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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.

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.

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: JAL First Class Boeing 777-300ER NRT to LAX

Oh, JAL. I love JAL. I love Cathay too, but JAL invests so much in their food, and their first class catering is a step above any other airline’s in my opinion. JAL definitely has its shortcomings (and their special meals are terrible from my limited experience), but food is definitely the way into my heart.

My Cathay flight from HKG was delayed a bit, so my connection ended up being quite short. Luckily, there was a JAL representative waiting for me as I got off my Cathay flight, and she escorted me to my next flight. It was a bit comical as she kinda jogged in front of me while I walked as quickly as I could without running, and I couldn’t tell if she wanted me to run with her or not. She then helped me cut to the front of the transit security line, saving me about 20 minutes. Funnily enough, boarding was delayed 20 minutes for the JAL flight, so the flight hadn’t even started boarding by the time that I arrived at the gate, and I probably could’ve stopped by the JAL first class lounge, which is one of my favorite lounges.

JAL Boeing 777-300ER

JAL Boeing 777-300ER

The gate agents were actually enforcing priority boarding lines, which was pretty funny because one passenger in business class just couldn’t believe that he had to wait behind other people and kept trying to get into the first class line. One of the first class passengers also had a small entourage and a JAL agent personally carry a small shopping bag of his and escort him onto the plane.

When I boarded the plane, I was shown to my seat and welcomed warmly. I’d previously read of issues with English proficiency on JAL, but all of the flight attendants had super high English proficiency (although one was clearly more confident in speaking English than the other).

My first impressions of the cabin were positive. I liked the dark color palette, and the suite is large with a super wide seat. There were slippers already at the seat, and I love me some airplane slippers. I wear a size 9, and the slippers fit me well, so you might be out of luck if you have larger feet.

First class seat

First class seat

Lots of space

Lots of space

There’s both underseat storage that fits a normal carry on and overhead bins. There are also lots of side compartments for smaller items (or even larger items–I could fit my laptop with lots of room to spare in one of the side compartments). The only strange thing about the cabin was that there’s a large dead space between the suite and the window with an open grate, and I definitely saw some items had fallen through the grate.

So many compartments

So many compartments

Electrical outlet

Electrical outlet

Privacy divider

Privacy divider

First class cabin

First class cabin

One strange thing–open grate between seat and window

One strange thing–open grate between seat and window

I was offered a hot towel and a pre-departure beverage of champagne or orange juice. The bathroom had a standard Japanese toilet as well as cloth towels instead of normal paper towels.

Hot towel and pre-departure beverage

Hot towel and pre-departure beverage

I also took a moment to check out the business class cabin. JAL has a fully-flat business class product on their B777-300ERs in a 2-3-2 seating configuration. Even though it’s 2-3-2, each seat technically has direct aisle access. The seats looked perfectly comfortable (if a bit narrow).

Business class seat

Business class seat

More business class seat

More business class seat

Business class mini-cabin

Business class mini-cabin

The pillow and blanket already at my seat were pretty serious business–nice and sturdy. There was wifi and an extensive seat instructions guide available. I also enjoyed a number of smaller design elements–the reading light doubled as a headphone hook, and there was a small cutout under the ottoman storage for shoes. The ottoman can also be used for guest seating given that it has a seat belt, and it’s probably one of the nicer guest seats in the sky (e.g. Cathay’s guest seat is pretty tiny comparatively).

Lots of privacy

Lots of privacy

Pillow and blanket for sitting

Pillow and blanket for sitting

Details on JAL wifi

Details on JAL wifi

Seat and suite guide

Seat and suite guide

The IFE screen is 23 inches diagonally. Not as ridiculously large as Asiana’s first class IFE screen, but still a good size. I didn’t really use the IFE at all during the flight, but the movie selection looked decent. The non-movie selection, however, looked pretty bad for people who don’t speak Japanese.

IFE controller

IFE controller

I also liked the tray table design. First, the tray table is massive, so there’s plenty of space to spread out. Second, the tray table is adjustable so it moves back and forth. This means that it’s easy to get out of your seat even if the tray table is out, and you can move it super close to yourself so you don’t have to bend over while eating.

Another thing that I like about JAL is that they post their food and drink menus online prior to the flights. So if you’re obsessive like I can be, you can see what’s on offer and figure out exactly what you want to try before you’re even in the air.

Classy wine and drink menus

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Food menu

Food menu

Food menu

Food menu

First up was an amuse bouche. There was shrimp with roe, a ball of pate, and a vegetable rice roll with some seafood inside. These were probably the worst things I ate on the flight, and that was just because they were just fine and forgettable.

Amuse bouche

Amuse bouche

I decided to go the Japanese route for my main meal service. I started with the five seasonal delicacies. I don’t think I’d ever had soft cod roe, and it looked a bit like shirako to me. I really enjoyed the tofu preparation, and it had actual truffles on top! The egg cake was good, as was the kobashira (I believe this is a type of clam). The only one I didn’t finish was the deep-simmered conger eel, but that’s because I didn’t feel like eating the bones.

First course

First course

Love the chopsticks and holder

Love the chopsticks and holder

I skipped the soup course, but I indulged in the Salon 2002 champagne. This was the cleanest and clearest tasting champagne that I’ve had. I think I prefer it to the Dom Perignon and Krug that other airlines cater.

Salon 2002

Salon 2002

Up next was some squid and spiny lobster with caviar and a seafood egg custard. I really enjoyed the spiny lobster, and it was a novel way to eat caviar for me. The seafood custard had uni, shrimp, mushrooms, and something else on it. I’m normally a huge fan of uni, but this uni did not have the same uni goodness that I love.

Caviar and seafood custard

Caviar and seafood custard

Next was the sukiyaki of wagyu beef filet, served with tofu, an egg, miso soup, Japanese pickles, and rice. The beef was super tasty and tender, and the tofu was delicious. This was a great way to finish the savory foods. I also switched my beverage to the royal blue tea, and I don’t think I’ve ever had anything quite like it. The taste was very complex for tea, with multiple undertones and aftertastes.

Beef, tofu

Beef, tofu

For dessert, there was a yogurt ice cream with mandarin jelly, a pudding, and a black bean cake. The yogurt ice cream had something like pop rocks on it, and it reminded me of eating froyo. The pudding was Ryugin’s signature Roppongi pudding, and that was ridiculously good. The black bean cake was fine and made better with some wine.

I asked for a glass of Riesling to drink with dessert, and the flight attendant spilled a bit of wine when she poured me a taste. She was absolutely horrified at herself and acted as if she had kicked my puppy and insisted that she bring me a new glass and change my tablecloth. I told her that it was unnecessary, but they definitely care about presentation.

Trio of desserts

Trio of desserts

And since I’m a fatty, I tried the dessert off of the western menu as well. This was a Japanese inspired Mont Blanc. To me, it tasted extremely Asian, if that makes sense.

More dessert

More dessert

Overall, this was definitely the most ambitious meal I’ve eaten on a plane. It’s hard to serve seafood on a plane because it’s not going to be nearly as fresh as it can be on the ground, and it’s hard to heat properly given their limited equipment, but I appreciated the effort.

After dinner, I got ready for sleep. The pajamas are a bit on the thick side. The quality isn’t as nice as pajamas on Cathay or Singapore, but they have pockets. I normally wear a small in the US, and small was the appropriate size for me for the pajamas, even though the flight attendant recommended that I get a medium.

Amenity kits and pajamas

Amenity kits and pajamas

You can choose either a soft or hard mattress (really, they’re just two sides to the same mattress pad), and I went with soft. The cabin wasn’t that warm, but with the thick pajamas and blanket, I definitely overheated. They also handed out macarons at this point, and they were really quite good.

Bed mode

Bed mode

More bed

More bed

Hevin macarons

Hevin macarons

I was woken up exactly 90 minutes prior to landing. There’s not preset second meal service per se, so you’re not going to get fed unless you actively order something. I asked for the Japanese curry, the ruibe salmon, some fruit, and another Roppongi pudding.

The curry was super flavorful–it was like getting punched in the tongue with every bite. I’m still debating whether that’s good or bad. The ruibe salmon is a bit like eating salmon marinated in soy sauce. The texture is similar to balk salmon. The fruit plate was solid with ripe fruit. And the Roppongi pudding was again ridiculously delicious.

Japanese curry

Japanese curry

Straight shot across the Pacific

Straight shot across the Pacific

Fruit and more Roppongi pudding

Fruit and more Roppongi pudding

Overall, I really enjoyed my flight on JAL. The food was good and ambitious, the service was eager and friendly, and the hard product is solid with lots of small design touches that I appreciate. The service wasn’t as confident or as polished as I’ve experienced on other carriers, but I’m not complaining.

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: Malaysia Airlines Economy Class B737-800 KUL to PEN

To board this flight, you first had to scan your boarding pass to be let into the holding area. After that, it was essentially a free-for-all, even though they made boarding announcements to let families with small children, business class, and oneworld elites to board first. In the US, I can understand why people jockey for boarding position given the fight for overhead bin space, but I generally haven’t seen the same fights happen in other countries until this flight. Even though passengers are supposed to be limited to 7 kgs of carry-on baggage, there was definitely a scramble for overhead bin space on this short flight. And in comparison to my nearly-empty Malaysia Airlines flight from DPS to KUL, this flight was nearly full.

Malaysia Airlines Boeing 737-800

Malaysia Airlines Boeing 737-800

Business class seats

Business class seats

The interior of this plane looked really new. Lots of dark leather. The seats in economy class and individual IFE screens (controllable via touch screen and remote), in-seat power outlets, and a USB port. The IFE selection was on-demand and pretty sizable for a domestic route, and there were personal air vents. Overall, this was a super nice plane for a domestic flight.

Economy class cabin

Economy class cabin

Economy class seat

Economy class seat

Exit row

Exit row

Power ports in economy class

Power ports in economy class

Seatback IFE and controller

Seatback IFE and controller

I managed to snag an exit row seat for this flight, which meant that I had lots of leg room. The seat did not appear to recline, though.

Since this was such a short flight (~201 miles), there was no meal service, but they did do a full drink service with peanuts. Rather than use a cart, they did the entire service via trays.

Yet again, this was a positive experience on Malaysia Airlines. This plane was great: new interior, personal IFE, air nozzles, and in-seat power. Can’t ask for much more on a domestic flight!

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

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

Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200

Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200

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

Business class seats

Business class seats

Economy class

Economy class

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

View from the back

View from the back

Economy class seats

Economy class seats

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

Seat-back IFE

Seat-back IFE

IFE controller

IFE controller

Prayer

Journey prayer before the flight

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

VGML

VGML

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