Delta Air Lines Airbus A330 with a KLM Boeing 747-400 in the background in Amsterdam.
This was my last leg of my RwandAir adventure. I had already flown from Seattle to Rwanda in a 737 and just completed a 10 hour flight from Kigali, Rwanda to Amsterdam on a KLM A330. I was already pretty tired and wasn’t sure how my mind, body and spirit would do on another ten hour ride in a different A330. On the positive side, I was looking forward to comparing two international Airbus A330s back-to-back. Overall, I have to say I like the Northwest Delta Air Lines A330 long haul premium economy a bit better than KLM’s.
When arriving into Amsterdam, I had a three hour layover and I was hoping to check out their observation deck. Before plane spotting, I needed to do some charging of my laptop and cell phone, since my last ten hour flight did not have in-seat power and neither would my next one. The classic hunt for an open outlet was on.
I started down the concourse looking from side to side. I kept going and going and’¦ well, going. Seriously? After 45 minutes looking up and down concourses D, E and F, I found an outlet about seven feet up for vending machines, one in the bathroom, one on a fire hose holder and one on a center pillar in a crowded walkway. I choose to deal with the crowds and sat down on the floor (looking like an idiot by the way) by the pillar, plugged in my phone and then’¦ nothing. Sweet, this outlet did not work. Now the debate was did I want to look like even more of an idiot standing in the bathroom charging my phone, climbing on a vending machine or using an outlet on a fire hose that might cause some alarm to go off. I figured my best bet was with the fire hose and luckily it worked. The bad part was it took so long to juice up, that I wasn’t able to check out the observation deck ’“ save it for next time I guess.
Delta Economy Comfort seat on an Airbus A330.
I figured I might as well head to the gate, where I received my first body scan. We had to wait in a small waiting area at the gate for our flight, which had little entertainment before being able to board. I was sitting in Delta Economy Comfort, which gave me four additional inches of seat pitch, 50% more recline, priority boarding and free alcohol. You also sit near the front of the plane, which means you are first to customs after arriving in Seattle. .
Even with the extra four inches, I was unable to fully stretch out my legs since there was a huge in-flight entertainment box under my seat, negating the extra leg room. You would think with a large electrical box like that under your seat, they would at least give you an outlet, but there was none. Reading on SeatGuru.com, it looks like only Business Class has outlets. Good thing I did some charging during my layover.
One nice surprise was seeing an air vent in the overhead bin. I absolutely love my air vents, since I am normally hot and that little breeze can make a huge difference. Sure, most domestic aircraft have air vents, but I am finding more and more long haul Boeing 747, 777, Airbus A330/A330 and the A380 are lacking them.
During both legs (KGL to AMS and AMS to SEA), I had window seats. When flying on the KLM A330, I noticed that there was quite a bit of room between the seat and the wall and was wishing the outer arm rest would raise, allowing me access to that extra room. It was too bad that the armrest would not rise on the KLM A330, but it did rise on Delta’s. This gave me an extra three inches or so of seat width and I was starting to get the feeling that this might be a good flight. Unfortunately we ran into some trouble pretty quickly.
Taking off from Amsterdam.
After boarding we were told there would be a delay. It turns out that the amount of fuel that the truck indicated being pumped into the aircraft, didn’t match the A330’s gauges. Delays can be annoying, but I am willing to wait to make sure we have enough fuel — I am old fashioned like that. It took about an hour to determine that the truck had the failure and after all the paperwork was completed, we took off.
When getting my free headphones given by Delta out of their plastic bag I accidently ripped one of the wires. Not a big deal, I figured I could just ring the call button and quickly get a new one. I decided to try something new; time how long it would take for a flight attendant to assist me after ringing the call button. I decided I would make eye contact with a flight attendant walking by, but I would not say anything like “excuse me,” to put them to the test.
I rang the call button and waited. And waited. And holy crap waited some more. At the 10 minute mark I turned off my call light and rang it again. During those ten minutes I had two different flight attendants walk by, but they did not stop’¦ they did not even make eye contact. At the 15 minute mark I turned off my call light and rang it again. Another flight attendant walked by, but still nothing. I could see that my call light was on and the “ding” noise was definitely making its sound.
At about 18 minutes a flight attendant came by for trash. I was waiting for her to ask me about my light, but she didn’t. I decided I really wanted to start watching a movie, so I asked her for another head phone set, which she got right away. I am not normally one who uses the call button and I have never timed it before, but I am pretty certain that 18 minutes and three flight attendants walking by is not okay. It takes a lot to get me annoyed or frustrated on a flight and this definitely did it.
OH YES! The armrest near the window moves, giving me more room.
When trying to relax, the recline of the Economy Comfort was great. However, when the person in front of me was enjoying their extra 50% recline, it was not so great ’“ actually pretty annoying. I am normally one that doesn’t recline my seat, since I do not want to disturb the person behind me, but I really had to recline a bit to open my laptop, even with the extra four inches.
During the flight, I was served two different meals. One was your standard airline pasta, but the second was pizza. Both of them were pretty decent and I thought it was pretty slick having pizza on the plane. I really didn’t get to enjoy all the amenities in the flight, since I slept through most of it. Having the ability to raise my outer armrest really gave me one of my best economy sleeps with someone sitting next to me. I landed in Seattle feeling a lot better than I thought I would after 24 hours of economy flight.
This is a pretty slick video that looks more like a choreographed dance. It highlights the interior of Korean Air’s Airbus A380 and make sure to check out the Celestial Lounge, located at the back of the upper deck. Korean Air is currently operating four A380s and have an additional six on order.
From Korean Air’s video description:
Designed with ultimate luxury and comfort in mind, and featuring a pioneering spacious interior, configured in a three-class layout with just 407 seats in total, the lowest configuration of any A380 operator so far, Korean Air’s double-decker A380s feature cutting-edge amenities, with 12 ultra luxurious First Class Kosmo Suites and 301 Economy Class seats on the main lower deck, and 94 fully lie-flat Prestige Sleeper seats in Prestige Class (business class) on the upper deck. Furthermore, it boasts unique in-flight facilities, such as the world’s first ‘Duty Free Showcase’ and a new onboard bar and lounge area, offering a brand new and highly enjoyable in-flight shopping and relaxation experience.
Virgin America First Class. Photo from Virgin America.
Meet Michael. He is a 59 year old real estate developer, builder, investor and consultant that lives in Santa Cruz, CA. I have never met Michael, but he recently emailed me sharing his recent experience with Virgin America. I loved his thoughts so much, I wanted to share them. Here is his Virgin America #AirlineLove experience in his own words:
So folks, here I am flying home on Virgin America from DC to San Francisco after three weeks of flying to Europe (around Europe) and back to the US in economy cattle coach. When booking this Virgin flight, I was given the opportunity to upgrade to First Class for two hundred dollars.
Lets see’¦. should I do this? It would mean no bag charge ($50.) No $80 for 2 inches of desperate extra leg room for the insulting “seat plus” option. No thirty dollars worth of marginal food and drink extras to avoid stumbling off the plane hypoglycemic. So maybe the net cost to me is $40 bucks. Should I do this? Hell yes!
So here I am sitting in First Class writing this email because frankly I’ve been abused for so long I can’t quite handle the experience. I’ve flown 1st class in the past but I think coach has gotten so much worst over the years that I’m in shock at the difference. Like many things these days, the flying public has forced the airlines to compete only on price leaving no room for a business model based on quality of experience. So why would anyone pay more for the experience of boarding first, deplaning first and sitting in front of the plane? I’m here to tell you.
TYPICAL COACH FLIGHT: Subtitle: Trapped animal
Wait to shuffle onto the aircraft, stake out your crappy narrow no legroom seat, squirm, suffer and long for the hours to somehow go by more quickly, strategizing constantly about when to get up, use the bathroom, stretch your legs, etc. Consider drugs as an escape to the hours of hell. This is obviously a very abbreviated description of coach economy hell. No need to dwell further on the negative, we’ve all been there. Now mind you, Virgin offers an above average coach experience, nonetheless, it be coach.
Two Virgin America Airbus A320s at LAX. Photo by Ken Koller.
OKAY, VIRGIN AMERICA FIRST CLASS:
Board first, plenty of room in the overhead, First Class bathroom ratio 1 to 8. Nothing you didn’t already know so far but it’s a cumulative experience. (notice how I’ve elevated the words “First Class” to proper noun status” like “Gold Bar” or “Jennifer Lopez”). By the way, I skipped lunch today because I figured at a minimum I’d receive the airplane food free and be attended to like a human. Like I said before, I’ve been abused for so long, I didn’t know what to expect. To say the least, I underestimated the experience. Oh, and the security line is shorter as well.
I sit in my seat, it’s so wide Chris Christie times two would be comfortable. I stick my legs out straight as far as I can and I can’t touch the seat in from of me with my toes, in fact, I almost can’t reach the back of the seat magazine pouch with my hand, not that I need it cause I’ve got so much cleverly designed storage and room around me. I don’t have to share an armrest with the seat next to me, we each have our own. My seat mate is so far away, he looks like he’s across the aisle. The tray table is designed in such a way that I can get up from my seat with a meal, computer, (or whatever) still on it. Get this, I can step to the aisle from my window seat without disturbing my seat mate, no “excuse me” necessary and of course, the seats metamorphose into beds. I have not one, but three windows. No one is rushing to clamp on noise canceling headphones, it’s not that noisy up here. I don’t feel I can discover or take advantage of all the amenities offered in the time it takes to fly coast to coast.
ON THE FOOD:
“Would you like something to drink”?
She preemptively brings me two. Served within minutes of takeoff.
1st course is fresh tender Calamari, hearts of palm and tomato salad perfectly prepared in vinaigrette, (the tomatoes are ripe summer tomatoes bursting with flavor, I’m not kidding)! 2nd course is tender moist chicken in a fig sauce with vegetables, fresh figs, and actual fresh baked olive bread. “Can I have a 2nd piece of bread”? “Of course.” The veggies are firm, flavorful, perfectly cooked, not the usual microlimp we expect to work around while gagging down whatever we can marginally accept on the plastic-tray-excuse for a plate. Dessert is three wonderful little pastries in a row: Macadamia nut thingy, little chocolate mousse cup and little lemon bar, (fantastic)! I don’t usually even like lemon bars. Need a snack? Just ask for the fabulous snack tray. If you want your meal tray removed NOW, just ask.
Did I mention my drink is served in a real glass? I have a cloth linen napkin. I have actual metal stainless flatware which I thought was banned after 9/11, (The airlines are afraid you might slit your own throat after a coach meal). The salt and pepper shaker is a little mini airplane. I feel like a child flying for the first time. Everything is served “a la restaurant”, I don’t have to unwrap anything or feel as though I’ve been served a meal in a hospital bed. All the food is the correct temperature. The stewardess is not rushed or bitchy. Forget the service, just on the food alone, on a scale of one to ten, I would rate the meal a solid eight, perhaps nine.
It is a party all up in here. Photo by Brandon Farris.
Without me noticing, the flight is half over. I don’t feel any particular urgency for the flight to end, I really don’t care (a first)! Somehow the sound of crying children has been expunged. The PA system is the right volume and you can understand clearly. I’m so etherized I believe the turbulence feels milder up here. I can actually accomplish work in this environment.
Oh look, now the flight IS over, we’ve landed, who knew — and forty minutes early. No wonder we deplane first, the coach passengers won’t even be here for forty minutes. I might just pass on my privilege of deplaning first and linger a little longer, maybe they’ll bring a sedan chair and carry me to baggage claim, anything seems possible.
Like I said before, I’ve been abused for way too long.