Tag Archives: a380

Flight Review: Etihad Airways First Class Apartment A380 AUH to JFK

A couple of notes about this flight. First, there’s pre-clearance at Abu Dhabi, which means that you essentially clear immigration in Abu Dhabi and land as a “domestic” flight in the US. This unfortunately means that you have to leave the wonderful first class lounge much earlier than you normally would. Past pre-clearance, there’s a pretty basic lounge that’s too crowded (since all premium class passengers have access), so don’t leave too early.

Second, the flight leaves in the middle of the night (posted departure time for my flight was 3:20, and it was delayed). I was really struggling to stay awake, so I found this flight a little rough to take.

Third, I had really high expectations for this flight, given that this is supposed to be a revolutionary first class product. While the hard product is pretty great, I was pretty disappointed by the flight overall.

Etihad A380

Boarding was a zoo. There were not nearly enough seats at the gate, and the gate agents had a hard time wrangling people. They also didn’t really do any sort of announcements regarding the fact that the flight was delayed, so they didn’t seem to be managing the situation very well.

This flight was completely full in first class, and the Residence was occupied. This could have contributed to my service issues on this flight, as I don’t think there are enough flight attendants for a completely full cabin. There’s a lot to get done in terms of welcoming people, explaining the features of the “apartment”, giving out pre-departure beverages and dates and coffee, etc, so I felt forgotten most of the time.

That being said, the hard product is pretty cool. There’s a full seat, as well as a couch of sorts that becomes the bed. So there’s tons of space dedicated to each passenger.

Seat

Seat

First class apartment

First class apartment

Arm rest

Seat controls

Lighting

Sofa

In terms of amenities, the pajamas were light, but they didn’t seem to be very high quality, and they didn’t fit very well (I wasn’t given a choice of size). The pants also didn’t have pockets. My favorite airline pajamas are still Cathay Pacific’s PYE pajamas.

First class amenities

Seat

First class cabin

In terms of amenity kit, they provide you with a bag, and they had already taken out all of the amenities and put them into the mirror vanity at each seat. The bag itself did not seem to be all that special.

Vanity and amenity kit

Prior to departure, I received some water, a letter, a wet towel, and dates.

Pre-departure beverage, wet towel, dates

Letter

I’ll also note that we had a delay of an hour and 20 minutes on the plane, but we couldn’t use the in flight entertainment. I also couldn’t use the call button to get anyone’s attention, since the call button is in the IFE remote, which appeared to be disabled on the ground.

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

The tray table is pretty heavy and a bit unwieldy. In terms of storage, there are a couple of drawers, as well as a mini bar with chilled drinks (as opposed to the room temperature drinks you find on Qatar and Emirates). There’s also storage under the couch for bags and larger items.

Tray table

Storage

Storage

First class bed

Underseat storage

Headphones have a magnetic connection

Given how exhausted I was, I went to bed essentially immediately after takeoff. The bed is the couch, so the TV swivels out so you can watch TV in bed if you so wish. The bed is actually not that wide, it’s pretty hard, and you’re tilted slightly sideways because of the tilt of the plane. I felt like there could have been more pillows as well.

Bed

In-flight entertainment screen

Enclosed suite

I woke up much earlier than I wanted because of turbulence and because the cabin was super hot. I asked the flight attendants if they could do anything about the cabin temperature about 5 times, and each time they said they would do something, but nothing ever changed.

At that point, I had breakfast. One thing that’s nice about the separate bed and seat is that you don’t have to eat in bed. Now, the menu says that you can have “eggs made to order”, so I ordered some eggs fried over medium. And then I was told they didn’t have any whole eggs left, but they did have carton eggs, which means I could get eggs either scrambled or in an omelet. Another flight attendant then told me they don’t actually cater whole eggs on US-bound flights, so I don’t know what to believe.

I started off with a pastry basket, which included a croissant, pain au chocolat, and cinnamon snail. The pastries were overheated, so the texture was a bit off.

PastriesMy scrambled eggs came with some hash browns on the side, which were super soggy and oily. At this point, I rang the call button, which just went unanswered (the only other time this has happened to me was on a Qantas first class flight where I essentially had to bus my own dishes because the flight attendants kept ignoring me).

Scrambled eggs

Fruit plate

I ended up taking a shower about two hours prior to landing. Make sure to tell the flight attendant early during boarding when you’d like to shower if it’s a full flight! The shower was easily the best part of the flight, as it makes me feel super refreshed.

Although the bathroom is pretty small, the shower itself was pretty spacious. It’s not as nice or palatial as the Emirates shower, but it’s still amazing, and you get 5 minutes of water.

Bathroom

Shower time

After my shower, I had another meal. Although I had pre-ordered a VGML, the onboard chef told me that the special meal was pretty shitty, so he offered to whip up something better. I started off with some lima beans and dried tomato. Pretty flavorless by itself, but I added some olive oil to give it some taste.

Lima beans and dried tomatoes

I was then brought the green pea and mint soup, which I didn’t order. I don’t think this was intentional, as they later brought me the correct soup. This was fine.

Green pea and mint soup

Next came the soup that I did order, which was the spinach and lentil soup. It was more like a liquidy puree. Originally, I was served this course without a soon, and then the flight attendant gave me some lemon about 10 minutes after they gave me the soup, so I’m not sure if they were supposed to have been served together.

Spinach and green lentil soup

Next up was a grapefruit granita as a palate cleanser. This was super icy and pretty much inedible.

Grapefruit granita

My main was a rice pilaf with ratatouille, garnished with truffle oil. This was pretty tasty, if basic.

Rice pilaf with ratatouille

Finally, I had the “textures” dessert, which was chocolate four ways. This was easily the best thing I ate on the plane.

Chocolate four ways

Honestly, I felt like the service was pretty bad on this flight. I think it’s largely because there weren’t enough flight attendants for the number of passengers and the amount of service that each passenger needed. Like my requests would just go unfulfilled, call buttons would go unanswered, and the flight attendants seemed constantly harried. This seemed like such a stark contrast compared to my wonderful service experience in the First Class lounge. A flight attendant asked me as we were preparing for landing how my flight was, and when she sensed that I wasn’t super impressed with the service, she tried to ply me with sweets.

Tea and sweets

Overall, the hard product is pretty fun. It’s nice to have an “apartment” (even if it’s gimmicky), and it’s great to have a shower on board. That being said, I find Cathay Pacific’s bed to be more comfortable (and Lufthansa’s old separate seat and bed in first class on the 747 to be the most comfortable bed I’ve slept in on a plane), and Emirates has a better shower. The biggest let down on this flight was the service, but I think that was a function more of the completely full first class cabin (including the Residence), rather than the flight attendants themselves. So not a stellar flight due to the bad service, but it’s fun to try.

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.

Flight Review: Emirates Airlines First Class A380 DXB to SIN (EK 354)

On my second Emirates first class flight on this trip from Dubai to Singapore, I was the only passenger in first class. This flight departed at around 3am, and we were delayed a bit due to congestion. Funny how 3am is a congested time at DXB! Only in the Middle East.

Boarding an A380 to Singapore

Boarding an A380 to Singapore

Based on the first interaction, I could immediately tell that Sarah, the flight attendant serving the first class cabin, was awesome. She was super bubbly and nice, and she was really attentive. I wanted to go to sleep immediately, so I almost felt bad that I wasn’t giving her anything to do.

I told her that I wanted lots of water, the cabin temperature lowered, and to be woken up 1 hour and 45 minutes prior to landing so I could take a shower and have a meal. She set up a bed in another suite and delivered my requested water.

Asked for lots of water

Asked for lots of water and that is what I received

I slept soundly for a couple of hours, and I didn’t overheat thanks to the lowered cabin temperature. I was woken up exactly 1 hour and 45 minutes prior to departure. After waking up, I showered, which is such a great (if excessive) amenity. I felt super refreshed and was able to hit the ground running in Singapore thanks to my onboard shower.

Post-shower snack

Post-shower snack

For this flight, I had pre-ordered a vegetarian oriental special meal (VOML). Even though I was the only passenger and I had pre-ordered a special meal, Sarah told me that the entire menu was catered as well, so she guilted me into trying the vegetarian pad thai from the menu as well as my special meal.

Menu for this flight

Menu for this flight

Ready for my meal

Ready for my meal

It’s hard to see, but I enjoyed the pain au chocolat that was in the bread basket.

Breakfast bread basket

Bread basket

The vegetarian pad thai, on the other hand, was not very good. It just tasted salty and a little bit spicy, kinda like a bad chow mein. Not at all like what pad thai should taste like.

Veggie pad thai

Veggie pad thai

My VOML was actually pretty decent. It was vegetarian dim sum, although it looked a lot like meat to me. There were some stir-fried noodles, sticky rice in a banana leaf, and shu mai.

Vegetarian oriental meal (VOML)

Vegetarian oriental meal (VOML)

Finally, I had a fruit plate for dessert.

Fruit plate

Fruit plate

This crew was generally much more detail oriented than other Emirates crews I’ve had in the past. They did things like tidy up my seat while I was in the bathroom, which I’ve generally found to be more common on Asian carriers (e.g. Singapore, Cathay Pacific, ANA) than other ones. Easily the best Emirates crew I’ve had.

ICE IFE system

IFE system and a warm towel

First class seat

First class seat

Empty first class cabin

Empty first class cabin

Overall, this was a great flight. People sometimes criticize Middle Eastern carriers for having service that lacks personality and attention to detail, but Sarah on this flight was amazing, and she provided service that could rival the service I’ve received on any other airline. I just wish I were awake for more of the flight to experience more of the service!

Trip Report: Emirates A380 First Class SFO to DXB (EK 226)

This was my second flight in Emirates Airlines First Class on their A380. Emirates was actually the first airline that I ever flew in international first class, so it has a special place in my heart.

A380 to take me to DXB

A380 to take me to DXB

Boarding was a bit delayed due to a late-arriving aircraft, but I was welcomed warmly on board once boarding started.

Lots of wheelchairs waiting to board

Lots of wheelchairs waiting to board

There were only two passengers in first class on this flight, so I was shown to my assigned suite and told I could sit anywhere. This was a newer aircraft (just two months old), and it’s an impressive hard product. The suite has tons of storage space, including a closet for each seat (although it’s not actually an enclosed closet and just opens up into your suite). It feels extremely private, and I love the finishes. The only critique is that the seat itself is actually not that wide, and the cabin feels a bit crowded to me when all of the doors are closed, but that’s a function of having enclosed suites rather than open seats.

Emirates First Class seat/suite

Emirates First Class seat/suite

View of the seat/suite from behind

View of the seat/suite from behind

Seat and IFE controls

Seat and IFE controls

I was quickly offered amenities of pajamas, slippers, an amenity kit, a snack basket, and a bag to hold it all. Already at the seat was a writing kit (I’m a fan of the pen), a vanity kit, headphones, and a stocked drink mini-bar.

All of the goodies that they give you (and a helpful carrying bag as well)

All of the goodies that they give you (and a helpful carrying bag as well)

Tons of storage space in the seat

Tons of storage space in the seat

Unrefrigerated mini-bar at each seat

Unrefrigerated mini-bar at each seat

Vanity kit, mirror, and snack basket

Vanity kit, mirror, writing kit, and snack basket

Multiple people came by to greet me before the flight, and I was given a tour of the bathrooms and seat functions. And then the captain came by and offered me a chance to look at the cockpit, which was awesome! I was also told that the load was super light in all classes, with just 261 passengers and 31 crew.

View of the cabin (note the somewhat ungraciously stuffed-next-to-the-seat bedding)

View of the cabin

Looking down the aisle of the plane

Looking down the aisle of the plane

Prior to departure, I was offered Arabic coffee and dates as well as the opportunity to order a pre-departure beverage. I asked for sparking water with lime or lemon, and when I was asked if I wanted ice, I said no if the water was chilled. When I was brought the water, the flight attendant wanted to make sure that the water was cold enough for me! She was super on point.

Date and coffee before takeoff

Date and coffee before takeoff

Love that they have shower icons for their bathrooms

Love that they have shower icons for their bathrooms

Safety demonstration on the large IFE screens

Safety demonstration on the large IFE screens

This plane had the option to watch not just from a tail camera, but also a downward-facing camera as well as one at the nose of the plane, which was awesome! I love the takeoff roll on the A380 because you’re off the ground before you feel like the plane is even moving quickly.

Watching external cameras before takeoff

Watching external cameras before takeoff

After takeoff, I had the chance to peruse the massive menus. Emirates has an on-demand dining service, and I had pre-ordered an Asian vegetarian special meal (AVML). I decided to hold off on eating a proper meal given that I had eaten quite a bit in the lounge at SFO prior to the flight, so I just had some fruit to start.

Liquor menu

Liquor menu

Liquors continued and Ă  la carte options

Liquors continued and Ă  la carte options

À la carte menu continued

À la carte menu continued

Dom Perignon 2004 champagne offered

Dom Perignon 2004 champagne offered

Other wines on offer

Other wines on offer

Dessert wines

Dessert wines

I tried some for the Château Guiraud sauternes

I tried some for the Château Guiraud sauternes

Fruit plate and nuts to start

Fruit plate and nuts to start

At the time, Emirates was offering 10 megabytes of free wifi to all passengers, and an additional 500 megabytes was $1. I paid for extra data, but the wifi was slooooow. I could check email, but only intermittently.

The internet is censored in flight

The internet is censored in flight

I spent a while at the bar behind the business class cabin and had some good conversation with a senior flight steward. As much as I love the A380 as a (first class) passenger, he said that the A380 has a reputation for being crew-unfriendly (e.g. not enough galley space or ovens, smaller crew rest space compared to a 777). I was the only passenger who even passed through the bar for the couple of hours I was there, but the bar area apparently gets used much more on other flights.

Mostly self-serve first class bar

Mostly self-serve first class bar near the showers

The bar itself

Business class bar

Snacks available at the bar

Snacks available at the bar

Premium cabin bar seating

Premium cabin bar seating

Bar food menu

Bar food menu

For my main meal, I started off with some caviar. I was served a generous portion of caviar with all of the normal accoutrements including egg, sour cream, blinis, toast, onions, and lemon.

Caviar to start

Caviar to start

Next up was the appetizer of my special meal. This was a cold chickpea and jicama salad. This was pretty bland and not that appetizing.

Cold chickpea salad

Cold chickpea salad

For the entree, I was served some daal and paneer with rice. This was quite tasty! Even though it doesn’t seem like “first class” food, I ate it happily and enjoyed it quite a bit.

Daal and paneer

Daal and paneer

Raspberry tart

Raspberry tart

After the meal service, I had a bed made up in a different seat (a perk of being in an almost-empty cabin). To be honest, the bed is not as comfortable for me as other first class seats like Cathay Pacific or Lufthansa. The mattress pad isn’t that thick, so you can feel bumps in the seat, and the seat doesn’t seem to actually go lie flat (although I don’t mind the non-lie-flatness part that much since there’s a natural backwards tilt when you’re in a plane).

Seat as a bed

Seat as a bed

After sleeping for a bit, I decided to have my shower in the air. This is just such a ridiculous and excessive experience, although it does make me feel like I’m ready to go immediately after getting off a long flight. These bathrooms on the A380 are nicer than my bathroom at home. They’re super spacious with heated floors, lots of mirrors and counter space, and even a screen! They have two choices for toiletries (relax or revive), shaving kits, nail files, loofahs, a hair dryer, etc.

As an aside, I will say that I feel a bit bad for the dedicated bathroom attendants. There are two of them on A380 flights, and it seems like some members of the flight crew treat them pretty poorly.

Spacious first class bathrooms on the A380

Spacious first class bathrooms on the A380

Amenities available

Amenities available

Can still see the moving map while you use the bathroom

Can still see the moving map while you use the bathroom

Shower!

Shower!

Nicer bathroom than I have at home...

Nicer bathroom than I have at home…

Fruit after showering

Fruit after showering

Finally, as a pre-arrival meal, I was served some rice with a spicy pea curry and a samosa. All of it was again pretty tasty.

Spicy green pea curry with samosa

Spicy green pea curry with samosa

Debarking at DXB

Disembarking at DXB

Overall, Emirates has a pretty special hard product in first class on their A380s. They were the first to let you shower on board, which is a ridiculous experience. The seats are super private, and the in-flight entertainment system is the my favorite of any airline. I also think that the bar area is pretty cool. As for the soft product, the service on this flight was generally good. There were a couple of minor issues, but the flight attendants were responsive to any requests that I made. There are also tons of options for food and beverages, and the AVML I had on this flight was pretty good.

How Much Trouble Should I Endure to Fly a Specific Product?

I’ve got a trip to Southeast Asia planned for later this summer, and I was planning on flying Qatar’s and Etihad’s A380s in first class on the way back. I’d fly BKK-DOH-AUH-JFK, giving me a chance to hit up Qatar’s and Etihad’s new first class lounges as well.

But Qatar keeps changing the aircraft for my BKK-DOH leg. They fly the A380 on the route, but not for all flights, and the other aircraft they use on this route (a Boeing 777-300ER) doesn’t have a first class cabin. I already switched flights once to chase the A380 (and now have a ridiculously long layover in DOH scheduled), but today I noticed that they’re not flying an A380 on that flight that day either. I’ve already flown Qatar in business class on the 777-300ER from DOH to BKK, so that wouldn’t be a new product for me.

So now I’m contemplating what to do. I’ve got some date flexibility, so I can potentially move things around and try to get back onto the A380 (flying from Southeast Asia to the US via the Middle East is two award for American, so I can potentially have an actual layover for a couple of days in Doha), but there are also no guarantees that Qatar won’t continue to switch aircraft. These awards were also booked pre-devaluation, so I imagine that I’m limited on how many changes I can make at the old rates. And of course, there’s not currently award space on either Etihad or Qatar for the dates that would be ideal…

How much trouble should I go to to fly Qatar’s A380 in first class? Should I just wait to see if they swap aircraft again? Should I start swapping things now, even though Qatar might change aircraft again? Should I just suck it up and fly business on a product I’ve already flown?

Trip Report: Qantas First Class A380 LAX to MEL (QF 94)

QF 94
Los Angeles (LAX) to Melbourne (MEL)
Depart: 11:30pm
Arrive: 8:20am +2 days
Duration: 15h 50m
Aircraft: A380 (Phyllis Arnott)
Seat: 2A

After leaving the new oneworld lounge, I walked to the gate and admired both the new TBIT terminal and all of the A380s sitting at LAX. I think I saw China Southern, Korean, Lufthansa, and British Airways, in addition to the Qantas A380 that I’d be flying.

Why hello thar

Why hello thar

Boarding was delayed by 15 minutes at first, then again for another 5 minutes. In general, the boarding process seemed like a bit of a mess.

When I boarded, I was welcomed on board, but I wasn’t shown to my seat. I know this is a trivial thing because I clearly know how to find my seat, but I’ve found that it’s a decent barometer of how good the crew is. As in, if they don’t show you to your seat in first class, you probably have a pretty bad crew (spoiler alert: this crew was pretty bad).

I took a couple of pictures of the cabin before it filled up, and I also snuck upstairs to take some pictures of the business class cabin as well. The first class seats are a little interesting in that they swivel, so they’re forward facing for takeoff and landing but get angled when you’re lounging/dining/sleeping. The seat was plenty spacious when angled, but it wasn’t very impressive when facing forward. Qantas also puts 14 seats in their first class cabin on the lower deck of the A380, which is on the higher side.

Center seats in first class

Center seats in first class

My seat, 2A

My seat, 2A

Unusual design for first class seat

Unusual design for first class seat

Seat control and air vent

Seat control and air vent

Upstairs, they have a small lounge in the “dead” area on the A380s (where Emirates places their showers), which didn’t seem to get much use throughout the flight. I went up a couple of times and just stole snacks from the business class bar (mostly because the service was so bad in first class that I couldn’t get the attention of the flight attendant so it was easier to serve myself from the business class bar).

Stairs up to business class

Stairs up to business class

Business class seats

Business class seats

DSC06039

Upstairs lounge area

Upstairs lounge area

Drink and snack bar in upstairs lounge

Drink and snack bar in upstairs lounge

Upon returning to my seat, I was offered a pre-departure beverage, pajamas, and amenity kit. The amenity kit is made by SK-II, which I have since been told has really nice toiletries. The pajamas were pretty nice and quite similar to British Airways first class pajamas, but Cathay Pacific still has my favorite airline pajamas.

Pajamas and amenity kit

Pajamas and amenity kit

The amuse bouche was crackers, hummus, and olives. Basic, but satisfying. It was a smaller portion than I’ve seen on other trip reports, but the meal service on this flight is generally slightly abridged given that it’s a night flight, which could have explained the smaller portion. I’ll also say that there weren’t any refills offered, even though we had a half-hour delay on pushback.

Amuse bouche

Here are pictures of the menus for the flight. Again, it’s a slightly abridged menu given that it’s a night flight, so there’s no tasting menu on offer, although you can make your own sort of tasting menu by ordering as much food as you want.

DSC06049

Supper menu

DSC06051

Breakfast and hot beverage menu

DSC06052

More beverages

DSC06050

Champagne menu

DSC06053

Wine menu

Only 6 out of 14 seats were assigned the day before the flight, but the flight went out 13 out of 14 in first class. The left side of the cabin is definitely more private given that the center seats are open to the right side (similar to Cathay Pacific’s first class cabin on the Boeing 777). In general, the cabin felt a little generic and sterile to me.

Seat storage

Seat storage

Tail cam ftw

Tail cam ftw

Privacy shields down

Privacy shields down

We ended up taking off around 12:30am. I decided to try to stay up a bit to start to adjust to the destination time, so I had the meal service. The service was slooooow. It took me 45 minutes after takeoff just to get some water. And it was even longer just to get a place setting. And the pacing between courses was super slow.

Anyway, onto to food itself. I really liked the bread service, given that they had a pretty tasty sourdough. I had the warm duck salad to start, which was quite good. It was quite large, and it was slightly odd in that the the duck was warm and the salad was cold, but it was good, flavorful, and the duck was decently tender. Easily the best salad that I’ve had on a plane, and I wouldn’t have complained if I had eaten this in a restaurant.

Tasty bread service

Tasty bread service

Pretty good salad

Pretty good salad

Next up was the famed Qantas steak sandwich, and I can see why people like it so much. It makes a great in-flight snack. The relish is potent, which is good when your sinuses are dried out from flying since it’s harder to taste. The bread is nice and soft, the arugula gives the illusion of healthfulness, and it’s a sizable amount of steak. One half of my sandwich was overcooked, but I enjoyed the non-overdone half. I could also see this being sold in a restaurant.

Steak sandwich

Steak sandwich

For my entree, I had the gnocchi. It was better than most airplane pastas, but that’s not saying much. It was clear that the plate had been heated for way too long, but the gnocchi were fluffy and fine.

Gnocchi

Gnocchi

For dessert, I had the orange saverin. It was a bit like angel food cake. I was warned that the ice cream might be a little hard, but that was an understatement as it was served rock hard. Throughout the entire meal, I didn’t get my drink refilled once, even though I asked multiple times.

Fruit and orange saverin

Fruit and orange saverin

After the meal, I had my bed made. The bed is comfortable, and the mattress pad is super soft. It felt a little exposed to the aisle (and I could easily hear someone in the cabin snoring quite loudly since the seats don’t insulate sound at all), and I wish that the foot area were slightly wider, but these are major #firstworldproblems.

The cabin was also a little on the warm side, but there are air vents at the seat. At first, I thought the air vents were lights, but some of them do in fact blow air.

Bed mode

Bed mode

I rang the call button a couple of times throughout the flight since the flight attendants never went through the cabin checking on people, and I usually had to wait several minutes before anyone answered the call button. Heck, I’ve had faster responses in coach.

For breakfast, I started with the fruit salad (which was marinated in mango juice) and the bircher muesli. Bircher muesli is always so tasty.

Bircher muesli and fruit salad

Bircher muesli and fruit salad

I then got the scrambled eggs with none of the sides, which were fine.

Scrambled eggs on toast

Scrambled eggs on toast

Finally was a toasted bagel with cream cheese, lox, and avocado. I can’t remember ever having avocado on a plane, and the avocado was decently ripe, so that was novel.

Bagel and fixings

Bagel and fixings

After I finished eating, I waited. And waited. And waited some more for my plate to be cleared. After waiting for over 20 minutes, I ended up clearing my own dishes and bringing them to the galley. And the flight attendant working in the galley didn’t even say anything.

Seats with privacy shields up

Seats with privacy shields up

Anyway, if you’re flying from the US to Australia, there are only two choices for nonstop first class. Qantas has nicer amenities and better food than United, but the service on this flight was pretty terrible. The flight attendants were largely absent and extremely slow, and I’ve never had to bus my own dishes on any flight in any class of service. While the nonstop flights are convenient (especially since going through Asia adds a LOT of travel time to get to Australia), this flight was pretty underwhelming for international first class. Given how hard these flights are to get on awards, I would not worry about missing too much.

SEA 2014: Singapore Suites Class NRT to LAX A380 First Class Review

I wasn’t super impressed after the first leg of my Singapore Suites journey, but I could immediately tell after boarding that this flight was going to be a lot better. Just from the warmth of the greeting, I knew that I was in for a treat.

Why hello thar

Why hello thar

While the load from SIN to NRT was 10/12, there were only two of us continuing on to LAX. But even though the load was only 2/12, I still had 4 different people chat with me or give me something prior to departure. I didn’t get a new amenity kit on this segment since I was a through passenger, but I did get new pajamas and slippers (which were unwrapped at my seat in front of me).

Seat 4A (I was seated in 3A)

Seat 4A (I was seated in 3A)

Look across the empty cabin

Look across the empty cabin

For this flight, I had pre-ordered a VGML or strict vegetarian meal. After disappointing VGMLs on Lufthansa First Class and Thai First Class, I was interested to see what Singapore would do.

First Class VGML

First Class VGML

The rice croquette was tasty, but I just cannot with the vegetable skewers. Whyyy do airlines think that all vegetarians want to eat poorly cooked red peppers and zucchini?

Canapes

Canapes

As a terrible vegan, I had to get some caviar. No caviar spoon, but a healthy serving of caviar, and I’m sure that I could have gotten more if I had asked.

Caviar

Caviar

Next up was more bell peppers and some mushrooms. Not great, and it was served pretty cold. That being said, I actively dislike most mushrooms, so other people might like this more than I did.

Roasted pepper and mushrooms

Roasted pepper and mushrooms

They couldn’t serve soup at the time because of turbulence, so they skipped to the salad course. Except the salad was served partially frozen. If you look closely enough, you might be able to notice ice crystals on some of the radishes and frisee. I don’t particularly like eating icy salads, so I sent this course back. They apologized profusely, and ended up serving me the skipped soup course since my entree wasn’t ready.

Normal salad with vinaigrette

Normal salad with vinaigrette

The soup was actually quite good. I don’t think I’ve ever had a soy bean milk soup, and I generally am not the biggest fan of soup courses, but I liked this a lot. It was just a very large portion, so I didn’t finish it.

Soy bean milk and corn soup

Soy bean milk and corn soup

For the entree, it was a vegan lasagna, that was quite convincingly not vegan given the creaminess and cheese-like texture inside. I found this entree to be pretty successful as far as VGMLs go.

Vegetable lasagne

Vegetable lasagne

Finally, I got some tiramisu for dessert. This wasn’t on the VGML menu, but I’m a fat kid who likes cake. And this cake was reasonably tasty.

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

After dinner, the flight attendant set up two of the center seats to make the famed double bed for me. It helps that there were only two of us in the entire cabin, but as far as I could tell, the other passenger just stayed in his suite and didn’t ask for two beds to himself. Honestly, if you’re traveling by yourself, the double bed thing is kinda silly given that there’s still a divider between the seats, so you can’t comfortably straddle the two beds.

Double bed!

Double bed!

My sleeping companion

My sleeping companion

Besides the separate seat and bed combo on the Lufthansa 747, this is probably the most comfortable bed in the sky I’ve slept in. The bed is actually a little on the narrow side, but it’s quite comfortable given that it’s not just a converted seat. I also appreciated that the cabin was kept quite cold, so I didn’t wake up sweating. The Givenchy pajamas that Singapore gives out are pretty thick, so it’s easy to overheat.

After sleeping for a couple of hours, I woke up and one of the flight attendants gave me a tour of the plane. Even though the load in first class was pretty light, business class and economy class were almost completely full.

For my pre-arrival meal, I first chose the kaiseki breakfast. I generally like to choose Japanese meals catered out of Japan, but I felt that this meal was just okay. Nothing was specifically good or bad.

Kaiseki breakfast

Kaiseki breakfast

Since I was a little unsatisfied after the Japanese breakfast, I got the pancakes afterward, which were pretty good. The fruit plate was also good with all of the fruit being ripe and sweet.

Pancakes

Pancakes

He decided to stay for breakfast the next morning

He decided to stay for breakfast the next morning

Fruit

Fruit

Pretty soon, we arrived at LAX. LAX is one of my favorite US airports for plane watching as there are so many different carriers and A380s operating there. On this occasion, we were parked next to one of the Lufthansa planes painted specifically for the World Cup.

World Cup Lufthansa plane

World Cup Lufthansa plane

Overall, this flight made me understand why people rave about Singapore Airlines. The service was proactive, warm, and friendly. I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time chatting with some of the flight attendants, and they were all awesome. The food on Singapore is good–not Michelin-star quality by any means, but solid–and the hard product on the A380 is great. The bed is super comfortable, and the suite is nice and private. I’d love to fly Singapore Suites again, although it’s quite expensive to do so given that you have to pay fuel surcharges as well as a sizable number of points.

SEA 2014: Singapore Airlines Suites Class SIN to NRT Review

My flight was departing from the B gates, which was a decently long walk from the Private Room and other T3 lounges. At Changi Airport, security screening takes place at the gate. In theory, this should mean that security shouldn’t take as much time, but the cluster of gates for my flight had a number of flights departing at the same time, so the security line snaked all the way through the terminal and out toward the shops. Total DYKWIA moment, but I was shocked that there wasn’t a priority screening line or an escort for premium cabin passengers, and it took about 20 minutes to get through the security screening (there were a couple of passengers who waved business class boarding passes at people to cut the line).

Thar she blows

Thar she blows

The load on this sector was 10/12. I had booked seat 3A, and 2C and 3C were the empty seats, so it felt extremely private, even though the cabin was nearly full. The suite is very spacious and feels classy. I like the color palette, and it just feels expensive to me.

My seat, 3A

My seat, 3A

Is it bad that I think the screen is small after flying Asiana?

Is it bad that I think the screen is small after flying Asiana?

Up the cabin to the cockpit

Up the cabin to the cockpit

Down the cabin

Down the cabin

Across the way

Across the way

Up the stairs to business class

Up the stairs to business class

The in-flight entertainment was started on the ground, which I always appreciate, and the selection was great. The screen quality was good, but it honestly feels a little bit small after flying Asiana’s new first class. And, well, the fact that the suite is so big that the screen is actually kind of far away from you when you’re seated #firstworldproblems.

For my pre-departure beverage, I asked for iced milo and room temperature water. Fussy of me, yes, but I loved the fact that afterward the flight attendant checked on me to make sure that the water temperature was satisfactory to me.

Iced milo and room temperature water

Iced milo and room temperature water

I was then given menus, headphones, newspapers, magazines, an amenity kit, and pajamas. I was only offered an amenity kit on this flight since I was a through passenger, but they did offer me new pajamas on the second flight. The pajamas are made by Givenchy, and I could actually imagine wearing the top with other clothes. As airplane pajamas go, they’re a little on the thick side, so maybe not the best if the cabin is too warm.

SIN to NRT menu

SIN to NRT menu

SIN to NRT desserts

SIN to NRT desserts

Drink menu

Drink menu

DSC05830

Drink menu part 2

DSC05831

Drink menu part 3

DSC05832

Drink menu part 4

DSC05833

Drink menu part 5

They suggested that they serve lunch a couple of hours after departure to align with typical lunch hours in Singapore, and I agreed. I had prebooked the kyo-kaiseki meal, but decided to change to the laksa, which they had no problems with.

Since it was going to be a little while before food, I had more time to explore the suite.

It really is a throne

It really is a throne

IFE controls

IFE controls

Outlets and plugs

Outlets and plugs

One thing that I noticed was that there were a lot of weird spaces to drop things. Because the seat folds over to become a bed (instead of reclining into bed position), there are a lot of open spaces where I can imagine easily losing your passport or boarding pass or cell phone. While it’s maybe not the most comfortable seat, I found the seat to be quite comfortable, and I thought that the seat reclined enough, in spite of it not fully reclining into bed position.

Lots of spaces to drop things

Lots of spaces to drop things

More spaces

More spaces

What a nice view

What a nice view

The meal service started with bread service as well as satay. I wasn’t particularly impressed by the satay as the lamb was a bit chewy, and I generally didn’t find the meat to be worth eating (I am very picky about my meat when I choose to eat it). The garlic bread was tasty, as is evidenced by the fact that I devoured it prior to being served satay.

Table setting

Table setting

Satay

Satay (note the missing garlic bread)

The salad course was small, but tasty. I had the honey mustard dressing.

Salad

Salad

For my main, I had the laksa, and I asked them to take out the fish cake and prawns. They were a little confused by my request but were happy to do it. The laksa was fine and much more flavorful than most airplane dishes, but the egg was way overcooked. Like to the point where the yolk was gray instead of yellow.

Laksa

Laksa

For dessert, I had the passionfruit mousse cake, which was fine.

Passion fruit mousse cake

Passion fruit mousse cake

I then had some fruit, which I was surprised to find served whole. I can’t really remember ever being served whole fruit on airplanes, except for crappy red delicious apples on American carriers. I was pleasantly surprised to find a persimmon amongst the fruit selection.

Fruit

Fruit

With the doors closed, the suite feels extremely private. But I’m personally still unsure whether I prefer first class cabins with suites or open seats, as I appreciate the privacy of suites but enjoy the feel of open-seat cabins more.

Doors shut for privacy

Doors shut for privacy

But it's not completely private

But it’s not completely private

Seat reclined as far as it will go

Seat reclined as far as it will go

The seat in Singapore Suites on the A380 is great. It’s large and private and comfortable. The service on this flight segment, however, was not to the standard that I was expecting on Singapore Airlines. Perhaps it was because the load was relatively high, but the service was really slow, and my glass was often empty or almost empty. If I had just been judging based on this flight, I wouldn’t have understood why Singapore Airlines has the reputation it has for service. The in-flight supervisor also wasn’t great, and perhaps it was the lackluster tone that he set that led to the lackluster service.

That being said, my next segment from NRT to LAX had some of the best service I’ve had on a flight and made me totally understand why people love Singapore Airlines…

SEA 2014: Thai Airways A380 First Class Frankfurt to Bangkok (FRA to BKK)

I love Thai Airways. I don’t understand which blogger started the meme that Thai doesn’t have great service in the air, since I’ve only had superlative service experiences on Thai in first class. Or maybe it’s like a reverse racism thing where Asian people get better service on Thai than white people, similar to how white people get better service on Lufthansa than Asian people.

Thai A380 to Bangkok

Thai A380 to Bangkok

I received a very warm welcome on board. My special meal request of VGML was proactively confirmed, and slippers and a Rimowa amenity kit were already at the seat.

The seat is spacious and comfortable. It’s not a fully enclosed suite, but I think I prefer non-suites anyway since it makes the cabin feel airier. There’s tons of storage space at the seat, particularly for window seats. The in-flight entertainment had a decent selection and was very responsive.

First class seat

First class seat

Ottoman, table, and IFE screen

Ottoman, table, and IFE screen

Tons of storage at the seat

Tons of storage at the seat

More seat storage, controls, and screen of unknown function

More seat storage, controls, and screen of unknown function

View across the cabin

View across the cabin

Since first class is on the upper deck of the A380 for Thai, there are two large spaces to fill. Emirates has two showers; Lufthansa has bathrooms with urinals; Thai has a “lounge” on one side and a large bathroom on the other. The lounge is nothing special; the bathroom feels a little oddly divided, but I appreciate having lots of space to change.

First class "lounge"

First class “lounge”

Sizable first class bathroom

Sizable first class bathroom

Yes, it's a toilet on an airplane

Yes, it’s a toilet on an airplane

For this flight, the load was 9/12. It looked like there were a couple of other people on miles in the cabin as I wasn’t the only person excitedly snapping photos of the cabin.

First class menu

First class menu

First class wine

First class wine

Dom Perignon 2004 on offer

Dom Perignon 2004 on offer

After takeoff, I was served Dom 2004 and some unsalted nuts. The stemware isn’t fancy, but I appreciate the 2004 vintage over the 2003 one. I like my nuts salted, though.

Obligatory Dom + nuts shot

Obligatory Dom + nuts shot

Now, I’m not sure how much my VGML was affected by being catered out of Frankfurt instead of Bangkok, but it wasn’t good. Like this meal was some of the worst food I’ve had on a plane in any class of service. The first course was bread with vegetables on top. But not good bread or anything–just wonderbread-y bread with controversial vegetable choices.

VGML canapes

VGML canapes

After the not-so-great canapes, I decided to partake in caviar service. I find it a little excessive that they serve each passenger his/her own bread basket.

Caviar

Caviar

Up next was the worst food I’ve ever been served on a plane. If you can’t identify what’s on this plate, there’s extremely salty and soggy fried cauliflower, raw mushrooms, unidentifiable and disgusting mush, and artichokes. I tried to find something to like, but this was honestly terrible.

VGML appetizer. This was disgusting.

VGML appetizer. This was disgusting.

The VGML main course wasn’t much better. At least there was rice, which is hard to screw up. The rest of the plate was overcooked broccoli and carrots, way too many mushrooms, and a disturbing white sauce.

VGML main. Not much better.

VGML main. Not much better.

After the pretty horrendous meal (I know, it’s my own fault for getting a VGML), I decided to skip dessert and just get my bed made. The seat didn’t seem to go completely lie flat, but it was still very comfortable. The bedding isn’t as nice as other carriers like Cathay or Lufthansa, but it’s still adequate, and better than carriers like Asiana.

Bed mode

Bed mode

More bed

More bed

After sleeping for a bit, I asked for a snack of the yellow noodles with roast pork and fresh fruit. The flight attendant proactively offered to make the noodles vegetarian, which I greatly appreciated. Asian noodles are hard to mess up, and this was pretty darn tasty. I should’ve just gotten this for my first meal service.

Mid-flight snack (tasty!)

Mid-flight snack (tasty!)

For breakfast, I started off with fresh fruit, yogurt, and breads. Again, you get an entire bread basket to yourself, and I thought the almond twist in the basket was super duper tasty.

Breakfast

Breakfast

The VGML breakfast wasn’t great, but at least it wasn’t terrible like the dinner service. Potatoes, spinach, mushroom, tomato, and odd fried cake thingies. Not great, but at least edible.

VGML breakfast

VGML breakfast

As we got ready to land, a member of the crew went around the first class cabin and thanked each passenger for flying Thai and offered a deck of cards featuring the Thai A380. It was a nice token.

Yes, the dinner service was the worst meal I’ve ever had on an airplane, but the service on Thai is awesome. The hard product on the A380 is solid (as is the new hard product on their 747s, which I believe is all but one now), and I’ve been told that the normal Thai food on the menu is quite good. Overall, I’m a huge fan.

 

First Impressions of Qantas First Class A380 LAX to MEL

I’m sitting in the Qantas Domestic Business Class Lounge at Melbourne, having just got off QF 94 LAX to MEL in first class on the A380. Here are some of my first impressions.

1) The A380 is still my favorite aircraft. There’s something so magical and impressive about the beast, and there are SO many A380s at LAX, which makes for some great plane watching.

My bird to Melbourne

My bird to Melbourne

2) Qantas has a solid first class product on the A380s. It’s not a suite, but it’s decently spacious, and the bedding is quite nice.

Qantas first class seat

Qantas first class seat

3) The food is some of the best food I’ve had in the sky. The warm salad of duck confit was probably the best salad I’ve had on a plane. Overall, I was pretty impressed with the food, even if lacks to more typical “luxuries” of first class on other carriers (i.e. caviar).

Warm salad of duck confit with grapefruit, hazelnuts, and radish

Warm salad of duck confit with grapefruit, hazelnuts, and radish

4) The service… was not great. The crew was perfectly friendly, but they were slooooowwww. Normally, in first class, you can ring the flight attendant bell and someone will be at your side within 5 seconds. Not so for this flight. I rang my flight attendant call bell multiple times, and the  quickest response time was over 1 minute. Now, this is of course a first world problem, but one time I rang the call bell and had to wait over 5 minutes before a flight attendant appeared. And there was no apology or explanation for the wait. It got to the point where I even brought my own dirty dishes to the galley since the flight attendants wouldn’t collect them. What kind of first class service is that?

5) I got to go into the cockpit at the end of the flight! And the pilots were much friendlier than the pilots on the Lufthansa flight where I went into the cockpit.

Cockpit on the A380

Cockpit on the A380

Overall, I’d definitely choose Qantas over United for a nonstop first class product to Australia, but I was left puzzled by the slow, non-proactive service.