If you tallied up the number of flight reviews on this site, you will notice that the majority of them are for business and first class. It turns out that premium cabins are just more interesting than economy, with all the fancy lie-flat suites, and butler service in your private bedroom. More often than not, economy is, well….boring. But sometimes it can be pretty exciting — depending on what kind of plane you are flying.
That’s the position I found myself in recently when I flew back to the 1990s on board KLM’s Fokker 70 and Boeing 747-400 “combi.” Both aircraft types have become exceedingly rare, and I jumped at a chance to fly them between Hamburg, Germany and New York, via Amsterdam.
Qatar Airways’ first A350 (MSN006) at the Airbus Delivery Center – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter
Qatar Airways has been growing rapidly, both in terms of their fleet and their route network. I recently got to experience an example of both when I joined Qatar for their inaugural flight to Boston Logan Airport (BOS), utilizing the new Airbus A350-900 XWB. It was a pretty special trip.
After a rather disappointing first experience on Qatar when flying in from Los Angeles, I was really hoping to see Qatar’s best when departing from their home hub of Doha. Sometimes, operating from outstations with once-daily service can be very challenging.
This would be my first time flying the Airbus A350 as well – just a few days before our Editor-in-Chief David Parker Brown. I wanted to make sure to take the chance to remind him of that (thanks Blaine ^David).
Certificate given to passengers to mark the inauguration of service to Boston – Photo: Blaine Nickeson | AirlineReporter
Overall, my flight was great. The service was up to snuff and the food tasty. But the star of the show was the A350. Wow, what a ride. Read on!
My business class seat on China Eastern – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz
China Eastern is not an airline I ever really expected to fly. With a fleet of new Boeing 777-300ERs, the opening of a new route to Chicago, and a small investment from Delta Air Lines, China Eastern is modernizing and becoming a real player in the North American market. When I saw a fare posted of $650 round-trip between New York and Japan, I jumped at the opportunity to give this airline a try.
My routing was New York JFK to Osaka, Japan via Shanghai, returning from Tokyo Narita back to New York. On the first leg to Shanghai, China Eastern graciously upgraded me to business class in order to experience the new product.
A Boeing 777-300ER at Paine Field showing China Eastern’s new livery- Photo: Bernie Leighton
At JFK, China Eastern departs from Terminal 1 and uses the recently renovated Air France lounge. Although this flight departed at 2:00 am (thanks for nothing, daylight saving time), the lounge was actually surprisingly crowded. As boarding time neared, I headed to the gate to find utter chaos. Lines of passengers extended in every direction with no signage to tell anyone where to stand. Eventually, gate agents put up a few signs, but that should have been done much earlier. A hectic boarding process sets a negative tone for a 15-hour flight. The same hectic process was applied to all four of my flights, indicating that China Eastern has a systemic problem with orderly boarding.
The Etihad A380 operates a daily service to Sydney; sadly the return flight is at night – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter
Having recently experienced Etihad’s outstanding first class apartment on the Airbus A380, I had high expectations of their business studio product. While I already had a chance to view the entire Etihad A380 during last year’s Dubai airshow, I was still excited to try out the product on a nice long flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi; the only downside of course being that the entire flight would be during the night.
The Etihad business studio really is flying reimagined and it is a product that exceeds some carriers’ first class products – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter
Check-in and all other departure formalities were completed with ease. It was nice to see that Etihad had recently opened a dedicated lounge in Sydney. While it might not be as grand and glamorous as Etihad’s New York JFK lounge, it is certainly a step above the Air New Zealand lounge which was previously used. Although slightly on the small side (particularly when the flight is full), the lounge does offer a few unique and welcome additions not often seen in business class lounges. This included the option of a la carte dining, with a rather extensive menu, as well as a well stocked bar and plentiful waitstaff to assist.