with mainline crew. I’d taken the ERJ 175s several times which were operated by Republic, but with just a few more setas the 190s were mainline. Flight itself was remarkably unremarkable. Snack basket, drinks, and about 45 minutes of circling around PHL waiting to land due to storm-related congestion. In the end, no real big deal…except for the fact I’d had a friend call United when I was in the air, and see about changing my routing to PHL-DTW-FRA in order to fly Lufthansa first…and it seems the United agent had booked it!
One problem…while I was in the air PHL-DTW canceled, leaving US to try and rebook me PHL-CLT-FRA instead. What a mess! Fortunately PHL-FRA wasn’t heavily booked, and it was easy to get it back. Spent about 30 minutes in the lounge at PHL, where I got one coupon for a “premium drink” for flying business. Premium drink? Wines that they sell for $7 a glass are premium? I shudder at what the free wines must be! The bartender WAS nice enough to say “if you want another glass, just go ask for another coupon, they’re meaningless and you can get as many as you want.” LOL.
US Airways flight 700
Philadelphia (PHL) to Frankfurt (FRA)
Depart 16:30, Arrive 06:15 + 1 Flight Time 7:45
Airbus A330-300, Registration N274AY, Manufactured 2000, Seat 6H
My first impression after boarding was just how IKEA the cabin looked. Light woods, bright, and overall very pleasant feeling. Initial impressions were pretty good!
A glass of champagne wass offered (they insisted it was Champagne, despite being some California bubbly thing), which was followed by a second. So far so good – you can see just how gross it was outside, and the reason for the delays in PHL:
The main thing I wasn’t looking forward to about this flight was the 16:30 departure. I figured it was so early my chances of sleeping would be nil, especially since landing in Frankfurt was before midnight eastern time. So, it was time to hope a big meal and some red wine did the trick. What’s for dinner tonight? Looks suspiciously like a pre-merger United menu:
…which was probably good, since my drink came in a United glass! LOL! #brandingfail
The meal? Well, it was about what I’d expect. On par with United internationally which isn’t saying much, but it was overall pretty solid. Anemic starter, big heavy meaty main course, and generic cheap (but edible) cheese.
…oh yes, and there was ice cream. Which it seems I requested Baileys for. Somehow, it also seems another glass of Baileys showed up. I can neither confirm, nor deny this part of the flight, but I will confirm I woke up just 15 minutes before landing in Frankfurt. Success! The seat was plenty comfortable, and I really like airlines that have these solo seats along the windows in business class. To me, premium classes should mean not having to sit next to anyone, and a 1-2-1 arrangement is a perfect balance for solo travelers as well as couples. All in all, this experience would definitely make me try US again in business class.
Transfer was uneventful in Frankfurt, and had a solid hour or two to kill in the Lufthansa Senator lounge. Ever since the new lounges opened, they are so much nicer. More power ports, more places to sit, and generally more room! Definitely a win. Plus, there were plenty of shower stalls so that there wasn’t a queue for one. Even managed to make a nice little lounge breakfast:
Lufthansa flight 1276
Frankfurt (FRA) to Malta (MLA)
Depart 9:40, Arrive 12:10 Flight Time 2:30
Airbus A321, Registration D-AISW, Manufactured 2009, Seat 2C
Flight was completely packed in economy, but only a total of 3 people in the three rows of “business” class. Can’t complain at all! Typical Lufthansa european service, and not worthy of any pictures or comments. The flight just kind of was! Now, it was time to get to the hotel, get settled in, and start exploring Malta!