Category Archives: Trip Reports

Lounge Review: Etihad Airways Premium Lounge Abu Dhabi Airport (AUH)

My first stop during my transit of Abu Dhabi airport was the Etihad Premium Lounge. This lounge is open to business class passengers flying on Etihad.

Entrance to Etihad Premium Lounge

The lounge has all of the typical amenities of a business class lounge: plenty of seating, a business center, dining area, and bar. In addition, there are also some more novel amenities like a spa (that you have to pay for). The lounge is quite large, so there are plenty of places to sit.

Business area

Six Senses Spa

Sofa seating

Lounge seating

Dining area

Although the lounge isn’t the fanciest business class lounge I’ve been in (that would probably be Cathay Pacific’s Pier or maybe Emirates’ Business Class lounge), I was pretty impressed by the extensive food options in this lounge. The food options just seemed to go on and on. There’s everything from sushi to pandan jelly, so you’re bound to find something that appeals to you.

Sushi

Olives and pickles

Hot food

Hot food

Salads and mezze

Bakery items

Butter

Cheese, yogurt

Salads

Hot food

Bar

Dessert

Dessert

Dessert

Fruit

Dessert

Dessert

Sandwiches

Overall, it’s a solid business class lounge with quite extensive food options.

Flight Review: Qatar Airways First Class A320 DOH to AUH

For remote gates (C20 to C29), you can take an elevator from the first class lounge directly to a premium bus transfer. But you do have to wait for all of the first class passengers before the bus will leave.

Elevator in the lounge

Premium bus transfer

Qatar A320

On the flight, most of the first class cabin was occupied by a woman, her four kids, and her two nannies. I guess that’s why there’s a nanny room in the first class lounge.

First class seat on A320

Menus were distributed along with cold towels and pre-departure beverages. There was also a round of Arabic coffee and dates.

Menu

Drink menu

I’m always impressed by how much service happens on short flights on non-American carriers. On this ~40 minute flight, there was a full meal service, while you might not even get a drink service on an American carrier. There were 2-3 flight attendants working furiously in a tight space to get everything done, and some of the passengers were very demanding.

I had pre-ordered a special meal (VGML), which was some cold chickpeas, cauliflower, peas, tomatoes, and cauliflower puree with some fruit for dessert. It wasn’t great, but it’s pretty impressive for such a short flight.

Special meal VGML

Overall, first class on Qatar within the Middle East is pretty awesome. You get access to the Al Safwa lounge, and it’s an impressive amount of service for such a short flight.

Lounge Review: Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha Airport (DOH)

I’ve reviewed Qatar’s business class Al Mourjan airport lounge before at Doha, but this was my first visit to Qatar’s first class Al Safwa lounge.

As I stepped off my previous flight from Guangzhou, I was met by a person with my name on my sign. This person escorted me through transit security (and let me cut in front of everyone) and took me to the Al Safwa First Class lounge.

Escalator up to the lounge

The lounge is absolutely stunning. It’s an incredible space, and it feels like a museum. In fact, they even had pieces on loan from the Museum of Islamic Art on display!

Al Safwa first class lounge

The lounge is very large, and it has a lot of different seating areas. When I was there, almost everyone was sitting in the semi-private seats near the (very large) dining room, but there’s a lot more space to the lounge.

First class lounge seating

First class lounge seating

These seemed to be popular seats.

First class lounge seating

First class lounge fountain

Pieces on loan from Museum of Islamic Art

Art

First, there’s an outdoor terrace (by outdoor, I mean open to the rest of the terminal). It wasn’t as well air-conditioned out there, which is perhaps why no one was sitting there, but there’s a lot more seating out on this terrace.

Seating

Terrace space

Drinks

Seating

Seating

Seating

Within the lounge, they have private rooms similar to the ones they have in the business class lounge. These rooms have a sofa and seat and TV. This is perhaps somewhere to nap if all of the hotel-style private rooms are taken.

Private room

Private room

There are also rooms for children and nannies. I did not see anyone utilizing these rooms while I was in the lounge, but they are there.

Nanny room

Nanny room

Rooms for children

Rooms for children

It’s not obvious to me that any of these consoles actually worked…

Rooms for children

Rooms for children

In terms of dining, there are a couple of options. First, there’s a very large dining area that has some self-serve options as well as table service.

Bar

Dining table

Dining area

Baklava tower

Arabic coffee

Meat and cheese

Desserts

Fruit

Breakfast menu

I was there for breakfast and lunch. The breakfast options seemed pretty basic for a first class lounge.

Fruit plate and bread

After getting some food, I was able to check out one of the true private rooms. Essentially, these are like hotel rooms in the lounge available on a first-come-first-served basis.

Reception

The private rooms are pretty awesome. It’s like having a transit hotel in the middle of the lounge. One of the best perks to any lounge I’ve visited.

Private room

Private room

Bathroom

Hallway of private rooms

There’s also a business center, which was just as beautiful as the rest of the lounge.

Business area

Work station

A bit later, I grabbed some lunch in the dining room. I started off with some cream of pumpkin soup. This was just okay, as the pumpkin flavor wasn’t very strong.

Pumpkin soup

Next, I tried the spinach fattaya. This was probably the best thing I ate in the lounge!

Spinach fattaya

For an entree, I had some paneer makhni. I thought that this was also lacking flavor.

Paneer makhni

Finally, I had some dessert that the server recommended. This was essentially old pastry in a sweet cream. Not my favorite.

Dessert

If there’s one thing I can fault this lounge on, it’s the food. The food was all very average.

Beyond the main dining area, there’s also more of a “deli” kind of area if you head straight past the luggage room. This area did not seem very frequently visited (the staff member in this area seemed really excited when I wandered over). This area had sushi, salads, and a sandwich bar. This isn’t any sushi bar like the one they have in the JAL first class lounges, but it’s there.

More dining

Sushi

Tea

Salads

Deli area

Bar seating

There’s also a dessert room if you head toward the family rooms. There are cakes, macarons, etc. I sampled a macaron, and it was honestly pretty bad, even for lounge food. The texture was wrong, it was quite irregular, and the filling wasn’t good.

Desserts

Desserts

Desserts

Desserts

Chocolate art

Movie theater

Overall, this is an incredible lounge for many reasons. The space is beautiful, there are tons of great amenities (including what are essentially private hotel rooms), and there’s lots of food. In terms of the space, it’s probably my favorite lounge I’ve ever visited. But the food seriously needs improvement.

Flight Review: Qatar Airways First Class A380 Guangzhou to Doha (CAN to DOH)

My flight from Guangzhou to Doha was delayed due to traffic at Guangzhou. There were some bad thunderstorms that day, which also delayed the incoming flight. At the gate, there was a large antsy crowd of passengers ready to board.

Crowd waiting to board


Qatar’s A380

Qatar puts their first class cabin on the upper deck, so I climbed the stairs at the front of the plane.

Up to the first class cabin on the upper deck

Apologies for the bad photos, but this flight took off in the middle of the night (and landed at ~4am), so the lighting was a bit hard. But the cabin itself was gorgeous. It’s a 1-2-1 seating configuration. There’s not a ton of privacy at each seat, but each seat has tons of space, and it’s beautiful. I was also the only first class passenger on this flight, so the privacy aspect didn’t matter much.

First class seat

View across the cabin

The in-flight entertainment was started on the ground. The selection was extensive (including ALL three high school musicals–what else do you really need??). Ads played before movies, but you can fast forward through them.

IFE screen and ottoman

In terms of storage, there aren’t any overhead bins in the cabin, which gives the cabin a more spacious feel. But that means that there’s a closet next to the lavatories at the front of the cabin to store bags. There are also small closets at each seat, as well as some other miscellaneous storage compartments.

Storage space at front of cabin


Seat closet


Storage space


Headphones and seat controls


Snacks at  front of cabin

The bathrooms are large, as they typically are on the upper decks of A380s. No showers though 🙁 But I thought the orchids were a nice touch.

Bathroom


Bathroom


Bathroom amenities

I was the only passenger in first class, and business class was also very sparse. Economy at the rear of the upper deck was full, as was the lower deck of economy. A flight attendant told me that the upper deck was very full on the way to Guangzhou.

The flight time from Guangzhou to Doha was only 7 hours and 25 minutes, which wasn’t really enough time to eat, sleep, and explore the plane, so I ended up sacrificing sleep.

Prior to departure, I was offered a wet towel, a lemon mint drink, and a snack, as well as the more typical Arabic coffee and date. One thing that I also appreciated was that a flight attendant asked if I wanted the cabin temperature lowered. I said yes, although I still overheated during the flight.

Lemon mint drink and snack prior to departure


Menu


Menu


Menu


Menu


Menu


Menu


Menu


Menu


Menu


Arabic coffee and date

After takeoff, I started off with some rose and warm nuts, and then I had the caviar service. The caviar was served with two mother of pearl spoons, egg, sour cream, onion, blinis, toast, and lemon. I strongly prefer blinis to toast.

Warm nuts and rose


Caviar service

The dining table is nice and large, and it slides back and forth, which is super useful (you don’t have to contort yourself or put away the tray to get up from your seat).

The bread service was served with unsalted Beurre d’Isigny. The bread itself was too soft, but the butter was good.

Bread and butter

Next, I had the Arabic mezze, which was served with warm pita. Quite tasty.

Arabic mezze

For my entree, I had a pre-ordered special meal (AVML or Asian Vegetarian meal). This consisted of rice, kidney beans, green beans, and lotus root. Not the most attractive dish  to look at, but it was actually pretty good.

AVML

After dinner, I made my way to the bar/lounge area behind business class and chatted with a couple of flight attendants. I was the only one there for about an hour, until one other passenger joined. I imagine the lounge gets more use on busier flights.

Tea and chocolates


Alcohol selection


Bar snacks


Bar snacks


Bar snacks


Bar


Champagnes at the bar


Snack basket

I then went back to my seat to sleep for a couple of hours. Perfectly standard and comfortable. A small thing is that the bed did not seem to be flat relative to the plane floor, but rather was flat relative to the ground, so I didn’t have that backwards tilting feeling that I sometimes get on planes.

Pillows


Bed

For my pre-arrival meal service, I started with some bread and the apple and rocket energizer. I then had the bircher muesli and some fruit. All pretty tasty.

Bread and apple and rocket (arugula) energizer


Muesli


Fruit

The service on the flight wasn’t as meticulous as I’ve experienced on other airlines, but it was gracious, well-intentioned, and full of personality. The first class cabin is gorgeous, and the hard product is great. It’s not as blingy as Emirates or Etihad (and there’s no shower), but it’s a fun product to fly, and the lounge at the back of the plane is a great place to hang out.

Lounge Review: Premium Lounge Guangzhou Airport (CAN)

This lounge was extremely crowded when I visited because a lot of airlines use this lounge for their premium passengers at Guangzhou. It’s also accessible via Priority Pass, which probably adds to the crowding.

Entrance to the Premium Lounge

Some of the airlines that use this lounge

The lounge is actually deceptively large. It’s pretty long, and there are a fair number of seating areas. In addition, there’s a large dining area all the way at the end of the lounge, so if you keep walking, you’re likely to find a place to sit.

Lounge seating

More seating

Seating

Seating

For drinks, there were sodas, beer, and wine (and soy milk).

Drink fridge

Wine

There were a couple of snack stations throughout the lounge with drinks, fruit, packaged goods, and snack foods.

Fruit

Snacks

Packaged goods

At the end of the lounge was a pretty decent dining room. There weren’t as many people in this area, so there was more space to sit, and the food options were more extensive than expected.

Dining area

Dining area

Dining area

There were quite a few hot food options, but they were mostly variants of fried foods. So not the best if you’re looking for something healthy.

Fried food

One thing that I found strange was the bakery case. It was full of desserts, but you couldn’t access it yourself. There were staff standing near the bakery case, but none of them offered to help me even as I looked wistfully at the desserts.

Bakery case

Hot food trays

Soups

More fried food

Starchy food

Overall, this lounge has better food options than the Baiyun First Class lounge, but it’s a lot busier (which I guess makes the food more trustworthy since there’s higher turnover), but it’s also much more crowded.

Lounge Review: Baiyun Airport First Class Lounge Guangzhou Airport (CAN)

Transferring at Guangzhou was an… interesting experience. Probably because I was transferring from Royal Jordanian to Qatar at neither of their hubs. When I got off my Royal Jordanian flight, I asked the ground crew how to transfer flights, and they had no idea what to do with me. I ended up finding a friendly woman who called an airport staff member who works for Qatar to come to the transfer desk, and he took my passport and bag tag and then left me alone. But half an hour later, he reappeared with my boarding passes and passport!

My first stop was the Baiyun Airport First Class Lounge. At the time, this was the lounge that Qatar used for their premium class passengers at CAN (this lounge is also accessible via Priority Pass). I’ll note that this lounge is essentially just some make-shift walls carving out a space in the terminal. The lounge is completely open to the rest of the terminal, and the walls aren’t very high.

Entrance to the Baiyun Airport First Class Lounge

The lounge was quite empty when I arrived. And there were never more than a couple of other passengers while I was there. The lounge has large windows overlooking the apron, but I was there at night, and there were massive thunderstorms, so I couldn’t see much out the windows. But there was plenty of seating for the number of passengers who were there.

Lounge seating

Work stations

Another view of the lounge

In terms of beverages, there were sodas and beer. I did not see other alcoholic beverages besides beer.

Drink fridge

Other beverage options

For food, I was simultaneously impressed and a bit scared. There were some packaged foods like sandwiches, muffins, and instant noodles, and there were also some trays of hot food. However, I had no idea how long the hot food had been sitting out, and given the lack of passengers in the lounge, I can’t imagine that there’s much turnover of the hot food. So I would say eat at your own risk.

Packaged baked goods and sandwiches

Bok choy

Some sort of stir fry

Fried rice

Fruit and instant noodles

Overall, it’s a place to sit, and there’s food to eat (if you dare). Not a great lounge by any means, but it’s significantly less crowded than the Premium Lounge, which is where I headed next. So if you just want some peace and quiet, you might want to come here.

Flight Review: Royal Jordanian Crown Class (Business) A330 from BKK to CAN

Royal Jordanian has interesting fifth freedom flights out of Bangkok to HKG, CAN, and KUL. This time, I was flying their route from BKK to CAN in Crown Class (what they call their business class product).

Royal Jordanian A330 at BKK

My first impressions of the cabin were not great. The cabin looked old and tired, and the seats were quite worn down. I was originally assigned seat 2K, but there was something wrong with the arm rest of the seat, so a flight attendant asked me to switch to seat 1K.

Business class cabin

Seat 1K

View across the cabin

Things were not holding together…

Seat controls

In flight entertainment screen

In business class, there ended up being 5 passengers. The cabin had 4 rows of seating in a 2-2-2 configuration.

I was offered a pre-departure beverage of water, orange juice, or apple juice, and then I was given a menu and wine list, headphones (noise-canceling), and offered some Arabic coffee (although no dates). Just based on the way the female flight attendant offered me the menu, I knew that she’d be great.

Wine list

Food menu

There was a pillow and blanket at every seat. The pillow was large and fluffy, and the blanket was light. The seat was actually pretty comfortable for lounging, and there was plenty of legroom, but it just looked a bit old and worn. No real complaints for a short hop to Guangzhou.

The flight time to Guangzhou was 2 hours and 45 minutes. I had pre-ordered a special meal, and the flight attendants noted that it was on the manifest (and on my boarding pass), but for whatever reason, my special meal wasn’t catered. When the flight attendants found out about this mistake, they were super apologetic and tried their best to figure out something that would work. They even offered me things from their crew meals, but I told them it really wasn’t necessary (I was pretty full from grazing in three different lounges at BKK).

I ended up receiving the noodles and stir-fried vegetables that came on the side of the fish entree. The food wasn’t great (the salad appeared to be served without dressing, the bread was bad, the noodles were quite salty, dessert was fine), but I wasn’t very hungry.

Appetizer, dessert, salad, bread

Make-shift entree

After a few bites of the meal, I ended up reclining my seat and taking a short nap. The bed is angled flat, and it was actually pretty comfortable. It reminded me of American Airline’s old “next generation business class” seat, which I’ve slept in just fine. Obviously, there are much better business class seats out there, but this wasn’t bad for a short flight.

Seat fully reclined

Seat fully reclined

Overall, Royal Jordanian wouldn’t be my first choice, but I’d be happy to fly them again. The best part of the flight was the service from the female flight attendants.

Flight Review: Tigerair SIN to BKK

To get to Bangkok from Singapore, I decided to try a low-cost carrier I hadn’t tried before. Tigerair is a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines and headquartered in Singapore.

Tigerair plane to BKK

For many destinations, you can check in online, but for Bangkok, I couldn’t. So I arrived at the airport 2 hours prior to departure to find a very long check-in line. After about 25 minutes in line, I had my boarding pass and checked my bag, and it was a quick trip through immigration to the lounges.

The flight didn’t start boarding until 20 minutes prior to scheduled departure, but everything ended up being on time. Somehow, I was assigned an exit row seat, even though I hadn’t paid for it or requested one. Perhaps the check-in agent was just feeling generous? The pitch in the exit row was great for a quick flight, although the typical seat pitch is 30″.

Cabin

Cabin

Good pitch in the exit row

The cabin was relatively plain. There weren’t tons of ads everywhere like on AirAsia, and it wasn’t particularly colorful. There was an in-flight announcement that only food and drink purchased on board can be consumed during the flight, but I’m not sure how they enforce that rule.

That being said, there was an extensive buy on board menu. In the future, I might be tempted order a meal just to try it. You can pre-order meals for a discount, and there were lots of different meal and drink options (including vegetarian meals!).

Extensive buy on board menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

In general, I’m perfectly content flying low-cost carriers in Asia. The flights are usually pretty short, and the prices are often significantly cheaper than legacy carriers (although not always! especially when you add in bag and ticket fees).

Lounge Review: Ambassador Transit Lounge Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 (SIN)

There are two interesting features of the Ambassador Transit lounge in Terminal 2 of Singapore’s Changi airport: 1) it has a gym; and 2) there’s an outdoor seating area near the (accessible to the public) sunflower garden.

Entrance to the Ambassador Transit Lounge

When I visited the lounge, I was one of the only passengers there. But the lounge is actually a pretty large space with lots of seating, although the furniture was a bit old.

Seating

Lounge seating

Seating

Unfortunately, if you want to use the gym, you have to pay extra. I accessed this lounge using Priority Pass, but Priority Pass does not give you free access to the gym.

Gym

Gym

I’m not sure why someone would want to sit outside given how hot and humid it is in Singapore, but if you like, this is a lounge with an outdoor seating area. It seemed to be mostly used by people who wanted to smoke.

Outdoor terrace

Sunflower garden

I guess one final notable thing about this lounge is the number of showers it has. I think there are something like 15 shower stalls in the unisex bathroom.

Showers

Showers

In terms of food, the options were pretty limited. There were hashbrowns, mixed vegetables, chicken, rice, french onion soup, salad, and cake. For drinks, there was juice, coffee, tea, and soda, but you had to pay for alcoholic drinks. The alcoholic drinks were also not cheap, but that is common in Singapore.

Food

Soup

Food

Food

Swiss rolls

Drinks

Drinks

Drink menu

While the SATS Premier Lounge in Terminal 2 was a pleasant surprise, the Ambassador Transit Lounge at Changi was a big disappointment. I wouldn’t come here unless I really wanted to work out during a layover.

Lounge Review: SATS Premier Lounge Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 (SIN)

The SATS Premier Lounge at Singapore Changi airport Terminal 2 is located near the Singapore Airlines lounge and the DBS Asia Treasures lounge (and apparently a defunct Malaysia Airlines lounge). This lounge is accessible via Priority Pass, which is how I got in.

Entrance to the lounge

The lounge has lots of seating with lots of outlets, which is always appreciated. There are some skinny cubbies to work in, there are some sections for groups, there are two massage chairs, there is a dining area with tables and long communal tables, and there’s even a first-class section that was roped off when I visited.

Lounge seating

Seating

Massage chair

Roped off section

More seating

Cubbies for working

There are showers in the bathroom, as well.

Shower

The food options are pretty good for a Priority Pass lounge. There was dim sum and congee, a variety of hot foods like stir-friend noodles, curries, and self-serve laksa. I tried some of the fried noodles, tofu stir fry, vegetable curry, and rice, which were all edible (albeit salty). There were also sandwiches, salads, yogurt, cereal, fruit, and breads for breakfast. For drinks ,there was the typical selection of soda, beer, wine, liquor, coffee, and tea.

Hot food options

More hot food

Self service laksa

Self service laksa continued

Drinks

Drinks

Sandwiches

Salad

Dim sum and congee

Seating in eating area

Dessert and fruit

Coffee

Cake

This lounge isn’t fancy, but it’s very functional and a good Priority Pass lounge. Lots of seating and electrical outlets, decent food options, and they even have massage chairs. The one critique is that I found the wifi to be slow, but everything else was pretty solid.