Browsing Tag: Chicago O’Hare

All aboard TF-ICU - next stop, ORD.
Boarding TF-ICU, aka Dyrhólaey at Iceland’s Keflavik International Airport, next stop, Chicago’s O’Hare International

The backstory

Loyal readers will recall our 2017 review of Saga Premium (which, at the the time, was called Saga Class) on Icelandair’s venerable 757-200s.

Since then, Icelandair has added several Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets to their fleet (they ordered a total of 16 of the MAX in both the -8 and -9 variants), using them on routes to U.S. destinations on the east coast and upper midwest, along with several European routes.

I flew SEA-KEF on a 757, then returned via Chicago on a 737 MAX 8, as Seattle is, unfortunately, beyond the working range of the MAX 8.

So, two years on, what was it like to fly Saga? Candidly, I was a fan of the last trip, so the memory still felt fairly fresh. My outbound flight was on TF-FIR, aka Vatnajökull, aka 80 years of Aviation, aka the glacier livery.

This AvGeek was stoked at the opportunity to fly on Vatnajökull, even though it was parked at a corner gate between two diagonal jetways at SEA, making photos pretty much impossible that day. IMHO, it’s the one of prettiest planes in the sky today, tied for that honor with Icelandair’s Hekla Aurora livery on TF-FIU.

TF-FIR landing at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in 2017. I wasn't able to get out on the ramp to get pre-flight photos for this trip, so we'll have to make do with an existing image

TF-FIR landing at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in 2017. I wasn’t able to get out on the ramp to get pre-flight photos for this trip, so we’ll have to make do with an existing image

The outbound flight from SEA to KEF was as good as the last time – I was in seat 1A for this flight, which is in a bulkhead row. The seats themselves are the same as we reviewed in 2017. They feel even more dated now, especially when compared to contemporary options even on some domestic US carriers, but they’re still very comfortable and offer a generous amount of recline.

Boston Lounge View of Operations

View of American’s terminal operations from the Boston lounge

One dubious perk of my choice to take the long way home and try American Airlines’ First Class offering was the opportunity to experience the Admirals Club lounges, American’s airport oases from the chaos of travel. I don’t get a lot of opportunities to check out the big international lounges like Hong Kong Airlines or Etihad has on offer, so I jumped at the chance to hit three different Admirals Clubs in a day.

First, for anyone whose travel itinerary involves a lot of layovers, the Admirals Clubs represent a great deal. A day pass costs $59, and is good across the American network. In my case, this allowed me to check into Boston for a couple of hours before my first flight, pop into the lounge in Charlotte for a quick refresher, then planespot in Chicago over appetizers.

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

Spirit's first flight out of Kansas City receives a dual water cannon salute. Photo credit Aaron Wright, KC Aviation Dept.

Spirit’s first flight out of Kansas City receives a dual water cannon salute – Photo: Aaron Wright, KC Aviation Dept.

It’s true, people vehemently despise Spirit Airlines. Just the mention of the company elicits emotion-filled horror stories. Indeed they have a solid 1 out of 5 star rating on TripAdvisor, and they are frequently found at, or near, the top of various “worst airline” rankings. In direct contrast to these ratings and frequent “I’ll never fly Spirit again” claims, the airline continues to grow and increase market share. This begs the question – is the experience really THAT bad? Or, is there something else at play here?

BONUS: The Five Stages of Flying an Ultra Low Cost Carrier (Epic Comic Style) 

In their own defense, Spirit argues that the mass dissatisfaction with them is in large part due to consumers not understanding their progressive, totally unbundled Ultra Low Cost Carrier (ULCC) business model. That assertion seems to hold water. The vast majority of complaints I hear and see are indeed related to “unexpected fees” and being “nickel and dimed” to death. As the well-known cliche goes: “The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.” Thankfully, Spirit recognizes there is a problem. To that end they recently hired Barkley, a KC-based marketing firm to assist with better educating consumers and promoting what they refer to as a “bare fare.”

"Bare Fare" crop circle spotted in a soy field just north of the KC airport. Photo: Victor Lazo.

“Bare Fare” crop circle spotted in a soy field just north of the KC airport – Photo: Victor Lazo

A few months ago, Kansas City International airport announced that ours would be a new market served by Spirit. Shortly after an unexplained crop circle appeared prompting a lot of curiosity. It turned out the image seen above is the logo for Spirit’s Bare Fare.

I was excited to finally have the opportunity to give them a shot, contrary to the advice of everyone who I’d informed of my intentions. I booked a seat on the first flight out, and this is my honest, unbiased review…