Around the World

Miles flown for stories
2014: 269,302
2013: 330,818

From Buying a Ticket to Walking on a British Airways 747

British Airways Boeing 747-400 at Seattle.

British Airways Boeing 747-400 at Seattle

Although I know many readers of this site are more interested about the flight itself, I tend to be more intrigued with what goes one between searching for a ticket and stepping on to the plane. Odd for some, I know, but I wanted to share my own insight.

My most recent adventure started when I decided to go to Paris (CDG) from Seattle (SEA) for vacation. After some work, I narrowed my dates to flying out on a Thursday so that I could have a full weekend in-country. Last year, I made the same trip on Icelandair and chose that airline mostly on having the lowest fare. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go with the lowest fare this time; I was also interested in the experience, so I decided to start my ticket hunt early. This all resulted with me flying on a British Airways Boeing 747-400 out of Seattle.

Continue reading From Buying a Ticket to Walking on a British Airways 747

Updated: Ethiopian Boeing 787 Dreamliner Catches Fire at Heathrow

Photo from Sky.com shows fire appears to be in the rear of the aircraft.

Photo from Sky.com shows fire appears to be in the rear of the aircraft. Via NYCAviation.com.

Flights were suspended at London’s Heathrow Airport [LHR] at 16:30 BST due to a fire on an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The airport was re-opened at about 18:00 BST today .

The aircraft involved is ET-AOP, which is the first 787 Dreamliner to return to service after the world-wide grounding of the aircraft. No passengers were on board at the time of the fire and officials are trying to determine the cause. Photos show that the fire was in the rear of the aircraft with noticeable damage to the top of the fuselage. Due to the location of the fire, it appears that this is not related to the lithium-ion batteries, which have plagued the Dreamliner.

According to Sky News, the aircraft was parked at a remote stand and was there for more than eight hours before smoke was detected. The plane was scheduled to be used for flight ET701 to Addis Ababa at 9pm.

Continue reading Updated: Ethiopian Boeing 787 Dreamliner Catches Fire at Heathrow

My Review: Flying Business Class on American Airlines 777-300ER

American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER at a cloudy JFK.

American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER at a cloudy JFK.

AMERICAN AIRLINES BUSINESS CLASS REVIEW BASICS:

Airline: American Airlines
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER (N719AN)
Departed: John F Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
Arrived: London Heathrow Airport (LHR)
Stops: Non-stop flight
Class: Business Class
Seat: 9A to and 8J back
Length: About 6 hours

Cheers: Amazing new Business Class product that goes head-to-head with international carriers.
Jeers: Still some grumpy employees who need to smile more.
Overall: American is not just talking the talk; they are walking the walk — they just need to walk a bit farther.

Continue reading My Review: Flying Business Class on American Airlines 777-300ER

Flying Like a Boss in Air New Zealand’s Business Premier Seat

A glorious grey sky in London.

A glorious grey sky in London.

AIR NEW ZEALAND BUSINESS PREMIERE REVIEW BASICS

Airline: Air New Zealand
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Departed:  London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR)
Arrived: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
Stops: Non-stop flight
Class: Business Premiere
Seat: 1J (right center aisle)
Length: 10.5 hours

Cheers: The fact that I slept through most of the flight is probably one of the best reviews possible.
Jeers: I want to see out the window.
Bottom Line: It is confusing to figure out if this really is a Business product or First Class.

The "window" seats face away from the window, which isn't so great for AvGeeks, but does provide more privacy.

The “window” seats face away from the window, which isn’t so great for AvGeeks, but does provide more privacy.

Earlier, I posted my experience flying Air New Zealand’s Premium Economy from LAX to LHR. I was impressed with the product and was looking forward to how their Business Premium would compare (note: the airline covered my airfare and I paid the taxes). There are many similarities between Premium Economy and Business Premiere, but there are also key differences. Both can check-in at a priority line, get free alcoholic beverages and priority boarding. The extra money spent to upgrade will get you lounge access, premium wines on board, additional food options, a larger screen (10.6″ vs 12.1″) and a fold flat bed.

This was actually my second flight on Air New Zealand’s Business Premier, but only my first “real” one. My previous experience was taking the airline’s first Boeing 777-300ER from Paine Field down to Los Angeles, which was only a 2.5hr media flight. I was happy to try out the product in a “real world” situation and I had a good 10.5 hours to do it. Are the extra features and product worth the ticket premium (or miles)? I think it depends on how you want your flight experience to go.

Each seat has quite a bit of privacy for its occupants.

Each seat has quite a bit of privacy for its occupants.

When first walking into the cabin, it is obvious that the Business Premier class is an upgrade. Instead of a 2-2-2 layout in Premium Economy, Business gives you a 1-2-1 layout, but really it feels more like a 1-1-1-1 set up since you are so isolated.

If you are traveling with someone else, you won’t be able to easily interact while sitting in your seat, but have no worries. The seats easily allow two people to sit and talk at the same seat. This isolation also gives every passenger access to the aisle, which means you don’t have to crawl over someone while they sleep to use the bathroom.

Each of the seats is angled to give passengers extra privacy. The biggest downside is not being able to look out the window with ease. Where the Premium Economy seat actually tilts you towards the window, the Business Premier tilts you away. Although I enjoy looking out the window, I much rather have the privacy and space, since the windows are shut after take off anyhow.

A larger laptop on the tray table gets in the way of the entertainment screen.

A larger laptop on the tray table gets in the way of the entertainment screen.

Now, the purpose of my flight was to check out the product, but I ran into a big problem… I fell asleep… for over six hours. That might be one of the best compliments when reviewing an airline’s product, right?

At first I was a bit confused about the seat. I kept hitting the recline button, but the seat would only recline so far. Turns out, it is one of those seats where you have to get up and fold down the bed. What a great Airline Reporter I am, not paying attention and thinking my seat was broken for a few minutes — oh well.

Yes, it takes a bit more of an effort to convert your seat into a bed, but I think it ends up being worth it. Once you have your seat folded forward, you are able to put a memory foam mattress on top. Then add the fluffy duvet and full size pillows and you are ready for a good night’s (or day’s) sleep. If you have any trouble or want some help, just hit the call button and the flight attendants will have no problem assisting.

I had plenty of room to roll around and get into multiple positions. If needed, I was given an eye mask to block out the light, but I didn’t need it. The soft glow of pink lighting was perfect for setting a sleeping mood.

This broke a record for me, since previously, the longest I have slept on a flight was four hours straight. I wasn’t even that jet-lagged, since I had a week in London and was more or less caught up on sleep. Oh well. That still gave me four hours to check out the product, food and drinks.

My dinner starter: prawns. I think I am watching Up in the Air here.

My dinner starter: prawns. I think I am watching Up in the Air here.

The meal service started shortly after take off (and before I went to sleep). I decided to watch the movie, Up in the Air (it seemed appropriate) and enjoy my meal. I started with coconut prawns with rice noodles and plum sugar dressing. Then I had a choice between lamb, salmon, chicken or eggplant. I decided to go with the lamb that was on cabbage and potato mash with field mushrooms and minted yoghurt. All amazing.

Then I finished it off with a little vanilla and chocolate ice cream. On my previously flight, dessert was served with the appetizer, which was a bit odd for me, but this time, it came after the meal with some dessert wine.

When I woke up, the cabin was still in sleep-mode and I was thirsty. I was able to fire up the ‘ol in-flight entertainment system and order from a nice selection of food and drinks. I decided on some Diet Coke and sparkling water. The cool part is I was able to customize how my drink was served. Why, yes, I will take ice in both and a lemon wedge in my water. Less than a minute later, my drinks were delivered.

Near the end of the flight, we were served a second meal, which was quite a bit lighter. I had a choice of smoothie, fruit, wraps or scones.

Ordering additional drinks or food during non-meal service is quick and easy.

Ordering additional drinks or food during non-meal service is quick and easy.

When I received my ticket to fly, the Business Premiere section was filled. I was hoping to get a window seat, but there were none left. Even after checking multiple times before the flight and again at check-in, there were still no other seats. I would have preferred not sitting in the first row, since many times, when my feet were up, the curtain would hit them anytime anyone passed.

So, is upgrading to Business Premiere worth the additional money over Premium Economy? Well, that depends. If you need to sleep well, there is no question that it is worth more. However, if your game plan is to stay up the entire flight and maybe talk to the person next to you, then maybe Premium Economy will do what you need.

But the fact that on average, Business Premiere seats cost $4000-5000 and Premium Economy cost $2000-$2500, that is not a bad deal. Especially when you compare these products to other international seats that cost much more. If you are a person who has the ability to either pay or use miles to upgrade to the front of the plane, it will be hard to find an upgrade per dollar that gives you this good of a deal.

ADDITIONAL PHOTOS OF AIR NEW ZEALAND’S BUSINESS CLASS:

Review of Air New Zealand’s Premium Economy Without Going to Auckland

Air New Zealand Boeing 777-300ER at LAX.

Air New Zealand Boeing 777-300ER at LAX.

AIR NEW ZEALAND PREMIUM ECONOMY REVIEW BASICS

Airline: Air New Zealand
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER (ZK-OKM)
Departed: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
Arrived: London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR)
Stops: Non-stop flight
Class: Premium Economy
Seat: 23A (window)
Length: 9.5 hours

Cheers: The product is great and those New Zealand accents — have to love them.
Jeers: Argh, why does my elbow keep pausing my movie?
Bottom Line: Having the word “economy” in the name seems inappropriate; it is anything but economy.

The outer seats in Premium Economy point towards the windows, giving extra privacy. I had the window seat.

The outer seats in Premium Economy point towards the windows, giving extra privacy. I had the window seat.

THE FULL PREMIUM ECONOMY REVIEW

I recently had the opportunity to take a flight from Los Angelas International Airport (LAX) to London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) in Air New Zealand’s Premium Economy (note: the airline covered my airfare and I paid the taxes).

Say what? How can I fly from an American city to a foreign city on Air New Zealand? It is because of the Fifth Freedom of the Air, which allows Air New Zealand to operate their flight from Auckland to London, via LAX. Most people probably do not think about taking Air New Zealand to London, but they are a unique option that I wanted to check out.

This was my first Air New Zealand flight — kind of. I actually flew on the exact same plane earlier, when it was brand spanking new. ZK-OKM was Air New Zealand’s first Boeing 777-300ER and I was able to hitch a ride on part of the delivery flight from Paine Field (PAE) to LAX. Since it wasn’t a real revenue flight with standard service (and only 2.5hrs long), I was looking forward to checking out the full product on a much longer flight.

WIth the outer seat angled a bit towards the window, it makes looking outside a breeze. Taking off from LAX (and yes, I had permission to take this photo below 10,000 feet).

With the outer seat angled a bit towards the window, it makes looking outside a breeze. Taking off from LAX (and yes, I had permission to take this photo below 10,000 feet).

When I first toured the airline’s 777-300ER, I had a hard time placing exactly what Premium Economy was. To me, it looked like something one would find in a long-haul business class.

Air New Zealand has had Premium economy on their 777-200s, but this product is very different. On the -200, it is your standard economy seat, in a 3-3-3 layout with some extra recline and seat-pitch. Not bad, but the new Premium Economy is in a whole other league.

Not only are the seats in a 2-2-2 layout, they don’t face forward. The first question you have to ask yourself when booking your ticket is if you want to interact with the person next to you or not. If you want to talk, dine or even snuggle with your seatmate, you probably want to go for the inner-space seats, located in the middle of the plane. Even though the seats are slightly tilted away from each other, they easily allow people to interact if desired.

The Premium Economy is in a 2-2-2 layout. The outer seats give better privacy than the inner seats.

The Premium Economy is in a 2-2-2 layout. The outer seats give better privacy than the inner seats.

If you are on your own or want some additional privacy, then getting a seat in the outer-space is for you. Each seat is tilted towards the window and gives more of a sense of privacy.

Having my seat tilted towards the window made taking off even a better experience than usual. It was a little weird at first orienting myself when I was tilted, but after a few minutes, I didn’t even notice anymore.

Since the seat in front is not directly centered, the video screen and tray table popped out and slid over for easier usability. I had plenty of room to work on my large laptop, while watching a movie.

The in-flight entertainment system was good enough and when browsing through the eight pages of movies, I found quite a few that I was interested in seeing. The system was quite slick, having a favorite list, that I could add what I wanted to watch later, so I wouldn’t forget what I wanted to watch.

Dang you remote! Why do you have to get in my way? The round silver thing above the remote is a pop out LED light.

Dang you remote! Why do you have to get in my way? The round silver thing above the remote is a pop out LED light.

The main downside of the product was the location of the remote — which was right by my left elbow. I ended up hitting it more than once, causing issues with my viewing experience. I unlatched the remote and let it hang, so I wouldn’t hit it anymore — problem solved.

The remote is not really needed, since the you can do everything (except use the keyboard, turn on your light or call a flight attendant) via the touch screen.

When will the lights dim? When will I get my next meal? This screen will tell you.

When will the lights dim? When will I get my next meal? This screen will tell you.

One of the coolest things on the in-flight entertainment system is the “My Flight” menu. This really gives you an itinerary of where you are at during the flight, when you will eat and when the lights will be bright or dimmed. This was great to be able to plan out when I wanted to sleep, when service would start and even when I could order food on demand.

Salmon, bread and wine make sense for a starter, but desert too?

Salmon, bread and wine make sense for a starter, but dessert too?

The food wasn’t too shabby. For dinner I was first served smoked salmon, watercress shoots, toasted almonds and burnt orange mayonnaise. For the main meal I had a choice between lamb, cod and chicken. I went with the lamb with potatoes and minted peas.

Then for desert was raspberry almond cheesecake, but it was odd, since the dessert was put on my tray with my appetizer and remained there until I was done with my meal. Maybe it is a cultural thing?

For breakfast, I had a choice between a chicken herb sausage cheese omelet, or Belgian waffles with strawberries. Not going to lie, I had a hard time making that decision, but I decided on sleeping through the meal, which I later regretted.

This is how dark it got during the flight. Taken over northern Canada.

This is how dark it got during the flight. Taken over northern Canada.

The seats in Premium Economy do not fully recline, but it does go back farther than economy and there is a little beanbag pillow to put your legs up.

Although the product is slick, you don’t get all the bells and whistles as Business Class — which makes sense. Both premium classes get priority ticket counter access, but only business gets access to the Koru Club Lounge. If you want to get into the lounge, you can buy a day pass for $55, which isn’t a bad deal.

From Los Angeles to London, economy class normally runs around $1200 and Premium Economy runs about $2400. Not bad considering the product one gets when upgrading.

My biggest suggestion is to change the name of this product. The old Premium Economy was just that. An economy product with a bit more leg room, but they were the same seats as economy, with the same seat layout.

The new Premium Economy is much closer to Business Class than economy and not changing the name doesn’t do the product justice. Even calling it something like “Kiwi Class” would be beneficial, because when most people fly and see a “premium economy” seat, they just think space a few inches of extra, but this product is much more than that.

MORE PHOTOS OF AIR NEW ZEALAND PREMIUM ECONOMY: