A British Airways Boeing 747-400 – Photo: Cory W Watts | Flickr CC

I think of my nearest airport as the world’s biggest little airport. Phoenix Sky Harbor (PHX) serves the 12th-largest metro area in the country, yet its only intercontinental flight is a daily British Airways 747-400 to London Heathrow (LHR). The laundry list of reasons to explain this doesn’t make the situation any more palatable when I book a long-haul flight … and have to go through Los Angeles, Chicago, or San Francisco. I even get envious when I see the international flights from cities like Portland, Seattle, or even Charlotte.

Often overlooked, there are many great international options are smaller airports. There are benefits like being less busy, parking is cheaper, and it provides a little different experience. I started researching long-haul flights that would let me skip the big airports as much as possible. Here’s what I learned:

Edelweiss Air A340 Melchsee-Frutt – Photo: Edelweiss

Recently, I received a press release email from my local airport, San Diego International. The title read: “Edelweiss to begin nonstop seasonal service between Zurich and San Diego.” You’ve got to love it when your local airport adds new service, but this time was a little different than usual. Normally, KSAN “new service” press releases involve Southwest or Alaska, and to places like Newark, Tampa, or Cabo San Lucas. Did this one really say Zurich? And who exactly is Edelweiss? For an airport that receives very little wide-body international service (JL to Narita and BA to Heathrow), this KSAN press release was big news.

Being a card-carrying #AvGeek, I’ve heard of Edelweiss but I can’t say I know much else about them or what they do. In fact, my first thoughts when hearing the name weren’t even related to the airline.

My Frontier chariot arrives DEN – Photo: Kevin Horn

During the year 2016, my partner and were living 1,200 miles apart. We wanted to spend as much time together as possible without missing work or going bankrupt in the process. We needed to take advantage of every chance we came across to spend as much time together as we could. As it turned out, we learned very quickly the ups and downs of this jet-setting lifestyle through lots of flights on low- and ultra-low-cost carriers (LCC and ULCC, respectively). The ULCC business model is not without its share of controversy, but if they weren’t available for us, our year wouldn’t have been nearly as great as it turned out to be.

My partner Natalie and I met in early 2015 while I was stationed at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. I was nearing the end of my assignment to earn a Master’s degree with a follow-on assignment to Colorado Springs as an instructor at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Natalie was in the middle of a five-year PhD in Clinical Psychology. Through shared passions for adventure and fitness, we hit it off immediately but we also knew that my move to Colorado would be tough. We started traveling to see each other in the fall of 2015, and developed a rhythm of visiting every three weeks or so. These visits were great and fueled both of our passions for travel and adventure. As winter came, we knew we wanted to spend even more time together despite being so far apart during the week.

My flights - Image: GCMap

Back and forth quite a bit – Image: GCMap

For the new year 2016, we set the ambitious goal of seeing each other every other weekend for the entire year. We had two major travel seasons coinciding with the spring and fall semesters of her program. We planned to spend the summer together which would provide a break from the hectic flight schedule and allow time for the bank account and credit card point balances to recharge. With the plan set, we went about attacking a personal travel schedule busier than either of us had ever done before.

Zodiac calls this the Fusio. Image: Zodiac Aerospace.

A couple of days ago at ITB in Berlin, Qatar Airways announced that they were finally going to do something about their aircraft not configured with the B/E Super Diamond or even the humble B/E Diamond (AKA their 777 fleet). Instead, they announced that they were also going to replace the amazing B/E Super Diamonds on their 787, A350, and A380 as well. Whatever they were going to do was described as a product rivaling first class. Thanks to Alan Joyce at Qantas, who describes the Thompson Vantage XL as a “mini-first class” my hopes were damped. A few days before ITB, I discovered some curious images on Zodiac’s website (above).

B/E Super Diamond business class seat on the Qatar A350 – Photo: Blaine Nickeson | AirlineReporter

Now, I know some people have said that B/E Aerospace is the supplier of what Qatar is installing. They might be right, and Qatar hasn’t said. It did give me a starting point to imagine what Qatar was actually doing.