Tag Archives: first class

Lounge Review: JAL First Class Lounge Tokyo Narita Airport (NRT) Satellite Terminal

I’ve reviewed the JAL First Class Lounge in the Main Terminal of Tokyo Narita (NRT) airport before, but this trip (in November 2014) was my first time in the First Class Lounge in the Satellite terminal. I love Japan Airlines much more than many travel bloggers, mostly because I think they have great food (except for their special meals), both in the air and on the ground.

Entrance to the first class lounge

Entrance to the first class lounge

The lounge agents were super welcoming when I was checking in. JAL offers short massages to first class passengers, so you should see if they have open slots right when you enter the lounge because they can fill up quickly.

The lounge was pretty empty when I was there, so I was able to arrange a massage during my layover. The lounge features lots of different seating options with varying degrees of privacy and ample power outlets.

Seating

Seating

Seating areas

Seating areas

More seating

More seating

Beyond the massages given by people, they also have fancy massage chairs. I love these chairs! Too bad they’re thousands of dollars…

Massage chair

Massage chair

Apron views

Apron views

Since I had just gotten off a long-haul flight, I asked for a shower. The shower rooms are quite small and a bit too warm for my liking, but the room was clean and I enjoyed the shower amenities that they have.

Directing you to massage rooms, shower rooms, and bathrooms

Directing you to massage rooms, shower rooms, and bathrooms

Small shower room

Small shower room

After my shower, I was able to get a 10-minute massage. It wasn’t anything special (the massages that I’ve gotten in Cathay Pacific’s the Pier lounge and the Thai Airways Spa have been better), but it was still nice and appreciated after a long flight.

The lounge has drinks and snacks available, including Hokkaido milk, which is supposed to be some of the best milk anywhere, and the Sky Time drink that’s made specially for JAL.

Snack foods

Snack foods

Alcohol selection

Alcohol selection

Hokkaido milk and Sky Time drink

Hokkaido milk and Sky Time drink

In this lounge, there’s a separate dining area where they serve food (and you’re expected to keep the food in the dining room). The buffet featured salads, udon noodles, desserts, breads, soups, two hot entrees, curry, and rice. The food was all generally good, although I felt that it wasn’t quite up to the standard of the food at the lounge in the main terminal.

Dining room

Dining room

Cold food

Cold food

Make your own noodle bowls

Make your own noodle bowls

Japanese curry

Japanese curry

Fried rice

Fried rice

Pastries

Pastries

Desserts

Desserts

Self-serve towel warmers

Self-serve towel warmers

Seating in the dining room

Seating in the dining room

One thing that I’ll point out that the satellite lounge lacks is a sushi bar. They have a sushi bar with actual sushi chefs in the first class lounge in the main terminal. Like where they don’t serve the sushi with wasabi on the side because they already put wasabi on the sushi. And the rice is ridiculously delicious. A number of lounges around the world serve sushi (e.g. the United Club at HKG, the ANA Lounge at NRT, the Emirates First Class Lounge in Dubai), but this is by far the best sushi that I’ve had in a lounge, and it’s better than most of the sushi I’ve eaten at restaurants in the US. Granted, the sushi bar is not open the entire time the lounge is open–it’s only open for lunch and dinner (although I would happily eat sushi for breakfast).

Sushi bar!

Sushi bar in the main lounge!

Plate of sushi

A delicious plate of sushi

Anyway, I know people disagree, but I really like JAL’s first class lounges. The lounge in the main terminal is strictly superior to the lounge in the satellite terminal because of the sushi bar, but it was nice that I was able to get a massage in the satellite terminal lounge (which I’ve never been able to do in the main terminal lounge).

Lounge Review: Cathay Pacific’s The Pier First Class Lounge (Renovated) Hong Kong Airport (HKG)

I’ve reviewed every other oneworld lounge in Hong Kong (the Wing, the Cabin, the Bridge, the Arrival, the Qantas lounge, and the Dragonair lounge), as well as many other lounges in Hong Kong (the Plaza Premium lounge, the United lounge, the Thai Airways lounge, and the Singapore Airlines lounge). I’ve even reviewed the old Pier lounge. But this is a review of the renovated Pier First Class lounge, and let me say that I think this is my new favorite airport lounge in the world. Holy moly is it great.

Entrance to the Pier

Entrance to the Pier

This lounge is beautiful. My photos do not do it nearly enough justice. It looks and feels like a cozy, luxury hotel. The lounge never felt crowded while I visited, and there’s lots of seating. The tables beside the chairs contain hidden power ports. The chairs themselves were also just super comfortable!

Hallway

Hallway

Seating

Seating

More seating

More seating

Bar

Bar

Work station

Work station

The lounge has shower rooms and day suites. The day suites are pretty basic, as it’s just a small area with a curtain, so there’s not much noise insulation, but no one was using any of them when I asked to take a look. The attendant said that you can use one for 1.5 hours. The shower rooms maybe aren’t as fancy as the cabanas at the Wing, but I certainly have no complaints about the shower rooms.

Hall of day beds

Hall of day suites

Day bed

Day bed

Shower

Shower

The food options in this lounge are both extensive and awesome. There’s a huge dining room with table service as well as a self-serve buffet in a separate room. For the self-serve buffet, think of the cold section of a good buffet at a luxury Asian hotel. For breakfast, there were pastries, breads, fruits, salmon, cold cuts, etc. For lunch, they had delicious-looking tarts and some savory cold dishes. Make sure to check the fridge for jars of more foods.

Service cart

Service cart

Breakfast buffet

Breakfast buffet

Breakfast spread

Breakfast spread

Well-stocked fridge

Well-stocked fridge

Coffee

Coffee

Desserts

Desserts

Lunch foods

Lunch foods

The dining room is incredible. It’s easily much better than the dining room at the Wing, and I’d say I like this dining room better than the Qantas First Class lounge in Sydney or the Emirates First Class lounge in Dubai. The Wing always felt crowded to me (maybe because the tables are so close together), but the Pier’s dining room is spacious and gorgeously appointed.

Dining room

Dining room

Dining room

Dining room

Dining room

Dining room

There’s a full made-to-order menu, and they even have a separate (smaller) vegetarian menu! I had some bircher muesli and juice for breakfast, and both were good. For lunch, I had a salad, eggplant with mapo tofu, and some mango sticky rice, along with a non-alcoholic ginger forest to drink. This meal was great, and I would happily pay money for this food (to me, this is a huge compliment to airport food). This food is actually good food.

Dining menu

Dining menu

Muesli

Muesli

Salad

Salad

Eggplant and tofu

Eggplant and tofu

Mango sticky rice

Mango sticky rice

One final perk of the Pier is that they offer complimentary 10-minute massages. I chose the neck and shoulder massage, and the masseuse was very good.

Again, I think this is my new favorite lounge in the world. The lounge itself is beautiful, the amenities are awesome (incredible food options, free massages, day beds), and the service throughout the lounge was friendly and attentive. My only (incredibly minor) complaint is that the carpet in the hallway is really soft, so I found it oddly difficult to wheel my bag around. But seriously, I would go out of my way to use the Pier over the Wing, even if it meant trekking back to the low-numbered gates because the people mover only takes you in one direction.

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: Cathay Pacific First Class ORD to HKG

I know that Cathay Pacific First Class has been reviewed to death, but this flight was one of the best flights I’ve ever had. The flight attendant was absolutely incredible, and I ordered a VGML for this flight, so that will at least be novel. I’ll skip the pictures of the hard product.

The 77W taking us to Hong Kong

The 77W taking us to Hong Kong

On this flight, I was pretty sure that the first class cabin was just people who had used miles. There were two youngish American couples in first class plus me. I booked my ticket at the last moment, so unless these couples were rolling in it, I imagine that they had booked their tickets pretty far in advance for their honeymoons or something.

Cathay’s seat is one of my favorite first class hard products. It’s giant and comfortable. It’s not an enclosed seat, but I’ve never felt that privacy was an issue with these seats.

One of the most comfortable seats in the sky

One of the most comfortable seats in the sky

I’m also in love with Cathay’s amenities. When I took this flight (a very long time ago), they had just switched amenity kit providers, so the first class amenity kit was made by Aesop. They still have the PYE pajamas, which I love.

PYE pajamas and the new(ish) Aesop amenity kit

PYE pajamas and the new(ish) Aesop amenity kit

I asked for a Hong Kong style milk tea, but for some reason, they couldn’t serve that prior to departure (I’m really not sure why since they just make it from a powder). And they also couldn’t serve me sparkling water. So I ended up with some green tea to go with my VGML pre-flight appetizer. At first, I thought it was fruit in a mousse, but it was in fact hummus and vegetables. I enjoy both of those things, so I thought that it was tasty.

VGML appetizer of hummus with vegetables and some tea

VGML appetizer of hummus with vegetables and some tea

I could immediately tell that Carrie, the flight attendant serving the first class cabin, was awesome. In most cases, I think you can tell very quickly if the flight is going to be remarkable or not. She was fun and gracious at the same time. She also offered to let me try the non-VGML appetizer of crab, after she confirmed that I was okay with eating something not vegetarian. If you like crab, you’d probably like the appetizer, but I preferred the hummus.

Normal crab appetizer with avocado and citrus

Normal crab appetizer with avocado and citrus

Menu for the flight

Menu for the flight

Non-alcoholic drinks

Non-alcoholic drinks

Drink menu

Drink menu

I think that Cathay’s caviar service is great. They have blinis, all the fixings, and a Cathay Pacific-branded caviar spoon. You might notice a glass of Krug in the photo, which was poured because Carrie insisted that I drink some champagne.

Caviar service

Caviar service

No metal spoons here

No metal spoons here

For the main course, the VGML was an Indian-inspired dish of chickpeas, rice, and eggplant. It’s essentially a business class meal plated as a first class dish. But the food was tasty, which is what matters. I would order and eat it again, and I’d be happy to eat this at an Indian restaurant.

VGML entree of chickpeas, rice, and eggplant

VGML entree of chickpeas, rice, and eggplant

For dessert, I took advantage of the red bean soup. They’ll serve it hot or cold (I chose hot). This is a super Asian dessert and super comforting to me.

Red bean soup for dessert

Red bean soup for dessert

Berries and cream

Berries and cream

They lowered the cabin temperature after the meal service, so the cabin was nice and cool for sleeping. No overheating this time. After sleeping for a couple of hours, I woke up and decided to have a snack given the length of the flight. First up was the fruit plate and berry smoothie.

Fruit plate and smoothie

Fruit plate and smoothie

I then asked for the wonton noodles with two fried eggs on the side. Cathay offers made-to-order eggs for their breakfast service, so I wondered if they’d bat an eyelash if I asked for some fried eggs to accompany my noodles. I think the flight attendant was a little confused at first by exactly what I wanted, but I did get the noodles and eggs so I could add the eggs to the noodles.

Asked for the noodles with two fried eggs

Asked for the wonton noodles with two fried eggs

Right before landing, we had breakfast. The VGML breakfast consisted of a cheeseless omelet with peppers and onions and an assortment of sides (spinach, potatoes, tomato, and mushrooms). I’m not sure why they include an omelet in a VGML since a VGML is supposed to be free of eggs and dairy products, but the omelet was pretty tasty. The sides were less tasty. In general, I think the mid-flight snacks are tastier than the second meal service items, so I wouldn’t hesitate to order those instead of breakfast.

VGML breakfast of a cheeses omelet with peppers, onions, and sides of spinach, tomato, potatoes, and mushrooms

VGML breakfast

Given that Carrie noticed how excited I was about the flight, she brought me one of the new (at the time) business class amenity kits. The business class kit contains Jurlique products, and the bag is a little nifty.

Contents of the business class amenity kit

Contents of the business class amenity kit

Overall, this was one of the best flights I’ve ever taken. So what makes service good? For me, it’s the small touches: always being addressed by name, making sure not to interrupt when you’re in the middle of something, being gracious, attending to small details like the position of items on the table, reading the passenger to know how to interact with them, noticing when you need things before you know you need them. This was the most proactive Cathay crew I’ve had, and they were one of the best crews I’ve ever had on a flight.

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.

Trip Report: Qantas First Class Lounge Sydney Airport Review

Besides flying Qantas First Class on the A380 (which turned out to be a really disappointing experience), I was super excited to visit the Qantas First Class Lounge in Sydney, given that I had heard it was one of the best airport lounges in the world. While I didn’t get to try the complimentary spa services (which have been shortened over time) since I was at the lounge after the spa had closed, the parts of the lounge that I did try were very good.

The iconic departures board

The iconic departures board

My first order of business was to eat some food. The Qantas First Class Lounge has a proper dining area with table service. They have a pretty extensive seasonal menu, and I may or may not have gone slightly overboard with ordering (essentially, I said yes to everything that the server recommended).

Winter menu (sorry for the annoying hand shadows...)

Winter menu (sorry for the annoying hand shadows…)

I tried the grilled sesame tuna, the cobia sashimi, the salt and pepper squid, and the fettucine with soft egg (minus the bacon). For dessert, I had the chocolate croissant bread and butter pudding and the pavlova.

Tuna

Tuna

Cobia

Cobia

Calamari

Calamari

Fettucine

Fettucine

Dessert

Dessert

The food was good–easily some of the best food I’ve eaten at an airport. I think I still prefer the food at the JAL First Class Lounge at Narita, but then again, I’m Asian (obvi). I think most people will find some things that they’ll enjoy a lot.

Pretty nice dinner view

Pretty nice dinner view

Dining room

Dining room

Open kitchen

Open kitchen

The decor of the lounge is pretty cool. It’s one long, curved room with large windows that provide some fun airplane viewing. There’s plenty of seating, and lots of areas to get work done, have some privacy, or talk to others. The majority of people were in the dining area when I was there, so that area did get a bit crowded, but the lounge is spacious.

Exploring the lounge

Exploring the lounge

Lots of seating

Lots of seating

Private room

Private room

So many seating options

So many seating options

And more

And more

The service in the dining area was good, but I’m not sure if there’s much service outside of the dining area to speak of. No one seemed to be going around to check on people or offer drinks, but perhaps that was because it was late at night and most passengers were in the dining area.

Overall, this is a great lounge. While Qantas’s onboard product left me underwhelmed, the First Class Lounge in Sydney is a great airport lounge.

Trip Report: Qantas First Class A380 LAX to MEL (QF 94)

QF 94
Los Angeles (LAX) to Melbourne (MEL)
Depart: 11:30pm
Arrive: 8:20am +2 days
Duration: 15h 50m
Aircraft: A380 (Phyllis Arnott)
Seat: 2A

After leaving the new oneworld lounge, I walked to the gate and admired both the new TBIT terminal and all of the A380s sitting at LAX. I think I saw China Southern, Korean, Lufthansa, and British Airways, in addition to the Qantas A380 that I’d be flying.

Why hello thar

Why hello thar

Boarding was delayed by 15 minutes at first, then again for another 5 minutes. In general, the boarding process seemed like a bit of a mess.

When I boarded, I was welcomed on board, but I wasn’t shown to my seat. I know this is a trivial thing because I clearly know how to find my seat, but I’ve found that it’s a decent barometer of how good the crew is. As in, if they don’t show you to your seat in first class, you probably have a pretty bad crew (spoiler alert: this crew was pretty bad).

I took a couple of pictures of the cabin before it filled up, and I also snuck upstairs to take some pictures of the business class cabin as well. The first class seats are a little interesting in that they swivel, so they’re forward facing for takeoff and landing but get angled when you’re lounging/dining/sleeping. The seat was plenty spacious when angled, but it wasn’t very impressive when facing forward. Qantas also puts 14 seats in their first class cabin on the lower deck of the A380, which is on the higher side.

Center seats in first class

Center seats in first class

My seat, 2A

My seat, 2A

Unusual design for first class seat

Unusual design for first class seat

Seat control and air vent

Seat control and air vent

Upstairs, they have a small lounge in the “dead” area on the A380s (where Emirates places their showers), which didn’t seem to get much use throughout the flight. I went up a couple of times and just stole snacks from the business class bar (mostly because the service was so bad in first class that I couldn’t get the attention of the flight attendant so it was easier to serve myself from the business class bar).

Stairs up to business class

Stairs up to business class

Business class seats

Business class seats

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Upstairs lounge area

Upstairs lounge area

Drink and snack bar in upstairs lounge

Drink and snack bar in upstairs lounge

Upon returning to my seat, I was offered a pre-departure beverage, pajamas, and amenity kit. The amenity kit is made by SK-II, which I have since been told has really nice toiletries. The pajamas were pretty nice and quite similar to British Airways first class pajamas, but Cathay Pacific still has my favorite airline pajamas.

Pajamas and amenity kit

Pajamas and amenity kit

The amuse bouche was crackers, hummus, and olives. Basic, but satisfying. It was a smaller portion than I’ve seen on other trip reports, but the meal service on this flight is generally slightly abridged given that it’s a night flight, which could have explained the smaller portion. I’ll also say that there weren’t any refills offered, even though we had a half-hour delay on pushback.

Amuse bouche

Here are pictures of the menus for the flight. Again, it’s a slightly abridged menu given that it’s a night flight, so there’s no tasting menu on offer, although you can make your own sort of tasting menu by ordering as much food as you want.

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Supper menu

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Breakfast and hot beverage menu

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More beverages

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Champagne menu

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Wine menu

Only 6 out of 14 seats were assigned the day before the flight, but the flight went out 13 out of 14 in first class. The left side of the cabin is definitely more private given that the center seats are open to the right side (similar to Cathay Pacific’s first class cabin on the Boeing 777). In general, the cabin felt a little generic and sterile to me.

Seat storage

Seat storage

Tail cam ftw

Tail cam ftw

Privacy shields down

Privacy shields down

We ended up taking off around 12:30am. I decided to try to stay up a bit to start to adjust to the destination time, so I had the meal service. The service was slooooow. It took me 45 minutes after takeoff just to get some water. And it was even longer just to get a place setting. And the pacing between courses was super slow.

Anyway, onto to food itself. I really liked the bread service, given that they had a pretty tasty sourdough. I had the warm duck salad to start, which was quite good. It was quite large, and it was slightly odd in that the the duck was warm and the salad was cold, but it was good, flavorful, and the duck was decently tender. Easily the best salad that I’ve had on a plane, and I wouldn’t have complained if I had eaten this in a restaurant.

Tasty bread service

Tasty bread service

Pretty good salad

Pretty good salad

Next up was the famed Qantas steak sandwich, and I can see why people like it so much. It makes a great in-flight snack. The relish is potent, which is good when your sinuses are dried out from flying since it’s harder to taste. The bread is nice and soft, the arugula gives the illusion of healthfulness, and it’s a sizable amount of steak. One half of my sandwich was overcooked, but I enjoyed the non-overdone half. I could also see this being sold in a restaurant.

Steak sandwich

Steak sandwich

For my entree, I had the gnocchi. It was better than most airplane pastas, but that’s not saying much. It was clear that the plate had been heated for way too long, but the gnocchi were fluffy and fine.

Gnocchi

Gnocchi

For dessert, I had the orange saverin. It was a bit like angel food cake. I was warned that the ice cream might be a little hard, but that was an understatement as it was served rock hard. Throughout the entire meal, I didn’t get my drink refilled once, even though I asked multiple times.

Fruit and orange saverin

Fruit and orange saverin

After the meal, I had my bed made. The bed is comfortable, and the mattress pad is super soft. It felt a little exposed to the aisle (and I could easily hear someone in the cabin snoring quite loudly since the seats don’t insulate sound at all), and I wish that the foot area were slightly wider, but these are major #firstworldproblems.

The cabin was also a little on the warm side, but there are air vents at the seat. At first, I thought the air vents were lights, but some of them do in fact blow air.

Bed mode

Bed mode

I rang the call button a couple of times throughout the flight since the flight attendants never went through the cabin checking on people, and I usually had to wait several minutes before anyone answered the call button. Heck, I’ve had faster responses in coach.

For breakfast, I started with the fruit salad (which was marinated in mango juice) and the bircher muesli. Bircher muesli is always so tasty.

Bircher muesli and fruit salad

Bircher muesli and fruit salad

I then got the scrambled eggs with none of the sides, which were fine.

Scrambled eggs on toast

Scrambled eggs on toast

Finally was a toasted bagel with cream cheese, lox, and avocado. I can’t remember ever having avocado on a plane, and the avocado was decently ripe, so that was novel.

Bagel and fixings

Bagel and fixings

After I finished eating, I waited. And waited. And waited some more for my plate to be cleared. After waiting for over 20 minutes, I ended up clearing my own dishes and bringing them to the galley. And the flight attendant working in the galley didn’t even say anything.

Seats with privacy shields up

Seats with privacy shields up

Anyway, if you’re flying from the US to Australia, there are only two choices for nonstop first class. Qantas has nicer amenities and better food than United, but the service on this flight was pretty terrible. The flight attendants were largely absent and extremely slow, and I’ve never had to bus my own dishes on any flight in any class of service. While the nonstop flights are convenient (especially since going through Asia adds a LOT of travel time to get to Australia), this flight was pretty underwhelming for international first class. Given how hard these flights are to get on awards, I would not worry about missing too much.

SEA 2014: Singapore Suites Class NRT to LAX A380 First Class Review

I wasn’t super impressed after the first leg of my Singapore Suites journey, but I could immediately tell after boarding that this flight was going to be a lot better. Just from the warmth of the greeting, I knew that I was in for a treat.

Why hello thar

Why hello thar

While the load from SIN to NRT was 10/12, there were only two of us continuing on to LAX. But even though the load was only 2/12, I still had 4 different people chat with me or give me something prior to departure. I didn’t get a new amenity kit on this segment since I was a through passenger, but I did get new pajamas and slippers (which were unwrapped at my seat in front of me).

Seat 4A (I was seated in 3A)

Seat 4A (I was seated in 3A)

Look across the empty cabin

Look across the empty cabin

For this flight, I had pre-ordered a VGML or strict vegetarian meal. After disappointing VGMLs on Lufthansa First Class and Thai First Class, I was interested to see what Singapore would do.

First Class VGML

First Class VGML

The rice croquette was tasty, but I just cannot with the vegetable skewers. Whyyy do airlines think that all vegetarians want to eat poorly cooked red peppers and zucchini?

Canapes

Canapes

As a terrible vegan, I had to get some caviar. No caviar spoon, but a healthy serving of caviar, and I’m sure that I could have gotten more if I had asked.

Caviar

Caviar

Next up was more bell peppers and some mushrooms. Not great, and it was served pretty cold. That being said, I actively dislike most mushrooms, so other people might like this more than I did.

Roasted pepper and mushrooms

Roasted pepper and mushrooms

They couldn’t serve soup at the time because of turbulence, so they skipped to the salad course. Except the salad was served partially frozen. If you look closely enough, you might be able to notice ice crystals on some of the radishes and frisee. I don’t particularly like eating icy salads, so I sent this course back. They apologized profusely, and ended up serving me the skipped soup course since my entree wasn’t ready.

Normal salad with vinaigrette

Normal salad with vinaigrette

The soup was actually quite good. I don’t think I’ve ever had a soy bean milk soup, and I generally am not the biggest fan of soup courses, but I liked this a lot. It was just a very large portion, so I didn’t finish it.

Soy bean milk and corn soup

Soy bean milk and corn soup

For the entree, it was a vegan lasagna, that was quite convincingly not vegan given the creaminess and cheese-like texture inside. I found this entree to be pretty successful as far as VGMLs go.

Vegetable lasagne

Vegetable lasagne

Finally, I got some tiramisu for dessert. This wasn’t on the VGML menu, but I’m a fat kid who likes cake. And this cake was reasonably tasty.

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

After dinner, the flight attendant set up two of the center seats to make the famed double bed for me. It helps that there were only two of us in the entire cabin, but as far as I could tell, the other passenger just stayed in his suite and didn’t ask for two beds to himself. Honestly, if you’re traveling by yourself, the double bed thing is kinda silly given that there’s still a divider between the seats, so you can’t comfortably straddle the two beds.

Double bed!

Double bed!

My sleeping companion

My sleeping companion

Besides the separate seat and bed combo on the Lufthansa 747, this is probably the most comfortable bed in the sky I’ve slept in. The bed is actually a little on the narrow side, but it’s quite comfortable given that it’s not just a converted seat. I also appreciated that the cabin was kept quite cold, so I didn’t wake up sweating. The Givenchy pajamas that Singapore gives out are pretty thick, so it’s easy to overheat.

After sleeping for a couple of hours, I woke up and one of the flight attendants gave me a tour of the plane. Even though the load in first class was pretty light, business class and economy class were almost completely full.

For my pre-arrival meal, I first chose the kaiseki breakfast. I generally like to choose Japanese meals catered out of Japan, but I felt that this meal was just okay. Nothing was specifically good or bad.

Kaiseki breakfast

Kaiseki breakfast

Since I was a little unsatisfied after the Japanese breakfast, I got the pancakes afterward, which were pretty good. The fruit plate was also good with all of the fruit being ripe and sweet.

Pancakes

Pancakes

He decided to stay for breakfast the next morning

He decided to stay for breakfast the next morning

Fruit

Fruit

Pretty soon, we arrived at LAX. LAX is one of my favorite US airports for plane watching as there are so many different carriers and A380s operating there. On this occasion, we were parked next to one of the Lufthansa planes painted specifically for the World Cup.

World Cup Lufthansa plane

World Cup Lufthansa plane

Overall, this flight made me understand why people rave about Singapore Airlines. The service was proactive, warm, and friendly. I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time chatting with some of the flight attendants, and they were all awesome. The food on Singapore is good–not Michelin-star quality by any means, but solid–and the hard product on the A380 is great. The bed is super comfortable, and the suite is nice and private. I’d love to fly Singapore Suites again, although it’s quite expensive to do so given that you have to pay fuel surcharges as well as a sizable number of points.

SEA 2014: Singapore Airlines Suites Class SIN to NRT Review

My flight was departing from the B gates, which was a decently long walk from the Private Room and other T3 lounges. At Changi Airport, security screening takes place at the gate. In theory, this should mean that security shouldn’t take as much time, but the cluster of gates for my flight had a number of flights departing at the same time, so the security line snaked all the way through the terminal and out toward the shops. Total DYKWIA moment, but I was shocked that there wasn’t a priority screening line or an escort for premium cabin passengers, and it took about 20 minutes to get through the security screening (there were a couple of passengers who waved business class boarding passes at people to cut the line).

Thar she blows

Thar she blows

The load on this sector was 10/12. I had booked seat 3A, and 2C and 3C were the empty seats, so it felt extremely private, even though the cabin was nearly full. The suite is very spacious and feels classy. I like the color palette, and it just feels expensive to me.

My seat, 3A

My seat, 3A

Is it bad that I think the screen is small after flying Asiana?

Is it bad that I think the screen is small after flying Asiana?

Up the cabin to the cockpit

Up the cabin to the cockpit

Down the cabin

Down the cabin

Across the way

Across the way

Up the stairs to business class

Up the stairs to business class

The in-flight entertainment was started on the ground, which I always appreciate, and the selection was great. The screen quality was good, but it honestly feels a little bit small after flying Asiana’s new first class. And, well, the fact that the suite is so big that the screen is actually kind of far away from you when you’re seated #firstworldproblems.

For my pre-departure beverage, I asked for iced milo and room temperature water. Fussy of me, yes, but I loved the fact that afterward the flight attendant checked on me to make sure that the water temperature was satisfactory to me.

Iced milo and room temperature water

Iced milo and room temperature water

I was then given menus, headphones, newspapers, magazines, an amenity kit, and pajamas. I was only offered an amenity kit on this flight since I was a through passenger, but they did offer me new pajamas on the second flight. The pajamas are made by Givenchy, and I could actually imagine wearing the top with other clothes. As airplane pajamas go, they’re a little on the thick side, so maybe not the best if the cabin is too warm.

SIN to NRT menu

SIN to NRT menu

SIN to NRT desserts

SIN to NRT desserts

Drink menu

Drink menu

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Drink menu part 2

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Drink menu part 3

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Drink menu part 4

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Drink menu part 5

They suggested that they serve lunch a couple of hours after departure to align with typical lunch hours in Singapore, and I agreed. I had prebooked the kyo-kaiseki meal, but decided to change to the laksa, which they had no problems with.

Since it was going to be a little while before food, I had more time to explore the suite.

It really is a throne

It really is a throne

IFE controls

IFE controls

Outlets and plugs

Outlets and plugs

One thing that I noticed was that there were a lot of weird spaces to drop things. Because the seat folds over to become a bed (instead of reclining into bed position), there are a lot of open spaces where I can imagine easily losing your passport or boarding pass or cell phone. While it’s maybe not the most comfortable seat, I found the seat to be quite comfortable, and I thought that the seat reclined enough, in spite of it not fully reclining into bed position.

Lots of spaces to drop things

Lots of spaces to drop things

More spaces

More spaces

What a nice view

What a nice view

The meal service started with bread service as well as satay. I wasn’t particularly impressed by the satay as the lamb was a bit chewy, and I generally didn’t find the meat to be worth eating (I am very picky about my meat when I choose to eat it). The garlic bread was tasty, as is evidenced by the fact that I devoured it prior to being served satay.

Table setting

Table setting

Satay

Satay (note the missing garlic bread)

The salad course was small, but tasty. I had the honey mustard dressing.

Salad

Salad

For my main, I had the laksa, and I asked them to take out the fish cake and prawns. They were a little confused by my request but were happy to do it. The laksa was fine and much more flavorful than most airplane dishes, but the egg was way overcooked. Like to the point where the yolk was gray instead of yellow.

Laksa

Laksa

For dessert, I had the passionfruit mousse cake, which was fine.

Passion fruit mousse cake

Passion fruit mousse cake

I then had some fruit, which I was surprised to find served whole. I can’t really remember ever being served whole fruit on airplanes, except for crappy red delicious apples on American carriers. I was pleasantly surprised to find a persimmon amongst the fruit selection.

Fruit

Fruit

With the doors closed, the suite feels extremely private. But I’m personally still unsure whether I prefer first class cabins with suites or open seats, as I appreciate the privacy of suites but enjoy the feel of open-seat cabins more.

Doors shut for privacy

Doors shut for privacy

But it's not completely private

But it’s not completely private

Seat reclined as far as it will go

Seat reclined as far as it will go

The seat in Singapore Suites on the A380 is great. It’s large and private and comfortable. The service on this flight segment, however, was not to the standard that I was expecting on Singapore Airlines. Perhaps it was because the load was relatively high, but the service was really slow, and my glass was often empty or almost empty. If I had just been judging based on this flight, I wouldn’t have understood why Singapore Airlines has the reputation it has for service. The in-flight supervisor also wasn’t great, and perhaps it was the lackluster tone that he set that led to the lackluster service.

That being said, my next segment from NRT to LAX had some of the best service I’ve had on a flight and made me totally understand why people love Singapore Airlines…

SEA 2014: Singapore Airlines First Class Lounge Review (SIN)

While there are a number of reviews of the Singapore Airlines Private Room at Singapore Changi airport, I don’t really recall seeing many reviews of the First Class Lounge (I’ve reviewed the business class lounge in the past).

Part of the reason for the dearth of reviews of the first class lounge is likely because of the lounge access rules. If you’re departing SIN in Singapore Airlines first class, you get access to the Private Room; if you’re departing SIN in first class on a different Star Alliance carrier, then you only get access to the first class lounge. And what points/miles blogger is really going to depart SIN in first class on a carrier besides Singapore? Or perhaps more accurately, what points/miles blogger is going to dawdle in a first class lounge when he (let’s be real, most of us/them are male) has access to a more exclusive area which will further bolster his fragile ego and provide ammo for the next dick-measuring contest?

Anyway, this isn’t going to be as detailed of a lounge review as I normally do as I didn’t sample the food since I had eaten so much previously and was hoping to save a little space for the flight, but I do have some pictures that should hopefully be helpful.

Because you'd forget if it weren't on the wall

Because you’d forget if it weren’t on the wall

Not so different from the business class side

Not so different from the business class side

Generic seating

Generic seating

The first class lounge felt a lot like the business class lounge. It’s a bit smaller since there are fewer first class passengers, but the look and feel is largely the same.

Bar area

Bar area

Bad shot of the dining room

Bad shot of the dining room

The dining area is where the first class and business class lounges differ–the first class lounge has better food options, including made-to-order food. It’s not as extensive as the menu in the Private Room, but you can at least get made-to-order eggs instead of globs of scrambled eggs from the buffet.

Since it was breakfast time, they had made-to-order eggs and waffles

Since it was breakfast time, they had made-to-order eggs and waffles

Hot food buffet

Hot food buffet

Cheese

Bread + cheese

Ben and Jerry's ice cream

Ben and Jerry’s ice cream

I think part of the reason why Singapore Airlines’s ground services for first class feel lackluster is because their offering for business class passengers is already quite solid. The SilverKris lounges already have ample seating, good service, extensive food options, and decent showers, and so the step up to the First Class Lounge or the Private Room doesn’t seem that high, even though those are both very good lounges in their own right. Cathay Pacific suffers the same problem to some extent: the Bridge is already a great lounge available to business class passengers, so the Wing doesn’t feel as special to me.