Around the World

Miles flown for stories
2014: 360,327
2013: 330,818

Virgin America — Still Got It?

After being at LA for less than 12 hours, it was time to board my Virgin America flight and head home.

Virgin America Airbus A320 – Photo: David Parker Brown

It has been a while since I’ve flown on Virgin America, and to be honest I’ve sort of missed it. The purplely-pink mood lighting, good food, and that awesome entertainment system; it was a light cutting through the otherwise dark and dank scene of American domestic economy flying.

Thus I was rather looking forward to getting back in the air with Virgin, spurred on by its new codeshare partnership with China Airlines (which I recently sampled and detailed here). Arriving at SeaTac on November 30th, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I expected mayhem but was instead met with relative calm.

Space means weight, which means money. Photo: David Parker Brown.

The economy seats in Virgin America’s Airbus A320 – Photo: David Parker Brown

Virgin provided me a ticket in its Main Cabin Express (MCE) block of seats. The benefits are slight, basically amounting to early boarding after first class, seating in the first few rows of economy as well as guaranteed overhead bin access. The service and product are otherwise identical to the rest of the economy cabin.

Boarding was a bit chaotic, mostly thanks to the gate agent never actually announcing that it was time for MCE to board. Suspecting that I’d missed something, I joined the boarding line which now included main cabin passengers, and was ushered on the plane and into seat 5A.

Continue reading Virgin America — Still Got It?

Champagne, Caviar, and a Shower at 40,000FT – Emirates A380 First Class Review Part 1

Emirates A380 short final at Sydney Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

Emirates A380 short final at Sydney – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

EMIRATES AIRLINE FIRST CLASS REVIEW BASICS:

Airline: Emirates Airline
Aircraft: Airbus A380-800
Departed: Sydney (SYD)
Arrived: Dubai (DXB)
Stops: Non-stop flight
Class: First Class
Seat: 2A
Length: About 14 hours

Not many people I know get too excited at the prospect of a 14-hour flight that leaves at 6:00 AM.  But when travelling in first class, even the 4:00 AM wake-up call is cause for excitement. I was recently fortunate enough to experience the first class product on-board Emirates’ A380 from Sydney to Dubai.

Most Emirates’ departures from Australia to Dubai are timed to leave at night; this did not appeal very much to me as when traveling first class I like to make the most of the experience, rather than just sleep though it. Luckily, Emirates had recently introduced the A380 product on their EK415 service, which departs Sydney at 6:00 AM with a 1:20 PM arrival to Dubai. This service is primarily targeted at connecting traffic onto the afternoon European services, which allow for a same-day evening arrival into Europe.

Emirates A380 first class suite, not a bad place to spend 14 hours Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

Emirates A380 first class suite; not a bad place to spend 14 hours – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

I was happy to be staying at an airport hotel, meaning that I could afford to sleep in a little longer. Check-in at Sydney was completed with minimal fuss, and I was on my way to security within five minutes of entering the terminal.

Given the Qantas Emirates partnership, first class passengers traveling on Emirates flights have access to the Qantas First Class Lounge at Sydney. Sadly, the lounge was still closed at this hour of the morning. I had to make do with the Emirates lounge – while it is still of a very high standard, it is not as good as the Qantas’ first lounge.

On board, I was welcomed by the purser and escorted to my seat. As this was my first time flying Emirates First Class, I was given a very comprehensive walk-through of all of the seat and cabin features. At this time, I also received my bvlgari amenity kit along with pajamas and slippers; all of this was very nicely presented in an Emirates-branded tote bag. This is probably the best and highest quality of in-flight amenities I have received on any carrier.

Continue reading Champagne, Caviar, and a Shower at 40,000FT – Emirates A380 First Class Review Part 1

Flight Review: Business Class on China Airlines’ Boeing 777-300ER

China Airlines' Boeing 777-300ER - Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren

China Airlines’ Boeing 777-300ER – Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren

When China Airlines unveiled its new Boeing 777-300ER back in early October of this year, it was clear that this airplane was something special. Photos and videos of the new interior—outfitted with a snazzy new business cabin, homages to Taiwanese culture, and a small library—quickly made the internet rounds, establishing this plane as the hot new item in the air.

Having seen it myself in Seattle, I knew it had to try it once it was released into the wild. Fast forward two months to last Monday (December 1), when I found myself, ticket in hand, ready to board China Airlines flight 5, service from Los Angeles LAX to Taipei. AirlineReporter/NYCAviation were invited by the airline to sample the carrier’s promising-looking new business class. The formal adventure began in the lounge at Los Angeles International Airport.

China Airlines (CAL), does not have one of its own at the airport, and thus utilizes Korean’s SkyTeam lounge instead. As far as lounges go, this one runs above average, largely thanks to its new-ness and an exterior deck overlooking the main hall. I helped myself to a few finger sandwiches and a beverage while checking email on the free WiFi. Boarding began on time at gate 134. Holding a ticket for the carrier’s premium business class, I boarded quickly via a dedicated jet-way connected to the L1 door.

Those with business tickets are split between two cabins, and today’s seat—22A—was in the rear section nestled behind the L2 door. Both cabins are set up in a reverse herringbone style in a 1-2-1 configuration. As boarding continued, cabin crew offered a selection of non-alcoholic pre-flight drinks and hot towels. Bags and personal items slipped easily into overhead bins or into one of three built-in storage areas in the seat. The giant Boeing 777-300ER easily lifted off runway 25R and turned northwest to head up the California coast for the scheduled 14-hour flight to Taipei’s Taoyuan International Airport.

Continue reading Flight Review: Business Class on China Airlines’ Boeing 777-300ER

Flight Review: “We Flew Right There, We Flew Ryanair!”

Ryanair Boeing 737 ready to be flown - Photo: Steven Paduchak

Ryanair Boeing 737-800 – Photo: Steven Paduchak

That’s right, people, it happened!  Last weekend, I flew Ryanair with my buddy Dan.  It was a quick weekend getaway from Frankfurt to London.  We’re here in Germany on a semester abroad, and neither of us had been to the United Kingdom.  Before coming over “the pond”, we knew it was on the list of places to visit.

It all started on a Wednesday afternoon.  We booked the trip a few weeks prior, and we were counting down the days.  We all know Ryanair.  They’re known for having the cheapest airfare in the industry; making the airline beloved here in all of Europe.  The Dublin-based air carrier offered us each a forty euro (yes, you read that right) roundtrip from Frankfurt to London.  That’s a huge deal, flying between two major European markets.

I knew after a deal this unbelievable, there’d be some sort of catch.  In the end, there definitely was. Left and right, we were advised we had to pay for everything; printing off boarding passes, seat selection, food, etc… Being cautious of something like this, we came well prepared with food and boarding passes already printed off, so we managed to avoid all the imposed fees.

The day finally came, and we were on our way.  To our surprise, however, the airport we flew out of was FOREVER away.  It was one of the biggest catches we didn’t realize until our journey.  The airline flies into the smaller and medium-sized airports in order to avoid the hefty landing fees imposed by the major international locations. This is completely understandable – we all want to save money whenever we can, right?

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Flight Review – Swiss Business Class from Zurich

Swiss International Airlines Airbus A330-300 on departure from Zurich Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

Swiss International Airlines Airbus A330-300 on departure from Zurich – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter

SWISS INTERNATIONAL AIRLINES BUSINESS CLASS REVIEW BASICS:

Airline: Swiss International Airlines
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
Departed: Zurich (ZRH)
Arrived: Chicago (ORD)
Stops: Non-stop flight
Class: Business Class
Seat: 4A
Length: About 9.5 hours

Cheers: Mini-cabin that offers additional seclusion and privacy, connection efficiency at the Zurich hub
Jeers: No hot meal offered for second service, despite nearly 10-hour flight length, aging and clunky IFE
Overall: A leading long-haul business class product from an EU carrier, needs a few updates to make it more competitive in the future

Continue reading Flight Review – Swiss Business Class from Zurich