Tag Archives: trip reports

Lounge Review: American Airlines Flagship Lounge LHR Terminal 3

Up next in the reviews of Heathrow Terminal 3 lounges is the American Airlines Flagship Lounge. To save you some time, I don’t know why you would come to this lounge unless for some reason you need really fast wifi.

Entrance to the lounge

Entrance to the lounge

Honestly, I found this lounge depressing after visiting the Cathay Pacific lounge. The lounge looks old and tired and the lighting doesn’t help. It’s a pretty sizable lounge, but there are also a lot more people, so it feels crowded. What I don’t understand is why so many people come to this lounge because having access to this lounge means you also have access to the British Airways and Cathay Pacific lounges.

Seating

Seating

More seating

More seating

TV room

TV room

Food area

Food area

One benefit of this lounge is that you can stare at American planes from the lounge. And I admit, I do enjoy the AA paint job. There’s also plenty of seating and plenty of outlets, and the outlets are American-style, so you don’t need an adapter for your electronics. The wifi is also blazingly fast for an airport lounge (8.5 Mbps down, 5 up), so this lounge could be good for getting work done.

You can see AA planes from the lounge

You can see AA planes from the lounge

Beverages

Beverages

Wines

Wines

Liquor

Liquor

I like food, and the food in this lounge just seems more meager and less appealing than the food in either the Cathay or BA lounges. They do have a made-to-order menu, but I happened to arrive when they were switching menus, so I can’t comment on the quality of that food. They also have mini muffins for breakfast, which I did not see in the Cathay lounge.

Cookies and snacks

Cookies and snacks

Yogurt and fruits

Yogurt and fruits

Pastries

Pastries

Breakfast sandwiches

Breakfast sandwiches

Brunch menu

Brunch menu

Overall, I found this lounge to be a bit depressing. There’s really not much of a reason to come to this lounge when you have better options so close by.

Trip Report: Cathay Pacific First Class Hong Kong to San Francisco (HKG to SFO)

CX 872
HKG to SFO
Depart: 12:30am
Arrive: 10:15pm
Duration: 12h 45m
Aircraft: Boeing 77W
Seat: 1A

Just going to warn you that this is going to be a shitty trip report because my pictures aren’t great, but I’ve reviewed Cathay Pacific’s First Class product before (albeit on the 747 instead of the 77W) with better pictures. The differences between the 747 and the 77W are marginal in terms of hard and soft product. To me, the main difference is that there are only 6 seats in the cabin on the 77W instead of 9 on the 747. The cabin has a 1-1-1 layout in first class, with the center seats facing toward the right, so people generally prefer sitting on the left-hand side of the cabin since it feels marginally more private.

The flight was delayed about 20 minutes for operational reasons, which was caused because we were waiting for connecting passengers coming from Guangzhou. Since this flight departs after midnight, I just wanted to get on the plane and pass out.

When I boarded, I was shown to my seat, and I immediately found the flight attendant to be super bubbly. I also noticed that I had definitely flown first class before with another one of the passengers, but I was pretty darn sure that he was a person flying for business and not a miles/points enthusiast (he could be both, but it seemed like he was not flying on miles either time).

Seat 1A

Seat 1A

Super wide seat

Super wide seat

Foot area

Foot area

Seat controls

Seat controls

Fresh orchids

Fresh orchids

IFE screen and storage

IFE screen and storage

Cathay has a great first class seat. It’s not a suite, but it’s spacious, private, and not claustrophobic. The seat is incredibly comfortable, and it’s not too hard or too soft. The IFE is large and responsive, and I appreciate small touches like a fresh flower at every seat.

Decor of first class cabin

Decor of first class cabin

I was offered a pre-departure beverage and an amuse bouche of duck mousse. They also passed out headphones, an amenity kit, and pajamas. I LOVE the PYE pajamas. They are hands down my favorite airline pajamas, and they come with awesome slippers (like I regularly wear a pair of PYE slippers around the house and bring a pair with me on long-haul flights). Sizing seems pretty close to American sizing, so I would go with whatever size you normally wear.

Amuse bouche

Amuse bouche

Former first class Zegna male amenity kit and PYE pajamas

Former first class Zegna male amenity kit and PYE pajamas

I essentially passed out after we took off, but the flight was pretty turbulent, so they turned on the seatbelt sign about once an hour and made an announcement each time. About halfway through the flight, I decided to eat something, so I had the caviar, the hot pot rice, some berries, and the Chinese dessert. This was shortly after they changed from the caviar and balik salmon plate to just caviar, which I didn’t mind. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of smoked salmon (except from Willows Inn), so I liked the new preparation.

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

Alcohol

Alcohol

Caviar

Caviar

The hot pot rice was fine. It’s definitely comfort food and not fine dining food like you might find on ANA or JAL first class.

Hot pot rice

Hot pot rice

Berries

Berries

Chinese dessert

Chinese dessert

A couple of hours later and it was time for breakfast. I asked if they had any more caviar and was rewarded with more caviar. Never hurts to ask.

More caviar

More caviar

I then had some croissants, fresh fruit, and scrambled eggs. It’s impressive that they can make eggs to order in first class, and they offer some good quality products like Tasmanian honey.

Bread basket

Bread basket

Scrambled eggs

Scrambled eggs

Cathay Pacific has been reviewed to death in the blogosphere, but it’s a relatively accessible first class redemption and they offer an incredible, solid product. I can’t really find fault in anything that Cathay does as they have a great hard product, amazing service, incredible lounges, and a great hub airport. I happily fly Cathay in all classes of service, and first class always feels like a treat.

Words That You Need to Stop Using in Trip Reports: “Intuitive”

I write a lot of trip reports; I read a lot of trip reports. And one of the words that makes me cringe every time I read it is “intuitive”.

I blame Lucky for it, as I’m pretty sure his was the first blog where I read someone saying that the seat controls were “intuitive”. I remember reading it and thinking, “that’s a really odd word to use, and it doesn’t really make sense, but whatevs”. But then I kept seeing it again and again and again, both in his blog and in other blogs.

If something is “intuitive”, it should be instinctual or true without regards to conscious thought, reasoning, or past experience. Really, when people are using the word “intuitive”, they mean that something is familiar or easy to use. For example, “the seat controls resembled seat controls that I have used in the past, so I didn’t have to think too hard about how to use them”. They probably don’t mean, “if I took someone who has never been in a car/bus/train/plane before and put him in an airplane seat, he would intuit that the seat controls would move the seat in these ways”.

I think a large reason why the word “intuitive” now pops up in so many trip reports is because it’s intuitive familiar to the writers and so they don’t have to think about what they actually mean to say. Again, people need to stop and think for themselves. It’s so much easier to regurgitate phrases and memes than it is to think deliberately about what you’re writing, but that contributes to the lack of originality in blogs today.

Myths About Travel Blogging: Trip Reports are Easy/Filler Posts

I write a lot of trip reports. I mostly write trip reports because I personally find them helpful when I’m preparing for trips, and I enjoy reading well-written, well-photographed reports by other people even if I’m not. I’m not going to lie: it also helps for SEO, and some of my most frequently visited posts over the lifetime of my blog are trip reports.

But I’ve been told that some people think of trip reports as easy/filler posts. This is false. You might not like them, but trip reports are some of the most time-consuming posts to write. When I brought up trip reports amongst a group of bloggers at BACon, there were groans and the collective sentiment was that trip reports were helpful for readers but took way too long to do.

Think about it: not only do you have to make sure that you’re taking good photos while you’re on the trip, you also have to take good notes so that you can write about the trip coherently and comprehensively at some point in the future. And then the actual write-up can easily take an hour or more when you consider choosing the photos, doing any sort of edits necessary, the writing, and fact-checking to fill in any gaps that you forgot to record.

Yes, there are lots of bad trip reports out there. But I am totally forgiving of occasionally bad photos and inane captions (the only reason I usually put captions is because my formatting can get messed up if I don’t include them) because it’s frankly hard. And yes, we don’t need yet another trip report of Cathay Pacific or Lufthansa first class (although the latter will likely become much more rare now that the rest of the United tickets have been flown). But there are tons of products out there that I think are underreviewed, and if you’re not interested in a given product, just don’t read the post. I essentially x out any hotel reviews on my Feedly since they’re almost always irrelevant to me as I very rarely stay in hotels.

Summary: don’t read a trip report if you don’t like it, but don’t underestimate the amount of time and effort that goes into a decent trip report.

SEA 2014: Hilton Garden Inn Hanoi

This hotel is one of the few cheap Hilton redemptions after Hilton’s devaluation a couple of years ago. Since it’s a category 2 hotel, it’s only 10k Hilton points per night. In terms of Western hotels in Hanoi attainable using points, there’s also a category 2 Sheraton, a couple of IHG properties, a category 4 Marriott, and the Hilton Hanoi Opera, which is a category 5 (meaning 30k-40k Hilton points per night). While I haven’t stayed at any of the other hotels, I’d happily return to the Hilton Garden Inn as it was a solid choice, particularly with free breakfast via Hilton Gold status.

If you’re taking a taxi to the hotel, make sure that the driver understand that you’re going to the Hilton Garden Inn and NOT the Hilton Hanoi Opera. The latter is significantly more well known, so I was glad to have printed out a map that I could give to the driver for directions.

I unfortunately don’t have many photos of the hotel itself, so you’ll have to use your imagination. The hotel is pretty new, so things are generally nicely furnished, but it’s also not a full-service hotel, so keep that in mind. The lobby was nice and the staff was friendly, even in the face of rude hotel guests (one guy was very angry that there weren’t any bellhops to help him with his bags). The elevators weren’t air-conditioned, which I have found to be a relatively common complaint that I have in Asia.

Breakfast was surprisingly good for a not-full-service hotel. I thoroughly enjoyed the food–it wasn’t fancy or as extensive as Asian hotel breakfasts can be, but the food was solid and the pho was tasty. The service at breakfast could honestly rival first class on airlines and Michelin-starred restaurants. The servers were incredibly gracious, they were willing to fetch whatever you asked for, and they did that ninja thing that they do on Singapore such that your plates got cleared immediately upon you getting up without you noticing. It perhaps helped that I was there very early, so it wasn’t very crowded, but they were very eager to please and provide good service.

Breakfast spread

Breakfast spread

More breakfast and made-to-order station

More breakfast and made-to-order station

Typical breakfast for me

Typical breakfast for me

The room was perfectly comfortable and serviceable. My only small gripes were the design of the bathtub and the light switches. Essentially, because of the design of the bathroom, you’re going to get water on the floor when you shower. We thought that there was a leak in the tub, but when we called to get someone to come take a look, they acknowledged that the tub was poorly designed. And with the light switches, there was one light switch hidden behind a pillow that took us 15 minutes to find.

Overall, I’d happily stay at this hotel again. No, it’s not a Park Hyatt, but it’s a solid hotel with great service and tasty breakfast. And it’s one of the few affordable points redemptions left for Hilton.