Around the World

Miles flown for stories
2015: 290,939
2014: 363,407
Total: 1,212,540






Is Flying the Uber-Low-Cost Carrier Thai AirAsia Worth It?

AirAsia Airbus A320 - Photo: AeroIcarus | Flickr CC

AirAsia Airbus A320 – Photo: AeroIcarus | Flickr CC

I’ll be the first to admit it.  I was naive.  I really didn’t think it could get worse than our low-cost carriers (LCCs) here in the U.S.   I mean, I’d suffered Spirit’s kneecap-busting 28-inch seat pitch.  I’d waited an hour-and-a-half to retrieve my bags from Frontier’s severely understaffed operations at DFW.  I’d paid for my carry-on bags, seat assignments, drinks, and everything else imaginable.  How bad could it be?

During our recent trip to Thailand, my wife and I wanted to travel from Krabi (KBV) in the south of Thailand to Chiang Mai (CNX) in the north of the country.  Although I enjoy different flying experiences, I certainly did not go looking to fly AirAsia. There are several operators offering tickets for this route; however, AirAsia was the only airline flying this particular route nonstop.  Wanting to make the most of our limited vacation time, we chose to take the shortest option.  The tickets were ridiculously cheap by U.S. standards – about $35 each.

My first hint of trouble came when I tried to check-in online the morning of our flight. I wanted to make sure that my wife and I had seats together and pay for our checked bags. When I logged on, I was able to make these selections, albeit with some trouble.  Getting assigned seats cost about 200 Bhat ($6) each.

Our checked bags would have been about 300 Bhat ($9) each. Not bad, and pretty much in line with what I expect from an LCC. But the problem came when I tried to pay.  Try as I might, I could not get the system to accept payment without error.  So, I tried – again and again – for nearly an hour before giving up. Oh well, I figured we’d get it resolved at the airport. Wishful thinking.

Continue reading Is Flying the Uber-Low-Cost Carrier Thai AirAsia Worth It?

Flying High in Economy Class on LAN’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner

Our Plane

A brand new 787-9, my ride to Santiago, Chile – Photo: Ben Granucci | AirlineReporter

I recently made a trip to Santiago to cover the opening of LAN’s new VIP Lounge. I was pretty excited since this gave me a few firsts. This was the first time that I was invited to do an international trip as media and my first time in South America. This was also going to be my first trip on a 787 of any variant. While the Santiago to JFK route was normally flown by a 787-8 at that time, the night before my flight I discovered that a brand new 787-9 had been swapped in. I was beyond excited!

The bulkhead row of seats on LAN's 787-9 - Photo: Ben Granucci | AirlineReporter

The bulkhead row of seats on LAN’s 787-9 – Photo: Ben Granucci | AirlineReporter

Although I would say that I had a better than average international economy experience, it doesn’t mean that I didn’t encounter some challenges. Some were things that happen just because the complexities of running an airline, but others I think could be updated to improve the overall economy passenger experience.

Continue reading Flying High in Economy Class on LAN’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner

Flying on EVA Air’s Hello Kitty 777-300ER

My home for almost 16 hours with Hello Kitty

My home for almost 16 hours with Hello Kitty

I was recently down in Houston to welcome EVA Air’s first flight, a Boeing 777-300ER, with a new Hello Kitty livery. After all the hoopla for the inaugural, I had a few hours before flying to Taipei, in Royal Laurel (aka business class) and I was excited. The Hello Kitty theme runs much deeper than just the fancy livery, and wanted to see what the full flight experience would be like.

The Shining Star Hello Kitty 777 arrives to Houston - Photo: David Parker Brown | AirlineReporter

The Shining Star Hello Kitty 777 arrives in Houston – Photo: David Parker Brown | AirlineReporter

By the time I arrived back at the airport, at about 10:30 pm, I had last showered at about 6:00 am and was about to take a 15hr 40min flight. My goal was to shower before departure — not just for me, but for those who would be flying around me.

Those in business class have access to the Executive Club in Terminal D, which was recently renovated, but it was lacking showers. However, since I had a business class ticket on a Star Alliance airline, I also had access to any of the United Club lounges. I looked online and saw that the United terminal E lounge was open until 11:30 pm and had showers — awesome!

Keep reading to learn how you can win a model of the EVA Air Boeing 777-300ER with Shining Star Hello Kitty livery…

Continue reading Flying on EVA Air’s Hello Kitty 777-300ER

Flight Review: Vietnam Airlines in Domestic Economy

Vietnam Airlines Airbus A321 - Photo Aero Icarus | Flickr CC

Vietnam Airlines Airbus A321 – Photo: Aero Icarus | Flickr CC

After spending the previous couple of cold winter months in Seattle, New York, and Boston, as well as visiting Tokyo (cold), Kyoto (cold and breezy), Taipei (rainy), and Hong Kong (windy and rainy) on this trip, I was glad to have planned a “vacation within a vacation” to spend some time in the sun and sand in the middle of my Asian trip.

Danang (sometimes spelled Da Nang), the third-largest economic center in Vietnam behind Saigon and Hanoi, is famous for its stretches of beaches along the South China Sea.  The area known as “China Beach” to American soldiers during the Vietnam War is currently earmarked for luxury resort development.

Hyatt Regency Resort & Spa Danang - Photo: John Nguyen

Hyatt Regency Resort & Spa Danang – Photo: John Nguyen

Danang International Airport (DAD) is also the country’s third-busiest airport and treated as Vietnam Airlines‘ (VNA) central domestic hub, though it has quite a few direct international flights on foreign carriers as well.

I was fortunate enough to book a mid-April stay (one of the best times to be in Danang, weather-wise) at the Hyatt Regency Resort & Spa Danang, selected because of its location right on the water and a private beach.

Continue reading Flight Review: Vietnam Airlines in Domestic Economy

Flight Review: Gatwick to St. Lucia on Virgin Atlantic in Economy Class

- Photo: Alastair Long

Virgin Atlantic’s “Golden Girl” Airbus A330 – Photo: Alastair Long

I recently flew Virgin Atlantic from London Gatwick (LGW) to St. Lucia (UVF). It was a first-time experience for me, both flying the airline and riding on an Airbus A330-300. The flight was part of a Virgin Holidays package that my wife and I bought at the last minute, although flights to the island from London at this time of the year are also available with British Airways. I’d read mixed reviews about the Virgin Atlantic product, but my wife is a big fan – so I kept an open mind and we opted for the red livery.

I was excited to experience Airbus’ smallish wide-body over the distance, even though I understand Virgin operates the route with a 747 from time-to-time. The closest Boeing equivalent I’d flown on was a British Airways 767 from Moscow a few years ago, and I’d also enjoyed Etihad’s A340 from Abu Dhabi a few months ago – both en-route to London Heathrow – so I relished the prospect of adding a new aircraft type to my repertoire.

Now, I’m a European LCC short-haul aficionado for both personal and (formerly) professional reasons (I used to be the Airports and Ground Ops lawyer for a UK airline). Minimalist seat width, pitch, a single aisle, and scratching around for euros or pound coins to pay for coffee and a muffin are my norms, so frankly any change from that is a win in my book.  Actually, that’s rubbish. I love luxury, pampering, and upgrades as much as the next person. I was just full of AvGeek zeal and excitement on the day. Even the delay at LGW security whilst my Kindle Fire was tested for explosive substances was good-natured and efficient.

Continue reading Flight Review: Gatwick to St. Lucia on Virgin Atlantic in Economy Class