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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.

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.

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 à la carte options

Liquors continued and à 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.

Trip Report: Air France Economy Class SFO to CDG

Last year (around this time, in fact), I needed to fly to France for a couple of days. Because I was living in SF at the time, I could take the nonstop on Air France or United, or I could connect on American Airlines. Even though it wasn’t good for my status requalification, I decided to take the nonstop on Air France to save some time. This also meant I flew in coach! No opportunities to use SWUs for me.

Boeing 777-200 taking me to Paris

Boeing 777-200 taking me to Paris

On the way there, the flight wasn’t 100% full, and I had the good fortune of having an empty seat next to me. The pitch in economy class wasn’t great, but it was fine for me (I’m 5’9″).

Economy class seat

Economy class seat

Each economy class seat has a personal IFE screen. The selection of entertainment was decent, and it’s on demand, which is a step up from flying in economy on American’s 777-200s. The seats all have cup holders and foot rests as well.

Seatback entertainment

Seatback entertainment

The flight attendants handed out packages with headphones and eye masks, and they gave out refreshing towels. They also have colorful menus in economy class. None of this was particularly fancy, but they humanize the coach travel experience, and I appreciated these small touches.

Colorful menu in economy class

Colorful menu in economy class

Contents of menu

Contents of menu

One thing that I noticed was that they have a champagne on offer for the beverage service, which I guess should not be unexpected given that it’s Air France.

For my meals, I had pre-ordered AVMLs aka asian vegetarian meals. AVMLs are supposed to be Indian-inspired, but my first AVML on Air France was just a VGML with a packaged piece of cheese. The fruit was tasty and the applesauce was fine, but the entree pretty terrible. Just some overcooked vegetables with rice.

Two pet peeves of mine that this meal highlighted:
1) One of my biggest issues with vegetarian meals on airplanes is that they just don’t contain enough calories to sustain a person for an 11-hour flight. That entree is maybe 200 calories total? With the fruit and applesauce, you’re looking at maybe 300 calories? Granted, you’re just sitting for the whole flight, but that is not enough calories. There’s also essentially no protein or fat on the plate (ignoring the cheese), so nothing to keep you satiated.
2) Bok choy is terrible when non-Asians try to cook it. Somehow, they simultaneously overcook and undercook it so that it’s both mushy and stringy at the same time. It boggles my mind.

AVML

AVML

In the middle of the flight, they handed out ice cream bars, and there were mini-cakes, crackers, sandwiches, and probiotic drinks available in the galley. I ate a lot of crackers on this flight because of the calorie-deficient AVML.

In-flight snack

In-flight snack

The pre-arrival meal was a proper AVML. The entree was decent and flavorful.

AVML pre-arrival meal

AVML pre-arrival meal

As a bonus, here’s the menu from my return flight.

Menu on the way back

Menu on the way back

And here are the AVMLs on the way back. Again, one of the meals is just a VGML, but the other one was Indian-inspired and decently tasty.

AVML

AVML

AVML

AVML

Overall, I had perfectly acceptable experiences flying Air France in coach.

Review: Cathay Pacific Business Class A330-300 HKG to NRT

I had the pleasure of flying Cathay Pacific’s A330-300 from Hong Kong to Tokyo. This was three-class configuration (business class, premium economy, economy) with lie-flat seats in business class.

The seats are reverse herringbone, and they’re almost identical to the seats in Dragonair’s first class cabin on the A330. This plane felt a little bit older, and there’s more leather in the finishings. For flying from Hong Kong to Tokyo on Cathay, there are a lot of choices in terms of planes and configs, but this is the nicest in business class–for first class, you have to fly to Haneda instead of Narita.

Cathay Pacific A330-300

Cathay Pacific A330-300

The business class cabin was pretty full. I was offered a pre-departure beverage and a blanket that was unwrapped in front of me. They also passed out hot towels, as opposed to the wet towelettes that you get on Dragonair.

As other examples of small things that can make service great, I asked for a pen from one of the flight attendants who happened to be filling out paperwork. She literally just gave me the pen that she was using. The in-flight service manager also came around to greet me and thank me for flying Cathay.

Business class cabin

Business class cabin

Business class seat

Business class seat

Seat controls

Seat controls

IFE screen and foot space

IFE screen and foot space

Shoe storage

Shoe storage

Fair amount of privacy

Fair amount of privacy

When the beverage cart was going through the aisles, I noticed that the flight attendant had a cheat sheet attached to the cart with passenger last names, special meal orders, and indication if the passenger was a oneworld emerald. For my beverage, I asked for a chilled Hong Kong style milk tea, which is not on the menu, but they produced a good beverage for me. Not as good as the canned stuff on Dragonair, but I appreciated the effort.

Food menu

Food menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Chilled Hong Kong style milk tea

Chilled Hong Kong style milk tea

For my meal, I pre-ordered an AVML or Asian vegetarian meal. First up was spiced chickpeas on something that was cold and green and mushy. It was perhaps made of smashed peas. The roll was served nice and warm, but the silverware was bone-chillingly cold.

AVML entree

AVML entree

For my main course, I was served some rice with lentils, okra, and green beans. It was tasty, spicy, and cooked well. I was very happy with this dish.

AVML main course

AVML main course

For dessert, they first offered fruit and cheese from a cart. Then it was Haagen Dazs ice cream with coffee and tea. And then pralines. The meal service was pretty lengthy, as it took them about two hours to finish up on a flight that’s less than 4 hours of flight time.

Cathay is definitely one of my favorite airlines. The service is great, the hard product is great, and the food can be great.

Review: Malaysia Airlines Economy Class B777-200 DPS to KUL

On this trip, I needed to fly from DPS to PEN. I had a number of different options, but I ended up choosing to fly Malaysia Airlines through KUL. I’d flown MH before in business class, but this was my first time flying them in economy class.

Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200

Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200

Boarding started only 20 minutes before the scheduled departure time, but that may have been because it was such a light load. For some reason, I was assigned a seat essentially at the very back of the plane, but I didn’t complain because I essentially had a couple of rows to myself at the back of the plane.

Business class seats

Business class seats

Economy class

Economy class

There are two large economy class sections, and I enjoyed the bright colors of the seats. The seats are generally in a 2-5-2 seating configuration, and the seats are fined for a <3 hour flight. There are personal IFE screens at each seat, and there are individual air nozzles! The side seats in row 29 have unlimited leg room because of the emergency exits. At row 39, it switches to a 2-4-2 seating configuration, but the center seats in that row have immovable armrests.

View from the back

View from the back

Economy class seats

Economy class seats

The IFE screen quality wasn’t great, but at least there was personal IFE. It took me a long time to figure out that in addition to looped movies, there was also some on-demand content.

Seat-back IFE

Seat-back IFE

IFE controller

IFE controller

Prayer

Journey prayer before the flight

Even though the flight had a super light load (there were maybe 20 seats taken in the section of economy that I saw), there were tons of people who had ordered special meals (myself included), and the flight attendant brought out multiple trays of special meals. I ordered an AVML for this flight, and it had lentils, rice, and paneer. The lentils were quite delicious (the paneer not so much), and I would definitely order this special meal again. The lentils were really good for airplane food. The flight attendant serving me drinks did address me by name several times, and I wasn’t sure if this was due to my oneworld status or just because there were so few passengers.

VGML

VGML

Overall, I’m a big fan of Malaysia Airlines, and I’m still sad that they’ve had so many bad things happen to them. There’s no reason to avoid flying this airline, and I’ve only had positive experiences with them.