Upgraded meals and service in first class for US Airways Express


US Airways has upgraded its meals in international first class, domestic business class and is now retrofitting its regional fleet to accommodate first-class service in all its larger regional jets.

CFO Derek Kerr told Centre for Aviation the investment for the regional jets alone is about USD35 million, paid for by the major carrier with no contribution from the three airlines that fly the equipment: Republic Airways Holdings, Mesa and PSA.

Express upgrades will begin in the fall and be completed in early 2012. Some 110 CRJ 700 and 900 and Embraer 170 and 175s will be upgraded with service introduction using the Embraer E175 in October. The three remaining fleet types will be completed by January. The seats offer generous legroom and personal space in a one-two configuration through the dedicated first-class cabin. Once completed, US Airways will offer the highest percentages of daily departures with first-class cabins among the four US network carriers.

The regional aircraft upgrades add 640 daily flights to the network offering first class as well as 85 cities. The larger seat has between 37 and 38-inch pitch. The new offering includes unlimited upgrades for Dividend Miles Preferred members. The move means a 35% increase in daily first  class seats from 16,000 in 2010 to 21,000 when the retrofit is complete in 2012. Dual-class departures rise 52% to 682,000 and the percentage of dual-class departures system wide jumps 21 points to 61%.

First-class passengers aboard US Airways Express will also be afforded the same amenities of mainline first class and business passengers including priority check-in, priority security line where available, early boarding, a dedicated cabin, a larger seat with increased legroom, complimentary alcoholic beverages and snacks, complimentary pillows and blankets and priority baggage handling.

"With the installation of First Class on US Airways' Express partner aircraft we're able to offer our First Class customers seamless, same-class service to the more than 85 destinations these aircraft serve," said Andrew Nocella, senior vice president marketing and planning. "This will also offer our Dividend Miles Preferred members complimentary upgrades on nearly 640 more flights each day."

The company also announced several enhancements to its domestic First Class and Envoy international business-class experience. Domestic first class on flights between 1.5 and 3.5 hours will get an upgraded snack basket with larger packaging for all-natural and/or organic options. For first class beyond 3.5 hours passengers will be offered a heartier menu, the addition of fresh appetisers, upgraded entrees and desserts and vegetarian-friendly options.

The airline is also returning to glassware eliminated before its merger with America West in 2005. It has ordered new china to go with the new meals and upgraded linens.

Its Envoy seat will be expanded beyond the seven A330-200s which are already equipped with the seats to all nine A330-300s by spring 2012.

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