Tag Archives: flight review

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

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

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

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

Etihad A380

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

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

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

Seat

Seat

First class apartment

First class apartment

Arm rest

Seat controls

Lighting

Sofa

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

First class amenities

Seat

First class cabin

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

Vanity and amenity kit

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

Pre-departure beverage, wet towel, dates

Letter

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

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

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

Tray table

Storage

Storage

First class bed

Underseat storage

Headphones have a magnetic connection

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

Bed

In-flight entertainment screen

Enclosed suite

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

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

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

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

Scrambled eggs

Fruit plate

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

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

Bathroom

Shower time

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

Lima beans and dried tomatoes

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

Green pea and mint soup

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

Spinach and green lentil soup

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

Grapefruit granita

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

Rice pilaf with ratatouille

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

Chocolate four ways

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

Tea and sweets

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

Flight Review: Qatar Airways First Class A320 DOH to AUH

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

Elevator in the lounge

Premium bus transfer

Qatar A320

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

First class seat on A320

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

Menu

Drink menu

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

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

Special meal VGML

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

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

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

Crowd waiting to board


Qatar’s A380

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

Up to the first class cabin on the upper deck

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

First class seat

View across the cabin

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

IFE screen and ottoman

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

Storage space at front of cabin


Seat closet


Storage space


Headphones and seat controls


Snacks at  front of cabin

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

Bathroom


Bathroom


Bathroom amenities

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

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

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

Lemon mint drink and snack prior to departure


Menu


Menu


Menu


Menu


Menu


Menu


Menu


Menu


Menu


Arabic coffee and date

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

Warm nuts and rose


Caviar service

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

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

Bread and butter

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

Arabic mezze

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

AVML

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

Tea and chocolates


Alcohol selection


Bar snacks


Bar snacks


Bar snacks


Bar


Champagnes at the bar


Snack basket

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

Pillows


Bed

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

Bread and apple and rocket (arugula) energizer


Muesli


Fruit

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

Flight Review: Tigerair SIN to BKK

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

Tigerair plane to BKK

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

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

Cabin

Cabin

Good pitch in the exit row

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

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

Extensive buy on board menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

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

Flight Review: Cathay Dragon Business Class HKG to PEN

My final destination for this trip was Penang, Malaysia, so I connected to Dragonair (now called Cathay Dragon) in Hong Kong.

Plane to Penang

The business class cabin was completely full for this flight, and I think the economy class cabin was almost completely full as well. This was a flight with a regional business class configuration, so nothing fancy, but the seat is pretty comfortable with good legroom. This isn’t a good seat for sleeping, though, since it doesn’t recline that much.

Business class cabin

Business class seat

Seat back entertainment and leg room

Business class cabin

They were serving pre-departure beverages of water, fresh orange juice, or a cocktail of passionfruit and gin. There were already headphones at every seat. Instead of a wet towel, they provided antiseptic packaged towels.

Now, it had been a couple of years since I had last flown Dragonair before this flight, and one of the things that I remembered loving about Dragonair was the canned Hong Kong style milk tea that they had. Unfortunately, they no longer carried the drink.

Menu

Menu

Menu

I had pre-ordered a special VJML (Jain vegetarian meal) for this flight. The starter consisted of cold chickpeas, peas, and kidney beans. They were served plain, which was fine, since I was happy that there was at least some protein in the vegetarian meal.

VJML starter

My seat mate had the typical starter of smoked duck breast, and graciously allowed me to photograph his meal.

Smoked duck breast starter

For the VJML entree, it was a pretty tasty combo of lentil curry, rice, and peas and cauliflower.

VJML entree

My seat mate had the angel hair pasta with mixed seafood in a cream sauce and vegetables, and he seemed to enjoy it.

Mixed seafood and pasta

Overall, I think I’ve had better special meal catering on Dragonair than Cathay Pacific, but the regional business class product is largely identical. I think there are small differences like the fact that Cathay Pacific uses hot towels while Cathay Dragon uses the packaged towel wipes, and you unfortunately can’t add Cathay Dragon on an Alaska award, but otherwise, they’re pretty darn similar products.

Flight Review: Cathay Pacific First Class BOS to HKG (CX 811)

On most flights, I typically like to sit on the right-hand side of the aircraft, but in Cathay Pacific first class, the seats on the left (1A and 2A) are more private since the center seats open up to the right-hand aisle. So on this flight, I had selected seat 1A. I will say that it seems like the flight crew defaults to using the left-hand aisle to pass through the cabin so as to disturb fewer passengers, so there is slightly more foot traffic on the left-hand side.

Cathay Pacific doesn’t have overhead bins in the first class cabin, so it feels more spacious. Instead of overhead bins, there are lockers at every seat for you to store your belongings.

My seat, 1A

Footrest and IFE screen

Seat and IFE controls

Storage closet

I was soon offered a pre-departure beverage of water, juice or champagne. I was also offered an amuse bouche of prosciutto and cauliflower, but I asked if they had a vegetarian option instead since I had requested a vegetarian meal. The flight attendant scrounged around for a bit and brought me a flaky pastry filled with hummus, an olive, and marinated sun-dried tomato instead. I was then given Bose headphones, PYE pajamas, and an amenity kit (I requested the female one to give to my sister since I already had several of the male amenity kits).

Headphones, amenity kit, pajamas

Vegetarian amuse bouche

For this flight, I had pre-ordered a special VJML (Jain vegetarian meal). I was still provided a menu and wine list for the flight, and I was told that I could order off the menu after the flight attendant asked the other passengers for their selections.

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

After takeoff, I was given warm cashews and almonds to start. I ordered a Cathay delight to drink.

Nuts to start with Cathay Delight

I started my meal service off with the caviar service. I prefer blinis to toast, and I like the spoon that Cathay uses, which makes Cathay’s caviar service one of my favorites. I was also offered an entire warmed breadbasket, although there was no handwritten card.

Caviar service

I next had a soup of white asparagus with some freshly ground black pepper. If you like soup and asparagus, then it was pretty tasty.

White asparagus soup

The salad that I was served was the salad off the menu without the lobster. It was a little odd to eat without the lobster, since the salad was mostly just frisee otherwise, but I could imagine that it would be good with lobster.

Salad

My VJML entree was not very good. There were cut green beans and cauliflower in a brown sauce. I wish there had been lentils or chickpeas or something with more protein.

Pretty bad VJML

The fresh berries in rose syrup, though, made up for my sub-par entree.

Berries in rose syrup

And since I’m a glutton, I also tried the pistachio cake with ice cream. A little too sweet for my tastes, but still good.

Pistachio cake and ice cream

After dinner chocolates

After dinner, I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth, and when I got back to my seat, the bed had already been made. In general, I found the service on this flight to be good and proficient, but maybe not quite as personable or memorable as crews I’ve had on the past on Cathay Pacific.

One benefit of the departure time of this flight is that I found it easy to sleep. I slept soundly for about 9 hours, and I find the Cathay Pacific seat and bed to be one of my favorite hard products. It’s nice and wide, and the bedding is comfortable.

Bed

For breakfast, I started with a fruit plate that was pretty delicious. I also ordered some earl grey tea which came pre-steeped.

Fruit plate

The VJML pre-arrival meal was way better than dinner. It consisted of okra, cauliflower, potatoes, and peas in a spicy and flavorful sauce.

Much tastier VJML pre-arrival meal

Overall, this was a solid flight on Cathay Pacific. It’s one of my favorite hard products for sleeping, and I felt that the service was pretty good.

Flight Review: Finnair Business Class A320 HEL to BUD

For my short hop from Helsinki to Budapest, I flew Finnair in business class on an A320. It was European business class, which just meant a blocked off middle seat.

Video screen

Video screen

Seat back

Seat back

Blocked off middle seat

Blocked off middle seat

Even though the seat wasn’t any different from economy, there was a proper meal service on this flight. And they even had printed menus!

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

There was no pre-departure beverage offered, but the snack they offered after takeoff were crackers shaped like airplanes! There was also video playing on the in-flight entertainment, but there wasn’t any sound. The video playing, though, was from just for laughs, so I guess you don’t need to hear the sound for that.

Airplane crackers

Airplane crackers

I had pre-ordered a VGML special meal, which was actually quite solid. There were beet patties of sorts with carrots and potatoes. This was served with a side of tofu with mango, as well as a small bowl of fruit. I thought the food was reasonably tasty, and the carrots seemed like they came from an actual farm. It wasn’t fancy, but I was impressed by the actual ingredients in the hot dish.

VGML

VGML

Overall, I’m a fan of Finnair. It’s not a flashy carrier, but I find their product to be solid, and I enjoy the Helsinki airport.

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