Category Archives: Airlines

Flight Review: Cathay Dragon Business Class HKG to PEN

My final destination for this trip was Penang, Malaysia, so I connected to Dragonair (now called Cathay Dragon) in Hong Kong.

Plane to Penang

The business class cabin was completely full for this flight, and I think the economy class cabin was almost completely full as well. This was a flight with a regional business class configuration, so nothing fancy, but the seat is pretty comfortable with good legroom. This isn’t a good seat for sleeping, though, since it doesn’t recline that much.

Business class cabin

Business class seat

Seat back entertainment and leg room

Business class cabin

They were serving pre-departure beverages of water, fresh orange juice, or a cocktail of passionfruit and gin. There were already headphones at every seat. Instead of a wet towel, they provided antiseptic packaged towels.

Now, it had been a couple of years since I had last flown Dragonair before this flight, and one of the things that I remembered loving about Dragonair was the canned Hong Kong style milk tea that they had. Unfortunately, they no longer carried the drink.

Menu

Menu

Menu

I had pre-ordered a special VJML (Jain vegetarian meal) for this flight. The starter consisted of cold chickpeas, peas, and kidney beans. They were served plain, which was fine, since I was happy that there was at least some protein in the vegetarian meal.

VJML starter

My seat mate had the typical starter of smoked duck breast, and graciously allowed me to photograph his meal.

Smoked duck breast starter

For the VJML entree, it was a pretty tasty combo of lentil curry, rice, and peas and cauliflower.

VJML entree

My seat mate had the angel hair pasta with mixed seafood in a cream sauce and vegetables, and he seemed to enjoy it.

Mixed seafood and pasta

Overall, I think I’ve had better special meal catering on Dragonair than Cathay Pacific, but the regional business class product is largely identical. I think there are small differences like the fact that Cathay Pacific uses hot towels while Cathay Dragon uses the packaged towel wipes, and you unfortunately can’t add Cathay Dragon on an Alaska award, but otherwise, they’re pretty darn similar products.

Flight Review: Cathay Pacific First Class BOS to HKG (CX 811)

On most flights, I typically like to sit on the right-hand side of the aircraft, but in Cathay Pacific first class, the seats on the left (1A and 2A) are more private since the center seats open up to the right-hand aisle. So on this flight, I had selected seat 1A. I will say that it seems like the flight crew defaults to using the left-hand aisle to pass through the cabin so as to disturb fewer passengers, so there is slightly more foot traffic on the left-hand side.

Cathay Pacific doesn’t have overhead bins in the first class cabin, so it feels more spacious. Instead of overhead bins, there are lockers at every seat for you to store your belongings.

My seat, 1A

Footrest and IFE screen

Seat and IFE controls

Storage closet

I was soon offered a pre-departure beverage of water, juice or champagne. I was also offered an amuse bouche of prosciutto and cauliflower, but I asked if they had a vegetarian option instead since I had requested a vegetarian meal. The flight attendant scrounged around for a bit and brought me a flaky pastry filled with hummus, an olive, and marinated sun-dried tomato instead. I was then given Bose headphones, PYE pajamas, and an amenity kit (I requested the female one to give to my sister since I already had several of the male amenity kits).

Headphones, amenity kit, pajamas

Vegetarian amuse bouche

For this flight, I had pre-ordered a special VJML (Jain vegetarian meal). I was still provided a menu and wine list for the flight, and I was told that I could order off the menu after the flight attendant asked the other passengers for their selections.

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

After takeoff, I was given warm cashews and almonds to start. I ordered a Cathay delight to drink.

Nuts to start with Cathay Delight

I started my meal service off with the caviar service. I prefer blinis to toast, and I like the spoon that Cathay uses, which makes Cathay’s caviar service one of my favorites. I was also offered an entire warmed breadbasket, although there was no handwritten card.

Caviar service

I next had a soup of white asparagus with some freshly ground black pepper. If you like soup and asparagus, then it was pretty tasty.

White asparagus soup

The salad that I was served was the salad off the menu without the lobster. It was a little odd to eat without the lobster, since the salad was mostly just frisee otherwise, but I could imagine that it would be good with lobster.

Salad

My VJML entree was not very good. There were cut green beans and cauliflower in a brown sauce. I wish there had been lentils or chickpeas or something with more protein.

Pretty bad VJML

The fresh berries in rose syrup, though, made up for my sub-par entree.

Berries in rose syrup

And since I’m a glutton, I also tried the pistachio cake with ice cream. A little too sweet for my tastes, but still good.

Pistachio cake and ice cream

After dinner chocolates

After dinner, I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth, and when I got back to my seat, the bed had already been made. In general, I found the service on this flight to be good and proficient, but maybe not quite as personable or memorable as crews I’ve had on the past on Cathay Pacific.

One benefit of the departure time of this flight is that I found it easy to sleep. I slept soundly for about 9 hours, and I find the Cathay Pacific seat and bed to be one of my favorite hard products. It’s nice and wide, and the bedding is comfortable.

Bed

For breakfast, I started with a fruit plate that was pretty delicious. I also ordered some earl grey tea which came pre-steeped.

Fruit plate

The VJML pre-arrival meal was way better than dinner. It consisted of okra, cauliflower, potatoes, and peas in a spicy and flavorful sauce.

Much tastier VJML pre-arrival meal

Overall, this was a solid flight on Cathay Pacific. It’s one of my favorite hard products for sleeping, and I felt that the service was pretty good.

Lounge Review: British Airways Lounge Boston Logan Airport (BOS)

I flew Cathay Pacific out of Boston Logan to Hong Kong, and the flight departed at 1:45am. One benefit of a 1:45am flight out of Boston Logan is that security is pretty empty. The Cathay Pacific flight is the last flight of the night out of Logan out of that terminal.

To get to the British Airways lounge, you go all the way to the left after clearing security and go DOWN the elevator or stairs. You then walk down a creepy-ish hallway past the Virgin Atlantic Club House, the Lufthansa lounges, and the Aer Lingus lounge, until you get to the BA lounge. The right-hand side of the lounge is the “first class” side; the left hand is for business class. While the first class side has nicer furniture, if you’re in this lounge for the Cathay Pacific flight, the food options are larger the same on both sides since the dining rooms are closed.

Sign pointing the way to the lounges

Long hallway of lounges

Computer workstations

When the dining rooms are closed, there actually isn’t that much seating in the lounge. It’s just a small room, and so many of the chairs were facing toward the center of the room, so it was kinda like you were just looking at each other.

Seating

Closed dining area

In terms of food for the Cathay departure, there was no hot food. Instead, they had sandwiches, cookies, crudites/hummus/things like that, chips/crisps, and snack mixes. Fine if you’re a little hungry, but nothing special.

Sandwiches

Salad

Cookies and crisps

Cheese

Mezze

Alcohol selection

Wines and snacks

Tea and coffee

After checking out the first class side, I also took a look at the business class side. Again, for the Cathay departure, the two sides offer essentially the same food options, but the furniture looks more dated on the business class side. The business class side did have bathrooms, and it felt like there was slightly more privacy because there was a wall in the middle of the lounge, so everyone wasn’t just looking at each other.

More seating

Business class food

Business class seating

Overall, it’s nothing to get excited about, but the wifi worked, and there were snacks if you were peckish. I’d be interested in checking this lounge out again when the dining rooms are open.

Flight Review: Finnair Business Class A320 HEL to BUD

For my short hop from Helsinki to Budapest, I flew Finnair in business class on an A320. It was European business class, which just meant a blocked off middle seat.

Video screen

Video screen

Seat back

Seat back

Blocked off middle seat

Blocked off middle seat

Even though the seat wasn’t any different from economy, there was a proper meal service on this flight. And they even had printed menus!

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

There was no pre-departure beverage offered, but the snack they offered after takeoff were crackers shaped like airplanes! There was also video playing on the in-flight entertainment, but there wasn’t any sound. The video playing, though, was from just for laughs, so I guess you don’t need to hear the sound for that.

Airplane crackers

Airplane crackers

I had pre-ordered a VGML special meal, which was actually quite solid. There were beet patties of sorts with carrots and potatoes. This was served with a side of tofu with mango, as well as a small bowl of fruit. I thought the food was reasonably tasty, and the carrots seemed like they came from an actual farm. It wasn’t fancy, but I was impressed by the actual ingredients in the hot dish.

VGML

VGML

Overall, I’m a fan of Finnair. It’s not a flashy carrier, but I find their product to be solid, and I enjoy the Helsinki airport.

Lounge Review: Finnair Lounge Schengen Helsinki Airport (HEL)

I wasn’t expecting much from the Finnair Schengen region lounge at Helsinki, but I was very pleasantly surprised by this lounge.

Entrance to the lounge

Entrance to the lounge

First, I loved the design of the lounge. It felt airy and open with lots of cool furniture and lighting fixtures. There were large windows, so there was natural light. The lounge was pretty busy, but there were plenty of seats still available.

Airy lounge

Airy lounge

Sizable lounge

Sizable lounge

Seating

Seating

Couches

More seating

More seating

More seating

Standing area

Standing area

Funky furniture

Funky furniture

Private work station

Private work station

View of apron

View of apron

The lounge had showers, which may be useful for anyone connecting from a long flight.

Shower

Shower

Soda and beer on tap

Soda and beer on tap

Wine

Wine

In terms of food, I wouldn’t say it was great, but it was there. There was soup and a hot option (of something that I could not identify), breads, salad, fruit salad, and cake. Everyone likes cake, right?

Fuit

Fuit

Salad

Salad

Soups

Soup

Hot food

Hot food

Cake

Cake

Going in, I was expecting something similar to US domestic lounges, but the Finnair Schengen region lounge at HEL is a step above. It’s just a cool-looking lounge, and there’s some food and showers.

In general, I think Helsinki is a pretty great airport with interesting lounges. It’s not super fancy or extravagant, but the airport and lounges are solid with great design and character. I’ll also note that even you’re connecting from a non-Schengen flight to Schengen flight, you can still use the non-Schengen lounges prior to passing through passport control, which is a great perk.

Lounge Review: Finnair Premium Lounge Non-Schengen Helsinki Airport (HEL)

I had previously transited the Helsinki airport, but the Finnair Premium Lounge in the non-Schengen region did not exist at the time (the lounges I did visit include the Finnair lounge, the Almost@Home lounge, and the Aspire lounge). Finnair doesn’t have a first class product, so this lounge was opened essentially for oneworld emerald members.

The lounge was pretty crowded when I visited, but there were tons of seats and electrical outlets, and things were cleaned up quickly. Nothing felt particularly fancy, but I appreciated the general design and furnishings of the lounge.

Seating

Seating

More seats

More seats

Crowded seating area

Crowded seating area

The lounge has a bar with bartenders, as well as some self service champagne and wine options.

Bar menu

Bar menu

Bar

Bar

Champagne

Champagne

Wine

Wine

The food options were pretty decent. There were two soups, a bunch of meaty things (including herring, if you’re so inclined), some cold items (including Karelian pasties), desserts, and fruits. Everything that I tried was pretty good for lounge food.

Fruit and desserts

Fruit and desserts

Salad and cold food

Salad and cold appetizers

Cold foods

Cold foods

Soup and hot food

Soups and hot food

Perhaps the best part of the lounge is that they have a sauna. It’s small (maybe fits about 4 people comfortably?), but it’s an actual Finnish sauna. I’ve used a hot tub in an airport, but this was my first sauna experience in an airport. Now, in Finland, you’re supposed to be naked when you’re in the sauna, and everyone that used the sauna while I was there was naked, but everyone was also male, so I don’t know the norms for when women want to use it, since I only saw one sauna…

Overall, I thought that this was a solid lounge offering, and it’s cool that Finnair has this premium lounge even though they don’t have a first class product. The sauna is also a novel amenity that’s worth trying out if you have time during your visit. One thing that’s also nice about the Helsinki airport is that you can visit this lounge even if you’re arriving on a non-Schengen flight and connecting to a Schengen flight. You can wait to clear immigration and use this lounge prior to your flight, which is a great perk.

Flight Review: Finnair Business Class A330-300 KIX to HEL

I’ve flown Finnair before, but this was my first time flying Finnair in business class. Finnair doesn’t fly as much to North America (they used to fly to a number of destinations, but I believe only New York, Miami, and Chicago still have service, with San Francisco coming next year), but they seem to connect many people between Asia and Europe.

Finnair A330 taking me to Helsinki

Finnair A330 taking me to Helsinki

This A330-300 featured flat-bed seats business class in an alternating 1-2-1, 2-2-1 seating pattern. This seat is very similar to the product I’ve flown on Swiss and Austrian.

Business class cabin

Business class cabin

Business class cabin

Business class cabin

I was seated in seat 9L, which is a single window seat closer to the window in the second mini-cabin of business class. In the future, I’d probably try to go for a bulkhead seat, as the foot cutouts are larger for those seats.

My seat

My seat

The IFE screen was also on the smaller side and a bit hard to navigate, but I appreciate that the IFE was started on the ground. I also appreciated that announcements weren’t deafening if you have headphones in. As a trivial aside, there were ads before movies, and even though the movies had swear words dubbed, the ads had audible swear words that were not…

IFE screen and leg room

IFE screen and leg room

At each seat were slippers, an amenity kit, and headphones. I always appreciate slippers, but the slippers were actually pretty small, and I’m not sure if that’s because we were flying out of Japan. The amenity kit was designed by Marimekko, so it was colorful and playful. The contents were basic–ear plugs, eye mask, Clarins lip balm and lotion, toothbrush, and toothpaste–and there was a note saying that you could ask for a shaving kit, mouthwash, hair brush, and makeup remover wipe.

Marimekko amenity kit

Marimekko amenity kit

The menu offered both Western and Japanese options, but I had pre-ordered a special Asian vegetarian meal (AVML).

Menu

Menu

The AVML started off with raw vegetables. This is a major pet peeve of mine. I do not know many people who like eating cold raw vegetables, so I do not understand why they serve them. They could at least serve them with hummus or something.

AVML amuse bouche

AVML amuse bouche

For an appetizer, there was a cold spring/egg roll of sorts with some super hard bread, but I managed to snag some much better bread from the bread basket. The roll would have been tastier if it had been served warm, but it was edible.

AVML appetizer

AVML appetizer

The main course had some cauliflower, chickpeas, mushrooms, and rice. It was passable for an AVML, but nothing special.

AVML entree

AVML entree

For dessert, I had some jello-like substance that came with my meal, as well as some tarts from the dessert menu.

Dessert

Dessert

One thing that I appreciated about the flight was that the cabin was kept quite cool. Too often, I find myself overheating on non-US carriers. The pillow and blanket were also pretty good for business class. I found the seat to be pretty comfortable for sleeping. I don’t think the seat is truly lie flat to the plane floor, but I don’t mind that since being flat to the plane floor would mean that you’re actually leaning back slightly.

Foot area when seat fully reclined

Foot area when seat fully reclined

Partway through the flight, I had a pretty delicious cinnamon roll of sorts. There was a small self-serve snack bar with packaged snacks and other things available.

Delicious pastry

Delicious pastry

Prior to arrival, I again had my AVML. This time, it was some green beans, lentils, and rice pilaf. Again, nothing great, but perfectly passable.

AVML pre-arrival meal

AVML pre-arrival meal

Overall, I thought this was a solid business class flight. The service was great (all of the flight attendants working the cabin appeared to be Japanese–not sure if that had any bearing on anything), the seat was comfortable, and the food was passable. I would happily fly Finnair again, and I’m big fan of transiting the Helsinki airport.

Lounge Review: Korean Air Lounge Osaka (KIX)

The Korean Air lounge at Osaka Kansai (KIX) airport is located outside of security and is accessible via Priority Pass. Go down to the third floor, and look for the lounge sign near Uniqlo. Given that the lounge is located outside of security and immigration, make sure to leave plenty of time to get to your gate on time. On this visit, it took me about 30 minutes to get through security and immigration after leaving the lounge.

Signs to the lounge

Signs to the lounge

Entrance to the Korean Air lounge

Entrance to the Korean Air lounge

The Korean Air lounge offers some seating and some food (theoretically).

Seating

Seating

More seating

More seating

Alcohol

Alcohol

Drink fridge

Drink fridge

At breakfast, there were pastries, onigiri, instant soups, and instant noodles. But all of the food would disappear very quickly. As you can see from the below pictures, there was only one left of many of the items.

Sparse food options

Sparse food options

Some packaged snacks

Some packaged snacks

There’s also a meager assortment of beverages, but this lounge is really not worth a stop. It’s hard to find, the offerings are scant, and it’s located outside of security, so you can’t really relax until your flight.

Flight Review: Japan Airlines (JAL) Business Class Boeing 787 BKK to KIX

Prior to this flight, I used the JAL lounge in Bangkok, which is decent, but you should probably go to the Cathay Pacific lounge instead if it’s open. For this flight, only the JAL lounge was open.

This flight marked the third time I had flown on a Boeing 787, and the third airline’s 787 I had flown (the others being ANA and Qatar).

Plane spotting at BKK

Plane spotting at BKK

In spite of being a relatively new plane, JAL installed a 2x2x2 angled-flat business class product on these 787s. Why angled flat? I have no idea. They also do have 787s that have lie-flat seats, and you can tell if your plane should have lie-flat seats by the presence of a premium economy cabin. That being said, the plane felt very new. The seats looked great, as did the bathrooms, and I love the giant windows on the 787. There were also personal air nozzles on this plane.

Business class cabin

Business class cabin

Seats in a 2x2x2 configuration

Seats in a 2x2x2 configuration

Business class seat

Business class seat

Seat controls

Seat controls

I sat in the bulkhead, which I would recommend for the extra legroom. There were only 8 passengers in business class for this flight, so the load was quite light.

Lots of space at the bulkhead

Lots of space at the bulkhead

Less space in other seats

Less space in other seats

At my seat, I found a sleep kit (which contained an eye mask, ear plugs, face mask, and eye refresher–more airlines should provide face masks), slippers (one of my favorite airplane amenities), headphones, a pillow, blanket, and meal order sheet. JAL also has helpful guides to the seat, so you can figure out all of the different functionality. They even have a screen with information on the location of the lavatories!

Slippers, headphones, amenities

Slippers, headphones, amenities

Guide to the seat

Guide to the seat

Guide to the bathrooms

Guide to the bathrooms

A flight attendant came around offering a “relaxing wear” top (i.e. pajamas). It was a little thick, and JAL has notoriously warm cabins, so wear it at your own risk. I was also offered a bottle of water and customs and immigration forms, but no hot towel or pre-departure beverage. I’ve read that people have had issues with English proficiency on JAL, but I’ve never had any issues. One thing that I appreciated was the meal order sheet before arrival. Given that the flight was a short red eye, you could specify whether you wanted to be woken up for breakfast or not, as well as what you wanted to eat.

Meal order form

Meal order form

Given that the actual flight time for this flight was less than 5 hours and that it was an overnight flight, the menu was super abbreviated.

Food menu

Food menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

The angled flat seats are not great, and the pillow and blanket were a bit flimsy. I slept for a bit, but I ended up getting woken up by loud and long announcements about 1h 15m prior to landing. On some airlines, they really try to let you sleep for as long as possible and make very few announcements, but that was not the case on this flight.

Given that I was awake, I decided to have some breakfast. JAL posts their in-flight menus on their website, and based on looking at the menu prior to the flight, I thought I’d find something that I’d be okay eating (e.g., “plain omelette”), so I didn’t pre-order a special meal (partly because past special meals on JAL have been terrible). Little did I know that there was lots of meat in the “plain omelette with bechamel mushroom sauce”: the plate was covered in bacon, and there was chicken and shrimp in the bechamel. Also, the orange sauce on the fruit plate was actually a gazpacho.

Breakfast

Breakfast

In addition the overly early announcement, the flight attendant was extremely persistent that I be buckled in starting 30 minutes prior to landing. Like to the point of being rude. I get that it’s for my safety, but I’ve never had a flight attendant want people sitting down so early prior to landing.

Anyway, while I enjoy flying 787s, and it’s probably my favorite plane to fly if I’m in economy, I would avoid the angled-flat seats on some of JAL’s 787s. And besides the barking at me for being out of my seat 30 minutes prior to landing, the service was impeccable.

Flight Review: Qatar Airways Business Class Boeing 77W Doha (DOH) to Bangkok (BKK)

My flight from Doha to Bangkok was on a Boeing 77W on Qatar Airways. Qatar now flies an A380 on this route, but it can be hit or miss on whether your flight is actually operated by an A380 (Qatar likes to swap aircraft). On the plus side, in business class, the seats are fully flat, unlike on the A330.

Plane to take me to BKK

Plane to take me to BKK

This was a 2-class plane. The business class cabin was very similar to the A330–still a 2x2x2 configuration–but this time, the seats are fully flat. In general, the plane felt a bit newer than the A330 that I had flown to get to Doha.

Business class cabin

Business class cabin

Business class seat

Business class seat

IFE screen

IFE screen

Business class cabin

Business class cabin

Hidden beverage compartment

Hidden beverage compartment

Reclined seat

Reclined seat

Waiting at my seat were an amenity kit and noise-canceling headphones. There was also a water bottle hidden in the armrest. I was then offered a choice of pre-departure beverage, a cold or hot towel, and a newspaper. From this first interaction, I could tell that the flight attendant was on her game.

Male amenity kit contents

Male amenity kit contents

Female amenity kit contents

Female amenity kit contents

Beyond the seats and the in-flight entertainment, the bathrooms also felt nicer than they did on the A330. They had an automatic sensor faucet, which is a small but helpful amenity.

Menu

Menu

On this flight, for some reason, they had catered two special meals for me. Perhaps because I had changed my meal preferences relatively close to departure. But they had both an AVML (usually an Indian meal that’s vegetarian and includes dairy) and a JVML (Jain vegetarian meal which is vegan and doesn’t include items like garlic or onions). The AVML features rice with a curry sauce, carrots, asparagus, and paneer. The sauce reminded me of tikka masala, and it was pretty delicious.

AVML of rice, curry sauce, carrots, asparagus, and paneer

AVML of rice, curry sauce, carrots, asparagus, and paneer

The Jain vegetarian meal was peas and cauliflower served with rice and a potato curry. Also delicious.

Jain vegetarian meal of peas and cauliflower, rice, and potato sauce

Jain vegetarian meal of peas and cauliflower, rice, and potato sauce

Below is a picture of how the seats go lie flat. It’s not the best business class seat out there, but it’s fully flat, and I slept pretty well on the flight.

Seat fully reclined

Seat fully reclined

Prior to landing, they handed out immigration cards, but they did not hand out fast track cards.

Overall, it was a good flight. The seat was comfortable, I had plenty of space (partly because the cabin was again only half full), the food was great, and the service was on point.