Tag Archives: flight review

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

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

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

Plane spotting at BKK

Plane spotting at BKK

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

Business class cabin

Business class cabin

Seats in a 2x2x2 configuration

Seats in a 2x2x2 configuration

Business class seat

Business class seat

Seat controls

Seat controls

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

Lots of space at the bulkhead

Lots of space at the bulkhead

Less space in other seats

Less space in other seats

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

Slippers, headphones, amenities

Slippers, headphones, amenities

Guide to the seat

Guide to the seat

Guide to the bathrooms

Guide to the bathrooms

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

Meal order form

Meal order form

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

Food menu

Food menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

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

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

Breakfast

Breakfast

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

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

Flight Review: Qatar Airways Business Class A330-200 Berlin Tegel (TXL) to Doha (DOH)

To get from Central Europe to Thailand, I ended up flying on Qatar Airways. This was also partially to visit the relatively new (at the time) Al Mourjan lounge in Doha (the Al Safwa lounge had not yet opened at the time of this trip).

At Berlin Tegel airport, there was passport control and security at each gate. And then we took a bus to the plane (an A330-200).

Walking up to the plane

Walking up to the plane

Business class on these planes is not great. It’s a 2x2x2 configuration, and the seats aren’t lie flat. They’re angled-flat with 165 degrees of recline. On the upside for this flight, the business class cabin was only about half full, so I had two seats to myself on this segment.

Business class cabin

Business class cabin

Business class seat

Business class seat

The in-flight entertainment system (Oryx) had a pretty good selection of movies, but as might be apparent from the picture, it’s a somewhat older hard product, and it had an inelegant user interface. This is mostly just a function of the age of the plane, though, as I’ve flown Qatar’s A350, which has a much nicer interface.

IFE screen

IFE screen

Side storage

Side storage

Seat + IFE controls

Seat + IFE controls

Waiting at each seat was an amenity kit by Armani. Each kit had a giant bottle of aftershave, a small bit of eau de cologne, some lip balm, ear plugs, an eye shade, and socks. I was a bit surprised to not find a toothbrush and toothpaste in the bag, or at least some mouthwash. In the bathrooms, there were Ritual products, which are also featured in the lounge at Doha.

Amenity kit

Amenity kit

One perk of Qatar Airways business class that you don’t often find in business class is pajamas. They were unwrapped as they were handed to me. I liked these pajamas better than some of the pajamas I’ve received in first class. The bottoms have pockets (very useful), and the material is relatively soft and lightweight. It’s not my beloved PYE pajamas from Cathay Pacific, but I thought these were solid.

Pajamas

Pajamas

Next are pictures of the menu. I had pre-ordered a VGML, so I ate that for my main meal, and then I had some breakfast off of the normal menu prior to arrival.

A la carte menu

A la carte menu

Pre-arrival menu

Pre-arrival menu

Beverage menu

Beverage menu

Champagne menu

Champagne menu

Up first was an amuse bouche of what seemed like make-your-own bruschetta. The topping in the cup was pretty tasty, but the bread could have been a bit better. I am non-ashamedly drinking non-alcoholic champagne in this picture.

Non-alcoholic champagne and make-your-own bruschetta

Non-alcoholic champagne and make-your-own bruschetta

For an appetizer, I had the arabic mezze off of the normal menu. I enjoyed the hummus, and the tabouleh was decent. This was served with two kinds of pita.

Arabic mezze platter

Arabic mezze platter

My pre-ordered VGML was something resembling falafel served on top of rice with a vegetable tomato sauce. On the side (upper right), there was a cup of curried cauliflower and chickpeas which were the best part of the meal.

VGML–something like falafel on top of rice with a tomato vegetable sauce and a side of curried cauliflower and chickpeas

VGML–something like falafel on top of rice with a tomato vegetable sauce and a side of curried cauliflower and chickpeas

After the meal service, I got some sleep. My strategy for sleeping in angled-flat seats is to not actually recline the seat the entire way. I find that if I recline all the way, I slide down the seat, so I recline partway between “flat” and recline, and then I can sleep on my side and not slide down the seat. I will say that if you’re on this configuration, you should aim for a bulkhead seat, as that way your feet don’t have to go underneath a seat in front of you, so it feels a lot more spacious. This isn’t true for Qatar’s Boeing 77Ws, as all of the seats in business class are “lie flat”.

Prior to arrival, I wasn’t super hungry, but I had some bircher muesli with a smoothie. The bircher muesli was very creamy and pretty tasty. And immediately prior to landing, they handed out Valrhona chocolate bars.

Bircher museli

Bircher museli

Flight Review: Porter Airlines Boston to Toronto (BOS to YTZ)

Porter Airlines is a regional airline that’s remarkable primarily for the fact that they fly into YTZ (Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport) rather than YYZ (Toronto Pearson International Airport). YTZ is extremely close to the downtown area of Toronto, so it can be considerably more convenient depending on where you’re going.

They fly out of Terminal E at Boston Logan. Security was empty at 10am when I arrived, but arriving at that time also meant that I didn’t have lounge access. There’s an Air France lounge at Terminal E that accepts Priority Pass, but it doesn’t open until 1pm.

Prior to my flight, I received multiple emails about checking bags before the flight. Their carry-on bag rules seem standard–22 inches by 16 inches by 9 inches and 9 kgs total–but 9 kgs isn’t very much, and they WILL make you put your bag in the sizer if it looks like a standard carry-on size.

Stuffing my bag into the sizer

Stuffing my bag into the sizer

I originally thought that they were just being a bit mean, but the planes are absolutely tiny (I flew a Bombardier Q400), and the overhead bins don’t fit very much. Even though my bag fit into the sizer (see picture above), there was absolutely no way it was going to fit into the overhead bin, so I had to gate check my bag.

Cabin

Cabin

The seats are perfectly comfortable with a decent pitch, especially for such a short flight. Announcements were made in English and in French, and people were asked to remove headphones for takeoff.

Legroom on Porter Airlines

Legroom on Porter Airlines

Another thing that’s notable about Porter Airlines is that they provide free snacks and drinks to everyone. The snacks were also pretty good: they had Terra chips, almonds, and cookies. For drinks, you could get wine or beer as well as the typical assortment of beverages, and the drinks were served in actual glasses instead of plastic cups.

Real glasses

Real glasses

Arrival at YTZ

Arrival at YTZ

Upon arrival at YTZ, I was excited to take the ferry to the mainland given that it’s supposed to be one of the shortest ferry services in the world, but the ferry wasn’t operating, so I had to walk the very short distance through the tunnel to the main land. And then it was a quick (free) bus ride to Union Station.

Flight Review: Japan Airlines (JAL) First Class CGK to NRT Boeing 777-300ER

This was my second flight on Japan Airlines first class. You can read a review of my first flight in JAL first here.

I was welcomed warmly on board. I’ve heard other people criticize JAL for having flight attendants who don’t have a great command of English, but English proficiency was high across the board for this crew. Four of the eight first class seats were occupied on this flight, and there were two other Asian people who don’t speak Japanese on this flight (or at least they preferred to converse with the flight attendants in English instead of Japanese).

I really like the first class cabin on JAL. I think it’s classy (except for the carpet), and the hard product is great. The seat is super wide and comfortable, the screen for the in-flight entertainment is large, and there’s lots of storage space for the seat (your bag can go underneath the foot rest/ottoman, and there are a number of side compartments for storage of smaller items like a laptop or glasses case). It’s also easy to look out the windows (unlike, say, the ANA First Square product).

JAL First Class seat 2K

JAL First Class seat 2K

Looking forward into 1K

Looking forward into 1K

IFE screen and foot area

IFE screen and foot area

IFE, seat controls, and side storage

IFE, seat controls, and side storage

More storage and power outlet

More storage and power outlet

Privacy divider up

Privacy divider up

There was an amenity kit waiting for me at my seat. This was different from the one that I had received on my prior flight flying from NRT to LAX, and I asked the flight attendant if the kits had recently changed. She told me that they hadn’t, and it turns out that JAL has different amenity kits for inbound vs outbound flights. I was also offered pajamas, a pre-departure beverage, a blanket, a menu, and a small set of Shiseido amenities for men.

Inbound first class male amenity kit

Inbound first class male amenity kit

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

I don’t really understand why they build airplanes without personal air vents. The cabin got super warm during taxiing and takeoff, but they corrected the cabin temperature and kept it much cooler for this flight than my previous JAL flight. I went to sleep immediately after takeoff on this flight, and I was able to sleep much better on this flight because the cabin was cooler.

I find the JAL bed to be quite comfortable. The seat is wide, so the sleeping space doesn’t feel constricted, and they have a thick mattress pad on top (you can choose between the “hard” side and the “soft” side for the mattress pad, although I’m not sure how much difference there is between the two functionally).

Made bed

Made bed

The crew on this flight was amazing. They were extremely attentive and friendly, and there was great attention to detail. For example, they would rearrange your slippers for you when you’re sleeping so that when you wake up, you can slip them on more easily. They also unwrapped the pajamas in front of you, and they were meticulous about the amount of time the tea was steeped for. I almost felt bad for sleeping through so much of the service because this crew was so great!

The flight from CGK to NRT is blocked for about 7.5 hours, which really isn’t that long for a red-eye flight, especially if you want to eat anything. I asked a flight attendant to wake me up 1.5 hours prior to landing so I could try out some of the food. For my meal service, I started off with the caviar. The caviar presentation is maybe not as elaborate as on other carriers, but it was quite tasty, and the spoon was actually made of mother of pearl and wasn’t just shiny plastic. JAL takes their food very seriously.

Caviar service

Caviar service

Up next I had the fruit plate. Although I’m not a huge fan of dragonfruit, it was surprisingly decent.

Fruit plate

Fruit plate

For my main course, I had the pancakes. They weren’t quite like American pancakes, and they were a tad dry, but they were delicious when eaten with the cream sauce they were served with.

Pancakes

Pancakes

As accompaniments, there was a marinated vegetable salad, yogurt, bread, and green tea jelly. Perhaps not the traditional assortment of Western breakfast accompaniments, but I enjoyed the green tea jelly.

Gelatin dessert

Marinated vegetables, green tea jelly dessert, yogurt

Soon after finishing my meal, we began the descent into NRT. The flight was scheduled to land at 6:35am, and we landed a bit early. One thing to keep in mind is that the JAL lounges at Narita airport don’t open until 7:30am! I found it super strange that they have flights that arrive about an hour before the lounge even opens (e.g. most carriers will make sure that their lounges stay open through the last departure, so you’d think that the lounges would open for the first arrival).

Saying goodbye to plane

Saying goodbye to plane at NRT

Overall, this was a great (if short) flight. The service on this segment was incredible, the food was solid, and the hard product is great. Definitely a great way to fly within Asia!

Flight Review: Lion Air Economy Class B737 SIN to CGK

To get from Singapore to Jakarta, I flew Lion Air, which is an Indonesian low-cost carrier. Traveling around Southeast Asia can be super affordable thanks to all of these low-cost carriers (e.g. AirAsia, Jetstar), although you often have to be cognizant of fees.

It’s a little misleading for me to title the post “Lion Air Economy Class”, since Lion Air only has economy class on most of its planes. You can pay for extras like priority boarding or exit row seats, but most of the planes are all just one class. That being said, when I checked in, I was proactively offered an exit row seat, even though I hadn’t paid for one. Not sure what I did to merit that, but I certainly wasn’t complaining. (I also didn’t have to present my credit card that I used to purchase the flight, even though I was warned that I would have to).

Singapore’s Changi airport does security at the gate, and my gate area was shared with a beautiful Singapore Airlines A380. I longingly reminisced about my flights in Singapore Suites, but I instead was going to be boarding a Lion Air Boeing 737-900ER.

Unfortunately not my ride for the day :(

Unfortunately not my ride for the day 🙁

My main impressions of the flight were how empty everything was. There wasn’t a line at gate security, and the flight was maybe only 1/3 full. The plane itself was very no frills with no amenities to speak of. There’s no in-flight entertainment, no overhead screens, and no power outlets.

Lion Air B737 cabin

Lion Air B737 cabin

The pitch is pretty darn tight for the normal seats (SeatGuru says 29 inches), but it’s bearable for relatively short flights within the region. Then again, I’m only 5’9″, so taller people might feel differently!

Tight pitch!

Tight pitch!

As stated before, I was seated in the exit row, and a flight attendant came over to do an exit row briefing. I’ve sat in the exit row many, many times in my life, but I still try to pay attention during these briefings. This time, however, the flight attendant did the briefing in Bahasa, which I guess makes sense, but I didn’t understand a word.

Extra room in the exit row

Extra room in the exit row

On these flights, there are no complimentary snacks or drinks (unlike, say, on Bangkok Airways), but they have a variety of snacks and drinks available for purchase.

One aspect of this flight that I particularly enjoyed was the following sign in the bathroom. Just goes to show how unintuitive so many things are! We just think they’re “intuitive” because we’ve been well conditioned, but there are so many things we take for granted.

Don't squat on the toilet seat

Don’t squat on the toilet seat

We landed at a remote stand in Jakarta, which wasn’t super pleasant because the buses to take us to the terminal weren’t air conditioned. Once we got dropped off at the terminal, though, it was pretty confusing because there weren’t adequate signs or directions to go to immigration.

One last noteworthy part of this segment of the trip was that there were people at baggage claim who were checking people’s bag tags. Like once you retrieved your bag from the carousel, you had to produce your corresponding bag tag and show it to someone before you left the baggage claim area. Just something to keep in mind if you’re flying into CGK.

Overall, I happily fly low-cost carriers like Lion Air when the price is right. Yes, it’s no frills and the seats are tight, but those things don’t matter as much for short flights. It also helps that you can still get lounge access via things like Priority Pass to make the travel experience a bit more enjoyable.

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 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.

Flight Review: Cathay Pacific Economy Class A330 BKK to HKG

I’ve flown Cathay Pacific’s A330 within Asia in business class multiple times (including on the reverse direction of this route), but this time I was in Cathay Pacific’s economy class on the A330.

Boarding was a bit of a zoo. They put on the boarding passes that you should get to the gate 40 minutes prior to departure, but boarding didn’t actually start until 20 minutes prior to departure. At BKK, you do scan your boarding pass upon entering the gate area, though, so you don’t need to scan your boarding pass again to board the plane.

I unfortunately don’t have many pictures of the cabin because boarding was the aforementioned zoo and the cabin was quite full. After getting comfortable, the service manager on the flight came up to me to welcome me and give me a bottle of water, which I thought was a nice touch. I believe she greeted all oneworld Emeralds on the flight.

Cathay Pacific’s in-flight entertainment system (Studio CX) has a great selection, but they do play ads before movies. At least you can fast forward through them. There was also a power outlet at every seat.

Personal IFE

Personal IFE

I had pre-ordered a vegetarian special meal, and the VGML was fine. It was vegetables, some tomato-y sauce, and polenta. It was served with fruit, soy milk (yum!), bread, and juice.

VGML

VGML

Even though this was only economy class, I felt like I received great service. I was referred to by my last name by multiple different flight attendants (e.g. when I went to the bathroom and when my tray was cleared), and the flight attendants were gracious, attentive, and seemed to genuinely enjoy their jobs. It probably helped that I had oneworld Emerald status on this flight, but flying on Cathay is such a stark departure from flying on American carriers. The service in economy class on this flight was better than the majority of my domestic business class flights in the US. A great product in the air and awesome lounges in Hong Kong (even for business class passengers or oneworld Sapphire members) make Cathay Pacific one of my favorite airlines to fly.

Flight Review: Japan Airlines (JAL) Economy Class B767 NRT to BKK

To get from Tokyo to Bangkok, I flew Japan Airlines in economy class on a Boeing 767 plane. The first thing I noticed upon entering the plane was that the seats and cabin looked pretty old.

Economy class cabin

Economy class cabin

Economy class seats

Economy class seats

A nice thing was that it was only 2-3-2 seating in economy class, and the load was pretty light, so I was able to get two seats to myself. This flight is about 7 hours long, which is pretty darn long for an intra-Asia flight, but they at least had personal IFE at every seat. It was a little old and janky, but at least it was on demand entertainment, even if the selection was only mediocre.

IFE screen

IFE screen

The flight boarded late, and we ended up departing an hour late for an unknown reason. But what made the flight all the more interesting was that the two people sitting behind me were having a loooong argument about how much they hated each other. From what I gathered, they were traveling together, and one person was essentially crying about how the other was being so mean to her while the other was saying how she deserved being on the receiving end of so much hate. This conversation/crying lasted for the entire delay through the meal service, so about 2 hours of hating on each other.

Now, I’ve traveled a fair amount both by myself and with other people, and what I’ve learned is that I’d much rather travel by myself than travel with someone I dislike. When you’re traveling with another person–particularly when you’re traveling in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language–you’re going to be spending a ton of time with that person in potentially stressful situations. And you also have to navigate the other person’s likes and dislikes and quirks and idiosyncrasies, and it can be hard to find other people to blow off steam with since the people around you don’t speak your language. The moral of this story is make sure you’re compatible traveling with someone before you commit to a trip with them! Just because you’re good friends in daily life does not mean you’ll be good travel companions.

Anyway, onto the flight. I pre-ordered a VGML, and it was not good. The food wasn’t flavorful, the bread was terrible, the rice was mushy, the vegetables were overcooked, etc. This made me sad since JAL has such good food in first class and in their lounges. I also got some frozen fruit for dessert while everyone else got ice cream.

VGML

(Pretty bad) VGML

One nice touch was that there was a card posted in the bathroom, and they had toothbrushes available. Pretty good for economy class!

Card and amenities in bathroom

Card and amenities in bathroom

Special meal sticker

Special meal sticker

Given that it’s a 7-hour flight, there was a pre-arrival snack. The VGML snack was again really disappointing. This was a piece of bread with a slice of fruit and lettuce in it. I really don’t know what the JAL catering was thinking…

Pre-arrival snack

Pre-arrival snack

JAL First Class may be one of my favorite products in the sky, but this flight was a bit of a let-down. The seats were a bit old, the IFE wasn’t great, and the food (or at least my special VGML) was pretty bad. I’d rather fly Cathay Pacific or Dragonair within Asia.