An airBaltic A220, with the Lithuanian flag livery. Photo: Jonathan Trent-Carlson
Just a few days ago, I published my experience flying in airBaltic’s economy class on my flight from Amsterdam (AMS) to Vilnius (VNO). After after some great adventures in Lithuania, I was ready to hit the skies again — but this time in the front of the (air) bus — I was flying in airBaltic’s Business Class. I was excited to see how it would compare to economy and see how a low cost carrier would handle a premium product.
The airBaltic check-in & lounge experience at VNO
Check-in at VNO was quick and easy. VNO does not have dedicated counter space for any one airline. Rather, overhead monitors display which check-in counter is for which airline at that time, and signage can be moved around.
After I had checked my bag and gotten through security, I wandered through a large section of duty free items before finding the lounge. The lounge was mostly empty, and I didn’t have much time. The lounge featured a self-service bar, with some wine, Lithuanian herbal liqueurs, and other spirits.
Beverages and breakfast pastries. A nice spread for this boutique lounge. Photo: Jonathan Trent-Carlson
There was a also a fancy coffee machine. At this early in the morning, I was not in the mood for alcohol but coffee was a must have. Specifically, coffee with two cubes of sugar.
A little over ten years ago, Air France took delivery of its first Airbus A380 and flew its first commercial service from Paris to New York. Since then, the superjumbo has been the flagship of Air France’s fleet. But ten years is an eternity in the fast-moving airline world, and time takes its toll on hard-working airplanes. Air France originally announced plans to retire its A380 fleet by 2022, but with COVID capacity cuts, the airline just announced yesterday that the plane will be removed from service immediately. So whenever your last flight on an Air France A380 was — if you ever flew it — it was your last.
I had the chance to fly an Air France A380 last year on the same historic route that started its story with Air France: CDG to JFK. I’ve had some good times flying A380s in the past. My very first AirlineReporter story was a Lufthansa A380 trip report. And I got to fly a BA A380 in Club World a few years ago.
But by the time the flight was over, I could see why it was a plane that wasn’t going to be in the fleet for much longer. I did appreciate some things, like the super-smooth takeoff, whisper-quiet ride, and soaking in the spectacular scale of the double-decker. But the AF A380 is a plane that’s stuck in the past, and overall I won’t miss them much as they transition to their well-earned retirement. Whether you’re an A380 fan or a hater, read on for the full scoop.
What’s a French spin on long-haul flying look like? Until a few months ago I had no idea. I’d never flown Air France, their recently-retired millennial spinoff airline Joon, or a French leisure carrier like French Bee or Corsair. For my first flight on a French carrier I opted for the classic, and scored a nice deal with miles on Air France in business class from Sao Paulo to Paris. It would be on a Boeing 777-200ER, a plane well equipped to handle a long-haul flight like mine. The triple-seven isn’t the largest plane in Air France’s fleet (the A380 is) and newer dual-engine long-haul planes like the 787 and A350 get more love and attention nowadays. But Air France has a long proud history with the 777 — they were the launch customer for the 777-300ER — and the 777 is the backbone of the airline’s long-haul fleet.
In terms of the onboard experience, Air France embraces the stereotype of French style and service. So as I geared up for my flight, I was looking to see if cabin design, dining, and service would do the airline’s home country justice. Did they? Read on to find out!
Founded in 1919, KLM is actually the world’s oldest airline still flying under its original name. How do you keep an airline with that long of a history feeling fresh? New planes definitely help, and for KLM’s long-haul fleet the freshest faces are its 787 Dreamliners.
Since joining the fleet a few years ago, the 787-9 has been KLM’s pride and joy. One of my very first AirlineReporter stories was a KLM pop-up exhibit in San Francisco back in 2016. Both then and now, folks at the airline are super proud of the Dreamliner fleet and its newest-generation onboard product. A few months ago, I scored a great deal on an award ticket from San Francisco to Amsterdam and on to Rio, and I’d get to try KLM’s long-haul Dreamliner service along the way. And it ended up being one of the best international business class experiences I’ve had.
For more of the highlights — from gin-filled ceramic houses and fancy Dutch glassware, to bubbly flight attendants and incredible views of that Dreamliner wing flex — keep on reading!