Tag Archives: business class

Flight Review: American Airlines Business Class on A321T Transcontinental JFK to SFO

As I’m preparing to embark on a trip to Southeast Asia that I’m super excited about, I went through some past photos and realized that I have several trips that I never wrote up. This one is from the end of 2014. I took a quick trip to Boston and flew back to SFO through JFK. Luckily for me, I got an upgrade to business class on one of American’s 3-class A320s that they use for transcontinental service for JFK-LAX and JFK-SFO.

I found the business class seat to be extremely comfortable. There was good cushioning, and the seat goes lie flat. The cabin itself felt spacious, and it feels relatively intimate because there just aren’t that many seats total on these flights (I feel like even economy class on these planes is more bearable because the cabin is so small).

Business class seat in 2x2 seating arrangement

Business class seat in 2×2 seating arrangement

I’m a big fan of the blanket and pillow that American has on their business class flights. The pillow is large and fluffy, and the blanket doesn’t make me run too hot or get staticky. There were also noise-canceling headphones and a bottle of water at the seat, and I was offered a pre-departure beverage.

Foothole cubby and IFE screen

Foothole cubby and IFE screen

AA’s in-flight entertainment on updated planes is quite good for a domestic carrier. Or perhaps I’m just used to the old US Airways planes that have no IFE to speak of. The screen was a good size, there was a touch screen controller, and I found the selection of movies to be good. It’s essentially the same selection they have on international flights (although again, AA actually still flies some old US Airways flights across the Atlantic that have no built-in IFE…). One thing that I didn’t like was that there were ads before movies.

Seat controls

Seat controls

Power ports

Power ports

View of business class cabin

View of business class cabin

For the meal service, there were three options, and I went with the gnocchi. The salad was fine; I didn’t eat the starter since I don’t usually eat meat. There was a choice of white bread and cheese bread to accompany the meal.

Food menu

Food menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Business class starter

Business class starter

The gnocchi was fine. Given that this flight happened in November, I felt that the entree was appropriately fall tasting, if that makes sense. I skipped the sundae and cheese, which I know is blasphemous in some circles.

Gnocchi entree

Gnocchi entree

After the meal service, I tried to get some sleep. These seats go lie flat, which is great. They might feel a little narrow, but you can lower the arm rest to get more space. Length wise, there was plenty of space for me (I’m 5’9″). I also like that you can adjust it so it’s not completely lie-flat so you don’t feel like you’re sloping backward when you’re lying down.

My main complaint about the flight (which has been well documented elsewhere) is that the cabin got extremely warm. I’m not sure what it is about the design of these planes, but I woke up sweating.

Overall, these are a huge planes are a huge improvement over the old 767s that AA used to fly on these routes, and it’s a solid product for a transcontinental flight.

Lounge Review: British Airways Terraces Lounge Manchester Airport (MAN)

Let me first say that transferring from an international to a domestic flight in Manchester is confusing. Possibly because it’s relatively uncommon to do so. For most airline transfers at Manchester, you don’t go through the normal immigration process, but you instead have to head to the transfer point, which in this case was a bus gate. You then wait for a bus (that doesn’t come as often as it says it does), then get dropped off at a transfer security gate, and then you get spit out somewhere in the terminal. I found myself in a deserted gate area and had no idea where I was going, so I wandered around until I found some police officers with extremely large guns who told me where there were shops and such.

Anyway, my first stop after transferring was the British Airways Terraces Lounge. This is a large nearly circular lounge with plenty of natural light and a view down to the concourse below. It wasn’t particularly crowded when I was there given the schedule of flights BA has.

Seating

Seating

Seating

Seating

Work areas

Work areas

Looking down on unwashed masses

Looking down on unwashed masses

Since I had come off a red-eye flight, my first order of business was to take a shower. The shower had both overhead, side, and nozzle sprays. The shower didn’t drain very well, but there was a depression in the floor right under the shower, so the bathroom didn’t flood, but it seemed a bit strange.

Shower room

Shower room

Shower

Shower

For food options, there were pretty typical continental breakfast type options: pastries, breads, fruit, yogurt, cereals, oatmeal, and chips. There was also a self-service full bar.

Food area

Food area

Coffee

Coffee

Pastries and crisps

Pastries and crisps

Fruit and yogurt

Fruit and yogurt

Drinks

Drinks

Overall, this was a pretty pleasant domestic business class lounge. Definitely a step up from domestic lounges in the US, so no complaints from me!

Trip Report: AA/US Business Class PHL to MAN A330-200

I normally wouldn’t review American Airlines business class, but I thought it’d be fun to review a flight in business class on one of the US Airways A330s. My first international business class flight was actually in US Airways Envoy class, so it was fun to see how the product has changed now that it’s technically American Airlines.

I got put on this flight relatively last minute, so I was seated in one of the middle seats, but the seats are pretty private, so I didn’t feel a huge difference by being in the center. I don’t have a ton of pictures because the captain made a specific announcement that taking pictures or video of the crew, passengers, or processes was not allowed, so I felt a little self-conscious. This was the first time I’ve heard such an announcement.

Cabin shot

Cabin shot

Former US Airways Envoy seat

Former US Airways Envoy seat

Foot space

Foot space

IFE and seat controls, outlet, reading light

IFE and seat controls, outlet, reading light

Here are some improvements over the old US Airways Envoy class product:
1) They now have the AA business class pillow and blanket. This is a huge upgrade over the crappy pillow and blanket US Airways used to use. The AA pillow is larger and fluffier, and the blanket is both more substantial and doesn’t make me run hot.
2) They have Bose noise-cancelling headphones. Another huge upgrade.
3) The IFE is the same as AA business class, which I also like better than the old US Envoy.
4) The food is standardized to AA’s menus. I don’t have tons of thoughts on this, although it’s probably better.

All in all, the fact that this is now American is a huge upgrade. The US Airways Envoy seat was/is a pretty good business class seat, but everything else that AA has brought is so much better.

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

Since I was a late-minute addition on this flight, they didn’t have my special meal requests, so I had the salmon. I don’t eat much fish/meat on planes any more, but I thought that this meal was pretty solid. The salmon was maybe a little dry, but it was pretty decent overall, and the meal service was finished pretty quickly, which is good for sleeping on these relatively short transatlantic flights.

Salmon

Salmon

Raspberry tart

Raspberry tart

Breakfast was served a little over an hour prior to arrival. You probably don’t need to partake in both meals since it’s a relatively short flight (~6 hours).

As a bonus, here are pics of some recent VGMLs on AA on legacy US Envoy planes. This first meal was just lacking in flavor, but it was pretty inoffensive. A rice pilaf with bok choy and carrots.

VGML

VGML out of PHL

This VGML starter was cold potatoes and cucumber. I kinda liked it?

VGML

VGML out of FCO

This entree was confusing, but there were some red beans in sauce, eggplant stuff, a vaguely curry-like thing, broccoli, and rice.

VGML

VGML out of FCO

This pre-arrival meal included a chickpea salad (with no dressing), some fruit, and a “sandwich” that was just some tomato and lettuce in bread.

VGML snack

VGML snack

Overall, the fact that these flights now have things like the AA pillow and blanket and Bose headphones are huge improvements over the old US Airways product.

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: Dragonair Business Class A330-300 PEN to HKG

This flight was served by a three-class plane (i.e. with first class, business class, and economy class cabins), but it was sold as a two-class flight. I was able to select seats in the “first class” cabin, presumably because of my oneworld emerald status. There was only one other passenger seated in the first class cabin with me, even though business class was quite full.

The first class cabin has reverse herringbone seats. These are super comfortable seats and are roughly the same product as US Airways Envoy class (aka American Airlines A330s now) and American Airlines business class on their 777-300ERs. It’s also essentially the same product that Cathay Pacific has in business class on many of their planes. On this flight, the business class cabin has a regional business class configuration that’s essentially the same as the business class product that I flew from HKG to DPS.

First class seat

First class seat

View of the first class cabin

View of the first class cabin

Seat controls

Seat controls

IFE screen and foot area

IFE screen and foot area

Storage space for shoes

Storage space for shoes

Side storage

Side storage

These seats are great. They’re large and spacious. The cabin is only 8 seats on these planes, so it  feels extra private. The foot areas are slightly larger on the window seats than the center seats. There’s plenty of storage with overhead bins, under the footrest storage, side compartments, and shoe storage. The armrest is also adjustable to give you extra width when you’re lying flat.

When I boarded the plane, I was escorted to my seat in 1K. The flight crew was on their game and made sure to take care of the little things like unwrapping my blanket for me rather than just giving it to me in plastic. I was offered a pre-departure beverage of water or juices, but I definitely heard a champagne bottle pop, so other passengers were partaking in more festive drinks. Again, no hot towels on this flight, but they instead used packaged moist towelettes.

I was offered a newspaper from a cart, and I asked for a copy of the International New York Times, even though I didn’t see it on the cart. Magically, though, they produced a copy.

Food menu

Food menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

On this flight, I decided to pre-order a vegetarian Jain meal (VJML). This is similar to an AVML, but there’s no dairy, root or bulbous vegetables, or mushrooms. The first course of fruit was super tasty with nicely ripe fruit. The main course was similarly delicious with flavorful and spicy vegetables served with some bread. It was small portion, but it was a great and tasty meal.

Fresh fruit

Fresh fruit

Jain meal (VJML)

Jain meal (VJML)

Given how much I enjoyed the chilled Hong Kong style milk tea on my previous Dragonair flight, I had to have another on this flight. Seriously, order it! It’s delicious.

Chilled Hong Kong milk tea–my new favorite airplane drink

Chilled Hong Kong milk tea–my new favorite airplane drink

And even though it was completely unnecessary on this relatively short flight, I did try using the seat in lie-flat mode. Not only can you lower the armrest, but there’s also an additional flap that comes up to give you even more surface area to lie on.

Seat in lie-flat position

Seat in lie-flat position

Foot area while lie-flat

Foot area while lie-flat

Overall, I was super impressed by Dragonair. Great service, great food, and great hard product. What more could you ask for?

Review: Dragonair A330 Business Class HKG to DPS

From Hong Kong, I made my way to Bali flying Dragonair, the regional subsidiary of Cathay Pacific. This flight was operated by an A330 with a regional business class configuration.

A330 to Bali!

A330 to Bali!

Because this was a regional configuration, the seats were not lie-flat, but the cabin looked great, and it was perfectly comfortable for the 4.5 hour flight from HKG to DPS. Given that this is largely a leisure route, I wasn’t surprised that the load was pretty light in business class. There were only 13 seats taken (out of 42).

Business class cabin

Business class cabin

Regional business class seat

Regional business class seat

Seat-back IFE

Seat-back IFE

Seat controls and side storage

Seat controls and side storage

Seat fully reclined

Seat fully reclined

Seat guide

Seat guide

They didn’t offer any amenity kits on this flight, but they did go around offering a pre-departure beverage of water, juice, or a guava cocktail. They also handed out wet towels, but they were essentially packaged towelettes and not hot towels.

Food menu

Food menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Given that I was pretty stuffed from eating in the awesome Cathay Pacific lounges during my layover, I asked that they hold my meal for a bit. The IFE selection was identical to the selection on my long-haul flight from the US.

One thing that I haven’t heard many people talking about is the canned Hong Kong style milk tea available on Dragonair. As far as I know, it’s only offered on Dragonair and not on Cathay Pacific, and HOLY MOLY is this stuff good. It was soooo delicious, but also super caloric and sugary and probably terrible for your health. But it’s something that I’ll look forward to whenever I fly Dragonair.

Ridiculously delicious canned milk tea

Ridiculously delicious canned milk tea

When I eventually did get my meal, it was a VGML, as requested. Up first was a pretty gross appetizer of cold mushrooms and vegetables.

VGML appetizer

VGML appetizer

The main course was pretty good. Just some basic vegetables with tomato sauce and rice, but perfectly edible.

VGML entree

VGML entree

One thing that I found a bit odd was that there appeared to be only one bathroom for business class. I can’t imagine that this would be very pleasant with a full business class cabin on a 4.5 hour flight.

Overall, this was an enjoyable flight, and Dragonair has a solid, reliable experience, just like Cathay Pacific. For regional flights, I might actually choose Dragonair over Cathay in the future just for the canned milk tea…

Review: Qantas Business Class Lounge Hong Kong Airport (HKG)

One of the lounges that I was most excited to try on my layover in Hong Kong was the recently opened Qantas Hong Kong lounge. This is one of the newest lounges in Hong Kong, and it’s definitely one of the best business class lounges I’ve been to.

Lounge sign

Lounge sign

The lounge is large and long. It’s open to the rest of the terminal, so it’s maybe a little noisier than other lounges, but it gives it a nice airy feel. There are lots of different seating options that are thoughtfully spaced out, and there are tons of electrical outlets. It’s very smartly designed with the business traveler in mind.

Lounge seating

Lounge seating

Lounge seating

Lounge seating

Circular table

Circular table

Children's area

Children’s area

Seating

Seating

Wine options

Wine options

Bar

Bar

There’s a wide variety of food options, although they’re almost all Western foods, which is a plus or minus depending on your perspective. I thought that the food was relatively mediocre when I visited, but I appreciated the variety and the availability of healthful choices. I specifically enjoyed the Japanese sweet potato and salted caramel cheesecake that I tried.

Hot food

Hot food

Food

Food

More food

More food

Desserts

Desserts

For a business class lounge, this lounge is awesome. I think it’s even better than the Turkish Airlines Lounge in Istanbul just because that lounge is so crowded. This lounge has a wide variety of food, tons of seating, tons of outlets, good wifi, and showers. It’s located above Gate 15. Hong Kong generally has great airport lounges, and this is no exception. Depending on what kind of food you’re feeling like and/or how willing you are to deal with other people, this is a great place to go.

Trip Report: Cathay Pacific Business Class A330-300 KUL to HKG

CX 724
KUL to HKG (Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong)
Depart: 5:40pm
Arrive: 9:35pm
Duration: 3h 55m
Aircraft: A330-300
Seat: 15K

The boarding time was stated as 4:40pm, but that’s just when the gate opens and you can start going through the additional security check at the gate. Boarding didn’t actually start until 5:20pm.

A333 to take me to HKG

A333 to take me to HKG

Business class was a 2-2-2 configuration on this plane for a total of 42 seats. The cabin was relatively full with only 6 empty seats. I was offered a pre-departure beverage of water, champagne, orange juice, or guava juice.

My seat, 15K

My seat, 15K

2-2-2 business class seating

2-2-2 business class seating

Business class cabin

Business class cabin

IFE screen

IFE screen and leg room

I’m a big fan of Cathay Pacific. The seats looked new and stylish, although they’re just basic recliners, so they probably wouldn’t be too comfortable on a long flight. But for a 3.5 hour flight, the seats are fine.

They served dinner on this flight, and I had pre-ordered an AVML.

Business class menu

Business class menu

Menu continued

Menu continued

Drink menu

Drink menu

For my AVML starter, I received a plate of chickpeas, beans, peas, raisins, and onions mixed together with a small side of asparagus. It was a bit odd, but it was reasonably tasty and healthy.

AVML starter

AVML starter

My entree consisted of rice, dal, and paneer. Like most Indian food on planes, it was decently flavorful and spicy.

AVML main course

AVML main course

Ice cream for dessert

Ice cream for dessert

The seats don’t recline that much, and the leg rest doesn’t have a foot rest, but again, for a non-longhaul flight, I think these seats are perfectly fine. The IFE is the same as it is on longhaul flights, so there’s a great selection, and the screen was quick and responsive.

Seat fully reclined

Seat fully reclined

Cathay Pacific is known as one of the best carriers in the world and for good reason: they offer a great, consistent product. Even on a regional business class flight, you know you’re going to get a good, solid experience with great service, and this flight was no different.

Trip Report: Malaysia Airlines Business Class A330-300 SYD to KUL

MH 140
SYD to KUL
Depart: 9:40pm
Arrive: 4:30am
Duration: 8h 50m
Aircraft: A330-300
Seat: 2A

To get from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur, I chose to fly Malaysia Airlines. This was my first time flying Malaysia Airlines, and I’m saddened that they’ve had so many unfortunate incidents and are going through hard times as I think they’re a solid carrier that I would happily fly again (and have since this first flight).

This aircraft featured a typical regional business class seat and configuration for Asia, so it was 2-2-2 seating with angled-flat seats. The cabin looked pretty new, and the seats didn’t feel worn or tired. When I arrived at my seat, I thought there were two blankets and a pillow, but one of the “blankets” was actually supposed to be used as a seat cover. No actual mattress for the seat, but it’s something.

Business class cabin

Business class cabin

Seats 2A and 2C

Seats 2A and 2C

Looking forward

Looking forward

I was offered a pre-departure beverage of juice or water. Rather than just orange juice, they also had apple juice and mango juice on offer. As boarding finished, one thing that I noticed was that almost half of the business class passengers were female. It’s pretty rare to have near gender parity in a business class cabin (e.g. I’m currently writing this on an AA flight in first class where there are 3 women out of 16 passengers). In total, the cabin was 28 out of 36 full. Amenity kits and headphones were handed out after takeoff. They didn’t offer slippers proactively, but you could request them, although they were pretty flimsy.

Catering on this flight was a supper service and refreshments before landing. I pre-ordered a VGML.

Supper menu

Supper menu

Refreshments menu

Refreshments menu

Wine list

Wine list

First up was the satay. Malaysia Airlines is supposed to be famous for their satay, so I had to try it. The satay sauce was pretty delicious, but the beef was not as it was tough and dry. The chicken was a bit better. The VGML came with vegetarian skewers, but to be honest, I’ve never had vegetable skewers that were delicious. They’re usually edible, but also underwhelming. The tofu from the vegetarian skewers dipped in the satay sauce was delicious, though.

Satay course

Satay course

VGML satay replacement

VGML satay replacement

After satay came an appetizer of cold vegetables. I wish airlines would stop serving cold vegetables as part of vegetarian special meals. There are so many other cold vegetarian dishes that could be served like hummus or other bean dip or salad or spring rolls or anything else really. The fruit was tasty, though.

VGML appetizer and fruit

VGML appetizer and fruit

My main course was some sort of mushy rice (?) cake served in a tomato-y sauce. It wasn’t the worst VGML I’ve eaten (I still think Thai First Class holds that dubious honor), but it wasn’t great. Bland and mushy aren’t a great combo.

VGML entree

VGML entree

For dessert, I had some of the chocolate cake, which was pretty good.

Chocolate cake for dessert

Chocolate cake for dessert

Two annoying things about the in-flight entertainment: 1) the screen was awkwardly low and couldn’t be adjusted, so it wasn’t very easy to watch unless your seat was at least partially reclined; and 2) they played 3 minutes of ads before each movie.

Screen is somewhat awkwardly positioned

Screen is somewhat awkwardly positioned

After dinner, I put the seat into the sleeping position. The seat was firm and slanty. I slept fine for 5 hours, but it wasn’t very comfortable for side sleeping, and my back was not happy when I woke up (does this mean I’m getting old?). The blanket was nice, but I wish the seat cover had more padding and the pillow were bigger.

They prepared the cabin pretty early for arrival. There were some movies about Malaysia and the arrivals process. My favorite part was the “celebrating 1Malaysia” song with lyrics like, “Truly Asia, the best place to be”. So catchy.

This flight is somewhat awkwardly timed in that it gets into KUL at 4:30am. To me, it would make so much more sense if they pushed back departure two hours so that it departs at 11:40pm and arrives at 6:30am, but i believe there are airport curfew restrictions at SYD that prevent a later takeoff. But it’s over 8 hours of flying time, so you theoretically could get a decent amount of sleep.

Overall, it was a good flight on MH. The cabin manager was great and addressed me by name at all interactions. And he used a more accurate version of my last name rather than how it’s typically pronounced in English. Yes, the seats could be better, but I see no reason to avoid flying Malaysia Airlines.

Trip Report: Qantas Domestic Business Class MEL to SYD Boeing 767-300

QF 426
MEL to SYD
Depart: 11:00am
Arrive: 12:25pm
Duration: 1h 25m
Aircraft: Boeing 767-300
Seat: 4A

After being impressed by the Qantas Domestic Business Class Lounge, I headed to my short flight from Melbourne to Sydney to check out Qantas’s domestic business class in-flight offerings.

The plane to Sydney

The plane to Sydney

I was immediately impressed by the cabin. 2-2-2 seating in business class with pretty comfortable seats, although the pitch was pretty tight. The cabin was completely full.

Business class cabin

Business class cabin

2-2-2 seating

2-2-2 seating

Better upholstered seats than in US domestic business class

Better upholstered seats than in US domestic business class

Bulkhead seats

Bulkhead seats

Seat controls

Seat controls

Pretty tight pitch for business class (I'm not that tall!)

Pretty tight pitch for business class (I’m not that tall!)

I was offered a pre-departure beverage of water or a cranberry drink, but it was offered so late that I had less than a minute to down it before they collected the cups. There were iPads located in the seat back pockets for in-flight entertainment, but I didn’t understand how to operate it, so I got a flight attendant to reset it (I am potentially incompetent, but my seatmate also could not get hers to work). Once it was working, however, the system was responsive and had a pretty good selection for a domestic flight.

iPad for in flight entertainment

iPad for in flight entertainment

Unlike US-based airlines (but similar to most airlines everywhere else), there was a meal service in business class on this very short flight. There was a choice between sweet corn chowder, something like a Waldorf salad, and a ham and cheese sandwich. I selected the chowder, which was pretty tasty for airline food. And the sourdough bread accompaniment was better than most airplane bread, even in first class (main exception off the top of my head: JAL first class bread), and it was given out generously. The dessert cake was also good. Overall, this meal was tastier than any meal I’ve ever had on a domestic US flight.

Sweet corn chowder

Sweet corn chowder

Pretty soon, we were flying into Sydney, and we got to enjoy some awesome views of the city prior to landing.

View flying into Sydney

View flying into Sydney

Overall, I was very impressed by Qantas domestic business class: comfortable seats, good in-flight entertainment, a genuinely tasty meal, and courteous service. Not sure what else I would ask for on a short hop like Melbourne to Sydney.