Airline

Flight Review: Premium Economy on Aerolineas Argentinas from Cordoba to Mendoza, 21 July 2016

Aerial view of Flight from Mendoza to Cordoba

I have probably repeated myself over and over about this – I have morphed from budget backpacker to luxury travel on a shoestring, and my tolerance for suffering has gone down significantly. Initially, I was going to take the 12 hr bus ride from Cordoba to Mendoza. However, after some price comparison, I don’t really save a lot flying vs taking the bus. Also, flying really just takes an hour. And to give you an idea of what a degenerate I’ve become, I figured that it was just $20 more to fly premium economy (the highest class of service) vs. flying economy. I can spare an Andrew Jackson. As I hate rushing, I booked a 5ish pm flight from Cordoba to Mendoza.

Aerolineas Argentina Club Economy AR2535 Cordoba - Mendoza (COR - MDZ)

After lunch, I asked for a late check out, and eventually took a taxi from Cordoba to its airport. The Cordoba airport seems to be quite a work in progress. They were ripping off the renovation plastic at my waiting area.

Aerolineas Argentina Club Economy AR2535 Cordoba - Mendoza (COR - MDZ)

Aerolineas Argentinas is a Skyteam member, so I was able to credit this flight to my Delta account. The nice thing about Delta miles is that they sit there and never expire, even if Skypesos suck in general.

Aerolineas Argentina Club Economy AR2535 Cordoba - Mendoza (COR - MDZ)

Premium economy on Aerolineas Argentinas is arranged 1-2 in four rows, although the there are only two single seats. I chose one of the single seats. The legroom is generous, although the overhead space is somewhat limited. Larger US-sized carryons will probably not fit in the overhead cabin. There was also a quick snack service, where I was given a water, a sandwich, and the ubiquitous Alfajor. There were also power sockets for those who need to charge their electronics. I don’t think mine worked, though.

Aerolineas Argentina Club Economy AR2535 Cordoba - Mendoza (COR - MDZ)

One of my gripes about Argentinian baggage handling is, even if you have a premium tag, it literally means nothing. They will load it in whatever order they got it, so if you’re hoping your bag will be one of those that rolls out earliest, tough luck! This happened both in Buenos Aires and in Cordoba.

Aerolineas Argentina Club Economy AR2535 Cordoba - Mendoza (COR - MDZ)

From Mendoza airport, I simply took another cab to the Park Hyatt. I’m rapidly running out of pesos! Eep!

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Airline Review: Southwest Airlines

Aerial of Chicago Skyline

Courtesy of two credit card sign-ups, we’ve flown more than 10 Southwest flights this year to date for free. I think it is slightly above average for a US carrier, and I’ll be more than happy to fly it if it’s the cheapest option, or slightly more expensive than competitors, because I have a companion pass, where I can take my designated companion with me for $5.60 (this varies for international itineraries, but is the standard for domestic flights).

Southwest Boarding and Seat Selection:

Southwest Airlines is unique in that you get your choice of seats based on your boarding position. Boarding goes from Group A to Group B to Group C, and your boarding pass will have a number from 1-60. So for instance, if you get A50, you will probably be the 50th person to board the plane, and once you’re aboard, you can choose whichever seat you want.

So, how do these boarding numbers get assigned?

To get group A1 – A15 boarding, you can pay the (significantly) more expensive Business Select fare, which guarantees A1-A15 boarding. If you choose not to pay for the more expensive fare, you can also get their cheapest fare (wanna get-away), and then pay for EarlyBird Check-In, which costs $15 each way. Depending on when you paid for it, your boarding position will reflect when you actually paid for it. So if you are the first person to pay for it, you might get A16.

But if you are a cheapskate like me and like to leave things to chance, your best bet is checking in at exactly 24hrs before your flight departure. Sometimes, this can be a pain, like waking up at 6.50 am to check in for the 6.50 am flight the next day.

The boarding process is as follows: Pre-boarding (for passengers needing more time), A group, family and A-list/A-Plus, B group, and finally, C group.

Based on my personal experience, as long as you get something under B30, you should still have your choice of window or aisle seat. At B30, once we were able to get the two-seater, exit row seat.

Also, when you are booking your flights, you can see if you are on a through-flight, indicated by no plane change. In that case, you will be able to self-upgrade for the second leg of the flight, because you’ll be on the same plane. If you really need your choice of seat, but forgot to do all of the above, often, they also sell priority boarding at the gate, if those are still available. Personally, Southwest flights aren’t too long, so a couple of hours in the middle seat isn’t the end of the world for me.

Southwest Airlines

In-flight Experience:

The Southwest fleet is slightly older, so the leather seats are showing some age. The average legroom is pretty average, and comparable to legacy carriers like Delta and American.

Many of their planes do have free TV, but you do have to bring your own computer/tablet. A lot of their planes are equipped with wifi. You just have to connect with the Southwest wifi, which will allow you to watch select live-TV channels. They also have some other TV programs.

They usually give some pretzels, and some sort of cheesy snack mix. There are also complimentary soft drinks, water, and caffeine. Cocktails are at $5, though they do have several free drink days – St. Patrick’s, Memorial Day (I happened to be flying with them on those days), Southwest’s Birthday, Father’s Day, Fourth of July etc.

One annoyance is, they do not have food for sale. On longer flights, e.g. their Baltimore to Seattle transcon, that would have been appreciated.

Some ways they are more awesome than the competition:

    1. They offer two checked bags for free. I don’t actually check in my bags, but I imagine this will be useful for others. This also affects me, because it means that if I have luggage for the bins, I don’t have to compete with people trying to stuff their kitchen sinks aboard the overhead bins.
    2. No change fees. This is pretty big – this has given me a lot more flexibility in my plans.
    3. Option to reprice flight. If the price of your flight drops, you can reprice it to reflect the lower cost. And the price of flights often drops in response to competition on routes. If you booked it with points, it’s pretty painless for the points to return to your account. If you booked their non-refundable fare, the difference can be used in future flights.

Overall, I do love the cheer and humor of their flight attendants. Other aspects of the in flight experience, e.g. food and drinks aren’t much to write home about, but hey, free flight is free flight and I ain’t one to complain.

Southwest

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Airline Review: Ryanair to Morocco and back

IMG_1341

Oh boy, it must be about 10+ years since I last flew a European budget airline (I have good things to say about Southeast Asian ones). The flight was actually ok for how much I paid, but the experience could have been a lot more pleasant. I am not sure who was more at fault? My expectations? The flight attendants? Other passengers?

The Flights

I took a flight from Madrid to Rabat (MAD-RBA), for 55.68 USD, and a flight from Marrakech to Madrid (RAK – MAD) for 39.10 USD. The flights were around 2 hrs long each.

The seats are tight, even for me. I tend to cross my legs when I sit – it was quite a challenge trying to switch legs. I kept bumping my leg against the seat in front (sorry, person in front!)

I was also too cheap to pay for seat assignment, so I let fate decide where I’d wind up. On the first flight, I got the bitch seat, while I was assigned an aisle seat on the second flight.

Being on the bitch seat is horrible enough in and of itself, but to make things worse, I ended up sitting between two people with very little flying etiquette. In flying etiquette, it is polite/considerate to give BOTH armrests to the person in the middle seat. Sure, you are not obliged to do so, but it’d be nice to do so. Of course, I ended up with two people who decided to take up as much space as it was humanly possible, and not only did I have sit with both my arms tucked tight, I also got elbowed a few times.

Another pet peeve of mine? People putting their jackets in the overhead bins, before other passengers are done putting their luggage up there. On this front, I think there was just a failure in the training of the flight attendants, or perhaps it’s just a cultural thing. At least on US flights, passengers will be told to hold off putting their coats/jackets in the overhead bins until others have put their carry-on up there. On both flights, it was just a Lord of the Flies situation. While passengers were still boarding, the ones who boarded earlier decided to throw as much stuff as they could up in the overhead bin; the flight attendants just stood by nonchalantly.

Overall

Flying budget airlines can be a good way to stretch the dollar, and I do it a lot for short-haul flights. While it’s probably not pleasant for most passengers involved, I do think some small changes, and a little consideration for others can make this experience more pleasant for everyone involved.

Ways Ryanair Might Dime You

  1. About 2 – 3 days before my flight, I received notification to check in, and print my boarding pass for the flights. And if I did not print my boarding pass, I’d have to pay either 45 EUR or 45 USD for each flight segment. By this point, I was already on the road. Because everyone totally carries a portable printer with them when traveling! Thankfully, I was able to print out my first boarding pass at the ANA Lounge in Lisbon some hours before my flight, and Le Meridien N’Fis also had a complimentary printer in their lobby.
  2. If you are a US flyer taking international flights for the first time, be aware that what’s acceptable as a carry-on is much more limited internationally. Ryanair uses the international standard. So, if your bag looks like it’s pregnant with twins, there’s a chance that you might be made to check in your luggage at a hefty cost!
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Flight Review: AA1223 Dallas – Seattle (DFW-SEA) Domestic First

AA1223 DFW-SEA Dallas - Seattle First Class

Ah, the flight from hell. It really has nothing to do with the flight itself, except I was expecting to be back in Seattle by 9 pm, 31st Dec, but my flight wound up flying over Seattle downtown, just as the fireworks welcoming the new year started. It started out as a half hour delay, but the boarding time kept being pushed back. Apparently, there were issues with the tires, and they wound up having to change 3+ tires, before abandoning that plane, and switching to another plane. As the clock ticked away, I was honestly beginning to think I’d never get back to Seattle.

For domestic crappy premium flights, I honestly don’t see much value in paying the premium. You are really just getting a larger seat, a meal, and maybe feeling more special? But if you are my size (5″4), it has rather marginal value. I guess the larger space means that if you want to bust out the laptop and get some work done, you will have more elbow room. They also gave complimentary earphones, which they will sell to you for $5 in coach.

AA1223 DFW-SEA Dallas - Seattle First Class

AA1223 is a Boeing 737-800. In first class, they have 4 rows of 2-2. The leather seats are wider, and there’s a lot of legroom. The seat also has a power socket, but mine didn’t work (great!). Because I was changing time zones, right after the meal service, I simply passed out, so that worked out in any case.

For the meal service, they only had chicken with polenta, and eggplant parmesan. I pre-ordered the chicken. They ran out of the eggplant after like three orders, so if you are vegetarian, I’d encourage you to pre-order your meal. A vegetarian sitting one row in front of me wound up with just a side salad for dinner.

AA1223 DFW-SEA Dallas - Seattle First Class

The chicken was pretty gross. It was really dry and tough. I ate some of it, but left most of it alone. The ice cream sundae was strawberry shortcake. I’m glad they had that, because I needed my calories for the day. To top off my flight from hell, service on this flight was somewhat gruff. At risk of sounding like I suffer from Stockholm syndrome, I’d say I can’t blame the flight attendant too much. Serving annoyed flyers on New Year’s Even vis-a-vis spending time with loved ones welcoming the new year? I’m sure that’s always awesome!

A note on delayed flights

Several days after my flight with mechanical delays, I used this online form to file my complaint about the delay. I got a form response within half an hour, giving me 5000 AA points for the delay. It might work, it might not work, or you might not get what you want. But if you are dissatisfied with your flight, that can be an avenue for you to air your grievances.

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It’s really not that bad :P Flight Review: AA37 Madrid – Dallas (MAD-DFW) Business Class

AA37 Madrid - Dallas (MAD - DFW) Business Class

AA37 is a Boeing 777 offering three class service: first, business, and coach. Their business class product offers an angled flat seat, in 2-3-2 configuration. While I booked it by mistake, and was kicking myself for booking an angled flat seat, I had a rather decent flight. My mistake was mitigated by it being a daytime flight.Furthermore, I had an excellent flight attendant, whose mission seemed to be to indulge me.

For this flight, I did something rather rare for me – I initially chose a window seat, but figured that climbing over a stranger could get awkward real quick. So, I opted for an aisle seat. It was a good choice, because I wound up getting up quite a bit, and just walking around because it was 11+ hours.

AA37 Madrid - Dallas (MAD - DFW) Business Class

Pre-Departure/Pre-meal

There was an orderly priority boarding. The business and first cabins were packed, but flight attendants serving business were efficient. Pre-departure beverages were offered, and the choices were: water, orange juice, mimosa, and champagne. I went with the mimosa. While inflight entertainment generally doesn’t matter to me, it’s also nice that it’s available on the ground.

After we hit cruising altitude, the FAs started taking lunch orders from passengers. I pre-ordered my lunch of beef steak with potato croquettes. I believe the other options are chicken, and a vegetarian pasta. The Bose noise-cancelling headphones were also distributed around this time (they are pretty awesome – I used them the whole flight).

AA37 Madrid - Dallas (MAD - DFW) Business Class AA37 Madrid - Dallas (MAD - DFW) Business Class

Meal Service

It started with a salad, and a prosciutto and fruit plate, and bread was also offered. It wasn’t too bad, actually. My beef filet was ok as well. It was edible. The potato croquettes were kinda disgusting, though. I’m a potato person, so if I leave potatoes uneaten, it does say something. It was dried out and grainy. The ice cream sundae did make up for it.

AA37 Madrid - Dallas (MAD - DFW) Business Class

They also have a snack cart by the galley, and you’re invited to help yourself throughout the flight. They mostly have pre-packaged snacks and fruits, but they also had a chocolate truffle with strawberry, which was pretty nice. On the beverage front, they only have water for self-serve. I wouldn’t have minded some other options.

AA37 Madrid - Dallas (MAD - DFW) Business Class

AA37 Madrid - Dallas (MAD - DFW) Business Class

About two hours before landing, they also served another snack. They had two different salads on offer. I opted for the Thai salad, which had some noodles and greens. People on the other aisle actually got beef with their Thai salad, but my beef went missing. I didn’t mind it, because I was expecting to have dinner on my connecting flight, and I didn’t want to get too stuffed. Oh, if only I knew how the next flight was going to turn out.

AA37 Madrid - Dallas (MAD - DFW) Business Class

The Seat

There are quite a number of settings. It can get quite odd the way it reclines. At points, you might feel like you’re on a barber’s chair. Or at other points, when it’s slowly getting to the angled flat setting, you could feel like you are being lowered into your grave. I did appreciate the full range of settings. It wasn’t too bad for taking a nap. I did nap comfortably for some two hours of the flight, although to be fair, I pretty much can sleep under any circumstance. The relax settings were pretty nice, and you can also customize it to your own preference with manual controls.

Relative to the British Airways 747 Business Class product, there is more storage space. There’s some room under the armrest for some items, and they also have a magazine storage spot, where you can put stow some reading material. I also put my messenger bag at the foot cubby area. Under the armrest, there was also enough room to put a book. I simply left my laptop by my side for the flight.

The table can turn into a mega-table, if you need a lot of room. Half the table is in the armrest, and that should be enough to eat, but there’s also another half table that’s under the IFE screen. You can join the two to form a mega-table.

In terms of power, it was a little bit odd. They have those power jacks that are like the ones available in cars. So if you want to charge something, you have to request for an adapter from the flight attendant (unless you’re like a boy scout, and are always prepared with a car charger).

Having said that, I do prefer the British Airways 747 Business Class product. It offers a lot more privacy and room (you get 4 windows to yourself), and the bed is more comfortable, obviously.

AA37 Madrid - Dallas (MAD - DFW) Business Class AA37 Madrid - Dallas (MAD - DFW) Business Class

Inflight Entertainment

It seems half decent. They do have fairly recent movies. Their TV shows also made more sense. They had about 6 episodes of Big Bang Theory, which was in sequence, and it seemed to be the case for other shows as well. The touch-screen itself was rather unresponsive, though. I was not the only one who had an issue, as it appeared that the guy beside me was also madly stabbing at his screen. The remote by the side of the seat, while responsive, required some brute force jabbing.

Service

After reading online about all the service failures on American, I was actually bracing myself for the worst. But on this flight, I lucked out. I had a very enthusiastic and friendly flight attendant, who walked through the aisle a number of times between services. She also happily kept my coffee mug filled throughout the flight. So none of the gruff “why are you bothering me?” attitude that I was really expecting.

Overall

I was really expecting the worst for this flight, just based on reviews and general consensus. The angled flat seat wasn’t great, but it also wasn’t horrific. I had an enthusiastic flight attendant, and my food was edible.

The most memorable part of the flight, wasn’t actually anything to do with the business class itself, but the father and daughter seated beside me. The flight was very full, so they got upgraded, but the mom/wife got stuck in coach. She came up several times, gave me rather dirty looks and instructed her husband and daughter to go steal snacks from the cart in the galley. The whole experience was rather amusing, and there’s nothing more peaceful than having an irate mom/wife talk over my head while I’m trying to read. Nothing like a wife/mother stuck in economy!

AA37 Madrid - Dallas (MAD - DFW) Business Class

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Flight Review: BA 460 Club Europa London to Madrid (LHR – MAD), 23 Dec 2015

British Airways Club Europa

Apart from slightly wider seats and a nice meal service, Business class travel in Europe is about as exciting as US domestic first class travel. When I first reserved my seat, the cabin looked pretty empty, but I guess the flight filled up towards the end – the cabin was full. It has a 2-2-2 configuration, and if I knew that the middle aisle actually has an extra little buffer between the two seats, I’d probably have selected those instead.

It was pretty tight (my tall seatmate putting his legs/hands into my space didn’t help), but service was great. For a short, sub-two-hour flight, I think the attendants did a pretty good job of serving a meal, and a pre-departure beverage.

British Airways Club Europa

Lunch service was actually pretty funny. They brought out the meals heated in those foil containers, and after you make your selection, they tipped it over onto a plate. Selection for the day was grilled prawn nicoise salad, or sweet and sour chicken. I opted for the sweet and sour chicken, and actually enjoyed it.

Overall, while it was nice to get some food and beverages and better service on a flight, I don’t see myself shelling out for a short-haul business class flight on such a product.

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Flight: BA 48 SEA-LHR Business Class, 22 Dec 2015

BA48 Seattle - Heathrow -- the beautiful 747

One of the more annoying things about British Airways is, if you want to select a seat (even a premium seat) without status, they make you pay extra for pre-selection of seats. Initially, I really wanted to sit on the upper deck of the 747, after sitting on the upper deck of EVA. But after looking at how the cabin at the lower level was filled (or unfilled), I stuck with my assigned seat – 17A, which is the first window seat. I ended up liking my seat!

BA48 Seattle - Heathrow Business Class

Seat selection

First off, all the windows seats on the 747 are incredibly private. Once I raised the privacy screen, I felt like I was in my own little cocoon. There are also a couple of advantages of being in the first row seat – when I stood up, I could see what was going on with the other rows of window seats. By contrast, I think only people occasionally walking down the aisle can see what I am doing? I also thought that flying facing backwards would be weird, but after takeoff, you won’t notice the difference. And as a plus point, sitting facing backwards means that when people in economy class walk in, you won’t have to see their jealous/judge-y faces.

Initially, I thought that the seats in the middle would be quite a bitch, but they are actually pretty nice if you are traveling in a pair. While I didn’t sit in those seats, they felt like a private suite for couples!

BA48 Seattle - Heathrow Business Class

This leaves us with the aisle seats: these are highly exposed. I don’t see myself ever wanting to select these seats. It might be slightly annoying for people who are in the middle/window seats to get out of their seats, but if you are a tall-ish person, that should not be too much of a problem. Also, if you are in the aisle/middle seats, you won’t have to deal with someone trying to climb over your legs when you are sleeping/lounging.

I am not sure if this is an advantage or disadvantage, but the aisle seats are brighter. It is helpful if you are trying to see what you are eating, but probably not so awesome if you are trying to sleep, or just trying to get some peace. My private light was kinda less than useless for reading or working, but I do work on a laptop for the most part.

BA48 Seattle - Heathrow Business Class

Pre-Departure

After settling in, we were offered a choice of champagne, orange juice, and water. On the seats, was a nice duvet, and a nice-sized pillow. The pillow smelled really nice, lol. After drinks were distributed, the attendant came around and distributed amenity kits, which have socks, toothbrush, toothpaste, pen, eyeshades, earplugs, and lotions and lip balm from Elemis. I was looking forward to the bag, as I needed a shoe bag for my heels. 😀 Shortly after, hot towels were also distributed for passengers to freshen up.

Seat

The controls are automated, and if you need some instructions, there is a little booklet on all the features of your seat. I was a doofus, and didn’t realize that there was a button for the privacy screen. I only found the button after looking through the booklet.

They are a solid international business class product. I am an average sized person, so I don’t need that much room. Actually, when my seat is in take-off/landing mode, my feet barely reach the footrest. But the advantage of this is, when my seat is in the bed mode, I can actually sleep on my back, and not curl up in a fetal position.

My main gripe about the seat is the lack of storage. They only have what they call a laptop locker, which is on the ground, i.e. not exactly convenient to reach, and that’s that. I did spend some of my time juggling all my stuff, and trying not the break my beverage glass, because the only ‘storage’ is either my chair or my tray table, it was quite an adventure for most part. My chair became my water bottle spot, and it was kinda awkward to sleep with a cold water bottle rolling onto my face from time to time. I also had to put my glasses in my bag, because I didn’t want to smash them.

BA48 Seattle - Heathrow Business Class

Dinner

Dinner service started 50 mins after the plane’s official departure time, so probably about 20-30 min after takeoff. I opted for the salmon and cream cheese gateau as my starter, the beef for my main course, and the cherry and almond slice to finish. There is another advantage to sitting right up front – I got served first, and so my dinner service went really quick (under 1 hr). By the time the last person in the cabin got their starter, I was onto my entrée.

BA48 Seattle - Heathrow Business Class

I thought the starter was a little weird, but as advertised. I just never had a savory gateau. I did really like their seasonal salad. Despite all fears of ending up with a hockey puck for beef, I’d say that while well-done, it was perfectly edible. It was slightly tasteless, so I simply put the little dollop of butter that they provided on top of the fillet, and made myself a decent little dinner. The dessert was pretty awesome – I generally don’t like cherry, but the cake was very moist and a very refreshing combination of sweet and tart. I finished my meal with a cup of tea with milk.

BA48 Seattle - Heathrow Business Class BA48 Seattle - Heathrow Business Class

Snacks

If you are hungry during the flight, they have what they call “club kitchen”. It is by the galley, and it is a self-serve. They have some cold snacks like sandwiches and cakes, and other pre-packaged snacks like Mars bars, and kettle chips.

BA48 Seattle - Heathrow Business Class

Breakfast

About 75 mins before our arrival at Heathrow, the lights started to turn on in the cabin, and breakfast service started. It was a continental breakfast, and the choice was between cereal and fruit. I went with fruit, and also had a smoothie, and some breads from the bread basket. I passed on the bacon roll. Breakfast was rather nice, and I can never say no to warm croissants!

BA48 Seattle - Heathrow Business Class

Service

I thought service was very efficient, and the attendants were very proactive during service times. I didn’t really want a second beverage after the pre-departure beverage. But after seeing that I had no beverage, I was asked a couple of times until I finally caved and got an orange juice.

During dinner service, I was also asked multiple times if I’d like to have some wine to go with my dinner.

Entertainment

They have a largish TV screen, which I only utilized towards the end of the flight. I quickly browsed through the movie selection, which seemed decent, but my attention span for TV/movies is so short, that I generally can only watch TV shows. They did have some classics like Friends, and my current favorite, Big Bang Theory, but their selection is highly odd. It’s not like a season or anything, but rather random, non-continuous episodes. For instance, they only had one episode of Friends, and three episodes of Big Bang Theory from different seasons.

One of the nice things about the TV? You can tilt it downwards, and turn into a total couch potato. So, you can like lie down on your seat, and watch it from that position.

BA48 Seattle - Heathrow Business Class

Overall

This is actually my first flight with British Airways. I doubt life is as awesome in economy, but well, this was definitely a nice introduction to their airline. Juggling items, and lack of storage aside, I thoroughly enjoyed my business class flight. It was just a shame that I couldn’t sleep more than two hours (there was a yelling kid in the cabin, and I wasn’t tired enough).

Below is the Food/Wine selection from that flight if you’re curious:

Dinner

Starters

Smoked Atlantic salmon and buckwheat crepe gateau with whole grain mustard and chive cream cheese

Wild mushroom salad with roasted red pepper and burrata cheese

Salad

Fresh seasonal salad served with vinaigrette

Main

Oven-roasted fillet of USDA beef with potatoes au gratin, haricot verts and veal jus

Pan-fried haddock with braised rainbow Swiss chard, celery root puree and chilli lime sauce

Five-cheese ravioli with Parmesan Reggiano cream, baby arugala and toasted walnuts

Chilled main course salad of herb-roasted organic chicken with crispy bacon lardons, cherry tomatoes, Point Reyes crumbled blue cheese and baby spinach

Dessert

Cherry and almond slice with sauce anglaise

Truffle Cheddar and Brie cheese with herbs and golden fig preserves

A selection of fruit

Tea, coffee and chocolates

Drinks

Aperitifs and Spirits

Gordon’s Gin

Tanqueray

Smirnoff Blue

Johnnie Walker Black

Jack Daniel’s

Bacardi

Liqueurs and Digestifs

Otard VSOP Cognac

Cointreau

Baileys

Southern Comfort

Drambuie 15-year-old Speyside Malt Liqueur

Glenlivet 15-year-old Malt

Warre’s LBV Port 2009

Champagne

Taittinger Brut Reserve NV

Champagne de Castelnau Brut Rose NV

White Wine

Ablarino 2014, Eidos de Padrinan, Rias Baixas Spain

Cambria Chardonnay 2012, Katherine’s Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley, California

Red Wine

Chateau La Croix Teynac 2011, Puisseguin-Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux, France

Carmel Road Pinot Noir 2012, Monterey, California, USA

Categories: Airline, British Airways, Premium Travel | Tags: | 3 Comments

Airline Review + Airport Lounge: JetBlue + JetBlue Rooftop Lounge, 31 October 2015

JetBlue

JetBlue had a $31 airfare deal on 1 October, for almost all flights on 31 Oct, including trans-continental flights. I jumped on the deal, and got a flight from JFK – SEA for $31, which is an amazing deal.

The last time I flew JetBlue, I took it from SEA-LGB-LAS, and I left with a really good impression of JetBlue. So, how did this flight compare? The planes are now older, but JetBlue still has a lot going for it.

JetBlue Wooftop

JetBlue Wooftop

I departed from JFK Terminal 5, i.e. the JetBlue Terminal. They only have an Airspace Lounge (complimentary with Amex Platinum or Black card, or per entry for a fee), and the JetBlue rooftop lounge. The latter is complimentary, and mainly it’s an outdoor space for people to get some fresh air. This is also good for flyers with pets, as they have a mini dog run for four-legged flyers.

The flight itself. The comfortable leather seats are now a little worn, but have above average legroom at 34″. Aside from the older planes, I’d say that generally, JetBlue has a lot of positives going for it:

    • Free wifi: They offer free wifi on planes with wifi. I have never paid for or tried Gogo wifi on other carriers, but they advertise their free wifi as fast enough to stream Netflix. When I was using it, I could multi-task quite a bit. They also offer paid premium wifi for those who require more speed.
    • Complimentary refreshments: One of my pet peeves about the complimentary refreshments of other airlines is the limited amount of beverage, and the lack of choice of snacks. It usually works out to a tiny plastic cup of soda, and a little bag of pretzels. JetBlue has a selection of brand-name snacks, which are substantial in size, and they generally give a full can. For caffeine, they offer dunkin donuts coffee.
    • IFE: They stream live TV for free. Just be sure to bring your own earphones if you don’t want to pay $5 for it.

Overall, although the plane was older, I really enjoyed my 5-hr transcontinental flight from JFK to SEA. JetBlue IFE

Complimentary refreshments on JetBlue

Categories: Airline, Airport Lounge, JetBlue | 1 Comment

Airline: EVA Air – What’s better than a Hello Kitty Plane? An Empty Hello Kitty Plane

EVA Air Hello Kitty Jet

EVA Air is by far my favorite option for my regular trans-Pacific flights from Seattle to Singapore, both for its timing, and the fact that EVA Air is just awesome on all counts. And when they joined Star Alliance in 2013, they became my only option (I used to fly Asiana Airlines so I could credit flights into my United account).

So, why are they awesome?

They are often one of the cheapest options. Outside of peak travel periods, this year, there were many 800 USD round trip flights from Seattle to Singapore. Just be aware of the fare class when you are booking, if you care about mileage accrual. The cheapest fare class generally doesn’t give you any mileage, but for a little extra (I paid 860 USD), I was able to get a fare class that gives 50% mileage accrual.

Generally, their food in economy is really good. Their standard offerings tend to be very solid options, and just downright tasty. And one of the hidden gems is their pre-selected meals. They have options like, no beef, or just seafood. On one of my flights, I selected the seafood option, and it just tasted amazing.

Seafood meal on EVA Air Hello Kitty Jet

Their service is also very solid. Their flight attendants tend to be very attractive, and really service focused. Earlier this year, a man had a heart attack while our plane was over the Pacific Ocean. This was resolved very quietly, as they asked if I would move to another seat, so the man may lie down on my empty row. They were very apologetic about moving me, and at the same time, the whole issue was resolved with no commotion.

Another awesome thing that has little to do with the airline itself: during the sale fare period, they tend to be empty. I’ve flown a number of poor man’s first-class seats, i.e. empty rows where I can sleep through the flight.

EVA Air Hello Kitty Jet - empty

Alright, the title.

A couple of years ago, EVA Air introduced the Hello Kitty plane, with Hello Kitty livery, and a Hello Kitty theme on the plane itself. It sparked such madness, that their inaugural flight (and several subsequent flights) was stripped bare. People stole toilet paper, toiletries, anything that they could strip from the plane.

I did not intentionally plan to fly the Hello Kitty plane, but as it turns out, my flight from Singapore to Taipei (BR216) is the Hello Kitty plane. At check-in, I was given Hello Kitty boarding passes. What other Hello Kitty items are on the plane? Pillows, drinks menu, plastic cover for earphones, safety instructions, toilet paper, toiletries, paper cups, cutlery, napkins, snack packs. Well, I’ll let the photos do the talking. I am not sure if this flight was widely advertised, or if the fervor has died. In any case, what is more awesome than a Hello Kitty plane? An empty one. I am guessing there are less than 100 passengers on this BR777-300ER flight with a capacity for ~300 passengers. People were asking for fresh sets of cutlery, and all sorts of souvenirs to take home for their families, and the air stewardesses very happily complied.

EVA Air Hello Kitty JetEVA Air Hello Kitty JetEVA Air Hello Kitty Jet

EVA Air Hello Kitty Jet

Tips for EVA Air seating (and scoring the poor man’s first-class seat)

If you happen to fly the 747, the upper deck is actually economy class seating. They are usually numbered in the 80s range. Why I love it? It is oftentimes empty, and even if it’s not, other economy class passengers generally will not take the empty seats, because they are not aware that this section is actually also economy class. Just a note – the bulkhead seats have fixed arm rests.

EVA Air has the habit of blocking a lot of their seats, e.g. exit row seats, bulkhead seats. Some of these seats won’t be available for online seat selection, and can only be requested at the counter. But interestingly, they also block seats at the back of the plane. These can be chosen using the online seat selection, closer to the date of the flight (like a few days before the flight). So, if you are looking to score an emptier row or an empty row, check back about two days before your flight. Be sure to make your seat selection more than 24 hrs before departure – the online seat selection system closes 24 hrs before the flight’s departure.

If you forgot to do that, you can still change your seat selection when you check-in. Gate agents are generally very nice about this, and will accommodate your requests as it is within their power to do so.

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Copa Airlines

Copa AirlinesCopa Airlines is a Star Alliance partner based in Panama City, Panama, and flies out of Tocumen International Airport (PTY), it is a remarkable solid option for exploring the Americas. To date, I have flown about 9 segments with them, to various destination in the Americas.

While their business class is more like the short-haul business class of US domestic airlines, their economy class is pretty awesome. In terms of legroom, it is comparable with Alaska Airlines. In all the segments that I have flown, Copa has always made good time. Moreover, I have flown some really short segments (~1hr 30min), and have been impressed by their inflight service! In a short 1hr 30min flight from Panama City to Bogota, I was given a delicious breakfast box. The flight attendants sure are efficient to serve some 30 rows of passengers complementary food and drinks for such a short flight. They also serve complementary alcohol, including wines, beers, and hard liquor (saw a Johnny Walker Red Label).Copa Airlines

Breakfast box on flight from HAV – PTY

Lunch on Copa Air

Lunch from BOG – PTY – chicken, cucumber, raisin wrap, chocolate, and diet coke

Some of their newer aircrafts also have individual inflight entertainment systems. For instance, the newer B737-800 that brought me from Panama City to Havana featured an individual inflight entertainment system. Earphones were also handed out for free. While the selection wasn’t amazing, it was sufficiently up to date, e.g. Big Bang Theory, movies from the last two years.

If you are visiting the Americas, I would recommend you try out Copa Airlines! They often have very sweet deals from cities like Los Angeles and Miami. They are a solid option for economy class, and after years of abuse in domestic economy class, you will almost be grateful you chose it! 🙂

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Where Copa flies

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